Saturday, June 01, 2019

Home from the Hill

"What You Feel Now Is Nostalgia and Liquor"

I'm going to walk through the plot, based off a screenplay based off a novel by William Humphrey, to illustrate the power of the melodrama at play, a distant emulsification of Douglas Sirk and William Faulkner, bound earlier in that director's own adaptation of The Tarnished Angels.

"Theron" Hunnicutt (George Hamilton, a weak-link in the Ricky Nelson tradition; another 1960 mama's boy resembling physiognomically Anthony Perkins) takes to his father, Wade (Robert Mitchum's), teaching him at 18 how to be a man in spite of his belle mom the goy Hannah (Eleanor Parker's) coddling. The couple struck a deal years back: she'd marry Mitchum, but the boy would be hers to rear. How to construct an epic of the low-South (in the sense of "low-fantasy vs. high-") — introduce an agent of change, of chance — introduce a stinking boar. Theron on its trail blasts its snout right off, and Wade, satisfied his boy's growing hair on his chest, holds a roasting-dance. Through the virile proxy (broxy?) Rafe (George Peppard), Theron invites Libby Halstead (Luana Patten) to attend the fête, 'cept her daddy Albert (Everett Sloane) don't want her to go, so they meet on the sly at the library, fall in sympathetic love, fuck in the woods on a picnic blanket. Now Wade's the one with the reputation for womanizing, and Albert Halstead's always had an inkling. See how this goes in a town that jumps for spring cleaning the local cemetery? Throw in Hannah's admission to Theron that Rafe's Wade's illegitimate son, and Minnelli's melodrama's now fully charged: Theron goes off like a soprano Bates before his father over what his half-brother should be rightly owed. Wade swats aside the impertinence: "His mother was a tramp — a sand-hilled tacky having her child by the edge of a ditch."

Mirrorings of illegitimate children, proxy matchmakers, and neglected wives panel the homestead of this musky contrivance, solid in its rank among Minnelli's strongest films.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.