Thursday, November 5, 2009

Barbara Redux

In addition to "Lucy Troma: the Graphic Novel", or perhaps as a test run, I may be doing "Die Like A Lady: the Graphic Novel". In 2002 I wrote and directed a play of the same title which has haunted me in one way or another ever since. The production nearly put me in the hospital from exhaustion, malnutrition and stress. I weighed about 100 pounds at the end of it and I was just shattered. "Die Like A Lady" tells the bad girl life story of Barbara Graham, the last woman to be executed in the state of California. I first read her life story on a true crime website and I thought it was such fascinating stuff - mainly because she had a series of opportunities to escape her downward spiral to the gas chamber and managed to either be bludgeoned by fate or to fuck things up herself. My play was a clown show and a comedy and an example of the self mythologizing nature of all Americans. The famous Susan Hayward movie "I Want To Live" was based on her life, but although it was pretty racy for the '50s it was full of lies. It tried to make her more sympathetic by pretending that she wasn't a junky and a murderer (the movie was okay with her being a whore).

When I was in the middle of working on the show people asked me why I found her story so fascinating and I never had an answer. One thing I do know is that I'm not done with it. I think I know what this story itself is, however. You know those incredibly dangerous women in the noirs of the 40s and 50s? Did you ever wonder what Brigid O'Shaughnessy's life was like before she ran into Sam Spade? Or what had happened to that monstrous woman played by Jane Greer in "Out of the Past"? Or all the damaged, slutty, criminal women played by Lizabeth Scott and Gloria Grahame? Or Hammett's girl with the silver eyes? Take them out of the context of making Robert Mitchum's or Humphrey Bogart's life a misery, and their lives were very likely a lot like Barbara's, just with better clothes and lighting.

So I've been working on some sketches. I've done some ink/ink wash drawings which are a mess as I did them on the wrong kind of paper. Can one be in love with pencils? Because I'm in love with my color pencils. They arrived in the mail yesterday as buying the 72 pencil set from Amazon turned out to be cheaper than buying the 48 pack from Pearl. As I fleetingly mentioned, I've been trying to branch out into color, and one of the problems with this is that I'm not a very good painter. So I got these colored pencils and so far I love them. The only downside that I can see is that I think I have a repetitive stress injury from a marathon of pencil sharpening last night.

But I'm super excited about this and my script is so spare and carefully plotted and so light on dialogue it's pretty much ready to go, story-wise. I miss Barbara, though like a true noir dame she has infected me like a virus.

No comments: