Posted by lex, on September 8, 2005
If you’ve never seen the movie, “The Great Santini,” you ought to give it a look – it’s a fascinating look inside the mind and world of a Marine Corps fighter pilot who’s convinced that he’s God’s gift to naval aviation and is intent on dragging his family along for his triumphant ride around the pond. The lead role is played by Robert Duval, who typically, nails it home – I’ve known guys like his Bull Meecham (and in fact, I knew some of the Marine Corps fighter jocks who play roles as extras in the movie). It’s also an interesting, if tangential retrospective on the state of civil rights in the late ’60s south. It’s also interesting how perspective changes – in my youth, I looked at Duval’s Bull Meecham as a kind of example – the hard-living, occasionally profane avatar of heroic fighter aviation. Now, seeing it from a far different perspective, I see the imperfect father struggling with his own demons while trying to hold a family together in the face of enormous (and ubiquitous) centrifugal forces.
For all that the movie was entertaining (if perhaps a little inside baseball), the book, by Pat Conroy, is even better. Conroy, a basketball playing Citadel grad who also wrote “Lords of Discipline” and “My Losing Season,” among others tends to write thinly veiled confessionals masquerading as fiction, which gives his characters tremendous (if sometimes outsized) depth and development. For a probably more balanced review of “The Great Santini” in literary form, see what Winston Smith writes here. He’s a regular guy, not one of your high-falutin’ literary critics, so what he writes actually makes sense.
Update: And yes, you’re probably going to get a new “Rhythms” today. Later, maybe.
07-30-20 Here’s the eulogy Pat wrote for his father