Friday, September 14, 2012

Joanne Dobson & Beverle Graves Myers's "Face of the Enemy"

Joanne Dobson is a former English professor, having taught for many years at Fordham University, also at Amherst College and at Tufts University. Beverle Graves Myers made a mid-life career switch from psychiatry to full-time writing. A graduate of the University of Louisville with a BA in History and an MD, she worked at a public mental health clinic before her first Tito Amato novel was published in 2004.

Here they dreamcast an adaptation of Face of the Enemy, their first novel in the New York in Wartime mystery series:
Face of the Enemy opens just days before the attack on Pearl Harbor that changed America forever. In New York City, neighborhood boys lined up for blocks at recruitment centers, Times Square and the famous skyline were dimmed out, U-boats skulked just off Long Island, cabbages grew in Victory gardens outside Rockefeller Center. As World War II dragged on, black-and-white images from the movies kept New Yorkers spirits up. Since our characters walk Manhattan’s mean 1940’s streets, it only seems right to cast our film with stars from the period.

For those who don’t relish old movies the way we do, we surveyed the actors working today and added a Modern Clone (MC).

Louise Hunter: a nurse who vows to help her patient’s Japanese wife fight charges of espionage and murder. Louise has sworn off men for the war’s duration, but that doesn’t keep them from trying. She’s tall and slender with an elegant pompadour of honey-colored hair. Only one actress fits the bill: Lauren Bacall. MC: Charlize Theron.

Cabby Ward: Louise’s roommate, an ambitious, Bronx-born reporter who defines the word moxie. Cabby can be annoying, but she always comes through for her friends. Physically, she’s shorter than Louise, gamine—a word she hates—with a cap of untamable dark curls. Our choice: Judy Garland. MC: Mila Kunis.

Lt. Michael McKenna: a middle-aged homicide detective. Until the world went mad, he was looking forward to retirement and spending his days fishing on Shinnecock Bay. He’s not happy to see the younger guys joining up. He’s furious that he has to fight the Feds who are muscling into his cases. But “Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.” This one’s easy. Bev had this actor in mind when she wrote his first scene: Spencer Tracy. MC, going out on a limb here: Edward Norton.

Masako Fumi Oakley: a brilliant Japanese artist raised in Paris and married to a Columbia University professor. Unfortunately, the cultural atmosphere of the early 1940s prevented many Asian actresses from working in Hollywood. The stereotypes of “the dragon lady” and “the china doll” were still in force, usually played by a Caucasian actress wearing Oriental make-up. Fast forwarding to today’s crop of talented Asians actresses, we like: Jamie Chung.

Robert Oakley: Masako’s husband, a middle-aged professor of Asian History who spends most of the book seriously ill with pneumonia. The grumbling professor is not an easy patient for Louise and tries to direct Masako’s defense from his bed. Only one choice for him, too: Monty Woolley. MC: Christopher Walken.

Arthur Shelton: a 57th Street art dealer and the murder victim. He’s discovered in his gallery with his head bashed in, posed beneath Masako’s signature canvas, “Lion After the Kill.” Arthur is very much a part of New York’s artsy, underground gay scene—underground because 1940s New York amounted to one big closet. We had to think about this one. Leslie Howard looks the part, but by 1941 was too old to play the young tyro Arthur. Our final choice, if he could tone down the boy next door vibe: Van Johnson. MC: Tom Felton.
Learn more about Face of the Enemy at Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers's websites.

The Page 69 Test: Face of the Enemy.

--Marshal Zeringue