fjb, local currency: solo 1992-1998 (fayettenam)

the human hearts, civics (tight ship)

the human hearts on myspace

nothing painted blue, taste the flavor (shrimper)

info on older band and solo work; I have no idea who compiled the scarily complete discographies


[72] The Captive City (1952, Robert Wise). Will John Forsythe make it out of Kensington (unsure of state), where some harmless bookmaking has metastasized into total mob control, in time up at the first meeting of the Kefauver Committee on Organized Crime on Interstate Commerce. Faintly ridiculous and 99% humorless one-honest-journalist-against-whole-town true-crimer, complete with PSA-type appearance by Sen. Estes Kefauver himself at the end: "There's no such thing as a little local vice." Narrative frame right out of Double Indemnity (story told on tape turns to flashback); one standout performance by Marjorie Crossland as a local businessman-turned-crook's ex-wife; Forsythe, at this age, strongly resembles Glenn Ford.

[73] Down Three Dark Streets (1954, Arnold Laven). Most entertaining of the several "semi-doc"s I've seen recently, perhaps because the "doc" element is fairly minimal, and despite an unwieldy plot involving Broderick Crawford's attempts to which of three open cases is connected to a fellow FBI agent's murder. Crawford, against type as a white hat, is almost as strong a centering presence (visually as well as dramatically, his bulk and slouch hat anchoring many of the shots) as Barry Fitzgerald in The Naked City, the gold standard for this subgenre. Three main female characters, one per narrative thread, are caricatures in themselves, but the strong contrasts among them are key to clarifying and articulating the structure: Ruth Roman (less interesting than in Invitation) as an "anxious career woman" and Marisa Pavan (the plainer fraternal [sororal?] twin of the better known Pier Angeli) as a "sweet young Italian wife" (sentimentally blind, to boot), do their jobs, but Martha Hyer (a little-known name with a varied career in supporting roles), the "kept mob chippie," steals the film w/ cheesecake and tart delivery of lines like: "You mind if I put something on? I don't like being stared at before lunch." One online review notes that the much better-known (but to my mind a bit drab and white-elephantine, except for Wendell Corey) Experiment in Terror is arguably a remake of the plotline involving Roman.

Pre-code Carole Lombard triple feature at Filmforum:

[74] White Woman (1933, Stuart Walker): Imagine Charles Laughton playing Mistah Kurtz, and you've got the essence of this film; his alternately mincing and enraged performance is pretty much the point. Lombard, as a nightclub singer who can't leave Malaysia b/c of some obscurely referred-to scandal involving her previous husband's suicide, is fairly peripheral, even though the movie starts off with her sultry performances of two Mack Gordon/Harry Revel obscurities (the moderately salacious "A Gentleman and a Scholar," to which I wouldn't mind finding a lead sheet to, and the more generic "Yes, My Dear"). I'd be curious to know whether the songwriters were also responsible for the pentatonic "native chants" that show up after the action moves up-river. Some dismaying sequences with a dead monkey.

[75] Sinners in the Sun (1932, Alexander Hall): Poor girl (Lombard as a department store dress model, a vanished profession on which numerous films of the period depend) decides between poor guy (mechanic Chester Morris, long before the Boston Blackie cycle, acting with his chin) and rich guy (the forgotten Walter Byron, a Zachary Scott type). Has a certain frankness about 'modern' relationships (Morris is a chauffeur/gigolo for much of the movie; Lombard is to be 'passed on' to a pre-stardom Cary Grant once Byron goes back to his wife), but, eventually judges these, and their attendant glamorous trappings, unsatisfactory. One minor character suicides; if this film had been made after '34, though, just about the entire cast would have to die for their transgressions. Despite the somewhat overdetermined quality, a higher-than-usual proportion of scenes land, esp. Morris's party dialogue with a more experienced fellow kept man, played campily by (I think) Russ Clarke. Interestingly indecisive between silent/talkie modes of story telling: one the one hand, there's an unusual emphasis on overheard dialogue ("And they have the best pretzels there...": "There he sat, just spearing his peas."); on the other, much material is covered by proto-Vorkapechian whirl-of-the-demimonde montages.

[76] Virtue (1932, Edward Buzzell). Deservedly better-known than either of the other two, evoking much genuine sympathy on both sides of the central relationship between Pat O'Brien's cynical hack and Lombard's redeemed-by-love ex-pro. Great repartee: "Hey, my face is all right." "Yeah, it's all right for you -- you're behind it." I'd be surprised if silent star Myra Methot (Bogart's first wife), by this point an aging kewpie, was ever better used in a talkie; even ever-doltish Ward Bond is tolerable here. Not as visually distinctive as Me and My Gal, the early Wellman I raved about a few posts back, but similar in its resolute attention to the small-bore concerns of its characters. (Side note: throughout all of these, one can't help but be a bit distracted by the harsh make-up treatment, esp. at the eyes and eyebrows, given Lombard; she doesn't really become iconic until such styling went softer later in the decade, which also helps her play innocents (Godfrey, Nothing Sacred) more winningly. This isn't usually the case, but I'm mildly interested in reading a biography -- my impression is that she was a good egg.)

(Seen a few days later): [77] Made For Each Other (1939, John Cromwell). Melodrama w/ rom-com pacing. Some early sections anticipate the better-written [78] The Marrying Kind (1952, George Cukor), the kind of movie that could make you resolve to treat your sig. other better. (Saw that for the first time this yr., so it counts in the count.) But by the last third, you're better off attending to the increasingly expressionistic cinematography and prod. design (Wm. Cameron Menzies) than the story. Lombard and James Stewart give it their best shot, but when a prayer to Jesus saves their dying baby, it just about kills the movie (and my appetite to stick around for another soaper, In Name Only w/ Kay Francis).

[79] Richard F. Snow, The Funny Place (J. Philip O'Hara, 1975). Oddball volume of mostly narrative verse employing Coney Island, the "funny place" of the title, as the site and occasion for a sort of American mythopoesis. George C. Tilyou and other sub-Barnum enterpreneneurs figure as characters; the central sequence is an impressively handled chronicle of a major 1932 fire. What pulls the book forward is largely the tension between the ennobling pathos of Snow's technique (moderately high diction, rhythms based in blank verse) and the points scored about modernity and the Old World v. the New. On Tilyou:

He met McKane one swelling afternoon:
"You could have had a European Spa."
"But this is not a European place."

(Another key line: "The American century came first in toys.") Impulse-bought b/c it was edited (i.e. selected) for something called the "J. Philip O'Hara Poetry Series" (no relation, apparently, to Frank) by John Ashbery, who contributes a one-paragraph introduction (he calls the poet's music "light classical," and does not mean it as a slight). I presume the mild perversity of the project was an attraction; one certainly can see JA being drawn to a book including a section that opens "Some postcards:"; there may also be a link with the loose handling of pentameter in "Self-Portrait."