Friday, March 6, 2009


Years ago when I worked in radio sales, I received a call from a movie distributor who wanted to advertise on our station. Our radio station had a small listening audience. I was used to call-ins from lawn mowing and window cleaning services. But the distributor wanted to promote their movie, Tender Mercies with our audience. We accepted the account.

One of the perks of working at a radio station was receiving complimentary tickets to events. So that weekend my mom and I went to see Tender Mercies. It was a gentle movie about a man trying to become a better person. When the movie was over we left the theater, but the story never left us.

Quite a few years later I learned that Horton Foote, the same man who wrote Tender Mercies had also adapted, my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird into film. I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that he also wrote The Trip to Bountiful, the story of an old woman returning home.

Horton Foote was a great example of how sometimes we start down a road and realize it's not the journey we were meant to take. If we're smart we make a detour to the right road. As a young man, Foote went to acting school. Thank goodness he soon realized his true calling. He went on to win two Oscars, an Emmy and a Pulitzer Prize.

Harper Lee biographer Charles Shields shared his thoughts about Foote. "After winning an Academy Award in 1963 for his screenplay of To Kill a Mockingbird, Horton Foote, a stocky, soft-spoken Texan with blue eyes, was asked how he chose his subjects. 'I just want to work on things I'm interested in,' he said.

What interested him were small American lives. He grew-up in a small town and recognized that drama is wherever you find it: in porch gossip, at church suppers, or during arguments between farmers, for instance. In small towns, the great and the reprehensible know each other by first name. And in understanding that, he and Harper Lee, another American miniaturist, were very much alike."

Author Sarah Sullivan whose mother grew up in the south, the daughter of a judge, has felt a lifelong connection with To Kill a Mockingbird. Foote's passing caused her to reflect on that affection. "I've probably watched To Kill A Mockingbird twenty times and I could easily watch it again right now. What I love about Harper Lee's novel and Foote's screenplay is the way they show the quiet dignity and courage of ordinary people who take a stand against violence and hatred, not for any grand reward, but simply because it is the right thing to do."

Actress Tess Harper, who played in Tender Mercies, called Horton Foote, "America's Chekhov." She said, "He's a quiet man who writes quiet people."

In this world of high-speed and technical chaos, it's nice to know that folks can still slow down and enjoy a quiet story.

Horton Foote

March 14, 1916-March 4, 2009


  1. What a great tribute to an obviously talented and thoughtful man.

  2. I met Horton Foote once, and will never forget his presence. I love this tribute, Kimberly. I read TO KILL A MOCKINGBiRD each year, and then watch the movie. It is one of the few movies that lives up to the novel it was adapted from.

    THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL is one of my favorite films. I cry at the first frame, and again at the end. "It's all right, Jessie Mae, I've had my trip."

    May we each have our trip. I hope Horton Foote is on the trip of life, right now.


  3. Thank you, Travis and Deborah.
    I appreciate Charles's and Sarah's lovely comments about Foote. They gave this little tribute a more personal touch.

    Deborah, I'm envious that you met him. What a glorious moment! When I look at his face, I almost want to say, "Bring on the wrinkles and lines." He made aging look so beautiful.