Driving along, listening to the radio. The host says something nice about the caller, in advance. Before he knows what the caller's like. Perhaps the screener typed NICE GUY on the screen. For some reason I think of Yosemite Sam in that election-themed cartoon, sidling up to Bugs, saying "I lahk you, rabbit. You're a good joe." with broad, committed insincerity. We know what happened next - Bugs told Sam that Emma from St. Looie was at the front door, which of course made Sam get excited, because Emma let him have sex with her. Or something like that. He opens the door; there's a cannon that explodes his face.
Yep, same Emma.
But was it Emma? I'm paused at the intersection where someone blew the light a year and a half ago and hit my car, thinking, Emma? Do I have that right? And then in my head I hear the song that played when Bugs tricked Sam into dancing down a hole, and how Sam just sold that dance:
That never, ever fails to make me smile.
And then the light changes. On to CUFB, all thoughts of Warner Brothers cartoons forgotten.
FF to three days later. Upend the Etch-a-Sketch; bear with me.
Blake Edwards was one of the finest talents of his time, right? And his stuff didn't always work. Not then, not now. Of course we revere him for the Pink Panther movies, which have brilliant comic set-pieces, and it's obligatory to lament his later years, where the misfires indicated he'd lost the sharp ability to judge his own work. I love his early stuff, but you've probably never heard of it.
Sorry; I know that's the worst sort of hipster sneer, and it's an outdated jape at that. But it's true: his early work was in radio, and the scripts he wrote for "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" are sharp, concise, funny, and suspenseful. Like Jack Webb's "Pat Novak," he parodied the genre, but never outside the lines. Diamond was played by Dick Powell, who'd successfully pivoted from his crooner rich-boy-with-a-proletarian-heart roles in the "Golddigger" movies to a tough-guy career - the most unlikely repositioning of one's public image since Edward G. going from "Little Caesar" to put-upon mild-mannered man roles. He played Marlowe, which is like Justin Bieber playing Bond. I don't think he pulled it off - he's not Marlowe, but he did play the hard-boiled role well. (Marlowe is a thing unto himself, and that's another entry.) The ads said "Congrats, Dick Powell - you're terrific in your new tough-guy act!" or something like that -
Oh, now I have to find them. Hold on.
Well, there's this.
Anyway. If you had to say "you're terrific!" in the ads, it suggests people need to be told. Maybe they did.
So Edwards went on to a glorious career, and like many directors in the wane of the studio system, he was attached to a Blockbuster. Something to get people out of the house and away from their TVs. Something they could only see in the theater. These enormous movies had locales around the world, dozens of Stars, and always an overture and an intermission. (Nothing, to me, is deadlier than a movie with an intermission, except perhaps one that should have one, and doesn't.) In the mid-60s there were two competing films with early 20th century themes, "Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines," and "The Great Race." Edwards did the latter.
It opens with a dedication to Laurel and Hardy, which signals to the audience that this is going to be an affectionate homage to the era of silent slapstick. For a while, it works. Tony Curtis is not funny, but he's not expected to be. Jack Lemmon is very funny, playing his mile-wide role with extra cackles and furious exasperation. Peter Falk is subtle and funny. Natalie Wood is pretty. The music, by Mancini, is wonderful, and we hear the comedically dreary "Push the Button, Max" theme a few times. The odd thing is, once the Great Race starts, the movie bogs. It's as if you realize you've been sitting in the theater for a long time, and the movie's plot is just starting - man, you'll be paying the babysitter a lot tonight.
Do I have a reason for bringing this up? I do. I seem to remember that I had wondered whether MST3K's signature line, "Push the button, Frank" came from "The Great Race." And I remember asking the mads if that was the case. I don't remember the answer. I'll have to ask again.
But here's the real reason I bring it up. Here's a clip of Dr. Fate and Max launching the torpedo that hones in on the Great Leslie's motorboat engine.
Hear anything familiar?
Okay. Here's the clip of Natalie Wood tripping Dr. Fate's alarm system.
Yes, Treg, of Loonie Tunes fame. He got an Oscar for his work on this picture.
By the way: here's the Blake Edwards soundtrack for the moment the Great Race gets underway.
Hear anything familiar?
I have no idea why any of this matters, except that I remember seeing "The Great Race" at the Fargo Theater. I remember only the pie fight.
It was the best movie I'd ever seen!
Time for another look at my favorite museum second-hand store.
Someone saved an art-supply case, perhaps to store their own brushes . . .
. . . and in related news: these loose pages were for sale nearby.
The second page, at the bottom, has those circles you'd find in the "How to Draw Large Cats" books, but the work seems much more accomplished than you'd expect for someone trying to learn from a book.
How would one come into possession of these? Left by a relative? Oh yeah sure, sell Grandma's sketchbook. She never made a name for herself drawing anyway
How true. It was the 30s, and nerves were shredded. Economic dislocation, the rise of national socialism, the unnerving consolidation of power in the state - it could make a man's hair go two-toned overnight.
This week's Product takes a look at a remarkably frank episode of social destruction, as a man in need of Truth learns about his deficiencies in the cruellest ways possible.
Not at first; at first, they try to be kind.
Thus began his week of misery. He heard the gay laughter, and new his friends were playing cards and drinking. Out of town? Why would they say that? He hadn't said anything about going out of town.
The next day:
That would be Earl Carroll's Vanities, quite the popular show. It doesn't require you to stand, or stroll; you sit, and you can be helped to your seat if you really want to go. But she turned her ankle. Didn't break it. Didn't sprain it. That would be hard to explain if he saw her the next day.
She just turned it.
We now know his name is Harold, and there are at least five people who want nothing to do with him.
The week pases slowly; Harold finds himself alone on Friday, smoking in bed at 9 PM:
Yet their lights were out when you passed by their place earlier, weren't they?
Well, there's always the club. Saturday rolls around - another dateless weekend - and he puts on his swell clothes and heads down to the club. They have to let him in.
Actually, what they do is let him have it.
Eddie is mad at the world, you can tell - he has to drink with this death-breath dullard, that's how bad his life's got. Well, he's going to lash out, and lash out but good.
Everybody in town. This, presumably, is New York. That's millions of people.
Huh - that was easy. He already knew about Listerine? Or did he realize that people had been leaving bottles on his doorstep for months, and this was the reason why?
All is forgiven! WE DO OUR PART
Yes, there's our NRA symbol! Don't throw bricks through our corporate offices! We're on board, yessiree! Until it's declared unconstitutional, and then to hell with it.