Directed by Jack Fisk
Written by William D. Wittliff
Starring Sissy Spacek, Eric Roberts, Sam Shepard, William Sanderson, Tracey Walter, Henry Thomas, Carey Hollis Jr.
Raggedy Man is a low-key film with some great performances and memorable moments, dealing with the human side of
Nita (Sissy Spacek) is a divorced mother of two, living in a small town in Texas during World War II. She works as the town’s only telephone operator*, unable to leave the job because her boss tells her it’s frozen due to the war. Teddy (Eric Roberts), a young sailor comes to town, looking for a phone. He’s calling his girlfriend, who breaks it off. With nothing better to do, Teddy remains, bonding with Nita’s two sons Harry (Henry Thomas**) and Henry (Carey Hollis, Jr.). But gossip arises as Teddy become friendly with Nita. At the same time, a couple of the village tough me (Tracey Walter and William Sanderson) have ideas about what a divorced woman might want in a time when divorce was disgraceful. And then there’s the mysterious Raggedy Man (Sam Shepard), who lurks around the town.
Spacek is at the top of her form: vulnerable, shy, and frustrated by the difficulties of her position. She and Roberts make a charming couple and the movie works as a slice of life of the time. Sanderson and Walter are great character actors, brining plenty of menace to their roles.
First-time director Jack Fisk was (and still is) married to Spacek. It wasn’t blockbuster, which isn’t surprising: Americans don’t flock to the type of character centered film this was.*** Fisk only directed a few more times before turning to some success as a production designer.
But this is a movie with a lot of good things, and a few surprises.
*The old-fashioned kind, who has to connect every phone call.
**Despite the telephone switchboard, he doesn’t phone home.
***The ending may have been added to help counteract this. It has action and drama, but does contrast from the gentle observation of the rest of the film.