Bryan, Who I Totally Made Up

“I thanked him and then trailed off as I watched him reach inside his open shirt collar and took out a necklace with rainbow triangles on it.”

He’s an amazing guy. We’re married now. It was tough to get there.


Act 1

In January, my husband and I were sitting at a red light on our way to get groceries. A completely drunken asshole in a dump truck came along at high speed and smashed into us, hitting the driver’s side. Adam was driving. He was killed instantly, crushed. I was pinned in and unconscious, barely alive. A fire station was across the street and they came over immediately, used their equipment to get me out and carted me off to an ER in the suburb, from where I was flown into the city’s level 1 trauma center.

The dump truck driver was mildly hurt; he was given first aid on the scene then carted off to jail.

I remember getting hit and struggling to breathe and fading in and out as the fire crew worked to get me out of the mangled Jeep. I remember pain as I was taken into the first ER, then noise and cold as I was put into the helicopter. There was more noise and cold when we landed on the roof of the trauma center, then bits and pieces of light and conversation and pain that always made me pass out.

A neurosurgeon was called in for my back and rib cage injuries. There were worries about my heart, so a cardiologist was there. Given my medical profile of years of problems, I was a challenge. They decided to bring in a thoracic surgeon first, to alleviate internal bleeding and bloodflow problems and to evaluate the heart. I needed resuscitation three times on the table. They kept me in an induced coma for the second surgery, the neuro procedures which shored up my rib cage and spine. There was hope I could walk again, but no guarantees. A third surgery happened for head and facial injuries.

Two weeks later, I woke up in the ICU. It was dark, there were tubes, the usual medical devices doing various noisy things and some panic. A doctor was nearby taking notes. Finally he noticed that my head was moving and he saw that I was awake.

Some evaluations followed. They told me they were going to remove the ventilator to see how I was breathing. If that was successful, then they could remove the entubation apparatus.

I’ve used chapstick since I was a small kid, always outside playing in the New Mexico sunshine. My lips now felt like they were on fire. Staff gathered around, but all I wanted was some lip balm relief. Instructions followed and I did what they wanted as much as I could. Breathe in, breathe out. Follow my penlight with your eyes.

The entubation was removed and my throat was as sore as my lips. I asked for chapstick and ice in a raspy, husky voice that didn’t sound like my own. And then I asked for Adam.

Friends were brought in along with the balm and ice. I got settled a bit more and a bit more awake. How is Adam?

Finally, a doctor broke the news. I already knew from my friend’s faces. He was gone, I was flattened, and I was also screwed. With him gone, so was our money, main income, the car and his health insurance that covered me. I could not afford our mortgage or food and listening to the doctor tell me what had happened to me and then what they had had to do to save me was pretty terrifying, but what was worse was knowing that I was just royally screwed. I would lose the house, be kicked out of the hospital, have nowhere to go and no way to get there and no ability to earn any money, which could not come fast enough to save the situation.

“Why didn’t you let me die?” was my next question. There was a mumbled answer. My friends stood and cried and both said not to worry, they would take care of me and get me back on my feet. At that particular moment, the neurosurgeons weren’t even sure if I could stand or walk, let alone “get back on my feet” and get a job.

If I could have reached the cart with the pills, I would have ended it right then and there. Suicide watch had already started, so they were all pretty careful with me.

Three more followup surgeries followed. Four weeks in ICU, two weeks in post-surgical recovery regular rooms. Then kicked out. Adam’s insurance and our car insurance agreed to cover all this up to a cutoff point of $1 million. Sounds generous, but it was because they were already in negotiations with the dump truck company’s insurer. It would ultimately not cost our insurer’s a dime; in fact, they made money.

I was left to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer and managed to find one that had sued the dump truck company several times. A wealth of information was in their files, including that the drunk driver had multiple accidents, two with injuries, and other claims of property and vehicle damage over the previous five years. He was best buds with the company owners. They were quite wealthy and covered the losses and mayhem he caused.

My suit was filed as soon as I was awake in ICU. The state and Feds had already launched investigations. The city was filing vehicular manslaughter and other charges. My husband’s murder was big local news for awhile. Then the Feds raided the truck company offices. Tons of violations: everything from improperly licensed drivers and improperly certified trucks to filing false income taxes and false business taxes and false OSHA and Labor department forms and so on and so on.

Their insurer was immediately ready to talk settlement with me and my insurers. Given the mounting evidence of criminal operations that they had been insuring, their exposure was huge. My insurers got undisclosed settlement amounts in the millions. I signed on the dotted line and took a little over $30 million, which was compensatory, so not taxable. My attorney took home a $10 million check, which the truck company’s insurer had to pay; it didn’t come out of my $30m. And I still had three operations and four more weeks of hospitalization to go.

Around 20 days later, the money was in a bank account and I was starting the painful and slow process of rehab. I moved into a small apartment across the street from the hospital for the first month.

Our four dogs were taken care of at first by our friends, then the wonderful people of the rescue group we had adopted the dogs from came together and took them in temporarily.

After over 10 weeks, I finally went home. I could stand unsteadily and walk with the equipment at the rehab place, but I couldn’t drive or anything else. I planned Adam’s memorial service, which was held after his cremation and when I was just barely able to stand the surreal and terrible ceremonial. I was in pain, physically and emotionally, and the service was a blur of images and crying and confusion. I went back to the apartment and slept for two straight days.

As the money sat in the account, I could pay bills. The house was paid off. I began to try to decided which car I should eventually buy. Other financial decisions had to be made. We put a chunk in an account to pay for medical expenses. The truck company’s insurer too on the cost of paying any health expenses, including surgeries and hospitalizations, related to the murder wreck. The claims were paid, thank god, but I never knew if they would hold up their end of the bargain.

I also had to testify at preliminary hearings and trials of the driver/murderer, the company owners and others. The drunken maniac got 25 years and had to serve 10 years of that before parole consideration could be given. The husband/wife owners got 10 years each. They were an incredible piece of work, both of them; complete idiots and assholes, chaotic hot messes who had lurched from drama to drama throughout their lives, inexplicably managing to amass millions along the way. The state and Feds cleaned them out and slammed their asses to the wall. On top of their 10 years for the murder and related charges, they were given additional sentences stemming from the IRS, OSHA and other agency charges. They were barred from ever owning a truck or trucking company ever again. They would not be able to drive again for years. The murderer himself could not drive for five years if he were to be released on parole. I made it my mission to pressure parole board and state officials to keep the assholes in prison for as long as I could.


Act II

Out of the hospital, rehab three times a week, I’m a millionaire who has lost the love of his life. There are four hounds to be fed and attended. Getting groceries was almost a major operation. There were doctor’s appointments and three post-hospitalization surgeries. And there was anxiety and depression and screaming and crying constantly. I ultimately lost over 50 pounds, which I needed to do, but it was a very brutal diet. Rehab got me in shape. I worked out some more just to not have to think. It was the lowest point of my life, my pit of bottomless despair.

With the coming of spring, I began to live a little more and think a little more and drive a little more and talk a little more in therapy and be basically functional. I still thought it would perhaps be better to check out and be done with it all. But as each day passed, the consensus with friends was that I had been given the gift of surviving, of continuing to live, and that I should live the life I had been given. Many people had worked hard to bring me back from the brink. Suicide would have been an insult to their work. To the support of my friends. To survive and also live and have a future was made my mission, even if I wasn’t very into the idea. I lived, I breathed. I functioned. The elephant sitting on my chest which was the oppressiveness and anxiety and panic and stress from losing Adam and have to survive began to fade slowly.

By the summer, I was not sure what I wanted. I now had the money to go wherever I wanted. For months, I had been extremely reluctant to leave the house, the first house he and I had bought together, the first place where the deed was in both our names: “Adam Foster and Sean Jacobs, a married couple,” the deed read. I couldn’t stand the thought of selling it, but the thought of always being there was beginning to get a bit oppressive too. There were reminders of him everywhere. His unmade bed. His urn containing his ashes. His clothes. His shoes. His journals from a lifetime of obsessively writing down everything that had ever happened to him; journals that would sometimes anger me in the future when I would sit and read them, particularly the ones on his laptop where he wrote out some of his frustrations with me, with us. Nothing too horrible, just a bit unfair. Nothing that revealed anything like an affair or something, that wasn’t Adam. Just mostly little stuff. But sometimes those little things that bothered him would sting me and make me defensive in my own mind. I sometimes argued with him out loud or in my head. When I would argue with his journal out loud, the dogs would get kind of pissed that I was interrupting their naps, or keeping them up in the middle of the night. Still, it wasn’t enough to lift the Queen Victoria-level mourning of my husband’s sudden loss. It helped to get pissed at him, but not enough.

So slowly, in spite of what I wanted, I functioned more and more. I planned. I made decisions without him. I bought clothes and a replacement Jeep when I could drive again. I got dental work done to repair some damage and decay and got some facial and skin work on my torso to repair some damage there.

My new slim self, still not really wanting to eat much, my new clothes, my slightly better face, neck and torso added up to a new me. If people didn’t know what was going on, they would have thought I had hit a middle age crisis and had gone a new expensive car and facelift bender. It was necessary. I needed a car, ours was smooshed together. The facial and skin surgeries were necessary to keep reducing the size of scars and keep them supple. And the weight loss, unexpected as it was, was also necessary because I now had a future to live, however reluctantly.

I was a new man, basically, even if I was even more a bitter, jaded and hostile queen than before. By summer, with folks behind bars and most of the medical stuff behind me, I started to finally look at what that future might look like. I couldn’t see staying where I was; I refused to sell our house, but I wanted to move away from the City of Incredibly Bad, Dangerous Drivers.

I was born and raised in New Mexico. We moved away when I was 10, and I had spent the next 46 years trying to scheme my way back home. With the settlement money, I knew I could build a very nice house near Santa Fe or Albuquerque. I couldn’t work, so it could be anywhere, as long as it was a reasonable drive to doctor’s offices or hospitals. I began to plan the return.

Friends took care of the hounds for me in August for a few days and I flew to Albuquerque. I spent the time exploring and looking at land that would be good to have my house on. I tried to narrow down my house plan choices. I looked at houses to buy so I would have a place to live while my new one was being built.

I also looked at architectural firms in the are which could handle construction management and maybe even a plan from scratch. I narrowed it down to three. And at the first firm, two of the principals were great and agreed to take my preferred plan off the shelf from an online company and adapt it to my needs and help with my land choice and also provide landscape and interior architectural work. The last two, they said, could be amply handled by their partner, whose name was Bryan Spenser.


Act 3

I was neither expecting nor trying to meet anyone and make anything happen. I was just trying to get a house built and settle down and heal in my home state, my spiritual home for all of my life. New Mexico was already working well for me. I closed on a temprorary house, and it sat ready for some renovations before I would move in. I had a move date and a way to get the four hounds to New Mexico; I rented an RV that accepted doggy passengers for a ridiculous amount of money and got ready to leave in September. My best friend and I would drive the RV and dogs along I-40 west to the new home in about three or four days.

But first, there was Bryan.

After talking for about an hour with the principal architect of the exterior and the construction manager, they brought in the interior architect, who would lead the team responsible for anything inside the house, all 5,585 square feet of it.

The door opened and the two partners introduced us. As soon as he walked in the door, I was stopped in my tracks. Our eyes met and locked and a strange sensation hit me. I could barely think. He. Was. Beautiful. Not beautiful like a male model or celebrity or movie star, not like a gay porn star. Just a beautiful, sweet, smiling man, who was beautiful because he was, to put it simply, my type: blond and hairy, slightly shorter than me. I immediately wondered how old he was (he turned out to be 13 years younger than me, 43) and if he might be into derelict daddies. (More about my body dysmorphia issues later.)

I stood up to shake his hand, our eyes still locked. I realized we both had sort of lopsided, silly grins on our faces and I had no idea why. Then, I swear to God, our hands met and with some static probably from the carpet, we shocked each other. Our first touch was literally an electric shock. What happened over the next year was even more shocking.

We were both startled and hesitated to let go, but we managed to be smooth enough to get out, “Nice to meet you!” and sit down. My mind whirled. His was similarly unsettled and confused.

It was about 3 p.m. on a Friday by this point. The others left the room and Bryan and I discovered that we both like to talk. A lot. We talked for two-and-a-half hours until we realized the staff was leaving and we were sitting in the conference room alone, making notes and sketches.

I blurted out that I really enjoyed talking to him. (“Smooth mood, idiot, he’s gonna think you’re trying to hit on him,” I thought.) And then came salvation: he said he really enjoyed it too and if I didn’t have any plans, we could just continue over dinner; he knew of a few places since I was new in town (“What the hell? Did that just come out of my mouth? Oh God! He’s going to think I’m hitting on him! I could just die!” he thought.)

We were watching each others’ eyes to see if there was a hint of rejection; no, just slight embarrassment. I said that I would actually love that (“Don’t say ‘love,’ idiot!” I thought.) He asked if I liked New Mexican and also said there was a very nice quiet bar we could also hit after dinner. (“Oh, shit, just take out your dick and wave it at him!!!” he thought.)

I said that since I was born and raised, I had been fed New Mexican pretty much all my life and it sounded great. And so did the bar. (“Oh yeah, turn him off with your sarcasm. And what bar? Is it a gay bar?” I thought.) He said oh d’uh, of course you know New Mexican food, sorry, you must think I’m an idiot. And we don’t have to go to the bar if you don’t want to. It’s just got soft music so we can talk more. (“Wait, that’s a queer-friendly space. He’ll probably beat my ass up!” he thought.)

(“Is he even gay?!” we both thought at the same time.

He had been given the bare details about what I was doing, but we first started talking about why I was coming back to New Mexico. Loss of husband nine months ago, settlement money, need to get away from a place of tragedy, desire to be back in my spiritual home, etc., etc., etc.

I saw how his eyebrows lifted and a little smile played at the corner of one side of his lips. He then licked them a little and got serious and said condolences and all that. (“So he IS gay! And is in need of comfort in his mourning period! Oh, Daddy! Let me be your comforter!” he thought.)

I thanked him and then trailed off as I watched him reach inside his open shirt collar and took out a necklace with rainbow triangles on it.

[This is a fictional work in progress. Y’all know this is probably gonna become kinda porno. More to come soon!]

Movie Night: Red Dust

“The attraction here isn’t really the cultural relic/curiousity value, it’s the variation of the old man meets woman, they hate each other, they clash with sparkling dialogue and then end up together ’til death they do part. This bit has been done to death in Hollywood’s 100+ year run, but it can be freshened and redeemed if the scriptwriter is up to the job.”


FourStars
FourStars

From 1932, it’s the second of six films Jean Harlow made with Clark Gable: Red Dust. (21 years later, it would be remade as Mogambo, the setting moved to Africa, with Ava Gardner in the Jean Harlow role and Grace Kelly in the Mary Astor Role. It stank. Red Dust is superior, like most Hollywood remakes, to its later imitator. The six films Gable and Harlow did together were: The Secret Six (1931); Red Dust (1932); Hold your Man (1933); China Seas (1935); Wife vs. Secretary (1936); and Saratoga (1937). Harlow died during filming of Saratoga.)


The « synopsis » according to The Movie Database (TMDb) runs thusly:

“Dennis, owner of a rubber plantation in Cochinchina, is involved with Vantine, who left Saigon to evade the police; but when his new surveyor, Gary, arrives along with his refined but sensual wife, Barbara, Dennis gets infatuated by her.”

TMDb

IMDb has a « a shorter and poorer way of putting it »:

“The owner of a rubber plantation becomes involved with the new wife of one of his employees.”

IMDb

Way to drain flavor completely out of a synopsis, Amazonians!

Red Dust is pretty much everything that cancel culture despises today. There’s racism, sexism, slavery, the patriarchy time 100, misogyny, misanthropy, animal abuse, cuckolding, adultery, (and behind the scenes, homophobia and violence) and probably a few other things I can’t even identify off the top of my head right now. But even if cancel culture would like to burn this film, it’s rather juvenile to think adults can’t look, read or watch something from earlier periods of our history and gain some understanding of a time in the nation’s life and adopt what we’ve just seen as our own outlook. In other words, watching Red Dust won’t make you go out and slap blond women on the butt or enslave coolies in Vietnam or any of the other multitudinous sins.

We have been wondering if a boycott TCM movement will start; pretty much everything they show is a reminder of the really evil or tawdry foundations of this country. And pretty much everything they show is also a pointer to a better future, even if that future is on hold right now while Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson, Orban, Netanyahu, Erdogan and various ayatollahs hold power.

But all that is a digression. The film itself should be considered in context. It has it’s funny moments in the banter of Gable and Harlow, but it is a drama with a twist ending. It’s the tale of what happens when a rubber plantation owner hires a surveyor, Gene Raymond, who brings along his pretty wife, Mary Astor. While Raymond writhes on the bed with malaria, Gable and Astor spark up some flames. And in the middle of all this lands, Harlow, a brassy blond hiding out in the jungle after some unspecified misunderstandings with the gendarmerie in Saigon (pronounced, inexplicably, as “Say-gone”). There’s some business with a local tiger, some difficulties with not being able to trust the local coolies, a caricature of a cook, Willie Fung who does the grinning, giggly “so solly” bit, and inadequate bathing facilities.

The attraction here isn’t really the cultural relic/curiousity value, it’s the variation of the old man meets woman, they hate each other, they clash with sparkling dialogue and then end up together ’til death they do part. This bit has been done to death in Hollywood’s 100+ year run, but it can be freshened and redeemed if the scriptwriter is up to the job. In this case, the writer wasn’t really up to the job with the majority of the script, but for some reason, excelled with the dialogue as long as it was between Harlow and Gable. And that’s where it shines.

Of course, anything Harlow did shined, especially Dinner at Eight. Gable gets first billing here, and the movie is supposedly about him, but it’s Harlow who does the best job. The proof is in the difference between the Harlow/Gable exchanges and those of Astor/Gable. Harlow wins hands down every time she’s onscreen. Gable may have dominated the 1930s cinema with his star power, culminating in 1939’s bullshit “Lost Cause” revisionist rebel/traitor masterpiece, Gone With the Wind, but Harlow was superior in every way, at least when she was given half a chance.

Sadly, Harlow was suffering from nephritis and died of uremic poisoning during the filming of her last Gable vehicle, 1937’s Saratoga. Remarkably, she was just 26 when she died, having such an amazing career in such a short time that it’s mind-boggling to think of what she might have done with a longer life. This would be repeated in the case of Judy Holliday in the 1950s, who was an awesome actress whose life ended too soon. It would have been incredible for Harlow and Holliday to have done a film together at least once. Ah, what might have been (at least if they had been given a great script and director).

We at least have Harlow and Holliday on film fairly easy to access. Red Dust is on TCM as well as DVD.

What did reviewers have to say about Red Dust?

And that behind the scenes homophobia violence? Well, that’s the Gene Raymond story, who married Jeanette McDonald (of “Nelson Eddy and” fame), but had a rather interesting life. Producer/Director George Sidney once called Raymond “the most gorgeous thing the world has ever seen.” Seems a bit far fetched for me, but he was pretty. And therein lay the problem. We’ll let Wikipedia take over:

“Biographer Sharon Rich reported in her Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald biography, Sweethearts, that Raymond and MacDonald had a rocky marriage, with Raymond physically and emotionally abusing MacDonald, and having affairs with men. This began on their honeymoon [in 1937] when MacDonald discovered Raymond in bed with Buddy Rogers.”

Wikipedia

I’m sure that would have been pretty frickin’ hot, the most gorgeous thing in the world in bed with the equally hot Buddy Rogers. But go on:

“Rich reported that Raymond had been arrested three times, the first in January 1938, as verified by a court document, and also in England during his army service, for his behavior. Raymond’s wedding to MacDonald, orchestrated by Louis B. Mayer forced MacDonald to become Raymond’s beard and the 1938 arrest resulted in Mayer blacklisting him in Hollywood for almost two years.”

Ibid

It gets better:

“Biographer E. J. Fleming also alleged that Eddy had confronted Raymond for abusing MacDonald, who was visibly pregnant with Eddy’s child while filming Sweethearts which ended with Eddy attacking him and leaving him for dead, disguised in the press as Raymond recovering from falling down the stairs.”

Ibid

Both Rogers and Raymond, like most queers of their day, went on to other marriages with women and spent their remaining years deeply in the closet. It needs to be pointed out that:

“Raymond publicly refuted the allegations of abuse, neglect and details of his marriage to MacDonald, which were published during his lifetime.”

Ibid

That quote construction seems to leave out things like affairs with men and romping in bed with Buddy Rogers, but who knows.

Critics at the time were fairly kind and the movie made a $400,000 profit (around $6.8 million in today’s dollars). The New York Times left a review up to a writer only identified by his initials, M.H., who basically recounted the plot and, while they liked Harlow, were a little snide about Harlow’s admirers in the audience at the screening at the Capitol:

“Life on a rubber plantation in French Indo-China receives attention in “Red Dust,” a pictorial adaptation of a play by Wilson Collison which is now at the Capitol. It is a far from pleasant spot, with its heat and sudden deluges of rain, its blinding sand storms and jungle beasts. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of this tale is more interesting than its story, especially the glimpses of the men at work.
“Dennis Carson, played by Clark Gable, who is in charge of the plantation, avers that so long as people in other countries want balloon tires and hot-water bottles such toil must go on. The natives are indolent, which causes Carson to use the lash on them, but no sooner have they settled down to labor than they are forced often to seek shelter from a sand storm.
To this uninviting area comes the immodest Vantine, a woman from Saigon. She at least makes existence more lively for Carson, who who is not precisely hospitable to her. There is trouble on all sides for Carson.

[There is a recounting of the Gable/Astor entanglement and Harlow’s involvement.]

“… Barbara and her husband eventually leave the plantation and Vantine takes up her abode in Carson’s comfortless shack.
“The dialogue is not especially bright or strong, but some of the lines spoken by Vantine, who is impersonated by Jean Harlow, aroused laughter from the audience. Miss Harlow’s presence in the picture apparently attracted a host of other platinum blondes, for on all sides there were in the seats girls with straw-colored hair. Miss Harlow’s performance suits the part. Mr. Gable is efficient in his rôle. Miss Astor offers a striking contrast to Miss Harlow. Tully Marshall makes the most of a minor rôle, as does Gene Raymond, who appears as Willis.”

M.H., The New York Times

I’d agree about most of the dialogue (see choice quotes below for yourself). But it’s a pretty spot-on review from the original screening.

Anyway, regardless of its content and the soap operas behind it, Red Dust is a worthwhile, entertaining history lesson and should be taken as a positive sign of just how we’ve come in almost 90 years. Or, you know, you could ignore such Pollyanna-ish constructs and, I don’t know, burn it.


Red Dust Lobby Card
Red Dust: Clark Gable and Mary Astor

Red Dust: Willie Fung, Gene Raymond, Jean Harlow

Best quotes:

Dennis Carson: Why’d you get off the boat at all? You know it doesn’t stop here again for four week, don’t you?
Vantine: Sure I do. Think I’m overjoyed about it? But, its just got to be, that’s all.
Dennis Carson: Well, then?
Vantine: I left the boat here for the same reason I took it at Saigon.
Dennis Carson: What reason?
Vantine: I got mixed up in a little trouble and I thought I’d stay out of town ’til the Gendarmes forgot about it.
Dennis Carson: And what a cast iron nerve you’ve got.
Vantine: You have to have in my line. But, don’t worry, big boy, I’ll stay out from under foot. I’ll even pay for my board if you insist on it nicely.

Red Dust

Dennis Carson: Come on, lets have it. Who are you? Where’d you come from?
Vantine: Don’t rush me, brother. I’m Pollyanna, the Glad Girl.

Ibid

Dennis Carson: Here you are kid.
[stuffs some bills in Vantine’s cleavage]
Dennis Carson: It isn’t half enough, but, when I get down to Saigon, there’ll be more. Keep your chin up.
[pats Vantine twice on her behind]

Ibid
[The bath scene]
Dennis Carson: [naked, Vantine jumps in a rain barrel] Get out of there! Say what’s the idea?
Vantine: What?
Dennis Carson: Getting in that barrel?
Vantine: Oh, I don’t know? Maybe I’m goin’ over Niagara Falls. Whoop!

Vantine: What’s the matter? Afraid I’ll – shock the duchess? Don’t you suppose she’s ever seen a French postcard?
Dennis Carson: You’ll let those curtains down if its the last bath you’ll ever take!

Vantine: Hey, where’s the reception committee? It’s been a nice little walk. Did you hear that hungry pussy cat back there?
Dennis Carson: Now, listen. This woman’s decent. You watch your language and stop running around here half naked.
Vantine: I’ll stay as comfortable as I like.

Red Dust

Vantine: [sarcastically] What a pleasant little house party this is gonna be.

Ibid

Vantine: [sarcastically] I thought we might run up a few curtains and make a batch of fudge while we were planning on what to wear to the country club dance Saturday night.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: That’s a… a very polished little speech for a… barbarian.

Ibid

Vantine: Don’t mind me boys, I’m just restless.

Ibid

Gary Willis: [eating dinner] Those coolies are tough to handle, aren’t they?
Dennis Carson: Didn’t I tell you they were a lazy bunch?
Gary Willis: Well, I mean, I didn’t know they were so sneaky about it. The minute you turn your back on ’em, they’re up to something or other they shouldn’t be doing.
[Dennis and Barbara look at each other]
Gary Willis: Are they always like that?
Dennis Carson: I’m afraid so.
McQuarg: I was telling him about that time that Malay tried to knife you in the back.
Vantine: Its a great country for that sort of thing.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: I won’t stand for this! Do you think you can treat Gary like – like one of your coolies?

Ibid

Barbara Willis: We shouldn’t have done that.
Dennis Carson: We did.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: Do you mind if I stay here with you?
Vantine: Think you can stand the company?

Ibid

Barbara Willis: It’s stupid of me to be so frightened.
Vantine: This storm isn’t the only thing that has you worried around here, is it? I saw him kick the door shut. He came out with rouge all over his mouth. I suppose he asked to use your lipstick?
[lights a cigarette]

Ibid

Barbara Willis: Oh, it’s too silly. What do I mean I’m scared? It was just one of those exciting little moment things.
Vantine: Well, watch out for the next moment, honey. It’s longer than the first.

Ibid

Barbara Willis: I don’t know how it happened. I didn’t do anything. He didn’t have any reason to believe that I’d…
Vantine: I didn’t hear any cries for help.
Barbara Willis: Oh, I don’t know what came over me. I should have stopped him. I tried, but…
Vantine: But you couldn’t. Even when you tried, could you?
Barbara Willis: No. That’s why I’m scared.

Ibid

Dennis Carson: All those lame cracks won’t help you any if I come back and find you’ve been annoying her.
Vantine: Oh, I wouldn’t touch her with your best pair of rubber gloves!

Ibid

Dennis Carson: What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy?
Vantine: Just a little nauseated. This rain seems to have uncovered a pile of garbage around here.
Dennis Carson: Stop looking through key holes. It’s bad for the eyes.

Ibid

FourStars
Four Stars!

Red Dust. 1932. TCM. English. Victor Fleming (d). John Lee Mahin, Wilson Collison, Donald Ogden Stewart (w). Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Mary Astor, Gene Raymond, Donald Crisp, Tully Marshall, Forrester Harvey, Willie Fung. (p). Harold Rosson, Arthur Edeson (c).


Movie Night: Born Yesterday

“Born Yesterday is pretty fabulous. At least until it sinks in that it’s just as applicable today (especially today!) as it was in 1950. In that year, it could have been warning against the House Un-American Activities Committee, which ultimately wrecked lives, but failed. But today, the movie is depressing when you realize that Broderick Crawford’s Harry Brock is in charge of the country, the Senate and the judiciary and is sitting in the White House tweeting.”


Four.5.Stars
Four 1/2 Stars!

From 1950, it’s the wonderful Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden gem, Born Yesterday. (No, not that 1993 crapfest of the same name … how dare they try to “improve” on Judy and Broderick with —gasp— Melanie Griffith, John Goodman, and Don Johnson!)

The « synopsis » of the original, best Born Yesterday, is, per The Movie Database (TMDb):

“Uncouth, loud-mouth junkyard tycoon Harry Brock descends upon Washington D.C. to buy himself a congressman or two, bringing with him his mistress, ex-showgirl Billie Dawn.”

TMDb

IMDb has a « a shorter and poorer way of putting it »:

“A tycoon hires a tutor to teach his lover proper etiquette, with unexpected results.”

IMDb

Born Yesterday is pretty fabulous and much, much more that those paltry synopses reveal. Or it is at least until it sinks in to today’s audience that it’s just as fresh and applicable today (especially today!) as it was in 1950. In that year, the movie warned against the unAmerican activiteis of the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, which ultimately wrecked many lives, but failed, while today it pointedly shows that Broderick Crawford’s Harry Brock is in charge of the country, the Senate, and the judiciary and is sitting in the White House rage-tweeting.

In fact, the current ugly age of our country is the alternate ending to Born Yesterday with Judy Holliday silenced, threatened with death and manblamed and William Holden dead or emasculated while Harry Brock gleefully and dementedly flies around destroying the country.

Just as an aside: How much influence did the flying circus that was HUAC have over the 50s? Here’s some tidbits from the era, because what was going on with HUAC deserves some attention:

“TEACHER FIRED
“San Mateo, Nov. 17—Thomas D. Hardwick, Burlingame high school journalism teacher, has been fired from his job for refusing to sign the state’s new loyalty oath.”

San Mateo Times, Nov. 17, 1950

And still this stuff was going on 7 years later. This time, the human toll of stamping out ghostly “un-American activities” is more fully highlighted, especially the ordeal of teacher Hardwick, who had to become a factory worker to survive:

“SAN FRANCISCO UPI – Cameras continued to focus today on the House un-American activities committee hearing despite House Speaker Sam Rayburn’s flat announcement in Washington there would be no more television broadcasts. Chairman Francis Walter (D.-Penn.) of the subcommittee shrugged his shoulders and threw up his hands when asked about Rayburn’s announcement. And the TV cameras continued to grind away.

San Mateo Times

“SAN FRANCISCO UPI – Congressmen turned from teachers to other professions today in an un-American activities inquiry already marked by the suicide of a subpoenaed Stanford Scientist and suspension of a radio broadcaster from his job for refusing to testify. A Richmond factory worker who taught in Burlingame High school seven years ago was a reluctant witness yesterday before the House sub-committee on Un-American activities.
“But he had a quick reply when asked about the testimony of another witness that he had been a Communist. Thomas Hardwick, 49, declined to answer when asked if he was aware from 1946 up to the present day of a secret Communist group in San Francisco and elsewhere known as the “Professional Cell.” Hardwick said he believed the question was “in an area where Congress is forbidden to legislate” under the First (free press and speech) and the Fifth (self-incrimination) amendments.
“Hardwick was dismissed m 1950 from the Burlingame High school faculty for refusing to sign a loyalty oath.
“Yesterday’s reluctant witnesses included a San Francisco radio broadcaster, Louis Hartman, 42, also known as Jim Grady, and a television and radio engineer. Hartman, a free lance man on radio station KCBS, refused to answer when asked whether there was a Communist Party professional cell active at Berkeley.

San Mateo Times | Thursday, June 20, 1957

But I digress (but only a little bit): New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther « loved Judy Holliday and the movie, and used Broderick Crawford’s performance to sound a warning that is incredibly prescient about our current political predicament »:

“Just in time to make itself evident as one of the best pictures of this fading year is Columbia’s trenchant screen version of the stage play, “Born Yesterday.” More firm in its social implications than ever it was on the stage and blessed with a priceless performance by rocketing Judy Holliday, this beautifully integrated compound of character study and farce made a resounding entry at the Victoria yesterday.

“On the strength of this one appearance, there is no doubt that Miss Holliday will leap into popularity as a leading American movie star—a spot to which she was predestined by her previous minor triumph in “Adam’s Rib” as the tender young lady from Brooklyn who shot her husband (and stole the show). For there isn’t the slightest question that Miss Holiday brings to the screen a talent for characterization that is as sweetly refreshing as it is rare.

“Playing the wondrous ignoramus that she created on the stage—the lady to whom her crude companion rather lightly refers as a “dumb broad” this marvelously clever young actress so richly conveys the attitudes and the vocal intonations of a native of the sidewalks of New York that it is art. More than that, she illuminates so brightly the elemental wit and honesty of her blankly unlettered young lady that she puts pathos and respect into the role.

“But it must be said in the next breath that Miss Holliday doesn’t steal this show—at least, not without a major tussle—for there is a lot of show here to steal. Not only has the original stage play of Garson Kanin been preserved by Screenwriter Albert Mannheimer in all of its flavorsome detail—and that, we might add, is a triumph of candor and real adapting skill—but George Cukor has directed with regard for both the humor and the moral. And Broderick Crawford has contributed a performance as the merchant of junk who would build himself up as a tycoon that fairly makes the hair stand on end.

“Where this role was given some humor and even sympathy on the stage, in the memorable performance of Paul Douglas, Mr. Crawford endows it with such sting—such evident evil, corruption, cruelty and arrogance—that there is nothing amusing or appealing about this willful, brutish man. He is, indeed, a formidable symbol of the menace of acquisitive power and greed against which democratic peoples must always be alert. And that’s why his thorough comeuppance, contrived by his newly enlightened “broad” amid the monuments of serene and beautiful Washington, is so winning and wonderful. In short, a more serious connotation has been given the role on the screen and Mr. Crawford plays it in a brilliantly cold and forceful style.”

The New York Times

“He is, indeed, a formidable symbol of the menace of acquisitive power and greed against which democratic peoples must always be alert.” A perfect description of Born Yesterday‘s villain … and Donald Trump both.

At any rate, I highly recommend this one. I took off half a star for the flag-waving, O Beautiful, misty-eyed crap here and there; but it actually doesn’t detract much, it just points out how much we’ve lost.

The Associated Press review « isn’t much of a review, but notes the movie’s success »::

“Born Yesterday,” another Academy entry, was previewed before the usual starstudded audience this week. It is a faithful adaptation of the Garson Kanin play about the junk dealer’s babe who gets educated by a newspaperman. The story should be familiar to a large segment of the public by now and it is enhanced by some scenes of Washington landmarks. The show comes off as one of the best comedies in recent seasons. This is largely due to a sparkling portrayal of Judy Holliday as the dumb blonde. She is wonderfully funny. Only drawback is that her lines are sometimes inaudible. Broderick Crawford plays the junk man with full voice all the way and William Holden is a quietly competent view of the newspaperman.”

Bob Thomas, the Associated Press

Born Yesterday Lobby Card
Another Lobby Card

Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford and William Holden … stickin’ it to the Man.

Best quotes:

Paul: A world full of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in.

Born Yesterday

Billie Dawn: He always used to say, “Never do nothing you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of The New York Times.”

Ibid

Harry Brock: What’s a peninsula?
Billie Dawn: Shhhh.
Harry Brock: Don’t gimme that “shush.” You think you’re so smart, huh – what’s a peninsula?
Paul Verrall: It’s a…
Harry Brock: Not you, her.
Billie Dawn: It’s that new medicine…

Ibid

Billie: Because when ya steal from the government, you’re stealing from yourself, ya dumb ox.

Ibid

Congressman Norval Hedges: I said to Sam only last week this country will soon to have to decide if the people are going to run the government, or the government is going to run the people.

Ibid

Harry Brock: WHAT’S GOIN’ ON AROUND HERE?
Jim Devery: A revolution.

Ibid

Harry Brock: How d’ya like that! He could’ve had a hundred grand. She could’ve had me. Both wind up with nothin’… Dumb chump!… Crazy broad!
Jim Devery: [raises a glass as a toast] To all the dumb chumps and all the crazy broads, past, present, and future, who thirst for knowledge and search for truth… who fight for justice and civilize each other… and make it so tough for crooks like you…
[Harry stares at him angrily]
Jim Devery: …and me.

Ibid

Harry Brock: Shut up! You ain’t gonna be tellin’ nobody nothin’ pretty soon!
Billie Dawn: DOUBLE NEGATIVE! Right?
Paul Verrall: Right.

Ibid

Billie: Would you do me a favor, Harry?
Harry Brock: What?
Billie: Drop dead!

Ibid

Four.5.Stars
Four 1/2 Stars!

Born Yesterday. 1950. TCM. English. George Cukor (d). Garson Kanin, Albert Mannheimer (w). Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden, Howard St. John, Frank Otto, Larry Oliver, Barbara Brown, Grandon Rhodes, Claire Carleton. (p). Friedrich Hollaender (m). Joseph Walker (c).


Donelson Renovates

Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it.

I don’t write much about Donelson, our little slice of Music City. But here’s a couple of recent exceptions, one sort of optimistic and nice, the other more caustic and negative.


For a bedroom community which has never really had much of an identity, Donelson is currently attempting to remake itself with at least a bit of one.

The Donelson station developments aim to create the 21st century version of the old downtown, which didn’t ever exist here. This new downtown will still be basically a strip mall of businesses, just with a spiffy, fresh new design.

Donelson is like most of the houses in its borders: Buildings from the 1950s whose owners are dying out, so the children and grandchildren are taking over and either selling them or freshening them up. Hopefully, it will result in a more pleasant place to live and breathe in, although there will always be two negatives: Lebanon Pike and its sprawling ugliness and the overhead landing pattern which puts planes low and loud over us as they swing into runways 20 Left and Right.

No one will probably ever be talking or protesting or doing anything about the overhead noise, but at least some folks are doing something about ugliness. We hope there are more positives to come, especially along Lebanon. Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it. Beefing up the Music City Star would help immensely, but that’s also problematic at best.Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it.No one will probably ever be talking or protesting or doing anything about the overhead noise, but at least some folks are doing something about ugliness. We hope there are more positives to come, especially along Lebanon. Not much can be done about the traffic volume as long as Metro and the State are devoid of ideas or even the hint of wanting to think about possible solutions. Nashville is drowning in traffic, but no one has the will or money to do anything about it. Beefing up the Music City Star would help immensely, but that’s also problematic at best.

For the foreseeable future, then, we’ll take some cosmetic change and hope the community’s groups and businesses continue to try to improve the community’s image, at least. Whatever happens will surely be an improvement.


On the other hand, a different hot take: Development around the Donelson Music City Star train station is proceeding apace; two projects are underway to transform the seen-better-days corner of Lebanon and Donelson pikes. The first is Donelson Plaza, to the north of the station; the 1961 building is getting a complete face lift, with the eastern half is being completely rebuilt from scratch to serve as the new Donelson Branch of the Nashville Public Library.

The Plaza will feature the library as well as shops, restaurants and apartments, with the idea being that you can live at the Plaza and walk/bike to the buses/trains at the station and never need a car. No word on whether WeGo will be able to boost bus and train service to the center, or if we’ll see the more probable nightmare scenario of being constantly in ever greater amounts of traffic.

(Side note: Frequently, drivers exiting the station in the evenings are desperate to avoid Lebanon Pike and its intersection with Donelson Pike. So, they use a short, rather asininely-designed (is that a word?) road that heads east out of the parking lot behind Fifty Forward, ending on Donelson and completely avoiding two stoplights and lengthy waits. Only problem: That connector is supposed to be one-way, westbound only. Never mind it’s wide enough for two cars and that someone is just being, well, asinine over it, a police car was sitting there are on the evening commute on a Friday night, just determined to up the asshole quotient and send commuters to add to the chaos and traffic on Lebanon which is stacked up all the way back to downtown. Brilliant, no?

Many cities would just make it a one-way west into the parking lot in the morning, and one-way east out of the parking lot in the evening, but that would be too simple and oh-fend someone. No word on how much a ticket for such common sensical motor vehicle “violations” will set you back, but it’s probably attractive for the city.)

But back to the main event: The 1961 Donelson Plaza was purchased by Holladay Partners, which is developing the 12 acres as a new urban town center—the downtown Donelson never had, and which has been completely abandoned by towns and cities around the country, but we digress. They hope the redo will result in green space, restaurants, retail shops and apartments. Also not mentioned: How much per month will a one-bedroom unit set you back and what will happen to the center’s funky and clunky thrift stores, the bartending school, the bowling alley, etc.? Well, a partner in the developer’s office is on record thusly: “We do have existing tenants leasing and, of course, we will honor these. As people move out and it gets turned over, this will determine our next phase.”

In other words, we’ll let ‘em stay, but we’ll kick ‘em out and jack up the rents and put something high dollar in there as soon as possible so the “wrong” kind of Hippy Donelsonite won’t be shopping there. We must wonder if the plaza will feature the “architectural asshole” designs popping up everywhere: “public” seating that is intentionally so uncomfortable or designed in such a way as to prevent what the British call “rough sleepers,” and we call “homeless,” among other things. Ah well, time will tell.

The developer itself will anchor 14,000 square feet of office space on two levels. What is being displaced for that is another aspect which goes unmentioned.

Meanwhile, diagonally across the intersection and across the tracks menacing the bowling alley is a hulking mass of apartment buildings going up to four stories and packed into a tiny space along the tracks. One wonders how much a one-bedroom in that complex will cost and whether there is any additional sound proofing and plaster and ceiling protection for all the Music City Star trains which rumble through blasting their horns for the Donelson Pike crossing from as early as 7:15 a.m.

No matter, there will be some green space and a pool and you can walk to the train station (if you can summon the courage to cross both Donelson Pike and the railroad tracks. We’ve watched on more than one occasion as some idiot’s sense of self-importance prompted him to weave between the crossing arms with the train’s arrival imminent, speeding on his merry way. If walkers and bikers are now to be added to the mix, well, could get interesting.

The one exit onto Donelson is sure to be a joy as things are brought to a halt by southbound apartment dwellers trying to turn left into the driveway cause backups at 5 p.m. across the tracks and back up to Lebanon. Personally, I wouldn’t risk life and limb to live there, stacked four high in boxes with balconies that feature the fantastic combined noise of KBNA 20L airliner arrivals overhead, Music City Star trains blowing whistles below, and the screaming tires and honking of motorists trapped on the tracks while my neighbors try to make it into their new boxes. It’s not an attractive prospect for me, but what do I know? I’m sure it will all be just fine and dandy when these projects get built out just in time for the next big recessional flop in 2020.

Progress is great and all. But progress via developer is often thoughtless and crude. As far as we can tell, developers won’t be paying for better traffic control near either project and nothing will change in anticipation of the much greater numbers of cars along an already over-stretched section of Lebanon and Donelson pikes. Perhaps all will be well. We’re not going to hold our breath here.

The Indictment

“Senate Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the republic itself. I’m not naive enough to think they would hold Democratic presidents to the low standard they’ve applied to Trump, but all future presidents will be able to point to Trump to justify …”

Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) is an attorney and the former director (9-Jan-13 to 19-Jul-17) of the U.S. Office Government Ethics, which exists to “Provid[e] leadership in the executive branch to prevent conflicts of interest.” That’s a mission which, since January 2017, is going completely unfulfilled and, in fact, is being subverted beyond all belief.

After leaving the USOGE in the summer of 2017, Shaub “joined the Washington D.C.-based election law organization the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) as Senior Director, Ethics. At CLC he has focused on protecting what he calls the erosion of democratic norms that the country has witnessed in his time,” according to Wikipedia. The last six months of his tenure at USOGE were also the first six months of the Godfather’s tenure and therefore was when he witnessed the complete takeover of the democracy and its renovation into a kleptocracy headed by a old, narcissistic, lunatic, mob boss. So he’s seen some things and knows whereof he speaks.

Shaub wrote today a concise listing of the multiple points of illegality, theft, unConstitutionality, incompetence, petulance, and general assholery committed by this mobster and his cronies, supported fully and without reservation by the God and Guns evangelical crowd, of which I’m proud to say I’m an EX member, who was in that cultish atmosphere from birth, not by choice and left as soon as I gracefully could. But I digress.

Here’s « Shaub’s full indictment » and it includes the Republican party, especially those in the Senate:

“Senate Republicans are setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the republic itself. I’m not naive enough to think they would hold Democratic presidents to the low standard they’ve applied to Trump, but all future presidents will be able to point to Trump to justify:

“a. Soliciting foreign attacks on our elections;
b. Using federal appropriations or other resources to pressure foreign governments to help them win reelection;
c. Implementing an across-the-board refusal to comply with any congressional oversight at all;
d. Firing the heads of the government’s top law enforcement agencies for allowing investigations of the president;
e. Retaliating against whistleblowers and witnesses who testify before Congress;
f. Investigating investigators who investigate the president;
g. Attempting to retaliate against American companies perceived as insufficiently supportive of the president;
h. Attempting to award the president’s own company federal contracts;
i. Using personal devices, servers or applications for official communications;
j. Communicating secretly with foreign leaders, with foreign governments knowing things about White House communications that our own government doesn’t know;
k. Abandoning steadfast allies abruptly without prior warning to Congress to cede territory to Russian influence;
l. Destroying or concealing records containing politically damaging information;
m. Employing white nationalists and expressing empathy for white nationalists after an armed rally in which one of them murdered a counter protester and another shot a gun into a crowd;
n. Disseminating Russian disinformation;
o. Covering for the murder of a journalist working for an American news outlet by a foreign government that is a major customer of the president’s private business;
p. Violating human rights and international law at our border;
q. Operating a supposed charity that was forced to shut down over its unlawful activities;
r. Lying incessantly to the American people;
s. Relentlessly attacking the free press;
t. Spending 1/4 of days in office visiting his own golf courses and 1/3 of them visiting his private businesses;
u. Violating the Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution;
w. Misusing the security clearance process to benefit his children and target perceived enemies;
x. Drawing down on government efforts to combat domestic terrorism in order to appease a segment of his base;
y. Refusing to aggressively investigate and build defenses against interference in our election by Russia, after the country helped him win an election;
z. Engaging in a documented campaign of obstruction of a Special Counsel’s investigation.
aa. Lying about a hush money payoff and omitting his debt to his attorney for that payoff from his financial disclosure report (which is a crime if done knowingly and willfully);
bb. Coordinating with his attorney in connection with activities that got the attorney convicted of criminal campaign finance violations;
cc. Interfering in career personnel actions, which are required by law to be conducted free of political influence;
dd. Refusing to fire a repeat Hatch Act offender after receiving a recommendation of termination from the president’s own Senate-confirmed appointee based on dozens of violations;
ee. Calling members of Congress names and accusing them of treason for conducting oversight;
ff. Attacking states and private citizens frequently and in terms that demean the presidency (see Johnson impeachment);
gg. Using the presidency to tout his private businesses and effectively encouraging a party, candidates, businesses and others to patronize his business;
hh. Causing the federal government to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at his businesses and costing the American taxpayers well over $100 million on boondoggle trips to visit his properties;
ii. Hosting foreign leaders at his private businesses;
jj. Calling on the Justice Department to investigate political rivals;
kk. Using the presidency to endorse private businesses and the books of various authors as a reward for supporting the president;
ll. Engaging in nepotism based on a flawed OLC opinion;
mm. Possible misuse of appropriated funds by reallocating them in ways that may be illegal;
nn. Repeatedly criticizing American allies, supporting authoritarian leaders around the world, and undermining NATO; and
oo. etc.
“None of the Republican Senators defending Trump could say with a straight face that they would tolerate a Democratic president doing the same thing. But, given this dangerous precedent, they may have no choice if they ever lose control of the Senate. Is that what they want?
“And this is only what Trump did while the remote threat of Congressional oversight existed. If the Senate acquits him, he will know for certain there is nothing that could ever lead to Congress removing him from office. And what he does next will similarly set precedents.
At this point, I would remind these unpatriotic Senators of the line “you have a republic if you can keep it,” but a variation on this line may soon be more apt when Trump redoubles his attack on our election: You have a republic, if you can call this a republic.”

Walter Shaub via Twitter

We cannot indeed call this a republic; it is a shambolic kleptocratic theocracy. And our last one, remote chance of restoration will come next November. If we’re not out there with the numbers just posted today in Hong Kong’s election (72% or so), then our democratic republic will fall and, given what is likely to be a similarly shambolic kleptocracy in Great Britain, democracy, decency and the rule of law will be largely at an end on the planet, ending the final, very slim chance we have of mitigating accelerating climate catastrophe.

A “cancer on the presidency” has metastasized “hugely.”

« Read the rest of his tweets ». Fascinating.

Movie Night: The Big Clock

“Regardless of whether you saw it then as scandalous that such perversions were being exhibited in public theaters or whether you see it now as being stereotypical, offensive and overly focused on white, male, straight actors and queer panics and Italian stereotypes, to wit … offensive!! … there is much to actually be loved here.”


Five Stars
Five Stars!

From 1948: That fabulous film noir, The Big Clock with Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester and Harry Morgan.

The « synopsis »:

“Stroud, a crime magazine’s crusading editor, has to postpone a vacation with his wife (again) when a glamorous blonde is murdered and he is assigned by his publishing boss Janoth to find the killer. As the investigation proceeds to its conclusion, Stroud must try to disrupt his ordinarily brilliant investigative team as they increasingly build evidence (albeit wrong) that he is the killer.”

TMDb

IMDb, (which is, as I always say, one of the many tentacles of the suffocating Amazonia totalitarian state in which we live), has «a slightly different way of putting it»:

“When powerful publishing tycoon Earl Janoth commits an act of murder at the height of passion, he cleverly begins to cover his tracks and frame an innocent man whose identity he doesn’t know but who just happens to have contact with the murder victim. That man is a close associate on his magazine whom he enlists to trap this ‘killer’ — George Stroud. It’s up to George to continue to ‘help’ Janoth, to elude the police and to find proof of his innocence and Janoth’s guilt.”

IMDb

The New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther was « impressed and urged people to see it and pay close attention »:

“… For this is a dandy clue-chaser of the modern chromium-plated type, but it is also an entertainment which requires close attention from the start.

“Actually, in the manner of the best detective fiction these days, it isn’t a stiff and stark whodunit activated around some stalking cop. Nary a wise-guy policeman clutters up the death-room or the clues. As a matter of fact, the policemen are not called in until the end. And the fellow who does the murder is known by the audience all along.

“He’s a dynamic publishing magnate, ruler of a realm of magazines and a double-dyed rogue who runs his business on the split-tick of a huge electric clock. In a mad, jealous moment, he kills his sweetie, a not very temperate young thing, and then calls upon the cagey editor of his crime magazine to find the man. Two circumstances make this ticklish. The clues have been rigged to make it look as though the murderer were another fellow. And the other fellow is—the editor.

“Out of this cozy situation of a guy trying to square himself, even though he is thoroughly innocent and knows perfectly who the murderer is, Scriptwriter Jonathan Latimer and Director John Farrow have fetched a film which is fast-moving, humorous, atmospheric and cumulative of suspense. No doubt there are holes in the fabric—even a rip or two, perhaps—and the really precision-minded are likely to spot them the first time around. But the plot moves so rapidly over them and provides such absorbing by-play that this not-too-gullible observer can’t precisely put his finger upon one. (That’s why we urge your close attention—just to see if there is anything to catch.)

“As the self-protection clue-collector, Ray Milland does a beautiful job of being a well-tailored smoothie and a desperate hunted man at the same time. Charles Laughton is characteristically odious as the sadistic publisher and George Macready is sleek as his henchman, while Maureen O’Sullivan is sweet as Ray’s nice wife. Exceptional, however, are several people who play small but electric character roles: Elsa Lanchester as a crack-pot painter and Douglas Spencer as a barman, best of all. Miss Lanchester is truly delicious with her mad pace and her wild, eccentric laugh.”

The New York Times

It is, indeed, a wonderful picture and Charles Laughton and his wife Elsa Lanchester are fabulous.


The Big Clock (1948) Lobby Card
The Big Clock (1948) Lobby Card

The Big Clock (1948) Stolen from Burt's Place
The Big Clock (1948) Stolen from Burt’s Place

Best quotes:

Earl Janoth: [talking on intercom to Steve Hagen] “On the fourth floor – in the broom closet – a bulb has been burning for several days. Find the man responsible, dock his pay.”

The Big Clock

Louise Patterson: [after George Stroud outbids her for a picture] “Isn’t it a pity… the wrong people always have money.”

Don Klausmeyer: “I’m Don Klausmeyer, from Artways magazine.”
Louise Patterson: “Yes. [giggles] Oh, yes. Didn’t you review my show in ’41?”
Don Klausmeyer: “I think I did.”
Louise Patterson: “Oh, come in, Mr. Klausmann.”
Don Klausmeyer: “KlausMEYER.”
Louise Patterson: [laughs gleefully] “I’ve been planning to kill you for years.”
Don Klausmeyer: “Our organization, the Janoth Publications, is trying to find someone, possibly a collector of your pictures.”
Louise Patterson: “So have I for fifteen years.”

IBID

Pauline York: “You know, Earl has a passion for obscurity. He won’t even have his biography in ‘Who’s Who’.”
George Stroud: “Sure. He doesn’t want to let his left hand know whose pocket the right one is picking.”

IBID

George Stroud: “You’re the only blonde in my life.”
Georgette Stroud: “I’m a brunette.”
George Stroud: “And you’re the only brunette too.”

IBID

Five.Stars
Five Stars!

The Big Clock. 1948. TCM. English. John Farrow (d). Kenneth Fearing, Jonathan Latimer, Harold Goldman (w). Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Sullivan, George Macready, Rita Johnson, Elsa Lanchester, Harold Vermilyea, Dan Tobin, Harry Morgan, Richard Webb, Elaine Riley, Frank Orth, Lloyd Corrigan, Theresa Harris. (p). Victor Young (m). Daniel L. Fapp, John F. Seitz (c).


Movie Night: The Yellow Rolls Royce

“… this is probably the granddaddy of all product placement movies, far more egregious than even Joan Crawford’s conspicuous scattering of Pepsi bottles in Strait Jacket …”


FourStars
Four Stars!

From 1964: A somewhat strange concoction, The Yellow Rolls Royce is a star-studded anthology, a look at the life of, well, a yellow Rolls Royce Phantom during the 1930s and 40s.

The synopsis:

“One Rolls-Royce belongs to three vastly different owners, starting with Lord Charles, who buys the car for his wife as an anniversary present. Another owner is Paolo Maltese, a mafioso who purchases the car during a trip to Italy and leaves it with his girlfriend while he returns to Chicago. Later, the car is owned by American widow Gerda, who joins the Yugoslavian resistance against the invading Nazis.”

TMDb

The New York Times reviewer A.H. Weiler wasn’t terribly kind to this “assembly line job.” He wrote on 14-May-65:

“… ‘The Yellow Rolls-Royce,’ which arrived yesterday at the Music Hall fresh from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s European works, performs, despite its color, opulence and surface polish, largely like an assembly-line job. It is, it should be stressed, a pretty slick vehicle, that is pleasing to the eye and occasionally amusing, but it hardly seems worthy of all the effort and the noted personalities involved in the three glossy but superficial stories that make up this shiny package. One is reminded of the now classic Rolls-Royce advertising slogan, “The loudest noise comes from the clock.”

“‘The Yellow Rolls Royce’ may be a rich, handsome, colorful vehicle. But, aside from its varied passengers, it simply indicates that the Rolls can be pretty rough on romance.”

The New York Times

The most enjoyable part of this vehicle (see what I did there?) is probably the Shirley MacLaine/Alain Delon/George C. Scott/Art Carney story. Scott is a Capone-style 20s gangster, MacLaine is his gun moll, and Delon is her seducer, while Carney gets to drive his boss and the moll around and keep tabs on what Delon is up to while sightseeing in the Rolls. I said enjoyable, but probably meant amused.

TCM accompanied this showing with a short shown in theaters at the time extolling the virtues of the Rolls Royce and its appearance in the forthcoming film. This makes it seem that Rolls Royce had paid millions for a movie-length advertisement, and that’s not far off the mark. There is an attempt to focus on the stories in the anthology, but that yellow car is always in at least the background, ubiquitous.

In other words, this is probably the granddaddy of all product placement movies, far more egregious than even Joan Crawford’s conspicuous scattering of Pepsi bottles in Strait Jacket (see below). The Yellow Rolls Royce is worth watching for the performances of the greats of the Golden Age’s transition into … whatever we call what came once the Golden Age was dead … but the value probably ends there. I gave it four stars simply for those performances by those greats; there’s not much more to it than those, sadly.


The Yellow Rolls Royce Theater Card

Shirley MacLaine and Alain Delon have a problem: George C. Scott.

Best quotes:

Mae Jenkins: [Looking indifferently at the leaning tower of Pisa] “So it leans. So a lot of things lean.”
Paolo Maltese: [Turning to Mae] “You ever heard of Galileo, maybe?”
Mae Jenkins: “Sure I have heard of Galileo.”
Paolo Maltese: [Turning to Joey] “She ever heard of Galileo?”
Joey Friedlander: “Nah …”
Paolo Maltese: “Five-six hundred years ago, this Galileo dropped two stones off that tower, one big one, and one little one.”
Mae Jenkins: “So?”
Paolo Maltese: “So he proved the law of gravity or somethin’. I don’t know.”
Mae Jenkins: “And brained a couple of citizens, maybe. Big deal.”

The Yellow Rolls Royce

Paolo Maltese: “And this is the girl, my fidanzata, that I am bringing home to meet my folks. Of all the women in the whole world that I can choose from to be my wife, who do I choose? An ignorant slob of a hatcheck girl who thinks Pisa – Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, Joey – is a stopping-off place between hamburger joints.”

Ibid

FourStars
Four Stars!

The Yellow Rolls Royce. 1964. TCM. English. Anthony Asquith (d). Terence Rattigan (w). Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, Shirley MacLaine, Jeanne Moreau, George C. Scott, Omar Sharif, Alain Delon, Art Carney, Joyce Grenfell, Edmund Purdom, Wally Cox. (p). Riz Ortolani (m). Jack Hildyard (c).


Movie Night: Sweet Charity

“The songs and dances, Shirley MacLaine and Cita Rivera, et al, were great; it’s just the stuff in between that is less than satisfying.”


Three Stars?

From 1968: It’s quite possibly the most depressing musical ever made, Sweet Charity. I’m not sure what this was supposed to be, but it also seems to be the most depressing play Neil Simon ever wrote. And it’s all a piece with the extremely depressing year in which it was made.

The «synopsis»:

“Taxi dancer Charity continues to have Faith in the human race despite apparently endless disappointments at its hands, and Hope that she will finally meet the nice young man to romance her away from her sleazy life. Maybe, just maybe, handsome Oscar will be the one to do it.”

TMDb

Back in the day, the UK’s «Spectator critic Penelope Houston» touched on all the problems of Sweet Charity, but apparently wasn’t as negative as I am about it:

“It seems a little hard to criticise a musical because of the financial circumstances of its heroine. Sweet Charity, though, is the sort of film which sways in its second half, like Funny Girl, towards the unrequited, grin-and-bear-it ending. What Charity Hope Valentine is grinning and bearing is life as a dance-hall hostess (in the Fellini original, on which the stage musical was based, life as a not very successful prostitute); and since the film is set fairly, squarely and lovingly in New York of the rich ‘sixties, there seems no particular reason why its heroine can’t find a line of work that appeals to her more. This is partly a hazard of the sort of musical which takes over the almost serious subject, and in the end tries to come to terms with it in the almost serious way. Plotlines which did for Italy in the 1950s fray badly when dropped down in the middle of all this expensive decoration, so set on making too much of too little.

“And, of course, the dancehall, that useful old Hollywood haunt for mistily reprehensible goings-on, actually comes across as a rather well-conducted establishment, with heroine’s friends Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly (both excellent) bounding about like a couple of genially astringent school prefects. But if Charity, played by Shirley MacLaine in her sharpest innocent-at-large style, really wants to escape, it’s hard to see what is holding her back.

“One is supposed to find Charity’s plight rather true and touching; and on the whole doesn’t. And it is perhaps tough on Shirley MacLaine that her particular line in rueful, shrewd, precariously hopeful fatalism, though executed as winningly as ever, already suggests a speculation which the film doesn’t care to take up: the heroine of The Apartment almost ten years on, the valiant last of the kooky girls. All the same, the performance bounces, as does the film when it’s looking down the line of morose dance-hall girls (‘Hey, Big Spender’), ambling into Fellini parody in an absurd mock-Roman nightclub, or flinging its dancing girls about a grubby rooftop in a number so nostalgic for older musicals that one is only surprised they don’t burst into ‘New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town.'”

Penelope Houston, The Spectator

“Precariously hopeful fatalism.” That’s a pretty fair, if paradoxical, take on Charity’s life outlook.

The film starts with Charity being dumped (quite literally) by her would-be fiancee and nearly drowning. It proceeds through an obviously doomed night with a celebrity film director, then follows an ultimately, but not so obviously doomed, engagement and ends with a “Keep on the Sunny Side” denouement … “keep your chin up even if it’s been ground into the dirt,” is I guess how I would describe it.

As I said, it’s all surprisingly depressing for a musical, but the late 60s was a depressing decade. The same year as Sweet Charity was released saw the assassinations of MLK and RFK and the end to any dream of a Camelot restoration, plus mass riots and worsening casualties in the pointless failure of the war in Vietnam. That would seem to indicate that a big movie musical would need to provide a necessary uplift to viewers: toe-tapping, heartening, he-gets-the-girl-they-live-happily-ever-after type of stuff. Instead, audiences were treated to a sweet girl being dumped brutally three straight times and musical numbers that seemed to celebrate girls begging for money (“Hey Big Spender …”), jealousy (“If my friends could see me now …”), girls trapped in bad situations (“There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This …”) and a sense of hopeless wandering (“Where Am I Going? …”). An American in Paris it ain’t (“Our Love is Here to Stay,” “Tra-la-la (This Time It’s Really Love),”I Got Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” etc., etc.), but I suppose that was the difference between 1951 and 1968.

Audiences seemed to agree with the “depressing” assessment; while it cost $20 million to make, it only brought in $8 million at the box office and just about destroyed Universal, which then, so the story goes, forced it to make the successful Airport (1970), a film whose star Burt Lancaster described as “a piece of junk,” but which, according to «Box Office Mojo», made $100,489,151. That one had a happy ending, with the bad guy dead and everyone/everything else saved (Helen Hayes and a Boeing 707), with the notable exception of Dean Martin/Barbara Hale’s marriage.

Shirley MacLaine is wonderful in Sweet Charity, as she has been in pretty much everything she’s ever done. It’s worth noting that a “corny” happy ending was filmed because Bob Fosse feared the studio would want it, but the studio surprised him and decided to keep the original stage musical ending. I think it was the right decision, but regardless of which ending you use, this thing was probably not rescue-able. The songs and dances, Shirley MacLaine and Cita Rivera, et al, were great; it’s just the stuff in between that is less than satisfying.


Sweet Charity Lobby Card
Sweet Charity Lobby Card

Best quotes:

Charity Hope Valentine: “Wow, this place is sure full of celebrities. I’m the only one in here I’ve never heard of.”

Sweet Charity

Charity Hope Valentine: “Fickle Finger of Fate!”

Ibid

Helene: “There ain’t no use flappin’ your wings, ’cause we are stuck in the flypaper of life!”

Ibid

Vittorio: “Without love, life would have no purpose.”

Ibid

Oscar Lindquist: “The odds against us are at least a hundred to one.”
Charity Hope Valentine: “Those are the best odds I ever had.”

Ibid

Three Stars?
Three Stars?

Sweet Charity. 1969. TCM. English. Bob Fosse (d). Neil Simon, Peter Stone, Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano (w). Shirley MacLaine, John McMartin, Ricardo Montalban, Sammy Davis Jr., Chita Rivera, Paula Kelly, Stubby Kaye, Barbara Bouchet, Alan Hewitt, Ben Cy Coleman (m). Robert Surtees (c).


Movie Night: Strait Jacket

“The bonuses here are George Kennedy as a farmhand foreshadowing by 22 years Billy Bob Thornton in 1996’s Swing Blade (“I like them French fried potaters.”), all the Pepsi placement, and Lee Majors in pre-Six Million Dollar Man mode, along with his very hairy chest, fluffily rising and falling just before the axe falls.”

["'Tina! Bring me the axe!" Joan Crawford hacks up the Six Million Dollar Man in 1964's Strait-Jacket. "Lucy Harbin took an axe, gave her husband forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave his girlfriend forty one."]
Four.5.Stars
Four and 1/2 stars!

From 1964 (and presented by the fabulous Svengoolie): It’s Mommie Dearest with an axe, but with a twist! Here is Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket!

The «synopsis»:

“After a 20 year stay at an asylum for a double murder, a mother returns to her estranged daughter where suspicions arise about her behaviour.”

TMDb

IMDb has «a slightly different way of putting it»:

“After a twenty-year stay at an asylum for a double murder, a mother returns to her estranged daughter where suspicions arise about her behavior. “

IMDb

Oh, okay, that’s not so different. Hmmm. Is there collusion between those two sites? But how else would you describe this thing? Let’s check «Rotten Tomatoes» then:

“In this chilling blood-tale in ‘Psycho’ style, Robert Bloch modernizes the Lizzy Borden story. A wife (Joan Crawford) literally axes her cheating husband and his lover, witnessed by her three-year-old daughter. Mom is packed off to the insane asylum for 20 years before reuniting with the daughter (Diane Baker). From this point, the axe murders continue along a contrived plot intended to lead the audience astray until the mystery is solved. Crawford’s strong performance and the excellently constructed suspense are the best elements of the film—and the chopping saves the show when the plot tends to slow.”

Rotten Tomatoes

But more importantly, what did critics say about Mommie Dearest, er, I mean Strait Jacket? Shaun Mulvihill over at Fan Boy Nation pretty much covers it very well:

“… Strait-Jacket is now hailed as a camp classic, which it is no doubt, but it’s also a throwback melodrama that is punctuated by its moments of violent ax murders. Shout!

“Having not seen Strait-Jacket in at least 10 years, one thing stood out in revisiting the film on the new Blu-ray – this film isn’t too dissimilar to the sordid drama of «Mildred Pierce» that won Joan Crawford her lone Oscar. Even though in the wake of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, as Crawford was being repurposed as a scream queen, she always gave her all to the performance. Strait-Jacket may have been seen as a B-movie to the studio and the critics reviewing the film in 1964, Crawford gives an A performance as the mentally ravaged Lucy Harbin. Of course, Crawford made sure to employ her role as the spokeswoman of Pepsi in the film, inserting six-packs of Pepsi throughout the film.
“The violence of Strait-Jacket looks quaint by today’s standards, with some rather unrealistic looking limbs being violently severed by a swinging ax. Even though Strait-Jacket is released after Herschell Gordon Lewis created the modern gore film with Blood Feast, Strait-Jacket is remarkably graphic for a studio film of its era. The posters used the violence as a selling point, proclaiming, ‘Strait-Jacket vividly depicts ax murders!’ I won’t lie, the violence of Strait-Jacket is funny by today’s standards, but it’s important to remember its context of film violence of its era.

“There’s no defending Crawford the person and her deplorable actions. On the screen, though, she shined bright and continues to shine as her classic are restored and revived on home video. Strait-Jacket may not have been her proudest moment, but you’d never know it from her dedicated performance. It’s a true testament to Crawford’s presence as a performer that Strait-Jacket is much more a Joan Crawford picture than a William Castle picture. Castle was a great showman and huckster, and he stepped aside to give the spotlight to bigger showman. William Castle knew he didn’t need a gimmick when he had Joan Crawford.”

Fan Boy Nation

It’s all tremendous fun, especially if you remember the context. Yes, it foreshadows Mommie Dearest, which makes you wonder where that particular flick came from (did Christina Crawford confuse a viewing of Strait-Jacket with her life? Oh, sorry. I’m sure her trauma was very real.) But for gosh sake, cinema Joan wielding the axe on Lee Majors in 1964 and then supposedly-real-life Joan wielding the axe on a tree 17 years later is rather … interesting.

Nonetheless, it’s always a fun time. The bonuses here are George Kennedy as a farmhand foreshadowing by 22 years Billy Bob Thornton in 1996’s Swing Blade (“I like them French fried potaters.”), all the Pepsi placement, and Lee Majors in pre-Six Million Dollar Man mode, along with his very hairy chest, fluffily rising and falling just before the axe falls. Also fun is Edith Atwater as a society matron, her tut-tut husband Howard St. John, and their son, John Anthony Hayes as their son in the very-good-looking-man role, who discovers something very unsettling about his would-be fiancee.

The ending, featuring Edith Atwater’s horrifying discovery and a mask and Joan suddenly replaying her role as Nurse Lucretia Terry in The Caretakers (1963), is pretty fabulous, but shhhhh, don’t reveal it to anyone so as not to spoil their spine-tingly, horrifyingly good time! Watch it!


Strait-Jacket Lobby Card
Strait-Jacket Lobby Card

Best quotes:

Daughter Dearest, they should have called this thing. Love these quotes, especially, “Lucy Harbin took an axe …”

Carol Harbin: “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! No I didn’t mean that, I love you. I hate you!”

Strait-Jacket

First little girl: “Lucy Harbin took an axe, gave her husband forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave his girlfriend forty one.”
Carol Harbin: [Lucy storms out to find two girls playing jump rope] “What is it, Mother?”
Lucy Harbin: “I heard them …”
First little girl: “London bridge is falling down, falling down, London bridge is falling down, my fair lady.”
Carol Harbin: “It’s just a nursery rhyme, mother.”
Second little girl: “Take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up, take the key and lock her up, my fair lady.”

Ibid

Four.5.Stars
Four and a half stars – for the camp value alone!

Strait-Jacket. 1964. MeTV. English. William Castle (d). Robert Bloch (w). Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, Leif Erickson, Howard St. John, John Anthony Hayes, Rachelle Hudson, George Kennedy, Edith Atwater, Mitchell Cox and Lee Majors' hairy chest as one of the axe victims. (p). Van Alexander (m). Arthur E. Arling (c).