In discussing films, there might be spoilers. Sorry!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sidebar with a Guest: "Welcome Back Atticus

By H.E. Curtis, 7/24/2011 “Miss Jean Louise. Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing.” (Reverend Sykes- To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

Above is perhaps one of the most poignant lines ever I have heard, or read, in a movie and book. A very late comer to the world of Atticus Finch, I regretted not meeting him sooner. Gregory Peck skillfully brought Atticus to life from the pages of Harper Lee’s creation, no one else could have done so and I offer up the challenge for a repetition and then withdraw it as such an attempt would only debase both book and movie. Let those producers intent on recreating everything of the past leave these pages in peace to speak on their own merits. Understandably because of Harper Lee’s message I suspect we may see a resurgence of interest in “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Rarely do we see such powerful and well done acting, especially on such a well written book.

Mr. Peck definitely has the skill and presence to carry through this portrayal of a quiet but dedicated lawyer, all of us could only dream of having an Atticus represent us because quite frankly the modern profession of a lawyer falls far short of his ideals. In a small rural town, slim pickings are to be had by even the most ardent of ambulance chasers so Atticus who is a real lawyer stands out like sore thumb as well as garners the respect his skill deserves. As a single father, another cloud for this southern small town, Atticus has the gall to bring his children up by the same standards he believes in, shocking the Southern genteel relatives and town people in the process, who believe children should be seen and not heard. Specifically his daughter Jeane Louise “Scout” who not only idolizes her father but has inherited her fathers sharp mind for questioning the establishment, and love of books and readings, as well as the Atticus Finch stubbornness which refuses to back down when the right is being pursued. Especially when a teacher tells her Atticus is wrong for teaching her to read, and forbids Ms. Jeane Louis to read with Atticus anymore. Obviously this instruction meets with dismal failure as we ultimately know it will, and we have to laugh at our far from perfect education system.

We are definitely shown ‘Scout’ has no problem speaking her mind and did just fine without etiquette lessons as those who manage to cross her find out. Ms. Louise, a woman ahead of her time, gives those not wise enough to keep step with her all kinds of fits, especially when lady like behavior is demanded. In fact it seemed of all present, only Atticus kept easy step with her and that is how it should be for a parent and child. Yet we also find living with Atticus she took much for granted. As perceptive as she is, Scout’s child’s mind cannot wrap itself around the deep seated bigotry her father fights but she ultimately avoids the pitfalls of such thinking when at last she befriends Boo Radley, the odd, next door, unseen, whispered about neighbor man/boy who saves her life, but hardly anyone knows. Only Atticus seems knowledgeable about him (of course), and ‘Scout’ understands the mocking bird metaphor.

To kill our mockingbirds is indeed an evil task, for like the film hurt no one and bring us great pleasure in a variety of tunes.