He stared at this sudden sight, an angelic woman in white in between two large gates. “I know who…you are,” he haltingly said. “But it simply — couldn’t be!”
“It is!” she replied, smiling. “I’m Carole Lombard. Welcome, Andrew Sarris.”
Sarris finally figured things out, but just to be sure, he asked one question. “By welcome, you mean up…”
Carole smiled. “Of course! You thought otherwise?”
“You can never be sure,” Andrew replied. “Some of my reviews over the years have led people to tell me to go to–”
“Yes, that hockey-stick place,” said a stout man with a British accent, mysteriously emerging from nowhere to give Sarris a friendly hug. “We’re glad you’re here.” Lombard laughed over seeing Alfred Hitchcock with the esteemed critic.
“I suppose Alfred should have been the one to first welcome you here, after you championed him with the auteur theory and all that — he’s said so many nice things about you! — but I had my reasons for wanting this assignment.”
Sarris was confused. “And that was…”
“What you wrote about me in that book of yours, ‘You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet.’”
“When I read your statement, ‘No American novelist of the past half-century has created a woman character one-tenth as fascinating as Carole Lombard, and character is the operative word here, for whereas Gable had a sparkling personality, Lombard had a sterling character’…”
Andrew’s eyes opened up. “Yes?”
Carole smiled. “Well, I can’t say I was in heaven for the next few days, ’cause I’m thankfully here for all eternity, but boy, was I beaming!” She walked up to Sarris and gave him a passionate kiss. “That’s not something you’ll have to tell Molly when she gets here, and someday, she will.”
Sarris nodded with a sigh, wistfully thinking of his wife, film critic and author Molly Haskell. Trying to be polite, he told Carole, “I hope that didn’t get you in trouble with Gable.”
“Nah,” said Clark Gable, himself appearing from thin air in between Lombard and Hitchcock. “Carole does that all the time to film fans she welcomes. You’ve earned it. And yes, you said some nice things about me, too.” He paused. “And…and I know what Molly is going through right now. Don’t worry — your spirit will be there for her, just as Carole’s was there for me all those years before we reunited.”
Sarris nodded. “That’s encouraging to think about.”
“It’s what’s beautiful about the hereafter,” Lombard said. “Oh, by the way, there’s another director here to see you,” as Howard Hawks, who had directed Carole in “Twentieth Century,” walked up to his longtime supporter and shook his hand.
“You’re the guy who got me invitations to speak at all those film societies and college classes,” Hawks said. “It was nice to be appreciated.”
Satisfied over his new home, the curious Sarris had one more question to ask. “Are — are other critics here?”
Hitchcock replied. “Well, there’s James Agee, Graham Greene, Bosley Crowther, to name a few.”
“And Vincent Canby and Gene Siskel, though you probably just regard him as a TV guy,” Gable added.
“Well, there’s one in particular I’m curious about…”
Carole smiled. “Oh, her,” she said, “Yeah, I knew you two had your differences over the years.”
“That’s an understatement,” Sarris said.
“But, yes, Pauline is here, and Ms. Kael sends her regards,” Lombard said. “No hard feelings.”
Hawks nodded. “The important thing is your love for movies. That overrides everything.”
Sarris paused. “So in a few years, some critics neither Pauline nor I had much affection for — and no, I won’t name any names — will be joining us here.”
“Yes,” Hitchcock said, “although for several of them, heaven can wait.”
“Are you referring to the 1943 Lubitsch film or the 1978 remake of ‘Here Comes Mr. Jordan’ with Warren Beatty?” Sarris said. Everyone laughed as they took him on a tour of heaven.
Yes, thank you, Andrew Sarris (1928-2012).
For my entry about his book “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet,” see http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/22371.html. For Roger Ebert’s thoughtful reflections on his passing, go to http://www.suntimes.com/news/obituaries/13309142-418/leading-film-critic-andrew-sarris-dies-at-83.html. And for several highlights from the years Sarris spent at the Village Voice, visit http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/06/andew_sarris_19.php.