YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN
US, 1979, 100 minutes, Colour.
Lee Grant, Chris Sarandon, Hurd Hatfield, Tammy Grimes.
Directed by Ralph Nelson.
You Can't Go Home Again is a telemovie based on the novels of Thomas Woolf. They have an autobiographical flavour.
The film was directed by Ralph Nelson, veteran director of television and many films including Requiem for a Heavyweight, Lilies of the Field, Charlie. The film also has a strong cast with Chris Sarandon in the central Woolf role. Lee Grant is a Broadway designer with whom he has an affair. Herd Hatfield is his editor.
The film re-creates New York as well as Georgia of the '20s and '30s. It highlights the period with the development of American novelists and their contribution to American consciousness. The end of the film moves to Nazi Germany and makes the contrast between the United States and Germany under Hitler.
The film traces the tragic insecurity and creative genius of yet another American novelist - who excels in his craft, suffers a great deal in interactions with people and comes to a tragic end.
The film is an interesting dramatic telemovie - but also interesting in its perspectives on the United States and its literary culture.
1.Impact of the telemovie? Made for the popular audience? The literary audience?
2.The background of Thomas Woolf, audience knowledge of the author and his writings? The autobiographical perspective? Portrait of the novelist?
3.The New York settings, Libya Hill and the South? Nazi Germany? The re-creation of the '20s and '30s in costumes, decor? Musical score?
4.The title and its references, George Weber's going to New York and returning, returning to Libya Hill and the people's reactions after the publications of his novel? Going to Germany and returning to the United States? Returning home and going to death? Where was home?
5.The framework of the screenplay: the editor and the discussions about Weber's books, the talk, the voice-over, dramatising the life story of George Weber, the editorial comment?
6.Weber's reputation and fame, the editor and his work, the size of the novels and their needing to be rewritten and edited, the publishers, the response of the critics, the prestige of American novelists and how they saw themselves in New York and in American society? On the college lecture circuit?
7.George Weber as a personality: his age, the trip to Europe and his return, his relationship with Esther - and her husband? The affair? His moods, fears? The quality of his work, his response to praise? His editor friend, the publishers? His continued doubts?
8.Esther and her work on the Broadway stage, the acclaim, reading her reviews? Her relationship with George, the difference of age? Their clashes? The difficulty in persuading him to come to the party? The reaction of the guests? The praise from the guest who in fact was Esther's husband? Amy and her presence at the party, the flamboyant performance of the song? Smoke in the building, George taking charge and getting people out? The janitor's death? His disgust about the society couple's indifference to the death?
9.His going back to Libya Hill, the return home, the train ride, the discussions with the judge on the train, seeing his relations, the death and the funeral? The publication of the novel and his townspeople's reaction? 1929, the Depression? The banks, closing, the people's attack? His not going back to Libya Hill?
10.The break with Esther? The effect on him, on her? The farewell? Going to Germany, ignoring the fascist rule? His friends? The Jewish friend and the meal, the Gestapo and their attack? The physical violence? His literary speech and answering questions? The Gestapo questions? His friendship with Elsa, the time with her? His Jewish friend and his anger? The experience in Germany, its effect on him and his return?
11.The editor, the continued friendship, working with him, the restaurant and Esther's presence? His talking with Esther? Going on the college circuit? The fits, his glazed eye? People's concern? His final speech to the college students, the importance of American democracy? A sense of vision? His collapse, dying? The importance of the poem and his final words and epitaph?
12.The portrait of Esther - her work, the ambiguous relationship with her husband, the age difference, her love for George, her tantrums, the party, the break-up? The sketch of her tolerant husband?
13.Amy and the socialites of New York, throwing the doll down during the fire? The ventriloquist and his upset? The superficiality of this kind of society?
14.The literary world of the United States, of New York?
15.Portrait of an American novelist? As interpreted for the television audience?