Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame"

AMC is showing TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD tonight to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the book.

This is one of my favorite films.... and I love the book. I'VE READ IT A DOZEN TIMES. I first read it when I was about 12--and probably totally missed alot of the message. I read it on my own, it was not an assignment--my school did not teach it as part of the curriculum. I guess it didn't join the syllabus until a few years later.

I mean, let's face it--this was a very brave story for 1960--and 62, when the film was released. The Civil Rights Movement didn't hit full steam until a couple of years after this.

Harper Lee's writing was very powerful--and her narration of the film was perfect. It is a shame she never wrote anything after this. I would love to have seen her talent continue to blossom. But how very brave for a white woman in the early 60s to write a book indicting our racist attitudes and practices. I may have grown up in a very "white-bread" suburb, but I was taught to accept everyone as my equal--and that I could learn from everyone I encountered. I have never understood prejudice or discrimination against someone because of their color, or religion, or sexual orientation. [I will admit to having trouble with some people's political standing--but that's me. At least I admit it....]

I also think Ms. Lee wanted to show that not everyone in the South behaved that way. There were plenty of people in that region who helped slaves escape and who worked for voting rights and other things. Atticus Finch with his graying hair, glasses and mild manner is a true hero in my mind. Way more so that anything on screen today.

The courtroom scene is just finishing up. It is very painful to watch how the character of Tom [played with powerful understatement by Brock Peters] is treated. It is so sad to realize that this happened all the time--and probably still does today in a more subtle way.

When I read the book as a young girl, I was totally fascinated by the 2 kids. I couldn't wait to see what Jem, Scout and Dill would get into next. The whole Boo Radley obsession was funny to me. It reminded me to some extent of my brothers and I and our friends. Back in the days when kids played outside and did make-believe. Do kids do that at all anymore? We had so much fun creating worlds for ourselves.

Now we're up to the part when Jem and Scout are walking home from the school pageant on Halloween night. Scout is in a papier mache ham costume because she has lost her dress. They take a short cut through a wooded area, with Jem leading her by her "ham hock." And suddenly they're attacked. One of the most tense film sequences I can remember--especially because of what you don't see.

I know that the actress who played Scout only did a couple more films. as did the young man who played Jem. Both were complete unknowns, cast for their genuine Southern-ness. And I bet you didn't know who thew then-unknown who played Boo Radley was Robert Duval--one of today's most respected actors.
okay--gotta go find the book and re-read it yet again.... wanna join me?


  1. I loved this movie too! The book was so powerful. I wish she had continued writing as well.

  2. I was very ambivalent about reading the book, but I think it's because my hag of a high school English teacher ruined everything we read for me.

    Some kids do still play and pretend like we did as kids. Living on an Army post, I can let my older son go outside with neighbor kids more like how we grew up, but he and his friends are considered "weird" because they like to play Star Wars and other pretend games instead of sports all the time. I think it's great that they have imagination and use it.