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Over the years, my wife and I have watched “The Caine Mutiny” at least a half dozen times, and yet, amazingly, had never noticed that Jose Ferrer's right hand was bandaged. Not until the other night, that is, when we watched the movie for the umpteenth time. My wife, who is legally blind and uses special vision-conversion binoculars, picked up on the bandaged hand, and it then became a glaring distraction to both of us. Ferrer was portraying a court-martial defense attorney. There was absolutely nothing in the plot that called for him to have a hand injury, so it seemed to be an extraneous “bit of business”.
The injured hand is referred to when Ferrer initially appears in the film, and Van Johnson asks him, “Have a crack-up?”
“Yeah,” Ferrer replies.
My conjecture is that Jose Ferrer had actually hurt his hand, and in order to keep filming of the movie on track, the mishap was written into the storyline. I checked that idea out on Wikipedia and a couple of other sites, but found nothing to confirm my premise
No matter. There is still a writing value to be noted here. Anything in a movie, or a story, that strongly draws attention to itself should have a point. If you wrap a guy's arm up in a tent-sized bandage, your reader or viewer is going to want to know why. And you must have a good reason.
One of my favorite scenes in my recently completed novel is based on an actual confrontation involving the wife of a friend. This woman once pointed a shotgun at some utility workers who had come to chop down her beloved oak tree. She threatened to shoot them if they so much as picked up an axe. But the scene that I created based on that incident would be of no value unless I provided a “payoff sequence”. The reader will demand to know what relevance the “tree incident” has to the overall story.
There are no extra pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.
Or in a good novel.