"And you’re a coward."
Emily Dickinson wrote:
"A word is dead
When it is said,
It just beigns to live
Our movies have such a strong moral code. The bad must pay. And bad women must pay...dearly. Whether the law metes out justice for our deeds or we issue a self-imposed justice for what's in our hearts (Robert Young in "THEY WON’T BELIEVE ME"), the moral code is inescapable, and apparently essential. It runs through our American cinema, literature and souls like our carotid artery.
I, too, was stunned by "THE MACOMBER AFFAIR” It stayed with me quietly throughout the festival. I'd have mini-flashbacks while I waited on line for another movie with tiny uncontrollable shaking of my head and softly clucking my tongue. I couldn't quite put my thoughts into words without a second viewing, and fat chance of that. Leonard Maltin's intro of the film already told us the 'Macomber' rights issues. I finally saw one of my personal holy grail films and now I wanted a second helping? Ha! Greedy greedy Capricorn. Who knew I'd be a click away from the grail. (Does Leonard Maltin know about this?) So I cozily settled in for a second viewing. Now, I still don't have the right words (my heart is so much more eloquent than my brain), but here are the words I could pull out:
Hemingway gives us the story of the disintegration of a marriage using the safari as subtext. I liked the use of flashback here (without voice over). Gregory Peck as white hunter, Wilson, is not talking to Father Confessor/Magistrate Reginald Denny. He's thinking of past events. How he could know what the Macombers talked about in their private tent is one of the conceits I was willing to go with). I cotton to the inevitability flashbacks give to events. We start off not knowing anything.
Just that a man is dead.
MY MACOMBER IS SPOILED...IT WAS SITTING IN THE HOT AFRICAN SUN WITHOUT A HAT!
The Macomber Affair: its marriage, its affair...the hunt. Marriage is a partner-ship of love, support, desire, respect. (All you married posters out there can correct me if I've romanticized things). The Macombers look good on paper. They are an attractive and successful couple. (Hey, safaris ain't cheap). Francis Macomber is a good dancer too. I liked when she calls him to dance since the great white hunter couldn't quite cut a rug. And they have that good-natured Nick & Nora repartee going on. When Wilson compliments Macomber on his attractive wife:
MR. MACOMBER: "Wilson, you don't know what it does to a man's ego to constantly be reminded he's married to a beautiful woman."
MRS. MACOMBER: "Usually what it does to yours darling, air does to a balloon."
But when things go down hill, it goes down like a water buffalo. Francis starts off confident, and deferentially willing to learn from his safari guide, Wilson. And he's so boyishly cute rekindling his attraction to his wife:
"I believe I'm in love with you again."
Is there really an affair, or just an attraction between Wilson and Margaret Macomber. Even I think the flirtation is somewhat harmless; maybe part of the ticket to the safari...the charm Wilson thinks wives expect out there in the jungle while their husbands are busy proving their manhood against lions and tigers and impalas...oh my! Emotions are heightened out there in Mother Africa with its veldt, and heat, and wild...animals. Gable, Granger...dashing, virile, alpha males in khaki shorts living by the gun and their code. How intoxicating. I like how Wilson calls Mrs. Macomber a "beautiful sensation." I like how he gets the help to pipe down outside so Mrs. Macomber can sleep. (I love how the head guy, Kongoni also brings in Mr. Macomber's name in terms of sleep. Yeah...him, too). Oh Wilson's definitely attracted to Margo Macomber. Korda leaves it to our imagination...Wilson sitting outside his tent smoking a cig and Mrs. Macomber leaving her tent.
I liked the details of surfin' safari-ing; the talks of the types of gun. I just liked the verbal attention to those details (not a proponent of hunting down animals at all). I guess the attention to safari details is due to Hemingway's passion (hunting). But I did like it and the aplomb and believability Peck played all that off as though this La Jolla native was to the safari born.
I audibly gasped when I saw that. I was in total shock. I was just expecting a good old-fashioned affair. Not this.
We all want our men to be white hunters, brave, heroic, to protect us whether in the jungle or in suburbia; the heartlands or midtown. The disappointment was chilling. I really was in shock.
It truly turned the tide on things and eroded everything. It was the death of everything. When Margo kisses Wilson full on the lips in front of her husband, I was again in shock. WHOA! What a ballsy move!!! What a slap in the face. Now Margo really plays up to Wilson, but he's not comfortable with that:
WILSON: "Say you wouldn't mnd dropping my beauty as a topic."
MRS. M.: "I just started."
WILSON: "Let's chuck it."
Joan Bennett as Margaret Macomber was wonderfully horribly contemptuous. At first I liked it, but then I was angered by it. She was a bully. And needled and needled; wanted Francis to get his beauty rest...shrank from him. And Robert Preston did a really fantastic job as a man shamed; shamed in front of his wife, shamed in front of another man. My heart broke for him. He wasn't a blowhard. He seemed like an average guy.
"What about my wife. She’ll look at me like a rabbit for the rest of my life."
He sulks. He's impotent.
I hadn't expected these turn of events. And in 1947 to boot! Hemingway?
How does one come back from shame. What he liked and admired about everything before, he now hates and loathes, including Wilson. Macomber's already beating himself up. Now his wife nails his impotency to the wall like one of those animal heads. Before I started disliking her, I marvelled at her smiling disdain when she comes back into the tent and figures he knows she was gone (his arm is over his eyes). OMG Joanie! She has risen in my little black book of lethal ladies. No one shows contempt like Joan Bennett (sorry Bette, sorry Babs!)
MR. MACOMBER: "You think I'll take anything don't you?!"
MRS. MACOMBER: "I know you will, Sweet!"
Beating up the servant made him look small as well, like a little boy beating up a littler kid. I liked how Kongoni jumped in there and even though he was forcibly stopped by Wilson, I really liked the healthy respect Wilson and Kongoni had for each other. There was a team work with them, not subserviency. But you can't go hitting the clients even if they act like pr...knuckleheads.
I was really checking out Wilson's reaction. He was very even-handed about it all. He didn't coddle or wet nurse Macomber, but he wasn't judgmental either. I didn't know what to expect. I was all turned around now. After all, he wanted Margo too. I was surprised and warmed to see Wilson support and encourage Macomber; like a big brother not a rival. Now of course, this is a business and part of his job is not to talk about his clients. And women getting mixed up in this safari business was bad business he initially said. He wanted Macomber to get a back bone with Margo. "...order her not to go," he said. My dander raised for a hot second, but then I calmed my "I-am-woman-hear-me-roar" self down. The thought also crossed my mind this second time around that Wilson wanted Macomber strong if he were going to fight to get his wife. The same way he wouldn't shoot an animal from the jeep b'cuz he had unfair advantage, he wanted to fight a man, not a wimp.
And now a different turn of events occurs when. Macomber gets his confidence back with more hunting. I thought to myself '...listen Francis, you may get your confidence back...but you'll never be able to touch Margo again,'. But you know what, I don't think he wants her back now.
"Without you're knowing it, you've always wanted me as a mouse. Well now you're going to have to get used to me as a man."
Well good for him!
And now even Wilson sees that Margo is really being a beeyotch. Seems like he and Macomber are kind of bonding now (much to Margo's chagrin). They're not exactly Spanky & Alfafa in the He-Man Woman-Haters' Club, but they are bonding and having a mutual respect.
THE COUP DE GRACE
WHAT THE HECK!!!! I usually see it coming in these old movies, but not this one. Brother! Did she or didn’t she? This was a little mixed up for me. Was it too explanatory, why were we not shown hints of this before. Or were we? Was it foretold? Does she pull a Dorothy Mackaill in "SAFE IN HEL" meting out her own justice? As upset as I was with her b*tchiniess, I want her to escape like Bette in "THE LETTER." Maybe not get the guy...but not get hanged either. Do we have to pay for what's in our hearts?
Again a shout out to the actor who played Kongoni. And please let me not forget the barmaid played by Jean Gillie.
"A woman would do things a man would never dream of doing. I’d murder for a man I was crazy about."
(Sadly so sadly...this actress dies shortly after this film is made, at age 34). How she simmers and smolders here. Sure they had a fling out there. He took it for what it was, and she fell in love. As Aimee, she silently speaks volumes about her relationship with Wilson with that slow husky voice of hers without saying much. She has as much depth as the Mariana Trench, saying little, and knows the fate of things to come as though she were a modern-day Cassandra. Okay, she's no Cassandra. She's just a woman in love. She suffers from unrequited love, like Suzanne Pleshette in "THE BIRDS." Do you think she’ll be waiting for Wilson after Margo’s trial?
They also serve who only stand and wait.
Last edited by CineMaven
on May 2nd, 2012, 8:02 am, edited 2 times in total.