I Like To Watch
If you enjoyed last year’s Top 25 Fictional DC Residents, then this is bonus material. I was making a mental list of my favorite older movies the other day, and of course Being There was on it. Then it hit me (smacks forehead), of course! How could I have forgotten about Chance (the) Gardener?, a brilliant character played by the equally brilliant Peter Sellers.
Based on the novel of the same name by one of my favorite authors, Jerzy Kosinski (who also wrote the screenplay), it’s the story of “Chance,” a man who had been adopted by a rich Washingtonian as a child, and who worked as his gardener. When the “old man” dies, Chance is cut loose from the estate and his first encounter is with a gang of young hoodlums. I wish I knew where this scene was shot, anyone?
Described by the black housekeeper who raised him, Chance was “stuffed with rice pudding between the ears.” He could neither read nor write and “likes to watch TV.” After being struck by a towncar occupied by the wealthy Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine), Chance ends up at the Rand home where his simple take on life, based on watching television and his life as a gardener, is taken by Eve’s politically influential husband Ben (Melvyn Douglas) as profound and highly insightful. This eventually leads to Chance meeting the president (Jack Warden), who quotes his garden metaphor in one of his speeches.
Personally, my favorite scene is the one in which Eve attempts to seduce Chance. After all, her husband is considerably older and more or less on his deathbed. Yet Chance has no knowledge of or experience with sex and all he seems to be interested in is the TV, repeating that he “likes to watch.” Interpreting this as a cue, Eve launches into an autoerotic session while Chance flips through the channels oblivious to the whole thing.