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To Kill A Mockingbird


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Respect,

 

This is one of those rare films that you carry with you always. Some of us can remember where we were when we first saw it. Others can quote dialogue.

 

It is one of those movies that lives in our collective memory and grows fonder with each viewing.

 

Over the years since it's release we have learned that Dill was based on Harper Lee's childhood friend, Truman Capote and for me and others, finding that out 30+ years ago before Capote slipped into the madness that would overtake him, was special because it wasn't widely known.

 

Harper Lee, upon meeting Gregory Peck, told him that he had a paunch (stomach) just like her daddy. Lee would give Peck her daddy's watch and chain that he carried with him until it was stolen years later.

 

Horton Foote, who adapted the book for the screen, had seen an unknown actor on the stage in New York and remembered him when they had a hard time finding the right actor to play Boo. His name: Robert Duvall. Duvall and Foote would become life long friends. Foote would write Tender Mercies for Duvall and Duvall would win a Best Actor Oscar for that lead role.

 

But those bits pale in comparision when placed beside the film. It was one of those quirks of fate that brings the right group of film makers and talent together. No one knows it is destined to be a classic while making the film but the experience is special enough that all those who worked on it carry that memory with them from that point on.

 

The story hits us in a primal way; the overt racism that was still very palatable and on the Evening News when the film was released in 1962. While the story and film are set in during the Depression, the story has that timeless feel that connected with audiences in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. Since that era, we connect it to because of the injustice and society, in the film, turning a blind eye to that injustice. Though the sad truth is, it would be another thirty years from the story's era before African Americans overcame the Jim Crow laws and bigotry.

 

The children, Jem and Scout, are growing up motherless and trying to cope with families around them that have both parents. They, like Tom Robinson, are alienated despite the best efforts of Atticus and Miss Maudie. Dill, poor child, is all but abandoned (despite his bravado and claims to the opposite) by his parents and shuttled between well meaning relatives.

 

Boo, himself , is the ultimate outcast. Growing up in a family that hid their secrets behind closed doors, Boo is sentenced to a life of solitary confinement down in the basement, inside the house of secrets that all the townsfolk seem to know. He becomes the unseen bogeyman of every child's nightmare and the mockingbird of the title. All of us of a certain age, grew up with a scary, deserted house that held dark secrets.

 

The book is much more detailed about that long summer (in fact, if I remember correctly, it takes Boo more than one year and a half to come out and there is much more back story and disagreement between Atticus and his late wife's family) but Horton Foote found the elements in the story that mattered most and worked his screen writing magic on it.

 

We all want to be Jem and Scout in the upper balcony of the courtroom. We all want to have a father who others will stand up and honor. We all want Boo to save us when our childhood demons become too real. We all want to be able able to diffuse an ugly crowd by talking about Cecil Jacobs and shaming the crowd instead. We all want a sheriff as wise as Heck Tate.

 

In many ways, it is a story that could only happen in a book or in the movies but its impact on us as moviegoers, if we embrace the story, makes us better people for having seen the film and embraced its message.

 

"And thus began our longest journey together".

 

"Why there he is, Mr. Tate. He can tell you his name... Hey, Boo".

 

"Miss Jean Louis, Mr. Arthur Radley. I believe he already knows you."

 

"Neighbors bring food with death, and flowers with sickness, and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a knife, and our lives."

 

" One time Atticus said you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them; just standin' on the Radley porch was enough. The summer that had begun so long ago had ended, and another summer had taken its place, and a fall, and Boo Radley had come out".

 

"I was to think of these days many times. Of Jem, and Dill, and Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson, and Atticus. He would be in Jem's room all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."

 

Message was edited by:

lzcutter for clarification

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> Again, this movie's right up there with The Best

> Years of Our Lives as my favorite. I read the

> book at thirteen, and never knew the movie existed

> until I was in my twenties. I don't think they could

> have done a better job adapting it to film. I love

> all the usual characters in the film, but my favorite

> performance had to be Collin Wilcox (Paxton)

> as Mayella Ewell. Her courtroom demeanor (and

> outburst!) during Peck's cross examination was simply

> brilliant. Love this film.

 

That's sweet of you to remember Collin Wilcox's performance, and I agree she was great in the courtroom scene... B-)

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After reading the book,I thought Jem really began to mature and understand life's cruelty after Mrs.Dubose's death. Her character had a very important role in the book.

Would the movie have had more of an impact if Mrs.Dubose been incorporated?>>

 

Respect,

 

The book, as I recall (and its been years since I read it) focused on the growing up of both Jem and Scout. As you noted, Mrs. Dubose's death has a big influence on Jem.

 

The movie, however, is subtly weighted towards Scout's growing up and the impact that year and a half has on her.

 

The life lessons she learns often include Jem and Dill but we experience the movie through her eyes more than any other character.

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"To Kill A Mockingbird" is my favorite movie. The novel would probably be in my top five favorites. (Still waiting for another Harper Lee novel to surface.)

Mrs. Dubose did have an important role in the novel and I would love to have seen Jem's dark and disturbing experience with her in the movie. I'm curious if Horton Foote included that in his orignal screenplay, because of the brief scene in the movie...maybe other scenes were cut for time or because of the whole drug addiction thing?

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Ben,

 

It's my favorite too. I saw it at the old Guild Theater in Las Vegas when I was but five years old (would have been 1962). My bio-dad took me to see it, Then afterwards took me to the Coronet (or maybe Woolworth's) Five and Dime (they were both downtown on Fremont Street within spitting distance of the Guild).

 

Seeing the movie at the Guild Theater was one of the last things I did with my bio-dad

 

But it wouldn't be until a few years later when I was watching the late night movie on KLAS, Channel 8 that I would see the movie again and sat entranced from 11:30 on. When I saw Scout in the ham costume the memories came flooding back.

 

Can't tell you how glad I am that Howard Hughes didn't wake up that night and demand they cut to commercial and begin showing Ice Station Zebra.

 

There is a God.

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Pardon the interruption but I wanted to chime in that happy news does happen.

 

Tomorrow the Senator Theater in Baltimore is having two free showings of "To Kill A Mockingbird." Even better is they are also giving away free copies of the book.

 

The Senator is our "classic" movie theater. They don't get to do this too often so here is thanks when they do.

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"Tomorrow the Senator Theater in Baltimore is having two free showings of 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. Even better is they are also giving away free copies of the book."

 

How wonderful! Is TCM sponsoring this event? I ask, because TCM sometimes sponsors free screenings of classic movies here in my hometown.

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The movie is such a thing of beauty to me that I am unable to watch it without tears in my eyes>>

 

Ben,

 

I start tearing up as soon as I hear the first notes of the music over the opening credits.

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Me too, Lynn! When those marbles hit and the score starts I get a big lump in my throat...

I've seen it so many times, but I still get shivers down my spine when Jem finds the dolls in the tree...and I always "jump" when Jem and Scout are attacked-walking home from school that Halloween night.

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Speaking of reading, anyone who loves "To Kill a Mockingbird" should read the book "Mockingbird, A Portrait of Harper Lee" by Charles J. Shields which was published last year. I found it amazing. I knew little, if anything, about her and found the book full of surprises. Well, worth buying or borrowing from your local library.If anyone takes my advise and reads it, let us know what you think.

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This film awakened so many responses in me to the small orbit I inhabited.

It became part of my moral fiber, and part of my daily human condition.

The book, the movie, and the on-screen portrayals will always roam around

somewhere in my gravitational center. I hear that music and those

words hearkening back and I'm there.

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