Mischief by Charlotte ArmstrongCharlotte Armstrongs short novel Mischief (1950) is the first of four novels in a newly-released Library of America volume, Women Crime Writers: Four Suspense Novels of the 1950s. The volume is the second of a two-volume box set with the first book consisting of four novels by women crime writers of the 1940s. I am enjoying working through the contents of the box set which the LOA has kindly provided to me for review. Sarah Weinman selected and edited the contents of the LOA volumes.
Armstrongs novel is best-known for the 1952 film version directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring Marilyn Monroe in what was billed as the first film attempt to show that she could act. The film also featured Richard Widmark and Anne Bancroft in her first film role.
Armstrongs novel tells the story of a couple from a small town who make a brief trip to New York City with their nine year old daughter, Bunny. Peter Jones is the editor of a small newspaper and is to give the keynote speech at a banquet accompanied by his wife, Ruth. When the couples babysitter falls through at the last minute, the hotel elevator operator arranges for his niece, Nell, to babysit. Nell has recently arrived in New York from the Midwest under strange circumstances and apparently is looking to establish herself. When the Jones leave for their banquet, an evening of mayhem breaks out. Nell quickly reveals herself as mentally deranged and dangerous to the child and to others. The parents and several other guests of the hotel become aware of the situation and take desperate steps try to save the child.
The novel moves between suspense and satire in its depiction of characters and places. Together with the suspense, the novel explores how people in a large city remain strangers and isolated from one another. The book shows how people dont want to become involved with anyone from a beggar on the street to a child in distress in a hotel room. The book speaks of the need for community and for apparently isolated individuals to show concern for others. Several of the characters learn this lesson during the ordeal described in the book. Peter Jones, the childs father, reflects:
We are strangers. Whom do we know? One -- if youre lucky. Not many more. Looks like weve got to learn how we can trust each other. How we can tell.... How we can dare.... Everything rests on trust between strangers. Everything else is a house of cards.
Although a minor, little-read novel, Mischief shows the varied themes of crime fiction written by women and stresses the still contemporary themes of community and responsibility. The book also introduces the reader to the author, Charlotte Armstrong, who receives a short biographical note at the end of the LOA volume. Armstrong (1905 -- 1969) wrote plays produced on Broadway in the late 1930s and early 1940s before turning to suspense fiction. She became a prolific novelist and also wrote screenplays for Alfred Hitchcocks television series, including Sybilla, a haunting story of a faithful, mistreated wife which has stayed with me for many years. Armstrongs A Dram of Poison received the 1956 Edgar Award for best suspense novel.
Mischief was a good opening selection for the LOA volume of women crime writers of the 1950s. I am looking forward to working through the rest of the book.
Nell Movie Sociology
One of the great movies of modern times is Francois Truffaut's " The Wild Child " , about a child who is found living like an animal in the woods, and becomes the ward of a doctor who hopes to educate him. The story, set in the 18th century, is based on a real child, and it ends, like many such cases do, without much progress: The child learns to love, but never learns to speak. The implication is that speech must be learned very young, or not at all. When she is first discovered, she has been living alone in an isolated cabin, where first her twin and then her mother had died. It is speculated that the twins developed a private language, based on English, before one died.
Nell brought that point home very clearly. The movie Nell was made in and stars Jodie Foster as the title character. The local town doctor, played by Liam Neeson, and a psychiatrist, played by the late Natasha Richardson, work with Nell in hopes of helping her. Eventually, they are able to help her have a fulfilling life. I was amazed at how tone deaf this movie actually was. The movie makes it seem like this is a great thing.
Do you think this can happen in real life? A situation like this is very improbable but possible. Isolated places and wildernesses still exist despite all the developments that are currently taking place at present. I think this will not happen without the presence of an extremely isolated place and a rather peculiar condition -like that of Nells and probably other situations which are equally special as this one. I think a baby would be a very appropriate example. Then theres Nell. Having no one to listen to as she grows up had unknowingly resorted to creating a language only she and her sister could understand.
When writing your reaction paper, you need to write a powerful introduction that will draw in your readers. You are applying sociology and sociological concepts to the events, visuals and story in the movie Nell. You must quote with quotation marks at least three different times in your reaction paper. You must also cite a minimum of an additional three more times. Thus, at a minimum, you must have six total citations to the textbook. You are welcome to site from other locations as well. Try and use the ACT vocabulary works throughout your paper.