Grab your seats, Ladies! It was the postcard show this weekend and I’m back with wild tales of adventure. The thrill! The drama! The pulse-pounding, brow-dampening excitement of sitting next to a guy who’s working on the same category as you - will he find that one card you want before you do? Look! A fistfight! Two collectors are having a row over possession of a 1904 see-through vignette of Hamburg! It’s part of a series! They both have everything but that card! Blood must flow!
Criminey, what a dull man I am some times, but this site has a voracious appetite for postcards. So twice a year I withdraw seven Jacksons from the cash machine and head into a room and look through boxes until my neck hurts.
Off and on, a chat with the other delteologists. (That’s a postcard collector.) One guy had a broad Minnesota-type accent there ya know, as did the seller of the cards; hers was Yooper, but it still had the same sound familiar to anyone who watches Fargo. I mean gosh. Jeez an’ all.
I asked the guy what he was looking for, and he said restaurants and Colorado. He was from Colorado, but now he lived in Fargo oh goin’ on two years. We chatted a bit about Fargo and he didn’t seem all that fascinated with its history or ups and downs and so forth.
I got sticks for trees in my lawn, he said. It’s a new place so there’s just sticks. In the winter when the wind comes down there -
Nothing to stop it, I said. I know. Believe me.
At the end of the conversation he said he was going to go back to Fargo now, and then said “so I guess I should talk like someone from the TV show” and he doubles the amount of Fargo that was already in his voice, because he didn’t know how much he already sounded like he was a character in Fargo.
I went over to another table and found some nice matches. There were collections someone had put together, assembling all the matches in a series. The Safety Series, the Transportation of the 19th Century series, and so on. They’re always dull, series matchbooks. It would have been wrong to take just one, even though I could have. You have to keep them together.
Ohhh, I said. I don’t believe it. The vendor looked up. I fanned out a series of 2000-era KSTP AM 1500 Talent Cards. The whole gang.
“You’re missing one,” I said.
Her husband leaned over and pointed a finger at me and said “Him.”
I said I’d worked at the station, but a few years before - different cards. White background.
How I would have loved to see it at the show, though. That would have been . . . well, I don’t know. A lot of things.
So I got 50 motels and 30 restaurants, which is almost enough to populate the site for 2019. (I am halfway through cutting up the scans for 2018.) When I got home I noticed I had a big piece cardboard under the magazines and other ephemera I’d bought, and to my dismay it was some 80s calendar cheesecake with the theme of “plump woman has her bathing suit stolen by a dog, or snagged on a barbed wire.” I’d put my stuff down, picked up the calendar when I left.
Well, I’d have to go back on Sunday, then. So I did. Brought them back to the table where the KSTP cars were, and the vendor was surprised: I wondered where those went! I didn’t remember selling them.
All this stuff, and you remember these?
But of course she would. It’s the same sense of your Stuff that lets me page through the bins of motel postcards and know whether I have something or not. I never buy dupes.
Sometimes I get things I don't collect, but interest me - like less famous buildings. Behold: the Consumer and Century Buildings, in Chicago.
It’s the ordinary skyscrapers I like. Everyone knows the famous ones; buildings like these would be landmarks anywhere else.
Still around. Google Street View:
What's going on today? Well, there's a problem. For some reason the GSA has a page on the Century, and notes:
Upper floors are currently in a mostly deteriorated state and largely gutted. Almost all previously-existing partition walls and light fixtures have been removed. Remaining historic material includes paneled mahogany closet doors in the southwest corner of each floor, decorative wooden moulding above each elevator bank, radiators on several floors, a few remaining light fixtures, decorative ceiling beams, and fire escape doors.
Many of the mechanical systems have been removed or are non-operational. Some electrical power is still active.
. . . that's Holabird & Roche's Century Building, one of the fairest of Chicago School skyscrapers. Chicago Architecture Info and other sources list its completion in 1915 as a slender, steel-framed, terra cotta-adorned 16-story office building. Anyone who has moseyed on by in the past decade would notice its striking lack of occupancy.
Digging a bit deeper into that situation, it's pretty clear the Federal Government's inaction is at least partly to blame for the long abandonment. In the General Service Administration's (GSA) eight-year reign over the Century Building and neighboring Consumer Building (220 State), the structures have continued to erode. Archicritic Lynn Becker goes so far as to call the Century "the dead rotting fish stinking up State Street”.
One more thing, thanks to Emporis: an explanation of that sign.
The building once held the world's tallest restaurant sign: an electric light spelling "Romas Restaurant" on the corner of State and Adams. The sign was changed to "Adams Restaurant" in 1975.
I’ve done this one before, and there’s a reason I watched it again. First of all, I wanted to see if I chose the same scenes to highlight.
I go to sleep laughing, and . . .
As usual, not a review - unless it’s some obscure thing I found that I feel duty-bound to tell everyone about it as if I’m the first guy who ever discovered it.
Here’s what I said originally:
No one wakes up screaming in the movie. Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler. The original title was Hot Spot, but it didn’t matter what they called it. The Butcher Always Phones In the Afternoon. The Painter Stopped Whistling. The Big Thing. I didn’t expect much in the way of noir-flavored cynical grit and sweaty dame-mad guys, since it had Victor Mature and Betty Grable. But it was terrific.
Many movies are tagged as the first Noir (heh: there’s a carol. The First Noir / the roscoes did shoot / at a guy who’s in love with a skirt dissolute) but this one makes a good claim, and they weren’t even trying. All the visual elements are there – high contrast, Venetian blinds, lots of smoke, hats and more hats – and apparently no one involved with the project ever did anything like it again, or was particularly aware they were doing something novel in the first place.
This is interesting: the theme.
It’s “Street Scene,” used in many movies. Odd that they didn’t have something special; suggests it was thrown together on a scant budget.
but it does have Betty Grable, so . . . well, maybe they’ll play unique, special tunes that doesn’t make anyone think of any other movie, right?
Surely it was impossible for everyone not to think of that other movie, right? The one that had absolutely nothing to do with this one?
Well, let's just leave that there. We start out knowing it’s going to be a flashback:
The model is Carol Landis, whom we discussed last week. The movie soon moves into its dominant mode, which is so noir that most noir looks like the scene where Dorothy opens the door after the house lands on the witch.
Victor Mature is brought in to get the sweats and phonebooks. It’s all a study in framing and lighting. Same thing when Betty gets the 3rd degree:
Wouldn’t be a noir without everyone’s favorite punching bag:
Then we meet . . . this guy. Floating past the cafe window. (That's CHILDS in background, an NYC eatery chain.)
He has . . . things on his mind.
A cop. Wandering. Thinking. Knowing.
This is the entirety of the movie in one shot. Just the hunter and the hunted.
Again, remember what I keep saying: the 40s looked a lot like the 20s.
He's going to visit the victim's sister. Take a look at the way he's manifested as a shadow, then as a man:
Inside the apartment, the detective notes a picture on the wall.
He knows that work.
It can be done.
Let's look at that painting:
According to IMDB, it’s by R. Atkinson Fox. His official website has a Garden section, and it’s not on there. Could it be lost? Fox was one of the most popular artists of his time, and it seems unlikely that a popular work someone could name off the top of his head would have no trace on the web, but that’s how it goes.
This is one of those things - a popular painting, a popular artist, a cliche on the walls, signifying a certain sort of person in a certain stratum of the class - that we've no reference for today. We just don't know. It's one of those common details that evaporates over the decades.
Anyway. As I noted, this isn't a review - except to say it's a fantastic movie, if only for its look . . .
. . . but mostly for this guy. The marvelous and tragic Laird Cregar.
Just a note about the culture and times: it's 1941.
Dapper dirt-slinging celeb journos barking out orders in the club on a nice phone. Those were the days.
That'll do for today! Don't miss my MONDAY newspaper column! Just click on the Star. You know: The big green Startribune Star.
It's about DOG TV.
(Only two matches, since I'm finishing up the Health & Beauty section.)