Through the Mirrorform: Great Party, Or Grady?



We’ll pick back up with the standard mirrorform analysis in a minute, but first I just want to mention something here that the mirrorform helped me to understand generally about the film.

GREAT PARTY ghost overlays with a suspicious Aloysius-looking Watson, giving Jack the side-eye here. Ullman is saying, “Well, my predecessor in this job…”

…and he’ll go on to say “hired a man by the name of Charles Grady, as the winter caretaker” when the backward shot is GREAT PARTY ghost’s full body, standing between the two paintings there.

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I’ve thought a lot about the GREAT PARTY ghost, and I’ve gone around and around about whether he’s meant to be someone specific or if he’s purely symbolic (if you saw the new Doctor Sleep movie, you’ll note that adult Danny believes this man was Horace Derwent for some unexplained reason – you could read that as going with the “my predecessor in this job” line, except that Derwent is not Ullman’s predecessor, Derwent owned the Overlook (and may still do so) in the novel, which would make him the predecessor to Jack’s friend Al Shockley, who owns the majority of shares – also, it was Ullman who hired Grady in the novel, so we can’t simply treat the novel’s information as canon to the film). So let’s just take a second to consider the scant evidence we have.

If he’s Charles Grady: we know that the other ghost refers to himself as Delbert Grady (so they both have names derived from monarchs; Delbert derives from Albert/Adalbert), we know that both of these men are British, are of similar build, are wearing the same outfit, almost, both have the same hairstyle, roughly, both hold alcohol in their right hand, one is met at a party while the other references a party…

…both use the word “great” with emphasis (“your son has a very great talent…I’m not sure if you aware how great it is”)…

…and, like the Grady in Ullman’s story, GREAT PARTY has a head wound. GREAT PARTY ghost’s head wound doesn’t exactly look like he put a shotgun in his mouth, but you can use your imagination.

Also, as previously noted, the line of blood down his face is similar to the bloodfall, which will appear to Wendy down the same line of paintings, in a very similar hallway. In fact, it’s the same set, redressed to look like it’s closer to the Gold Room.

And one of the first overlays in the mirrorform gives Jack a similar-looking, curving line running down his face, in the form of a road (Going-to-the-Sun Road) that seems to snake around like a spilling river as the shot progresses.

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Also, if you take the the phrase GREAT PARTY, and take PART out of it, what you’re left with sounds like “GRADY” “GREATY”. Although “Great party, isn’t it?” is something a ghost says to Jack at the ghost ball in the novel (somewhat at random, in the novel’s context). And there’s only a Delbert Grady in the novel, not an eventual imposter.

The name “Charles” comes from the Germanic name Karl, which comes from a word meaning “man”. So, in the sense that Charles Grady himself is emblematic of the masculine psychology that drives toward family violence, this man, who otherwise appears to us as simply “male ghost”, fits that name’s implication. Meanwhile, “Jack” was an old derivative of John, but came to mean “man” in the middle ages. As in “Jack of all trades”, or Jaqen H’ghar.

Also consider that the Grady who appears to Jack, and identifies as Delbert, besides serving the purpose of showing how bad Jack’s memory is, has a name that is the masculine form of the name Alberta. And Alberta is where all the indigenous peoples we see paintings of are from.

Meanwhile, GREAT PARTY ghost here is next to a painting called Makah Returning in Their War Canoes by Canadian painter Paul Kane, who was criticized for his method of glamourizing indigenous peoples, and combining their tribal differences in a way that obscured the truth of herstory. The name Makah itself is not what the tribe called itself. They know themselves as Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx, which means “People who live by the rocks and seagulls”. The name Makah was given because it means “generous with food”. So if Delbert takes his name from the abundance of Albertan indigenous peoples hung about, perhaps in a kind of mockery symbolic of the way the hotel apes an appreciation of those peoples while being built upon their graves, that could account for GREAT PARTY ghost’s close approximation to Paul Kane’s distorting herstory.

(Also, just a reminder that this is the second Four Horsemen portal, correlating to War. And here we have a painting about war canoes.)

Also, as discussed in my section on objects in the film that disappear, there’s a landscape and two dog portraits that disappear once GREAT PARTY ghost appears. I believe this is symbolic of Grady’s three murders, of his wife (the heavenly landscape) and two daughters, who, like the dog portraits (a Brittany Spaniel and a German Shepherd (AKA Alsatian) are also not twins. Ullman tells Jack the Grady girls were “about 8 and 10”.

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So if Watson gleaned Jack’s future upon meeting him, and if GREAT PARTY ghost is Charles Grady, then it’s quite apt for him to be overlaid with Watson’s first hard glare at Jack, if Watson is indeed the angel to Ullman’s devil.

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And when Ullman actually says the name “Charles Grady” we see this.

For the sake of completism, I have one more point about this.

When Jack is on his way to the ghost ball at 81:25, 10:40 past the mid-point of the film (just saying), he passes a painting by Lawren Harris called Maligne Lake, Jasper Park. This painting depicts, among other things, two mountains of note: Samson Peak and Mt. Charlton. Charlton for sounding like Charles. Samson Peak because Samson was Christian mythology’s answer to Hercules. And fans of my Pillars of Hercules theory will understand how that applies to Grady. It’s also probably not lost on you that this image, which never appears in full (this is the best view of it), hugely resembles the first shot in the film. So just like Wendy being halfway through Catcher in the Rye 4 minutes past the beginning, the sequence that runs the final rivet between husband and wife, 10 minutes past the middle, includes this echo of the first shot in the film. Jack is starting over, becoming Samson (a man betrayed by his lover), becoming Hercules (a man who murdered his wife and children), becoming…Grady.

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Now, we only see a few people ever physically pass this spot clearly (like Ullman and Watson, before meeting Jack for the tour), and only one that we see pass the spot very clearly (3:25-3:29). And that’s this guy (with Red Maple behind his head).

Who is that guy? I don’t rightly know. But he comes from around the corner, from the direction of GREAT PARTY/Grady, and we do see him one more time (11:02-11:12 and 11:14-11:19). When Jack is calling Wendy about getting the job, standing over the model labyrinth, as Ullman and Watson stand in their Carson City formation.

And yes, that is the Come Out, Come Out lady about to go past the Hallorann kill spot and the Samson Peak point (off screen) in her final scene in the film.

I do have one idea about that guy’s identity, actually. We know that the staff wing is supposed to be on top of the lobby, by the way Danny pops out the window right above the lobby. And, as discussed in my Tower of Fable section, we know that when Danny stops to encounter the Grady twins in the staff wing hallways he’s right above where the model labyrinth usually is (right next to Stormy Weather). Well, at this point in the film, the model labyrinth is pushed slightly east of where it usually is, which would put it and the maybe-Grady guy directly beneath the thing Danny turns away from to meet the Gradys, which is a dumbwaiter.

Sorry, I just checked the site exhaustively for a shot of the dumbwaiter to no avail, but if you can take my word, it’s there.

Anyway, on page 97 of the novel, Danny gets really excited by the fact that their apartment has a dumbwaiter in it, comparing it to Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters. The movie he’s trying to reference is actually called Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (the “Monsters” version was a TV documentary about the film), which featured Lon Chaney Jr. reprising his role as Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man. Chaney also played the villain in the film version of a novel Jack’s reading on page 117, Welcome to Hard Times. And Jack actually tells Al Shockley that he looks like Lon Chaney’s character in Phantom of the Opera when they both decide to get sober, on page 42 (for the record this Lon Chaney was Lon Chaney Jr.’s father). I only did a page-by-page analysis of the first half of the novel, so it’s possible there’s other references to the Chaneys later on, but what’s cool about these three allusions is that that the opposite page to 117 is 331, where Jack has just saved the hotel from exploding and thinks to himself that, since he’s just “served the Overlook” now “the Overlook would serve him”. The opposite page from 97 is 351 where Jack is meeting Grady at the ghost ball, and Grady’s telling him he’s a “true scholar” who could go “to the very top” of the Overlook’s “organizational structure”, and Jack agreeing to “deal” with Danny. So, even though Grady has appeared as a servant who, it seems, lives only to serve Jack, in five short pages he’s getting Jack to agree to corporal punishment. The opposite page from 42 is 406, and that’s the page…where a man in a “green ghoulmask” pops out of a random door somewhere near their apartment and screams, “Great party, isn’t it?” in Wendy’s face, as she scrambles to seek refuge from Jack’s flailing mallet.

Oh, okay, it seems I’ve stumbled on more connections. Lon Chaney (Jr.’s father) played Blind Pew in the 1920 film version of Treasure Island. On page 372, while Wendy and Danny are dragging Jack to the pantry, Wendy reflects: “The surroundings reminded her of the seafaring captains cry in Treasure Island after old blind Pew had passed him the Black Spot. We’ll do him yet!” On this same page Jack mumbles a line in his sleep that we recognize as something his father said to him once, which he last recalled just before saving the hotel from exploding (page 329). This is the last clear reference Jack makes to his father in the novel, and the opposite page, 76, features the first reference to his father that Jack makes to himself when Hallorann asks him if Watson isn’t the “foulest talking man” Jack ever “ran on”, and Jack reflects that his own father holds that title. So, Wendy gets a random thought that connects to the father (Lon Chaney) 331 pages after Jack compared Al to the father. And in the middle are the (much more obscure) references to the son.

And then I noticed that Chaney Jr. worked with André de Toth, the director of Carson City, on a film called The Indian Fighters. That film starred Kirk Douglas (the star of Kubrick’s Spartacus), and featured Chaney as a villain named Chivington. De Toth’s film appears to be relatively sympathetic to the indigenous cause, but is part of that well-trod sub-genre of westerns where our hero the white man falls for an indigenous girl, and murders other indigenous people on her behalf. See, it’s okay, cuz he’s so broad minded…he could even fall in love with an indigenous person! But whatever, it was 1955. And it had the nerve to name the villain after one of the most villainous Americans of all time, John Chivington, who perpetrated the Sand Creek massacre. This is probably the strongest connection I’ve yet made between The Shining and that genocidal moment in American history. What’s kind of amazing is that de Toth’s film inside The Shining is right beneath Alex Colville’s Woman and Terrier, which he called his “Madonna and Child”, so just as there’s all this Chaney father-son subtext, Kubrick cozies it up to a mother-son subtext. What’s also amazing is that there’s a painting inside room 237 by Nadia Benois, whose family owned what was called the “Benois da Vinci”, a “Madonna and Child” painting by Leonardo da Vinci. And she was the mother of the only actor Kubrick ever directed to Oscar gold, Peter Ustinov (for his work in Spartacus). So, both of our indirect Spartacus references are occurring in direct connection to a parent-child image.

For the record, the other feature film in The Shining is Summer of ’42 and its director, Robert Mulligan, directed Robert Redford in Inside Daisy Clover, and on page 111 Jack compares the student he beat up, George Hatfield, to Redford, right before comparing himself to Hatfield. So Jack sees himself in Redford by the transitive property, and Danny and Wendy sit down to view a film by a director who helped make Redford famous. Also, on page 273 Jack thinks he’s going to murder George Hatfield in a dream (with his father’s cane) before he transforms into Danny at the last second, before Jack can stop himself.

Okay, so that was quite a walk to get to my point, which you’ve probably forgotten by now. My point is, there’s obviously no place for the dumbwaiter outside Suite 3 to end up, given what we know about the construction of these floors, so our guy hovering over the maze would most likely bear a connection to this pattern series. But Lon Chaney Jr. was dead before even before the novel was written, so what I’m wondering is…could this be André de Toth?

There aren’t a lot of pictures of him online. And the guy in the movie is never both close to the screen and in focus. But it would make a kind of cool sense, given his connection to all this. Perhaps his leaning over the labyrinth in between two men seeming to mimic the two men in his own movie would suggest a film director’s “parental” dominance over a film.

But de Toth’s connection is to Chaney Jr., whereas “Great party” ghost in the novel is directly across from page 42, where Jack compares Al Shockley to Chaney the elder. So perhaps the answer to the identity of GREAT PARTY ghost lies in the fact that the actor who plays him is Norman Gay. The Torrances own the autobiography of Tenzing Norgay (Nor(man)gay), the first man to climb Mt. Everest, cowritten by James Ramsey Ullman. So, if the connection between Nor-Gay and Norgay is intentional, then there’s a thing there about men who climb mountains, and the different outcomes that can occur. Norgay held it together. Nor-Gay blew his brains out. But that connection to Ullman makes it seem like what we really have going on here is a connection to every father figure in Jack’s life, all of whom have some thumb in the Overlook pie, except for his own father, Mark.

Actually, Mark Torrance’s full name is Mark Anthony Torrance, and Mark Anthony was a supporter of Julius Caesar. And André de Toth directed Gold for the Caesars.

So I don’t know. Maybe it’s as good as “whatever father figure works for you”. Maybe when we can ID that mystery sketch to his side, and the artists behind the landscape and dog portraits behind him we’ll get a better idea.

Click here to return to where you were in Through the Mirrorform, Part 2: The Interview

Or click here to continue on to Through the Mirrorform, Part 3: Closing Day