Bob Dylan and The Movies: “My Name Is Penny Day”


by Larry Fyffe

In his basement, singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan mixes up various forms of artistic medicine.

In the romantic drama, ‘Now And Forever’, Gary Cooper stars as an unscrupulous swindler named Jerry Day who plans to sell the custody rights of his daughter ‘Penny’ – until he meets the young girl, that is.  

Smitten, he has a change of heart. Unable to hold down a job, he steals a necklace from Penny’s little old lady friend. Jerry’s girlfriend takes the blame so that Penny (Shirley Temple) will not forsake her father. Jerry repents and returns the necklace, gives custody of Penny to the old lady, and turns himself into the police.

Bob Dylan gives Penny a new name, and changes the age of Shirley Temple in the following song:

Well, you know that even before learned her name
You know that I loved her just the same
And I tell them all wherever I may go
Just so they’ll know that she’s my little lady
And I love her so
Peggy Day stole my poor heart away
Turned my skies from blue to gray
Love to spend the night with Peggy Day

(Bob Dyan: Peggy Day)

Dialogue from the movie:

Shirley Temple: ‘What’s your name?’
Gary Cooper: Jerry
Shirley Temple: ‘ Mine is Penny Day’

There’s a strong connection to the heart of an old folk song:

Come down the stairs, pretty Peggy-O
Come down the stairs, comb back your yellow hair
Bid a last farewell to your mammy-O ….
You’re the one that I adore, Sweet Willy-0
But your fortune is too low
And I fear my mother would be angry-O
(The Bonnie Lass Of Fyvie: Scottish folk song)

Which links to another song by Bob Dylan:

Well, I can’t escape from these memories
Of the one that I’ll always adore
All those nights when I lay in the arms
Of the girl from the Red River Shore
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

Now back to our movie:

Jerry: ‘Close up they don’t look as large as they do from a distance”
(Gary Cooper: Now And Forever)

Dylan hears Cooper’s voice – takes on his persona to a certain extent:

I can hear his voice crying in the wilderness
What looks large at a distance
Close up ain’t never that big
Never could drink that blood and call it wine
Never could learn to hold you, love, and call you mine

(Bob Dylan: Tight Connection To My Heart)

Typical of Dylan, the lyrics directly above are open to different levels of interpretation, including Dylan’s or his persona’s rejection of Christian orthodoxy and ritual.

Little Shirley Temple in the movie ‘Now And Forever’ makes an allusion to a famous playwright:

Jerry: ‘Honour bright?’
Penny: ‘You can only say that when it’s honest to goodness true’

The reference is to the Bard:

Ulysses: ‘Perseverance, dear my lord
Keeps honour bright’
(William Shakespeare: Troilus And Cressida -Act III, sc.III)
  
The movie’s a real tear-jerker:

Now the chimney is rotten
And the wallpaper’s torn
The garden in the back
Won’t grow no more corn
The windows are boarded
With paper mache
And even the dog
Just ran away

(Bob Dylan et al: Shirley Temple Don’t Live Here Anymore)

You might also enjoy

Bob Dylan and the Red River Valley

Movies and the Post Modern Technique: Tight Connection to my heart

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1 Response to Bob Dylan and The Movies: “My Name Is Penny Day”

  1. Larry fyffe says:

    *before I learned her name …

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