By Julie Griffin
“And when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing me from an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven.” ~ Buddy
Beloved writer Truman Capote wrote the original story about a little boy whose parents deposit him at the home of two older female relatives to live. He also narrated the 1969 version of this film about the story, an original trilogy for television, about a seven year old boy who finds a better comfort of life in the depression era woodsland of the south than in a big city. Buddy remarks that he had a mustache, and she smells like mothballs about one of the couples his aunt makes sweet Christmas gifts for. “Oh, I’m sure they’re waitin’ at the White House door for that delivery.” States Anna about the one she bakes for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Anna, an African woman believes she is pure Cherokee. And yet she plays fluent organ.
Sook takes the little boy around at fruit cake making time. The oldest sister said so far, all she taught him since he came several years ago is cooking and cleaning, and that it is time for him to learn something about a man’s ways. The married sister and the two lady spinsters seem to provide a healthy balance of love and instruction for what the child requires heart and soul developmentally. Of course, the old time south had good and bad. And as the film depicts, the women teach him about life with an honesty that Capote portrayed through his writing of the story ~ A meddling town woman tries to push military school off on the poor little unsassuming child. And not really yet aware of the capacity of human nature, without his knowledge of the possibilities of a harsh or cruel fate, he imitates the nature of a boy of his time who abandoned to a family not his own lives his life with an innocent point of view.
The theme regarding one of his three spinster caretakers taking him around for ingredients to prepare her batch of Christmas present fruit cakes, she pushes on a man to give up his whiskey for the cakes. The Indian man wants several dollars for the precious ingredient, a high price for any time, let alone the days of the earlier last century economic depression. He feels compassion at the last moment and tells her to just pay him in cake. But the point here is not whiskey, or who is or is not really an Indian. It is the joy of baking together. “I aint got time to talk.” Buddy whose focus centers around the thirty cakes for Christmas and the contest, argues with a little neighbor girl, Rachel, who wants him to come play fort.
More interested in reading his book than that and what he calls funerals and weddings, his happiness about the cake preparation seems to exceed the abscence of both of his parents. Alone in the world, if not for the elder persons he lives with, Buddy finds pure pleasure at resisting the neighbor girl who he calls the Demon of Haiti. An old-fashioned Christmas movie, the film of the day while attaching more to a more formal movie cinema style of the time, reveals the Truman Capote style of writing fairly well, while alluding from the heavier meaning of the written text.
Still, Buddy lives in a quaint and an honest and a homey home. And this is understood. But even the irony of 1930’s southern airs while no reason for the behavior exists, the pompous and silly formality of Rachel’s mother portrays her character as clearly distant and out of touch with the children and the reality of real life and the actual atmosphere. In short, the character acting, an even relay touches upon issues such as unfair judgment of a particular individual rejected from a social community ~ A problem Capote explores. The pecking order syndrome and a double-minded mindset goes unchecked as others like even Rachel’s mother fail to see the beauty of the happiness of Buddy here greater than all of the glittering lights of the world out there.
The southern accent of the area where Buddy lives, since such a perfect and melodic language style, seems to imitate a more Mississippi dialect. Although here Buddy has trees, and love and communication, and the elder women who raise him take the time to take long walks on even more brown, pristine winter ground ~ The oldest of the three sisters, chides her two younger spinster sisters though for wanting to raise a boy in a house of people over fifty. Buddy overhears the woman talking about making plans about sending him away to private school. He runs and hides, for his is a very content life with the elder persons.
Like a foster child who finally found a real home, he does not want to leave too soon. “He fills the house with laughter. He keeps us young.” The elder sister argues with Callie and says they all gave up their lives in one way or another, and that they need to send Buddie where he’ll be happiest. The plot of the film, like the story talks about a boy who despairs that this may be his last Christmas with the women ~ One night, he spies on the woodsland shiftmade speakeasy (juke joint) with the neighbor girl at Ha Ha Cafe.’ The children witness a possible murder through the slats of the window. Drinking and dancing. And women. “They scuffled til the whole place shook.” Buddy swears that the Indian killed a farmer with his Indian knife. After running through Christmas lights strung up in trees, with his little girl friend, Rachel, Buddy asks to sleep with his two aunts, and the one promises to pray for him at church the next day.
His wonderous rise from the dead ~ When the murdered man walks in just as the preacher starts to tell the story of Lazarus raised from the dead, the kids run out screaming. And the preacher remarks and thinks that perhaps the story is just a little too frightening for young children to understand and accept. Buddy finally finds the courage to climb the tree house the next day to give Rachel a Christmas gift: A journal for her writing. She kisses him on the cheek and a surprised Rachel tells him everyone in her family kisses. Rachel, her heart fairly touched tells him not to get a big head. As he just did this as he seemed to put a lot of thought into it is why, she said.
The story, filled with some simple Christmas tradition, the family seems to read him the Christmas story on Christmas as small town southern families do each year at this time. But the two younger spinster sisters and Buddy have a hard time as the older sister continues to push sending him away. The dear way of part acting and the expression of the turmoil between the younger sister who wants to hold onto Buddy forever, the oldest sister makes fun of her for reading the bible and refusing to let the boy go out away to find out about the world. The turmoil and the conviction of her wrongness, the younger sister argues that Jenny is just too strong for her to fight. Buddy suggests the two sell the fruitcakes and get money to run away as he is certain that no one even celebrates Christmas in military school. “It’s bad enough in life to do without something you want.” But worse, Sook (Patty Duke) and his most treasured aunt tells him is not giving a present to somebody you want to give them.
Patty Duke and Piper Laurie co-star in this charmingly nostalgic and award winning tale, first published in Mademoiselle in December of 1956. The character of Sook differs along with family connections from book to film completion. The film did not, like the writing style of the story, get put to print as a book until a few years after the article. Fancy transitional technique in the film gave way to a more realism dramatic effect, designed to convince that the boy found love in a simple place. Eric Lloyd plays Buddy in the 1997 adaptation of the film.