The Story (continued)
Written on the Wind (1956)
On his way to his Dad's place, Mitch drops Lucy off in town - their departure witnessed by Marylee and Kyle peeking out from an upstairs window. (This is a common occurrence in the film - peering views from behind curtains and windows.) Admitting her own diseased 'filth,' Marylee slyly taunts her brother into a drunken rage and adds fuel to the fire by feeding his own crippling, unbalanced insecurities about Lucy and her alleged affair with his best friend Mitch:
Marylee: That was no lady. That was your wife.
Kyle: Where are they going?
Marylee: I don't know. Where would you take your best friend's wife?
Kyle: You're a real sweet kid.
Marylee: Now be nice to me, brother. One morning we'll wake up, and we'll be all alone together.
Kyle: Go on, sister. Tell me another pretty story.
Marylee: Once upon a time, there was a poor little rich boy.
Kyle: Kyle Hadley by name.
Marylee: Who pickled his tiny brain with gin and bourbon.
Kyle: Not so. Scotch.
Marylee: Till he got so stinking blind, he couldn't see what was going on right under his big red nose.
Kyle: But his charming, righteous little sister did.
Marylee: Yes, she saw the end of a marriage and the beginning of a love affair.
Kyle: You're a filthy liar.
Marylee: I'm filthy - period. But you don't have to take my word for anything. Just try keeping your head clear and your eyes open.
Kyle: Why should you care? You've never cared about me.
Marylee: Or your wife.
Kyle: Why are you putting your two cents in?
Marylee: Only because of Mitch. Because I've never had him, and your wife has. (Kyle slaps her across the face, reaches for a drink, and splashes his reflected mirror image with the alcohol)
In town, Lucy is dropped off at Dr. Cochrane's office in the Medical Building for an hour-long appointment. Mitch almost tells Lucy of his deep feelings for her. When Mitch picks her up afterwards, he confesses his plans to leave for Iran in the next week:
I can't keep holding back how I feel about you, Lucy. How I've felt ever since the first day we met. I'm in love with you.
They begin kissing, but Lucy breaks it off with a confession of her own. She discovered the reason for Kyle's heavy drinking - his fear that he might never have children. But this was only the doctor's "medical opinion, not a fact." She divulges: "I'm going to have a baby." Lucy kisses him - this time "for goodbye."
Upon their return to the Hadley mansion, Marylee tells them that Kyle "hopped into his kiddie car and flew. And I mean flew...If he wasn't (drunk), he was well on his way." Kyle is seen purchasing a bottle of whiskey at The Cove, being offered unwelcome advise from Dan, and drinking himself into oblivion with the rot-gut poison:
If I were one of the richest men in the world, I wouldn't be sitting in a place like this drinking raw corn...I'd be over at the country club, drinking bonded bourbon. Nothing but...
By evening time just as dinner is being served in the cavernous dining room, the sounds of Kyle's roaring car engine and screeching tires announce his return home. Drunk as a skunk, he staggers into the dining room, turns over the shrimp cocktail being served to him by Sam (Roy Glenn), and orders: "Bring me a cocktail I can drink. And I don't mean tomato juice." Lucy urges him upstairs, as he quips: "You wish to confess?" He has been poisoned with the belief that Mitch is having an affair with her.
Upstairs, Kyle begs Lucy to travel with him to exotic locales, "like turning back the clock." He insinuates her loose living: "Are you sure your husband's out of town?" And then when Lucy begins telling him the 'good news' of her medical condition after her doctor's visit, he expects only bad news and suspects she knows of his infertility. The news of her pregnancy, coupled with his own self-loathing, drunken haze of understanding, willful blindness, and inability to accept Lucy's love, make him presuppose that Mitch must be the father:
Lucy: Kyle, it's true.
Kyle: You shouldn't have done that to me. You shouldn't have.
Lucy: What are you talking about?
Kyle: Mitch. You and the Mitch.
Lucy: Don't say that Kyle. Don't even think it.
Kyle: What did you think? You think I was just a drunken idiot? That I'd believe you? That I'd let you use my name? Take my money? You can rot in hell! You, Mitch, and your little...
Lucy: Kyle, I've had nothing to do with Mitch.
Kyle: (striking out with rage) You dirty tramp!
He viciously slaps her, causing her to fall onto the side of the bed and onto the floor. Lucy's screams bring Mitch running to her rescue from downstairs. He visits his pent-up wrath upon Kyle, punching him and throwing him out of the bedroom, and threatening with loudly-yelled words that will return to haunt him (a similar line was bellowed by Joan Crawford to her daughter in Mildred Pierce (1945)):
Get out of here. Get out before I kill you!
Kyle retreats to his car and the Cove, as Mitch phones for Dr. Cochrane. After examining Lucy, the diagnosis is that she has had a miscarriage. The doctor asks an "impertinent question" of Mitch as he departs, and is told: "Kyle had no cause." Mitch again threatens Kyle, within hearing of Marylee: "He'd (Kyle) better not come back here tonight. I'll tell you that."
At the Cove, a bloody-faced Kyle, looking like a "bum", orders another bottle of corn alcohol, thereby scaring away other couples and customers. He also wants to purchase Dan's gun for $100 dollars, but is denied the sale: "Take your courage and let me be." Kyle tells Dan the reason he needs a weapon: "Somebody tried to kill me...My best friend."
Kyle races home - returning the story to the opening sequence.
As Mitch is caring for Lucy in her bedroom, she begs and hugs him: "Take me away, Mitch. Take me out of this house...Now. I'm afraid." He promises: "I won't leave you." Kyle roars into the driveway, his brakes screeching. He shatters his whiskey bottle by heaving it against the brick house, awakening Marylee upstairs and Sam (and his wife) in their basement quarters. Sam's wife fears: "There's gonna be a killin'." Kyle opens the front door - with the wind sweeping decaying leaves into the Hadley estate. He searches in his father's desk for a gun, and then in the dining room drawers and kitchen cabinets, shattering glass and spilling silverware everywhere. He then topples books from his father's shelves looking for the weapon (hidden earlier by Mitch).
Mitch enters the room just as the weapon is discovered, and finds himself at gunpoint, with the pistol-waving Kyle screaming at him about his betrayal:
You lousy white trash. You no-account, two-faced dog. I'm gonna watch you cringe. Then I'm gonna put a bullet in your belly...my best friend. My lifelong pal. What a laugh! You crawlin' snake. You crept in here, sponged off us Hadleys, stole everything I ever wanted, everything I ever had...You made me small in my father's eyes. You made my sister spit at me. Then, you stole my wife.
Mitch stoically denies any sexual involvement with Lucy, but can't talk Kyle out of his beliefs. In their past, Mitch has always "taken the blame" for Kyle's misdeeds, but this time, he refuses to be the fall-guy:
Kyle, we've never lied to each other. And I'm tellin' you now, I never touched Lucy, only because she's your wife. Get this straight. The child would have been yours. Not mine. Yours.
Incensed, the abject Kyle again screams, "lousy white trash" and aims the gun at Mitch to murder him, as Marylee struggles with him for the weapon. The gun accidentally fires and strikes Kyle in his midsection. Delirious with pain, he asks: "What are we doing here, Mitch?...Let's go down to the river where we belong." He struggles to the door and collapses outside on the driveway, while stuttering about escape and a return to a place of earlier happiness: "I'll be down at the river, waiting, waiting."
The News Herald's Headlines:
KYLE HADLEY INQUEST TODAY - Murder Hinted
Repeatedly spurned, the scheming, spiteful and conniving Marylee hints that she could easily implicate Mitch in Kyle's death - unless he would choose to marry her. Mitch labels her emotional blackmail a sick pathology:
Marylee: I could tell the police that I saw you kill my dear brother.
Mitch: You could.
Marylee: On the other hand, a wife wouldn't and couldn't testify against her own husband.
Mitch: You know, for a beautiful girl, you can look real ugly sometimes. Ask yourself this: Would I ever be enough for you?
Marylee: I could talk you right into the state penitentiary.
Mitch: You're sick, Marylee. Your sickness won't be cured by marrying me. Before it's too late, you'd better face up to yourself. Look how far we've come from the river.
At the inquest presided over by Judge R.J. Courtney (Joseph Granby), five witnesses testify to the fact that they heard Mitch Wayne's threats against Kyle Hadley to kill him: Dr. Cochrane, Sam and his wife, Dan, and even Lucy. The final witness is Marylee Hadley, who has the opportunity to either indict or incriminate Mitch. Although she first answers that Mitch Wayne killed her brother, she then redeems herself - with a decent and honest answer that brings tears to her eyes, that Mitch was innocent:
Mitch Wayne was there - in the study with my brother. Kyle had a gun in his hand. He was raving mad, raving about things that weren't so. Mitch tried to talk to him, to make him understand how wrong he was, to stop him from using the gun. Afraid he might even use it on himself. I made a grab for the gun. Kyle and I struggled. The gun went off....Whatever he (Mitch) may have said, means nothing. Except he was worried about Kyle, as a brother for a brother...(Kyle)...was depressed by Father's sudden death and he'd been drinking...My brother always drank too much. He was sad, the saddest of us all. He needed so much and had so little.
The final scene shows Mitch departing/escaping in a car with Lucy, the two non-Hadleys, from the front of the estate. Marylee, wearing a drab and tame, tailored icy-blue suit (unlike previous outfits - as a symbol of her reformed ways?), is left alone in her father's study. She sits at the desk under a domineering portrait of Jasper touching one of his lucrative oil derricks. The oil-rich Hadley dynasty, with all the riches in the world, is left corruptible, inadequate, ruined, and impotent without the death of its patriarch and son, and the exit of its right-hand man.
In one of the film's most striking sexual images, Marylee mimics her father's pose. She clutches, caresses/fondles and smiles at the miniature bronze model of an oil derrick - a small, erect phallic symbol of power, wealth, and comfort.
Also Worth Your Attention...
AMC Filmcritic's Review of Written on the Wind