Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My infatuation with Three Days of the Condor is forever (dot dot dot).

Film critic Juliette Small invites her daughter, Erica, and Erica's friend Katherine to join her for an advance screening of a new Robert Redford movie in chapter 14 of Forever..., Judy Blume's controversial 1975 novel about young love, which I'm reading for a grad-school research paper on young-adult fiction.

After the picture Mrs. Small asked me, personally, what I thought of it.

"Well ..." I told her, "I just love Robert Redford."

"Don't we all ..." Mrs. Small said, "but I mean about the story."

"Oh, the story ... I liked it ..."

"But ..."

"I don't think it could happen that way in real life ..."

"Exactly!" she said. "But you wanted it to, didn't you ... you were hoping it would turn out just that way."

"Yes," I told her.

"You see ... that's the whole point."

"It's going to be a smash," Erica said.

"In spite of my review, you mean?"

"In spite of anybody's review."

"I agree with you, completely," Mrs. Small said.

In 1975 Robert Redford starred in two films, The Great Waldo Pepper and Three Days of the Condor. The former was scripted by William Goldman and directed by George Roy Hill, who had previously collaborated with Redford on 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, while the latter was helmed by Sydney Pollack, who, prior to Condor, had already directed the California native in three films, including the western Jeremiah Johnson (1972) and the romantic drama The Way We Were (1973), costarring Barbra Streisand.

The Great Waldo Pepper is a period piece in which Redford plays a 1920s stunt pilot, but Three Days of the Condor is a contemporary thriller that asks audiences to believe that a guy as handsome as the Sundance Kid is employed by the CIA as a bookworm rather than a dashing James Bond clone. As Katherine says, "I don't think it could happen that way in real life." But you want it to.

Waldo was released in March of '75; Condor came out in September. When Katherine, the protagonist of Forever..., takes a train from Westfield, New Jersey, into New York City with Erica and her mom to see "a preview of a new Robert Redford picture," it's either late March or early April in the book's narrative. Yes, I'm fully aware of the possibility that Blume isn't talking about any Redford movie in particular—for one thing, I don't know when exactly Forever... was published in '75 (spring, summer, etc.), or if she even had a particular year in mind besides "right now, whenever that is" when she wrote the book, or if copyright issues prevented her from using the title of an actual Redford movie—but a boy can still dream, even when he's no longer a young adult.

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