The last night of the year is the flight of a young woman who hurries to a ball. Hurry up: the music is rising from downstairs, you can spot the luxurious fur coats of the ladies, you can smell their intoxicating perfumes. The cars slowly pull over, and deliver the cocktail’s latecomers to the right address. The young girl is thinking: why should I waste my time? There are too many stairs and a breakneck descent on high heels is not so smart. Don’t even talk about waiting for the lift…
Marta is the winged girl in the books. She is 19 and she leans out, madly, until she let herself go in the tender spell of a night full of promises. But she doesn’t fly: she simply falls down. And she does it from such a high skyscraper that the descent gives her time to be offered a drink, to grow a little older, floor after floor, until she becomes decrepit but, most of all, it gives her time to realize she is not the only one who’s falling. It’s a competition! Let’s see who comes first! Who’s the prettiest of all.
Dorothy Hale is 33 years old when she hovers in the air. Unlike Marta, she is accustomed to go to parties, because she feeds on all the luxuries offered by the New York jet set. Wealthy men, one after the other, but very few starring roles because she is not particularly talented. A little money, a lot of uncertainties. It is not New Year’s Eve, but October 1938, and Dorothy gives a last party to say goodbye to her friends, she goes to the theatre and comes back home, at the 16th floor of the Hampshire Building, in Central Park South. She writes, reflects and then takes flight. She is so beautiful. Wrapped up in a black dress, she walks through a blanket of clouds and gently lies down, her hairstyle still flawless.
Then there is Evelyn McHale, the prettiest of all. It is April 1947, she is 24 and, as she gets on the train to New York, nobody suspects she is getting ready for a magnificent party, packed with photographers. Her party takes place in the Empire State Building, at the observatory on the 86th floor. Come on, it is time to go, in the air. Somebody sees a white and light scarf floating. Somebody else sees her instead, lying on the top of a car with an unnatural, almost celestial, elegance.
Marta, Dorothy, Evelyn. How much frailty in each of them. How many unsaid words. And how many more parties and starred nights they could have seen. But all that is left for the three of them is one last night, black and endless, trusted to a tale, a painting, or a photograph.*
*Note: Marta is a fictional character, the protagonist of Dino Buzzati’s short story The falling girl; the fall of Dorothy Hale was painted by Frida Kahlo in her work entitled The Suicide of Dorothy Hale, in 1939; Evelyn McHale was photographed by Robert C. Wiles. This picture inspired Andy Warhol’s silk-screen print Suicide (Fallen Body), in the series “Death and Disaster”.