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Horton Foote’s stark, evocative work, ONE ARMED MAN, brought to film by Harrison Texas Productions and first-time director, Tim Guinee.
“It’s thrilling to bring this major work of Horton Foote’s to life as a film, twenty eight years after it was written”, said director Tim Guinee, a well-known actor for several decades of work in productions such as COURAGE UNDER FIRE, SWEET LAND, THE GOOD WIFE, and HOMELAND.
Winner of multiple Oscars and a Pulitzer Prize, Horton Foote is frequently called America’s Chekov. He is best known as the screenwriter of major contributions to the canon of cinema like TENDER MERCIES, TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
ONE ARMED MAN takes place in Texas in the 1920’s and centers around a wealthy cotton gin owner who is confronted by a disgruntled former employee irrationally demanding the return of an arm, which was lost in the gin’s machinery. The story is at once a deeply relevant social commentary and a profoundly human drama.
The film stars Charles Haid, best known for his four-time Emmy nominated performance as Renko on HILL STREET BLUES; Terry Kinney from OZ and PROMISED LAND; and John Magaro, soon to be seen in Angelina Jolie’s UNBROKEN, based on Laura Hillenbrand’s best selling biography.
ONE ARMED MAN is Executive Produced by Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Produced by Bruno Michels, Hallie Foote, and Guinee, Horton’s son-in-law, who met and married Daisy Foote after being cast in LILY DALE, a film of Horton’s, that changed his life in more ways than one.
Harrison, Texas – wedged in time between the carnage of the first World War and the enveloping despair of the Great Depression.
It’s not even nine in the morning, but as CW (Charles Haid) drives to work at his cotton gin it’s already hot out. Texas hot.
Pinkey (Terry Kinney), his bookkeeper, waits patiently for CW’s arrival. He opens the car door for him and helps him put on his suit jacket. Inside the office they share, Pinkey innocently asks if CW thinks the price of cotton will go back up? CW seizes on the opportunity to express his boundless hope that the country is on a “curve of prosperity”.
In the middle of his speech, unable to take the heat, CW removes his jacket, when he hears a noise in the hallway leading to the factory floor. He asks who’s out there and is told, to his dismay that it is Ned.
Ned (John Magaro) lost an arm in the gin’s machinery. Unable to find other employment, he now works in a pool hall. He drinks and may or may not be homeless. And he is a little touched. He actually believes that CW can give him his arm back. Every other week or so, he shows up and asks for it. CW, instead, gives Ned five dollars, which normally mollifies him and he goes on his way.
On hearing that Ned is outside his office, CW sends Pinky out to send him away. Moments later Pinky reappears with the news that Ned wants to see CW.
CW is about to send Pinky back out to Ned when he remembers something. The day before a creditor showed up with a letter for Pinky. Pinky is forced into confiding that he owes the man eight dollars and when pressed admits that he owes three hundred dollars to various people around town. CW is dismayed.
As a man who has made his fortune, he is certain that the system works and so he charitably bloviates advice on how Pinky might become financially solvent. He suggests things like “grow your own garden”. Something CW does – “Or at least I hire a negro to do it. I give him two dollars every week and he can take home any of the vegetables we can’t use”.
Of course unasked for advice is usually perceived as criticism. And so Pinky and CW’s experience of the exchange are very different things.
CW then goes on and on about his work ethic and all the fraternal organizations he belongs to: The Lions, The Chamber Of Commerce, The Baptist Choir, The White Man’s Union. Finally Pinky suggests that he should get back out to Ned. CW gives him five dollars to appease the young man and Pinky goes.
But moments later he returns again only to announce that Ned doesn’t want the five dollars. He wants to see CW.
And so Ned comes into CW’s office, probably for the first time. CW is defensive about Ned’s accident saying, “Why I’ve had negroes who can’t hardly read or write and none of them lost so much as a hair on their head”.
He offers Ned two five dollar bills. But Ned doesn’t want it. He wants his arms back.
And a gun is drawn. And darkness comes. And the impossible is yearned for. In an ending which is surprising for this most quintessential of American writers.