Monday, May 4, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Little Foxes (1941) - How to Call Someone A Liar, Southern Style

[Quick Summary: In the deep south, two brothers and a sister have claws out over an investment. ]

What happens after you call someone out for lying?

Escalation into a fight? Silence? Negotiation?

It depends on the culture.

For instance, this script is based in the American South, where politeness rules.

When someone lies, you may gently point it out, just not directly.

Note in the scene below:

1) How it's done indirectly
2) Regina's response to being calling out
3) Ben's response after she admits it

ex. "BEN (Too casually): You don't think maybe he never started from Baltimore and never intends to start?

REGINA (Irritated): Of course they've started. Didn't I have a letter from Alexandra? What is so strange about people arriving late? He has that cousin in Savannah he's so fond of. He may have stopped to see him. They'll be along today some time, very flattered that you and Oscar are so worried about them....

REGINA (Starts toward dining room): Then you haven't had your breakfast. Come along (Oscar and Leo follow her.)

BEN: Regina. (She turns at dining-room door) That cousin of Horace's has been dead for year and, in any case, the train does not go through Savannah. [He states facts w/o sneering or being rude.]

REGINA (Laughs, continues into dining room, seats herself): Did he die? You're always remembering about people dying. (Ben rises) Now I intend to eat my breakfast in peace, and read my newspaper. [She laughs, sidesteps, and changes the topic.]

BEN (Goes toward dining room as he talks): This is second breakfast for me. My first was bad. Celia ain't the cook she used to be. too old to have taste any more. If she hadn't belonged to Mama, I'd send her off to the country. (Oscar and Leo start to eat. Ben seats himself.)" [He knows she knows, so he goes with the new topic. No extended finger pointing.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Know the rules of the culture in your story, especially if unfamiliar.

Your first instinct might not be appropriate in that setting.

The Little Foxes (1941)*
by Lillian Hellman
Additional scenes & dialogue by Arthur Kober, Dorothy Parker, & Alan Campbell
Based on the stage play by Lillian Hellman

*This is a link to the play because the script is unavailable. The only one I could find in existence was Hellman's original (here).

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