Thursday, October 27, 2011
A thank you letter to Mr. Leo McCarey
May I call you Leo?
I know you’re dead but I’m writing to thank you. I’ve never thanked another artist for anything in my life. That’s because very few have moved me to action like your film did. And as a result of that action I made an old man very happy. It didn’t cost anything except a few minutes of my day. Not even cell phone minutes since I called from my work phone.
Tuesday night I finally watched Make Way for Tomorrow, a film I did not know about until Criterion released it two years ago. I was familiar with a lot of your other films and The Awful Truth is one of my favorite comedies, so I was quite astonished when I started to read about it and its subject matter. Even before seeing it, I thought of Tokyo Story and how Ozu must have seen your film, “one of the great unsung Hollywood masterpieces.” Turns out he did, and as moving as Tokyo Story is, Make Way for Tomorrow blows it away. I know. That’s saying a lot, but bear with me.
Yes, I agree with Orson (he lets me call him that). Make Way for Tomorrow is the saddest movie ever made; it would make a stone cry. But I disagree with Errol Morris that it’s the most depressing movie ever made. Well, it’s depressing if you just sit there and think about how awful it is to get old, your parents and family and not do anything about it. I will never forget the emotions you, Lucy and Barkley elicited. Yes, the emotions were (and still are) almost unbearable and painful but very necessary. Pain makes you feel alive as no dose of happiness can. The emotions were so powerful, that even after sitting through the ending once, I had to rewind and watch it several times until I couldn’t take it anymore and Lucy and Barkley’s expressions were tattooed on my consciousness. When it comes to film, I’m a masochist.
I wish everyone would see this movie, but I can already hear the comments, “A black and white, 74 year old movie with a sad ending? Get the fuck out of here.” So, whoever is reading this blog post, see the email below and take it as a raving review.
I was so surprised and pleased you found the time to call me. I never get any phone calls. [Son] used to call me - only when he needed a personal favor, and I haven't heard from him in the last few months. [Other daughter] NEVER calls me. Oh, she is responsive to my a-mails and she initiates an e-mail , but never physically ever calls and speaks to me. And [daughter-in-law] Never calls.
Realize this: I am a very lonely old man. I miss my wife. And I miss my family. [A BUNCH OF PERSONAL FAMILY STUFF I CAN’T POST HERE.]
Again thanks for your call. I look forward to the next.
Love, your Papa
While it’s true that no movie ever changed the world, I’m positive yours has changed people into kinder sons, daughters and human beings. You are the kind of artist I aspire to be. I thank you and my father thanks you, even though he doesn’t know about you and your movie and how it made me realize some awful truths.
With gratitude and admiration,