Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Song and Dance Man

The desolate theater had once been a palace,
but now citizens of the town look upon it with open distaste and malice.
Rotting inside and out, the building was falling into shambles,
they, the citizens, talk in rambles.
They want it gone; they want it no more.
Decades before the theater had once been the town's core,
but the people thought not of it's history, thought not of the long-ago yesterdays,
it was now the twenty-first century. Brush aside the old; it's time for new ways.
So plans were made, and the people that would commit the horrendous deed were called
the big man said, "We'll be there at the break of dawn."
The next morning, as the jaws of death rolled in, the citizens stood around in a crowd,
not ashamed of the act that would soon commence, they all stood proud.
And when the engines were revved by the destruction crew,
the crowd erupeted into cheers that only grew and grew.
But just as the cheers rose to a deafening height,
the zealous crowd became audibly silent, as quick as turning on or off a light.
For here came forth a man in tails, top hat, and with a cane tapping; keeping time.
When he reached the front, he turned toward the crowd, and with baffling simplicity said,
"You're commiting a crime."
From somewhere out in the crowd a voice arose, "This is our town, we'll do what we please. What do you know?"
His eyes grew soft, and a knowing smile curved his lips. He whispered, "Come, follow me. Let me put on a show."
Without saying another word, he turned and walked into the once-upon-a-time palace,
they followed suit as though in a trance, this crowded epitome of callous.
And when they stepped inside,
all feelings of old discrimination and hate for the theater were put aside.
The theater that'd been destroyed and rotting inside as it'd once been before,
was no more--it'd been restored.
The seats that had been ripped and torn,
sat right side up reborn.
And oh! the stage!
The curtain open, the boards all replaced, it shined as though it were brand new--and the
entire crowd knew that they were no sage.
And there--the old hoofer from the Golden Age,
stood upon the brand renewed stage.
The scene was set; the props were all in place,
all were beautiful and elegant, but chaste.
A gasp was heard, and then a "Look over there!"
Set off to the side, a large band of musicians sat with their instruments, sweet musical
notes began to fill the air.
But that was not all,
for coming from the side doors, men and women all dressed as one would in the olden
days, came in from the hall.
The men wore ties, bow and some not.
The women wore furs, pearls and diamonds--what surpise they all brought.
Fascinated eyes all watched as the forgotten people took their seats.
The crowd's hearts were beginning to dangerously skip beats.
Then the strange man whom stood upon the stage, held up his cane in one hand,
and motioning for the band, the music began.
The spot lights went dim,
and away went the man's loose limbs!
His feet were like the wind, so quick and smooth.
It was apparent that the man enjoyed what he did, an obvious groove.
The taps of his shoes went across the stage: tippity tap, clickity clack.
He swayed, he bent, he twirled and jumped--the good times were back.
They all cheered, present and past when he came to a finish.
He gave a deep bow, smiled and raised his hand, accepting the praise. Breathing heavily,
excitedly, he said, "Thank you, thank you." And there things began to diminish.
The people in thir seats began to fade away like mist,
the band disappeared, the seats returned to their unholy state; all that was new went away, in wisps.
The song and dance man only remained, but not even he did for long.
"You saw what was once the past, a part of this town's history. You saw how sweet it was, like a melody in a song.
This will forever stay in your mind and heart.
Don't let this memory go stale, or become lost within you. Don't let it go bitter and tart."
And with those last words hanging in the air,
he tapped his cane to his hat in salute, and was gone; the theater lost its glow and once
again became desolate and bare.

The Song and Dance Man Himself.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Only Angels Have Wings

Information: TCM

Director: Howard Hawks
Cast: Cary Grant --Geoff Carter
         Jean Arthur --Bonnie Lee
         Richard Barthelmess --Bat MacPherson
         Rita Hayworth --Judith MacPherson
         Thomas Mitchell --Kid Dabb

Year: 1939
Duration (minutes): 119 or 121

Brief Synopsis: (Spoiler Alert!)

     When showgirl Bonnie Lee's ship docks in the "banana republic" of Barranca, she is delighted to meet Joe Souther (Noah Beery, Jr.) and Les Peters (Allyn Joslyn), two American flyers for a cut-rate airline owned by softhearted Dutchy (Sig Rumann). The airline is run by the hard-boiled Geoff Carter, who, despite hazardous weather conditions in the Andes and frequent crack ups, must maintain a regular schedule for six months in order to obtain the mail subsidy.
     The conviviality of the evening is shattered as Dutchy, Tex, Geoff and Bonnie watch in horror as Joe's plane crashes in the fog. Geoff's best friend, Kid Dabb, warns Bonnie to stay away from the misogynistic Geoff, whose bad experience with one woman has soured him against the entire sex, and whose motto is that he will never ask a woman for anything. Bonnie finds herself attracted to him nevertheless, and decides to remain in Barranca. Complications arise with the arrival of Bat MacPherson, a new pilot, and his wife Judy.
     Years earlier, MacPherson's cowardice caused the death of Kid's younger brother, and as a result, the other pilots object to his presence. When Geoff is forced to ground Kid because of failing eyesight, however, he is short on pilots and agrees to hire MacPherson on the condition that he fly the most dangerous missions. Meanwhile, Bonnie is on the verge of confessing her love for Geoff when Kid calls him away to test a new airplane. On the night of the last flight necessary to clinch the contract, a storm rages, and Bonnie, terrified that Geoff will not return from his mission, accidentally shoots him while begging him not to fly. With a bullet in his shoulder, Geoff is unable to fly, and so MacPerson and Kid, the two antagonists, volunteer to take over his mission.
     While they are navigating the fog shrouded-pass, a bird crashes through their windshield, breaking Kid's neck and setting the plane on fire. Rather than save himself by parachuting to safety, MacPherson crash lands the plane in a ball of flames, thus winning redemption from the dying Kid. As the weather clears, Geoff and Les prepare to take off again, but before he leaves, Geoff uses Kid's single-sided coin to ask Bonnie to stay with him.

     This film is my all time favorite. The flying sequences are amazing (especially the one when Cary gets knocked out), the action is white-knuckled, the dialogue witty, the romance between Cary and Jean feels real, the setting is exotic, and the cast is one to be awed and googled over. And the fact that Cary Grant and Jean Arthur are my favorite actor and actress, well, that's just icing on the cake.
     This film set Rita Hayworth's career on the fast track, all her previous pictures having been trivial and unimportant, and none of which showcased her talent. And it seems as though 1939 was definitely Thomas Mitchell's year: in 1939 alone he starred in four of the money makers: Only Angels Have Wings started the year off, then came Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (again starring with Jean Arthur), and just in case you've lived under a rock you're whole life, this is the year that the BIG DADDY of all epics was released: Gone with the Wind; and he then rounded off the year with The Hunchback of Notre Dame. After this film was released, Richard Bartelmess, a previous star of the silents, only made three more films. Jean was a veteran of thirty-four previous pictures, a good many of which were silents (and Jean in a silent just doesn't make sense! You couldn't hear probably the most recognizable thing about her: her VOICE). And then there's Cary . . . By the time he did this picture, he had went freelance. Two years previous he had done Topper and The Awful Truth, both of which finally had caught the people's eye.
     It's fast paced, there's not a single dull moment in it, and Howard Hawks . . . well, it's obvious why he's one of the greatest directors ever.

Jean schools Cary on how to play the piano.

     Did You Know?:
  1. Cary actually did know how to play the piano (which to me makes the above scene all the more funny).
  2. This is the film that the oft-misquoted "Judy, Judy, Judy," is mistaken to come from. Not once does Cary say this in the film.
     Bonnie Lee: What was she like, anyway?
     Geoff Carter: Who?
     Bonnie Lee: That girl that made you act the way you do.
     Geoff Carter: A whole lot like you. Just as nice, almost as smart.
     Bonnie Lee: Chorus girl?
     Geoff Carter: Only by temperment.

     Bonnie Lee: Say, isn't that girl the one he used to be in love with?
     Kid Dabb: Bonnie, when it rains, every third drop falls on one of them.

     Geoff Carter: Got a match?
     Bonnie Lee: Say, don't you have any?
     Geoff Carter: No, don't believe in laying in a supply of anything. [she hands him a match] Thanks.
     Bonnie Lee: Matches, marbles, money or women, huh?
     Geoff Carter: That's right.
     Bonnie Lee: No looking ahead; no tomorrows; just today.
     Geoff Carter: That's right.

     I could go on and on about this film, but I think this is probably enough. All I can say is this: If you haven't seen it yet, go do so!

                                                                                                Signing Off,