Outside the school again, sitting on the cold ground, typing while Natalie plays on the Concussionarium. The kids are all screaming and shouting and having a perfect time, even though it’s chilly, and the market dropped nineteen million points. Everyone seems to be having a fine time, parents included. Life goes on. Perhaps there are just too many people to be angry with. It’s too draining to be as angry as the situation seems to demand.
Well, I’ve lived through two “deep, painful recessions,” but I think this will be different than the miserable one of the early seventies, and less nihilistic than the early 80s one. As I said last week, it will be shinier, with better graphics and perhaps a suitable icon. But oy, this sucks. Natalie asked about the News today, and wondered if it meant there will be War. Well, not right away, hon, if history is any guide. Just kidding, of course; I’m not going to go into a deep black panic, because it’s just not helpful. While walking the dog, I was thinking about the old adage, how history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Well, that would make this tragedy, then. Our grandkids get the farce.
One of the kids just ran up to tell her mom she set a record for spinning around while hanging on! You’re not the only one, child.
No point in dwelling. Let’s get on to the weekly Black & White Revue, formerly known as the weekly Noir. This time it’s “Detective Story," from 1951.
It stars Mr. Burning Glower:
As noted so very many times, these aren’t reviews; they’re just an attempt to show a few details that stuck out, maybe me stop and take another look. Often you find an actor who stands out for something you saw as a kid, or decades later - and as I’ve said before, it’s the distinction between the world of color and the world of black and white that makes their previous roles seem like ancient history. And of course there's the Trek Test - did any of these guys appear in Star Trek? Most of the time, someone did.
"Detective Story" was a stage play, and it feels like it; aside from the big shots of the big town to open the film and a backlot scene after the credits, it’s all set in a precinct house in Manhattan. Think “Barney Miller,” because that’s what it feels like, right down to the cage in the corner. It reminds you that stuff in the 40s – battered and unpainted and shabby – remained that way for a very long time. New York looked anything but. The country looked poor - not because they couldn't afford paint, but perhaps because people were just accustomed to things looking so shabby?
This old stork jarred me:
Burt Mustin. This was his second movie. He looks about 80 here. He looked about 80 when he appeared in sitcoms in the 70s, twenty years later. I remembered him from a short-run comedy show called “The Funny Side” – it featured couples who represented the various target demographics, and this guy was paired with someone named Queenie, if I recall. According to imdb (I'm back home, now - the playground doesn't have wifi) - he was "Elderly Husband." The show also featured a Teenage couple, a Wealthy Couple, a Blue-Collar Couple, and a "Minority Couple." (John Amos and Terese Graves.) The show's logo was a smile that turned into an inverted version, and I think it was rainbow-colored. The show ran for about four months. That I remember. I forgot the name of the host, though.
Anyway. This guy I didn’t recognize -
- until he opened his mouth. Then all was clear. The inflection was unmistakable. Think I'm crazy do a thing like this? I'd heard that voice before.
Recognize him? Probably not; I only know him from one thing, but it was a magnificent role. If only he’d been on the Sopranos, he might have been one of the most popular characters – but his mobster boss was too civilized, too courtly, too old-world.
Manny Wiesbord, the godfather of "Crime Story." This was his second movie, too. He's still alive - 90 this year. Of course, you might be thinking of another role he had in a minor film series, a few years later.
You may ask: does this film meet the Trek Test? Did someone in this movie end up in a Star Trek episode or movie? Well, here's a hint, and no, William Bendix wasn't in Star Trek. Although he would have made a great miner waiting for one of Mudd's women, or fighting off Horla. Again, it's the voice:
Dr. Roger Korby, who made copies of Lurch in his underground lab.
This, however, was the real discovery.
I paused, zoomed: sure enough, it was Mr. Weirdteeth.
I’d seen him before, somewhere – something to do with trains. And Jack Webb. Right? That sent me downstairs to a pile of cheap DVDs, to the first run of the Dragnet show, before it was even Dragnet. They called it “Badge 714.” I FFed through a few; in the third one, he emerged.
I recalled how much he stuck out when I first watched it, thanks to his enormous shiny gums, tiny flesh-ripping teeth and unselfconscious way of displaying both. I’d wondered how the devil he had made it into a TV show, let alone a movie. With Kirk Douglas! Well, imdb would tell me a little more . . .
Wow. From the wikipedia entry for Harper Goff:
Harper Goff (March 16, 1911 – March 3, 1993) was an artist, musician, and actor. He is best remembered as the driving artistic force behind many of the visual aspects of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, early renderings and concept art for Walt Disney's proposed "Mickey Mouse Park" (which later evolved into the Disneyland theme park), and several areas of the Walt Disney World theme park.
He did some acting, but he was mostly known for his connection to Disney. He designed the Nautilus, the ship in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” (Starring . . . Kirk Douglas!) He was one of the production designers for “Fantastic Voyage,” one of my favorite childhood movies, and a film so different in tone, spirit and culture from “Detective Story” that it seems to come from another world. And he played in the Disney band; he was a member of the band in Jack Webb's movie version of "Pete Kelly's Blues."
And he was a set designer for . . . "Casablanca." His Disney page is here.
The things you learn when you watch movies on your computer, eh?
New Comics cover; see you at buzz.mn!
Oh: all that, and Gerald Mohr, too - a radio actor who had an inexplicably limited movie career, but was the best Philip Marlowe on the radio or the screen. The man should have played Marlowe in the movies. No? Yes.