From Shorpy


I always feel as if I’m doing above-and-beyond duty when I post a blog entry on a day where there’s no mail.

Another utterly ordinary weekend, if “ordinary” is defined as putting on a suit on a weekend day and addressing a room full of strangers; that’s been normal lately. This meant I did errands in a tie and jacket, which makes you feel like a swell in a 30s film where everyone’s in tails.

It was the birthday weekend for this fellow:

. . . to repeat a picture I tweeted and Instagrammed. I like to think he’s laughing, but I know better; he’s yawning because he doesn’t know why I’m on the ground looking at him. Dogs yawn when they don’t know what to do. Nervous, anxious, questioning - it’s different than it is with humans. Sighing, though: that’s the one thing humans and dogs do. We both sigh, and it’s often out of disappointment.

He took a walk on Sunday. A long, slow walk: one hour.

"He just wanted to keep going," my wife said. That he does.

I shopped again on Sunday, because my wife’s car was in the shop. She took it in Saturday, and needed a ride home. It would be done by eight, so no point in a loaner, and if I was nearby, could I come and get her? Sure. Cut short the errands and picked her up. The car was not ready by eight. The car would be ready in the morning.

The car was not ready in the morning. When would it be ready? The guy at the garage didn’t know, because they had a lot of cars coming in that day. Understandable, but her car came in yesterday. Don’t know what to tell you.

Manager calls back a few minutes later to say, more or less, sorry for that fellow. Would you like a loaner?” So i drive her to get the loaner, and continue on the errands truncated the day before.

You can pause now and catch your breath, because I know this is all a bit much.

Anyway. At Cub, where I went to buy the groceries because it’s cheap and the car repair bill was one of those things that makes you think “percentage of net worth,” I was reminded of my standing axiom: the ugliest labels can be found on BBQ sauce, because this connotes authenticity.

You cannot get more authentic than this:


It’s putting the “B” and “Q” in quotes that gives you pause, as does the slogan: “The Sauce America Loves to Eat.”

America does not eat sauce.

No one eats sauce.

Sauce is consumed in the process of eating something else. Sauce is consumed in the process of eating something else. Right? No one ever says “Man, I’m hungry. Where’s the sauce?” You say “Man, i’m hungry. Good thing there’s cold meatloaf I can nuke.” And then after you have agitated the molecules of the meatloaf you say “this could stand some sauce,” and you get the ketchup. Because it’s not refrigerated, is it? No one puts ketchup in the fridge. Yet you are advised to put the BBQ sauce in the fridge.

Why? Because the sauce seal has been broken, which is apparently something of such consequence it should be included in Revelations.

And the seal of the Authentic Kansas City Pit BBQ Sauce “Bold ‘n’ Mean” Slappin' Howg-Dawg Style shall be rent, and the malefactions shall beset it until there is a lamentation of the many, for the sauce has gone unto Evil.

Never happens. People probably throw out BBQ Sauce for the same reason they dispose a bottle of taco sauce: Crusty Neck. You get 2/3rds down, and the neck of the bottle is crusty, and out it goes. I say this as someone who washes down the condiment necks, too. But you can’t do the screw-part of the top, lest you dilute the sauce or get soapy water in. So it self-encrustinates.

Ppening the bottle dooms it, then? Sauce in the bottle in the store is no different than sauce in the cupboard, except that air has been admitted temporarily into the bottle, so the substance must immediately be reduced in temperature by 40 degrees.

The ketchup sits in the cupboard. chuckling. Along with the French’s mustard, the Barney Rubble to Heinz’ Fred Flintstone. That’s how I see them, anyway. Not an Abbott-Costello vibe, probably because I don’t like those guys much. (Ding! There’s the line that will generate the most comments.)

I didn’t buy the Cookies. Too sweet. I prefer something with a tang, a whiff of smoke, and an elbow in the ribs. The local chain Famous Dave's has some good sauces. Pity this week's menu has no ribs. We had ribs two weeks ago.

You have to space these things out. Ribs must always be a treat. It's an insult to ribs to make them commonplace. Ribs feature in "House of Cards" as a sign of rare, private delight, and also an indication that there's one person in the entire show you can like. Freddie, who makes the ribs. The man who works and creates and feeds. Everyone else is awful and loathsome with the exception of a few people who are decent and thus due to be steamrolled, eventually. I didn't like anyone on the show and can't wait for the second season.







Remember, these aren't reviews or recaps; who cares what I think of a movie you haven't seen and probably won't? It's a look at the aesthetics of the era, a recollection of actors who deserve another moment in the sun, inadvertant documentary, and the occasional thread of coincidence that sews it all together.

I’m not sure anyone says this word, let alone says with a high, desperate shout:



Is it Noir? It’s a new genre: sunny noir. Our hero descends into the mean streets of Los Angeles from the train station.



Just kidding - it's a musical! Because it as Dick P0well.



No. Let me think of a modern analogue . . . can’t. Not yet. Imagine someone who made innumerable light movies playing the same light character singing light sweet songs on enormous improbable sets. There really isn’t an analogue any more. Pick a sitcom character from ten years ago, if you like. Now imagine that he decides to reinvent himself as a tough guy, and gets a movie playing James Bond.

That’s what Dick Powell tried to do, more or less; he went from cheerful sunny musical star to playing Philip Marlowe, of all characters:

He was the first actor to play Marlowe on the screen

That wasn’t entirely successful, but it helped - as did two radio shows, “Rogue’s Gallery” and “Richard Diamond, Private Investigator.” The former is an interesting misfire; when Powell’s character suffered the weekly concussion, he would hear a mocking voice of his alter ego, Eugor. That’s Rogue backwards. The gimmick didn’t catch on, and good thing: Powell went on to the Diamond character, written with marvelous charm by a young Blake Edwards. Good plots, bright dialogue, a song at the end: an early parody of the hard-boiled PI genre, just as “Casino Royale” was an early parody of the spy genre.

Powell directed, and some say that’s what killed him. He directed “The Conqueror,” the John Wayne movie shot downwind from some atomic bomb tests. Almost half the 220-person crew got the big C, Powell included.

But that’s years away. “Cry Danger” was shot in three weeks and a day in LA in 1950. Standard story: guy gets out of jail for a crime he says he didn’t commit, and goes after the ones who did. There’s a dame:



Jean Porter, who was 25 when the movie was made, and still with us as of this writing. She's cheap and larcenous but you can't blame her or dislike her.

And there's another dame:



There's also a brunette, so they have the three main hair-color groups covered. Above: Gloria Saunders. There's something fascinating and unnatural about her features, perhaps the result of a lot of 1945-era plastic surgery to fix her pan after an automobile smash-up. She'd turn up on the TV version of "Richard Diamond," which starred Richard Janssen, and might as well have had another name. Completely different tone.

There's a bookie:



Him you might not recognize. Millions of people heard his voice every week in the 70s, when he made announcements on the loudspeaker on M*A*S*H. Hy Averback.


This one you know too. From where? Everywhere.



Kathleen Freeman.

Every noir needs a heavy; this heavy was that and more.



Everyone knew the voice. You couldn't escape the voice. When I was a little kid I knew the voice, because he narrated Rocky and Bullwinkle.

The locales are deep in the Dark City, but don't go looking for them on Google street view.



Two words are enough to tell you that it's all long gone.



More on the area here, if you like. Trust me, if you've seen enough Noir, you know the name of the cafe.


And that's the end. On second thought, no. The director? This kid.



Robert Parrish, who was a newsboy in "City Lights," a sequence Chaplain reworked over and over again. I know, I know - that really narrows it down. But the kid stayed in the picture business, became a film editor, and 20 years after this scene he directed his first movie, "Cry Danger." Thanks to Dick Powell.

So: the crooner and lightweight star of the great 30s musicals turned himself into a completely credible laconic hardboiled post-noir hero, hired the Chaplin newsboy, who would later turn up as one of the directors of . . .



From Chaplin to that: it all happened so fast.



Usual stuff in the usual places - there will be a Strib Blog, even though it's Presidents' Day. See you around!









Returning on Wednesday.





blog comments powered by Disqus