TONY VALLELONGA: BROADENING ONE’S HORIZONS
Other than a brief introduction of doctor Don Shirley in a scene of intake meeting, the first thirty minutes of the movie appreciate Tony Vallelonga as the leading violinist of the ‘Green book’ story. He is depicted as a man of raw force, who makes one’s living for his united family, has a stomach that must never be underestimated, and finds a pint-size enthusiasm in the perspective of becoming an ironer for a boss. It later emerged from Tony’s own words, that all his life prior to this eight-week trip to the South had been cultivated in a familiar routine beyond delusive contemplations and exaggerated ambitions. He has lived in the pretty same neighborhood of New York from the cradle and used to be close together with his parents and a brother. Tony’s social environment lacks variety and the geography of his existence stays within the route of a dumping truck and tiny assignments on behalf of the local mob leaders. Tony gets restless of the well-being of one’s family, yet his experiments with additional earnings are limited to the eating of as many hot-dogs as he could absorb for an hour on a bet. More so, the groceries, whether that be pasta at the dinner, a pizza before bed, or an open sandwich in the driver’s seat: rank high in the set of Tony’s values.
I know exactly who I am. I’m the guy who’s lived on the same
block in the same Bronx my entire life, with my mother and father and
my brother, and now my wife and kids. That’s it—that’s who I am.
TONY VALLELONGA was brought up to stand firm for his family and friends as well as potential and existing employers. He feels fine to invite up a lombard man for a Christmas dinner, the one who put Tony’s watch on hold for a moderate late fee. Relatedly, Tony is tough on people, who live beyond his own social setting and accessory. Without a moment’s hesitation, he kicks a social climber downstairs COPACABANA and smashes the face of the one, who has ventured to voice one’s significance. It is hard for Tony to get on well with someone, who is superior in education or wellness and he has only two established life philosophies facing such people. Vallelonga has taught himself to play the card of integrity and subordination toward people, who grants him a job and patronage and to be tough and rude with the one, who expresses disrespect or open aggression toward Tony or his social circle. In relation to the latter, Tony feels it easier to kick the humped-up guy out or produce a barbed joke as opposed to making a compromise finding things in common.
Tony despises one of the members of Don Shirley’s trio Oleg since he regards him as an arrogant ‘smarty pants’: the ethnicity (either Russian or German) plays the sidekick. The principal character disdainfully damps the glasses, the one that has been used by black persons, yet his prejudices hardly bear the nature of racial intolerance (notably considering his ongoing enthusiasm of making a few dollars with other drivers, predominantly afro-Americans). Tony Vallelonga was brought up in his own social environment of a national minority, the Italo-Americans in the USA, who reject the ‘strangers’ as much as they protect the ‘friends’. In that scene in the kitchen, Tony’s father and brother cultivate the aura of disdain, which fosters Tony’s commitment to his family. As later emerged, Tony Vallelonga would make excuses on the basis that ‘Everybody was doin’ it’.
What are you giving me shit for? Everybody was doin’ it.
They didn’t have a choice whether to be inside or out. You did.
TONY VALLELONGA derisively expressed the fact that the upper-class society with all their status and advanced degrees evokes nothing but his pure enthusiasm to the extent they have issues with the pronunciation of Vallelonga. Tony’s heart is not in the perspective of pretending to be someone else for the sake of appeasement of the wealthy Southerners: in so doing he earns the respect of Don Shirley. He is not above using strong language: more likely as a tribute to a habit rather than a necessity. Apart from all these, Dolores’ small favor to ask Tony to write letters while he is not home bothers him for the simple reason Tony sometimes feels uncomfortable with giving mouth to feelings. He is not good at declamation within the very first letters, the fact that is bound to the doctor’s attention. Vallelonga disabuses another driver on the fact that Don Shirley is not his boss and he (Tony) gets money from the record company. At this point in the narration, Tony would not admit one’s status as a subordinate: the point being cultivated toward social framing rather than a color of skin.
Then it’s Tony Vallelonga. All these high-class people that are so
much smarter than me, with all their intelligence and speakin’
abilities, you’re telling me they can’t pronounce my name?
The eight-week work-related trip to the South turns out to be a definite adventure for Tony Vallelonga: his unique debut into the ‘haunt monde’ or ‘swell society’. For the first time in years after the military service in Europe, he leaves his family and notably the comfort zone, Tony’s shell, which has tied himself to the same places and social setting. Not in every instance, a pair of diametrical unlike persons such as Tony and doctor Shirley has enough time to learn from each other by ironing out difficulties over a long period of time. As opposed to his sometimes explosive temper, Tony has a rare ability to admit one’s faults and rough edges, to seek alternatives, and to learn: a virtue conventionally extrinsic to a man, who ‘gets things done’ in Copacabana night club in New York in the 1960s. As the first part of the story goes on, Tony is touchy about criticism from his new boss, yet this journey of changes would bring delight to Tony’s life. WE LEARN BY DOING, WE ACHIEVE BY PURSUING.
To a wide personal extent, Tony remains true to himself by being who he is. The man with the same principles, restless appetite, and harsh temper. An eight-week job assignment next to Don Shirley and his musical trio provides Tony with a means not to reject alternates for the sole reason they originate from the ‘other’ social setting. On his way coming closer to the end of the ‘Green Book’ story, Tony Vallelonga keeps one character: his identity is being complemented rather than clipped in with a new one. He keeps close to him the same ability to eat a whole pizza while lettering his wife, yet he acts like a gentleman in a well-respected restaurant next to world-famed musicians. Tony sets one’s character against Don’s comments on his Bronx style of speech, but in fact, transforms his social appearance. A man with Vallelonga second name learns lessons to smile toward the misrepresentation as opposed to severe remarks and temper. Tony memorizes a habit not to throw your garbage on the road and to pay for a colored stone. The second night-time acquaintance with police was unlikely to be shifted into another detention.
«You never win with violence. You only win when you maintain your dignity.»
As commented by Don Shirley, Tony Vallelonga is to be deputized as a companion of a music group and of a doctor particularly. Earlier on, Tony made the most of his gambling on one’s hunkers and was in need to outline his status. As the story goes on, he positively voices the fact that he is subordinate to a black musician. The deeds transform a person better than most words in a way as doings make people. In the opening scene the principal character raven for backing a local mob boss and later on he would rather favor decent work as a driver of Don Shirley than dubious commitments to people, who could not even voice what job they can assign. Integral with Don’s assistance in lettering, Tony goes beyond just being oratorical on paper. It might be for the first time in his life he expresses admiration toward the United States and has an ability to grasp the outside world on a gross scale, particularly the positive remarks.
“I never knew how very beautiful this country was. Now that I’m
seeing it I know. You wouldn’t believe how beautiful nature is—it
is as beautiful as they say. I wish I had a camera and took some
pictures, they would be collector’s items, I wish I knew how to describe it to you.”
The subject of liberalization, notably from the racial prejudices, is woven through the eight-week journey to the South and Tony is now in a position to conceive the things of previously no importance from a different perspective. Once experienced scant regard as an Italo-American, Vallelonga gets on the desolation of Don Shirley and his every-night bottle of whiskey on a balcony. In under two months since Tony had utilized two glasses after the afro-Americans, he shares his room with a doctor, initially into intimate lettering with a wife, and finally happy to see Don as a guest at the Christmas dinner. In the first half of the story, Tony was patient enough to hold back his prejudices for the sake of a well-paid job. It takes him time to start to take care of his boss, Don Shirley’s reputation and career, his dignity, and his life. Another joke about the black boss from his family leads Tony to ask his brother to be more polite. In a more narrow sense, initially, the driver Vallelonga rejected a perspective of being a servant and a washerman for the underwear to later face and take care of the unsightly episodes of Shirley’s life. Tony holds off on sitting in judgment toward his boss, all while his value system clearly goes beyond such things.
Of course, I don’t want you to miss a show, you ungrateful bastard! You
think I’m doing this for my health?! Tonight I saved your ass,
so show a little appreciation. Besides, I told you never to go nowhere without me!
In the face of insultive prejudices in the South of the United States back in the 1960s, Tony’s fulmination and strong feelings indeed make a little sense on a large scale. The police officer steps aside barely after a call from a governor; a suit maker rejects the idea of proceeding a black man to a fitting space; Don Shirley, a man with a worldwide reputation is being rejected to use the toilet in the house or to have a seat within a restaurant. At the same time, being unable to change the beliefs of other people, he transforms his own attitude toward people, who appreciate themselves as superior to an Italo-American driver and Afro-American pianist. Tony is becoming aware of the fact that a curtain of presentability means nothing, all while these high-flying people dwindle to the level of stigmatization and insults toward another man. In the long run, the attitude towards other people, particularly unlikely, forms the identity of a person and his social profile.
DON SHIRLEY: UNDERTAKING EFFORTS
At the outset of the ‘Green book’ story, doctor Donald Shirley is being depicted as a free-will prisoner of inner restrictions and prejudices with the racial issue definitely out of first. Not unlike Tony, the doctor has steadily restricted one’s life to social seclusion. In that part where an artless-minded Vallelonga has taught himself to enjoy life, his family, and social surrounding, Donald Shirley conquers one’s existence. Feeling ‘different’ from early childhood, Don has meaningfully drawn a painful line between himself and the outside world. This invisible dividing border goes well beyond the subject of race or gender. Doctor Shirley experiences oneself desolated both from the ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’, from his former wife, his blood brother, an audience in New York and social setting in the South, from the traditional human relations, and finally from friendship. Notably, the most revealing monologue of the movie brings a personal tragedy of Donal Shirley to the fore: the man fails to find his own place in this world.
«So if I’m not black enough, and if I’m not white enough, and if I’m not man enough, then tell me, Tony, what am I?!»
The dramatic quality of Don Shirley’s isolation lies in its unforced nature. The Doctor represents Tony with the fact that Vallelonga has all means to take an alternative way beyond accepted behavior. At the same time, he himself has experienced desolation and frustration all while having a talent, wealth, and social weight in New York. In this vein, one should not underestimate the scene in the field. Donald Shirley takes his look over the hard work of the black Americans in the South, technically free, yet dragging on a miserable existence. Tony reveals the boss’ nighttime bottle of whiskey as no less than a disturbing message: outlining the social estrangement of this talented person. Shirley’s drinking problem, at times jeopardizing his safety, advocates the isolation of the doctor and such crooked alternatives to basic human interaction. As though he is frightened to become a member of society, to express his feelings, and to invest in relations with other people, Don used to sit on the sidelines of cozy unreined communication. Similar to Vallelonga, it is his model of life to cultivate Don’s identity and apartness.
As an unexpected part of the job interview, doctor Shirley goes before Tony being dressed in gorgeous apparel all while sitting on the throne amidst a lavishly furnitured room next to the tusks of the elephant. Being in some way spoiled with one’s fame in New York, Donald Shirley used to accommodate the luxurious apartment above the world-famous Carnegie-Hall, as though he additionally individualized himself from the others. Doctor digested the distinct convenience of one’s performances, excluding anything but Steinway piano, saying nothing of a nightclub. All while taking a rest in the late hours, Don exaggeratedly wears his suit and feels frustrated with a perspective to join the men at non-committal play. Though courageous in a pursuit to make the world a better place, Don Shirley gives precedence to the aristocratic white entourage and VIP treatment as opposed to applauses in a fuggy night club for Afro-Americans. The doctor absently acknowledges his failed marriage and seems to wait until his brother makes a call, the one who has the contacts.
Don’t wait for him, Doc. This I know…the world’s full of lonely
people afraid to make the first move.
These high-hat manners, a lap blanket, and a bossiness, initially a thorn in the side of Tony Vallelonga, actually hearken back into doctor Shirley’s model of life. His tragedy of desolation has been cultivated by an inability to invest time into other people, both the close entourage and the audience across the country. As opposed to mutual respect and the contribution to the same musical collective, the story gives no clue of a friendly heart-to-heart conversation between Don and Oleg. Doctor Shirley risks his life in a last-ditch effort to transform people’s attitudes in the South, yet he himself hardly has an interest in the modern culture of the American people, regardless of the color of their skin. He has to pocket the insult of being a guest in the hall he would never be allowed to have dinner in or shaking hands in a mansion with no toilet allowance for the blacks. The world-famous pianist smiles with constraint thus (in his opinion) maintaining his dignity, yet a friendship with Tony Vallelonga allows Don to perceive the world from a different angle. In truth, Doctor Shirley raises much more difficulties in making contact with other people, black or white than Tony has with his opponents.
One could say that Tony is to become a kind of a hobby puppet for Don Shirley, but in practice, this relationship has two directions. Having at least eight full weeks in hand, this friendship with Tony is to be given a free hand to revolutionize too much more extended, than Don did give to anyone in the course of the last years. Since being fundamentally different people nothin the beginning and at the end of the story, Don and Tony have all means to forge a friendship by giving one another a chance. With great probability, particularly integrity to his family, apart from an imposing ability to get things done, the doctor chose Tony as his driver and companion. The refined pianist faces the ravenous man with a rare second name, who uses foul language and emotionally wards the insults. Relatedly doctor Shirley appreciates Tony as a man of conviction, particularly including care of his family and integrity to work, with a sense of human worth, all while far from being as restrained as Don himself.
Don Shirley gives Tony away more than teaching lessons on lettering to a wife. The appraised pianist takes patronage over new habits of utilizing the garbage, paying for the stones having an in a respectful society of the South. Being previously used to outline one’s solitude in this world, Don Shirley finds joy in putting skin in the game. Having KFC fried chicken with unwashed hands turned out to be a revelation for the Doctor. Next to Tony, the well-known heavy eater, Don teaches himself to have joy in eating and later gives full consideration to the humiliating attitude toward himself with corn and chicken as a guest in the South. The reputed pianist swallows pride and makes a call to Robert Kennedy to disimprison himself and Tony. He even makes a laugh with a joke of women’s bust in Pittsburgh with no sign of the former arrogance towards such little things of life. Finally, on the way back home to New York, Doctor Shirley takes the wheel as a driver, instead of Tony, to make it to the Christmas dinner for Vallelonga. Don gives leave for his personal attendant to enjoy the holidays.
It smells okay, but I don’t want to get grease on my blanket.
Oooh, I’m gonna get grease on my blankie—have a piece. It ain’t gonna kill ya
In a scene in the field, Don Shirley is frustrated with the uneasy existence of the black Americans in the South and senses the fact that whatever extent his life is comfortable to what extent his self-made vulnerabilities and existential thoughts are unsubstantiated. All while putting his efforts into Tony Vallelonga, the prominent musician finally have an insight into the modern Afro-American instrumentalists, and his horizons are to be broadened. Doctor Shirley becomes aware that his colleagues succeeded in developing their own styles of music and are freer from the generally accepted limitations than he is. Being brought up with classical music and privileged education, Don studies up on the modern culture of his country by leaving his desolated shell. Once reshaped his dignity, Shirley no longer feels to be ashamed with a ‘non-Steinway’ piano or a play within a fuggy afro night club in parallel with flirting with a waitress. Don gives the attendees of the club hope and his success better than sitting on the throne with a lap blanket. The climax of the ‘Green book’ story and the friendship between Tony Vallelonga and Donal Shirley could be appreciated in a Christmas scene: Don appreciates such a family setting rather than being self-detented above the Carnegie-hall.
I like what you did back there, Doc. You stood up for yourself.
It’s like your friend the President says — “Don’t ask what your
country can do for you, ask what you can do for yourself.”