It’s polka time

You have to be way more of a snob than I can possibly handle not to think that a little polka once in a while is fun. Don’t laugh — I’ve met a few people in my peer group or there abouts who appreciate a little Jimmy Sturr (who’s won more Grammys than Madonna) or Frank Yankovic (one of the legends of the genre). My wife, with more time on her hands than Tivo choices decided the Big Joe Polka Show was a good option for the evenings entertainment last night. Today, she wrote about it and you’ll entertain yourself to read it.

Review: Man with the Golden Arm

For years, I’ve wanted to see The Man with the Golden Arm. I had heard it was one of Frank Sinatra’s greatest performances and the film was ahead of its time in its gritty depiction of addiction.

I would say the film scores on both counts. Sinatra is brilliant and his portrayal of an addict’s hope, good heart, insecurities and easily influenced temperament is timeless. The push and pulls of society on an addict who returns to his old environment reveals how hard it is to put behind a seedy past. Frankie Machine had talent and hope, but keeps laying down with the wrong dogs. Kim Novak and Eleanor Parker also turn in landmark performances. The entire cast is effective, including Arnold Stang, Robert Strauss and Darren McGavin.

The script is tight and filled with colorful language.

Overall, great film that was probably under appreciated in the 1950s because of its controversial subject matter, but it stands with the best work of the period.

It’s a noir world

Fine piece on The Maltese Falcon in by Eddie Muller , one of the first and possibly the finest example of film noir. A lot of good history on how the film came to be made, including the terrible taste of George Raft:

Raft was a bona fide star, but it was his connection to bona fide gangsters that gave him leverage with his home studio, Warner Bros. He had right of first refusal on every “tough guy” part. The previous year he’d turned down “High Sierra,” giving Humphrey Bogart his first romantic lead. The following year he’d pass on “Casablanca.” The year after that, he nixed Paramount’s “Double Indemnity.” It’s a safe bet nobody ever asked George for advice on stocks or horses.

Is it no wonder Bogey is better remembered and more admired than Raft?

John Huston‘s version of Falcon was the third Hollywood adoptation of the Hammitt classic. Like the first two, it would have flopped if anybody but Bogey had played Sam Spade.

Hitchcock’s Rope

This afternoon, we watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope.

It is a movie of interest primarily because of Hitchcock’s use of what seems like one long camera shot, keeping the scenes seamlessly tied together, like one long rope, and the subtle homosexuality of the main characters (interesting discussion here), and the way it was rather loosely based on an infamous 1924 murder. The Leopold-Loeb crime and sentencing (the duo pled guilty) is covered well here (main trial page here — and the fasinating home page for this site about famous trials can be found here.

There’s plenty of intellectual meet in both the historical crime and the movie, touching as they do on the thinking of Frederick Nietzsche and his “super man” notions. Also, the ideas of determinism and the criminal made victim (as Clarence Darrow did in arguing that the teens should be spared the death penalty).

As a pieceo of entertainment, Rope gets maybe three stars. There is some fine acting, especially from Jimmy Stewart, but the plot moves slowly and lacks the same degree of tension of Hitchcock’s best thrillers.

Life in Nick’s Saloon

Tonight’s entertainment included Time of Your Life, a dreamy, plotless story starring James Cagney as a barstool philosopher and small-time philanthropist. The ensemble cast is made up mostly of actors you’d only recognize if you watched at lot of 1940s B-movies. In another time, this would be a noirish take on a seedy dive bar and the down-and-out losers who drift in and out. Instead, it’s more of a kitchy morality play about the value of individuality. A fine sentiment, but with characters so flat you could slip them through a cooling vent, the drama of their lives is sucked out of the story like so much dust in the air. Too bad Bukowski never rewrote this script. He could have made something of it.