Billy Joe McAllister: HEY! I’ve been holding up this here bridge for over an hour so it wouldn’t fall on you!
Bobbie Lee Hartley: Right neighborly of you, Mr. McAllister.
These are the first lines of the 1976 movie Ode to Billy Joe. It is inspired by the 1967 song by Bobbie Gentry, “Ode to Billie Joe.” The screenplay and book were written by Herman Raucher.
The story takes place in 1953 rural Mississippi. Bobbie Lee Hartley is a teenage girl who is ready to fall in love and Billy Joe McAllister is a teenage boy who loves her. Billy Joe kills himself by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge. The song does not tell us why. But the book and movie give us an idea of what might have happened.
I can’t recall which I read or saw first but since I was twelve in 1976 and I can’t imagine my mom taking me to see the movie, I’m guessing I read the book first.
I loved the book. I loved the movie. The characters were flawed and lovable and a bit dramatic, as teenagers tend to be. The story was funny and terribly tragic. Glynnis O’Connor made Bobbie Lee the teenage girl we all were at some time. She was hopelessly romantic and desperately trying to grow up faster than her parents wanted. Robby Benson. Sigh. Robby Benson as Billy Joe made my heart ache. His confusion and anguish in a time and place where societal norms were set in stone is a reminder of not only how far we have come, but how far we have to go. Bobbie Lee and Billy Joe’s story would hold true today.
This post is part of Blogging From A to Z Challenge- O.