Cool, but I’m resisting it. Halloween candy in the stores, but the Fall Switch hasn’t been tripped. One tree in the backyard went yellow; an outlier, a weakling. But when I woke Sunday morning to the aroma of French Toast and bacon, I was delighted by the prospect of the Hearty Breakfast, and that’s a signal that the Switch will be tripped soon. I walked through the grocery store on Sunday and looked at things to grill; ignored the caramel apples and the oatmeal and pumpkin-flavored this-and-that. Drove home through a green world, the late-summer sun strong and clear.

I love fall. I’ve never fought it like this.

Blizzards in May will do that to a man.

By the way, Jasper Dog got lots of bacon, because it was his birthday, of sorts. Eighteen years and eight months.

If you missed the work blog on Friday, you missed all the fun. A BuzzFeed writer took 13 of my pictures from the “Mr. Coffee Nerves” site and put them up with his own captions. (Took two from elsewhere.) There were links back to the originals, but c’mon. This wasn’t “12 Crazy Ad Mascots You Never Knew Existed,” it was “Someone else’s site with shorter, crappier captions.”

I wrote a response, which I should have called “1 Writer Who Forgot How to Internet,” I suppose; the noun-for-verb thing (“16 Puppies Who Forgot How to Dog” would be the headline for dogs who are caught doing things contrary to their canine nature. It’s arch but juvenile; sounds like the slang of twentysomethings who are terribly impressed with themselves.)

There’s another bit of slang that’s even more dismaying. Over the weekend everyone was writing about the marvelous Chipotle commercial about a scarecrow who works in a horrible food-processing factory. From the first few seconds I saw the designs of William Joyce, filtered through a little Grant Wood; it was like seeing Rolie Polie Olie in HD, in fabric form, and made me think how wonderful it would be if that studio had redone “Oz”. It’s quite affecting.



This is William Joyce, Genius.



(It’s from this behind-the-scenes video.)

He’s the founder of Moonbot Studios (the moment I saw the name of the company that made the ad, I knew it was Joyce) and of course many people were involved in this; after I tweeted out my delight at learning it was a Joyce production I was reminded ever-so-gently by Moonbot in a tweet that it was a collaborative effort. True. But “The Scarecrow” is a testament to one man’s particular ability to capture the between-the-wars style and introduce a bygone American vernacular to a new audience. He’s an astonishing talent and I’m dismayed that few of the articles I read about the piece seem to realize who he is, and what he’s done before.

This HuffPo piece doesn’t even mention the studio, let alone Joyce. But it gets worse. Here’s their headline.

“Chipotle ‘Scarecrow’ Video Will Make You Feel All the Feelings.”

This is the language of people who fear sincerity, and have to leave themselves little backdoor exits in case people mock them. Their words come pre-mocked for your convenience. Everything must be flavored with helium.

Anyway. Tweeted a link to my piece with a click-worthy headline that had a number and the word “you,” and the fun began. Later in the evening I got a sincere apology from the author of the piece, who changed the story to reflect the origins and give proper credit. That was Friday.

No, there was more. Daughter had two friends over for a sleepover, and they went up to the water tower to slide down and be giddy 13-year-olds. It’s a joy to be around them.

“You wear Converses,” said the . . . more forward friend. “Are you a hipster?”

“I’m too cool to be a hipster,” I said. I get more comments about wearing Converses than anything else. I have eight pairs. That’s what I wear. For some reason being shod only in a particular brand whose myriad deviations are available to all is something of a distinction; I haven’t the faintest idea why. A man should have a pair of Converse shoes, a Zippo, and a Swiss Army Knife. It should be a given.

Ended up pasted on the sofa watching “Dredd,” which is an exceptional example of the futuristic sci-fi action genre. Bashar Assad could not be a Judge, though; the helmet leaves only the chin visible, and he’s chin-poor.

Unfortunately it was cool enough to paint this weekend, so I painted the door of the shed. It is mostly paint now, in spots. It is old and corrupted by the elements. I had to daub the paint with care lest the brush poke through the thinnest spots. Did some window trim as well, feeling very proud of myself for doing something Handymanesque and not getting paint everywhere . . . until I put the brush down on a paper bag, the wind came up, tossed the bag on the patio and dumped the brush on the paving stones. Hosed the hell out of it as quickly as possible, lest it become a Mark of Shame that dogs me for years to come.

Annnnd to wrap up the exciting recap of my weekend, I began converting all the code on the site to HTML5 audio tags so they’ll work on mobiles. Got another backwater portion of the site ready for the 2014 redesign. Every page. Redone. You have no idea what’s coming.



I don’t watch as many silent movies as I’d like, because they require my full attention. I haven’t had “full attention” since I was two months old and hungry. But I love them anyway, and one - “Metropolis” - is in my top five favorites. Many seem stagey and forced, full of overacting and pre-modern female archetypes who simper and wilt and radiate Goodliness. But Chaplin is King; Lloyd is critical to understanding 1920s American culture, more than Chaplin; Keaton is the offhand genius who wandered through the medium defining its unrealized possibilities with casual indifference.

What happens when an artsy director takes on a genre picture? Say, a tough waterfront melodrama where a burly stoker meets a gal? You get this:

Consider the names and history packed in that simple title card. Nowadays everyone would have to have his own production company with a 7 second computer-generated logo, but those were simpler times. Zukor co-founded Paramount - but first he founded Famous Players, which mergrd with Jesse Lasky's production outfit to form Famous Players - Lasky, which shows up at the bottom in tiny type here as "Paramous Famous Lasky Corporation." Got that?

As for Mr. Schulberg, wikipedia notes:

Born Percival Schulberg in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he took the name Benjamin from the boy in front of him when registering for school to avoid mockery for his British name. Schulberg, who started as a publicity manager at Famous Players-Lasky, but in the power struggle around the formation of United Artists ended up on the losing side and lost his job.

United Artists: there's a story for another day. Schulberg, of course, was the father of Budd, the accomplished screenwriter and novelist.

Sternberg was more than a prodcer - he was the director. This is pre-Dietrich. Seven years after this movie was made, Von Sternberg would hire Richard Neutra to design his house. (Ayn Rand lived tere for a while in the 40s.) Wikipedia:

Neutra was mindful of his customer's desires even when he found them absurd. He would later regale his friends with the story (among others) of Von Sternberg asking that none of the bathroom doors have locks, in order to prevent his party guests from locking themselves up in there and threatening to commit suicide.

More on the house here. Second title card:

Furthman wrote many films, including "The Big Sleep." Saunders was born in Minnesota, and not only wrote novels but penned the scrupt of "Wings," the first movie to get the "Best Picture" Oscar. He divorced Fay Wray in '39 and hung himself in '40.

Julian Johnson, who wrote the titles, was married to Texas Guinan for a while.

On to the actors. There’s nothing unusual, or particularly interesting, in the story. Boy meets girls when she throws herself in the drink. In this case, the boy is about the grimiest manly man whatever strode though a flicker:



George Bancroft. He had a good run in the silents as a rugged type. Known for a substantial ego.

The print of the movie is excellent, which reminds you that people in the 20s saw movies






She's one of the hookers in the bar, the second female lead. She's not the hooker the hero saves; that would be . . .



Betty Compson.



She went from playing alongside Roscoe Arbuckle in one- and two-reelers to top-star status, earning five grand a week. And more: imdb says

Compson was sent a 1912 Rolls-Royce by a South American who had it stored in a New York garage. As she already had a limo, she was initially annoyed but later discovered she could rent it to the movie studios at $100 per day. She ultimately made $20,000 on it before selling it. This situation may have been the inspiration for a similar situation in "Sunset Boulevard.".

Alas, you can't stay on top forever.

The stature of her roles began to diminish from the mid-1930's, though she continued to act in character parts until 1948. Betty's personal fortunes also declined. This came about primarily as a result of her marital contract to the alcoholic Cruze, whom she had divorced in 1929 . For several years, Cruze had failed to pay his income tax and Betty (linked financially to Cruze) ended up being sued by the Federal Government to the tune of $150,000.

This forced her to sell her Hollywood villa, her cars and her antiques. In later years, Betty Compson developed her own a cosmetics label and ran a business in California, producing personalised ashtrays for the hospitality industry.

The company was called "Ashtrays Unlimited."

This shot . . .



. . . appears to be this, from a lobby card.



(Peculiar, almost spooky sidenote: I snipped that grab above before I'd seen the title card.)


There's a preacher in the movie, Hymn-book Harry:



Gustav von Seyffertitz. Early in his career - he went into movies in middle-age - he went by other names that sounded more English. Like "G. Butler Clonblough" and "G. Butler Clonebaugh."

There are a few exterior shots, but most of the movie takes place in the bar, or in cheap lodging rooms. There's little of the big overacting people associate with silents, and every time the camera alights on a new face, the decades fall away - and the shadows come back to life again.



Matchbooks today; Work blog around 12:30 and Tumblr as well. See you around.





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