I loved this movie starring Geraldine Page.
She won the Academy Award for it in 1986.
She died in 1987.
The Trip to Bountiful by Horton Foote
But first a story about our old video store, Video Journeys in Silver Lake, now sadly a State Farm Office, I think.
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We had a ritual on Thursdays to go to Video Journeys when our kids were little. I would take Flannery and Lucy and we would rent videos because they were “two-for-one.”
I even took Norah when she was old enough, and she soon had a favorite clerk, who recommended movies to her. We didn’t know his name at first, and then we found out his name was “Guy.”
When I told her his name, Norah, six, said, “That’s sad! His parents couldn’t even think of a name. So they just called him ‘Guy’ like ‘Hey Guy!'”
I found this funny, so I told Guy, and he assured her that he liked his name and they became good friends over the years.
I started going to Video Journeys when Flannery was a baby and I’d perch him on the counter to rent movies. They always had the best selection of films.
I was teaching ESL at Garfield Adult School at the time, so sometimes I’d rent a Charlie Chaplin film for my students in East LA.
As Flannery grew, he started wanting to go to the video store in costumes – capes, hunchbacks, canes, Dracula teeth, a hook hand, as a mummy, and of course, the phantom or Charlie Chaplin too.
He loved the VCR so much he even fed it oatmeal one morning. We had to get a new one.
But he knew we only went to Video Journeys on Thursdays.
There came a time, however, when he was two or three that he began to beg to go to the video store constantly. Everyday, he whined and pleaded to go, which was annoying, so I did something you’re not supposed to do.
I sat him down and explained that Video Journeys was so very special that it was only open on Thursdays.
And he believed me. He was a little sad, but it made sense – such a beautiful store could only be open one day a week and that’s what made it so special.
My mother came to visit from San Diego and he said to her, “JANIS! Would you like to go to the video store with me?”
My mother, who didn’t go by Granny or Grandma, remembers this as his first sentence to her.
I had also explained to her that Video Journeys was only “open” on Thursdays, so she said, “Flannery, if you come to visit me in San Diego, our video stores are open every day, and I’ll take you!”
It seemed like a miracle to him.
Ultimately, Thursdays became our Video Journeys day for years. And next door there was a bakery at the grocery store that sold bright green dinosaur cookies or yellow cats or orange pumpkins.
So I let the kids pick out cookies and movies.
We loved Thursdays.
And Video Journeys always carried The Trip to Bountiful. There are so few movies I love as much. Up there with Bountiful is You Can Count on Me, Babette’s Feast, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Coalminer’s Daughter off the top of my head.
But there were some Thursdays when I just needed to see The Trip to Bountiful.
Why didn’t we buy it? I don’t know.
But I embraced the journey that Horton Foote created for Carrie Watts wanting to escape her tiny Houston apartment to see her home in Bountiful one last time. I loved Geraldine Page so much – the petty bickering with her daughter-in-law, Jessie-Mae, (Carlin Glynn) who loved her Coca-Cola’s, privacy, and Mother Watts’ government check. I felt for her son, Ludie, (John Heard) who couldn’t please his wife or his mother. I loved the night clerk, (Kevin Cooney) and I loved the sheriff played by Richard Bradford, and Rebecca De Mornay was luminous as a fellow traveler on the bus.
They were all just so heartbreakingly real and human like all of Horton Foote’s characters.
I loved everything about the movie.
I especially loved the opening which was like a slow-motion Monet painting as a woman sings the hymn, “Softly and Tenderly” as a mother chases her young son through a field of bluebells or lavender.
But I think I rented it one too many times, because one night Lucy, age eight or so, saw me put Trip to Bountiful in the VHS player, and she fell on the floor in a dramatic heap.
“NOT THE OLD LADY WHO TAKES THE BUS AGAIN!!!!!”
So we watched something else. I can’t remember now. But I still love that film. And a miracle happened about ten years ago. I met the children’s novelist, Theresa Nelson, who is married to Kevin Cooney, also an actor, and Kevin played the night clerk in The Trip to Bountiful. It was amazing to me, and I was able to tell them how much I loved the movie and the story about Lucy not wanting to watch it again and all of it. We met at Susan Patron’s booksigning at Skylight Books, who wrote The Higher Power of Lucky, and we had this lovely night and stayed friends.
Theresa is a wonderful novelist too, and her latest and beautiful novel, The Year We Sailed the Sun, came out last year.
Anyway, I received this beautiful letter note from Theresa yesterday telling me about Richard Bradford, the actor who played the sheriff in The Trip to Bountiful, which got me remembering everything.
Hello, dear Kerry. I miss you! Just wanted you to know that our dear friend Richard Bradford (who was so wonderful as the sheriff in The Trip to Bountiful) died yesterday. Just breaks our hearts, but we’re treasuring every memory right now and know how lucky we were to have so many happy years with him. I so wish you could have known him too–but in a way you did, because you loved his finest work, and that was truly Richard too. And we talked to him about you more than once, and told him how much The Trip to Bountiful meant to you, and that pleased him so much. So I figure he’s touching his hat to you right now, just the way he did to Carrie Watts.
Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling…. Come home!
Love you, sweet friend.
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The year Lucy graduated from college, we saw Cicely Tyson play Carrie Watts on Broadway, and she was wonderful too.
I drink out of this mug most everyday in Alabama.
And since it’s been so long since I’ve seen Trip to Bountiful, I think it’s time to watch it again.
Here are a few more pictures and clips.
This is Richard Bradford in The Man in the Suitcase.