Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Of Men and Noses and Affairs of the Heart

On this day in 1992, famed film actor Jose Ferrer passed, at the age of eighty.  Some of you may remember him for such films as Lawrence of Arabia, The Caine Mutiny, and more recently, Dune, but I think he will best be remembered for his portrayal of Edmond Rostand’s immortal hero – Cyrano de Bergerac.

Rostand based his hero on an actual person, a French dramatist and duelist who may indeed have possessed a larger than average proboscis, but Rostand’s account of de Bergerac’s life is fictionalized, as there appears to be evidence that the actual de Bergerac was homosexual in his orientation.  I think that would make a very interesting subject for a novel itself – perhaps even a comparison between the actual de Bergerac and the fictionalized one.  But not right here and now.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the plot of Cyrano, I’ll just give you the bare bones.  Cyrano, the hero of our piece, is a most excellent man, being possessed of a brilliant wit, a large heart and a warm personality – as well as a rather huge nose.  Huge enough to draw attention to himself, and to put him outside of any chance of winning the heart of the woman he so desperately loves – his distant cousin Roxanne.  She’s beautiful, he thinks he’s ugly – nuff said.  Enter the extremely handsome and personable young cadet Christian.  He falls for Roxanne, and wishes to present himself to her, but she is indifferent to his charms, until Cyrano steps in and gives Christian the words he needs to woo her.  Cyrano speaks his words to Roxanne in the dark, where she cannot see him, and she thinks that they are Christian’s words, and she falls in love, not knowing she actually loves Cyrano.
Here is an example of some of Cyrano’s lovely words, from Act 3:
"And what is a kiss, specifically? A pledge, properly sealed, a promise seasoned to taste, a vow stamped with the immediacy of a lip, a rosy circle drawn around the verb 'to love.'  A kiss is a message too intimate for the ear, infinity captured in the bee's brief visit to the flower, secular communication with an aftertaste of heaven, the pulse rising from the heart to utter its name on a lover's lip: 'Forever’

You can see why she fell in love with him, right?  I know I’d have melted all over him, faster than sugar on a warm sticky bun.  But she thought it was Christian, even though that boy was not exactly the brightest bulb in the box.  Makes you wonder a bit how, once they married, she didn’t notice that he never talked so sweetly in their more private moments.  Or did she chalk it up to the honeymoon is over syndrome?

Cyrano is a most excellent play, and if you haven’t read it, I recommend it.  It still possesses the power to bring tears to your eyes, filled as it is with the most deathless, selfless, unrequited love of all times.  Maybe Romeo and Juliet died for their love, but at least they confessed it to one another, and had one night together.  Cyrano had none of that. In 1990, Gerard Depardieu took on the role of Cyrano – I confess that I’ve not seen that yet.  And just three years before, in 1987, comedian Steve Martin took it to a wonderfully satiric level in Roxanne, costarring Darryl Hannah, which I think was totally brilliant, and had a far less tragic ending.

So, to get back to my point, if Cyrano was the man with the words, if those words conveyed his heart, his soul, his truths, then technically, Roxanne was in love with him, wasn’t she?  It’s a shame she didn’t know it, caught up as she was by the pretty but shallow package that was Christian.  And that’s a truth that is pretty much self-evident even today.  The pretty boys with the pretty features and the sculpted abs gain all the attention – the devotions, the drooling, the deep-seated longings and dreamy desires of many women (and men), while some true beauties who don’t have quite the same – shall we say, points of interest? – go unnoticed.  And yes, the same can be said of men who see the vision – the hair, the makeup, and the two fixed chestly assets – and don’t give the girl with lesser so-called attributes a second glance.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I fell for Cyrano when I read the play, and I cried for him, because he was so wonderful and so underappreciated.  This reminds me of another quote, this time from Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

 “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”

Truer words have ne’er been spoken.  Love sees beyond the façade, beyond the paint and the glitz – past the perfect body and the surface beauty – love sees inside, into the heart and soul, and knows that it is good.  Mind to mind is the real thing.  Anyone can make body parts fit, that is no accomplishment. That, I think, is what works between people who meet on the Internet, and why so many couples have been created that way – the first meetings are intellectual, rather than physical.  They meet the person inside without worrying about the outer person.  By the time they meet in real life, they are often already enthralled.  My belief is that by loving someone, they become beautiful to you, no matter how the rest of the world perceives them.  Your heart knows, and it gives your sight the knowledge.  Think about it, about that person in your life, and how beautiful to you they are.  Now think about the ones that are gone – once the love was gone, did not the perception of beauty often end as well?

There will always be beautiful people in this world, undoubtedly.  People we enjoy watching in films, on TV, listening to, and even ogling in films less artistic but very entertaining (yes, I mean porn flicks).  What you see is not necessarily what you get, and for a fantasy, that’s just fine, cause face it – most of us will never meet these people in real life anyway, so it doesn’t matter.  But when it comes to real affairs of the heart, what I’m saying is don’t just look at the surface – get to know the person inside.  Which isn’t to say that every man with a large nose has a Cyrano de Bergerac hiding inside. But you don’t know what he does have til you care enough to find out.  And when you do, you’ll discover how beautiful he is to you.

Do you have a Cyrano in your life?  Someone that you know is beautiful, and you want to share with the rest of the world?  I’d love to hear from you.  Tell me what you think, and show me your Cyrano.


  1. Oh, I remember him, but I didn't know he had passed. He was quit a good actor.

  2. He was! I've been a fan of his for years. He played Toulouse Lautrec in the 50's, in Moulin Rouge. I believe Zsa Zsa Gabor was in that too, if memory serves.