Sunday, November 25, 2012

On Being Truly Thankful

Today is the last day of the four–day Thanksgiving weekend. While I did not have to travel far, I know many people did, and, for some, the act of just getting from one place to another could be harrowing.

I was thankful that I did not have to deal with anything like that.

It was, therefore, something of a bittersweet revelation for me when I realized that today is also the 25th anniversary of the theatrical release of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."

It was an exception to the rule for a John Hughes film, I guess. Hughes was known for coming–of–age flicks like "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and the "Home Alone" series.

But he didn't have to have children or teenagers as the stars to make entertaining movies, and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is a perfect example.

The fact that it was set against a holiday backdrop may have been something of a sign of things to come, but the children in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" almost qualified as extras. They certainly weren't stars. They weren't even co–stars.

Actually, they were little more than props. Given that the movie was a story about a traveling advertising executive (Steve Martin) who was desperate to be home with his family for Thanksgiving, they were necessary props. But they weren't essential to most of the story.

When I think of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," it reminds me of how often John Candy appeared in John Hughes' films. Hughes must have been one of Candy's favorite directors — he made eight appearances in all in Hughes' movies.

And Candy had some of his best lines as Del Griffith.

For example ...

When the two woke up in a motel room, Martin was in Candy's embrace.

"Del," he said, "why did you kiss my ear?"

"Why are you holding my hand?" Candy asked.

Frowning, Martin said, "Where's your other hand?"

"Between two pillows," Candy answered.

"Those aren't pillows!" Martin responded.

And the two leaped out of bed and engaged in some macho talk about football.

OK, nearly everyone remembers that scene ...

But when I think of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," I think of the character Candy played — Del Griffith, the gregarious traveling shower ring salesman, always ready with a joke — and hiding the fact that he was a lonely man in a world where couples are the norm.

I remember a scene in which Candy and Martin were talking, and Candy observed, "When I'm dead and buried, all I'll leave behind are some shower curtain rings that didn't fall down."

Martin replied, "At the very least, the absolute minimum, you'll have a woman you love to grow old with. You love her, don't you?"

Wistfully, Candy answered, "Love is not a big enough word for how I feel about my wife."

And the two toasted their spouses — "To the wives!" — even though Martin's character did not know Candy's wife had been dead for several years.

Neither did the audience. But the secret was revealed near the end of the movie.

And it taught everyone an unexpected Thanksgiving lesson on being truly thankful.