Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Norman Rockwell Movies

As Autumn approaches tomorrow, I've turned my mind to the annual trek I take up to the Berkshires Mountains in Massachusetts and Arlington, Vermont -- commonly known, collectively, as Norman Rockwell country -- to relax and commune with nature. The magnificent illustrator lived in these areas a good part of his life (first in Arlington and then later in Stockbridge) and created many of his most famous paintings while living there. Of course, Rockwell is best known for his slice-of-life Americana illustrations which adorned the covers of The Saturday Evening Post. But I have always wondered why filmmakers did not turned to Rockwell's work as inspiration for movies. Rockwell's greatest fans (including me) have always commented on how, above all else, Rockwell is a storyteller. Still, only two films have been made. In 1972, director Robert Deubel and writer Gaby Monet released Norman Rockwell's World...An American Dream, a short documentary on the painter that wove together interviews with him and elaborate recreations of the times in which he lived. The film won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. Then in 1987, director/writer John Wilder -- and an all-star cast, including Oscar winners Jason Robards and Eva Marie Saint -- adapted Rockwell's painting Breaking Home Ties (a scene of a father and son waiting together for a bus that will take the boy away from home for the first time) into a film of the same name. I enjoyed watching these Rockwell characters come to life. I had hoped more films like it would follow, but that's been it. However, a wealth of possibilities await a filmmaker or screenwriter willing to create stories around the vividly imagined, and lovingly illustrated characters of Norman Rockwell. Any takers?

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