Harper Lee wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which became an instant bestseller and made into a movie of the same name starring Gregory Peck.
John Ball, who wrote “In the Heat of the Night,” was made into a film of the same name starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.
Guy Owen, who wrote “The Ballad of the Flim-Flam Man,” was made into a movie, “The Flim Flam Man,” starring George C Scott.
Joe David Brown, who wrote “Paper Moon,” was brought to film of the same name starring Ryan and Tatum O’Neal.
This is neither a ‘best of’ listing or ranking, nor a critical analysis of relations in the Deep South and race relations, which define these movies. Yet, for me, these are books and films that I have re-read and re-watched over and over again throughout periods in my life. They strike a chord in me. They create an emotional response in my consciousness, if you will.
The mix of characters, relationships, themes, influences and the outcomes or ‘moral of the story’ strike the chord. There is the high morality and sense of justice of Atticus Finch and Virgil Tibbs; and the blind charm and likeableness of Mordecai Jones and Moses Pray, the traits, in addition to smartness, that make con artists ‘successful.’ The former providing leadership in and growth of a community; the latter having the capacity to destroy a populace and damage the lives of those who cooperate naively with the hustler or who are the unfortunate targets of the scam.
These four books/films evoke strong and sometimes confusing sentiment in the reader/viewer. It is easier to identify with protagonists defined by an Atticus Finch or Virgil Tibbs. After all, attributes of truth, justice and morality are qualities most of us like to think we aspire toward. We resist identifying with characters of the ilk of a Mordecai Jones or Moses Pray; yet the required charm and likeability inherent in their ‘profession’ make us forget who they really are from time to time, and what they are really doing. We are jarred back only when we are reminded of the hurt they cause in the lives of their marks; or the debilitating influences on the development of a young Addie Loggins or Curley. Yet, it is these strong and rival emotions that allow us to relive the stories, as if we are experiencing them for the first time.
And I guess that is what I enjoy about these four books/films.. . that repetition does not bring what you would expect… banality!
Best regards, Ed