It snowed over the weekend, for that “yes, it’s December” aspect we love to get the day before December. Sometimes I think Christmas would be much different in tone and spirit if it happened in February. It would be a bit desperate, I think, if it attempted the same level of jollity - but it wouldn’t, because it was February. It would have a certain grim resilience to it. You’re tired of winter already. There is much to come. You are going to be festive now.
But when Christmas comes at the start of winter, we conflate the two and swap between them the whole Wonder and Beauty thing. The years that have brown Christmases seem to be low-key failures, and I recall quite a few - the desperate hurrah for a few wet flakes in mid-December. Get me in the mood please thank you. It’s not that the world doesn’t seem to be cooperating - it’s actively working against you, grinding your face into this brown sodden cloudy reality when everything should be Currier and Ives, whoever the hell they were. Which one did the melody and which one the lyrics?
It snowed, twice, and that would have meant two trips by the snow removal crew, and two billings, since I used to have the package that required a trip if there was any accumulation likely to persist. (If it would melt, they didn’t show.) This meant two more additions to the Snowblower Cost Abatement Calculation, since after X number of snowfalls, the Snowblower price is exceeded by what I would have paid the crew, and any additional money can go towards the new fridge.
Don’t get me started on that. Later, perhaps. I feel like a fool.
What I didn’t anticipate was non-blowable snow. The snowfall wasn’t sufficient to justify getting out the snowblower.
It was, but it wasn’t. I could, but that would be weak. Overkill.
So I shoveled. BIG DEAL you say but you might not have an idea how much sidewalk I have. It took two old-time radio shows, which clock in at 22+ minutes when stripped of ads, and I’d heard the first one before and found it annoying: believe me, if my daughter comes to me and says she hears a screaming woman trapped in a big drain pipe in the adjacent junkyard, and the anguish on her features is real, I’m not going to discount it, let alone declare that her insistence on persisting will earn a licking.
In between the two shows, during the time when I was scraping off the ice on the south-facing walk that slopes down, as everything here does, I heard some acerbic Stan Freberg Thanksgiving bits. I know people love Stan Freberg, and I admire the talent, but it’s just never hit me right. It’s too on-the-nose, but at the time I’m sure it was remarkably fresh for the medium, and as such I tip my hat.
Then, as I worked my way down the walk, removing the ice, the satellite radio app played an Honest Harold, aka the Harold Peary show, and it just made me sad. I don’t know if there’s any analogue in TV. A hugely popular guy on a long-standing popular show quits, takes his vocal mannerisms to another network, where the writers reconstruct pallid versions of all the stock characters who filled up his previous show. Imagine Lucy moving to another network, and she has a sitcom where she’s married to a Mexican bandleader, has a flat-affect sarcastic frumpy friend named Mabel, who’s married to a stumpy bald guy named Frank, and she does all the things she did in “I Love Lucy” but it all seems wrong. That’s Honest Harold. It just hurts to hear, because it didn’t last, and after that Harold Peary was over. He never got another show. Ended up a radio DJ spinning records. Meanwhile, the show he left went on and on for a few more years because they found a guy who sounded like him.
I’m just grimacing all the way up the stairs as I shovel, listening to this, knowing how it ended, listening to Peary apply his trademark vocal mannerisms, wondering how he felt when he knew this wasn’t working.
Anyway. I have to shovel again tomorrow, because it’s all up to me now, and I like it that way.
A man needs purpose.
LATER It snowed some more so I had to shovel again. This time there was enough for the snowblower. I'm already running out of room for the snow, and if you don't get that, let me explain. You snowblow the snow into certain areas, and then you snowblow the snow to a different, larger area. But if that destination starts to fill up, you're in trouble.
It is the first of the month, and I am in trouble.
Well, this sounds to be a tight fit for Lloyd:
Get it? ha ha Lloyd is stuck inside a zombie
Remember our previous viewing of Mike Shayne pictures? They're programmers, meant to deliver a familiar character in a fast-paced piece that precedes the main movie. Shayne's a real tough guy in the stories and radio plays and TV show, but Nolan plays him with a breezy charm that makes for a good swift picture.
Everything’s established from the start with laudable economy; you wish more pictures heard the hoofbeats of Time’s Winged Chariot. Scene: a great old manor, which means ghosts or crime; if it’s the latter, we’re all set to see old rich people get killed or found morally wanting.
Sure enough, a body is removed from the manor and stuffed in a trunk. A drawn, worried young woman watches.
Helen Whitney. If she has a bit of an aristocratic appeal, well . . .
Helene Whitney was born in 1914 as Kenyon Fortescue and was the grandniece of Alexander Graham Bell and cousin once removed of President Theodore Roosevelt. She married Julian Louis Reynolds, heir to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune in 1936.
Cut! We’re at the cemetery, where the body’s buried. An old geezer watches in secret.
Cut! Back at the house, the worried woman’s stepdaughter shows up out of nowhere. She’s glamorous and fun!
The worried woman doesn’t look evil:, and she looks about the same age as the flibbertigibbet step-daughter.
So she’s probably okay. Annnnd right away the men who'd been digging in the graveyard shows up, surprised that the daughter’s here.
Weren’t you in Washington DC? "Why yes but I thought I should come back because of all that trouble you’ve been having with the Senate."
Four minutes, and it’s all there.
Four minutes later:
Guess who that might be, given the title of the film.
Isn't this just a great shot?
Well, it turns out that our lad Moike Shayne knows the frail what got herself hitched, and she hires him to impersonate her husband and find out who shot her. He shows up and wisecracks and has a good time until he discovers a peculiar electric chair in the manor’s laboratory.
You know, the usual manor laboratory.
You know, I’ll bet that’s a machine responsible for the buried man who came back to life!
Oh, we could go on, but I recommend you watch it. Nolan is just great - breezy, quick with a quip. It’s mannered in the style of the era. You wonder if this sort of confident fellow with a good line of patter and a bit of the old up-from-hunger scrappy quality.
As mysteries go, it’s complex and the resolution’s full of ludicrousness, and it’s another “detective stands around in the room and explains everything” bit, but that’s the genre. And it’s good. For a B movie, it’s Grade A.
What I can’t quite figure out is the musical choices going on at the end.
That'll do; see you here and there. Happy December!