We lost Horton Foote yesterday, at the ripe old age of 92; he was within 10 days of his 93rd birthday. A prolific playwright, Foote might be best known for his screenplay adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, for which he won the Academy Award. I found that Tess Harper’s quote seemed to be one of the most incisive when describing Foote ( “He was a quiet man who wrote quiet people”); she shared the screen with Robert Duvall in another of his classics, Tender Mercies. Duvall, of course, made his screen debut as the iconic neighbor Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird, having been suggested for the part by Foote after the two men worked together on a theatre production. Sadly, Mockingbird’s director Robert Mulligan recently passed away as well; his film credits include baseball flick Fear Strikes Out and coming-of-age classic Summer Of ’42.
Ironically, To Kill A Mockingbird aired on TCM the other night; it’s one of those movies that stops me from further channel-surfing and locks me in for the duration. I’ve read the book twice and have seen the film at least a dozen times since my childhood, and I agee with those who rank it high on the list of the best films ever made. Gregory Peck is pitch-perfect as lawyer and widower Atticus Finch, who (as one character describes him) was “born to do our unpleasant jobs for us”. Peck’s grim, silent determination is consistent whether he’s being called upon to dispatch a rabid dog with a single shot, guide his motherless children through their frustrations or stand alone against an angry town of racist rednecks when a black man is wrongly accused of a heinous crime.
His lesson to daughter Scout provides words we could all learn from. “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Ain’t that the truth.