Hallmark Hall of Fame. That is what came to mind as I watched Charlie Matthau's
"The Grass Harp". Now I happen to enjoy Hallmark shows so this
should be taken as a compliment. And it doesn't hurt that Charlie gets
his Dad, Walter, and a stellar cast to pitch in on his project. Jack Lemmon,
Piper Laurie, Sissy Spacek, Roddy McDowall, Mary Steenburgen, and Nell Carter
create a family that Truman Capote put to paper fourteen years before "In
Cold Blood". It is ironic to think of Capote contributing to a movie
that is an antidote for all the gore and guts currently on screen, since
"In Cold Blood" paved the way for so much of today's film violence.
But these are Capote's early days, when quirky aunts and small town gossip
were the stuff of his tales.
Matthau paints Capote's world with strong if strange characters. The spinster
Talbo sisters own the local dry goods store, which is the center of the
town. Actually, only Sissy Spacek as Verena runs the store. Her sister,
Dolly, portrayed by Piper Laurie, is as flaky as any Southern Belle's pie
crust, with a dollop of cream on top. She isn't just the standard eccentric
aunt, but the earth mother stranded in the wrong stratosphere. And it is
her herbal cold remedy that makes the plot move forward, but not at the
lightning speed that we have become accustomed to. The slick Dr. Ritz conspires
with Verena to market it as aproduct, and Dolly rebels, taking her nephew,
servant and eventually the town with her. Piper Lauire is vibrant and sweet
but never candy-coated.