Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Scoop is in Her Lingerie

As any righteous Southerner could have explained, the way to go would have been to have had biscuits at this morning's first screening of the VCU Southern Film Festival.

Instead there were donuts and pastries for those willing to be at the Grace Street Theater by 10 a.m. The woman next to me expressed surprise that more people weren't there and I suggested that 10 is a tad early for many people on a Saturday morning. Somehow she was surprised to hear that.

Showing was an adaptation of William Faulkner's novel "Sanctuary," called "The Story of Temple Drake." We were told that we were seeing one of the very few copies of the film left floating around.

The story of a hedonistic Southern girl who lets boys go only so far was also the story of a strong female character who adapted to circumstance as she needed to.

When one of her suitors pressed her about marriage, he said, "Will you be honest with me, honey? Man to man?" and it didn't seem the least bit out of line to refer to her that way, nor did she question it.

Her troubles began when her drunken date crashed his car because he was going (gasp!) 60 mph on a dark road and they were forced by bootleggers to their nearby hideaway. Frightened by the roughness of the men and the potential for personal danger, Temple wants to escape

Naturally there's a raging thunderstorm going on and it's so tough to escape through the woods when you're wearing a bias-cut satin evening dress and matching evening coat. And running in sequined shoes is all but impossible.

So she stays and ends up witnessing a murder and being raped; it was the rape that made this film so controversial when it was released in 1933. For all I know, even the scene of her in her underthings was problematic, although it was a treat to see the beautiful lingerie of that era.

On a related note, her family's servant (very much a Mammy-like character) had noted while ironing a slip that if her guardian grandfather wanted to know what was going on with Temple, he should take a look at the condition of her torn lingerie. Scandalous stuff no doubt.

There were the usual period-specific references, as when her father's death in "the World War" was mentioned. No numbers necessary as there'd only been one.

And women were the still thought of as the weaker sex, evidenced when her admirer, the lawyer Benbow reminded her, "You're a woman...but you're still a Drake." The phrasing made it clear that her girl parts were a serious handicap and that only familial duty could be her salvation.

And it was and she redeemed herself in the end, telling all, but at great personal cost. She fainted, tumbling to the floor, right in front of the entire courtroom. The End.

My guess? She was probably weak from not having had a biscuit or two for breakfast.

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