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28 Jan 2015 at 1:27 pm #6331
Ed – the historical information is that Bobby got hurt falling off the side of a railroad car. The discussion with Pinky indicates that the younger Gregg has become so unpopular with his workers that they’d probably blame him for anything or circulate apocryphal stories about him. And if you recall James Gregg offers Martha money when she visits his office (he says something like “Well, where have they been hiding you?”) and she, suspecting lechery behind the gesture, demurs and leaves. That she thinks this was behind Bobby’s violence is, I think, pretty strongly inferred when she goes to see Mrs. Gregg to explain why things have jumped the rails, beats the bush around the episode and says something to the effect of “I don’t think he meant nothing by it,” and Mrs. Gregg, figuring out what Martha means – clearly, the Matriarch is not wholly isolated from the gossip about her son – becomes offended and throws Martha out.
As far as the big G, yeah, you watch the original film – by which I mean, the pristine 1954 version before they spliced in Raymond Burr as a white identity figure – and it’s loaded with Melvillean allusions. The John Huston-Ray Bradbury version of the film of Moby Dick was released here in 1956, same time as Godzilla, King of the Monsters was released here. How’s that for a little synchronicity to go with your tuna sandwich this lunchtime?
28 Jan 2015 at 11:31 pm #6339
First, thanks for the extended replies. Always nice to get new and interesting stuff to think about.
Second, I reread the relevant portions of TGS. When Martha meets Mrs. Gregg later on, she mentions James giving her the coin and says “Bobby could not have knowed nothin about it. You know I wouldnt of told him hotheaded as he was.”
However, when Robert runs into Martha out on the street just before his execution, he says “I know he insulted you.” So it seems he *did* know. Or did he? Martha sure doesn’t seem to have told him. And even if you suspect she was lying to Mrs. Gregg earlier on, she and Robert don’t even see one another after Gregg tries playing hide the salami with her. After that scene, the next time they see each other is at Mrs. McEvoy’s wake. Somehow, with her mother dead a day and Robert home for the first time in years, I just can’t imagine her telling him about Gregg at that point. I just don’t buy it. As far as I’m concerned, she never told him.
So then what does Robert mean when he says “I know he insulted you”? Well, Gregg surely had a reputation for such behavior. I’m guessing McEvoy’s just assuming. But that’s a pretty limp rationale for killing someone.
Now, more interesting is the conversation with Pinky leading up to the murder. That does really make Gregg sound like a bastard. It’s entirely possible that McEvoy hears that and gets all riled up. But again, it just feels incomplete to me. Back in town for the first time in two years, your mother’s dead, and what you want to accomplish is kill your dad’s boss? Just feels really weak.
However: During the showdown between McEvoy and Gregg, Bobby calls him a liar. Repeatedly. And he says “You think you can say anything you want about people and they just have to put up with it.” And at the end, talking to Martha, he says “They lied to me. They all said I’d… I was never born to be hung. I could of been somebody.” Both times his emphasis is on being lied to. What is that about? And the “I know he insulted you” comes later, like an afterthought. Also, just before he kills Gregg, he says “You think people dont know what you are?”, which is echoed later by “The people in this town know what he was. They didnt want to hear it. They was not soul one would stand up and…”
So even though Bobby “know[s]” that Gregg “insulted” Martha, he never mentions this to him. Instead, he calls him a liar. Not a rapist pedophile, not a capitalist pig bastard, but a liar. And he claims to be confronting Gregg on behalf of the people of the town: “You think you can say anything you want about people and they just have to put up with it[…] You think people dont know what you are?” And then at the end, talking to Martha, his initial defense/explanation is that “They” (who’re “They”?) lied to him. And he accuses the people (whom earlier he was claiming to be standing up for) of deserting him: “The people in this town know what he was. They didnt want to hear it. They was not soul one would stand up and…” And Gregg “insulting” Martha is an afterthought.
I don’t know. I still say his motivation isn’t clear. That’s not to say he had *no* reason, just that he had several reasons that piled up. I just get the sense the Bobby blamed Gregg for a whole bunch of really bad mojo in the town goings-on. Which is quite like what I said in my first post, that McEvoy piled upon Gregg “the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down”.
28 Jan 2015 at 11:42 pm #6340
Two other comments: 1) That historically, Robert McEvoy was injured falling off a railroad car is interesting, but not wholly compelling. The fact is that McCarthy chose to weaken the audience’s understanding of the historical “truth” by letting Timekeeper slip that comment in. When he does something like that, I have to assume it’s for a reason. And I *don’t* think he was expecting people to watch his made-for-TV movie and go run to the library to find out whether what the voiceover during the opening credits said was historically factual. I think he wants to plant such an idea in the minds of the audience, and I think it’s quite in keeping with how he’s so cagey in other respects about McEvoy’s motive(s) for the murder.
2) When McEvoy meets Gregg in his office, the following exchange occurs:
“M: I was huntin my father.
G: Your father.
M: He was the gardener.
G: I know who he was.
M: No you dont.
G: What do you mean I dont?
M: You might know his name is all.”
That whole “the name is not the thing” is so McCarthy. Much like Timekeeper says to Young Man in the beginning:
“T: You wont find it here.
YM: What wont I find?
T: They’re just boxes of records. There’s some old pitcher albums here somewheres. Mill used to keep[…] They aint the thing. Old papers or pitchers. You copy somethin down dont mean you have it. You just have the record. Times past are fugitive. They caint be kept in no box.”
Just thought that was really interesting.
29 Jan 2015 at 12:22 pm #6344
Yeah, I was working from the “I know he insulted you.” Given the currents of gossip in the town, all he would have had to know is that she was seen visiting the office or some such thing. But there’s also the possibility that Martha is denying she told him (a) to get herself off the hook in case she gets linked in the causal chain leading to Gregg’s murder and/or (b) she was trying, somehow, to curry favor, however clumsily, with the Gregg clan matriarch in some misbegotten effort to save her brother.
And yes, Bobby is, if not particularly eloquent about it, a worker’s rights ideologue. In some ways, he’s a little bit ahead of his time. By and large, from what I’ve read, William Gregg was well ahead of his time as well, enforcing mandatory education requirements on the children of his employees, for example. Check this out; very interesting background on the elder Gregg and his mill town: http://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/aiken-county/graniteville-mill.html
The script is, as you point out, loaded with ambiguity. That’s our McCarthy too.
29 Jan 2015 at 2:15 pm #6350
- This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by Rick Wallach.
The reasons for why Martha might deny having told Bobby are interesting. I’ll think on them. Although, she does tell William Chaffee (aka Young Man) at the very end: “I dont know why Bobby done what he done.” So if she’s denying it even into her old age, it probably reflects more on her psychological state (perhaps she wants to distance herself from any involvement in the murder) than practical considerations. Or maybe she never told him?
Also, a minor detail that’s probably stupid to worry about: I was bugged by who this William Chaffee fella is. He clearly states that Mrs. Gregg, James’s mother, is his grandmother. Moreover, Mrs. Gregg tells Martha “James was the last male heir.” That, coupled with the fact that his last name is not Gregg, implies that he must be James’s nephew by way of one of his sisters. But in the screenplay, James has no sisters (that are mentioned, anyway). So I looked it up and found the guy:
Search the page for William Gregg Chafee (one “f”). He is the son of Rosa, James’s sister. Strangely, though, he was born in 1867, making him just five years younger than Martha. Also, this means that he was nine when Bobby killed Gregg. Strange how McCarthy would change this to make him so much younger. Why not just choose another descendant in the family of the appropriate age?
Oh, and nice article, by the way. Thanks!
11 Feb 2015 at 4:02 pm #6502
Thanks for all the illuminating posts, everyone. Does anyone know where I can find a copy of this film online? Youtube seems to have taken it down and none of the streaming sites I know of seem to even know what I’m searching for. That coupled with the scarcity of dvd copies seems to make this a pretty damn near impossible film to get a hold of. Any ideas?
puremultipleQuote11 Feb 2015 at 10:27 pm #6512
pure: just noticed that the DVD has become unavailable on Amazon. All I could suggest is to google it and see if you can find an independent retailer who has a copy for sale.
02 Feb 2017 at 8:51 am #8810
From The Times-News of Burlington, NC:
“The Gardener’s Son” 40 Years Later:
An actor in “The Gardener’s Son” reminisces:
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