Whenever I watch an old movie, or a new movie set in a by~gone era, I always hope for a "Telegram Scene". Take, for example, in The Age of Innocence. Newland Archer visits Ellen Olenska in her home and there is the heart~rending exchange between them: he admits he is in love with her, and she with him, but she is a married woman separated from an evil man, and he is engaged to marry her cousin May...
(He's holding her. He kisses her and she kisses him back passionately. She breaks away and they stare at each other. Then she shakes her head.)
ARCHER: "No! Everything is different. Do you see me marrying May now?"
ELLEN: "Would you ask her that question? Would you?. . . Newland. You couldn't be happy if it meant being cruel. If we act any other way I'll be making you act against what I love in you most. And I can't go back to that way of thinking. Don't you see? I can't love you unless I give you up."
(They look at each other for a moment more. Then Ellen picks up a bell and rings for the maid. The maid enters carrying Ellen's cloak and hat, and a telegram)
MAID: (in Italian) "This was delivered."
(Ellen takes the envelope, reads it and hands it to Archer)
MAY: (via Telegram to Ellen from St. Augustine) "Granny's telegram was successful. Papa and Mama agreed to marriage after Easter. Only a month! I will telegraph Newland. I'm too happy for words and love you dearly. Your grateful cousin, May. "
(In the drawing room at Ellen's house that night. Archer reads the telegram and crumples it up in disappointment. . . )*
*(From film script for The Age of Innocence, 1993 )
Ah, the power and romance of "The Telegram". At an age when telephones were rare, email was the way a foreigner tried to ask for his mail when he was far from home, and texting was a word used by letterpresses and stationary houses in reference to font preference, the telegram was one of the foremost means of long~distance communication. Treaties were signed. Hearts were broken. And everything else in between can be found typed onto those little paper remnants from the past.
The guaranteed way to get someone's attention even in this very modern world.
*Thanks to "The Unusual Times" for informing the gin~drinkers of the world about this...
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