Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Case Study No. 1579: Bernard Chanticleer (library assistant)

Elizabeth Hartman - You're A Big Boy Now
Bernard Chanticleer's father gives him two simple words of advice: "Grow up." Bernard knows that his first step is to find a girl who's "willing," but he passes up a sure thing, Amy Partlett, for a more elusive goal. Her name is Barbara Darling, an inscrutable go-go dancer. More than a few obstacles keep Bernard from his dream world. There's his doting mother, who mails him locks of her hair and weeps at the thought of her baby as a man; there's a malicious rooster, trained to attack pretty girls, patrolling the halls of his New York City rooming house; and most of all, there's Barbara herself. She turns out to be a man hater, emotionally scarred by the lecherous wooden-legged hypnotherapist who "counseled" her in high school. All in all, Bernard finds himself in an improbable universe with a calculated clumsiness designed to evoke his confusing coming-of-age.
Tags: Elizabeth Hartman 1967 Go-Go Dancer You're a Big Bo Now New York Barbara Darling
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[scene opens at a party, where male library assistant Bernard looks over at go-go dancer Barbara sitting at the bar]
BARBARA: C'mere ...
[he slowly walks over]
BARBARA: Who are you?
[he takes off his thick-rimmed glasses]
BERNARD: Yeah, who am I? I'm Bernard Chanticleer, Miss Darling ... Good evening.
BARBARA: Well, thank you ... Happy New Year to you, too.
[she gets up]
BARBARA: You were the one who sent that letter full of sugar to me?
BERNARD: Yeah, I--
[he suddenly stops and sneezes right in her face ... she gives no reaction, as he takes out a handkerchief and awkwardly dabs at her face]
BARBARA: [whispers] Bless you.
[cut to the two walking into Barbara's apartment]
BARBARA: Come on in, sugar ... Close the door.
[he smiles]
[he closes it, then takes out a cigarette and puts it in his mouth]
BARBARA: You like those coffin nails too much ... Better watch out.
[she walks over and calmly breaks the cigarette in two (leaving half dangling in his mouth), then walks over and looks at herself in a full-length mirror]
BARBARA: Better not pout ...
[she turns to him]
BARBARA: Take off your jacket. Relax.
[he starts taking off his jacket, but seemingly has trouble getting his arms out of the sleeves, so she walks up behind him and helps him take it off]
BARBARA: Would you like a drink? Coffee?
BERNARD: Coffee? N-no drink, maybe better coffee ... I mean a drink of coffee.
[he gets an embarrassed look on his face]
BARBARA: I know what's wrong with you ...
[she takes the jacket and throws it on a nearby chair]
BARBARA: You'd like a glass of milk ... but you're afraid to ask for it because Barbara will think you're a little boy.
[she leans seductively against the wall]
BARBARA: But it's alright ... You can ask Barbara for a glass of milk and, and she'll bring it to you.
[she walks towards him]
BARBARA: Go on, ask Barbara for a glass of milk ... Say "I want a glass of milk."
BERNARD: [whispers] I want a glass of milk.
[she laughs]
BARBARA: Y'see? See how easy, sunshine? Hm?
[she walks towards the kitchenette]
BARBARA: Now, Easter Bunny will pour you a little glass of milk, and we'll be warm and nice ... and you know what.
[she pulls down a curtain (so that Bernard can no longer see her in the kitchenette)]
BERNARD: I don't know what ...
[she peeks her head out]
BARBARA: What did you say, hon?
BERNARD: Nothing. Just agreeing ... I always agree.




Coppola, Francis Ford (Director). You're a Big Boy Now. United States: Seven Arts Pictures, 1966.

Starring: Peter Kastner (Bernard Chanticleer, Library Assistant); Rip Torn (I.H. Chanticleer, Curator of Incunabula); Geraldine Page (Margery Chanticleer)

Coppola's 1966 UCLA Film School Master's thesis is very much a period piece, with a harmonica score reminiscent of Midnight Cowboy. Despite an impressive roster of actors, the film has not aged well and the viewer is usually steeped in cinematic awfulness, but track it down for the many interesting library scenes. The male lead, Bernard, is a 19-year-old library assistant at the New York Public Library. We meet him in the opening scene retrieving books while flying through the stacks on roller skates, then he climbs into the book elevator (think big dumbwaiter) and rides down to the circulation desk where he's promptly scolded. The film is a coming-of-sex comedy-drama, with Bernard trying to find independence from his insufferably overbearing parents. Mother was hoping he would excel at the library, but concludes, "Besides developing unnatural skills on roller skates, you've been a complete failure." Mostly they try to keep him away from girls (although Mom should be watching hubby instead. Did I mention that Daddy works as the Curator of Incunabula? He has a really neat vault off his office that houses the good stuff, most visibly its erotica.). During one of Mom's weepy scenes, Dad indicates her hankie and says, "Margery, your lint is settling on the Gutenberg Bible." Near the end our thoroughly frustrated library assistant grabs that same bible from the vault ("To hell with your Gutenberg Bible! I hate your Gutenberg Bible!") and takes off running, leading a merry chase (picture A Mad Mad Mad (etc) World) out of the library, across a parade, through a department store ... you get the idea. The only thing that saves this film (besides seeing celebrities when they were young, including the introduction of Karen Black) are the luscious library interiors, and fortunately there are lots of them.



One of Francis Ford Coppola's earliest directorial efforts, "You're A Big Boy Now" (1966), follows the adventures of innocent 19-year-old Bernard Chanticleer (Peter Kastner), who is struggling to reach manhood and to attain freedom from his parents in New York City in the 1960s. Bernard works at the New York Public Library (NYPL) roller skating the closed stacks to retrieve books that are requested. His ineptitude and difficulties at work and with women provide many comedic scenes. Bernard and two other major male characters - I.H. Chanticleer (Rip Torn), Bernard's father and NYPL's curator of incunabula, and Raef del Grado (Tony Bill), Bernard's friend and fellow library assistant - provide unflattering images of male librarians.

The film features one female library assistant, Amy Partlett (Karen Black), who is interested in Bernard, but he is enamored with Barbara Darling (Elizabeth Hartman), a streetwise young lady who zestfully pulls, pushes, and plucks Bernard's heartstrings - a thoroughly enjoyable encounter for her. For example, she invites Bernard to move into her apartment, becomes infuriated with his behavior, kicks him out the same night, and then begs him to return as he trudges off, dragging his clothes down the street. As he endures this painful yo-yo relationship with Barbara, he fails to discern the true affection that Amy offers.

Library scenes are interspersed among Bernard's various adventures and are primarily comedic in nature. When Bernard's overbearing mother, Margery (Geraldine Page), visits NYPL to talk with her husban about their son, Chanticleer pulls out a mirror and trims his mustache while his wife assists Bernard with a new pair of contact lenses. The curator demonstrates similar vain behavior later in the film when he pulls out the mirror and combs his hair. Chanticleer is just as meticulous in the care of his highly prized acquisition, a Gutenberg Bible, which is placed on a dictionary stand in his office, a few feet from his desk, as he is with his own personal appearance. He is constantly lamenting about the "lint" that falls on the open Bible and is preoccupied with tenderly brushing the pages of the Bible to remove the airborne down.

Miss Nora Thing (Julie Harris), Bernard's landlady, visits the curator to discuss Bernard's aberrant behavior - staying out all night. She enters the rare book vault where Chanticleer is working and closes the door, locking the two in the vault. The sexually repressed Miss Thing is appalled at the artwork contained in the vault; she considers NYPL's prized incunabula to be obscene and promptly begins tossing items indiscriminately around the vault. When the time lock triggers, the vault door opens and Miss Thing immediately rushes out. Chanticleer, however, after spending several minutes attempting to save the collection from the rampaging Miss Thing, exits the vault a very harried, beleaguered librarian.

The resolution of Bernard's erring behavior is reminiscent of a Keystone Kops caper. All of the film's major characters are assembled in Chanticleer's office attempting to pull all of the loose ends of the story together (an impossibility) when a disgruntled Bernard suddenly grabs the Gutenberg Bible and runs out of the office with everybody in quick pursuit. What follows is a chase through the NYPL, out onto the city's streets, through a parading marching band, and into a department store with a maze of merchandise aisles. The chase in the maze finally ends when Barbara coldcocks Bernard with the leg of a mannequin. The film concludes as Amy bails Bernard out of jail, and the two of them (with Bernard's Old English Sheepdog) go happily skipping and running through the busy streets of New York City to the music of the Lovin' Spoonful.

Chanticleer as curator of incunabula is the supervisor of library assistants, indicating the possibility of nepotism in NYPL's hiring of Bernard. In his first office scene with his wife and son, Chanticleer establishes the film's story line. The curator indicates disappointment with Bernard's progress, stating, "You've been here a month and aside from developing unnatural skills on roller skates, you've been a complete failure. If your father wasn't what your father is, you'd been fired your first week here. Now, here it is, Big Boy. Straight and to the point. Grow up." As Bernard's mother insists he is "too young," Chanticleer informs Bernard that he is "going to live in your own apartment in the city paid for with your own money. What do yo usay to that?" "Terrific," responds Bernard, as his mother continues to weep, knowing that she is about to lose control of her little boy.



Bernard Chanticleer (Peter Kastner), a 19-year-old virgin, works as a roller-skating stack boy in the New York Public Library. His mother, Margery, dotes on him and tries to spoil him, while his father, I. H., the library's curator of rare books, is in a hurry to see his son grow up. Bernard, however, is happy only with his dog, Rover, whom he calls "Dog" against his parents' wishes. To become more independent Bernard moves into a roominghouse run by the eccentric Miss Thing, but opportunity for romance is restricted by a woman-hating rooster who guards the premises and refuses to allow any females to pass. One night Bernard goes to a Greenwich Village discotheque with two library employees: Raef, who has had considerable experience with sex and drugs, and the pretty Amy, who soon develops a crush on him. Bernard, however, is more captivated by Barbara Darling, an actress who works as the nightclub's go-go dancer. Having once been assaulted by a wooden-legged albino hypnotherapist, Barbara is a confirmed man-hater who occupies her time in a crazily decorated apartment dictating her memoirs to Richard Mudd, a dwarf. After sending Barbara a love letter, Bernard spends a disastrous night with her, and upon returning to her apartment the next day, he finds that Raef has moved in with her. Filled with despair, he goes to his father's office, steals the library's Gutenberg Bible, and runs into the street with nearly all involved in pursuit. Bernard is cornered in a department store and arrested, but Amy, accompanied by "Dog," brings him bail money and offers all her love. Revitalized, Bernard joins her in a carefree fling through Manhattan.

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