Monday, March 16, 2015

On TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

I love my sister.  She is one of the most precious gems in my life.  She's an advisor, a confidante, a constructive critic and a witness to my youth.  I think she's the best sister since Scout in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  Whenever I see that film classic, I think of her when watching the relationship between tomboy Scout and brother Jem.
For a little over six months, I've been "couch-surfing" here in New York City.  Friends and friends of friends have been kind of enough to let me sleep on a couch so I could pursue new steady work and kick a few years of humiliating unemployment to the curb.  Like many others, I am determined to rebuild my life after the brutal Recession left me without a job and without my own home.  This unexpectedly but blessedly long visit to New York City has been quite an emotional and spiritual journey.  Through it all, my sister has given me encouragement and love.

1962's To Kill A Mockingbird was on TCM recently.  I watched it again.  In these days of Ferguson, the "I Can't Breath" civil protests across the nation, and the Hollywood lack of racial diversity issues that arose from the Oscar nominations, the Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck still has social significance.  I think it moved me more seeing it this year than it ever has before.  The screenplay adaptation by Horton Foote is brilliant, powerful, touching and true to the Harper Lee novel.
Being older and, honestly, being a black American has felt the sting and exclusion of racial discrimination, I watch this movie now and know that the rapid dog in the small Southern town that Atticus Finch must shoot represents a lethal racism on the loose.  I also love the visuals -- the literature of film -- that give you information about the characters.  Here's one of my favorites.  Atticus on the front porch swing.
He never sits smack dab in the middle.  He always sits in that same corner. That's probably where he always sat when his loving wife was alive and sat on the swing with him, holding his hand, his arm around her.  The widower lawyer now sits there with his little girl, Scout.
Here are other visuals that put a light in my heart every time I see To Kill A Mockingbird.  

We hear talk about the late and very much loved Mrs. Finch, but you usually think we never see her in the movie.  Now, I believe we do -- and in a key scene.  After Scout and Jem have watched their father stand up for racial tolerance and defend and innocent black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman, the children learn a heavy lesson about life and stand with their father.  Walking home from a nighttime school event, they are attacked when a bad man follows them.  You know the story.  Jem is  rescued.  The children wind up safe at home.  Who saved Jem?  Scout has the answer.  The poor tormented soul hiding in life's dark corner -- and in the shadow behind the door of a Finch bedroom -- is Boo Radley.  He's the mentally challenged and mysterious resident who protects Scout and Jem.  When Scout spots him afraid and hiding in the shadow behind the door, she goes over to him and offers a kind hand to bring him into the light.  Notice the framed photograph on the mantlepiece.  The woman with the long hair and smiling face.  I'm positive that is Mrs. Finch looking lovingly and proudly at her little children.
It's as if the late Mrs. Finch is smiling at Scout's act of kindness.  She is a heavenly mother, proud of the people her children are becoming.

Scout will take Boo's hand and sit with him on the porch swing.  Notice where she sits.  Scout truly is her father's little girl.  She is in Atticus' spot as she befriends a disenfranchised innocent person.
At the end, the concerned father watches over Jem as Jem sleeps.  Atticus and his children -- and Boo Radley -- have made it through a turbulent and memorable night.  A dangerous racist, on the loose in the town like that rabid dog Atticus had to shoot, is now dead.  Scout escorted Boo safely back to his home.  She now sits on her father's lap as he watches her big brother sleep.

And, on the mantlepiece, there's the gracious young woman with the long dark hair in the framed photograph who appears to be watching all three.

I do believe that sweet, warm face in the photograph belongs to Mrs. Finch.

I love the visuals in this film.  Such rich little details from To Kill A Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan and cinematographer Russell Harlan.  I wish ABC, CBS or NBC would air the movie this spring as a special network presentation in primetime one Saturday or Sunday when families could watch it together.  Maybe a network could have Mary Badham, who played Scout, as the special guest host.  The film is still so relevant, so touching.  A true classic.

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