Trial by Fire
The film plods at points, trudging along, and there are a few misguided narrative "devices" tacked on, but still, "Trial by Fire" bristles with anger.
Carrie Snodgress had invited her parents to join her for the Thursday fashion luncheon at the Pump Room, and now they were looking at a model wearing something long and slinky from Saks Fifth Avenue.
"It's me," Carrie said. "I can't believe it. It's absolutely me."
"You're right," Carrie's mother said. "It really is YOU."
"You could wear it for an opening or something," Carrie said, "but it still looks informal enough for just...you know."
The model smiled and mentioned a price, and Carrie said she loved the dress but her money was all up in her hotel room. Carrie's father, who had remained neutral during the discussion of the dress, smiled bravely and pulled out his checkbook.
"It's something we can do for your birthday," Carrie's mother said. "Shall I make it out to Saks?" her father said, "Oh, Daddy," Carrie said, "you're so wonderful!"
Stanley Paul's orchestra played a genteel fanfare and a spotlight beamed on the mistress of ceremonies. She welcomed all the stars at the fashion luncheon: Eve Arden, Ben Piazza, and Chicago's own graduate of the Goodman Theater School, star of the smash hit "Diary of a Mad Housewife," Carrie Snodgress.
Carrie stubbed out her Pall Mall and put her napkin on the table. After Ben Piazza had chatted with the mistress of ceremonies, she was expected to say a few words for the Pump Room audience.
Ben Piazza was being asked if he'd always wanted to be an actor, and he was saying, well, not always, but after he decided to be an actor, then he had. And that now that he was, it was a wonderful life.
"How can I answer a question like that?" Carrie asked her mother. "Don't worry. I'll just start rapping and she won't get a question in edgewise''
"Don't talk too much," her mother said.
"I'll just rap," Carrie said, Ben Piazza was thanking the hostess, and now Carrie was being introduced, and she hurried up to the little stage, stopping along the way to shake hands with Eve Arden.
The hostess asked Carrie if she had any advice for young actors.
"Well," Carrie said, "I'm still a young actress myself, so maybe it's a little early...but how can I ever forget the wonderful advice Eve Arden gave me just a few years ago, when I won the Sarah Siddons scholarship? Keep it simple, she told me. Stay close to home and family. And that's the best advice I've ever received. Now that 'Diary' is such a success, the public takes up so much of my time . . . and I've started looking toward home. My mom and dad are here with me today. They mean so much. I've turned down a lot of scripts..."
Carrie's mother sipped her Scotch and soda and said, "She's talking too much. It's diarrhea of a mad housewife."
"She's being smart," her father said. "As long as she's talking, she doesn't have to answer those questions."
Carrie finished her advice to young actors and stopped again at Eve Arden's table on her way back to her own. When she arrived she was breathless.
"Eve is such a wonderful person," she said. "I'll never forget when I won the Sarah Siddons scholarship, I was the first one who had to get up and give a speech, and I had completely forgotten to mention Eve's name. And then everybody else got up and praised her and I thought, oh, damn! And this is her evening. So I tried to make up for it today...."
The waiter filled her water glass and asked if she'd like a cocktail.
"No, but I'd like a glass of prune Juice." Carrie said.
"Well, at least she's honest," her mother said.
"All of our kids have been pretty direct, you can say that much," Carrie's father said. "I'll never forget out at Vail, Colorado, six years ago. Melvin, our number two son, was learning to ski. And while he was waiting in line, Charles Percy walked right past everyone. Waiting in lines wasn't for Percy! So the next time Percy walked past him, Melvin stuck out a ski and tripped him."
What did Percy say?
"Didn't say much of anything.'' Carrie's father said.
"I'll tell you something about Percy." Carrie said. "I got a chance to sit next to him on a talk show, and listen to his rap. He's making some things clear in this country. The SST, things like that. All I've gotta say is, 'Percy, you're changing, you're grooving...stay with it!'"
"I don't know," her father said. "Some of the things he's been saying, I doubt if his own neighbors would vote for him."
"Well, Kenilworth...," Carrie's mother said.
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