Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mary McCarthy: THE GROUP

Last week I reread Mary McCarthy's THE GROUP, which follows a group of Vassar Graduates (class of 31) in the 30's and into the war. It was a bestseller when released in 1963, then a very popular movie in 1967, and now mostly forgotten. When I searched the library database, there were about five copies of this book in the entire Los Angeles library system. I bought the last copy at Borders.

It's a great book, fascinating in the observations and boldness of subjects covered, from communism to breast feeding to homosexuality and canned food. Having gone to a similar college forty years later probably added to the appeal.

Then last night we ran a 16mm print of the movie, THE GROUP. It was directed extremely well by Sidney Lumet in 1966. Imagine keeping eight waspy girls straight when they all have long hair and are the same age. The screenwriter followed the dialog very closely, and condensed a huge book into one movie with great style. Candice Bergen is the best known of the cast, but was actually the worst one in it.

Here's a choice short biography of Mary McCarthy, with several outrageous quotes, including this one:

In a taped interview with Dick Cavett, first aired in 1980, McCarthy said about Lillian Helman, with only slight hyperbole, that "every word she writes is a lie, including and and the." Hellman's defamation suit against McCarthy was dropped after Hellman's death. ''If someone had told me, don't say anything about Lillian Hellman because she'll sue you, it wouldn't have stopped me. It might have spurred me on. I didn't want her to die. I wanted her to lose in court. I wanted her around for that.''


sal said...

Interesting to learn about Mary McCarthy. I've long been interested in Lillian Hellman's life and also Dorothy Parker and other writers from the Round Table. Sharp, witty women!

Namowal said...

I'd never heard of Mary McCarthy before. Thanks for the introduction.
"Every word [Lillian Helman] writes is a lie, including and and the" heh heh. That's one sharp tongue!
Sometimes I'm tempted to make cracks about people I deal with (or have dealt with in the past,) but my inner censor tells me to cork it. Don't be mean, it warns, besides, people in glass houses...

Sally said...

Sharp, witty women is right! Lillian Hellman may have been less than the legend, who knows.

I think those are all martini comments, ie couldn't be pulled off outside of a spiff lounge with someone bothering to record them.

Anonymous said...

Mary McC's essays are wonderful; for me, far more readable and re-readable than her fiction. I always admired her for taking on the liar (and successful saleslady of the lies)Lily H. Julia? Please.

sal said...

I saw a great one-women monologue on Broadway years ago: Zoe Caldwell as Lillian.