In his Aug. 28 Tipsheet feature on neglected Washington films ["D.C. Films Worth a Double Take," Sunday Source], Greg Zinman left out "Being There." Not only did the brilliant 1979 film feature Peter Sellers in one of his last roles, but the movie made Washington itself into a character.
Mr. Sellers plays Chance, a simple gardener for the owner of a Washington rowhouse -- the kind that now has been demolished or split into apartments. When the owner dies, Chance, whose only exposure to the outside world has been through television, is kicked out by the estate's lawyers. He wanders the streets until he's hit by a limousine carrying the wife of a banking magnate.
Rather than romanticizing the District and its monuments, scenes show Washington to be a real city where people live and work, not just the center of government and a tourist attraction.
Chance is seen walking down the median of traffic-clogged North Capitol Street and running into gang members who mistake him for a messenger of a rival gang. While Chance recovers from the car accident at the banker's palatial Foxhall home, the clueless gardener finds himself counseling both the banker and the president on economic issues, with the press corps eating it up.
What's truer to Washington than that?