Instead, this is now perhaps one of my all-time favourite American novels. It can be compared without the least blush of embarrassment with Steinbeck at his best and Harper Lee out killing mocking birds — and there are many, many points of comparison betw I knew nothing about this book at all. It can be compared without the least blush of embarrassment with Steinbeck at his best and Harper Lee out killing mocking birds — and there are many, many points of comparison between all three writers. This one has completely captivated me — and in ways I had not expected to be captivated.
Spoilers Alan Arkin is John Singer, a deaf mute who takes an interest in practically everything and everyone around him. He wants to be the legal guardian for the mentally disabled Chuck McMann, who is first seen breaking the window of a pastry shop so he can eat the displays.
To be near McMann who is committed for observationArkin rents a room from physically disabled Biff McGuire and his tired wife, Laurinda Barrett, and slowly becomes friends with their lonely teen-aged daughter Sondra Locke. He also befriends drifter Stacy Keach, whom he first meets while Keach is causing a drunken disturbance in a greasy spoon.
When black doctor Percy Rodriguez refuses to take care of the injured drunken Keach, Arkin begins to work on him. His daughter the brilliant Cicely Tyson has married a man he refers to as an "Uncle Tom". Later, she tells him basically that he acts more white than white people do after he refuses to help her husband out of a disastrous situation that results in catastrophe.
It is only through compassionate Arkin that the two are able to come to an eventual understanding. It is through his upbeat look at life that seems to bring the people around him including the surprisingly wise and kind drifter Keach any sense of hope.
McGuire in the type of role that Arkin might have later played is quietly understated as the injured father whose inability to work has caused the family financial hardship. Their characters reminded me a bit of the parents in "Breaking Away". Rodriguez is outstanding as the embittered black doctor who only treats Keach because of his pity towards deaf Arkin.
The scene where he admits how ironic it is that at this point in his life, it is a white man to whom he can confide his deepest feelings, is so quietly powerful.
Tyson, of course, is excellent; Already a stage veteran, she makes her character quite believable and the love for her husband most admirable.
Stacy Keach is only in the film briefly in the first half, but makes a nice impression as the multi-layered drifter who has become a social outcast that only Arkin understands.
She greatly deserved the Oscar Nomination she received, because she makes what could have been an annoying character really quite likable.
He really studied this character inside and out to get every niche of him down. There is no moment of unbelievability in his portrayal. There are some terrific moral lessons to be learned from films like "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". The biggest for me, based upon the tragic ending, is that in life, it is not only what people do in their lifetime that makes them special, but what they add to the lives of others around them particularly strangers that matters.
Something tells me that Mick Locke would end up in social services helping disabled people, and that the black doctor Rodriguez would never again distrust all white people and be open to helping everybody who came to him.
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"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" is a much better film that unlike "Charly" and many other films of the 60's doesn't add a strange "mod" feeling into it that makes no sense.
There are some terrific moral lessons to be learned from films like "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". Shop new, used, rare, and out-of-print books. Powell's is an independent bookstore based in Portland, Oregon. Browse staff picks, author features, and more.