It’s Friday, and I’m sitting here listening to Anne Murray, of all people. As a child of the 70s, I can’t help but have some guilty pleasures. Anne Murray had a lot of hits in the 70s, so her music is a big part of my personal soundtrack. Listening to her sing takes me to a comforting place.
What a Wonderful World (14 Inspirational Classics), the album I’m listening to right now, is one of Anne’s more recent ones. Or, it’s relatively recent, anyway, having been released in 1999. When you consider that Anne Murray has been around since before I was born, it’s kind of recent. It consists of fourteen cover songs, all of which are either pop songs made famous in a previous era by other artists, or old fashioned hymns. It’s an album my father would have enjoyed. My mom would probably like it, too, although her tastes in music were decidedly peppier than his were.
I think I like Anne’s 70s hits better than this album, although her versions of these songs are certainly pleasant enough. It sounds like she enjoyed making this record, even if the songs lack the emotional punch of her earlier stuff. It’s not a bad thing to wake up to, I guess.
I think I bought this album because I heard Anne singing with her daughter, Dawn Langstroth, on another album, and I liked Dawn’s voice a whole lot. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Dawn has a really beautiful voice that compliments her mother’s voice very nicely. I like to support artists when I like what they do– especially if they aren’t super famous. Dawn Langstroth has a couple of albums with music that isn’t like her mom’s, but is equally appealing (I have eclectic tastes).
At least I’m not listening to anything with profanity in it. God knows, I’ve been known to do that, too. I usually do that when I need a laugh.
Bill is in Bavaria again, so I’m on my own for the next week, trying to stay out of trouble. When Bill goes away, I try to occupy myself with “wholesome” activities and maintain sobriety. I don’t always succeed in not drinking beer when he’s gone, as it helps me pass the time. However, I do make an effort, because it’s good for me, and because there may be a need for me to drive somewhere. This was more of a concern when Arran was still with us, but suffering from cancer. Now that he’s gone, it’s less of an issue. But we do still have Noyzi, and he could get into trouble.
Also, I like to reassure myself that drinking is always a choice. For the most part, I don’t really miss drinking when I abstain from it, especially if I am engaged in something. I don’t necessarily want to walk all the way to the basement for a beer. 😉
Last night, I decided I wanted to watch an old made for TV movie from 1979. I remember watching this movie on CBS when I was about 6 or 7 years old. The film, titled And Your Name is Jonah, was about a deaf child who was misdiagnosed as “retarded” (the term used in the movie– today, we would use a more politically correct term). It starred Sally Struthers, James Woods, Jeremy Licht, and introduced nine year old Jeffrey Bravin, who is deaf in “real life”.
The film is pretty dated, since it was made in 1979. Watching it last night reminded me of how old I am, especially as I heard the actors speaking of “retardation” (which was a valid diagnostic term when I was a child), watched Jonah riding on his mother’s lap in the front seat of the car (with no one wearing seatbelts, no less), and saw Jonah, at nine years old, running around New York City alone.
It’s hard to believe that was how things kind of were at that time. I can remember being allowed to go places alone from a very young age, riding in the car unrestrained (even in the front seat), and hearing all manner of words now deemed egregiously offensive being thrown around on television and in “polite” conversation. You wouldn’t hear the word “shit” on primetime television, but the r bomb and n bomb were dropped all over the place. And yet, there were some really intelligent and thought provoking movies and TV shows made in those days. Some “Movies of the Week”, as And Your Name is Jonah was, were genuinely excellent.
I was a bit traumatized by And Your Name is Jonah back in 1979. If you’ve seen this movie, you might know which scene was especially haunting to a small child. One thing that comes across in this movie is that Jonah, who was “institutionalized” for three years with children who were intellectually disabled, is terrified of the new world outside of the hospital where he’d been living.
Jonah does not have an intellectual disability, but he is profoundly deaf, and he’s never been taught to communicate. He wears uncomfortable hearing aids that don’t really help him hear better. The film presents Jonah’s perspective– first not being able to hear at all, and then only hearing unpleasant and unintelligible noise when he wears hearing aids. So, even though his cognitive function is normal, he is constantly frustrated, trying to communicate and understand what’s happening. Most of the time, he seems very stressed as he tries to have his needs met, and things like his little brother’s Spiderman doll, scare him. However, there are some bright spots, such as when he meets his mother’s grandpa, a friendly Greek man who loves to dance and is very kind to Jonah.
Jonah’s father Danny, played by James Woods, has a short temper and little patience for Jonah. He tells his wife, Jenny (Struthers), that he wants to put Jonah back in the hospital. Jenny refuses to consider sending Jonah back to the institution. Danny ends up leaving when he can’t take dealing with Jonah, leaving Jenny to deal with their son alone. He does send her a paltry sum of cash in the mail and a note.
Grandpa runs a vegetable stand. Jonah visits him often with his mother and brother. One day, Jonah is having a ball with Grandpa, and the old man collapses from a heart attack. He dies. Jonah doesn’t understand what has happened to his beloved grandfather. Then there’s a funeral scene, and the family files by the open casket, kissing Grandpa on the forehead. Jonah is the last to see him as the lid is closed forever. Danny shows up after the funeral, hanging around outside of the church to offer his condolences to his wife. Jenny is devastated, trying to talk to him about their son… and Danny, predictably, can’t handle it and leaves again. There’s so much profound loss in Jonah’s life, and he has no way to process it with other people.
After Jonah’s dad, Danny, leaves, Jonah has even more trouble adjusting to his circumstances. One day, he sneaks out of the house, gets on the bus by himself, and goes to Grandpa’s vegetable stand, which is not open. Confused, Jonah wanders around looking for his Grandpa, then sees a lady who knows him. He panics, and tries to get back on the bus, but he’s too late to catch it. It leaves without him. Now, Jonah is left without transportation, wandering alone in the city.
One of New York City’s finest sees Jonah wandering around alone. Not understanding that Jonah is deaf, the cop assumes the boy is “crazy”. He picks up Jonah and takes him to a hospital. Jonah knows about hospitals, and he freaks out when he goes inside the building. Everyone is dressed in white– and the nurses all wear scary caps, just like they did back in the day. It probably smells medicinal, too, which would likely be pretty powerful for someone who doesn’t hear.
Once again, panic overwhelms Jonah, and he tries to run away. The cop and an intern (in an old fashioned white smock) grab the boy, who winds up in restraints. It’s a very short but extremely powerful scene. As a small child, I remember being scared when I saw it on television. Especially when I saw Jonah’s terrified face at the end of the scene (see the featured photo).
Although this film is about two-thirds emotionally wrenching and sad, it does have a very happy ending when Jonah has a breakthrough. Jenny meets deaf people in speech therapy. They introduce Jenny to more deaf people, all of whom use American Sign Language to communicate. Jenny has been told that signing is bad– Jonah’s been in a school where signing is expressly forbidden. But it turns out that sign language is Jonah’s key to the world. And once he realizes he can sign to be understood, things finally get better.
Billy Seago, the young man who helps get through to Jonah, is just amazing in the breakthrough scene. Look at his facial expressions. They are amazing. I should also give a shout out to the late Fred Karlin, the composer who provided the moving soundtrack for this film. It sets just the right tone… and in fact, the main theme is stuck in my head as I type this.
This movie can be watched for free on YouTube, but I decided to download it from Apple TV. I figure even though it was a Movie of the Week from 1979, the fact that I still think about it is a sign that it belongs in my library. I was legitimately traumatized by this movie when I saw it aired on CBS in 1979, but today, I just think it’s a really touching and beautifully done film.
Jeff Bravin, who played Jonah, was on 3-2-1 Contact (a children’s science show that aired on PBS back in the early 80s), but other than that, he’s left acting in the past. Although he’s obviously found a different vocation, I have to say that I am very impressed by his acting skills in this movie. His facial expressions are amazing. He was such a cute child, too… I read in an interview he did that the “restraint scene” was a point of pride for him, as he actually broke some of the straps!
Jeff Bravin is now highly educated and works as a school administrator in deaf education. I read that he never really learned how to speak clearly, because he is so profoundly deaf. Both of his parents and all four of his grandparents were deaf, as is his wife. He has three hearing daughters and grandchildren now, but clearly there are both genetic and cultural components to Bravin’s experience as a deaf person. If you search for him, Bravin is easily found on YouTube– bright, confident, and signing away very fluently.
In a weird way… this movie reminds me a bit of how it was when we brought Noyzi home. Granted, Noyzi is a dog, but he was absolutely terrified for a good long while, especially of Bill. He’s morphed into a wonderful dog, but it’s taken time, love, patience, and understanding. And there have been a few times when Noyzi’s eyes have looked a bit like Jonah’s in the hospital restraint scene. He still reacts automatically to a lot of stimuli, like sudden noises or movements. However, overall, he has adapted very well… and we continue to see progress with him, as he is introduced to new experiences. It’s very rewarding to watch him evolve into the sweet, gentle, loving giant he is…
Which reminds me, it’s time to get dressed and take him for a walk, now that we finally have good weather. I hope this post has entertained and informed… and I hope if I’ve piqued your interest in this movie, you might seek it out on YouTube or even on Apple TV, if you’re so inclined. I’m glad I watched it again, even though it’s very dated, not very politically correct, and reminds me of just how old I am. 😉 I think it’s very well done, even in 2023.