The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 1, 1998 · Page 31
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 31

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Wednesday, April 1, 1998
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THE SALINA JOURNAL APPLAUSE WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 1998 B One Step Back: Emotion on Faces Speaks Louder than Words Greil Marcus N. Y. Times News Serive "We didn't need dialogue in those days," Gloria Swanson's forgotten silent-movie queen says to William Holden's unemployed screenwriter in "Sunset Boulevard." "We had faces then!" "The Practice," the noisy, unkempt legal drama that is broadcast on Mondays on ABC, has faces. Actors have to act, and characters must be projected through a whole but unstable physiognomic map upon which events — crimes, verdicts, sex — are registered, interpreted and then celebrated or suffered. The action proceeds through close- ups. On this show, if your face can't talk without words, you have nothing to say. Maybe that's why I've been less gripped by the plots — Who dismembered the doctor's mistress? Can the gay megalomaniac who murdered two lovers walk? — than by Lindsay Dole's eyes. She's one of the five lawyers in the Boston law firm Donnell & Associates. It's poverty row, except that, as with all cops and lawyers in television shows, even people who don't make much money can still afford great-looking clothes. The office has two rooms. There's an office manager but no secretaries. Led by sallow, brooding, poker-faced Bobby Donnell, played by Dylan McDermott, the lawyers take up noble but dubious personal-injury cases — four neighbors convinced that power lines gave them cancer — and they defend scum. And get them off. Lindsay, played by Kelli. Williams, is a city lawyer with farm-girl looks: straight light- brown hair, a soft face, innocent eyes. That didn't hurt with the drug cases she handled so well. The dirtier the client, the cleaner she appeared in court. She's the classic still-waters-run-deep type. Coming in late to the office, her colleagues might find her hunched over her computer, or sitting on the floor trying to get drunk. "I'm not capable of good sex," Lindsay says to Rebecca Washington, the office manager, played by Lisa Gay Hamilton. Date rape by an old boyfriend has her buried under guilt and shame. She's completely convincing. But not many episodes later, there she is in the office back room unbuttoning her blouse as Bobby Donnell watches. It's an old, secret affair. But it's Lindsay who has pushed Bobby into an affair with Helen Gamble, a district attorney and Lindsay's best friend. Helen is played by Lara Flynn Boyle, a born vamp who suggests a fighting-weight version of Theda Bara. When Helen and Bobby lock eyes and rush into a passionate embrace, mountains crumble, the heavens explode, all memories vanish, and pots and pans fall to the floor. But now, in Bobby's office, all of that looks like nothing more than a sweeps-week plot kicker that isn't working. Ten of Ms. Boyle's and Donnell's nude scenes don't equal the look that passes between Lindsay and Bobby as they promise this is just one last time. There is a shy, almost high school smile on Lindsay's lips that, in an instant, turns into a Mona Lisa smile in her makeup- free eyes. For an instant, a character you've never glimpsed before emerges from behind Ms. Williams' face. She fills the room; with the scene cut, you wonder if she was ever there at all. But if you're a fan of the show, you're wondering where this unseen woman will turn up next. Where she turns up next is nowhere. Bobby and Helen continue falling out of showers and slamming each other onto the floor. But when Lindsay worms her way back into the story line, it's with heavy, unsure liner around her eyes. She can't tell her friend Helen that she was once Bobby's girl, and she can't tell Bobby she's shriveling up because she can't sleep with him. Like a schoolgirl, she paints her face clumsily, almost garishly; she becomes the wallflower hoping the football hero she'd never have the nerve to speak to will somehow notice her. Here and there she looks like a hooker. Her face seems to hollow out; her eyes all but struggle to rise out of their little prisons, even as, in plot terms, her character as a lawyer gets tougher with every show. It's the spookiest drama on television. In the moments that set "The Practice" off from other good shows, the other actors, the other characters, match what Ms. Williams does with Lindsay Dole. When, in a huge, awful murder case Helen cannot afford to lose and that has destroyed her relationship with Bobby, Helen desperately offers a deal and Bobby refuses it, her face falls, all the way down. The image is florid, overdone, straight out of the silents; then, as often happened in silent movies, once melodrama is established, tragedy follows. Ms. Boyle lets her eyes go blank, and then, slowly, her face dies. With faces carrying the show, there is nothing beyond good in the dialogue. The wisecracks will not become catch phrases. But perhaps drawn to the melodrama of silent movies, David E. Kelley, the program's writer and producer, is at his best with speeches. "I got this case," Bobby says of the murder trial that, he knows, will end his affair with Helen, "because somebody at a high-priced blue-chip law firm recommended me. As the best. I've been prac- ticin' law in this, this rat hole for 10 years. Lookin' out the windows, seein' those, those lawyers look down on me. And now, one of them came into my office, and said I'm the best." Better still was a recent episode in which Lindsay confronts her old law professor. He is played by Edward Herrmann, that paragon of hulking WASP noblesse oblige. Now the professor is a tobacco lawyer whose clothes are all but made of money. He derides her firm as the best place in Boston for rapists, murderers, heroin dealers. "At the end of the day," he says, twice — draping the pompous Hollywood phrase over his former student as if it were a shroud — she is going to have to account for herself, for all the slimy things she and the rest of the Donnell crew do. I was afraid Kelley, who i& not above "don't even go there" or "he was there for me," had succumbed to the same sort of script disease that poisons most televi-' sion. "We defend murderers," Ms. Williams' Lindsay said to her onetime professor, "but we don't facilitate murder." (Actually, sometimes they do.) "Let's meet up," she said," 'at the end of our days' and compare legacies." As the episode ended, the professor, defeated, was seen walking back a long way, all the way to 1930, into the nightclub iit Josef von Steinberg's "Blue Angel." Herrmann turned into the old professor, played by Emil Jan- 1 nings, who is ruined by his love for Marlene Dietrich's cabaret dancer. If only for a moment, off screen, Ms. Williams' Lindsay had turned into Dietrich: one of those faces from when they had faces. Historian Hopes to Uncover Truth Behind Iron Mask Barry Bortanick N. Y. Times News Service SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — "I don't know why you've come to see me," Paul Sonnino said during a recent interview at his cavernous residence near Toro Canyon. "I don't know Gennifer Flowers or Monica Lewinsky." True. But the diminutive University of California at Santa Barbara history professor knows much about a far more intriguing scandal that has daunted investigators for 300 years — the identity of The Man in the Iron Mask. Sonnino, a professor of Western civilization and early modern European history, is committed to solving the riddle and explaining why a hapless soul was imprisoned for 34 years on direct orders from King Louis XIV. Though popular culture and the new Leonardo Di- Caprio film, "The Man in the Iron Mask," have obscured historical facts by suggesting the prisoner was Louis' twin brother, Sonnino knows better. "That's absolutely absurd," Sonnino, 67, said of the creative yarn first developed by Voltaire and embellished by French adventure writer Alexandra Dumas. Fables are the things of fiction writers and movie makers, not the work of investigative historians, Sonnino believes. "One way to teach and study history is to develop a capacity to deal with evidence and to look at it critically," Sonnino said as he displayed a mountain of documents he uncovered during half a dozen trips to various archives throughout Europe. These papers, which date to the early 1600s, are the recorded acts of common folks, French noblemen, and ministers and associates to the king. They speak volumes about French society under Louis XIV, and, more importantly, they name names. Sonnino has used the records to track the activities of Louis XIVs inner circle — the very people who could know the kind of damaging secret that would send a person to the Bastille. Sonnino has searched for proof of the masked man's identity since 1989. The quest led to several suspects. Painstaking research has cleared all but one. The likely victim of Louis' rage, according to Sonnino and a number of other scholars, was a valet named Estache Dauger. Historical records suggest Dauger was captured and imprispned in 1669. He remained confined in various jails across Italy and France until his death in 1703 inside the notorious Bastille. Interestingly enough, there are no records at all to suggest the long-suffering prisoner ever wore an iron mask. "The only record that suggests the prisoner wore an iron mask is about as credible as a recent sighting of Elvis Presley," Sonnino said. At best, according to historians, Dauger was made to wear a velvet covering when he was moved to the Bastille in 1698. Why Dauger was singled out for such elaborate punishment is one of the missing links that Sonnino hopes to uncover when he returns to Paris this summer for additional research. According to Sonnino, Dauger was no nobleman, let alone Louis' brother as Voltaire suggested. "Voltaire was a publicity ' hound," Sonnino said of the famed thinker who was once jailed in the Bastille himself. "He claimed he knew every- thing and said The Man in the Iron Mask was the king's brother." Dumas, an historical novelist who penned adventures about The Three Musketeers, took the rumor to new heights by conjuring a story about the king's tormented twin. In truth, according to Sonnino, Dauger was a "flunky," who was punished for blabbing about the secrets of his betters. "He was a gofer," Sonnino said. "Back then, servants did dirty jobs for people. He was the type of person Kenneth Starr would love to call before a grand jury, because he knew something that was not just hot air." The French monarch could have had Dauger killed, but instead ordered him imprisoned. The royal orders came with elaborate instructions that prevented Dauger from mingling with other prisoners or ever speaking about his past, according to Sonnino. Sonnino said he has uncovered the secret that Dauger took to his unmarked grave. But the coy professor won't discuss the mystery in public until every hole in the theory is closed. "I don't want to be remembered as the last in a long line of crackpots who claimed they had the right answer only to find out later I was wrong," Sonnino said. The key, or "smoking gun," as Sonnino called it, may involve Danger's unknown employer. If Sonnino can identify the valet's employer, he may be able to trace that man's actions through archival records. With luck, Sonnino hopes his search can verify his suspicions and perhaps solve one of the world's lasting mysteries. Sonnino admitted that he may never solve the case, but like all who seek the truth, he sleuths on. "This is an intellectual challenge," Sonnino said. "We are all curious about our pasts. We want to remember things as carefully as possible. It's a common human desire to find things out." Smoky Hill Villa Apartments 2145 Tulane Apartments available now. Hud subsidized low-income housing for those (i2 & older or mobility-impaired. Some utilitie.s paid. (785) 827-4203 mmmm Instant Win game pieces reveal the words "You've Scored!" or collect and Win Game pieces for a specific series of three basketball shots to win cash or merchandise. Double your chances with a NCAA Color Change Collector Cup! Collect Iron and Ohio 1700 Crawford orewide 210 S. Salina 8254296 1.800-262-1376 Saline County Sheriffs Mounted Patrol & Rescue Squad Spring Fund Raiser Indoor Rodeo April 3rd & 4th / 7:30 pm Nightly AgHall/Salina, KS Events: • Bull Riding • Bareback Riding • Barrel Racing • Saddle Bronc Riding • Calf Roping • Team Roping • Steer Wrestling • Mini-Bull Riding • Mutton Busting Open Rodeo Entries Call Kraft Rodeo Company 316-286-5428 By April 1st, '98 Prices: Family Ticket (Advance Only) $15.00 Adult Advance At the Door $5.00 $5.00 Kids (7-12) $3.00 $3.00 Kids 6 & under Free with paying Adult Advance Tickets Sold At: Anderson's Leather Shop Orscheln's Western Discount Store Mel's Tack & Saddle Vanderbilts franklin Boot & Saddle Rittel's Western Wear, Abilene Get wired. The new American dream home Is wired for sound - and fax, high-speed Internet access, whole-house music and teleconferencing - all at the touch of a button. Sound far out? It's not even far off. Technology comes home.. .this Sunday in USA WEEKEND magazine. Get it m... the Salina Journal http://www.usaweekend.com

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