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The Grass Harp

By | November 2012
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THE GRASS HARP was a novel by Truman Capote, based (in part) on his a youth, living with a pair of aunts in a southern town. Here his narrator hero is orphaned at an early age, and he is raised by his father's cousins (Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie). Spacek is the actual head of the family, running four prosperous businesses in the small town, such as the town department store and town hotel (complete with Presidential suite). She is a humorless, hard working woman, as opposed to her sister, who is a loving, free spirited type, who (with her friend and assistant (Nell Carter) collects herbs for a patent medicine remedy for "dropsy". Edwin Furlong (and, earlier, Grayson Frick) play the hero of the film, Collin (the narration is by Boyd Gaines). The hero quickly finds himself in love with Laurie, and just respectful towards Spacek. As he grows up, he finds himself defending Laurie's reputation (she is seen as quite eccentric). The town people also fear Spacek, but rather openly dislike her.

Walter Matthau is retired Judge Cool, a sensible elderly man who "good" people consider a nut (he openly admits that there was nothing wrong with a true love affair between a white man and an African-American woman which led to the white man being run out of town). Matthau is having problems in his home with an unsympathetic grown son and the son's wife. Matthau's wife has died years before. Others in this well cast film include Jack Lemmon as a Dr. Ritt from Chicago, whom Spacek brings back home - and whom accidentally sets in motion the delayed rebellion of Laurie and the others against Spacek's stiff and respectable regime. Joe Don Baker plays the local chicken rancher/part-time sheriff (who hates having to cow-tow to Spacek). Charles Durning is the local minister, who is out for only respectable religious leaders (with Bonnie Bartlett as his equally stuffy wife). Mary Steenburgen is the religious threat - an unmarried mother of twelve who has a mobile revival tent in the...

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