AS SUMMERS DIE
US, 1986, 83 minutes, Colour.
Jamie Lee Curtis, Scott Glenn, Bette Davis, John Randolph, C.C.H.Pounder, Beah Richards.
Directed by Jean- Claude Tramont.
As Summers Die is a well-made telemovie about racism and the South. It is set in the South in 1959. It portrays the white society of the time, the situation of the blacks, the changes. It also focuses on past relationships, justice and injustice, presumptions.
Scott Glenn is an ambitious lawyer who takes on a case to defend the rights of a black woman? Jamie Lee Curtis is a friendly but strong young woman caught up in the family traditions as well as wanting to break out of them. Bette Davis has a highlighted role as Aunt Hannah. While she appears in few sequences - in the early part of the film, she has a courtroom scene which must sum up many of the actress’s own attitudes and she puts them forward with extraordinary strength.
The film is an evocation of a period, a piece of Americana, an interesting and entertaining presentation of justice and racial issues.
1. Interesting and enjoyable telemovie? A piece of Americana? Racism and justice?
2. 1959, the South, the old town, the wealthy mansions, the dwelling-places of the black people? The restaurant, the river? Life and style? Musical score?
3. The title, the seasons, race relationships?
4. Willis as a lawyer, in the South, the initial case and his losing, his practice and his hopes? His meeting the black woman, discussing the case, going to speak with Elvira? The situation, relationship with the white family, the document of ownership? His going to meet the family, the lawyers? The oil? His own personal and financial interests? His own investigators and their meetings? The meeting of Aunt Hannah and realising that he needed her for the case? Her niece, the attraction, going out to dinner, the relationship, sexual liaison? The document being burnt? His growing desperation? His jealous of the niece and her behaviour, going out with others? The niece minding the aunt and his having to approach? The discussion with the lawyer, going ahead with the case? The family's reaction and evidence? Aunt Hannah's arrival, the uncertainty, her speech and the winning? His future? Career? Relationships?
5. Elvira, her age, dignity, her children? Her memories of Jonathan? Her memoirs, the document? The cruelty of its being burnt? Her going to the court, her dignified telling of the truth and Its impact? Her listening to Hannah's speech? The meeting between the two women, the embrace? Her winning? The sketch of her daughter and her concern about her mother? Her son the teacher, his doubting the possibility of winning, presence in the court?
6. The family, the tradition, their assumptions about their own rights? The oil exploration and their greed? The case, the discussions with the lawyer? The daughter and her callous burning of the document? The burning, of the home and the stealing of the document? In court? The evidence, the plea of incompetence concerning Jonathan and Willis's turning it to his advantage? Their anger with Aunt Hannah? The loss of the case?
7. Hannah and her age, dignity, style? The Bette Davis persona, smoking, manner of speaking, wheelchair? Looked after by her niece? Her talking, absences, loss of touch with reality and the years? The interviews with Willis? Prepared to go to court? The preparation and its seeming that she would fail? The strength of her speech, the truth about her brother, the rest of the family, her lapses, concern, her focusing on the present and her declaration? The embrace with Elvira?
8. The niece in herself, her place in the family, her looking after Aunt Hannah, her friendship with Willis, inviting him out, the meal, sexual relationship, in love, spoilt? The date with another man and wanting Willis to be jealous? The clash between the two? Bringing Hannah to the court, the case? The reconciliation at the end?
9. The family lawyers, knowing the truth, devices, planning action? Offering Willis the job? The judge, his age, presiding over trials in that part of the country? The jury?
to. Entertaining drama? Exploration of racial themes and Justice?