With Further Ado #121: The Beauty and the King

Well, it’s taken long enough, even if it’s not quite right.

I finally saw the recent movie Seberg staring the miscast Kristen Stewart.  Jean Seberg’s life was tragic.  There is no denying that fact. In true Icarian fashion, she flew too close the sun, but it wasn’t her pride that did her in. It’s clear she was the victim of the harsh realities of the old Hollywood system (suffering abuse from director Otto Preminger) and the cruelties of a misguided FBI driven by the obsessive J. Edgar Hoover.

I know a little of her story.  I’m no expert and everything I learned about actress Jean Seberg came from two sources:

  • Way back when, I listened to a professor’s lecture before Breathless in a Cornell film studies course. I couldn’t officially fit that course into my college schedule, but my buddy Paul Haskell snuck me in. (Thanks again, Paul.)
  • Karina Longworth’s excellent You Must Remember This podcast. Longworth took a deep dive last year with a multi-part series examining the intertwined careers of Jane Fonda and Jean Seberg. As always, her meticulously researched podcast was, as it usually is, very educational and addictively entertaining.

Jean Seberg in Birds in Peru

Seberg was an engaging movie, but it did, as it should have, take some liberties with the truth.  There’s a few parts that may or may not be true and new characters are created.

One character is a newbie FBI agent, Jack Solomon, played by Jack O’Connell*. Early in the picture, the filmmakers felt a need to telegraph to the audience that this agent is “one of the good guys” and has a patriotic moral compass. They do this as he rescues his copy of Captain America Comics #1 (1941) from an ignoble fate, buried under coffee grounds in the kitchen garbage can.

The wife explains she was trying to help tidy up and get rid of useless junk.   In the real world, this comic just sold for $915,000 – almost a million dollars – at a Heritage Auction last year. FBI Agent Solomon explains to her how important Captain America is, and shows his passion by referencing Jack Kirby as the creator.**

Oh, it’s not the first time it’s happened. There’s that wonderfully unexpected scene in Crimson Tide (1995), where Denzel Washington, as a submarine captain, settles an argument amongst his crewman. They were arguing about the Silver Surfer of all things. Denzel ends the brawl by proclaiming that Jack Kirby’s vision of the character was the one, true version.

Could the scene in Seberg have happened that way?  In the 60s, might an FBI agent have a copy of Captain America Comics #1 laying around the house, and be knowledgeable about the creation of the character?

Doubtful, very doubtful.

It’s astounding to me that today, scriptwriters can reference the fact that a character collects and reveres Captain America as a way to reveal insights. But the big idea – the big wonderful idea  – is that in today’s world a few comics creators get some respect from the world at large.   There’s a long way to go, and so many inequities, but that makes me smile.

Seberg is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

* * *

Oh, one more thing. If you squint really hard, you might consider this a Captain America – Falcon team-up movie.  Anthony Mackie, Cinematic Marvel Universe’s Sam (Falcon) Wilson, is the male lead in Seberg.

*I loved the book Unbroken by Louis Zamperini and O’Connell’s role Zamperini in the 2014 movie of the same name.

**Really, co-creator. As fans know, Captain America was created by the prolific Joe Simon-Jack Kirby team.