Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"All The King's Men"

One of the first plays I remember seeing outside of a school auditorium was "All The King's Men" at Franklin & Marshall College's Green Room Theater.  Our high school drama club went to see it and I was absolutely stunned.  The plot amazed me, and the most unforgettable moment was when the hicks stormed the stage.  The Green Room was small, so a bunch of pitchfork- and torch-carrying men was pretty scary.

A few years later, I was in charge of the film series at college.  I'd seen "All The King's Men" on TV and wanted to see it without commercials.  It was one of the best dramas I'd ever seen, and Broderick Crawford's Willie Stark was an object lesson in acting.  The film made the impact on the audience I'd hoped for...and on me.  I always previewed the movies, so I saw it first with just a couple of friends; we were nothing short of amazed.

I've seen the movie many times since then and I've read the play, too.  I'm currently reading Robert Penn Warren's book.  I'm glad I saw the play and the movie before I read the book; I doubt I'd be interested in seeing them after plowing through those pages.  In point of fact, I'm kind of surprised I'm still reading it, except that I like the plot and the book does flesh out a few things.  But the writing.  omg.

My partner is a poet.  When he saw I had "All The King's Men," he asked about it.  I told him I hadn't started it yet, then asked him what he thought of Warren's poetry.  Not much, as it turns out.  Pompous.  Self-indulgent.  Pretentious.  I'd hoped that was just his poetry, that his prose was different.  It isn't.

The worst parts are that he thinks he's writing film noir, but he just doesn't get it.  It's a style out of his reach and he tends to be less noir and more bore.  Worse, though, is his constant use of simile.  He beats ideas over the head.  He starts a paragraph, tells you what he means over and over, then sums up what he's said.  Sadly, to try to keep up with the intriguing plot, I've learned to tell when he's about to go off on a tear.  I can tell now just by looking at a paragraph that what's there won't further the plot; rather, it will just show us that he could type.  Still, Willie, Joe, Sadie, Duffy, Lucy and Sugar-Boy are as compelling as they are in the play and movie.

It's just a shame that the source material isn't as focused.

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