The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 1 William Faulkner)

John and William Faulkner

Photo by Phill Mullen

The only known photograph of William Faulkner (right) with his eldest brother, John, was taken in 1949. Like his brother, John Faulkner was also a writer, though their writing styles differed considerably.

My grandfather, John Murphey, (born 1910) grew up in Oxford, Mississippi and knew both Johncy and “Bill” Faulkner. He told me that Bill was a very bashful shy man. Johncy was outgoing and would be very friendly and would love to stop and visit.

My grandfather was in the moving business and he had moved Johncy several times, but Johncy still had several outstanding bills. Then one day Johncy told my grandfather to take the bills to his brother and he would pay them in full. I don’t know the exact date, but my grandfather was told that he had got his first big check from a publisher in the early 1930’s.

I just got finished watching Woody Allen’s latest movie “Midnight in Paris” and I loved it. In that movie there are several famous writers and artists that appear in the film. I am doing a series of posts that takes a look at this great writers and artists.

By the way, I know that some of you are wondering how many posts I will have before I am finished. Right now I have plans to look at Cole Porter, Fitzgerald, Heminingway, Juan Belmonte,Gertrude Stein, Gauguin, Lautrec, Geores Brague, Dali, Rodin,Coco Chanel, Modigliani, Matisse, Luis Bunuel, Josephine Baker, Van Gogh, Picasso, Man Ray, T.S. Elliot and several more.

William Faulkner is one of those writers. Here below is another review of the film:

June 10, 2011

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight in Paris is not only Woody Allen’s best movie in decades, it is also one of the most joyous, warm-hearted and magical movies of his entire career.  A sumptuous love letter to both the city of Paris and its rich history, Allen’s romantic fantasy is also a touching ode to art and the artist that has (or had) created it.  Above all that, though, the film is a look at the perils of trying to escape from an imperfect present into a mythically “perfect” era of the past.

Self-described hack Hollywood screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) has come to Paris with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) to both help plan their upcoming wedding and to finish his first attempt at a literary novel.  While Gil adores Paris and its history, Inez is contemptuous of both the city and Gil’s love for it.  Inez’s mother (Mimi Kennedy) and father (Kurt Fuller) are even less supportive.  The already stressed relationship between Gil and Inez cracks all the more when the couple meets the pedantic Paul (Michael Sheen), a former flame of Inez’s, and Carol (Nina Arianda).

While Inez spends more and more time with Paul, Gil just wanders Paris at night.  For when the clock strikes midnight, that is when the true magic of the City of Light is revealed.

Ah, to be in 1920s Paris and to be able to rub shoulders with the likes of Ernest Hemingway (a hilarious Corey Stoll), Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Allison Pill and Tom Hiddleston, respectively), and Salvador Dali (an even more hilarious Adrien Brody).  How cool would it be able to have Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) herself critique your first novel?  Being a reader of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and a huge fan of William Faulkner (who is only mentioned in the film and not seen) I so wanted to be able to experience Owen Wilson’s lost-in-his-own-generation character’s time hoping adventure for myself.  My first words to my wife after the movie ended were, “Now I want to go to Paris!”

In my review of Woody Allen’s 1987 drama September, I made note of his penchant for cynicism and pessimism, especially in his dramas.  That penchant made Allen’s supposed “light” drama from last year, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, an almost soul crushing viewing experience for me.  That film not only left me feeling depressed and unfulfilled, but it also had me questioning whether or not my recent career change had been the right one to make.  I am guessing that, since I was struggling with a writing project of my own, I projected far too much of myself onto Josh Brolin’s washed up writer character.  I wanted him to succeed in his own writing project because I wanted to succeed in my own writing project.  When he did not and, in a Secret Window, Secret Garden styled plot development, the man stole another writer’s work and claimed it as his own, I was devastated.

Owen Wilson’s struggling writer character, however, is far more sympathetic and, even more important, a more honest character than Brolin’s scheming loser had been.  I was rooting for him to find his way to happiness and fulfillment, which are things that Allen routinely denies his more sympathetic characters.  Remembering the fate of the struggling writer in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, I spent most of the running of Midnight in Paris dreading Gil’s eventual fate.  What bitter truth and/or horrible disappointment would come down on him and threaten to crush his hopes and dreams?

I will not answer that question in this review, but I will say that I left the move theater with a smile on my face and a glow in my heart.

Four stars out of four and one of the year’s best films.

Faulkner in Paris, 1925
Photo by W.C. Odiorne
After he wrote his first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, Faulkner traveled to Europe in the manner of many other young writers of the day. While in France, he adopted the look and air of a Bohemian poet by growing a beard and absorbing the art and culture of Paris’ Left Bank. One of his favorite places was in the Luxembourg Gardens, where he was photographed by William C. Odiorne. He wrote a long description of the Gardens, which he would later revise and incorporate into his novel Sanctuary

Jimmy heard many family stories growing up and he too  loved to tell stories. One of Jimmy Faulkner’s favorite stories was about how his famous uncle went to see the film Gone With The Wind seven times when it came out in 1939. “Brother Will (Faulkner was Jimmy’s uncle, but Jimmy called him Brother Will), never saw the ending,” Jimmy Faulkner said. “He always walked out the first time a Yankee came on the screen.”  Jimmy also takes great pride in the often quoted description of Jimmy  as “the only person who likes me (William Faulkner)  for who I am.”

Jimmy Faulkner describes his taking Brother Will to the hospital the night before he died in the new introduction to his father’s book My Brother Bill .  He writes, “I checked him in, and stayed with him until about 10 that night.  When I was ready to leave, I went to his bedside, reached down and took his hand. I told him, ‘Brother Will, when you’re ready to come home, let me know and I’ll come get you. He said “Yes, Jim, I will.’” He never got home alive. He died around 2 in the morning on July 6, 1962.

 ___________________________

From left, Murry “Jack” Falkner, age eight; Sallie Murry Wilkins, age eight, the boys’ first cousin; William Faulkner, age ten; seated, John “Johncy” Falkner, age six. The picture was taken in September 1907.

From left, Murry “Jack” Falkner, age eight; Sallie Murry Wilkins, age eight, the boys’ first cousin; William Faulkner, age ten; seated, John “Johncy” Falkner, age six. The picture was taken in September 1907.
1925: Faulkner travels to New Orleans. His goal is to book a freighter to Europe, hoping the expatriate experience will boost his career as it has those of writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Robert Frost. The New Orleans French Quarter is so congenial that he remains there six months, becoming friends with the writer Sherwood Anderson and launching his own career in fiction. Faulkner’s first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, receives Anderson’s blessing and is accepted by Anderson’s New York publisher, Boni and Liveright. Faulkner and his New Orleans roommate, the artist William Spratling, sail for Genoa in July, and Faulkner makes his way to Paris, his base for three months. He writes portions of two novels and several sketches, but he runs out of money and returns to Oxford, Mississippi, by Christmas.
______________________

William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12

Interviewed by Jean Stein in 1956 for Paris Review

INTERVIEWER

How did you get your background in the Bible?

FAULKNER

My Great-Grandfather Murry was a kind and gentle man, to us children anyway. That is, although he was a Scot, he was (to us) neither especially pious nor stern either: he was simply a man of inflexible principles. One of them was everybody, children on up through all adults present, had to have a verse from the Bible ready and glib at tongue-tip when we gathered at the table for breakfast each morning; if you didn’t have your scripture verse ready, you didn’t have any breakfast; you would be excused long enough to leave the room and swot one up (there was a maiden aunt, a kind of sergeant-major for this duty, who retired with the culprit and gave him a brisk breezing which carried him over the jump next time).

It had to be an authentic, correct verse. While we were little, it could be the same one, once you had it down good, morning after morning, until you got a little older and bigger, when one morning (by this time you would be pretty glib at it, galloping through without even listening to yourself since you were already five or ten minutes ahead, already among the ham and steak and fried chicken and grits and sweet potatoes and two or three kinds of hot bread) you would suddenly find his eyes on you—very blue, very kind and gentle, and even now not stern so much as inflexible—and next morning you had a new verse. In a way, that was when you discovered that your childhood was over; you had outgrown it and entered the world.

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