See Flannery O’Connor’s Story “The Displaced Person” Adapted to a Film Starring a Young Samuel L. Jackson (1977)

There are strong peo­ple qui­et­ly will­ing to do “what needs to be done” for the pub­lic good, and then there are those who enjoy insin­u­at­ing that they are that sort of per­son, usu­al­ly as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for their self-serv­ing, fre­quent­ly racist or xeno­pho­bic actions. When the lat­ter reach­es for the Bible as back up, look out!

No one ever had more fun with this mon­strous type than the writer Flan­nery O’Connor, a devout Catholic with a knack for wrap­ping her char­ac­ters’ foul pur­pos­es in the “stink­ing mad shad­ow of Jesus.”

In her longest sto­ry “The Dis­placed Per­son,” the boor­ish, Bible-thump­ing Mrs. Short­ley is not the only bad­die. The refined Mrs. McIn­tyre, wid­owed mis­tress of the dairy oper­a­tion that employs the Short­leys and a cou­ple of African-Amer­i­can farmhands, is just as quick to indict those with whom she imag­ines her­self at cross-pur­pos­es.

Trans­fer them to the small screen, and every actress over 40 would be clam­or­ing for the chance to sink her teeth into one or the oth­er.

In 1977, PBS hired play­wright Hor­ton Foote to adapt “The Dis­placed Per­son” for “The Amer­i­can Short Sto­ry,” and the roles of Short­ley and McIn­tyre went to Shirley Stol­er and Irene Worth, both excel­lent.

(See above…it’s always so much more amus­ing to play one of the vil­lains than the hard­work­ing, uncom­plain­ing, tit­u­lar char­ac­ter, here a Pol­ish refugee from WWII.)

The audio qual­i­ty is not the great­est, but stick with it to see Samuel L. Jack­son, not quite 30, as the younger of the two farmhands.

O’Connor buffs will be inter­est­ed to know that Andalu­sia, the writer’s own Geor­gia farm, served as the loca­tion for this hour-long project. (No need to rent a pea­cock!)

Despite the state­ly pro­duc­tion val­ues that were de rigeur for qual­i­ty view­ing of the peri­od, the sto­ry retains the unmis­tak­able tang of O’Connor—it’s a bit­ter, com­ic brew.

via Bib­liok­lept

Relat­ed Con­tent

Flan­nery O’Connor Reads ‘Some Aspects of the Grotesque in South­ern Fic­tion’ (c. 1960)

Rare 1959 Audio: Flan­nery O’Connor Reads ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’

Flan­nery O’Connor’s Satir­i­cal Car­toons: 1942–1945

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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  • Harvey Banks says:

    those per­sons who have Ama­zon Prime can also view this film on that site. The film’s images on this site are some­what sharp­er and crisper than the copy of the film on you tube; also, the film has eng­lish sub­ti­tles to assist on fol­low­ing the dia­log. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the intro­duc­tion by Colleen Dewhurst is miss­ing.

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