A movie released for national distribution back on January 19, 1944, depicted the predicament of a young woman named Trudy Kockenlocker. It’s seen today as a rather tame screwball comedy — and a good one at that, listed by the American Film Institute as #54 on it’s list of all-time best comedies. Yet it’s a wonder it was ever released.
Miracle at Morgan’s Creek starred Betty Hutton and Eddie Bracken and was directed by Preston Sturges. It tells how Trudy wakes up one morning after a farewell party for a group of soldiers to discover that, while drunk, she married one of them whose name she can’t remember. A short time later, she discovers she is pregnant.
Well, didn’t the alarms go off at the Hays Office, that noble outfit charged with protecting Americans from perversion through diligent censorship. The script was sent to the office in 1942, and Paramount quickly received a seven-page catalog of complaints, starting with the fact that Trudy was drunk and working its way up to the possible comparison of Trudy’s dilemma with the virgin birth of Jesus. When the Hays Office had finished its snipping, only ten pages of the script remained in tact. The War Department weighed in about the conduct of the departing soldiers. A pastor in the film who delivers the moral warning against mixing patriotism with promiscuity got the hook as well.
The film was finally released, the Hays Office was bombarded with complaints, including one critic’s suggestion that the office had been “raped in its sleep” for allowing the film to be released, (evidently, Sturges had somehow forgotten to share the film’s ending with the Hays Office). and it became Paramount’s highest-grossing film of the year. It also won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.
A Tale of Two Babies
A lot of folks would spin the channel to CBS in 1953 to catch another birth, this one a tad less controversial as Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky (Ricky Ricardo Jr.) – 71.7% of all television sets in the United States were tuned into the I Love Lucy program that January 19. On the same day, Lucy gave birth to a nonfictional son, Desi Arnaz Jr.
Mama Eu Quero, Part 1: Cuba 1955
The flickering image on the T-V screen – strong eyes, the familiar beard, the damn fatigue cap – stole Delia’s attention from the book she had determined to finish this evening. And his voice – still defiant, but the words he uttered were words of defeat, stepping down. All these years, and your revolution will end with a whimper. I’m afraid it’s getting old and wrinkled, Fidel. Like us.
The face on the TV screen changed, metamorphosing into another image from the distant past that probably wasn’t really there. It was a gentler face with a mischievous smile and a great big nose, a face that forced both a smile and a tear as he cooed: “Good night Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” It was an odd association, these two faces, but for Delia, lasting and inevitable. Jimmy Durante disappeared into the darkness and Fidel was back.
Delia didn’t hate Fidel the way so many of the others she knew who had had associations with Cuba did. Of course her association with Cuba had been very short – but intense – a mere two months during that bittersweet summer of 1955, three and a half years before Castro took power. She was a young woman – a girl – plucked from the American Midwest by a tornado and whisked into a wild and wicked Oz called Havana. There to meet Jorge. And Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha.
Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha was not born in Brazil as many think. She emigrated from Portugal, arriving in Rio de Janeiro in 1910. But once there, she so fully absorbed the culture of her new home that she would one day personify its people, its infectious rhythms. On the world stage and in the many movies that, years later, Delia would watch on television, Carmen Miranda was Brazil.
By today’s reckoning, the revolution was already two years underway that summer Delia’s father got an assignment with an American sugar company in Havana. In a way, by working for a sugar company with vast interests in Cuba, her father and by extension his family, including Delia, were in their own small way partially responsible for the revolution. Sugar (Delia still couldn’t put it in her coffee) was both Cuba’s lifeblood and its yoke. A third of the country’s income depended on sugar, and American sugar companies controlled three-fourths of the land on which it could be grown. And the entire blame, at least in Delia’s eyes, seemed to have fallen on one sixteen-year-old girl.
“Mama Eu Quero” originally appeared in the literary magazine Dandelion. It is included in Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean.