I put up more lights. This time it was the line of evergreens on the steps. Wife wanted them to be green or red, but these are hard to find. Oh, you can find ten miles of blue, but red? Not much call for it ‘round these parts. NOT MUCH CALL? IT’S THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT HOLIDAY COLOR. Have you got any green, he said, expecting the answer to be no?
Uhhhhh . . . sorry. We’re fresh out of green. Have some lovely multicolored.
If I wanted some multicolored I would have SHUT THAT BLOODY BOUZOUKI OFF!
Sorry sir. Can I interest you in some red and green?
You haven’t got any, have you.
I’m sorry sir, no.
Then I shall have to shoot you.
They did have green, but in 120-lights boxes, so I bought six of those. Strung them up and around. For something different I put in one of the blinking bulbs, thinking it would make the entire arrangement blink - because blinking is festive - but only one strand blunk, which made it look like a Misfit string.
You know, when we were kids, we never quite got the “misfit” angle for the little gay dentist in the Rudolph special. He was a non-conformist. This idea started in the 50s, which was never as conformist as people seem to think, and became a high holy idea in the 60s, when non-conformity became its own form of conforming. The ultimate lesson of the Rudolph special was how old institutions could accept non-conformists of all sorts, and prosper.
Because if Hermy hadn’t run away with Rudolph, they would have never tamed the Abominable, who put the star on top of the Christmas tree.
But think about that. Santa’s business is Christmas; he runs a sophisticated industrial operation. He can’t figure out a way to get a star on top of a tree? That never happened before a monster with a bloody empty tooth socket showed up? Everything would have been better if Rudolph hadn’t run away, making everyone sick with worry. But Hermie and Rudolph took everyone’s attention from the job at hand because they decided that they were Misfits and non-conformists, and this made them feel entitled to break the norms.
Ah, you say, if they hadn’t run away, the Bumble would have remained a fearsome monster. Maybe. He had a bum tooth. It’s likely it would have developed an abcess and become infected, and he would have died raving of sepsis.
Ah, you say, but they wouldn’t have found the Island of Misfit Toys, and the Misfit Toys wouldn’t have been delivered for Christmas. Perhaps. But who made those toys? Santa’s workshop. It was obvious there was some deal between him and the Lion guy. Look, these toys didn’t work out, and unlike most of the stuff I make they’re self-aware. I need you to just . . . look after them, okay?
Can I be a king? I want to be the King of this Island!
Uh - sure. You’re the King of the island.
And I want to be known as Moonracer!
Sid, come on.
Okay, but that’s not what it’s going to say on your W-2.
How does it happen that the defective toys are suddenly good to be delivered? And doesn’t the horrible snowstorm suggest that maybe the NORTH FARGIN’ POLE wasn’t the smartest place to set up shop?
In previous years I’ve written about the show’s portrayal of Santa; he’s just a jerk. His employees get together to sing their fealty and he can barely keep awake; one of his star employees has a baby and he shows up in their barren home to sing a song about himself. We never saw that when we were kids, because he was Santa, and Santa was Great. But we did understand that there was something special about Yukon Cornelius - something that made you feel amused and secure, because he probably had a gun, and if worse came to worse he could drive that pick into the Bumble’s eyeball. He was the non-conformist, but he hewed to many archaic roles. That cheerful red-haired pick-licker was the only one you could really depend upon.
Ah, the surest sign that the Holidays were underway, and woe to you if you missed it. There wasn’t any rebroadcast. There wasn’t any DVR or DVD. You had to be there.
And why am I thinking about this now?
It started snowing. The first one I’ve seen this season. It’s December. That’s fine.
This is one of my favorite shots: Union Square. Another Berenice Abbott photo.
It's hard to place today, but I think this is the shot:
Here's a hard character on route some hard business:
Beauty, bootery, pure candy. Since this is Union Square, you're probably wondering if the Klein of the sign is connected to the S. Klein store. Well . . .
I don't know. Same for Kings Beer - "Fit for a King," in case you wanted some more King in your sales pitch. Nothing on the web. Ruppert, of course, was a famous local brand; its owner was a baseball magnate as well.
What a mad, wonderful world, if you didn't have a headache:
"This is Agent X, calling from 1937. I've located Edith Keeler crossing the street. She's in white. Please advise."
This is "Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake" month for no reason I can think of.
The middle film is something of a muddle. Once it gets some focus about halfway through, it gets terrific - but not for the reasons you might think.
The gang? All here. Let's look at the composition of their early scenes:
Taller than everyone; authoritative. We meet Her:
Right in the middle, at our level. Let's meet the new member of the merry band, William Bendix:
We're using Ladd as a stand-in for ourselves; he's in the witness position, as Ebert called it in his "Citizen Kane" commentary. Everyone's always bunched up in these shots, close, jostling, angling for position and power.
What's at stake? Nothing you really care about. Small-town corruption. It’s too realistic - the people aren’t that interesting, the dialogue sounds like ordinary dialogue. There’s nothing large about it; the stakes are small. But that also gives it a certain power.
You might recall the endless fistfights from the Serials? Well:
Bendix is a wild man in this one, earning the audience’s hatred straight away - crude, dumb, sadistic, gleeful in his ability to hurt. You only hope the film sets him up for retribution, because he wails on Ladd something mean, and leaves our hero - who seems slight and small - with the sort of facial hash that makes you admire the makeup artists of the day.
Check out his escape from the place where he’s been held and beaten: hell of an exit.
Ladd’s no Bogie, but he has . . . self-possession. Not with Bogie’s rueful amusement at human absurdity. But he has that insoucient quality that makes Bendix-types want to beat him. Guys who know all the angles indulge him, because they're smarter. Wrong.
How Forties is this movie? This Forties:
One other note: wouldn't be a Black & White World entry without one fof Those Guys. A face you see in many movies and never quite figure out who it belongs to. What's the moniker on that pan, pal?
If you're going to read the list of his credits, find a comfortable sitting position; he started work early and worked until he was 82. His last movie was "Empire of the Ants," with Joan Collins.
This movie is better.
Another week begins! Tumblr is loaded up through Thursday, so the weekly updates are over. (For a week.) See you around.