Total Pageviews

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Writer's Life 7/16 - Picnic

Last night Movies!, 113 on Cablevision in NYC, ran Picnic (1955), another of those films that somehow had eluded me. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning play by William Inge, it is the story of the effect a young hunk has in a one-day stay in a small Kansas town, the self-reflection he arouses in the other characters, which comes to a head at the annual Labor Day celebration. It features a dream cast. William Holden, 37 at the time, was too old for the lead but gave his all. Kim Novak was at the height of her cinema glory, as beautiful as any actress who has graced the silver screen. Susan Strassberg was affecting as the little sister dwarfed by her sibling's big shadow. Rosalind Russell was perfectly cast as a spinster desperate to get married. Arthur O'Connell was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as her reluctant boyfriend. Cliff Robertson, Nick Adams, Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale), Betty Field and Verna Felton all played their parts well. The play may have been daring at the time, but the world has changed considerably since it was first produced in the early 50's. Parts of the narrative seem naive, but its heart is always in the right place. Picnic was nominated for six Oscars, winning two, for editing and Art & Set Decoration. It was shot beautifully, in vivid color, by the celebrated James Wong Howe. It's running time is just under two hours. It was directed by Joshua Logan, who specialized in adapting plays to the screen. He won a Tony for Mr. Roberts and South Pacific. Inge would later win an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Splendor in the Grass (1961), also set in Kansas and featuring similar leads to those in Picnic, the young and beautiful Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. When his muse faded, he fell into depression, which led to suicide at 60. His work lives on. Picnic features a wow sequence, a simple dance between non-dancers. When Novak begins to sway -- Sweet Jesus! Here is that scene, courtesy of youtube. Enjoy:

Whenever I hear the word "picnic," I recall my mom's charming pronunciation: "pickanickeh." Other of my favorites was her "fifateen minoots" for 15 minutes, and 'choonga" for chewing gum. My sister always had a tough time with "finished," which she pronounced "fin-ish-ed," accent on the last syllable. I always teased her about it. I believe she now pronounces it "feen-eeshed." The way language evolves and is bastardized is endlessly fascinating.

The floating book shop was no picnic today, and not only because of the continuing heat wave. I set up under the tree in front of the Chase bank at Bay Parkway and 85th Street, and no one was interested in my wares. But, as is often the case, it was worthwhile for the fascination the human condition often supplies. I finally aroused the nerve to ask the tall, attractive dirty blonde Russian woman about the tattoo she sports on her upper left arm. Here's a close approximation of it:
Hers has more green and red. Since her English is limited, she said only "Angel -- not God," and pointed toward the ground. I couldn't bring myself to ask: "Devil?" Anyway, if she is a devil-worshiper, she's the nicest there ever was. She's given me about 20 books in her native tongue, all of which sold... And for the second time this month I unintentionally hosted an argument between B.S. Bob and Conspiracy Guy, who are at opposite extremes of the political spectrum. At first CG offered BS his hand, and Bob refused to shake. From there they devolved to a shouting match, insulting each other. The word "liar" was a constant, as was the F bomb. Bob, who claims to have two degrees from Johns Hopkins, gave an elitist's sniff to CG's claim of degrees from LIU and CW Post. CG regretted that he hadn't shot Bob in the face. I have a feeling there will be a round three down the road. I'm not looking forward to it. Who would stop to buy books while such a rhubarb was taking place?
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:

No comments:

Post a Comment