4.5.11

Southern Discomfort

Victorian Mansion (via Flickr)  and Natchez, Mississippi (Via Shorpy)
There is something really alluring about all things relating to the Southern Gothic sub genre, whether its in the novels or in the films they always bring out a captivating sense of place. The run down but still stately old houses and the big mossy trees orchestrate a great dark atmosphere. The genre can sustain the feeling of a gothic horror story, only instead of the vampires and monsters the characters are people who are outcasts, crooks and alcoholics. The villainous character's are often a representation of what's negatives about the South, a social issue can be raised, like racism in To Kill a Mocking Bird
I've never been to the Southern States of America or anywhere in America for that matter but when I do go, the places I would like to visit include New Orleans, Savannah, Nashville and Charleston. Which explains why I've really only just begun to get into it. I just brought a couple of secondhand William Faulkner books (Sanctuary and The Sound and The Fury) and it would be nice to have a porch and some cold lemonade while I'm at it (its a nice fantasy seeing as though weather here has been terrible, there was a tornado that ripped apart an Auckland suburb yesterday ( it killed 2 people) which was pretty scary, it ended it in a neighboring suburb to us. Never seen anything like it here, Auckland's usually got subdued weather conditions).
William Faulkner and Eudora Welty  in New York in the 60s, this is a pretty great photo!. and his novel Sanctuary (1931)
According to wikipedia (haha doesn't sound to reliable, but its the only source I can go by) "The Story of Temple Drake" based on William Faulkner's Sanctuary (1931) was the first notable film that relates to the Southern Gothic Genre. I had the pleasure of watching The Story of Temple Drake (1933) on Youtube not so long ago, the only place available for public viewing, it will also be screening at the tcm festival, newly restored and all! god I wish i could go. This film is almost the perfect pre-code. It has often been said that this single film caused the Breen office to take over censorship. Which is believable, its quite insane. Though the novel is still considered much more scandalous; the film still holds a strong shock value even though it implies the touchy subjects the novel goes into. Miriam Hopkin's stars in the title role, which fitted her like a glove. Temple is a frivolous and wealthy southern belle, who after a night of dancing and drinking decides to go for a joyride into the dark and stormy night with her really drunk friend "Toddy". They skid off the road and have an accident, which is where the hoods come in. The gang then lead the victims into their run down lair. The intoxicated Toddy is really eager to join them while Temple is quite terrified, but because of the weather she enters into the shelter. The gang of bootleggers is led by the gun toting "Trigger" (Jack LaRue) and he makes the whole situation as unsettling as possible. Temple decides to stay with Trigger and becomes a prostitute. Ruby (the woman below, right) is the other woman staying with the hoods, and even though society might look down on her for staying with a group of bootleggers in squaller, she is staying true and dedicated to her beau, which is in huge contrast to Temple (a judges granddaughter) a notorious tease about town. But because of Miriam's rapid change in life Ruby could be the woman Temple will become or according to the rules of society should become.  
It's a film worth viewing for sure. Miriam Hopkins is the only actress I can think of who would have suited that role, Barbara Stanwyck could have pulled it off also, but Miriam Hopkins has a more snooty way about her I think, which suits Temple, since she is spoiled. The film was so scandalous that it was pulled after only running for two weeks in 1933, never to played on t.v or anything. 
Can anyone recommend to me some other novels or films of the genre?
Great shots courtesy of  Old Hollywood

6 comments:

Mythical Monkey said...

I was born and raised in Nashville, myself. Grew up two doors down from George Jones and Tammy Wynette, three doors down from Bobby Bare, went to church with Johnny Cash, went to school with the kids of the Oak Ridge Boys ...

Ah, those were the days.

If you ever make it there, be sure to check out the Bluebird Cafe, kind of an out of the way spot for live music. And the Exit Inn used to be a big deal. Don't know if it still is ...

For ambiance, drift down to lower Broadway. Not nearly as seedy as it used to be -- in fact, some of it is quite touristy -- but there are still pockets of the old Nashville there.

I think it's a safe bet that there are more great guitarists per capita in Nashville than anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, you'll meet many of them on the street trying to scrounge up bus fare home. It's a tough town.

Mercurie said...

I love the Southern Gothic genre, mostly because I grew up and still live in the South (Missouri) and I can identify with situations and characters. BTW, once you get into the Southern Gothic genre, you might go the next step and read Southern Gothic horror. For that I recommend the short story "Pigeons From Hell" by Robert E. Howard. Truly terrifying and very Southern.

Zoë Walker said...

Hi Mercurie I just looked up "the Pigeons from hell" on the library website and the only version that came up was another authors modern take on it. I don't suppose thats the one you mean? that sucks I looked the book up and it says he seemed to be really influenced by William Faulkner, and by coincidence I just watched "The whole Wide world" the biopic on Robert E. Brown. So I hope I come across that book. thanks!

hello Myth: haha sounds like you had a wicked time growing up in Nashville. I really hope I make it there, it is after all the music capitol, isn't it?
Oh buskers I'm pretty used to them here, at least they entertain us for their money. lol
and thanks again for the travelers advice! really appreciate it.

moviesandsongs365 said...

Ever seen film "A love song for bobby long", pays homage to the southern atmosphere in New Orleans. I love that film, and if you’re going to that area. Has plenty of those porch moments you write about ( : Oh, and if you’re looking for a retro southern author , maybe try Carson McCullers, if you haven’t already, her writing has a great sense of place, her most famous novel appears in that film!

I see you liked “too kill a m bird”, comparable is A Patch of Blue (1965), one of my favourites (particularly similar is the black-issue, and the scenes by the tree)

Talking of William Faulkner, I’d recommend Tarnished Angels (1957), some endearing scenes between Hudson and Dorothy Malone, albeit a bit disjointed narrative. I’ll have some Douglas Sirk film reviews up later on. T.A. is even on youtube currently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=258TC9ZVw0g

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