Something light

something light

Since being diagnosed with an unpleasant medical condition, my attitudes have shifted subtly. In just a few weeks, yet!

I don’t think I need any philosophical lucubrations about life and death at the moment. I think what I need right now is some diversion.

So out the window with “Crime and Punishment” and the Book of Revelation.

I’m overdosing on the movies of the 1930s, especially the musicals. I’m currently watching “Love Me Tonight,” with Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald, circa 1932. It’s well-written and cute, with some chirpy little songs.

If I wanted to be dark about it, I would point out that every single person in the cast is almost certainly dead by now: debonair Maurice and squeaky Jeannette, goofy Charles Butterworth, sardonic Charlie Ruggles, clever Myrna Loy.

But when I watch this cheery little film, they’re all as alive as can be, and having a wonderful time.

How about “Gold Diggers of 1933”? Delightful. And all of them gone: Ginger Rogers, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Warren William, Guy Kibbee.

But the film is like new: cheerful and tuneful.

This is the medicine I really need.

To quote “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”:


Nothing of gods, nothing of fate;

Weighty affairs will just have to wait.

I am not George Bailey

i am not george bailey

A kind co-worker checked in on me recently, knowing about my recent diagnosis of cancer, and I told her that I was really overwhelmed by how kind people were being to me. “Well,” she said, “remember George Bailey.”



Hmph! I am not George Bailey.



I am not a nice person. I am sometimes kind, but wise also, like the offspring of a bunny rabbit and a cobra.



I want to be good to people, but not necessarily to everyone, and not necessarily all the time. And I have a vicious tendency to be nasty to people who are nasty to me.



George Bailey (aka Jimmy Stewart, the big sap in “It’s a Wonderful Life”) went through his life unaware that he was just acting perfectly toward people – kind, generous, etc., etc.



I have no such illusions.



I am often unkind. I am sometimes mean. I have done unforgivable things (meaning that I have done things to people who are dead and who can’t possibly forgive me for them). I’ve been unpleasant and angry. I’ve been rude (probably on a weekly basis).



Repeat: I am not George Bailey.



If I live through this thing, I think it means that Frank Capra didn’t know everything after all.



(And, in case you can’t tell, I can’t stand that stupid movie. Life is just more complicated than that.)


Movie review: “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954)

creature from the black

Creature From the Black Lagoon” came up on Turner Classic Movies not long ago. Apollonia shrieked when I mentioned seeing it. “My favorite horror movie!” she said. “I was so scared when I first saw it!”



For those of you who haven’t seen it: it’s about a group of scientists who go to the Amazon to investigate some odd fossils they’ve found. There appears to be a humanoid creature with webbed appendages living down there. And you know what? There is!



The Creature is pretty tame, looked at from the standpoint of the year 2013. In its own time, however (I rely on Apollonia’s testimony for this), it was terrifying.



Now let’s talk about some of the other stuff going on here.



I don’t know if the director was gay, but the camera dwells upon the half-naked bodies of Richard Carlson and Richard Denning. There are lots of interesting views of the bodies of muscular men – Carlson and Denning, and others – all through the movie.






As I did research on this movie, the best surprise was the man who played the Creature. He was a diver / swimmer named Ricou Browning, and he was very handsome, and very well-built. Here’s a picture of him halfway in costume:


ricou creature

Browning was involved with a lot of water-related productions in Florida, including “Sea Hunt” and “Flipper.” He was a nice guy who was very serious about his underwater adventures.



And he looked good underwater.



Incidentally, the Creature is the only character in the movie who seems really interested in Julie Adams, the female lead. Denning and Carlson seem mostly interested in tussling with one another, and helping one another out of their scuba gear.



(There are lots of books about gay themes in cinema. I think someone needs to add a chapter about “Creature from the Black Lagoon.)



For Sunday: “I Hate People,” from “Scrooge”

i hate people

“Scrooge” was an interesting movie. (I know it’s a Christmas movie, but the heat of summer makes me long for midwinter.) It had some decent songs, and a couple of great characterizations (Dame Edith Evans as a starchy grandmotherly un-Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Past, and Kenneth More as a huge Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Present).

This song is one of my favorites. I sing it to myself, under my breath, on most workdays, a little.


Tyrone Power

tyrone power

I’ve written often enough about good-looking actors: Cam Gigandet, Aldo Ray, Henry Cavill. There has never been any lack of handsome actors in Hollywood. That’s kind of what Hollywood is all about. Some of these guys have some acting ability too (all three of the above can act).

But sometimes their looks make more of an impression than their acting.

Bradley Cooper, I think, is one of this type. He did a tremendous acting job in “Silver Linings Playbook,” but all I could think of while watching the movie was: Wow, he’s cute!

Let us now turn to Tyrone Power.

He was an actor of the 1930s and 1940s. He was, to quote IMDB, “startlingly handsome.” (Ah well: some of us are born “startlingly handsome” and some are not. You either have it or you don’t.)

Believe it or not, “Tyrone Power” was his real name. He was actually Tyrone Power III, in fact. His son was (and is) T. P. IV, and there’s a grandson who’s Number Five.

Tyrone’s father was an Irish actor of some acclaim. Tyrone himself, in the movies, was always something brave: a gallant soldier, or Zorro, or a pirate, or something heroic.

His body wasn’t that great, but his face was spectacular.

My favorite Tyrone Power move is “The Rains Came,” in which he plays an Indian(!) army major / doctor. They darkened his skin a bit for the role. (Hollywood was very unthinkingly racist in those days. “The Rains Came” is set in India, but I see only one Indian actor on the IMDB cast list, and he’s in a very small role.)

Anyway: Tyrone.

Go seek out Netflix or Amazon or something, and seek out “The Rains Came,” and gaze upon him.

You’ll be very impressed, I guarantee. Maybe not with his acting. But you’ll see what I mean.

Movie review: “Holiday” (1938)

holiday 1938

Partner told me that, at a recent training/educational session, the trainer asked each member of the class: What’s your favorite movie?

Partner found it an impossible question. Who has just one favorite movie, after all? I have about twenty, a few of which I’ve spoken about here: “Annie Hall,” “The Mask of Dimitrios,” “Dodsworth.”

But, absolutely, “Holiday” (the 1938 version with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant) is on my list.

It’s a witty little Philip Barry play from the 1920, which was first made into a 1930 movie, and then (immortally) into this 1938 movie. The movie didn’t do well, supposedly because late-Thirties audiences didn’t want to see a movie in which the hero didn’t want to work; also, Katherine Hepburn had recently been declared “box-office poison.”


Summary: Wealthy-by-birth Doris Nolan meets wealthy-by-hard-work Cary Grant at Lake Placid, and brings him back to New York City as her fiancé. Cary meets Doris’s carefree sister Katherine Hepburn, and realizes within a few days that he’s in love with the wrong sister.

There are lots of things to admire here: Lew Ayres as alcoholic brother Ned, who’s pathetic but brave; Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon as Cary Grant’s funny best friends; George Cukor’s quiet sympathetic direction.

Best of all, however, is the dialogue. Many of the best lines are given to Hepburn, as follows:

Cary Grant has just admired an icky-poo doll once owned by his fiancé (Hepburn’s sister), saying “It even looks like her.” This follows:

Linda Seton: [Hugging a toy giraffe] “Now don’t you a word about Leopold, he’s very sensitive.”

Johnny Case: “Yours.”

Linda Seton: “Looks like me.” [turning its head in profile]

Or, when Hepburn’s horrible cousins appear in the doorway:

Linda Seton: “Oh, for the love of Pete – it’s the witch and Dopey!”

Or, questioning Cary on his family background:

Linda Seton: “Do you mean to say that your mother wasn’t even a Whoozis?”

This movie is a slice of lemon meringue pie, cool and refreshing. I could watch it morning, noon, and night.

Do yourself a favor and take a look at it.

Appreciation: Jody McCrea

jody mccrea

Disney is making a Beach Party movie, along the lines of their “High School Musical” movies. To wit: two modern teenagers get thrown back to the early 1960s, into a beach-party setting, and everything goes wrong.

Personally I’m glad they’re reviving the beach-party franchise. The 1960s beach movies were superb, in their way: Frankie and Annette, and Harvey Lembeck, and the Himalayan Suspension Technique, and from time to time people like Luciana Paluzzi and Dwayne Hickman and Don Rickles.

But I mourn the loss of the original beach kids. I mourned Annette Funicello’s passing a few months ago in this blog. And now, very late, I’ve discovered that another member of the Beach Party cadre left us some years ago: Jody McCrea.

Jody was the son of handsome / beefy actor Joel McCrea and actress Frances Dee. He was a nice-looking man who very much took after his father. Take a look at these photos of the two of them:


joel mccrea comparison jody mccrea comparison

In the Beach Party movies, he played a character named “Deadhead,” and sometimes “Bonehead.” He was the designated dummy. He was big and adorable and stupid. In one of the beach party movies, he finds a mermaid (naturally, none of his friends believes him), and they fall in love!

He was a bodybuilder, as you can probably tell from the above pics. He was well over six feet tall, as was his father. (Jody seldom took his shirt off. Partner said: “Well, naturally he didn’t take off his shirt. He would have make Frankie Avalon look pathetic.”)

He made a few more movies after the beach fad died, but mostly left show business after the 1960s. He became a rancher in New Mexico, where he died of a heart attack in 2009.

I didn’t know of his death until the other day, when Apollonia and I began researching him.

I was so sorry.

Annette’s dead, and Bonehead too.

They were the spirit of youth to us, back in the mid-1960s. Knowing that they’re dead is very depressing for us older folks.

It means that we might die too.

Unless we can figure out a way out of it.

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