Top of This issue Current Issue
Warning: many spoilers
I never think of Citizen Kane (1946), directed by Orson Welles, when I contruct my list of greatest American movies. i have seen it over and over, and believe that in concept, construction, and acting, it excels; also in general intelligence, as American movies about political and financial success and corruption can be counted on fewer than all your fingers. I don't even mind the final "Rosebud" gimmick, which is a bit sentimental (in a truly post-modern tale, we would never find out, as Melville knew a hundred years earlier when writing "Bartleby"). Perhaps I don't love "Kane" because, like Welles himself, it leaves me cold; both the creator and the movie are vain, cerebral and self-satisfied.
On the other hand, I do count The Seventh Seal (1954), directed by Ingmar Bergman, as the second greatest movie ever made, after La Strada.(It was on a double feature with Kane on Turner last night, preceded by "Twentieth Century" and followed by "The Third Man"--another mind-blowing Turner schedule, a term I don't use lightly.) "Seal" is a perfect movie: every shot is spare, necessary, and mostly heartbreaking. Death inflected people wait for the end in a death inflected medieval world, and we are offered one lovely contrast, the holy fool and his lively wife, who alone provide a pathway to the future. How do you deal with the absence of God? Hug your wife, play with your baby, put funny masks on and play the lute. The final moment, when the sad, silent girl breaks out into a half smile and says, "It is finished!" kills me every time.
"Twentieth Century" (1932), directed by Howard Hawks, is a loud, shrill but engaging comedy in which Carole Lombard and John Barrymore each re-masticate the other's scenery. It is wonderful to watch what each is doing at a given moment; for example, a fight in which Lombard, on her back, aims a series of kicks at Barrymore, with both feet, which don't hit him and are not intended to. It is set in a theatre world which has surprising currency today: we watch Barrymore teaching Lombard, a lingerie model named Doris Plotka he is transforming into Broadway star Lily Garland, how to walk, pause, and scream, with the help of chalk and of a pin he sticks her with at a key moment. Most of the movie takes place on the titular cross-continental train; it is some years later, she is a movie star, he has failed without her and is trying to get her back. Many great actresses are too intense to play comedy successfully; Lombard exudes a charming ease and good fellowship, while playing a diva.
All Through the Night (1941), directed by Vincent Sherman, is that rarest of things, a lousy Humphrey Bogart movie from the era when he started to make his great films. You can imagine the conference at which the idea was hatched: "New York gangsters fighting Nazis!" The gangsters are too nice and picturesque, the villains stagy and trite, and the writing disturbingly dated (a "Yowza, massa" black servant is given the line, "things ain't never as black as they seem"). Bogart hardly even gets to be Bogart; there is nothing in ther role that a dozen other current faces couldn't play, no anger, desperation or loss.
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), directed by Robert Mulligan, is a highly satisfying film adaptation of the novel. Gregory Peck was born to play the role of courtly, moral, compassionate Atticus Finch. At the end of decades of grotesquely bad child actors, this film is cast with naturalistic, believable children who are often on screen without adults and must carry the movie. The finale, when Boo Radley (played by Robert Duvall in his first role) emerges briefly into the light after saving the children still moves me to tears after many viewings.
Jennifer's Body (2009), directed by Karyn Kusama from a Diablo Cody script, should have been better. A stab (so to speak) at feminist horror, it starts from the proposition that teenage girls have a power in their bodies which can be used for good or evil. "Hell is a teenage girl" is the amusing, clever opening line. The dialog is relatively snappy; in their penultimate confrontation, two friends, one of whom is now a demon, argue over childhood issues, weight maintenance, social relevance, and why, of all the boys she could eat, the demon selected the other's boyfriend. The performances and pace are good. However, the movie doesn't really do all that much with the old tropes it revisists, and in the end, a feminist horror film flashes as much flesh, and panders to the audience in the same way, as one made by a man.
Legion (2010), directed by Scott Charles Stewart, is a slightly-better-than-pedestrian horror flick with a somewhat exploitive religious theme: God has ordered the destruction of humans, and archangel Michael is fighting him and trying to protect an unmarried pregnant waitress whose child obscurely represents the hope of mankind (we are never told why). But it all takes place in a deserted desert roadhouse, with the usual mix of diverse types thrown together, including Dennis Quaid as the owner. Possessed people--basically shuffling zombies, but with the ability to speak in crazy, threatening tones--show up. The movie's most memorable moment is a sweet old grandmother, who proves to have the ability to walk on the ceiling and bite people's throats out. Other than this, the film never skews its tropes expertly enough to be really memorable. Quaid has aged into an actor who is always watchable--simple minded, good-natured, disappointed.
American Splendor (2003), directed by Shari Springer Berman, is a clever interweaving of documentary and drama, about the life of alternative comics writer Harvey Pekar. Paul Giamatti turns in an effectively grating impersonation of Pekar, who himself appears commenting on the film and his life. When Hope Davis, as his wife and collaborator Joyce Brabner, sits in the green room watching her husband on David Letterman, what she sees is an actual clip of the show with the real Pekar. From time to time, we see animated drawings, and even the live action has comics-like features including partly drawn backgrounds and hand lettered titles. The whole thing could have been pretentious or confused, but it works, because of the grounded, familiar and humane ordinary life of the protagonist, who is granted a little bit of marital happiness, clarity, and even a cool foster child to raise with Brabner. The moments at which the dour, resentful and always overwhelmed Pekar cracks a half-smile-- for example, after seeing a play based on his work--are lovely.
The Long Ships (1945) by Frans Gunnar Bengttson, is a delightful medieval adventure which falls squarely between genres. I would have loved this book when I was twelve, but there is too much sex and cynicism in it for it really to be a child's book. Red Orm, the protagonist, is a good natured Viking who, in the course of his various adventures, is a galley slave, Moslem, Christian, seeker of treasure, fighter, faithful husband and dedicated father. The author plays with and stands on their head most of the familiar tropes of nineteenth century romantic-swashbuckling literature; the men are not as honest, nor the women as virtuous, as their literary predecessors, and the whole enterprise is informed by a lowkey humor which makes it quite delightful. The characters are all child-like, as medieval people probably were (at one point Orm tricks a lot of his neighbors into being baptized by withholding a performance by the hot jesters of the moment). Some terrible things happen, but no-one is really sadistic and evil. Priests are muscular and pick up swords when their patrons are attacked; everyone waits for the end of the world during the year 1000 and is startled when it doesn't come. The author obviously knows his terrain intimately, but avoids didacticism. Highly recommended.
A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966), directed by Fielder Cook, is an enjoyable mindgame in the small genre of movies in which characters work a con on the audience as well as on other characters. In most con game movies, such as "The Sting", we are privy to the entire set up and the operation; here, we think we are watching one kind of story--helpless, devout pioneer man with an addiction to gambling, and the faithful wife trying to save him--which turns out to be quite another. I enjoy being hornswoggled by a movie with a bit of humor and fine performances, here by Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward as the couple.
Office Space (1999), directed by Mike Judge, confirmed that Judge has made a career out of comedies which are not really very funny, or very original, selling them by a hipper-than-thou attitude which gets old fast. This one is about alienated software developers in a large company--all men; why? They plan to rob their employer by carving off the "mils" from the money transfers, something they acknowledge has been done before, in real life and the movies. The story has a few smirk-worthy moments, but goes nowhere. The always miscast Jennifer Aniston--someone you desperately want to like, but who has acheived a status of famous-for-being-famous--appears as a waitress whose entire role seems completely grafted on, as if the studio green-lighted Judge's script on condition that he add a love interest. He would have done better to make one of the software geeks a woman--there were already many in the technical world by the 1980's and they were as alienated as anyone else. But Judge writes a kind of lonely college boy humor which doesn't lend itself to believable women characters.
The Firemen's Ball (1967), directed by Milos Forman, is the movie Mike Judge would have made had he been Czechoslovakian in the 1960's. A bunch of superannuated firefighters hold a benefit at which all the raffle prizes are stolen, the women in the beauty contest wander away or stare baffled when told what to do, and a neighbors' house burns down without any of the firemen doing anything slightly effective to save it. Its more of a careful tapestry than a Judge movie, and Forman certainly deserved his long American career. But there is not a moment here which is more than smirkworthy, either.
I suppose Year One, (2009), directed by Harold Ramis, shows how lowbrow my tastes can be, but I laughed more at this movie than the two preceeding. I am not a big fan of fart and crap humor, but the extravagance of some of the comic setups--a very slow chase scene between two ox-carts, for example-- is infectious. Michael Cera always strikes me as someone it would be fun to hang out with, and Jack Black as someone it wouldn't, but together they have a kind of Laurel and Hardy thing going which works. The movie starts in an apparent neolithic village on the slopes of a mountain, but we are soon in the promised land, meeting Cain and Abel and Abraham and Isaac and then paying a visit to Sodom. We spend some time in Monty Python territory, such as a prison cell in which Black envies Cera for hanging upside down. While Mike Judge seems to communicate that he is too smart and hip to make you laugh out loud, the writers of "Year One" are happy to use their intelligence to get a belly laugh. A hysterical stoned riff about the existence of God and the meaning of life is probably the only such discussion you will hear in a Hollywood movie til the next millenium.
Don't Bother to Knock (1952), directed by Roy Ward Baker, is a mildly creepy little noirish thriller about a psychotic baby sitter, played by pre-stardom Marilyn Monroe, who at one point binds and gags her eight year old charge, after having nearly pushed her out a window. The always watchable Richard Widmark plays a man whose girlfriend has just left him because he feels no compassion. He gets roped in by Monroe, who believes he is her dead aviator boyfriend. In the end, as he rescues the child and disarms the suicidal Monroe, he gets his girlfriend (Anne Bancroft) back--by demonstrating the compassion he has acquired in one night. Its all a bit too pat, but works up some suspense. Monroe, who was fairly absent and strange in all her roles, is good as the crazy babysitter.
Something Wild (1961), directed by Jack Garfein, is a strange little movie with an art-house S&M feel, like "The Collector". Carroll Baker is raped in a park near her home and begins to suffer a nervous breakdown, which leads her to leave home, rent a room in a run-down boarding house and take a job at the five and dime. She is about to jump from the Manhattan bridge when Ralph Meeker rescues her and brings her home--but then locks her in and will not let her leave. He cooks dinner, makes conversation, and does not offer violence. At the end, she escapes and then comes back to him. They marry and in the last shot she is pregnant, living happily in the grody basement apartment where she was a captive. The film left me with a queasy feeling, though there is probably a messaage in there about creating our own meaning in an empty universe.
The Vikings (1958), directed by Richard Fleischer, is a hoot, with Kirk Douglas as a Viking, Tony Curtis as his slave half-brother, and Janet Leigh as the woman they fight over. It is over the top, athletic, contains a great siege scene and sword fighting (including the climactic battle between the two men on the side of a cliff). Contrary to popular legend, it is NOT the movie in which Tony Curtis said, "Yondah lies da castle of my fadduh"--a quick Google search reveals that this line is also erroneously attributed to "The Black Shield of Falworth" and probably is similar to a line he really said in "Son of Ali-Baba". Curtis himself, in a late interview, indignantly denied ever saying the line and attributed the legend to snobbishness about his Bronx-Jewish origins. Speaking as a skinny Jewish guy from Brooklyn, the sight of two tough New York Jews upstaging everyone around them in "The Vikings" was delightful.
We attended some movies at both the Woodstock and Hamptons film festivals this year. Consistent with my lifelong lack of advance planning for cultural events (my parents alweays had their tickets six months in advance), we bought whatever had not sold out at the box office an hour before the performance. I proudly present this lack of forethought as a feature, not a bug: why see the movies that already have distribution deals, when you can prospect for the small gems which will vanish forever after festival season? Last year, as I wrote here, I struck out and saw the glummest, most violent films in the Hamptons, but this year we did pretty well.
At the Woodstock festival, we saw two documentaries. Grace Paley: Collected Shorts (2010), directed by Lilly Rivlin, was a good introduction to the life and world of the poet and activist whom I only knew through her short stories. It exemplifies what you can do with a documentary when you have a fascinating and vivacious subject, good archival footage (of her being arrested at demonstrations), and some relatively un-pretentious people ready to reminisce about her. The Kids Grow Up (2010), directed by Doug Block, annoyed us. He pointed a camera at his daughter Lucy her whole life, then centered this documentary around the emotions he experienced as she left for college. After age 4 or so, though an appealing and graceful individual, she is extremely reserved with him, largely giving non-answers to prying and sometimes stupid questions; and there are are appalling scenes of her crying and saying how much she hates being filmed. Block achieved some notice for "51 Birch Street", a prior doc blowing the lid off his parent's marriage, and his next one will reportedly center on his own, so you have the sense that (having failed to find some bigger, commercial subject) he is dismantling his own life and selling it off piece by piece. I am waiting for the expose on Feathers the pet cockatiel, seen in several of the scenes of "Kids".
At the Hamptons festival, we saw three good fiction films. The first was Medal of Honor (2009), directed by Calin Peter Netzer, a gentle comedy about a Rumanian retiree who receives a medal of honor in the mail for his World War II service but can't think what he could possibly have done to deserve it. Then he starts constructing a personal legend, which he comes to believe; when the award turns out to be an error and the government attempts to take it back, he fights like a wildcat. This very humane, small movie expertly examines the narratives we construct to make sense of our lives. On the Path (2010), directed by Jasmila Zbanic, tracks a Bosnian secular Muslim couple from happiness to separation, as the man falls under the influence of fundamentalism. The movie, cast with lively and appealing actors, gives us insight into a secular Muslim culture we know nothing about, in which holidays are observed the way secular Jews experience Passover, nobody wears head coverings, and women are equal and professional. Even the fundamentalist group to which the man is drawn is not a proponent of terrorism, just the enemy of gender equality, sensuality and fun. Highly recommended as a corrective to the extremely oversimplified, even cartoonish view of Islam in most American films today. Sisters (2009), directed by Eleonore Faucher, should change its too generic and over-used title, but was a strong and interesting account of three young French-Italian sisters, their vulnerable single mom, and their flighty, absent father. At the end, the women, now in their thirties, re-encounter their dad for the first time. The movie avoids sentimental and easy pay-offs--the missing dad simultaneously occupies a big space in the women's hearts and minds, and utterly disappoints them for his passivity and inconsequence.
I just this morning noticed that two poems I have loved since childhood resonate with each other:
Parting At Morning Robert Browning Round the cape of a sudden came the sea, And the sun looked over the mountain's rim: And straight was a path of gold for him, And the need of a world of men for me. Nothing Gold Can Stay Robert Frost Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
The first presents the prospect of a golden life, for those with courage; the other tells us that entropy will end it. Both were in a gold covered paperback 1950's anthology of verse I almost wore out before I was twelve, buit which remarkably I still have today: its cover separating, pages yellowing and falling out...
Nowhere Boy (2010), directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, is a lovely, lively bio of the teenage John Lennon, living with his stern Aunt Mimi and meeting his estranged party girl mother, Julia, for the first time. There are no villains, just good and flawed people at cross purposes, but you get an intense sense of the ferment that produced an amazingly talented and very arrogant man. Kristin Scott Thomas, a fine and powerful actress who doesn't work nearly enough, is Mimi, who comes home from the hospital where her husband has just unexpectedly died, pushes away the weeping John and starts making tea. Later, we see her putting flowers on the grave, and we understand she is both loving and extremely tough, as life has made her.
Crime in the Streets (1956), directed by Don Siegel, is a wonderful specimen of a type of movie which doesn't exist any more, the modest little black and white New York street movie inhabited by Method actors. There is not a hint of Hollywood in this small tale of three teenagers plotting the revenge murder of a neighbor who sent one of their friends to prison. Sal Mineo and John Cassavetes are good as the gang members, and James Whitmore as a social worker, a former gangbanger himself, who gets wind of the plot and tries to prevent it. Cassavetes, his mom and half brother live in a genuinely grody apartment, as opposed to the unlikely large and clean abodes in more glamorous films like "Man with the Golden Arm" set in similar milieus. Cassavetes' exhausted, hopeless mom has not a hint of Hollywood about her, and the little actor playing his eight year old half-brother is an amazing artifact, just this side of the divide in which it seems that overnight, children went from being treacly and overstated to being able to rage and cry with the best. You get the impression Siegel went over to the Actors' Studio and raided the waiting room.
Losing Isaiah (1995), directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal, is a social-issue movie that avoids being too didactic. Crack addict Halle Berry gives birth to Isaiah, leaves him in a garbage can and assumes he has died. Hardened hospital social worker Jessica Lange falls in love with the feisty infant who refused to die, and adopts him. Berry, living on the street, can't be found, so her rights are erased without her consent. Three years later, clean, she reemerges, represented by lawyer Samuel Jackson, to regain the child she abandoned. Here too there are no villains, just good people at cross purposes. At the climactic trial, the central questions are whether children belong with their birth mothers, and separately, whether they should be raised by people of the same race. Berry wins, but in a final scene has invited the desolate Lange, who Isaiah terribly misses, back into their lives. The movie's main flaw, is the one which "Crime in the Streets" avoids: Berry is a fine actress, but even without make-up and acting crazy,is too smart and beautiful to be even even slightly believable as a crack addict.
My Brilliant Career (1979), directed by Gillian Armstrong, is a competent and rather charming version of a classic Australian book from 1901, about a smart ugly duckling straddling social classes who is equally unhappy on the sheep ranch and at her grandmother's tony home. She is saving herself for a "brilliant career" as an author. At the movie's core is a fine performance by a very young and fresh-faced Judy Davis, an intense actress who rarely found roles equal to her later on.
Sisters (1973), directed by Brian DePalma, is an early work from this highly over-rated director, whose reputation was largely built on his enthusiastic deployment of over-used tropes. If he had really done anything new with them--fractured them, spun them sideways--he would have had Quentin Tarantino's career. Instead, he has spent most of his time in recent decades on hackwork, directing canned scripts over which he has no creative control. This sloppy but entertaining movie concerns homicidal psychosis and conjoined twins.
Mildred Pierce (1945), directed by Michael Curtiz, is a not entirely faithful rendition of the wonderful James M. Cain novel. Joan Crawford, with her big eyes and quivering chin, emotes classically, always on the edge of tears as the high strung, vain, selfish daughter she loves too much, torments her. The story of a relatively satisfied housewife who becomes a restaurant tycoon, and then is drawn into deep debt by her attachment to a worthless man, it falls into the "Johnny Guitar" genre of tales about strong women and weak men. As with so many forties noirs, much of the strength is in the little details, some of which are drawn from the novel: the cost of purchasing your own waitress' uniform; the rather sympathetic, older woman with whom her first husband plays cards every night.
Day of the Outlaw (1959), directed by Andre de Toth, is a small noir Western featuring the endlessly watchable Robert Ryan. He is an angry and potentially murderous rancher, in a war with the sheep farmers for land and for the wife of one of them. Just when you think its going to be another cattleman vs. sodbuster story, in rides Burl Ives and a gang of ex-military bandits, who take over the town, forcing Ryan and his enemy to unite in opposition. Then, just when you again think you know which way this is going, the dying Burl Ives, recognizing that his men will commit rape when he can no longer govern them, unites with Ryan. The climactic confrontation is not a gun-fight, but an almost Beckettian scene in which Ryan leads the bandits into the mountain snows to freeze to death.
The Road (2009), directed by John Hillcoat, like the novel which it is based on (and to which it is faithful), is a competent, grim exercise that does not really reward the time you put into it. Many livelier and, yes, funnier, post-apocalyptic movies have been made ("The Road Warrior", "A Boy and His Dog"), and many more realistic ones ("The Day After"). This bleak, slow paced rendition made me focus more on the extreme improbability of the premise: an unspecified event, causing something like a nuclear winter, which kills all the animals but leaves humans alive. I think there would be feral dogs in the landscape, living on squirrels and the occasional human--which would have made for a more interesting movie. I think even Famous Literary Novelists have a slight remaining obligation to know what has already been written on a topic, especially when attempting science fiction ("Alas, Babylon", "A Canticle for Leibowitz") and to be able to argue that their book says something new or different, or has some other reason for existence than the fact they are a Famous Literary Novelist. Anyway, in a bleak, realistic film with glimpses of cannabalism, the deus ex machina at the end--the Father dies, and the one family on earth shows up at the opportune moment that will raise his Son, instead of eating him--was made especially ludicrous by the presence of (wait for it:)--a well groomed, well fed, gamboling pet DOG.
The Lady Eve (1941), directed by Preston Sturges, is an enjoyable romp that never made me laugh out loud. Henry Fonda is a millionaire herpetologist, and Barbara Stanwyck the con-woman who initiates a romance first by bonking him on the head with a dropped object as he comes up the cruise ship's ladder, then tripping him in the dining room. There is a wonderful moment where, watching him over her shoulder in a pocket mirror, Stanwyck supplies very amusing narration and even dialog for his stilted interactions with the other women who have set their sights on him. The second half of the movie, however, is an increasingly unlikely and not very funny excursion in which Stanwyck persuades him she is really her own sister. There may be a general problem, that 1930's and 1940's screwball romantic comedies ("Bringing Up Baby", "The Awful Truth") are never quite as funny as they want to be.
Orlando (1992), directed by Sally Potter, stars the magnificent Tilda Swinton as the man who wakes up a woman one morning in the 17th century. I found the Virginia Woolf novel confusing, and want to read it again; I know its a story of anatomy equalling destiny, but when Orlando becomes a woman, he becomes even more passive and limited than I would have anticipated, even given the well known social and legal inequality practiced in earlier centuries. What's more, stories of how oppressed people were in past ages are not especially interesting unless they tell us something about the present day, or something timeless. Maybe the novel is already dated, and made more sense when it came out. In an age in which women die in combat, fly jets and manage American foreign policy, its a little harder to relate to tales of women in huge dresses enduring repartee. Most harmfully for the movie version, Tilda Swinton, a great, strong actress, is never believable as a man. Perhaps she doesn't really try to be. It is remarkable how most good or even great actors fail when trying to portray the other gender: Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon all completely failed in their various attempts too. Meryl Streep succeeded in portraying an elderly rabbi for a few moments in the HBO version of "Angels in America", under lots of beard hair and make-up. "Orlando" as a film deserves to be made with CGI effects a la "Avatar" or the rotoscoping process (paint over live action) used in "A Scanner Darkly".
Too many movies this month, too few books. The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859), by George Meredith, is a comedy of manners with a very tragic ending. Father raises son according to a strict educational system, leading to rebellion and unexpected side effects. Planning and reason counts for everything, intuition for nothing; the son elopes with a well educated and well spoken commoner, the perfect wife for him, against whom the father sets his heart; when all are reconciled, Richard accidentally destroys his bride with one last rigidity. Of dense nineteenth century novels, the most readable today are those which don't take their people and society too seriously; this is a good one by those lights, though at times Meredith's prose is so confoundingly metaphorical that he becomes incomprehensible as Shakespeare.
Dead of Night (1945), various directors, is more frightening than many more explicit horror films since. It is an anthology movie stitched together by the story of an architect summoned to a country house, who has a powerful sense of deja vu, and recognizes that he has had repeated terrifying dreams of the house and its occupants. Each of the people present then tells a ghost or horror story. The movie contains a couple of anecdotes that everyone knows, the "room for one inside" segment later recapitulated on American TV as "room for one more", and the story of the demented ventriloquist and his domineering dummy, which was later picked up on "Twilight Zone" and in the movie "Magic". The over-all structure, itself reasonably satisfying, leads to the hapless architect committing a murder....then hallucinating that he is running through everyone else's stories....then waking up in bed from an ill-remembered nightmare....then getting the phone call which summons him to the house. Behind the ending credits, you see him driving up, staring at the house as the deja vu sets in, then entering....its a Philip K. Dick style mindgame, doomed to repeat forever.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) by Anne Bronte is a reasonably satisfying novel about marriage, duty and piety. Seen initially from the point of view of a young, well educated farmer, the protagonist is a fiery, intelligent woman who made a bad early marriage for love. He has too many sensitive, emotional qualities to be completely believable as an angry young man; the novel becomes more interesting when we switch to her diary of dealings with her despotic, alcoholic husband. Unlike Meredith, Bronte has no sense of humor whatever; but the beauty of romantic, somewhat gothic nineteenth century novels is that they tend to deal with people reacting in large ways to big challenges, more so than many twentieth century novelists. Of course, these big problems are largely archaic: much of her struggle is to avoid sex out of wedlock with her new, more sensitive lover, while remaining married to a lout in a world where divorce was available but not acceptable.