Monday, January 30, 2012

Case Study No. 0202: Betty Lou Perkins

The Gun In Betty Lou's Handbag - Excerpt
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Added: 9 months ago
From: MillCreekEnt
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[Betty Lou is silently stewing in a chair at the police station, as her husband and the police chief confer about whether or not she could be guilty of murder]
HERRICK: Right now, she's the only suspect for the murder of Amos Landsing!
ALEX PERKINS: Oh come on! Even if it's the same gun, she doesn't have a motive!
ELINOR: No, of course not! I mean, anybody else, you might say they were lovers, but not Betty Lou!
ALEX PERKINS: Betty Lou did not have a lover, it's impossible!
HERRICK: Oh, anything's possible!
ALEX PERKINS: There's no way on Earth Betty Lou had a lover!
[Betty Lou looks up at the ceiling, getting angrier and angrier, when her friend Elinor runs over to her]
ELINOR: Betty Lou, you better tell us what you were doing there, because you know how people talk. I mean, first they'll say that you were lovers, and then that you killed him, and then that you were gonna kill yourself ... You weren't gonna do that, were you?
ALEX PERKINS: Alright Elinor, that's it! Out!
HERRICK: She's only saying what other people might be thinkin'!
DETECTIVE FRANK: Oh, look at her! She couldn't kill a fly!
ELINOR: She couldn't kill a germ!
ALEX PERKINS: Come on honey, we're going home ...
[Police chief Herrick grabs him by the arm]
HERRICK: Alright, hold on Perkins, and that's an order! You understand?
[he points to Frank and Elinor]
HERRICK: And you stay there!
[he stops and leans in close to Betty Lou]
HERRICK: Now, Betty Lou, sweetheart ... Uh, everybody knows that you're innocent. Alex, all your friends, all of us here know you're innocent. Now, we just need you to tell us that you're innocent, and then you can go on home.
[everyone starts to lean in close to Betty Lou]
DETECTIVE FRANK: Come on, Lou ...
OFFICER FINNEY: Just say it ...
ELINOR: Say it ...
ALEX PERKINS: Just say it ... and everything will be just the way it was.
BETTY LOU: [quietly] I'm guilty.
[everyone's face drops]
BETTY LOU: May I please go to jail now?
[cut to Betty Lou ("Tettley MO Police, Date 12-7-91, 2029-295") having her mug shot taken, as Herrick and Alex look on from the adjacent office]
ALEX PERKINS: She's lying and you know it, she's hysterical or something.
HERRICK: Well then, you'll prove it. I can't just let her go, Alex. I got a responsibility to the public, you know that!
ALEX PERKINS: Alright, what about an alibi? I mean, the guy was shot around, what? Late afternoon? She was at the library, she's got kiddie reading from 4 to 5.
DETECTIVE FRANK: I just called there. She was on her break between 3 and 4.
ALEX PERKINS: So she went off to read somewhere. I'll find a dozen people who saw her reading somewhere.
HERRICK: I think she's going through some hormonal changes!
DETECTIVE FRANK: Could be PMS ... Joan could kill on PMS!
HERRICK: She a drinker?
ALEX PERKINS: No, she's not a drinker! She's perfectly normal ... I dunno, maybe she reads too much.
HERRICK: Well, I'll tell ya what I think, boys ... A night behind bars, she'll snap right out of it!
DETECTIVE FRANK: Sure, best thing for her. I know Joan could sure use a night behind bars.
HERRICK: First thing in the morning, she'll have a whole new story. You'll see.



The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag is a 1992 American screwball comedy film directed by Allan Moyle.

The cast includes Penelope Ann Miller, Eric Thal, Julianne Moore, William Forsythe, and Alfre Woodard. Rock and roll recording pioneer Cordell Jackson played a bit part as "Bathroom Woman."

The film was distributed by Touchstone Pictures and Interscope Communications. In addition to the studio, it was filmed in Greenwood, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Oxford, Mississippi.

Betty Lou Perkins is a meek librarian and nobody pays much attention to her, in particular her husband.

A criminal kingpin is killed in cold blood and Betty Lou happens to find the murder gun. She is so mousy, however, she can't even get the police to listen to her, including hubby Alex, who's a detective. In sheer frustration, Betty Lou not only produces the gun but announces that she's the one who committed the crime.

Behind bars, Betty Lou meets a variety of hardened and colorful characters. Rather than intimidate her, they actually increase her self-confidence. Once she's released, Betty Lou begins to dress, speak and act differently.

Unfortunately for her, criminal acquaintances of the victim assume that this woman must have confessed to the murder for a reason. They conclude that Betty Lou must be his mistress, and soon the bad guys want a few words with her ... or worse.




Moyle, Allan (Director). The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag. United States: Touchstone Pictures, 1992.

Starring: Penelope Ann Miller (Betty Lou Perkins, Librarian); Marian Seldes (Margaret Armstrong, Head Librarian)

As a small town librarian, Betty Lou is creative, studious, hardworking and meek. Her boss is pure stereotypical Hollywood librarian: stern, by-the-book, overprotective of her charges (the books, not the patrons), closed minded, hair in a bun, glasses on a chain, and sporting a cardigan. She declares, "The effect of any book is that it be returned unmutilated to its shelf." She thinks 20-30 people attending a fundraiser make it a success; the thought of 100 is "terrifying." Betty Lou's husband snores when she states she wants to get people excited about what the library does. Considering her personality, Betty Lou's profession is reasonable; many introverted book-lovers are drawn into library work so the construct doesn't feel artificial at all. Now, finding the gun and confessing to a crime you didn't commit, and cutting off all your hair -- well, that's what makes an interesting character intended to contrast with the image as well as her formerly inhibited personality. (Unlike other movie librarians, she'll continue being a librarian.) Betty Lou is actually one of our better cinematic representatives.



Picking through the dull viscera of "The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag," there is occasional comedy to be found. But it doesn't change the coroner's report on this Touchstone Pictures caper: Death by Mediocrity.

The potential is illustrated in momentary flashes by Penelope Ann Miller. As the titular Betty Lou, she's the only watchable element. The very ignored wife of small-town policeman Eric Thal, she is getting steamed up about her life. Thal begs off their anniversary dinner. He asks her to clean his shirts.

When she finds a gun at a river's edge, she tries to report it to her husband but he won't even take the call. When she finds out the gun is the murder weapon in a brutal motel slaying, Miller does what any frustrated, unrespected person would do. She admits to the crime.

Other than this plot twist, the movie's a handbag full of formulaic fluff. Even the most forgiving audience is likely to fidget through this. The motel victim, it turns out, was attempting to blackmail Louisiana mafia leader William Forsythe with an incriminating cassette. Concluding Miller now has the tape, Forsythe dispatches his henchmen after her.

Meanwhile, Miller has undergone a little school-of-hard-knocks assertiveness training from her temporary cellmates, including Cathy Moriarty, a whore with a heart of brass. Miller learns how to yell "Scratch and sniff!" at her jailers. She dresses to kill. To her husband's horror, she achieves the acclaim she's always yearned for.

Previously known as a shy librarian, she's an instant legend, the town's own gangster lady. Crowds clamor around her. A TV news reporter calls her a "postmodern Robin Hood." When she appears in court, vampily attired, the judge says: "That's Betty Lou Perkins? Hell, I don't go to the library enough."

But Miller still has a murder rap to beat, with novice attorney Alfre Woodard to help her. Psychotic Forsythe is determined to get that tape -- whether Miller has it or not. So he kidnaps Woodard. Husband Thal, now completely estranged from Miller, has been bumped from the force. Can Miller save her attorney pal? Will she get back together with Thal? Whose idea was this movie?

An appealing, talented performer, who plays well against her softspokenness, Miller has her moments. In this movie, she suggests Julie Andrews gone berserk. Her crowning moment takes place in a ladies room. Completely frustrated with the universal indifference toward her, she stands in front of the mirror and pulls the gun from her pocketbook. "Shut up, all of you!" she screams, pulling the trigger.

Moments after the enormous explosion, an older lady, using the bathroom, runs screaming from her cubicle. It's a rare, humorous incident and, at that moment, it seems the movie might just break free from its forgettable moorings. But then, the rest of the movie follows.

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