Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mama reincarnated

There's a post I had in mind long before I had this blog, and now that I've mentioned Clyde Barrow it seems like a decent opportunity to write it. What I want to discuss here is the reincarnation of a mother's character who first appeared in "Bonnie and Clyde" (Arthur Penn, 1967) and later in "No country for old men" (Ethan and Joel Coen, 2007). Both of them are mothers of young women who are involved with outlaws.

Bonnie fell in love with Clyde, a bank robber, and became his partner. They formed a gang who not only robbed money but also killed people - so that both Bonnie and Clyde were outlaws.

Llewelyn Moss, Carla Jean's husband, is a hunter who comes across a satchel with two million dollars left behind at the location of a drug deal that went bad. He takes the money, and since the money is not his, Llewelyn now has to run both from merciless hitman Anton Chigurh, a group of Mexicans, and sheriff Ed Tom Bell.

Both mothers make only one major appearance, at a late stage of the film. Both are referred to as "mama". And most importantly, both do not approve of their daughter's man, keep a frown face throughout the scene, and predict bad outcomes.

"You'd best keep runnin' and you know it, Clyde Barrow" (Bonnie and Clyde)

Bonnie's mother (played by Mabel Cavitt) enters the story after Bonnie misses her so much that she runs away from Clyde and the gang. They quickly find her, and Clyde promises her she will see her mother. They arrange for a secret meeting with their families, in a deserted place. It's a poetic dream-like scene. Everybody seems to be enjoying themselves, except for the mother, who stands distant from the group, bothered. Bonnie Notices her mother's worry, she's nervous about it and wishes to calm her. At the end of the scene, when the family is about to leave, Bonnie, her mother and Clyde share this dialogue:
(to Clyde)
Sugar, make mama stay a while yet.

...you know, Clyde, I read about
y'all in the papers and I'm jes'
Now Mrs. Parker, don't y'all
believe what you read in the papers!
That's the law talking there. They
want us to look big so's they'll
look big when they catch us.
--and they can't do that. Why, I'm
even better at runnin' than robbin'
banks--aw shoot, if we done half
the stuff they said we did, we'd be
millionaires, wouldn't we, old
sugar. And I wouldn't risk Bonnie here
just to make money, uncertain as
times are. Why one time I knowed
of a job where we could of make
$2000 easy, but I saw the law
outside and I said to myself, why
Bonnie could get hurt here. So I
just drove right on and let that
money lay.
...Maybe you know the way with her,
then. I'm just an old woman and I
don't know nothin...

We'll be quittin' this just as soon
as the hard times is over, Mother
Parker, I can tell you that. Why
me and Bonnie were just talkin' the
other day and we talked about when
we'd settle down and get us a home,
and Bonnie said, "I couldn't bear
to live morn'n three miles from my
precious mother." Now how'd you
like that, Mother Parker?
Don't believe I would. I surely don't.
(to Bonnie)
You try to live three miles from me
and you won't live long, honey.
(to Clyde)
You'd best keep runnin' and you
know it, Clyde Barrow.
(to Bonnie)
Bye, baby.

"Three years ago I said them very words. No and Good" (No country for old men)

Carla Jean's mother (played by Beth Grant) enters the story shortly before Llewelyn, Carla Jean's husband, is killed. Both of them drive to El Passo Texas to meet up with him. Carla Jean is quiet during most of the ride. Her mother does all the talking, mostly complaining about her son in law, and the situation he got them in. Carla Jean is too worried for her husband's life to care about what her mother says. This is a shorter and lighter scene than that in "Bonnie and Clyde". The mother, like most of the characters in "No country", is a real comedian - especially when she says harsh things. This is the conversation they have at the back seat of a taxi, on their way to El Passo.

And I always seen this is what it would
come to. Three years ago I pre-visioned it.

Carla Jean
It ain't even three years we been married.
Three years ago I said them very words.
No and Good.
Now here we are? Ninety degree heat. I
got the cancer. And look at this. Not
even a home to go to.
(to driver)
We're goin to El Paso Texas. You know
how many people I know in El Paso Texas?

No ma'am.

(She holds up thumb and forefinger curled to make an O.)
That's how many. Ninety degree heat.

The cab is stopped outside the depot. Carla Jean and her mother and the driver are at the trunk struggling over bags.

Carla Jean
I got it Mama.

I didn't see my Prednizone

Carla Jean
I put it in, Mama.

Well I didn't see it.

Carla Jean
Well I put it in. That one. You just
set there. I'll get tickets and a cart
for the bags.

As Carla Jean goes to the station a man emerges from a car pulled up be-
hind. He is a well-dressed Mexican of early middle age.

Do you need help with the bags, madam?

Well thank god there's one gentleman
left in West Texas. Yes thank you. I
am old and I am not well.
Which bus are you taking?

We're going to El Paso don't ask me
why. Discombobulated by a no-account
son-in-law. Thank you. You don't often
see a Mexican in a suit.

You go to El Paso? I know it. Where
are you staying?

Every time I watch that scene from "No country", I immediately think of Bonnie's mother. I love how both films managed to show a character for such a short time, just talking – no real action - and still make it so memorable. By the way, Beth Grant was actually only 58 years old when they filmed that scene, so they did quite a job with her make up. I'll leave you with Faye Dunaway's pretty face:
Dialogues were taken from here and here.

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