This article appeared in the Beverly Hills Times Magazine Sept. 2013. This is the unedited version. Enjoy.
“A real man wants two things: Danger and play, therefore he chooses a woman as his most dangerous plaything.” Nietzsche
Long before Clint Eastwood received his Oscar for The Unforgiven in 1992, I thought he should have received it for his directorial debut Play Misty For Me back in ’71.. As John Cassavetes said about the film: “There’s only one thing wrong with it… it’s missing Hitcock’s name.” It was that good. Has stood the test of time. A masterpiece. When people talk about what a great film Fatal Attraction was, I remind them that Play Misty for Me came first and it was a much better film. Flawless and original script. Outstanding acting. Breathtaking cinematography. And of course, a killer soundtrack.
At that time, Clint Eastwood explored a subject that no one dared: Stalking.
In the film Eastwood plays Dave Garver, a deejay at KRML in Monterey California. His style is cool and laid back and aside from jazz he likes poetry. A true romantic. He attracts Evelyn Draper (masterfully played and portrayed by Jessica Walter). But the real love of his life is Toby Williams (Donna Mills) the one that got away and the one woman he’s hung up on.
You see, Dave’s problem is philandering which is why he lost Tobie in the first place.
She was tired of the affairs (and the groupies).
I think Play Misty for Me, as a film, resonates deeper than a thriller, it can teach us, or warn us in this case, about life’s chance encounters. Dangerous Affairs. Toxic people. The famously stalked you might know include: Halle Berry. Justin Bieber. Selena Gomez. Who can forget: Jodie Foster/Ronald Reagan/John Hinckley Jr. Leonardo Dicaprio. Rebecca Schaeffer (which caused California to pass the first anti-stalking law in 1990) and Jennifer Aniston.
Like the famous song sung by Marilyn McCoo, “You Don’t Have to Be a Star Baby To Be in My Show… You also don’t have to be a celebrity to have a stalker either. And knowing when to pick up on the Play Misty for Me warning signs before you “pick up” the wrong person could be a lifesaver:
#1 THE FIRST TIME EVER I SAW YOUR FACE
Aside from using this beautiful piece of music by Roberta Flack set against a Monterey montage.
This is Dave’s first contact with the enemy and could be yours too.
How we meet people is a very complex thing. But what happens when it’s not random? What if it’s contrived, calculated. What if that chance encounter in a bar or social setting was a set up and the person was a stalker.
Dave Garver is a local celebrity. A big fish in a little pond. Evelyn Draper by contrast is a shark and he is her prey. She is the last person in the bar. Waiting for him at the end of the bar. It’s late and after his shift and the bartender (played by Eastwood’s Director Mentor Don Siegel) says “guys have been striking out all night…” Dave Garver’s ego arises to the occasion.
It should be an obvious clue, but it’s not. Particularly in today’s day and age, if you meet someone and they know too much about you (you’ve been Googled) or the coincidences same uncanny. Think again… maybe they aren’t. Take a pass.
Instead of singing the I might Like You Better if We Slept Together by Romeo Void… switch the playlist song to “Walk on By” by Dionne Warwick. If you know what I mean.
#2 “BUT WHO NEEDS NICE GIRLS…”
So they leave the bar and Evelyn lies and claims to have been “Stood up.” But Dave recognizes the voice as his late night “Misty” caller. His ego gets in his way. Flattery clouds his judgement. Dave even tries to be honest and upfront about his relationship with Tobie and that he “doesn’t want to complicate his life.”
Evelyn’s response: “That’s no reason we shouldn’t sleep together…”
Dave takes the bait and Evelyn to bed.
#3 NO STRINGS ATTACHED
Of course there are strings attached. Evelyn is a Borderline Personality. Signals get crossed and so do tempers. Do you need to dust off that pop psychology copy of Men Are From Mars/Women are From Venus? You tell me. Maybe the better song is As Time Goes By (You Must Remember This a kiss is still a kiss). There are no “Friends with Benefits,” it’s a cute film. But Misty shows how that arrangement cuts like a knife.
#4 BORDERLINE IS NOT JUST A MODONNA SONG
It’s a personality disorder. The DSM classifies it as “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects…” Borderline Personalities can be suicidal or prone to self-mutilating behavior. Depression and boredom. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (Evelyn Draper in the film exhibits explosive outbursts of anger and outrage to Dave’s consternation). According to author Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D. “The Writer’s Guide to Psychology,” “Because they (BPD people) feel so empty inside and because they have no ability to regulate their emotions, everything comes out full blast, leaving the recipients feeling like they stepped on an emotional landmine.”
#5 “YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF BEING COMPLETELY SMOTHERED BY SOMEONE?”
Dave asks this question of his colleague deejay in a moment of frustration.
Sure, in today’s world. You could just get a restraining order and that would be that. But then we wouldn’t have a movie would we? And if a stalker has you in their sights, it will do precious little to save you anyway.
#6 ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY YOU DON’T LOVE ME?
Dave’s response: “I never said I loved you…” at this point in the film tension and violence are escalating and we see Evelyn’s disorder and jealousy towards “that other bitch,” (Tobie) become an emotional meltdown to epic proportions. Dave tries to end the affair and even get Evelyn “off his back” but he just crossed the point of no return. Borderline Personalities don’t handle rejection and she’s not getting dumped. Danger lurks at every turn moving forward. Watch out!
#7 AND THIS MAIDEN SHE LIVED WITH NO OTHER THOUGHT
THAN TO LOVE AND BE LOVED BY ME.
The poetry of Edgar Allen Poe plays into a major clue in Misty. Dave is hip to poetry. So am I and I think this is why I love this film so much. Poe’s words get twisted and so do thoughts in Evelyn’s mind. To the point of attempted murder. Maybe the song Dave should’ve played was Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” (exchanging glances
Wondering in the night what were the chances). What are the chances one person like Evelyn Draper can enter into your life and create a living nightmare? Pretty good if your ego gets the best of you and you ignore the warning signs.
It’s a wrap. You have your Play Misty playbook. If you haven’t seen the film, do yourself a favor and rent, download or stream it. Sit back and ask yourself, Are you lonesome tonight or did you just get an invitation from hell… Additional films on Borderline Personality Disorder include: Misery. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Bad Lieutenant, Looking for Mr. Goodbar.
If you are a fan of Misty or have your own Misty tale feel free to comment.