John lifted this image from a 1953 movie that his cousin Mary mentioned when she was here a few weeks ago. She is only in Will Any Gentleman for a few minutes, but you can’t miss the Cancan scene where Mary who was a professional dancer for more than twenty years is kicking up her heels. During her career, she danced with the Ballet Rambert, which is the UK’s oldest established dance company and still considered one of the world’s most renowned.
Take a look at the six women above and see if you can pick Mary out of the chorus line. (I’ll tell you which one is her at the end of this post) John found the movie online and ordered it almost as quickly as he heard Mary’s story when she was here for Christmas. We had a great time figuring out which one was Mary after it arrived. She would have been about 29 or 30 when this film was made and having just turned 87 we thought it might be a bit of a challenge to pick her out of the group based on how she looks now.
By slowing the movie down and viewing the scene frame by frame, it was very easy to see which woman is Mary. Despite the fact that her high kicking days are long past, Mary’s graceful movements as an 87 year old are still very similar to her much younger self.
It’s there in the angle of her head when she is listening to a conversation and you see it in the fluid rhythm of her hand gestures when she is telling a story. The lovely posture you see on her wedding day below is still very evident today.
David Levack & Mary Bench 1948
In addition to aging with grace and intelligence, Mary has not lost her taste for adventure as you can see by her decision to get close to the water’s edge on a blustery day when the sea at Trebarwith Strand was really rough.
I was a bit nervous thinking that as tiny as she is she might blow over, but John persuaded me not to hover and Mary was just fine.
I climbed up these rocks to catch the view of the ocean from a higher location and to my surprise …
I turned around to see John (no surprise there) coming up the rocks with Mary close behind him.
Remember what I said about adventure … she didn’t even need help going back down. My idea of what 87 looks like went through some major shifts during Mary’s visit.
This view waits for those who climb the path.
I saved this one for the last because of how absolutely beautiful Mary looks here. On Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, John and Mary went to Falmouth to go sailing with his brother David and his family. I stayed behind for some rest and missed all the fun, but John came home with some video so I could see how the day went and then created this still image of Mary from it. (The Cancan dancer second from the right is Mary, John’s adventurous, still stepping cousin.)