Tonight the SyFy channel debuts a new series called “Ascension,” inspired by the JFK administration’s Project Orion. The premise is that in 1963 a group of men, women and children were launched into space as part of a secret government program. Now it’s 50 years later, and they’re suddenly questioning the truth behind their mission. Meanwhile, the changes that has taken place back on earth have completely eluded them.
It’s a fun idea to play with.
So let’s say you’d been gone since the Ivy heyday — in space, on a desert island, in a coma — and came crashing back to present reality:
In the 1984 prepsloitation movie “Making The Grade,” protagonist Eddie gets invited to a black-tie event. To learn how to properly deport himself, he and two of his prep-school buddies study Cary Grant, the master of looking cool and elegant in a dinner jacket.
The entire movie is up on YouTube, so you can sneak glimpses of your favorite scene while at your workstation, or watch it on your mobile device while waiting at the dentist’s office. If you haven’t seeen it, it’s worth a few chuckles, and, like “The Official Preppy Handbook,” is an important social document of the ’80s preppy trend. The Cary Grant scene starts at 42:42. — CC
Yes, dear reader, that probably means you. Especially if you have “reactionary” or “curmudgeon” in your username. Or if you’re Henry.
Today a new film called “Dear White People” opens. Set at an elite college campus, the film includes a prepped-out black protagonist and assorted other characters who look like this:
Every so often I get these little obsessions. The athletic ones drag out for years, and things like the taste for late 19th-century French chamber music are lifelong.
But every so often something cultural piques my interest, and I’ll spend a month or so furiously reading books and watching movies. I think last year’s was on the concept of cool and hip, for which I read half a dozen critical studies. The latest was triggered by Chris Sharp’s wonderful work this summer during Batik Week. I found myself inspired to revisit America’s pop fascination with Polynesia in the 1950s. Being a native Californian who took a couple of family vacations to island destinations as an impressionable teenager, this wasn’t my first time in these waters.
I stocked up on rum and ordered a big tiki coffee-table book. Then I ordered John Michener’s “Tales Of The South Pacific.” Then I started watching nearly every movie set on an island I could find, from “Mutiny On The Bounty” to “Blue Lagoon.” Once I reached “Return To Blue Lagoon,” things were clearly winding down.
This was all supposed to stop with the end of summer, but there were plenty of warm days in September and the rum and movies lasted until the third week of the month. The finale was Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” which I hadn’t seen in many years. Halfway through it I started to get the feeling I knew one of the main actors from something else. It was his voice more than his face. The little grey cells kept quietly cranking until suddenly I got a vision of the actor sprinting not across a sandy beach, but a campus quad.
Sure enough it was John Kerr, star of 1956’s “Tea & Sympathy,” which we wrote about in the first year of Ivy Style.
I did some quick googling and it turns out Kerr was destined to play Ivy prepsters. In “Tea & Sympathy” he’s a prep school kid, and in “South Pacific” he’s a fresh-faced Princeton grad. Kerr just had that look. Then again, the casting was a form of destiny: Kerr had attended Harvard as an undergraduate. But even after roles in films as big as “South Pacific,” he looked on to other things. He enrolled in UCLA law school and passed the California bar in 1970. He died last year at the age of 81.
It’s cool and windy now and the rum is gone. I have no idea what the next mini-obsession will be, but as always I’ll keep you posted of my findings. — CC
Actor James Garner has died at the age of 86. In 1963 he donned 3/2-roll suit to play opposite Doris Day in the Atomic Age sex comedy “Move Over Darling.” Garner is pictured above in the book “Hollywood And The Ivy Look.” Click here for the New York Times write-up. — CC
What goes best with seersucker?