“There are things that happen us that we’re not prepared to face. When the problems happen, life goes one step at a time, from moment to moment to moment until we get used to handling them, being responsible for our own decisions” Elizabeth Hartman
A TRUE STORY: Growing up my childhood was deeply troubled, especially in regards to my personal conflicted relationships with my two brothers; yes my parents gave so much to me during my darkest days but as a child, I was very confused with the way of life. At the age of 10 after my father’s death, I was deeply plagued by strong & inevitable bouts of both mental illness and overeating (especially as a means of comfort during that very difficult time in my life); medication didn’t lessen the pain that I went through and as the years went by, it grew much worse. In middle school, I was bullied by other kids who only saw me as their “toy”, a mere objection of their own fiendish desires and ridicules that led me even further in a downward spiral; my life was changed drastically when I was threatened one school day afternoon. Backed in a corner via an alleyway by an individual with whom I thought was my friend, I was both defenseless and afraid as her friends stole my lunch money, destroyed my glasses, punched & kicked me hard on my side, and began to empty my backpack onto the ground but that didn’t end there. The inevitable occurred when one of her friends drew out a fake toy gun and proceeded to find a way to constantly torture, humiliate and yes at one point threatening my very existence; she then took pity upon me and told him to leave me alone. Even though I was grateful that she was the only one who stepped in, the emotional toll, hurt and pain that I’d experienced that fateful day was something that I would never forge and from there on, I would have a profound sense of apathy for her. I was told long ago to forgive and forget; I could forgive but I could never forget! As I grew older, the emotional pain from my childhood lead on into my high school days and I grew more depressed; but then a new light began to emerge. In 2012, I became a mother for the first time to a beautiful baby girl; I knew right then and there that I couldn’t let myself feel down anymore, especially not for her sake. There’s a quote that says:” You can’t change the past & you can predict the future; you can only focus on the here and now…the present” and for me that makes perfect sense. The reason why I’m stating all of this is that life can be a gift or a curse to some; a gift because they’re blessed with their first child or a curse because of the tragic consequences that becomes inevitable when an individual has a troubled soul (though that shouldn’t have to be because each of us has a precious gift that we should cherish for as long as we can) and that classic films as well as the actors/actresses who starred in them can often at times have a lasting impact in the highest regards to the lives of fans who loved them best. This article is a personal favorite of mine because of the individual with whom I’m deeply honored to pay tribute, respect, admiration and appreciation for in my Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series: the American Oscar/Golden Globe nominated singer, theatre, film & television actress Mary Elizabeth Hartman (December 2nd, 1943-June 10th, 1987)
In a film career that’s lasted only 17 years, Hartman was able to emulate her amazing versatility, extremely bright beautiful talent, awe-inspiring craftsmanship and stunning charisma in such unforgettable classics as A Patch of Blue (1965), The Beguiled with Clint Eastwood & Geraldine Fitzgerald, The Secret of NIMH (1982) as the voice of Mrs. Brisby and even in a classic Night Gallery episode from Season 2 Episode 30 entitled The Dark Boy (which aired on November 17th, 1971); just like her characters in The Secret of NIMH and A Patch of Blue, Hartman was very shy & timid in real life (as I was during my childhood days). I was only able to see one of her films but that film proved to be the pinnacle of her film career and one in which I felt deeply was her best performance yet…. A Patch of Blue with Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters in her Oscar winning performance; for me, Elizabeth Hartman really deserved to win the Oscar for this film because I always find it to me one of her best and most compelling. There was a certain awe-inspiring wonder about her and yet she also showed a more tender, fragile and compassionate side to her many film roles; life was incredibly cruel for Hartman later on but during her years in The Golden Age of Hollywood, she transcended into a masterfully gifted actress with such a benevolent indelible aura about her; Hartman has also become a favorite actress of mine to view on the silver screen and I’ve come to fully appreciate, respect, admire, love and honor her life/film career since. Even though I haven’t had the pleasure of viewing many of her films, some of my favorites that I absolutely love of Elizabeth Hartman are The Beguiled, The Secret of NIMH & of course A Patch of Blue as well as a classic episode of Night Gallery (see above for further details in regards to the latter television series)
Hartman once stated that “it was such an honor to work with the cast especially Sidney (Poitier); it’s my best film ever”. Hartman’s moving and compelling portrayal of Selina D’Arcey , an 18 year old blind girl who falls in love with Gordon Ralfe (Poitier) received numerous accolades and garnered nominations as well, including one for Best Actress in the Oscar & Golden Globe field; on the eve of the 38th annual Academy Awards held on April 18th, 1966, Hartman was the youngest Oscar nominee ever in the Best Actress category at the age of 22. Though she didn’t receive the coveted golden statuette for the Oscars that night (the winner was Julie Christie for Darling) nor for the Golden Globe Award (the winner was Samantha Eggar for her performance in The Collector); Hartman did win the Golden Globe Award in 1966 as Most Promising Female Newcomer for A Patch of Blue
She suffered from acute depression and insecurity later on in her life and as her career declined her mental health also suffered the same fate as well; her legacy and great work in films/television became foreshadowed malevolently by the late 1980s (her last film work was in 1982s animated feature film The Secret of NIMH) which resulted in Hartman becoming reclusive. Despite visiting her family and seeking treatment for her mental illness, the dark façade and acute depression that plagued/consumed her life came with a much heavy price. On June 10th 1987, the classic film world lost a cinematic legend when Elizabeth Hartman took her own life by jumping from the 5th floor window of her apartment; she was only 43 years old. The definition of mental illness and how a person describes an individual with a specific type of mental illness has become not only typecast and derogatory, it has also resulted in leaving the individual stigmatized, disrespected and deeply hurt by the emotional pain; Elizabeth Hartman was an intelligent, compassionate, benevolent, beloved, sparkling, resplendent and picturesque beauty who was taken from this world much too soon. Her breathtaking inner beauty & captivating aura is felt in each of her films with unparalleled passion, love and appreciation for her craft; I feel that not too many know of her work and that they should view more of her films (I plan to do so more often). Elizabeth Hartman has left an indelible last impact in my cinematic existence, including on a personal level; we lost her much too soon from a debilitating illness that’s claimed so many lives already. Her film career is in of itself a legacy, but it’s not just how many classics she’s made that counts; it’s the sheer brilliance of a genuinely gifted star whose inspiring words throughout those films that has made the most contributions for me, and that is the greatest gift that any actor or actress could ever give me in one lifetime…..they should be remembered always and forevermore because of that!