Our Netflix queue is mainly my responsibility because I'm such a nut about movies. But lately my choices have been, shall we say, less than desirable. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when I ordered the latest movie we're trying to get through (and so does my husband.) Or I don't remember ordering it at all. But that's another story.
Last night was different.
I'm a huge "Columbo" fan. My husband knows every episode by heart. I love watching them again and again on Netflix. But let's face it: "Columbo" would not have been as successful as it was without the amazing talent of Peter Falk.
I always got a kick out of Falk's portrayal of the disheveled homicide detective you knew would solve the crime by the end of the hour. And despite the gritty task of looking for the murderer, Falk somehow brought a comedic genius that added a surprising layer to his character.
That's not an easy thing to do.
His comedic talent was also evident in the roles he played in movies, such as "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and "Pocketful of Miracles."
But in last night's movie "A Storm in the Summer" (2000) I saw a more serious side to Peter Falk. The story is about an old Jewish shop owner named Abel Shaddick (Falk) who became bitter after his 19-year-old son was killed in World War II. The story begins as Shaddick suddenly finds himself responsible for a young black boy that his philandering nephew (Andrew McCarthy) promises to sponsor after meeting the beautiful and wealthy Gloria (Nastassja Kinski) at the local country club. Shaddick flatly refuses to take the boy in when he learns that his nephew plans to skip town.
Based on a story by Rod Serling you can feel Serling's steady hand as he weaves his characters through bigotry, ageism and the consequences of war during the main characters two weeks together in the summer of 1969.
Back in Harlem, the little boy Herman D. Washington (Aaron Meeks) packs his suitcase according to his grandmother's (skillfully played by Ruby Dee) instructions. She tells Herman to have fun but to be polite at all times. After giving Herman his final instructions at the bus station, the two silently embrace and then she walks away. (This is when I had tears in my eyes. It was a lovely scene.)
When Herman arrives at his destination he patiently waits for his sponsor to arrive, watching the other white children leave one by one with their sponsors. A smart boy, Herman glances over at the obnoxious-looking Stanley and instinctively knows that the man is up to no good. Stanley begins a conversation by telling Herman that he has urgent out-of-town business and instructs Herman to walk across the street to the deli where his uncle is waiting for him. Herman, in disbelief, brushes Stanley aside and walks out the door.
And so the story begins.
As the story unravels we watch an old man and a young child dance around each other as they learn that they have much more in common than either of them realized. Without giving too much away this a sweet story that's given a light touch under the beautiful direction of Robert Wise ("West Side Story", "Sound of Music".)
If you need a break and are looking for a nice, feel-good movie I recommend watching "A Storm in Summer".
A Storm in Summer (2000, 94 minutes): Starring Peter Falk, Andrew McCarthy, Natassja Kinski, Aaron Meeks, Ruby Dee. Directed by Robert Wise. Written by Rod Serling.
Cathy Chester blogs at An Empowered Spirit, which won third prize in Healthline’s Best Health Blog Contest in 2014, was named #2 of the “Top 10 Social HealthMakers in MS” by Sharecare “ and received a nomination for the past 3 years as WEGO Health’s Best in Show Blog. She is a contributor for The Huffington Post as well as a blogger for MultipleSclerosis.net and Boomeon. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, Erma Bombecks’ Writers Circle, The Friendship Circle and Woman at Woodstock.