Saturday, November 14, 2020

In Honor Of The 110th Birthday Of The Late Legendary Private Investigator Phillip Marlowe-An Encore Interview With Dotty Malone Back In 1978-The Last Living Link To The Fame Shamus Who Has Passed Away At 98

In Honor Of The 110th Birthday Of The Late Legendary Private Investigator Phillip Marlowe-An Encore Interview With Dotty Malone Back In 1978-The Last Living Link To The Fame Shamus Who Has Passed Away At 98

By Seth Garth as told by Dorothy “Dotty” Malone

[Back in 1978 Seth Garth, then a young stringer at American Film Gazette did a piece in honor of the late famous private detective Phillip Marlowe who was then being feted on his 70th birthday. (Marlowe had passed away some years before of some say hubris, drink and a serious cocaine addiction.) As part of his research into some of Marlowe’s more famous cases he ran across Dotty Malone who had at one time involved with Marlowe in a case, and as he dug deeper maybe more. Ms. Malone was in any case the last living link to the famous Sternwood case which first brought Marlowe to wide public attention, some say notoriety when he married Sternwood’s older daughter, Vivian shortly after Marlowe tied up the loose ends, the loose ends that counted which was to save an old man grief before the end, before he went to his rest concerning his younger wayward daughter Carmen. The name may not mean much now in super highway times, now generally or in Los Angeles where the case unfolded, but in that old-pre-World War II town he carried a lot of weight, had pull. Reason: General Sternwood was the guy who practically invented the La Brea tar pits which made his fortune. That insured plenty of newspaper coverage and cover-up as well depending on how the wily old man wanted things done.

So as a young up and coming reporter Seth interviewed Ms. Malone, let her tell what she knew of the Sternwood story from her vantage point. Recently Seth received word that Ms. Malone whom he had not seen in many years had passed away at her home in Brentwood where she lived for mainly years at 98. He went into his files to see if he still had the Malone interview, He did have a copy and we decided that it would honor both Ms. Malone and Mr. Marlowe to have an encore presentation of her interview which gives a very different view of the Sternwood case than the police logs or the newspapers had at the time-Greg Green, site manager]

Sure, I knew Phillip Marlowe, knew him from the Sternwood case which may not mean too much now with about twenty million stories out in the urban sprawl but did when a guy with money, a guy like old Sternwood,    more money than Midas some said after he hit pay-dirt with those stinking La Brea tarpits which put him on easy street. And gave him enough pull with the P.D. and with the L.A. Times to play whatever angle he was playing in whatever way he wanted. Originally, and I will tell you how in a minute, I only knew that the General had hired Marlowe, everybody called him Marlowe and that is the way he wanted to be called, to do some small chore, clean up the mess, for him around the antics his younger daughter who even I knew was a wild one, knew she frequented and was photographed at splashy Hollywood venues and did plenty of what today would be called kinky things with people in Hollywood. Some well-known actors and actresses, married and single, too who you would be surprised if I told you their names since you work for a film publication. You know dope, sex, strange rituals, and all you can figure it out. It was not until later that I found out the details, the details that put the case in the cold files and off the front pages of anything but the L.A. editions of the scurrilous Inquirer.

It was strictly a matter of happenstance that I would wind up meeting Marlowe, getting involved even as small a part as I had in what happened. I had come out West from my Maryland home after graduating from Bryn Mawr, mainly to get away from my straight-laced family and with the idea unlike most girls who came to Hollywood then, now too, not of becoming a film actor but a screenwriter since I was fascinated by some work that William Faulkner and Booth Tarkington had done with screenplays. I was pretty good looking, except for having to wear glasses all the time for bad eyes which would have cut down my chances of a film career if I had wanted to go that route. In those days wearing glasses, young women wearing glasses, was a subject of some social scorn once viper short story writer Dorothy Parker made everybody aware of the stigmata with her probably drunken remark that “guys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” 

What I didn’t know, was kind of shocked at, was that there were a million girls, guys too, who wanted to be screenwriters and so I learned the hard way the way around the Hollywood studios. As you might guess, since you are with a film magazine, the way forward in this business with few exceptions is through sex. Everybody, at least everybody in the business knows that to get ahead you have to what we used to call “put out,” have sex, male or female, with some bastard to get in the studio before a camera or the writing room. I was naive enough for a while to hold out, to stay a virgin. Because Bryn Mawr was an all- women’s college I didn’t have much sexual experience, had never “gone all the way” as one of my daughter’s asked me in one of our candid mother-daughter talk-fests although I had some lesser sexual encounters. It was not until I hit Hollywood and started hanging with young actors who hung around the same places I did to try to figure out how the hell to get inside though studio gates that I went “all the way.” All the way the first time with Rory Calhoun, who when I knew him before he became a star was simply Jeff Mahoney. We remained friends ever after until his second marriage, still talk now and again. 

That is the background to how I met Marlowe, met him when I was working in a high brow book store on Sunset Boulevard while I was waiting to get into the studios, get into some writing assignment. I remember it was a rainy day, unusual for that time of year in L.A. and I had just practically thrown out a couple of young girls from Hollywood High School who had heard, correctly, that the bookstore had some interesting high-side erotica for sale. Had heard it from some boys and were curious. Since they were too young to look at such material I kicked them out after they started badgering me. Now to set the record straight especially in like of what was going on with the younger Sternwood daughter Acme Books sold strictly literary erotica which may or may not have had pictures alongside, For example, we carried the Kama Sutra, had it right on the shelves. Since smutty books come into the story I wanted to get that straight.

This guy with a rained-splattered trench coat, you know the ones that guys like Humphrey Bogart made famous in I think Casablanca with the belt buckle to cinch the whole affair, dripping soft felt hat, wearing a suit, brown although not high end, not from what I could tell, short to medium high, older and as he approached me as I was straightening up a book bin of overstocks I noticed he had a craggy face, kind of handsome in a way. (To set the record straight I mentioned to Marlowe in a funny manner that he seemed kind of short to be a private detective after he introduced himself. He smirked and said he had had enough of that kind of talk that day since the young Sternwood girl, Carmen, ahd said the same thing when he went out to that first interview at the Sternwood mansion. He then said that didn’t seem to stop Carmen at all since he then tried to do a lap dance on him when he was standing. I laughed a knowing laugh.) He startled me by asking me some questions about rare books mainly because he no more looked like a rare book aficionado than the man in the moon. When I mentioned that fact after answering his questions about specific rare editions he noted that the young gal at the reference room in the Hollywood library had told him the same thing. I also found out later, much later, that she had given him her telephone number on the basis of his reply about helping him get through the books. I also found out that after he left the bookstore he went to the library to pick her up and I guess she showed him quite time. She had still been pissed off at him when she informed me of this later because after he had had his way with her he had left, said he was on a case.                          

That is when Phillip, I call him Phillip now that he is gone but Marlowe  then like everybody else, laid out the story about how he was working for a wealthy guy up in the hills where the wealthy lived then in their above the grimy air mansions and without mentioning any names then said the guy was being shaken down by the bookseller across the street at Geiger’s Rare Books and Antiques over some stuff that one of his daughters had gotton caught up in. When he went to see “what was what,” to cram the shakedown, this book clerk, this Agnes, I will get to her later, her and her relationship with Phillip after her various guys, protectors fell down on the job was as clueless as he was about rare books. So he came over to see what I knew, whether the operation was legitimate or was it a front for from what he saw a “dirty book” racket to high-end customers. I mentioned that he must have grown up in my religion, Catholic, because nobody I knew except them used the words “dirty book” rather than pornography or sex books. He said I was correct and could a co-religionist help him by identifying this mad monk Geiger.

I said I would help when Geiger came out of the store. Then something came over me, maybe it was that funny rain, maybe it was boredom looking forward to a dull afternoon of cataloging a new supply of titles and maybe it was just my time to break out. I don’t know but I suddenly gave him my best come hither look and he knew exactly what I meant by my remark and look. Said he had a pint of whisky, bonded, going to waste and that was that. I put the “Closed” sign on the front door and we went into the back room where I had my desk. Oh yes, how could I forget this. I told you already I have to wear glasses and he mentioned couldn’t I take then off since he was well aware of the Dorothy Parker line. I went to the mirror, fixed myself up a bit put on some new lipstick and went back to my drink. His eyes bulged when he saw me. I don’t have to write a story about what happened that afternoon do I just know my dress was pretty messed up above my knees before we were done. When it started to get dark and rainier, I noticed that Geiger was coming out of his place with his so-called chauffer, but everybody knew his boyfriend. Phil said he had to leave and would get back to me. I knew he wouldn’t, still I felt like a woman, a real woman for one of the first times and was ready to chalk it up to experience. (I was also glad as hell Rory had broken me in since Phil could be gentle in some ways but a cave man in others-in sexual ways.)

In any case after that afternoon I kept tabs on the story. Through the newspapers, through a few people I knew including the store owner who knew what Geiger had been up to since his own daughter had been trapped in the vicious drug, sex and pornography tomb, pillow talk and checking in occasionally with the cop on the beat who knew the chief police department guy, a guy named Bernie Olds who got Phil the job with Sternwood in the first place since they had worked together in the D.A. office before Marlowe got canned for going around some rule, around some honcho who got his claws clipped.

I would not have mentioned this back when I was interested in the case, kept tabs on the players, on all the moving parts but I also knew a couple of hat check, cigarette and photography girls who worked in the Club Luna, no holds barred anything goes places on the outskirts of town where the Sternwood sisters, Vivian and Carmen, who were what the now gentle old general had nightmares about what he had spawned hung their hats. The reason I knew them goes back to when I was earnestly trying to be a screenwriter, trying to get into the film business and these young women were also trying to the same and like me were skimming working other jobs until that proverbial ship came. I should also mention that one of them, maybe two, the twins, Cecilia and Shirley, probably went to bed with our Phillip, although from what was told to me by the hat check girl, Pamela, who I had roomed with when I first came west it didn’t last long because Phil was kind of rough with them, thinking they were on the make and that was that. I could see that such women would be repelled by what was the ugly side of the craggy-faced handsome man.

By the way Seth since I noticed you didn’t pursue the question whether it was out of some silly chivalry for an old lady or fear of what I might come up with that “pillow talk,” bedroom late night after sweating up the sheets if it was typical L.A. night was a serious source of finding out stuff that never made the papers. Never made the papers because a young reporter named Ray Chandler, a member of one of the Chandler branches that ran the L.A. Times then took his orders from above, from some uncle who squashed whatever he could since he used to play tennis with the General in Bel Air in the old days when both were sprightlier. Ray was on the story from the beginning, from the Geiger hit and I had met him when he was rummaging around seeing what people in various shops knew about Geiger’s rackets and he came in to see me. I told him what I knew which then was not much more than he knew but somehow his manner and my idea that maybe I could get in the studios through writing as a reporter, or, face it sleeping with a reporter got him angle asked for date. Later he would take me down to his family’s cottage (a semi-mansion but he always called it a cottage) in La Jolla on the weekends and I would rifle around his study desk and get whatever information he was holding back from me. By the end of our relationship which didn’t survive much past the conclusion of the case I knew as much as he did about the goings on across L.A. to smother the case or really try to solve the damn thing.        

After Phillip had left my store that rainy afternoon he headed across the street to his automobile and trailed Geiger and that boyfriend to his house out in the Edgewood neighborhood, not a good or bad neighborhood then but a place where the houses where far enough apart that Geiger could conduct his little racket in some privacy. According to very late filed police report Phillip had staked the place out seeing what was about. What was about was one Carmen Sternwood coming to get her dope, a thing called laudanum, basically opium cut with ether if it is done right from what I heard, having never gotten beyond jimson, weed, you know marijuana that you can find anywhere now, really knocks you out. Which fit nicely into Geiger’s operation since he would take his “dirty pictures” from a hidden camera while someone like Carmen was doing her Balinese strip. From what I knew, heard about Carmen she might have done her dance on the Pacific Coast Highway at dead sun noon as long as some man was watching but the laudanum probably made sense to a weasel like Geiger.                       
Then out of nowhere the shit hit the fan, excuse my English, as shots rang out in the rain-swept night. Marlowe, Phillip, headed in to find Geiger dead as a doornail on the floor and Carmen half-dressed sucking her thumb as two unidentified cars sped away. I am not sure, or at least I don’t remember whether Phillip, took a run at Carmen, had his way with her in the old-timey expression, that night or just cleaned up the place of any evidence she had been there. Maybe both in any case nobody heard about Geiger’s demise for a while except I did see Phillip’s car across the street in front of Geiger’s the next day and then saw a station wagon with Agnes and some guy in it and that he had hailed a cab, a cab with a female driver which was a novelty in those days even for Hollywood usually doubling down as a way for certain women to do their other business, their prostitution if you must know, without the problem of irate landlords and seedy rooms. I would later find out in a strange way, strange if hailing that very same cab and female cabbie one night when I was closing up the book store and on the ride home she as much as said he had what she called “curled his toes,” Phillip’s, after doing the tail job once his name got around as crackerjack private detective. I am not sure whether she said he was strictly for tough nights or something like that but I do know that I shared no feelings of sisterhood with her.

This is probably the time to step back a little and see why hailing that cab and following that station wagon had anything to with helping General Sternwood or his wayward daughter out of a mess. The original reason General Sternwood had asked Phillip to do his work was that he was being bribed by Geiger over Carmen’s gambling debts and was trying to decide whether to pay or not. That is the front story and made sense since the guy in that station wagon with Agnes was a grifter named Joe Brody who was in the habit of putting the bite on plenty of people, either independently or for one Eddie Mars. Mars a name I did not know at the time was the real kingpin behind every evil known to man that happened in that town, in all of Southern California really, and as I would subsequently find out from that bevy of employees I mentioned earlier owned the Club Luna where the Sternwood young women held forth. Moreover Mars was the backer behind the scenes for Geiger’s sleaze ball operation which when exposed had dragged in half the young women not only in rancid Hollywood but among the “best” families, the so-called elite. The hush would be on in that case even if General Sternwood had not called in his chips. So Phillip tagged this Joe Brophy or thought he had only Carmen looking for her nude photos showed up and fouled up the works. Or tried to. Here is where things got unglued on that front. That boyfriend of Geiger’s thought Joe had wasted his lover that rainy night and as a result decided to bang-bang Joe. Done. Boyfriend done too since Marlowe wrapped him up with a bow before long and made him a special delivery packet at the local P.D. station. Work for the old General finished and without disturbing too many things.                  

That was the front story but the back, the real reason that the getting senile old General wanted Marlowe’s services was to get a tag on a guy named Rusty Regan who had been before he disappeared a while before, he said about a month, Vivian would say a couple of months, had been something like the General’s confidante, best friend. Had blown town and allegedly had run off with Eddie Mars’ wife in the process. Phillip  figured if he found Rusty then he would get a serious lead on the “who” and the “why” of the Geiger-Brody killings. Of course, while all of this work was going on Phil was playing footsies with older daughter Vivian, at first he said to see where she fit in the picture. Was he going to have to like his friend from the D.A.s office now working as a P.I. up in San Francisco Sam Spade and sent her over when she got him in too much of a jam. This is where Eddie Mars comes more clearly into the picture. He was the backing, the protection for Geiger’s “dirty picture” racket taking a nice cut. Taking cuts of a million other things from women to dope and back as well as even more sinister stuff. All the while looking like your average businessman using the Club Luna as a front for the whole operation. Slick, very slick. Vivian had made what even she would later admit a wrong devil’s bargain with Eddie because he held everything, he could over her (including a few tumbles in the hay while that wife was supposedly away with Regan and Marlowe wasn’t looking). Even now though every time though I think about that Club Luna and those former friends of mine, that hat check and cigarette girl sister act, who took a run at Marlowe knowing that I had been with him before them. 

Funny through all of this Carmen was making her own moves, trying to figure out where she stood in the mess. Of course she headed to Marlowe’s door whatever she thought of him (according to Vivian not much, said he was too ugly to be handsome but that was no bar to a man trap like her) And of course she had her way with him, including getting him to get some cash from Eddie Mars on account at his crooked gambling tables. Although the rest of the tale is pretty straight up let me give you the details because the whole thing shifts to Eddie Mars and his henchmen, especially his “hit man” some bad ass names Carlos something I forget the last name and it is not important because he had wasted some poor sucker Joe who was fronting for that Agnes who worked for Geiger and had been Brophy girlfriend. Women like her always get somebody to take then under protection and under the covers even if they bitch and moan about all their so-called tough breaks. Needless to say, Phillip played along with Agnes for two reasons-one to get her in the sacks since she was pretty good -looking for a tramp and she had information about the whereabouts of Eddie Mars’ wife. I don’t know what happened to Agnes probably found another Joe after she found out Phillip was just there for a tumble and ran that guy into the ground before moving on again.          

That Agnes information proved to be invaluable, although if Phillip had headed to the nearest cop house he could have found out that at the address Agnes had given him there was a garage run by a dopehead named Art Huck. This was another one of Eddie’s operations, hot cars, so he knew, had known all along where his wife had been. Philip really only had to figure out the why of the ruse and the still pressing question for old man Sternwood of where Regan was. At the house after some fuss he found both Eddie’s wife Rhonda and Vivian. Oh yeah, and that savage Carlos who was ready to put a few slugs into Phillip’s head if that was what the boss wanted. Except Phillip through some quick action by Vivian got to him first. That sealed the deal between them as I will explain in a minute. The whole thing had been set up, set up with too many moving parts really, between Vivian and Eddie to cover for the fact that dope-addled Carmen had shot Regan when he would not tumble to her advances. That would be Phillips’ excuse for that tumble he had had with Carmen when he first went out to the Sternwood mansion and Carmen tried to do that lap dance while he was standing up.     

Although the reason for the elaborate cover-up was clear to him now Eddie was still a threat to him, and now to Vivian since a guy like Eddie ould definitely get burned up when he heard that his high-priced hit man had been turned to mush by Phillip’s firepower. I remember reading this part, the end of Eddie Mars (although not the end of some gangster’s control of all the evils in Southern California, Guy Madison moved up the food chain and things went on as usual without missing a beat). Marlowe and Vivian had hightailed it to Geiger’s now empty house (remember Eddie owned the joint) to hold a conference with Eddie. Phillip though had faked out where their location was expecting Eddie to think he would get there first and set up a very fatal ambush for the pair. Eddie, and his eternal bodyguards waiting outside to execute the ambush, got a big surprise though when he discovered Phillip got there first and sent out some shots to alert Eddie’s guys. Phillip then forced Eddie out the door to his well-deserved fate of being riddled with machinegun bullets by his own henchmen. Nice, right.     
That wrapped up Eddie. The fate of the others. Well Carmen was put in some private hush-hush mental hospital, stayed for a few months and then headed to San Diego where she was found dead about a year later out on some pier after having had an overdose of heroin and half her clothes ripped off. Eddie’s wife, after a short clandestine affair with Phillip, headed back East and into oblivion. Vivian and Phillip as you know were married shortly after the close of the case although as you also should know, or have heard about, the marriage didn’t take and there was a huge court case over the divorce. The General, old Sternwood, well he went to what some detective fiction writer called the big sleep. That is all I can tell you. Thanks for listening.  
[The following addendum to the Dorothy Malone interview was not included in the piece published back in 1979 for the simple fact that I could not verify most of it before the upcoming publication date. In those days unlike what is increasingly happening in the publishing business today maybe reflecting the influence of social media you checked your sources, or your assertions didn’t see the light of day, usually. Ms. Malone’s statement that after the Marlowe-Sternwood divorce she herself got married to Marlowe could not be checked, I could not find any paper trail except the Las Vegas marriage license she showed me. The most I could find in the L.A. County Courthouse was the complete proceedings in the widely covered divorce of the two prominent citizens. The settlement Vivian Sternwood laid on Marlowe to get out from under what she, or rather her fleet of lawyers, called mental cruelty and a whiff of adultery when that meant something in such proceedings. (That adultery would presumably include Marlowe’s affair with Ms. Malone but the case never got to that point for whatever legal reasons Vivian and Phil’s lawyers came up with.) Beyond that I couldn’t find much.             

More to the point Ms. Malone’s revelation that all through the case she was “curling Marlowe’s toes,” her expression learned through him which she used any time she made a reference to her sexual activities. That part turned out later to be more provable and I was, still am, amazed that she was able to carry the affair out while Marlowe was worming his way into Vivian and the Sternwood fortune. But enough of my naivete then out in Hollywood land where morality in certain precincts was very different from that of the Acre in North Adamsville. Let Dotty say her piece, finally. Seth Garth]

Seth now that I have told you the story of the Sternwood case, the case that made Marlowe, got him cushy jobs with no heavy lifting among the Sternwood crowd, let me tell you something that might make your career, might at least get you a by-line. Didn’t you wonder, didn’t you think in your head how I knew so many of the details of the case that only could have come from Phillip, like how he felt after Eddie Mars’ hit man wasted some poor grifter trying to help out Agnes get some dough to split town when all her other protection fell down (Geiger and Joe Brody) just because he was not fast enough with the answers-and the hit man didn’t want any witnesses to implicate Mars. This may come as a shock, although I hope it doesn’t but I was “curling Marlowe’s toes” not only after he married Vivian but while the whole case was proceeding to its conclusion.

Whatever had started that rainy day in the bookstore when my hormones were jumping and Marlowe came in the door like some avenging angel, like a guy who was looking for some answers in trying to bring a little rough justice to whoever needed it didn’t stop that afternoon although it very well might have. After we mussed up my desk, I figured the whole thing was a one night, a one afternoon stand, not uncommon in looser Hollywood certainly looser than Maryland or Bryn Mawr. But after the Geiger killing, murder as turned out. he went back to the Geiger’s bookstore looking for anything that could implicate Carmen Sternwood and not finding anything he came over to my store wondering whether I had seen anything going on across the way. Since I had customers and the boss was coming into the store shortly I didn’t play my come hither routine with him but he knew by my looking at him that was what I was thinking. He said we should meet later to “compare notes.” And that started things which never really finished after that until a few years before he passed away when I met somebody who would become my second husband and who would father that daughter I was always giving my advice about men to. That night was the first night by the way that Phil used his, our intimate expression- “a guy makes passes at a gal who wears glasses who hauls his ashes.”  An old-time expression “ashes” but it would get me going more than once when he said it especially since I was sensitive about having to wear glasses all the time.

What will surprise you even more is that shortly after Marlowe and Vivian divorced he and I got married in Las Vegas. [She showed me the copy of the marriage certificate-Seth Garth 2018] While I think that Marlowe would agree with me that we had a torrid affair it was kind of off and on depending on what was happening with him, with him and Vivian in the end. I was not happy from day one in the bookstore that he would be with other women, worse that he would wind up with Vivian which I could see from a mile away but that was the way it was with me-he was my man even when I had an occasional affair like with Ray Chandler and later with Jerry Lord, the producer, when I decided that my virtue was not more important than getting a screenwriting job. Mostly though after we were married we settled down, settled down to enjoy each other for whatever time we had.
So maybe in an odd way I should be thanking old long gone General Sternwood resting in his place of sleep for bringing Phillip Marlowe to my door. I hope you will let the world know that was the way things were between us. [This last remark after I had asked her if she had anything in the way of documentation, witnesses beyond the marriage certificate that I could hat my hand on. Seth Garth 2018]        

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Golden Age Of The B-Film Noir- Paulette Goddard’s “The Unholy Four” (1954)

The Golden Age Of The B-Film Noir- Paulette Goddard’s “The Unholy Four” (1954)

DVD Review

By Film Critic Emeritus Sam Lowell

The Unholy Four (released in England as A Stanger Came Home), starring Paulette Goddard , Hammer Productions, 1954

In my long career in the film reviewing racket, a profession if you will which is overall pretty subjective when you think about it, I have run up against all kind of readerships and readers but my recent escapade with one reader takes the cake as they used to say in the old days. As the headline above indicates I have been doing a serious of reviews of B-grade film noirs by the English Hammer Production Company from the early 1950s. A B-grade film noir is one that is rather thin on plotline and maybe film quality usually made on the cheap although some of the classics with B-film noir queen Gloria Grahame have withstood the test of time despite that quality. I contrasted those with the classics like The Maltese Falcon, Out Of The Past, The Big Sleep, and The Last Man Standing to give the knowledgeable reader an idea of the different. In the current series the well-known Hollywood producer Robert Lippert contracted with Hammer for a series of ten films which would star let’s say a well-known if fated Hollywood star like Dane Clark or Richard Conte as a draw and an English supporting cast with a thin storyline.     

I had done a bunch of these reviews (minus a couple which I refused to review since they were so thin I couldn’t justify the time and effort to even give the “skinny” on them) using a kind of standard format discussing the difference between the classics and Bs in some detail and then as has been my wont throughout my career giving a short summary of the film’s storyline and maybe a couple of off-hand comments so that the readership has something to hang its hat on when choosing to see, or not see, the film. All well and good until about my five review when a reader wrote in complaining about my use of that standard form to introduce each film. Moreover and this is the heart of the issue she mentioned that perhaps I was getting paid per word, a “penny a word” in her own words and so was padding my reviews with plenty that didn’t directly relate to the specific film I was reviewing. Of course other than to cut me to the quick “penny a word” went out with the dime store novel and I had a chuckle over that expression since I have had various contracts for work over the years but not that one. The long and short of it was that the next review was a stripped down version of the previous reviews which I assumed would satisfy her complaint. Not so. Using the name Nora Charles, the well-known distaff side of the Dashiell Hammett-inspired film series The Thin Man from the 1930s and early 1940s starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, she still taunted me with that odious expression of hers. (By the way one of the pitfalls of citizen journalism, citizen commentary on-line is that one can use whatever moniker one wants to say the most unsavory things and not fame any blow-back.

Here is the “skinny” on the film under review The Unholy Four (released in England and on the continent as A Stranger Came Home which as usual in this series is closer to the nub since in fact a stranger does come home to face all kinds of hell) in any case as is my wont and let dear sweet Nora suffer through another review-if she dares. Four guys, four rich guys not of the nobility in England anyway, took a trip not shown trip to Portugal and only three came back. One guy vanished for four years and as the film opens up he shows up unannounced one party night. The guy, a guy named Phil, had this dishy wife, Angie, played by fading American screen star Paulette Goddard the first female fading star in the series which as mentioned before jacks up the film more than if there were only English nobodies playing the roles, who the other three guys on that fateful trip were in varying degrees interested in. Our man Phil, kind of a chain-smoking cuckoo, was waylaid by one of the three guys and he is well enough now to go the distance to find out who fucked him up enough that he lost his memory and is now seeking revenge-or at least answers to what happened to him and to his wife.

Problem, big problem, or really two problems one of the three guys winds up very dead the night Phil comes back home and guess what he is built to specifications to be the fall guy, to take the big-step off since everybody in their set knew that dead guy was crazy for Angie. Still the peelers don’t have enough evidence to throw him in the slammer and throw away the key. That second problem is that Phil is not altogether sure that good-looking if faded whorish Angie wasn’t playing footsie with one or more of the guys while Phil was lost in the rain out in Lisbon waiting with Victor Lazlo for some airfare to the States. She has a hell of a time trying to persuade Phil and the coppers for a bit that she did rub the dead man out. With only two guys left though Phil honed in on the killer and his lamester reasons for bopping Phil and killing the other dude. Phil lays the dude down and he and Angie head off into the sunset or something like that. For a while the film took turns like a real thriller but the dialogue and the wooden acting by the Brits (and by faded Paulette too) make this thing a holy goof. Despite the come hither title and the titillating advertisement poster (see above) for the film this one fades away on its own dead weight. B-noir but seriously B not heading to classics-no way.                      

Interloper’s Interlude-William Powell’s “My Man Godfrey” (1936)-A Film Review, Of Sorts

Interloper’s Interlude-William Powell’s “My Man Godfrey” (1936)-A Film Review, Of Sorts

DVD Review

By Special Guest Reviewer Frank Jackman

My Man Godfrey, starring William Powell, Carol Lombard, 1936

You know they don’t make bums, tramps, hoboes like they used to at least back in the day, back in the Great Depression, the world-wide 1930s one, if one is to believe the plotline of the film under review My Man Godfrey. I have been handed. asked for, this assignment since I know, or knew for a relatively short time, the sociology of the outcasts of society, when I myself was on the bum for a while after hitting the skids as a result of military service in Vietnam back in the 1970s. (Although I had my fair share of run-ins and run-downs during that period the real deal expert from that time was my old friend from high school the late Pete Markin, always called “Scribe” in our circles who had his own fair share of problems adjusting to the “real” world after his military service but who wrote an award-winning series of articles for the East Bay Other, I think it was that now long gone publication on the West Coast  although it could have been another alternative newspaper now also long gone The Eye, about a bunch of ex-military guys who couldn’t adjust to the real world and wound up forming some kind of travelling nation community along the railroad tracks and bridges of Southern California.)

In my experience, unlike in the comedic effort in the film under review, the guys, and it was mostly guys since ragamuffin women would be is serious danger in the camps and flop houses I ran into, were not anywhere near nature’s noblemen as portrayed here, especially in the person of Godfrey, maybe better particularly in the  person of Godfrey. They were as likely to steal everything you owned as share anything even shaking DTs booze when a guy was on the hammer (I lost several personal items including cash before I figured out how to store my goods). As likely to con you as speak truth and as likely to sell you out to the nearest copper to save their own necks as not. There is nevertheless a hierarchy among the varieties of outcasts which mainly reflect their relationship to the work ethic from no work on principle to enough day work to keep going.

I learned a lot of this lore running into a guy named Dragon Rocky who was a hobo, the highest rank among the outcasts and recognized as such by one and all along the tracks and under the bridges, who was also, or had also been, it was never clear where he stood on this, a folk song writer and when he was sober a performer at clubs and small concerts on those infrequent days when he wasn’t on the bum.  He was some kind of high figure among the brethren and knew more about how to handle himself in that cutthroat world than any man I met then, or have met now.  So philosopher-king kind heart Godfrey would have gotten no play, would have been skinned alive in real hobo, tramp, bum society.  

But see this guy Godfrey was, if you can believe that anybody sane would do such a thing if for no other reason than to avoid the fleas and coughs, faking it, well maybe not faking it but more like he was on a lark, was trying to find himself or something according to the way he told it to one of his high and mighty friends when he was finally caught out by proper society. See, this Godfrey played by William Powell last seen in this space squiring Myrna Loy around seemingly endlessly in the Dashiell Hammett-inspired The Thin Man film series (that information according to the regular film critic here Sandy Salmon), was an interloper, a man of the upper classes in Boston who had gone to Harvard and decided to become déclassé as they say in sociology, or used to, after having a personal epiphany and rather than dunk his head in the East River down New York City way he became a tramp (no way and Dragon Rocky if he were still alive which is improbable given the dramatically Hobbesian shortened, nasty brutish life along the tracks and embankments.

Fair enough, although hobos, tramps and bums, real ones have little enough room to breathe on the outer edges of society to rightly and righteously resent a guy on a flyer. Grabbing up precious resources better used by real brethren. Not to worry though our man will land on his feet once he gets a job as butler to a screwball bunch of Riverside swells, Mayfair swells, if you want to know who have the social consciousness of amoebas until Godfrey puts them straight, settles their affairs and along the way falls for the family’s younger screwball airhead daughter. Not only that but outduel one Karl Marx in the capitalist-communist battle by saying screw you to the class struggle and on the sly opening up swanky nightclub for those Mayfair swells and providing honorable work for the denizens of the dump which had been their (and Godfrey’s) abode before this act of urban renewal. Hell, talk about paeans to trickle-down economics that one guy much later called “voodoo” economics.  A funny film in spots but don’t take any social message seriously.       

Serving Them Off The Arm-Ellen Burstyn And Kris Kristofferson’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) - A Film Review

Serving Them Off The Arm-Ellen Burstyn And Kris Kristofferson’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) - A Film Review

DVD Review

By Senior Film Critic Sandy Salmon

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, starring Ellen Burstyn, Kristofferson, directed by Martin Scorsese, 1974     

You know some films in this wicked old world appeal to some people and for very different reasons not to others. Take the film under review Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore which I recently saw with my old friend and colleague from American Film Gazette days (when that publication was hard copy and not solely on-line as today) who got me my job here and who still clutters cyberspace as film critic emeritus and his lovely long-time companion Laura Perkins (companionship being the better option after he had had three marriages and three divorces and a parcel of nice kids along the way who nevertheless almost drove him over the edge when those college tuition bills came floating through his door). I won’t speak of my reaction to the film here since it will become apparent throughout the review. Sam did not like the film since he wrote it off as a so-so effort in the eternal Hollywood boy-meets girl formula department where from the minute the two central characters finally meet you know the flames will burn brightly. Laura loved the film mainly for the reason that it was nice to see an older film which dealt with the issue even if in a somewhat funny way of single motherhood AND the inevitable boy-girl subtext. In short this one played out as a “chick flick” as my old friend film critic Anna Devine one time coined to give this kind of genre a label to grab onto.       

I do not believe that anybody involved in the production of this film saw it as a chick flick although it certainly had qualities which would qualify it for that type of film. I believe that the producers were looking to deal in a funny and unobtrusive way with the then emerging social category of single motherhood and it trials and tribulations. Here Alice, played by Ellen Burstyn, is a recently widowed mother living in nowhere Socorro, New Mexico, her late husband’s hometown, with a let us say giving him the benefit of the doubt precocious son whom she loves dearly but who tries her patience more than somewhat. Cash short and dreaming of her own childhood home Monterey out in California and expecting to use her talents as a singer to make ends meet they blow that burg and hit the road. Hit the road to Phoenix first where Alice meets and beds a wild man wife abuser and has to flee. Flee to the next best thing Tucson where short on dough and short on singing possibilities she gets a job serving them off the arm at let’s call it the Last Chance Café.          

Between the snotty and never-ending demands of that what did we call him, oh yes, precocious son and the dead-end waitressing job (now known as wait person or wait staff) in a flea-bitten diner she is at wits end. Enter rancher handsome Johnny David, played by singer-song-writer Kris Kristofferson in his early movie career days, who makes the big play for Alice. But she isn’t buying after that run-in with that crazy wife-beater in Phoenix and she is still intent on hitting the road for Monterey when she gets enough dough together to flee this burg. But the guy grows on her and so that was that. Things went along well for a while until David tried to discipline her son and that threw the whole thing off. Done. Well almost done since David was ready to move heaven and earth to stay with Alice as he made clear in a public mea culpa in the two-bit diner-even to move to Monterey to be with her. (That Laura mentioned was the key turning point of why she loved the film.) On reflection Alice decided that she could sing for her supper anywhere and so they will stay in Tucson after all. Happy ending. 

I watched a couple of episodes of the successful television spin-off of this film, Alice, in setting up this review which was overbearing and trite but I think that I agree with Laura that this Martin Scorsese-directed film has merit as a look at the troubles of raising a child alone. Enough said.    

No Matter How You Spin It-War Is Hell-In This Year Of The 100th Anniversary Of Armistice Day Just Ask A Veteran-Colin Firth And Nicole Kidman’s “The Railway Man” (2013)-A Film Review

No Matter How You Spin It-War Is Hell-In This Year Of The 100th Anniversary Of Armistice Day Just Ask A Veteran-Colin Firth And Nicole Kidman’s “The Railway Man” (2013)-A Film Review  

DVD Review

By Senior Film Critic Sam Lowell

The Railway Man (railway automatically telling you this is a British film), Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, 2013

Sometimes a name of a place, especially a place when war or some other catastrophe passed though will make your gut churn up, make a tear come to your eye when you think about that name. The various Holocaust death camp sites in Europe come to mind as do places like My Lai in Vietnam. In my family the Burma Highway comes to those emotional senses. My grand uncle, Frank, had been one of those who died working, no, no, no, not working slaving to produce what the Japanese in World War II were trying to do in the infested jungles of Southeast Asia to get a railroad track laid as a shortcut to from point A to point B in their determination to subject all of Asia to their will. I never knew that uncle having been born after news that he had died on the highway, news that his body had been recovered from a mass grave along that highway came our family’s way. Would not have had a chance to know him even if he had not died that endless death since he had gone back to Ireland when he could not find work in America during the 1930s and then when Ireland did not prove to be any better than America fatefully migrated to Australia. Migrated just at the wrong time since the Japanese were raising hell in all the British possessions and threatened Australia. He joined one of the regiments that would head to Singapore to support the British defense there just before they surrendered to the Japanese. And from there to the death highway. (Why an Irish nationalist, and he was, wound up defending the Brits is a story I never got from my Grandmother Riley since you could not mention Frank’s name without her crying and so I stopped doing so.)

That brings us to the film adaptation of Eric Lomax’s autobiography The Railway Man. The story of his horrible torturous experiences on that same railway that my grand uncle perished. In this case Lomax, played by stiff upper lip Colin Firth, was an officer in the British Engineers who got caught in the same round-up when the British surrendered in Singapore and wound up transported to the Malay Peninsula. Unlike my grand uncle we know what happened to Lomax in great detail from the film. As an engineer he was forced to work on designing the best route through the dense jungle for the Japanese. Lomax though was an industrious sort, a tinkerer, a harmless tinkerer with radios and a love of railroads. He made the almost fatal mistake of building a radio set which the Japanese found out about and assumed was some sort of communication device to get messages to their enemies. No, all Eric was doing was attempting to keep morale up, his own and that of his comrades, by getting information from the BBC International service. For that, which he took sole responsibility for, he was mercilessly tortured by the Japanese military police, especially one Nagase. Eventually the British prisoners, those who survived physically, were liberated by Allied forces.            

That experience as one could expect was a life-long psychic wound that never was either far from the surface or something that he was able to get over as the film edges forward. Enter some thirty years later Patricia, played by fetching Nicole Kidman, met on a train heading toward Scotland. They got along, got along very well although Patricia was unaware of the effects of that prison camp experience until after they   had been married and he displayed symptoms of the nightmares that haunted his dreams and incapacitate him to the point on physical withdrawal, Through an Eric friend who also went through the Burma railway experience she learned what had happened to her husband. Through that same friend who would eventually commit suicide over his own memories Eric found out that the torturer Nagase was still alive and well and had never been prosecuted for war crimes committed during the prison tortures. After his friend commits suicide and urged on by Patricia, he went to Asia to confront Nagase who had been working as a museum guide at the very place where he had been a torturer.               

They met and Eric at that point was determined to get his well-deserved revenge that the Allies had not been able to do. But upon meeting and after talking although it was a close thing Eric decided not to do the murder he had in his heart. This an example of so-called reconciliation between the transgressor and his victim. In the end as we find out through the afterword the pair became lifelong friends. What I ask though is where was justice for my grand uncle-and relief for my poor grandmother. 

We’ll Meet Again, Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When”-In Honor Of The 100th Anniversary Of Armistice Day-Teresa Wright, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews and Fredric March’s “The Best Years Of Our Lives” (1946)-A Film Review

We’ll Meet Again, Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When”-In Honor Of The 100th Anniversary Of Armistice Day-Teresa Wright, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews and Fredric March’s “The Best Years Of Our Lives” (1946)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Seth Garth

The Best Years Of Our Lives, starring Teresa Brewer, Dana Andrews, Frederic March, Myrna Loy 1946

I have noted in the headline to this piece that on November 11, 2018 we commemorated the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day which ended the bloody slaughter of World War I, the so-called war to end all wars. And that is a fitting honor although the subject matter of the film under review, The Best Years Of Our Lives, is the ending of a subsequent war, the bloody slaughter of World War II. There was a real scramble among the older writers here to review this Academy Award-winning film since a number of us, including myself, had fathers who served in that war and who are themselves veterans of the bloody slaughter in Vietnam, again including myself and so were, are very familiar with the subject matter of this film, the return to civilian life after the displacement of lives caused by that service. I won the “lottery” site manager Greg Green used to determine who would write the review solely on the basis of having been the only one born that year of the presentation of the film, 1946.        

Despite my “victory,” a number of the other guys, Sam Lowell, Si Lannon, and Lance Lawrence come to mind, could have written this piece with the same starting paragraphs about our own problems with what we Vietnam-era vets call returning to the “real world.” In my own case I drifted for several years around the West Coast searching for some common-sense reasons to even go on. Suicide while not near the surface at the time was not far from being contemplated. One only has to look at the statistics to know that “option” was on the very top of the surface for a number of Vietnam vets and now we see that same thing, maybe worse by percentages, happening to the younger Iraq-Afghanistan War vets. Mainly though I couldn’t adjust to the idea of a nine to five existence that I had frankly dreamed about prior to my military service after having done, having seen being done by others, having been done by the government to the people of Vietnam who I had no quarrel with.   

Let me go by the numbers. I had ill-advisedly gotten married before I left for Vietnam under the then normal idea that I would have somebody to come back to. Bad mistake, very bad in the end since when I did get back I could not get behind the nine to five job, little white house and kids and dogs scenarios that was her dream (and as I have said already said mine previously). Moreover when I got back and was unresponsive to her needs, she took up with another guy, a guy who was smack daub into that dream of hers (and they are still married the last I heard). That marriage, the first of three, over I drifted from the East back out to California where in 1967, during the days of the Summer of Love, our old late comrade and fellow veteran Pete Markin brought us to see what was going on out there. I was thinking that a fresh start would do me good.

A false fresh start since I got heavily involved, along with Markin and Josh Breslin who writes for this publication as well, in drugs and other illegal stuff. After a while unlike Markin who headed to Mexico and a fateful bloody end and Josh who headed back East to school under the GI Bill I drifted to Southern California and the hobo camps along various rivers or under bridges with other veterans mostly, although not all from my generation but some from WWII and Korea as well. After a while though that got stale and I headed back East myself and from that point, more or less, I was in a more positive direction.  Although sometimes when the moon is full I wish I was back there among the righteous hobo veterans, had not taken a turn to the nine to five world.

In a way this film is good piece of what Sam Lowell has called on other occasions “a slice of life” hook that has saved him on more than one review when he was in pitch darkness for what Hollywood thought was going on. Unfortunately after a brief survey of fellow writers who are part of the fading baby-boomer generation that got its start in the immediate post-World War II period we would never had found out from our taciturn fathers what it was like to readjust to civilian life as they were too distance, too sullen, too driven to get ahead in the dog eat dog world to let on what they were feeling. Never spoke of what they went through in their war. Strangely, despite this insight on my part, a survey of my kids from those three failed marriages finds that I too never spoke of what I went through, was distance, sullen and so on. That was tough medicine to swallow after I thought about it some.

No question this film is moderately melodramatic and maybe today it would be impossible to find backing for its production for despite the old chestnut about a good film being a good film even fifty or seventy-five years later like this one or Casablanca. Probably impossible to get the “gee whizz” notion of community that glued towns together. But enough of that and let’s get to that summary that old Sam Lowell has always cried to the heavens about that every film reviewer owes his or her reader. Starting with the proposition that good story-lines come in threes.

Three is the number of ex-GIs who had recently been discharged from the military service after various stints in the European or Pacific theaters. We have rather than Tom, Dick and Harry-Al, Fred and Homer. A combination of names befitting the times if rather old-fashioned now. A combination of ranks too somewhat counter-intuitive with the banker and middle-class partisan Al having been an NCO while from the wrong side of the tracks Fred had been an officer and Homer nothing but a swabbie what in the Army would be called a grunt-low on the totem pole. And a combination of conditions from Al’s discontent to Fred’s thwarted ambitions to Homer’s war-related physical condition having lost his hands when his ship was sunk out in the China seas.      

What cinematically brings the threesome together is they are from the same city, Boone City, and don’t bother to try to locate that on any U.S. map and have “hitched an Air Force transport ride home. This homecoming must have been somewhat after the various celebrations commemorating victories in Europe and Asia since they all went to their respective homes without fanfare. I would note that whatever public celebrations of WWII happened none were forthcoming when I, or others from my home town, came home after Vietnam service. A different time and different response to what happened in the latter war.

Okay let’s set the stage. Homer had a longtime sweetheart and next-door neighbor who he did not until the very end of the film realize still loved him and will wind up marrying him despite his physical afflictions. There were probably a number of stories with that kind of ending although I know at least one from my own Vietnam experience, Bob Petty, who lost a leg at Danang and whose high school sweetheart just couldn’t deal with that trauma. I am sure there were more such cases. Al, middle-class banker Al, must have volunteered since he had a grown-up family and had been married for twenty years to a wife played by Myrna Loy who was troubled by Al’s behavior, his sullen discontents, coming back from the war. Al was also somewhat estranged from his two kids, the most important for the film being daughter Peggy, played by classic girl next door is Teresa Wright.

I have saved Fred for the last part since his fate intertwined with Al’s family. He, like me, and many others married on the wartime quick decision run, had known the spirited young women for only a short time before shipping out. He had been nothing but a soda jerk before his military service but he had a skill set for dropping bombs mainly in the right place and so thrived in that environment. Back home though he suffered from two serious problems, again which I have many of examples of, including my own. First, that on- the-fly wife turned out to a party girl, any man’s woman, any man with some dough and good looks, a tramp is what we would have called her back in the old neighborhood hang-outs. She married Fred for those precious allotment checks married men were entitled to. Secondly, after the war, after getting out of soda jerk routines he wanted more than to serve giddy teenagers hot fudge sundaes. But he couldn’t land anything that he could keep, that precision bombing skill set of no use in civilian life. No dough, no serious job tells it all. You know that that tramp was going to be heading to greener passages after, hell, maybe before, she divorced our Fred. Don’t worry though our Fred will have a soft landing since along the way Fred and that daughter of Al’s, Peggy fell in love and that divorce was a rather convenient device to bring them together. Yeah, Sam Lowell, was right this was a “slice of life” classic but also rang a bell for a latter- day veteran too.             

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Will Bradley The Legend-Slayer Amps Up His Game- Going After The Big Guys-Going After A Fake Hero -With “Solo: A Star War Story” (2018) In His Sights

Will Bradley The Legend-Slayer Amps Up His Game- Going After The Big Guys-Going After A Fake Hero -With “Solo: A Star War Story” (2018) In His Sights

By Will Bradley

Solo: A Star Wars Story, starring a guy named Alden Ehrenreich as Han, Hans, Hand, Hands, Jimmy Hands, Hans Bricker or whatever alias he is using these days to cover up his assorted criminal activities, Emilia Clarke, and the rightly legendary Chewy who has correctly distanced himself from the Solo, so-called rebellion cabal and its hangers-on       
I think I am ready for the “bigs” now-ready to take on and slay the legend of legends one Han Solo (aka Hans, Hand, Hands, Hans Bricker, Jimmy Hans, Hans Christian Anderson and a fistful of other alias gleaned from interplanetary police files, most reliably the planet Krypton known for its efficient record-keeping only outshined by the Earth’s Inquisition when they were riding high in Europe under the guidance of various pontiffs a few centuries ago) late of the so-called rebellion against some phantom Empire of his mind. Ready, to as I will explain more below, take on the weak link in the ominous Star Wars industry which has done a tremendous disservice to the movie-going population by touting a mob of kinky humans and their “alien” hangers-on from every god forsaken planet and piece of shrapnel in the universe. (By the way any use of word “alien” refers not in these troubled Earth times to displaced Earthlings without a visa looking for some safe haven but denizens of other planets seeking to get into Earth without proper papers or with the explicit desire to do criminal wrong.) 

Making mock heroes of weak-link Han, originally from Kanas home of another legendary faker Dorothy Smith and her faithful and heroic dog Toto who saved her ass more times than I can count, a kid named ominously Luke Skywalker from out in the high desert of California whose police record spans at least one galaxy, an ex-call girl who goes by the name Leia, Lea, Lee something like that posing as the Czar of all the Russia missing-link daughter, a few out of date worthless tinpot robots with single letter or numbered names and assorted miscreants of various nationalities, planetary homes and so-called occupations. I will, let me make it clear, not hear a word said against one Chewbacca, aka Chewy, who was dragged down in the mud by this Han character and who after have seen the light exposed this bum of the month for what he is. Chewy has also in exchange for no prison time given me valuable information about all the rotten things this crew did again law and order, hell, against small-case reason.     

I freely admit that I am not ready to take on the whole cabal, not ready to go after the “biggest of the big” yet but feel confident that once I take down this hoodlum Han I will be fired up for a frontal assault on this whole sorted legend, freeing humankind at least from serious grafters, con men and women and midnight shifters. No question I have had major success in de-fanging the legends of small fry starting with modern guys like Johnny Cielo. Yes, Johnny Cielo the so-called famous early American aviator who if you had believed the legend was just behind Icarus and well ahead of the Wright Brothers down at wind-swept Kitty Hawk in the pantheon of manned flight. (That debunking was easy since Johnny was three-years old, I have a copy of his birth certificate for public inspection for those who still want to hang on to their silly illusions about this Piper Club pilot, when the brothers soared into the breathless air down there in heavy blow coastal North Carolina). Identified the woman posing as 1940s film siren and nothing but pure eye candy even at this remove Rita Hayworth which was supposedly his claim to fame as Jenny Homes, a street hooker from Hoboken who did resemble Rita superficially but could not have acted her way out of a paper bag. She would later run off with some Mach V test pilot when Johnny’s money ran out and she ran him down as a two-bit hustler when she fled back to Key West and started telling the tale. Telling it to some stumble-bum drunk who then retailed it to a desperate reporter in Miami and that was that. I also have the ticket receipts and flight plan of Johnny last flight before falling down into the ocean with four passengers in the Gulf of Mexico busting the legend that he was the main guy transporting guns and supplies to Fidel and his boys when it counted before 1959. Hogwash.

More, more cred if you like since I am going after very big prey, attempting to knock down Star Wars legends for crying out loud. I need all the cred I can get, maybe a few strong-arm guys wouldn’t hurt either-with or without sidearms once the “industry” feels threatened, feels my sting. Which may already be happening since this so-called prequel hagiographic film hardly earned its keep and righty so since the world need never hear of another hard-luck story about how a guy like poor Hank, Hack, Ham, very appropriate name, or whatever name he is using under whatever current rock he is under was abused by nefarious around him. I weep no tears on that score.

To continue with my resume I took one Robin Hood, he of “give to the poor” fame and through his church and estate records, the ones still intact which by every academic account are right, took him down for the count as a rack-renting gouger of his tenants lands, livestock and young daughters. All while working under the name Robert Hawkins, whom the Medieval historian Lawrence Staines has exposed as a malignant jack-roller and whoremaster as well. (I thank Brother Staines for his help in debunking this stiff whom we have come to know as Robin the Hood around my way.) Took down a what turned out to be a poor farm boy imagined by some cloistered young woman sent to convent to keep her away from mantraps to be a great lover, named him Don Juan, real name, Diego Nunes and described him to all the world warts and all. Took down a guy named Zorro too, although a little sorrowfully since the guy who did a review of a Zorro movie starring Antonio Banderas proudly spoke of his Spanish heritage via his mother and liked the idea that a Spaniard would get positive play in the legend game. Sorry Si but old Zorro once he used the peasants out there in California before the republic to beat back the then all-powerful Dons who had bogus Spanish land grants was like Robin Hood as greedy and callous toward them as the latter had been toward his yeomen. Maybe worse since in a modern twist emulated later by the coal barons back East forced those poor buffers to buy all their supplies from his overpriced and cheapjack company stores.

My most recent expose, the one I am rather personally happy about since I had to endure walking through the catacombs on the lower level of hell to view a whole exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston when they were corralled by some misbegotten loveless curators into presenting a show about the ill-named Age of Casanova, the so-called great lover who never painted picture number one so what the hell was that about anyway in a well-thought of art museum. Such misguided approaches only add to the chaos around various ill-deserved legends. Nevertheless I took down this clownish, boorish, asexual, according to various memoirs left behind by his supposed one nightstand lovers, as easily as Diego Nunes. Turned out he was another one of those figments of the imagination this time of a smart young Renaissance woman who nevertheless paid the price for her indiscretions refusing to recant when the Inquisition rolled into old Venice town taking no prisoners. Funny, sad funny anyway one of the few heroic and therefore worthy of a legend has never gotten any recognition for her brave stand against the night-takers.     

This Han Solo business, not his real name as I have alluded to up above and will detail below, though is a big jump and I will tell you why. If you were to believe the story being retailed of late in the seemingly never-ending Star War-related industrial complex through this film I have just waded through you would have assumed that he was an orphan imprisoned in one of those still nasty dungeons by some savage predators. Not so, Han, Han Brown was born, I have a copy of the birth certificate, in Lawrence, Kansas begotten by Ellis Brown through his wife Amy not in some honky-tonk interplanetary gin mill as he always was claiming. He left home of his own will, ill-will when he was sixteen to either become the best spaceship pilot in the universe or the richest sneak thief or both. After leaving home he picked up this tramp in some bar in Tulsa, a young woman with a funny name beginning with a “Q” that nobody could ever pronounce and so she took the name Queenie and they went through the petty crime night like Bonnie and Clyde. The few times they were caught Han would talk some gibberish and get out of it. Until the great irium caper where he was caught big-time and sent Queenie over since he was afraid of closed spaces like jails. Off on his own he ran into Chewy who tried to straighten him out but failed and maybe if he had left this delinquent, he could have avoided having to fink the bum out to save his own hide, to avoid jail time. Han, like Johnny Cielo talked like he was the king of the hill as a pilot but looking through his police files I noticed that he flunked the flying test twice before he was granted a license. Moreover after ditching a couple of ships with passengers in deep space after he bailed out his license was actually suspended the first time and then revoked after the second incident and so he was officially flying illegally under Empire law.

Han, using the alias, Handel Smith, did grab a job running weapon to the rebels against that Empire which without the steady hand of a guy like Darth Vader was crumbling, was rift with every con artist in the black hole. Offered more money by king-pin Johnny Dryden, king of the fairy queens, Hanry grabbed the loot with all arms and grabbed Queenie who had done her time, his time and was ready to crush the universe if necessary, to get back on track. Something had changed in her, had changed in her in prison like with a lot of women, men too as she was as happy to be a bad ass girl as good. Han did not know that but the bastard was instrumental in breaking her. What else can I say. A classic bum of the month but I know millions will say he was such a good-looking funny, fun-loving boy. Ask Queenie that question if you dare.      

You Ain’t In Paris Anymore-Kate Winslet’s “The Dressmaker” (2015)-A Film Review

You Ain’t In Paris Anymore-Kate Winslet’s “The Dressmaker” (2015)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Associate Film Critic Alden Riley   

The Dressmaker, starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hensworth, 2015   

This is a first at least according to my boss Senior Film Critic Sandy Salmon. The first being in this case reviewing a film like the one here, The Dressmaker, produced by an on-line operation, a streaming affair, Amazon the giant merchandise mart. Although Sandy (and film critic emeritus Sam Lowell) have shied away from reviewing such productions these operations probably are a fair representation of where the film industry might very well be heading since Netflix and others have also entered the fray.

Taking that idea into consideration I must say I was impressed by the production values and the acting, especially of the versatile Kate Winslet last seen in this space according to Sam in a review of Titanic although maybe his memory is not what it used to be since that was many moons ago and she has performed in many films between times so he must have reviewed something more current previously. This is a quirky film no question set in the Outback of Australia apparently the new Wild West of film-dom (another film Australia with Nicole Kidman also showing that tendency). What I don’t get though is why in the blubs about film consider this venture a comedy despite some marginal (and again quirky) moments.

Let me explain. Myrtle, Ms. Winslet’s role, returned home to that Outback after making a name for herself as a dressmaker (hence the appropriately named title) in the high-end fashion industry, okay, okay haute couture in Paris, that is in France not Texas. The at first murky reasons for her return after having been unceremoniously sent away from the town after she allegedly had murdered a fellow student who was tormenting her are what formally drives the plot. She ostensibly returned to take care of her ailing and seemingly unstable mother, Molly played by Judy Davis, and to try to figure out what actually happened back at that incident. (That taking care of “unstable” mother who as the film proceeds gets very, very stable and wise another example of film’s ability to raise the dead.)  And discover whether she is cursed by that event. Or should seek righteous revenge for being displaced out of spite since she was illegitimate and her un-acknowledging local bigwig father had been instrumental in sending her away.         
Of course as a professional dressmaker (she only brought one piece of luggage and a sewing machine home) Myrtle or rather Tilly as she preferred to be called was able to gain some cache in town by both wearing high fashion and making such for the braver women of the town. Still the past held her back. Held her back even when handsome Johnny Teddy, played Liam Hensworth, who really was something out of a New Age thoughtful male fantasy despite the 1950s feel of the film, started courting her and helping her retrace her steps to that dark past. And his work paid off as she is made to realize that that so-called murder was actually the tormenting boy killing himself in the act of physically abusing her. That the good part.

That said here is where the thing gets kind of mixed up in the genre department despite some off-beat funny moments. Gallant Teddy after Tilly and he became lovers dies in a freak grain elevator accident. Her “father” is murdered by his unstable wife after Tilly tells her what was what about her son’s so-called murder. In the final scenes Tilly after seeking and gaining revenge at the professional level gains final revenge by burning the town down. You figure out the genre and weird twists but don’t blame the fine performances by Ms. Winslet and Ms. Davis.