Bessie, Vanessa, & Living Simply

Bessie Love looks out at us from the newspaper photo with a kind of watchful coquetry. She's playing the title role in "Bessie Broadway," as the French called Frank Capra's "The Matinee Idol." The long-lost silent comedy from 1928 was unearthed in time for the current film series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Why are we telling you this?

Because Texas-born Bessie Love, who made her first film ("The Flying Torpedo") in 1915, contributed delightful essays to this newspaper during the 1970s and '80s. She had long lived in England, beloved on stage and screen.

One essay told of coaching British star Vanessa Redgrave in an American accent for the role of dancer Isadora Duncan (Miss Love played Duncan's mother) - with actor Jason Robards Jr. as an accent arbitrator when Bessie and "Nessa" disagreed.

In another piece, Bessie was "doing my bit for the next generation's environment by readdressing used envelopes instead of buying new ones." What to do when an R.S.V.P. came from the White House? Send a used envelope to the president? "Wide, rich, resourceful, immaculate America - will it understand sock-pulling-up, self-rationing, hair-shirted conservationists in little England?"

We do understand, Bessie, and your 1928 photo (no hair shirt but oh, those unfoolable eyes!) makes us wish you were here. You'd like a current bumper sticker that may represent more Americans than you thought:

"Live simply, that others may simply live."

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