Thursday, March 05, 2009

Jean Louise, Stand Up

Older Scout: [narrating] There just didn't seem to be anyone or anything Atticus couldn't explain. Though it wasn't a talent that would arouse the admiration of any of our friends, Jem and I had to admit he was very good at that - but that was *all* he was good at... we thought.

Thing I am thankful for this week: I met and had the privilege of watching Horton Foote work.

Horton was a master playwright and screenwriter, with such titles as TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, TENDER MERCIES, and, of course, the screenplay adaptation of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

MOCKINGBIRD is one of my favorite films of all time; and the scene where Scout innocently steps between the mob and a lynching remains a kick in the gut to me.

Scout: Don't you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I'm Jean Louise Finch. You brought us some hickory nuts one early morning, remember? We had a talk. I went and got my daddy to come out and thank you. I go to school with your boy. I go to school with Walter; he's a nice boy. Tell him 'hey' for me, won't you?

I met him when he was directing his own ROADS TO HOME at the Lamb’s in New York. It was shortly after his wife had passed, and the production was a bit of work therapy, surrounded by a hand-picked cast of friends, including his daughter, Hallie.

Horton’s true gift was in creating character. His stories aren’t much on plot; not a whole lot happens. A woman gets on a bus. A boy asks a girl to a dance. A woman listens to a drunk yelling on her lawn.

But what a rich character that bus rider is! What deep torments of teen angst does that boy carry! What ripples through life does that women bear with the echoes of the drunk yeller!

The only other Horton I ever heard tell of was the one that could perceive the cry that no one else could. This was true of Mr. Foote – he could feel the pulsing need inside the quietest of persons.

The scope of the worlds he created were small, no bigger than a two room apartment with blankets on the couch to make it a bed.

But those cramped quarters held a cosmos of drama – enough in one character to fill up the whole of Texas.

Horton Foote made his way home yesterday, reuniting at long last with his wife. His gentle voice will be missed.

Reverend Sykes: Jean Louise. Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing.

Just my thoughts,



Catherine said...

A beautiful post, my love. Thank you!

Graham said...

I am so sorry to hear this. Two of my favorite films... Tender Mercies and To Kill A Mockingbird. I actually wanted to be a lawyer in my early teen years after watching TKAM.

Lauri said...

Making me jealous and teary-eyed in one post - way to go, Sean. :) I wish, like you, that I'd had the privilege of meeting the man. Just like you, I'm forever thankful I had the privilege of meeting his characters.

annie bananie said...

Lovely, thank you. Sniff.

M Christopher said...

Right on, bro. I never had the privelege of meeting Mr. Foote, but his work has touched me deeply over the years.

Sonya said...

I read that wonderful profile of HF in the Times Mag a couple years back... a great loss, indeed. I so wanted to see A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL when it was in NYC. I've got MOCKINGBIRD in my instant queue on Netflix, which I'll move up to the top (it's true, I haven't seen it, and I'm a HUGE Gregory Peck fan!).