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Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Member Of The Wedding (1952)

A gawky 12 year old tomboy (Julie Harris in her film debut) is no longer a child but not yet a woman. As she struggles with her pubescence, her identity and her place in the world, her 7 year old cousin (Brandon De Wilde) and a black housekeeper (Ethel Waters) provide companionship. Based on the play by Carson McCullers by way of her novel, this is an outstanding presentation of that terrible period in (most of) our lives where we don't fit our skins, where we don't belong and we're on the outside looking in. But McCullers' insightful work goes beyond the usual "coming of age" stories. It's about being different and not fitting because of that difference (though this is more explicit in McCullers' novel). Her dialogue is as good as Tennessee Williams at his best, so it's a pity she wasn't more productive as a playwright. Anchored by an unforgettable performance by the great Julie Harris (who died today which motivated me to rewatch it), she effortlessly plays a 12 year old at the age of 26 and she's utterly convincing! And when I say unforgettable, it's not hyperbole, once seen you'll never forget her performance. But equally remarkable is Ethel Waters who exhibits a lifetime of adversity and grief in her face and body language. Skillfully directed by Fred Zinnemann with a subtly evocative score by Alex North. With Nancy Gates, Arthur Franz and James Edwards.

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