Terry Moore

Peanuts: A Tribute To Charles M. Schulz (October 2015)

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. SchulzPeanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz. “Over 40 artists celebrate the work of Charles M. Schulz.” It says so right on the cover. And Tribute is a fine celebration of Peanuts. There are some great cartoonists who contribute pieces for the collection. It’s 144 pages, which means contributors average less than three and a half pages each.

Collections of Peanuts strips, like the Fantagraphics Complete Peanuts, have three strips a page. So Schulz would have ten or eleven strips in similar page count. It shows just how magical he was with pacing those strips day-to-day.

There are some good strips, some okay strips, some cool strips. The Paul Pope Snoopy and Schroeder strip? Very cool. But given the whole grab is Pope doing these realistic looking Pope characters and them still operating on Peanuts logic. When Schroeder worries Lucy’s going to show up… well, Snoopy’s cute and all but I’d much rather see Pope Lucy. Beautiful art, though. Because Pope’s a lover.

There aren’t any strips non-Peanuts loving strips in the book. There are even strips just about loving Peanuts.

A few strips after Pope is Roger Langridge, who does a Snoopy the flying ace strip from the perspective of enemy pilots. It’s cute. It’s not great. Raina Telegemeier does a one page thing right after. Langridge got four pages. Her’s is cute. It’s not great. But she does it in one.

Stan Sakai and Julie Fujii do one of the best longer strips in the book, Escapade in Tokyo. Charlie Brown gets separated from the class on a school trip and spends the day with a cool Japanese girl. It’s anti-crap on Charlie Brown (most of the book, if not all of it, is anti-crapping on Charlie Brown) and it’s a nice story. Sakai and Fujii give it just the right amount of nostalgia and sentamentality without sacrificing the humor.

Terry Moore does something similar. Lucy vs. Charlie Brown only this time Charlie Brown’s going to kick that football. Moore mimicks Schulz’s style but sort of not enough to get away with the strip. Charlie Brown winning has to be perfect, like Sakai and Fujii did.

Chynna Clugston Flores does a “Why I Love Peanuts” strip. It’s good. It’s just a “Why I Love Peanuts strip”. There are some more in the book and Clugston Flores’s is probably the best but… Tribute is just a tribute. Sometimes the cartoonists interact with the characters, sometimes with the media itself.

Evan Dorkin and Derek Charm do a “Cthulhu comes to Peanuts” long strip and it’s inventive, beautifully illustrated (the style homage ages like Schulz’s did as the strip goes on), and kind of thin. Not many contributors do a riff on Peanuts without staying in Schulz’s constraints.

Except then there’s Melanie Gillman’s beautiful Marcie strip addressing her relationship with Patty. Liz Prince had a nice Patty strip earlier, but nowhere near as ambitious. Shaenon K. Garrity’s long, color strip about Patty taking on Lucy is good. It’s mostly in Peanuts constraints, just with some visual storytelling differences.

Peanuts: A Tribute is a good book for a Peanuts fan. To check out from the library. It’s a great proof of concept for a more ambitious project. I didn’t realize I wanted other cartoonists doing Peanuts until I read it. But I want them doing more, trying harder.

I also wish, given it just being this assortment of homages, Boom! had printed it more coffee table size.

CREDITS

Contributors, Mike Allred, Art Baltazar, Paige Braddock, Megan Brennan, Frank Cammuso, Derek Charm, Colleen Coover, Evan Dorkin, Chynna Clugston Flores, Shaenon K. Garrity, Melanie Gillman, Zac Gorman, Jimmy Gownley, Matt Groening, Dan Hipp, Keith Knight, Mike Kunkel, Roger Langridge, Jeff Lemire, Jonathan Lemon, Patrick McDonnell, Tony Millionaire, Caleb Monroe, Terry Moore, Dustin Nguyen, Molly Ostertag, Lincoln Peirce, Paul Pope, Hilary Price, Liz Prince, Stan Sakai + Julie Fujii, Chris Schweizer, Ryan Sook, Jeremy Sorese, Raina Telgemeier, Richard Thompson, Tom Tomorrow, Lucas Turnbloom, Jen Wang, and Mo Willems; editors, Alex Galer and Shannon Watters; publisher, KaBoom!.

Peyton Place (1957, Mark Robson)

Peyton Place takes over a year and a half starting in 1941. Director Robson has a really slick way of getting the date into the ground situation. Robson and cinematographer William C. Mellor go a little wild with Peyton Place–there’s a lot of location shooting and Robson tries hard to make the viewer feel enveloped. The film’s a soap opera, not requiring the viewer to situate themselves inside the story, but Robson invites it. The film’s a technical delight; Robson’s proud of its quality.

But the encompassing isn’t required because Peyton Place is a sensational soap opera. From the opening narration, the film declares itself sensational. The film starts with Diane Varsi’s narration then goes to Lee Philips arriving in town. Eventually, after being high school senior Farsi’s new principal, Philips will also romance her mother, played by Lana Turner. Most, if not all, of the drama has something to do with Varsi and Turner’s home or Varsi’s school or Turner’s business. And if it doesn’t have to do with them, then it’s war-related. Varsi starts Peyton Place its protagonist, with Turner sort of waiting in the wings to have her own big story. There’s all sorts of potential juxtaposition and alter ego and it ought to be great.

Only, by the end of the movie, Varsi and Turner are complete strangers to the viewer and each other. The film jumps ship from Varsi’s story two-thirds of the way in and she still narrates, but she’s not part of the action. And when she does return, she doesn’t get to make up any of that time. The film doesn’t even commit to her having an actual love interest in Russ Tamblyn’s troubled teenage boy. It’s a shame because Varsi and Tamblyn are great together, while she and Turner aren’t. Their scenes just aren’t particularly good.

Actually, Peyton Place doesn’t really have anything to do with Lana Turner. Her romance is entirely Philips pursuing her, usually at just the right moment to set off an argument with Varsi. Turner gets through it, but her only pay-off scene is a courtroom breakdown. It’d be more significant if it wasn’t followed by a superior courtroom breakdown, which is setoff in the narrative by Turner’s. So, lots of problems. Luckily the film’s beautifully produced and well-acted (even if in undercooked roles). Robson and screenwriter John Michael Hayes had to clean up the source novel for the censors, which Robson utilizes to give some of his actors more room. They use it well.

Except Philips. Philips is physically fine for the part, but he’s just a bit tepid. He’s supposed to be a sexy progressive dude who cares about education and sex ed and he’s never convincing. He just mopes around Turner until she gives in.

Varsi’s pretty good. She’s got a lot to do in the first half of the movie, it’s all her show. The scenes with Tamblyn are best because it’s her storyline more than anything else in the film. Tamblyn’s just her sweet male friend. His own backstory only exists when Varsi’s around. The film’s failure with it is another of the frustrations.

Anyway, pretty soon Varsi’s just around to support Hope Lange’s story–which is the center of the film as it turns out–or something with Turner, which always affects the high school and that subplot. Hayes’s script is masterful, no doubt, but it’s a masterful soap opera. He’s going for sensationalism, not the characters. Robson’s going for the characters and the visual grandeur of it. While the two approaches end up complimenting each other, there’s only so far Robson could take it.

Lange’s amazing. Sometimes she’s second fiddle in her own scenes, but Robson always makes sure to give her time to act. Seeing Lange’s experience through her expressions is what gives Peyton Place its heart. Robson helps, sure, but he knows Lange’s got to handle a lot of weight and figures out the best way to distribute it.

Also excellent is Arthur Kennedy, who has a similar relationship with the film as Lange.

Tamblyn’s good. Lloyd Nolan’s great as the town doctor who also serves as a guide through the film. Leon Ames is awesome as the mean local rich guy. Lorne Greene is the nasty prosecuting attorney in the third act. I’m not sure he’s good but he’s definitely loathsome, though the courtroom finale isn’t set up well in the narrative. Hayes does fine once he gets into the trial, but its inciting incident is a complete fumble.

Because Peyton Place isn’t a great movie. It’s got a lot of problems. It might even get long in parts, which isn’t a good thing–if you’re going to run two and a half hours, you can’t feel long. But it is a good movie, with some great filmmaking and some great performances. And Franz Waxman’s music is gorgeous.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Mark Robson; screenplay by John Michael Hayes, based on the novel by Grace Metalious; director of photography, William C. Mellor; edited by David Bretherton; music by Franz Waxman; produced by Jerry Wald; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Lana Turner (Constance MacKenzie), Diane Varsi (Allison MacKenzie), Hope Lange (Selena Cross), Lee Philips (Michael Rossi), Lloyd Nolan (Dr. Swain), Arthur Kennedy (Lucas Cross), Russ Tamblyn (Norman Page), Leon Ames (Mr. Harrington), Terry Moore (Betty Anderson), David Nelson (Ted Carter), Barry Coe (Rodney Harrington), Betty Field (Nellie Cross), Mildred Dunnock (Miss Elsie Thornton), Lorne Greene (Prosecutor), and Scotty Morrow (Joseph Cross).


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