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May 1998, Week 2


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Dennis P Bingham <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 7 May 1998 21:59:47 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (96 lines)
See my correction below!
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 17:41:31 -0500 (EST)
From: Dennis P Bingham <[log in to unmask]>
To: Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Good Will Plagiarism/The Trauma of Genius
All of this may prove nothing so much as the endless recycling and
reworking of plots, themes, and archetypes.  I haven't seen THE SCOUT, but
the psychoanalysis that uncovers buried abuse is such a staple of
post-Freud narrative that Nicholas Meyer parodied it in his novel and
film, THE SEVEN-PERCENT SOLUTION, in which Dr. Freud leads Sherlock Holmes
to see that Holmes hates Dr. Moriarty because as a boy Sherlock caught
Moriarty in bed with his mother.  I haven't seen THE SCOUT, but another, I
daresay different, 1994 baseball film, COBB, has at its center a buried
secret involving a dead father and an adulterous mother, which the film,
like CITIZEN KANE with "Rosebud," leaves to the viewer to decide its worth
as an explanation of character.
Finally, I'm a little surprised to see FEAR STRIKES OUT treated as an
aggrieved party in accusations of plagiarism.  In my study of film
biography, FEAR STRIKES OUT appears a rare biopic in which the
victim of parental ambition is male.  Whatever its basis in fact, the
film appears to take whole the "blame mother" formula of films like I'LL
CRY TOMORROW (1955), the biopic of Lillian Roth, whose alcoholism is shown
to have been caused by a mono-maniacal stage mother who drove her daughter
to success at any cost, and transfer it to mother-son.  Like I'LL CRY ...
Of course, I meant to type "father-son."  The world wasn't ready for Karl
Malden in drag in '57 (or ever).
and another '55 female biopic, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, FEAR plays its scenes
of success and triumph as nightmares.  FEAR is also the only film I know
of that portrays electric shock therapy in a positive light (Please, don't
reply with more examples!); this too can be seen as following the formula,
in which a cure is found (in I'LL CRY TOMORROW, it's Alcoholics Anonymous)
and the film ends on a hopeful note.  BTW, if all this sounds familiar, it
might be because, FRANCES, the 1982 biography of Hollywood victim Frances
Farmer, made liberal use of the I'LL CRY TOMORROW formula.  Both films
even end with their heroines appearing on the TV show, THIS IS YOUR LIFE.
This recycling is, I feel, a good thing.  It's how cultures evolve and art
forms develop.  Show me a totally original story and I'll show you artists
who have used their imaginations to transform the familiar, a feat that
I thought GOOD WILL HUNTING, with its vivid local color and idiosyncratic
characters, came close to pulling off.  One example: Minnie Driver's horse
laugh seemed so "unladylike" and real to me that it alone pulled her
character completely out of "love interest" conventions.  Much of the
film's reality may come from Gus Van Sant's direction, as William Goldman
claimed in a recent article in PREMIERE, but I think Damon and Afflick,
writing about their hometown, deserve credit too.
Dennis Bingham
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
On Thu, 7 May 1998, Gael McGear Sweeney wrote:
> In article <[log in to unmask]>
> "Edward R. O'Neill" <[log in to unmask]> writes:
> >  At 07:53 PM 4/29/98 -0400, Robert Kolker wrote:
> > > >I recently saw a nice film called "The Scout" (1994). It
> > > >has a great pedigree: written by Albert Brooks and Andrew
> > > >Bergman, directed by Michael Ritchie. It's about this
> > > >young baseball player, who has great talent but an
> > > >uncontrollable temper. Brooks finds him and signs him up
> > > >with the Yankees. But, the kid has to see a psychiatrist
> > > >(Diane Wiest)who finds out he suffered from an abusive
> > > >father.
> > > >
> Well, this is also exactly the plot of FEAR STRIKES OUT! Perhaps Jimmy
> Piersall should sue?
> Gael
> ASGTRP #55
>                            Gael McGear Sweeney
>                              [log in to unmask]
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