What better way to launch a new blog than with a review of a movie nobody’s heard of? Genius, right? Right?
Unless you’re really old or live your life by TMC’s broadcasting schedule, this 1956 flick starring Gary Cooper and Anthony Perkins as Civil War era Quakers in rural Indiana may leave you scratching your head and muttering, “What kind of whatthefuckery is this?!”
Whatthefuckery is right. During the first hour of this movie, I had NO IDEA what was going on. Movie opens with a kid (an annoying kid with Little Ricky Ricardo’s squeaky bark) chasing a goose.
Then Gary Cooper stomps onto the scene and starts speaking Quaker slang. “How are thee this fine summer morn?” And his wife is all “Thou did not forget to saddle the horse, did thee Jess Birdwell? Thy family must to Meeting.” And I’m like “Are thee effing serious?” (Not actual lines from the movie. Like Truman Capote, I have 94% recall, just not when it comes to Bible speak).
I know a little thing about Quakers since I have a PhD in The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and yes, they do speak in thees and thous, but why oh why couldn’t the screenwriters seize some artistic liberty with the dialogue? Take Ever After (1998) for example. It’s set in 16th century France, yet you don’t hear Drew Barrymore saying “Just Breathe…” in a French accent. She does it in an American version of a British accent. If the Ever After crew were ballsy enough to pretend that French peasants squabbled in bastardized British tongues, you, the crew of Friendly Persuasion could have axed the ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ in favor of ‘you’ and ‘I.’
Nothing happens in the first hour. Gary Cooper pimps his carriage so he could buggy race his neighbor. He buys an organ, which his wife is not happy about until he ‘reasons’ with her all night long in the hay. She lets him keep the organ under the condition that he Boy Scout swears not to play with it in front of people. “What would people think?” There’s still no plot, but I give the movie kudos for hitting me in the face with double entendres galore.
Racy talk aside, where is Anthony Perkins? Tony Perkins is the reason I’m watching this movie; and if you’ve seen Psycho as many times as I’ve seen Psycho, you’ve probably perused the DVD special features. Screenwriter Joe Stefano and Alfred Hitchcock handpicked Perkins to play Norman Bates based on the strength of his performances in the play Look Homeward, Angel and this movie. Norman Bates is one of the most complex characters to grace celluloid and I find him strangely alluring, which is another way of saying that I find A. Perkins über attractive in all his dark and twisty, tall and lanky perfection. He’s like the weird loner in high school that you (not YOU, per say, I’m speaking for myself), should stay away from, but you can’t because he’s so cute and dorky…until you find out he’s *cue Psycho theme* gay and leading a secret life which includes a slew of European male lovers and AIDS. Even though you’re bummed that you lost one to the other team, you live in ObamaLand and you believe that a hottie is a hottie, gay or straight, in the closet or out. Your grandma thinks Ryan Seacrest is the shitz, even though you know, and I know that he’s stuffed so far back in the closet he might as well be Anthony Perkins in 1956. I digress into Choose Your Own Adventures territory, I direct you to the point.
I picked this flick so I may drool over Perkins and his method acting brilliance. In the first half, Perkins says all of two lines: “I don’t know” and “Rocks?” Holy…holy shit! What brand of skillful line reading is this?!
The pace picks up when Perkins joins the war where, for one short ambush, he busts out all the non-verbal acting tricks you could think of and some you can’t… like prepping to shoot someone with TEARS in his eyes. It’s like his tears jumped into my eyes and for a millisecond, I felt…I felt like I had a soul. Dude is good. Dude saved the movie.
Gary Cooper, although older in the “Father I’d Like to ….you get the idea” sense, had his comedic moments. Cooper usually plays the stoic, reluctant hero; who knew he could deliver racy talk so well? Perhaps it’s because Cooper is a real-life player who cheated on his wife with his Fountainhead co-star Patricia Neal, knocked her up, and smacked her with the “You must get an abortion” bomb until Roald Dahl (yes, your children’s book wordsmith) swooped in, married Neal, and saved the day.
Minus points for the lame title.
Hollywood gossip: check.
Plot summary: I deliver…the trailer!