RARA-AVIS: Re: Paul Newman

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 28 Sep 2008

  • Next message: Geoff Eighinger: "RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled Reading List, October 2008"

    Jim wrote:

    > Along the way, among many characters in our genre he'd eventually
    > portray, he played mystery novelist Andrew Craig, caught up in a
    > real-life murder case in THE PRIZE, scientist Michael Armsrong
    > caught up in Cold War espionage in Hitchcock's TORN CURTAIN, British
    > agent Joseph Reardon in THE MACKINTOSH MAN, con man Harry Gondorff
    > in THE STING, NYPD beat cop Murphy in FORT APACHE - THE BRONX, trial
    > lawyer Harry Galvin in THE VERDICT, private eye Harry Rose in
    > TWILIGHT, mobster John Rooney in ROAD TO PERDITION, and of course
    > Ross Macdonld's immortal detective Lew Archer (renamed "Harper" for
    > reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, though rumor has it that
    > Newman wanted it to be part of his string of lucky "H" movie

    Actually, I've always thought of TWILIGHT as the third part of a trilogy, a sort of unofficial (but logical and thematic) sequel to HARPER and THE DROWNING POOL. Harry Rose is, in many ways, Lew Archer gone through the wringer and come out the other side, beaten down but not quite beat, still mucking around in the debris of screwed-up Southern California families; a bittersweet take on aging and tattered ideals that Macdonald might have written, had he lived long enough.

    Even his tattered yearnings for the Susan Sarandon character reminds me of Harper's ambivalent but still strong feelings for his ex-wife Sue in the books. And the trouble-prone and troubled hottie teenage daughter seems like something right out of THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE or one of Macdonald's other messed-up kid novels.

    It lacks the snappy zip of HARPER, or the Macdonaldesque complexities of THE DROWNING POOL, but TWILIGHT still stands as one of the best P.I. films of the last twenty or so years, not quite as deep or ambitious, perhaps, as THE TWO JAKES or GONE BABY GONE, but still well worth catching.

    And going back to THE DROWNING POOL: it contains one of my absolute favourite P.I. moments in film. Harper's been "escorted" by two thugs out to the bayous to see the boss, a slimy good ol' boy oilman (ain't they all?) who tells Harper to look behind him at the oil pumps going full tilt, as a way to demonstrate his own power and put the detective in his place. Newman doesn't budge, doesn't even turn his head. The oilman insists. Newman says "I saw them" or something cursory like that.

    It's all there -- the strength of character, the refusal to bow down before dubious authority, the willingness to stand one's ground, the notion that the "private eye" sees all. That one moment may define the P.I. credo as well as anything Bogie ever pulled off.

    Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 28 Sep 2008 EDT