Howdy and Dogies! The price of gas keeps going up, UP, UP! Wish it would hold hands with Superman and go up, up and Awayyyyy…
“Hurry up and wait!” barked our Sarge back in ‘52. I’ve been following his orders ever since—waiting in line—waiting for good news on the TV news (long wait)—watching TV commercials while waiting for the show to resume (the Yucky side-effects of new-fangled drugs are worse than what the drugs are supposed to cure)—call waiting—waiting for the check in the mail—waiting for the waiter with the water. Remember short subjects at your local Bijou? One I remember was titled “Waiting”. No dialogue nor voice-over, just sorta wistful music as we watched folks waiting. One image sticks. An aged couple sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons. There they sat—waiting, waiting...
Heh, heh—Babs and I win free passes to the local cinema from time-to-time by calling our local newspaper and identifying the picture of the mystery movie star of the week. (We missed one—Lassie’s favorite movie actress, Helen Twelvetrees –Heh, heh.) We usually give our tickets away—you see one Cineplex, you’ve seen ‘em all. Inside, they bombard us local yokels with ads from local merchants—they bombard us with previews of coming attractions—I keep turning around to hush the folks behind. It’s not them—it’s SurroundSound! Waiting for the flick to start—waiting for the flick to end. If you don’t like what you see, you’re plum out the price of admission, popcorn, sody pop, gas. A tidy sum nowadaze.
Wayback when it cost a dime to get in, a nickel for candy. We liked just about everything we saw: Two features, newsreel, cartoon, serial, coming attractions, a short subject. (Three Stooges if we were lucky.) World War II was a big tragedy to us kids. They upped the price of admission to 11¢. You shoulda heard the boos. We hated them Nazis.
Every year Oscars are handed-out to short subjects. Lotsa luck getting to see them out thisaway in the hinterland. I have two all-time favorites. The first is at the seashore—Slumbering sunbathers, surfers, sand castles. The beauty of this idyllic seascape is immediately destroyed by the intrusion of a lummox who obviously flunked out of charm school and Weight Watchers. He blessedly wears a tent-like shirt hanging over his wooly black swim suit from which hairy white legs protrude, disappearing below into his black silk stockings and black leather shoes. A floppy hat shades his nose slathered in zinc oxide. He looks like a sinister clown. He spreads his blanket on the sand and proceeds to fish—sitting down! He casts his line and reels ‘em in. He piles ‘em high. He wants to empty the sea. This fishing frenzy makes him thirsty and hungry. He swigs from his thermos and chomps on a dripping triple-decker sandwich. Suddenly, a close-up on his horror-stricken face. Blood erupts from his pudgy right cheek along with a glint of steel. He’s impaled! Hooked! He screams and gurgles and grabs the line leading from his mouth to the briny deep. He’s yanked shoreward. He grapples and thrashes like a beached shark. He’s caught—hook, line and stinker. He digs his heels deep. The line reels him slowly, inexorably out among the waves—deeper, deeper. His screeching head sinks into the bloody blue. His hat floats off…a few bubbles. Extreme long shot. All is serene—sunbathers, surfers, sand castles, sky, sea. The fisherman has gone back to the mother of us all—the ocean.
The second is titled “They Caught the Ferry”, a traffic safety short directed by the great Dane, Carl Dreyer, flickmeister par excellence. A country road. A young man and woman tool along on a motorcycle. They’re going too fast. They want to catch the ferry before it leaves the harbor. The faster they go, the tighter the girl’s hug around the boy. As they say in La La Land, they are cute, fun and young love. The world is their oyster. The boy skillfully passes cars and bicyclists as they race toward their destination. Roadside strollers eat their dust. Up ahead an old clunker chuffs along, blocking their path. The mother of all road hogs. The boy honks and signals the driver to pull over. The clunker stays its course. The boy tries to pass on the left. The heap pulls to the left. The boy tries to pass on the right. The rattletrap blocks his way. And so on down the road goes the crazy caravan. The boy feints right. The jalopy takes the deke. The motorcycle zooms to the left to pass. Alongside, the boy and girl hurl curses at the driver. He turns his head to them. He smiles. He is Mr. Death. Fade out. Fade in. The ferry lazily bobs in the harbor. Workers carry two long wooden boxes aboard and set them on deck, side-by-side. They are caskets—the boy—the girl. They caught the ferry.
What’s your favorite TV channel? Ours is TCM. Robert Osborne has the best job in showbiz. ‘Twixt flicks they show short subjects of yore—Robert Benchley’s “How to Sleep”, “Crime Does Not Pay”, James A. Fitzpatrick’s “Traveltalks”: “And as we reluctantly bid aloha to Bora Bora, the Technicolor sun sets in the Technicolor Pacific!”
We’re all entitled to our own private screw-ups. One summer TCM sure flubbed the dub with a “Funday Night at the Movies” weekly series. I’ll never forget the first show I saw. I’ll never forget the last show. Same show. It featured a simpering, drugstore cowboy— Tom Whatshisface—talking down to a surly bunch of kids. He hosted a screening of “Shane”. Reckon he figured this primarily called for putting down Alan Ladd’s height. Got me so het-up, I took out my goose quill pen dipped in Gaboon Viper’s venom and wrote: “Tomboy Tom, good job o’ work explainin’ ‘Shane’s’ plot to the kiddies before the picture started. Golly, you got right into the spirit by dudin’ up cowpuncher style—Yee Haw! One leetle quibble—lose the chartreuse Dale Evans shirt. Trust me. What wit in making fun of hero Ladd’s diminutive stature. As the song goes, ‘You’ve got to be taught to hate.’ Yessir, good lesson in life for your captive kiddos. Speakin’ of short, that’s what we figure for your show’s life. Suffers a slight handicap: no talent. Did you ever consider being an organ grinder? I knew Alan Ladd, and believe me, pardner, you’re no Alan Ladd.” No response. Guess who considers “Shane” to be America’s greatest film—Woody Allen! He told the NY TIMES, “This is an odd choice, because I don’t like Westerns…but ‘Shane’ is a great movie and can hold its own with any film. None of the other Westerns hold a candle to ‘Shane’. Which is in a class by itself.” Hmmmmm! Leastwise, them’s Woody’s findin’s.