Outside in the new gazebo with a clear beverage, basking under the lights just strung on the roof beams. I hope it’s just the bulbs burning off some factory dust, because they have that smell people used to associate with the early models of electric blankets. The sort of thing often seen accompanied by the words “the fire was believed to have been started by.”

Took Jasper to the vet today. He’s fat. The vet said he’s fat. He’s in good shape for a 13 year old dog, but he needs to lose weight. I blamed my wife, of course; she wants him to be happy, and gives him scraps. I understand the logic – dogs live in the moment, and the odd piece of people food makes the moment so very wonderful, but I would prefer he not spend his declining years with the mobility of a bean bag. The waiting room was the usual trauma; dogs smell all the fear that’s accumulated in the room, and they have their own recollections of poking and sticking. To make matters worse there were two mean dogs in the room – pugs of some sort. They belonged to a fellow who had tattooed a large memorial to a previous pug on his upper arm. The dogs were silent, stubby tails whipping back and forth; they stared at Jasper like assassins. Jasper whined and looked at me and pointed his nose at the door and  dreamed of freedom.

When it was his time to go inside he planted his feet and had to be slid into the examining room. When it was over he stood in the back yard and yelled at me for ten minutes before sitting under the table and staring balefully at the cruel, pointy world.

This week's movie: The Black Legion.

What were they called, again? Refresh my memory.

Right. The first title card is from the trailer; the second one is from the movie itself, and it's more impressive. The granite-letters-with axe-dents typeface was a generic Warner Bros. trailer font, and was your guarantee of grim honest Warner Brothers'-style gritty realism. So gritty you couldn't chew your popcorn without feeling like they'd salted it with sand. Ripped from the pages of today, with all the passion of tomorrow! Et cetera. It's a movie about a vigilante group that sucks in a disgruntled factory worker, and turns his bitter sense of failure against all those foreign elements who are ruining America - you know, the Irish, and the Polacks. Wonder who they based hte Black Legion on:


Their logo looks like a deformed octopus. We get the picture, though. It's the Klan. This was still a touchy thing in '36; this must have irritated the people who thought the film ignored all the good things the Klan did, like community outreach and neighborhood suppers and the occasional potluck where a fella could get together with like-minded Americans and talk freely about the Catholics. It's hard to imagine why the Black Legion wasn't more popular; why, who could resist their swearing-in ceremony?

Yes, that's Bogie. He's the disgrunted, bitter factory worker. As it turns out, the Black Legion is really a front for some businessmen who - I am absolutely serious - want to make money selling special pistols and robes. It's possible this was a dodge to save the movie in certain portions of the country who might have been outraged by the portrayal of a sincere white-supremicist organization. (Lest you think I'm slamming the South, I am, but also the North; Minneapolis had its Klanfastic era as well.)

Is there the obligatory newspaper to sum up where the plot's been headed, and what's coming next? Of course:

The espionage plot headline is interesting; wonder who people thought was behind such things in those days.

The clip below shows the media leaping on this important new story, and demonstrates the ease with which they comfortably faked the interviews. (Requires Flash. Mouse over the clip to reveal the controls.)


Like the other films in this box set, there's a "Night at the Movies" option that gives you an entire evening's theater entertainment - a newsreel, a trailer, a short musical, a featurette, a cartoon, and the main attraction. I don't know if this "Night at the Movies" program reflected the actual bill that accompanied "Black Legion," or whether it was chosen to illustrate the general tenor of the times. Here's the musical:


No one can touch Calloway for swank and sophistication, with a trace of frank naughty sin. He's not the fellow in tails here, though; he's a poor fellow trying to convince his washerwoman mammy that he has a future in jazz. This leads to a fantasy sequence:

And another, and another. In the last one, he's leading a band. His band, of course. They swing. The musicianship's amazing, including this fellow, who demonstrates the blues flute with a skill and speed that makes a hummingbird look like a gull struggling out of an oil slick. I think this is Walter "Foots" Thomas.

Four songs, every one a gem. And every one a fantasy. After this, we move on to the next feature. It's in technicolor:

American Idol, the sepia years:

He's portrayed with the utmost sympathy, and the issues of the late unpleasentness aren't discussed at all.

If anyone was feeling annoyed by that Cab Calloway piece, well, this should set them right:

In the background, out of focus, making the drinks. All of this tends to dilute the Outrage and Impact of "Black Legion," especially since that movie's victims are all white. The Stonewall Jackson hagiography ends thus:



What a mess. I saw "Blazing Saddles" the next night, which manages to be so blatantly offensive it's disarming and hilarious; it was like a breath of fresh air. Except for the campfire sequence.


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