Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hollywood Comes Through

I haven't been going out to movies lately. I have a looming book deadline, and by eight o'clock, after a day of writing, most nights I feel lazy. But the other night my husband and I watched the movie "Ruffian" on TV. Both of us love horses, and even though I knew the legendary filly, one of only a few winners of the female Triple Crown, would come to a sad end, hers was a heck of a good story. Bless her soul. Sam Shepard did a wonderful acting job--terrific characterization--as the horse's trainer. All in all, a satisfying movie experience. Three hankies, at least.

Which got me thinking about today's blog--and another film. My Very Favorite Movie.

What makes it the all-time winner?

Lots of things. Great storytelling, a sweeping epic, a fascinating setting, gorgeous costumes, characters good and bad who carve themselves into your heart and never leave, fine acting, moments of humor, plenty of drama and heartache and sexual attraction and, well, of course, love with a capital L. All the universal elements are there. Beautifully photographed, too.

The burning of Atlanta, for instance, is still effective onscreen today. Powerful images. And that's pretty amazing, considering the film was made in 1939, almost seventy years ago! Think of the technology developed since then, the special effects that directors can employ now, and then of "Gone With the Wind." Fabulous.

The envelope, please.

Yes, "GWTW" is my favorite movie. On top of everything else, it has a lot to say about the Southern culture it depicts during what was perhaps the most difficult era of our country's history. That something extra is what editors and agents often tell us should be part of our stories. "The added value," mine would say.

And boy, could Margaret Mitchell tell a compelling story. Like Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD,GWTW was the only book Mitchell ever wrote. Hard to top, perhaps? That must have been a too-daunting prospect.

How does her splendid story help in my own writing? She sets a darn good example.

At the moment I'm working on THE GO-TO GIRL, a lighter project to be sure. Its setting is Cincinnati, not Civil War-time Atlanta. It's contemporary not historical. There's a strong relationship between my heroine and her ex-husband with mutual attraction and humor, and some poignant moments along the way. A serious issue also provides a bit of "something extra." But Tess and Grady O'Neill don't pretend to be Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. (Well, maybe a little, unconsciously) And I'm certainly not trying to top Margaret Mitchell. If only...

Still, GWTW, the book and the movie, are great teachers. In part because of that, although mine is a different market, I know what elements to work on, and ultimately what over-all effect I should aim for.

An absolutely, positively, completely Good Read.

Maybe (dream on) there's a movie in there too somewhere...


Stacy S said...

That's my mom's all time favorite movie. She's seen it dozens of times.

Carol said...

I really like the movie of GWTW but I think the book is better! lol

Virginia said...

I agree with carol the book of GWTW was better because it went into more detail.