Archive for September, 2010

September 29th, 2010

The Thin Man (1934)

The Thin Man The Thin Man The Thin Man
Would you mind putting that gun away?  My wife doesn’t care, but I’m a *very* timid fellow!

I had every intention of writing about 1936’s Satan Met a Lady this week, mainly because I wanted to do a three part series about Golden Age productions of The Maltese FalconSatan Met a Lady is the middle child of these efforts, and also the only one to deviate from a strictly dramatic treatment.  As a comedy/crime hybrid, I was intrigued and willing to give the film a far greater latitude than I usually would when regarding incarnations of a famous work.  However, despite the best efforts of one, Bette Davis, the entire film was so haphazardly put together that I barely made it through the modest 74 minute running time.

While I certainly do not think that only “good” films are worthy of deconstruction, sometimes it only takes a single fatal flaw to kill a picture.  When that happens, there’s only so much you can say.  In this case, the failure had less to do with reconceptualizing Dashiell Hammett’s classic tale of murder most foul, and more to do with someone’s insistence that Satan Met a Lady follow in the footsteps of another Hammett property:  the wildly successful cinematic rendering of The Thin Man.  Unfortunately, the dialogue is so turgid and the laughs so forced, that instead of enhancing the criminal aspect of the plot, they create a schizophrenic effect which in turn renders both elements impotent.

Certainly Satan Met Lady was not the first, nor the last, attempt to capitalize on the success of the crime turned comedy procedural.  A whole slew of debonair detective themed pictures cropped up around the same time, indeed William Powell himself was involved in the Philo Vance pictures, a series which predates The Thin Man by a few years.  Then, of course, there is the “Fast” series that revolves around Harry Kurnitz’s novels about Joel Sloan, a rare-book dealer moonlighting as a detective.  Yet I am hard pressed to think of any effort that out performs, or even pulls fair with The Thin Man. So that, dear readers, leads us to the topic at hand. . .

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September 19th, 2010

What’s Old is New

Chock Full o' Nuts store in the late 1960s

Chock Full O’  Nuts is that heaaaaaavenly coffee!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a new Chock Full O’ Nuts opened its doors on 23rd street last Monday!  Once as ubiquitous in Manhattan as Starbucks, the chain, which began in 1926, fell into obscurity and eventual extinction during the 1980s.  I mean, what kind of self-respecting yuppie would eat at a lunch counter?

Now that times have changed (and boy, how they’ve changed), it seems the owners of Chock Full O’ Nuts are banking on a mixture of nostalgic appeal and good old parsimony to pack their countertops.

“We’re in a recession now, and comfort food is always something that people gravitate to.”

Two donuts are 99 cents.  A regular cup of coffee is $1.55.  And yes, they are still serving their classic nutted cheese sandwiches.

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September 11th, 2010

Wild Boys of the Road (1933)

Wild Boys of the Road Wild Boys of the Road Wild Boys of the Road
You wanna forget us. But you can’t do it. Cuz I’m not the only one. There’s thousands just like me, and there’s more hittin’ the road every day!

Excuse the absence, these past two weeks have been long for Miss Fierce.  They also encompassed a birthday. . .and what better way to celebrate nearing my dotage than to watch a pre-code film about teenaged hobos!

Wild Boys of the Road, was directed by William Wellman in 1933.  If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because he helmed the first film to win an Oscar for Best Picture, “Wings,” back in 1927.  Interestingly, it was also the only silent film to ever be credited with the award.  But I digress!

Eddie (Frankie Darro) and Tommy (Edwin Phillips) are best friends, growing up amidst the pitfalls of normal middle-class adolescence (dating, cars, school dances) until both their families experience financial destitution.  Hitherto blissfully unaware of the Depression’s realities, the pair is thrown into an entirely different world over night when they decide to run away, so as not to further burden their parents.

On their travels, they meet up with a host of other young people, all pushed out onto the road by the Depression.  Most notable amongst these wayward youngsters is Sally (Dorothy Coonan Wellman, the director’s future wife), a freckle-faced girl disguised as a boy, whom they encounter whilst riding the rails.  The trio forms an unlikely familial unit, with Eddie assuming the “fatherly” role of leader, as they navigate an unforgiving territory in search of respite from crushing poverty.

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