Friday, May 13, 2011
Harper Lee, her landmark book To Kill a Mockingbird, the fine movie made from it (and much more: even Truman Capote has a major role here), HEY, BOO: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird should have the billion-odd fans of the that book lining up to learn more about it -- and the woman who created it. "Landmark" because it enabled white America, north and south, to begin coming to terms with the country's major social problem, racial prejudice, the book remains a force for understanding and change. Further, it is probably one of the few "modern classics" taught in schools that does not always need to be force-fed.
director/producer Mary McDonagh Murphy (shown at left) doesn't insist on any particular scenario. Yet by the end of the jam-packed 82 minutes, you'll have a relatively clear idea of why things worked out as they did. More important is the wealth of history and information the filmmaker has garnered about the impact of Lee, her book and the film based upon it. (Which film, by the way, is still considered one of the best novel-to-movie transitions Hollywood has yet managed to achieve).
Oprah's here), along with Tom Brokaw and Rosanne Cash, writers from Anna Quindlen and Lee Smith to Scott Turow and Wally Lamb, and even ex-politician Andrew Young -- who tells us why the book was good for whites, but not for him: "We knew all that already. We didn't need more of it. It was all around us." And yet Mockingbird, which was published just prior to the heavy breakout of civil rights protesting, proved a comfort and help to early civil right workers.
Truman Capote (above), longtime friend and next-door neighbor of Lee in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. This documentary, in fact, adds some perhaps necessary balance to the two movie-bios of Truman: Capote and the even better film Infamous. What author Alan Gurganus has to say about Capote toward the end of his career is not pleasant. What happened to the Capote/Lee friendship, post-publication of Mockingbird, is also telling.
Mary Badham, who played the character of Scout, above, talks about the day the famous "tire scene" was filmed.) In one of my favorite portions, writer Diane McWhorter, a southern girl who went to school with Badham, talks about her feelings when seeing the movie for the first time with her school class. "Crying for a black man! What would my father think?" McWhorter's remarkably candid explanation of how she felt -- and why -- combines history with psychology and, as much as any other scene in the film, explains the ability of this book (and its accompanying movie) to reach whites on a subject that they would rather not address. (Another pleasurable section is devoted to hearing today's school kids talk about what the novel has meant to them.)
First Run Features, opens Friday, May 13, in New York City at the Quad Cinema and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3. Theaters. Click here to see upcoming playdates and theaters around the country.