Falling in love with a man in the picture box.

It was late one night…maybe 2 or 3 in the morning and I was flipping channels on the TV. Normally I wouldn’t stop for a black and white movie unless it was Hitchcock or even better, Sunset Boulevard…however this film caught my eye so I stuck around a while to see what it was about.

The film was “Baby Doll” and it was set in Tiger Tail, Mississippi in 1956. The film revolves around the title character, “Baby Doll”, played by Carroll Baker, a 19-year old married virgin who has just 3 days left before her 20th birthday; the date she must finally consummate her marriage to her husband, played by Karl Malden. Enter the dark, swarthy Sicilian, Silva Vacarro, intent on destroying the husband’s business and getting revenge after the husband burned Vacarro’s gin house to the ground. As part of his plan, Vacarro begins a slow seduction of the naive and sexually repressed Baby Doll.

OK, a few necessary facts. The entire movie is a hot mess. Baby Doll sleeps in a crib because all of the other furniture has been repossessed. There is a syndicate in control of all the gin mills. Like…a MOB syndicate…in Mississippi. That poor Karl Malden has been living with his wife for 2 years without any female companionship so he is wound tight as a drum. Time Magazine called this movie the dirtiest American-made motion picture that had ever been legally exhibited. Now why I feel the need to mention all of these things is beyond me other than to give you a picture of what a nasty-black-and-white-what-were-they-thinking train-wreck I was watching.

However, that swarthy Sicilian. That morally challenged, not-so-law-abiding seducing Sicilian. Man, he literally stopped me in my tracks. He hypnotized me on the screen. For the first time and only time in my existence I literally fell in love/lust with a fictional character.

What was it about this man who had taken my heart? His eyes drew me in and his voice was captivating. I wanted him to look at ME like that. I wanted him to seduce me. As I was sitting there in the dark I actually got sad. I felt like we were mistakenly born decades apart. I felt like he was the love of my life. It was literally one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had.

Here’s the funny part. The sexy Italian was played by none other than Eli Wallach. You know Eli Wallach. In “The Good, the bad and the ugly” he played “the ugly”. The man has been working as a method actor steadily since 1945. He’s STILL working at the age of 96!

“Baby Doll” was Wallach’s his first feature film. He was a Jewish boy from New York who ended up being more famous for playing a Mexican but for me he will always be that swarthy Sicilian.

Have YOU ever experienced that “lost love” feeling with a compete stranger? Have you ever felt destined to be with a celebrity or public figure? Or am I just some strange “Somewhere In Time” stalker?

This is for you, Eli Wallach! You will forever be considered my celebrity husband.


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