James M. Barrie was born in 1860, as the ninth child of ten in a large Scottish family. James was 6 years old when his brother, David, died in a skating accident, just one day before his 14th birthday. Their mother was devastated and remained isolated in her bedroom in mourning. On one occasion James entered his mother’s bedroom, and, in a bit of a delirium she asked, “Is that you?” (referring to her deceased son), but she was disappointed to learn that it was James. His mother was comforted by her belief that her deceased son David would remain a boy forever, and therefore never leave her. The naive, six-year-old James tried to sweetly promise his mother that he would not grow up, but she rejected his sentiment, and she continued mourning. James Barrie was sent away to boarding school at age 13. He grew up, and in 1904 J.M. Barrie wrote “Peter Pan” the story about a lost boy, who refused to grow up.
In Walt Disney’s “Peter Pan,” the cranky father (Mr. Darling) and Captain Hook were both voiced over by the same actor. Captain Hook is chased and hunted throughout the film by a crocodile that bit off his hand and swallowed his wristwatch. This scenario of the looming, ticking crocodile symbolizes the march of time and inevitable death. But, there’s good news. By the end of the movie, after his journey through Captain Hook, Mr. Darling transforms from being uptight and crotchety to being content and happy when he has an epiphany after seeing and reconnecting with the image of a flying pirate ship. He says, “I remember seeing that a long time ago when I was just a boy.” Mr. Darling becomes much more human and much more loving with his family, all through the magic of play.
In the 2003 live-action remake of “Peter Pan,” both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook were again played by the same actor (this time, Jason Isaacs). The film was produced by Dodi Al-Fayed’s father. You may recall that Dodi Al-Fayed was the prince who was killed in the car crash with England’s Princess Diana. The 2003 version of “Peter Pan,” the classic story about a boy who refused to grow up, was dedicated to Dodi Al-Fayed by his father, and there were some important additions to the film. In the closing scene, Mr. Darling is at first reserved, but then in an eruption of goodwill and love he proclaims “Dash the neighbors, dash the expense,” and he euphorically agrees to adopt the “Lost Boys,” Peter Pan’s side kicks (all of whom did not have parents). Finally, Aunt Millicent (a new character added to the 2003 story played by Lynn Redgrave) sees one of the lost boys who were late, and who therefore was not adopted by the Darling Family. Aunt Millicent (Lynn Redgrave) was uptight and rigid throughout the film, but when she sees the boy lamenting his fate, she is touched by Tinker Bell’s magic, calls the boy’s name, and announces, “I am your mother.” Teary-eyed, the boy asks, “How do you know that you are my mother?” Millicent replies with the greatest strength and dignity, “Because I feel it in my bones.” The two hug and all is right and magical.