TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD:
"SCOUT" PHONES MY HOUSE
"SCOUT" PHONES MY HOUSE
By Steve Ludwig
Way back when, before it had news shows starting at 4:00 in the afternoon as it does now, ABC-TV had "The 4:30 Movie" from 4:30 till 6 PM. The silhouette of a revolving cameraman in the opening segment is forever stamped into my memory.
Usually they'd show a movie that they could fit it to a ninety-minute slot (meaning, at times, there were some unceremonious cuts of a few scenes in a few of the movies.).
However, for a relatively longer movie, they'd show it over two nights, in a couple parts.
This is what they did whenever they would show TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, one of my Top Five movies of all-time.
It was, of course, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, written by Harper Lee.
I've seen the movie numerous times since The 4:30 Movie, first on VHS tape, then on DVD, and just recently, on BluRay (an incredible viewing experience!).
With its cast led by Academy Award winner Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, Phillip Alford as Jem (after whose character my wife Sue and I named our pug, Gem), and the adorable Mary Badham, who played tomboy Scout.
Well, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is not only a Top Five favorite of mine, it's Sue's all-time favorite (followed closely by SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS).
And Gregory Peck and Mary Badham played Sue's two favorite characters in the movie.
I could write two, three, even four blogs about the wonder that is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. But for this blog, I'm going to tell you three occasions in our lives that centered on Mary Badham...Scout.
In 2004, it seemed a dream would come true for Sue and me when Mary Badham was scheduled to appear at a movie convention in Secaucus, NJ.
Saturday, October 30, 2004, couldn't come soon enough for us. We got our tickets well in advance; I kept them in the glove compartment of my car so I wouldn't forget to take them on the day of the convention. The plan was to get a picture taken with Ms. Badham, and have her autograph an 8 x 10 photo of herself.
John Lennon said it best in his song "Beautiful Boy":
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans...
On October 29, one day before the convention, my dear, sweet beautiful mother passed away...
My mom, Mildred, had been in a coma for a few days before, in a hospital in Toms River, NJ, the town in which she and my dad lived.
Sue and I were at her side at her hospital bed when she left us.
The next morning, October 30, after having made funeral arrangements with my dad and two brothers, Sue and I drove back up north to get some fresh clothes, as well as clothes to wear at Mom's wake.
If you've been in my position and, sadly, I'm willing to bet too many of you reading this have gone through the heartbreak of losing a parent, you can understand how Mary Badham was suddenly not high on my priority list.
My mother had known, before she fell ill, that we had plans to see "Scout," as MOCKINGBIRD was also a favorite of my mom.
As we got closer to our home in Fort Lee, NJ, we saw the exit for Secaucus, NJ (where the convention was being held).
Sue said something to the effect that, "You know, Mom would have wanted you to meet Mary Badham."
"Sue, you know we can't. It wouldn't be right."
I knew I would feel guilty about it. My mother is all that should be on my mind right now, is what I felt.
But as we got even closer to the convention site and Sue's words echoed in my mind, I don't know---I just turned the car to the Secaucus exit and said to Sue, "OK, just Mary Badham and then we get home to get our clothes."
"Mom would be happy," Sue said.
Parked the car, gave our tickets in, and got on the long line for Mary Badham. She was signing in a separate room. The line was out into the hallway, so we couldn't see Ms. Badham from where we stood in line.
We were on line for about fifteen minutes when I turned to Sue: "I can't do this. Let's go home."
I was wracked with guilt.
Although I knew Sue was right about how my mom would have felt about the whole thing, I just didn't feel right standing on that line.
So we left, never having seen or spoken to Mary Badham.
Fast forward to 2010.
Shortly after watching MOCKINGBIRD for the umpteenth time, with both of us wiping away the inevitable tears that always accompanied a viewing ("Hey, Boo..."), I went online and searched for Mary Badham.
Sue's birthday was coming up, and I wanted to surprise her for her upcoming birthday and get Sue an autographed picture of Mary Badham.
In my searches, I found a website (HollywoodIsCalling.com) that said, for a relatively reasonable fee, a movie star or personality would call someone, live on the telephone, for a special occasion, such as a birthday. Hmmm...How great would it be for Mary Badham, ("SCOUT" herself) to call Sue and wish her a Happy Birthday?
There was no doubt in my mind what to do. I got out my credit card and made the arrangements. What made my purchase even nicer was that Mary Badham donated all of her profits to charity.
The website asked what message I would want Ms. Badham to say to Sue, and they suggested we not pick up the phone unless we recognized a friend's phone number; this way the answering machine would record Mary's message, and we could keep it forever!
All I asked Sue was that she not pick up the phone on her birthday, that I had a little surprise planned for her.
It went PERFECTLY!!
Would you like to hear the message that Mary Badham left for Sue?
Click right here!
Pretty neat, huh?
Now, about two weeks after receiving my BluRay edition of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I thought to myself, "Ya know, come to think of it, Sue still hasn't got an autographed picture of Mary!"
That brought me to MaryBadham.org.
Sure enough, one of the things offered on her website were autographed pictures. I simply had to specify what message I would like for Mary to write to Sue.
About ten days later, Sue received her autographed picture in the mail. Here it is:
On it, she wrote, "Dear Sue, Thank you for being one of my most loyal fans. Mary Badham 'Scout'."
Very hopefully, one day we'll be lucky enough to, as Mary said in her phone message to Sue, "...meet in person one day."
And when that day does occur, you can expect to read another blog, with a whole new chapter to this story of the wonderful Mary Badham!
Thanks to the over 17,000 of you who have read my blogs!
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