Film as Inspiration

Here’s something funny! It’s a case of the subconscious playing tricks on me.

For sure, watching a movie can be a huge inspiration for writing. So much so that you can worry about unwitting plagiarism. I just posted a short story on entitled, An Act of Kindness, which I wrote many years ago while I was still practicing law. The story is the first public appearance of the hero of The Osgoode Trilogy, Harry Jenkins, Toronto lawyer, who actually was modeled on my deceased law partner. Harry is a great guy who carried me through three novels. Conduct in Question, Final Paradox and A Trial of One, all of which you can find online. I’ll be posting a few chapters of each of them on soon, so take a look.

Anyway, I was sure that I had the perfect plot about Harry’s clients, two elderly women living together in a fine, old house. I’m not going to tell you any more of the story here, but you can read it at the link

Not until a few weeks ago [after about fifteen years] did I realize the inspiration for the

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

story. Remember the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis? Chilling! I turned the TV on late at night during one of my bouts with insomnia, and there it was. Jane [played by Bette Davis] was still terrorizing poor, invalid Blanche. Remember Bette Davis, with her chalk white face, feeding her sister dead rats for breakfast? Yikes! Almost right away, I saw that the film, which I had seen many years ago, was my inspiration for An Act of Kindness. The movie was based on the novel by Henry Farrell.

No, in my story they’re not two sisters—but just what is the relationship? I’m not going to say, because the whole plot turns on that question. My characters aren’t running around the mansion one terrorizing the other with ghoulish schemes. But the stories do coincide in the sense that insane jealousy is at the root of it all. You’ll remember that Baby Jane was always the favored one, but even so, she was terribly jealous of her sister, Blanche.

But at the end, something very strange is revealed to my hero, Harry. So, what to conclude? For me, I think inspiration can be a slippery, mysterious thing which kind of creeps up on you in the dark…and you may never know it until years later. Long live the subconscious, but watch out for it! Read the story and you’ll see what I mean.


About Mary E. Martin

Mary E. Martin grew up in Toronto, Canada. After earning an Honors Degree in History at the University of Toronto, she graduated with her law degree from Queens University, Kingston, Ontario. In 1973, she was called to the Bar of Ontario and began the general practice of law in Toronto, with emphasis on real estate, wills and estates and elder-care law. This law practice of more than 30 years was a great inspiration for The Osgoode Trilogy ("Conduct in Question," "Final Paradox" and "A Trial of One.") Her fourth novel, “The Drawing Lesson,” will be the first in the next trilogy, provisionally entitled “The Trilogy of Rmembrance.” She is also a photographer particularly with respect to her travels. She has had two commercial photography shows. Married in 1973, she and her husband live in Toronto. They have three adult children.
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