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Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners
Posted March 01, 2012 to photo album "Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners"
Mike Mills poignant portrait of a father and son relationship inspired us to look back at how films from Chaplin to Beginners have handled this paternal subject.
The Great Santini (1979)
Pat Conroy’s semi-autobiographical The Great Santini, a novel about his father – a marine pilot in South Carolina who turns his home and his family’s life into a war zone – proved at first too real to be plausible. Conroy relates, “I sent it off to the editor, and she just didn’t believe any of it. The reason, she said: He doesn’t ever do anything nice.” Even though Conroy confirmed with his brothers and sisters that in fact his father never did do anything nice, he agreed to soften the story to make it more believable. The book, which was published in 1976, became a bestseller and brought to light the kind of abusive father/son relationship that many of Conroy's readers had themselves experienced. Indeed, the book not only testified to his own experiences, but was used in court by his mother, who entered it as evidence in her divorce proceedings against Marine Col. Donald Conroy. In 1979, Lewis John Carlino adapted and directed Conroy’s novel with Robert Duvall in the role of the Marine fighter pilot Lt. Col. Wilbur "Bull" Meecham, aka “the Great Santini,” and Michael O’Keefe as Ben, the 18-year-old son who is a stand-in for Conroy. In his New York Times review, Vincent Canby noted the film’s power in refiguring the nature of the American family, saying it was “so good when it is evoking the dangerously tangled feelings that exist just below the surface of civilized behavior.” Both father and son ended up being nominated for Oscars – Best Actor for Duvall and Best Supporting Actor for O’Keefe.