Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Rise And Fall Of The Shamus Game- Frank Sinatra’s “Tony Rome” (1967)-A Film Review

The Rise And Fall Of The Shamus Game- Frank Sinatra’s “Tony Rome” (1967)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Bartlett Webber

Tony Rome, starring Frank Sinatra, Jill Saint John, 1967 
I am an old-time black and white film noir private detective, shamus, gumshoe, key-hole peeper, whatever you want to call guys who do the public coppers’ dirty work for chump change and a few lumps on the head, kind of guy. Have built a reputation in the cinematic and literary critics’ world for pushing up and pulling down the private eyes who filled up the screen when the film adaptations of guys like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain in an off moment ruled the roost and made many an audience forget their woes for a while in the 1930s Great Depression days and the waiting by the home fires for the other shoe to drop during the 1940s European and Pacific Wars. To give you an example, a famous one that others like the legendary film critic Sandy Salmon have commented on, I have taken Hammett’s classic Sam Spade from out his The Maltese Falcon and run him up the pole as super-hero that no DC or Marvel comic holy goof could even stand in his shadow, could beat with that ten foot pole, or have placed him down in the mud with the other geeks playing a bit role (picked out of the Frisco town telephone book to boot) against the real action between Brigid O’Shaughnessy and the “Fat Man.” I could give more but that should suffice.  

So it came as a challenge, what would have been a freak of nature thing under the old regime on this site of Allan Jackson, when new site manager, Greg Green, not knowing of my area of expertise, assigned me this Tony Rome private detective film from the 1960s. I had at first refused, had put my foot down, when Greg essentially ordered me to do the review to “broaden my horizons.” The coup de grace though was when he threatened me with having to do one of those super-hero comic holy goof reviews which he has foisted on virtually everybody under the false impression that his target audience, the younger crowd, even bothered to read hard copy or on-line reviews. Could give a fuck about such views. (He still believes social media, the real way that crowd forms a critical mass for anything these days, is just a passing fad like the hula-hoops of my youth.) As you can tell I have if under protest succumbed to his blandishment.         

Frankly it is hard to see what makes the post-World War II Technicolor private detective tick. What makes Tony run. A guy like Sam Spade, Phil Marlowe, hell, even Lou Dalton grabbed a case, a murder case usually although real private detectives mainly did, do, key-hole peeping and re-po work, maybe a security breech problem on an off-day, bang-bang the bad guys and went under the satin sheets with whatever femme was still standing. But most days they were sitting in some run down ill-kept small office in some seen better days office building filled with failed dentists, unlicensed quacks, re-po men, junk jewelers, insurance salesman and quick change artists reaching periodically for that low shelf whiskey bottle in the bottom drawer of that paper-strewn desk trying to figure how to keep this dunning fools away from his door.   

This Tony Rome, played by East Coast cool and collected Frank Sinatra last seen in this space playing Oscar-worthy Maggio the platoon wise ass who got tumbled by a sadistic prison guard in the film adaptation of James Jones’ From Here to Eternity, I can’t figure. Worked out of Miami in the post-Cuban Revolution days not a bad locale but too much sunshine and blue ocean seas floating out high white notes for serious detection world like in fog-bound San Francisco. Lived off a boat, dressed like a sportsman (complete with soft hat an emblem of a by-gone era), drove a swanky car and not a clunker like most key-hole peepers who are one step ahead of the loan company’s re-po man, and had an office that Sam, Phil, Lou would have died for. Where is there room for a low rent desk and sipping out of low shelf pint whiskey bottles in all of that. To boot our man Tony has a gambling jones that keeps the wolves at his door and the need to grab some kale on the off-track days. A man with feet of clay, an everyman.    

Even the caper Tony gets involved is a laugher of sorts. A cheapjack case that wouldn’t draw breathe one from the old-timers. Some young curvaceous dippy dame had about seven too many drinks and wound up passed out on a motel bedroom. Bad for business anyway you look at the matter so Tony does his old ex-partner a favor taking the nymph home to rich father and mother. The old man wonders what happened to his daughter and hires our man to figure on what was what. The key, a missing diamond pin “misplaced” by said dippy daughter, gives Tony an excuse to hunt high and low for that damn thing. Then the bodies start to pileup as his ex-partner, a fence, a jeweler and his bodyguard are wasted.   
Tony then spends the rest of his time trying to figure out what was going on since that so-called diamond pin was bogus, was glass. After some more shootings and mayhem it turned that the rich man’s daughter was hocking her step-mother’s jewelry to give some moola to his drunken sot of a mother and her ne’er do well husband what actually ordered the various and sundry killings to keep the cash cow coming. The hook? That step-mother was previously married to one of the bad guys and had never gotten a divorce so the squeeze was on when that bad guy hit town looking for the big pay-off. Instead getting lead, plenty of it. In the end the bad guys took it on the head and that was that.     

Well almost “that was that” because have you noticed something missing. Unlike in a Sherlock Holmes story line where Danny Moriarty (an alias for reasons he can explain if you run across him in this space) has been running a campaign to debunk the Englishman as a serious detective bringing up of late the question of his and Doctor Watson’s sexual preferences since neither has been seen lately with a dame, even a one night stand, Tony is strictly a lady’s man. Or so that is the way he wants to see himself in the private detection world where every male P.I. is chasing skirts and nobody thinks anything of it. Except Tony is not really chasing any dame, not even 1960s eye candy Ann Archer, played by Jill Saint John, whose only purpose is to do the other end of a lot of sexual foreplay and innuendo but no silky sheets. Yeah, not your grandfather’s shamus, no indeed.   

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

All That Is Hollywood Tinsel Is Not Gold- F. Scott Fitzgerald At The End-“The Pat Hobby Stories”

All That Is Hollywood Tinsel Is Not Gold- F. Scott Fitzgerald At The End-“The Pat Hobby Stories”

Book Review

By Seth Garth

The Pat Hobby Stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald, originally printed in Esquire magazine, 1940-1941, collected 1962   

I had in earlier times, a few years ago now, gone on and on about who best represented the so-called Jazz Age F. Scott Fitzgerald whose works either coined the phrase or so well the times he owned the term or his fellow Parisian ex-pat Ernest Hemingway. Both exiles from a sullen America that was turning in on itself just when looking outward was necessary. Sound familiar? During that joust I came decidedly out on the side of Fitzgerald based on the great classic novel The Great Gatsby which put a microscope to the whole sordid mess of post-World War I America. Having answered that rather narrow question I have never done so, nor have never been asked by the previous site manager who gives out such assignment Allan Jackson, or the current one Greg Green to tackle the broader question of who had the more powerful collective novel output. For that I would have to flip to Hemingway both because he left a greater treasure-trove of such work and because he worked better in that genre. I have also never been asked to evaluate the better of the two when it comes to short stories. Then I would have to flip back to Fitzgerald since he wrote a ton more mainly to keep the dunning debt collector wolves from the door and live a life-style his wife Zelda was accustomed to and because he had a certain lyricism that hit the mark on this genre.

That brings us kind of full circle to the short story collection under review Fitzgerald’s  The Pat Hobby Stories written late in his career and while he was working like seven dervishes as a screen-writer in the Hollywood trying to salvage whatever scripts came his way while drinking up half the liquor cabinets in Beverly Hills. That drinking curse aside even at the end he had “it,” had that certain feel for what makes a short story entertaining and make a point, a social or literary point. In the interest of transparency, a trait, which Greg Green seems to be trying to cultivate here, the reason I was given this assignment by him was that I was the only one who had previously done any work on either author. According to Greg some of the other younger writers if you can believe this had never read anything but either man and only knew of them by reputation. Jesus.   

The title tells the story all of these twenty or so stories revolved around one Pat Hobby. One has-been screenwriter who had been around the Hollywood studio scene since Hector was a pup. Since the silent film days if anybody was asking. The former a very different kind of screenwriting skill from that of the “talkies” which depended on dialogue more than the earlier visual props setting to get through. Back in the day Pat had been king of the hill, had been a go to guy for every producer and director who needed an idea or a sick script worked on.  That was reflected in his upscale life-style (including the status symbol obligatory swimming pool to announce you had arrived), his bevy of wives who as he memorably noted later “fed out of his pocket” were in turn discarded and his more than nodding acquaintance with the stars of the era, male and female.             

But that was then, that was some ten years before the time of these stories which were written by Fitzgerald in 1939-1941 and so tell me that our Pat didn’t transition very well to the new milieu. At the time of the stories he is a forty-nine year old has-been hanging around studio lots “doing the best he can.” Grabbing a turkey of a script nobody else wanted to do, cadging his old director and producer friends to put him on contract salary at much diminished rates from the old top dollar days. Trying to “steal” other younger writers thunder when working with other writers. In short a man who is in decline.   

Pat though is not solely the victim of outside objective forces. He has a drinking problem, seems to have been an alcoholic, like Fitzgerald’s which would kill the author at an early age. He also seems to have liked to “play the ponies” which when you have no dough can be a dicey proposition as Bart Webber who has written about his own very real gambling jones here can tell you. Moreover it seems that it was touch and go about here he would be laying down his head any given night. A studio set empty bed or the back of his repo man’s delight car on its last legs (and not even owned by him).

Yeah, a guy on the skids, a guy a couple of inches away from the “row.” The big problem though is Pat has lost a step or seven in the “idea” department, has gotten stale. Not so off of this collection Fitzgerald though since I was eager, more than eager, to get to the next story to see what was what with Pat as a writer. From me that is a high compliment to an author. Enough said.   

I Accuse-Unmasking The Sherlock Holmes Legend, Part III-“The Postman Always Rings Twice”-Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s “The Scarlett Claw” (1944)-A Film Review

I Accuse-Unmasking The Sherlock Holmes Legend, Part III-“The Postman Always Rings Twice”-Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s “The Scarlett Claw” (1944)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Danny Moriarty

(Once again as I did in my initial offerings on the bogus Sherlock Holmes legend Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, hah!, and the so –called, again, hah The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes  in the interest of transparency which has become more of an issue these days when every medium is under scrutiny Danny Moriarty is not my real name. As I mentioned then and will be discussed again below in the review of this death blow to Holmes’ legend The Scarlett Claw there is a weirdly nefarious band of his devotees masking themselves as a thing called the Baker Street Irregulars. Why such an outlandish name for these thugees I can only guess. This motley of criminals, junkies, and cutthroats is being protected by high society personages, the peerage I think they call it in Mother England, you know the House of Lords holy goofs with the wigs and robes, who I am told have very stylized rituals involving exotic illegal drugs and human blood, and are the bane of the London Bobbies although strangely corruption-infested Scotland Yard has not lifted a finger in the matter. Moreover these cretins have been connected with the disappearance of many people, high born and low who have questioned the Sherlock myth, and not a few unsolved murders of people who have washed up on the Thames over the years.

So this need for an alias, for cover, is no joke since that first review and the subsequent second one I have been threatened, threatened with I won’t death, death threats, but some nasty actions edging up in that direction which necessitate my keeping very close tabs on my security apparatus as I attempt to deflate this miserable excuse for a detective, a parlor detective at that who even Agatha Christie dismissed out of hand as a rank amateur. From my sources, serious sources under the circumstances, of ex-Irregulars who have left the organization as its attacks have become more bizarre and its blood rituals more gruesome including allegations of human sacrifice I have been told I am on their “watch list.” 

I know and can prove that I have been the subject of cyber-bullying without end including a campaign to discredit me by calling me Raymond Chandler’s “poodle.” I am willing to show an impartial commission my accusations. Believe me it is getting worse and once I get a grip on who is who in that nefarious organization I will be taking names and numbers.  There are a total of twelve films which have been nothing but propaganda vehicles for the Holmes legend so I have plenty more work cut out for me. Until done I will not be stopped by hoodlums, your lordships, and blood-splattered junkies. D.M.)

The Scarlett Claw, starring Basil Rathbone (I have mentioned previously my doubts that this was his real name since unlike myself he had never been transparent enough to say that he had been using an alias. I have since uncovered information that I was right and that his real name is Lytton Strachey a known felon who spent a few years in Dartmoor Prison on weapons and drug trafficking charges), Nigel Bruce (a name which upon further investigation has been confirmed as a British National named “Doc” Watson who did time at Dartmoor as well for not having a medical license and peddling dope to minors in the 1930s and 1940s where I assume they met up), 1944 

As I have mentioned previously and nothing recently has changed my view we live in an age of debunking. An age perhaps borne aloft by cynicism, hubris, sarcasm and above all “fake news,” not the fake news denying some reality that you hear so much about these days, but by the elaborate strategy of public relations cranks and flacks who will put out any swill as long as they are paid and not a minute longer. That phenomenon hardly started today but has a long pedigree, a pedigree which has included the target of today’s debunking one James Sherlock Holmes, aka Lytton Strachey, out of London, out of the Baker Street section of that town. From the cutesy “elementary my dear Watson” to that condescending attitude toward everybody he encounters, friend or foe, including the hapless Doctor Watson, aka Nigel Bruce, a fellow inmate at notorious Dartmoor Prison in the early 1930s this guy Holmes, or whatever his real name is nothing but a pure creation of the public relations industrial complex, the PRIC. As I have noted above I have paid the price for exposing this chameleon, this so-called master detective, this dead end junkie, with a barrage of hate mail and threats from his insidious devotees. I have been cyber-bullied up to my eyeballs but the truth will out.

Maybe I better refresh for those who may not have read the first or second review, may be shocked to find their paragon of a private detective has feet of clay, and an addiction problem no twelve step program could curtail in a million years. Here are some excerpts of what I said in that first review which I stand by this day no matter the consequences:      

“Today is the day. Today is the day I have been waiting for since I was a kid. Today we tear off the veneer, tear off the mask of the reputation of one Sherlock Holmes as a master detective. Funny how things happen. Greg Green assigned me this film out of the blue, at random he said when I asked him. However this assignment after viewing this film, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (of course he doesn’t face, hadn’t been anywhere near any danger that would put death in his way but that can wait until I finish out defanging the legend) set off many bells, many memories of my childhood when I first instinctively discovered this guy was a fraud, a con artist.

Back then my grandparents and parents hushed me up about the matter when I told them what I thought of the mighty Sherlock. They went nutty and told me never to speak of it again when I mentioned that a hard-boiled real private detective, a guy who did this kind of work for a living, a guy named Sam Spade who worked out in San Francisco and solved, really solved, the case of the missing black bird which people in the profession still talk about, which is still taught in those correspondence course private detection in ten easy lesson things you used to see advertised on matchbook covers when smoking cigarettes was okay, who could run circles around a parlor so-called detective like Mr. Holmes. 

[Even Sam Spade has come in for some debunking of late right here in this space as Phil Larkin and Kenny Jacobs have gone round and round about how little Spade deserved his “rep,” his classic rep for a guy who was picked by some bimbo out of the phone book and who couldn’t even keep his partner alive against that same femme he was skirt-addled over. Kept digging that low-shelf whiskey bottle in the bottom desk drawer out too much when the deal went down. The only guy who is safe is Phillip Marlowe since nobody can call him a “one solved murder wonder” after the string of cold as ice, maybe colder, cases he wrapped up with a bow over the years. They still talk about the Sherwood case out on the Coast even today where he rapped the knuckles of a big time gangster like Eddie Mars, and his goons, to help an old man going to the great beyond no believing that he had raised a couple of monster daughters without working up a serious sweat. Talked in hushed tones too. You notice nobody has tried to go after him, not even close. D.M.]            

That was then. Now after some serious research as a result of this film’s impact on my memory I have proof to back up my childhood smothered assertions. Sherlock Holmes (if that is his name which is doubtful since I went to the London telephone directories going back the first ones in the late 1800s and found no such name on Baker Street-ever) was nothing but a stone-cold junkie, cocaine, morphine, landudum and other exotic concoctions which is the reason that he had a doctor at his side at all times in case he needed “scripts” written up. A doctor who a guy like Sam Spade would have sat on his ass a long time before as so much dead weight.

That junkie business would not amount to much if it did not mean that high and mighty Sherlock didn’t have to run his own gang of pimps, hookers, con men, fellow junkies, drag queens, rough trade sailors and the flotsam and jetsam of London, high society and low, to keep him in dough for that nasty set of habits that kept him high as a kite. There are sworn statements (suppressed at the time) by the few felons whom the Bobbies were able to pick up that Sherlock was the guy behind half the burglaries, heists and kidnappings in London. And you wonder why the Baker Street Irregulars want to silence me, show me the silence of the grave….

Of course the Bobbies, looking to wrap up a few cold file cases which Sherlock handed them to keep them off the trail, looked the other way and/or took the graft so who really knows how extensive the whole operation was. In a great sleight of hand he gave them Doctor Moriarty who as it turned out dear Sherlock had framed when one wave of police heat was on and who only got out of prison after Holmes died and one of Holmes’ flunkies told the real story about how Holmes needed a “fall guy” and the wily Doctor took the fall.”             

This The Scarlett Claw should put paid to the Holmes legend as he let the bodies pile up like a cordwood before a grieving father actually stopped the rampage. Everybody knows that Sherlock made his name after he beat down some poor mistreated dog who should have been reported as abused to whatever they call the humane animal treatment society in merry old England. Worked overtime to keep his name in the public prints through his friendship with the editor of the London Times despite the fact that he had no gainful employment, no source of income except whatever his thug cronies delivered to him from their various escapades.

It is hard to believe that Holmes and his lapdog pill-pusher Watson would be let out of the country, let out of jail, unless they had protectors in high places but that is the case here. Here they are in Canada, in one of the colonies, no, that is not right, in one of the members of the British Commonwealth. No, I was right the first time one of the colonies attending some conference, at least that was the purpose they told the customs officers at the docks in Halifax. The real reason although it does not have anything to do with the story, with the further debunking of the Holmes legend, is that he and Watson were on the search for an exotic psychedelic drug which the Inuit, the indigenous people of Canada use in their ceremonials. So they are really trolling for drugs internationally.

Somehow, very conveniently too late, the wife of the convener of the conference, a conference on the occult, you know weird ghostlike stuff that seems paranormal, this Lord Penrose, winds up dead in a village where they live. Killed gruesomely by an instrument, a clawed garden tool used for weeding, which you can buy at any True Value hardware store. Body number one. The way that our dynamic duo get to go to that village is that this Lady Penrose has allegedly send Holmes a letter fearing her death by some unseen hand. Of course the letter arrived too late since Holmes had been on a junkie shoot-up up in Thunder Bay and hadn’t bothered to check his mail for a week.   

The whole scene at the village is filled with mystery, foggy moors and marshes with strange doing, and fear since these country bumpkins think a ghost or a monster did the deed. At least Holmes had enough sense not to fall into that trap. It turns out this Lady Penrose was some kind of actress who had fallen off the face of the earth when she married the good Lord. The reason Sherlock knew that hard fact was she had been involved in a case where a fellow actor had killed a suitor in a jealous rage over her affections. That should have set something in motion, some thought about w but Holmes let it pass in a landudum fog. Then a judge in a case involving that dead actress who passed away since he sent that lunatic actor to prison wound up dead by that same clawed garden tool right at the very same time Holmes stoned out of his mind was knocking on the good judge’s door thinking he was playing the drums is what he told Watson later. Hadn’t thought when he heard the judge’s anguished screams to batten down the door. Two down.

It gets worse since our so-called sleuthing pair have finally figure that the whole caper has something to do with that actor case, that actor who had escaped from prison and was seeking revenge on everybody associated with the case, including that actress under the principle, if there is such a thing in the case, that if he couldn’t have her nobody could.   Get this. They actually confront the bastard but he gets away since whatever his deductive skills Holmes is a horrible shot, a disgrace to a profession that relies, for better or worse, on gun play. Because of that deficiency an innocent girl, the daughter of a former prison guard at the prison where the actor had been held was killed. Killed by clawed garden tool-number three.

Of course an actor has to be a master (or mistress) of disguise and that is how the actor was able to do his thing. That was a book sealed with seven seals to this hapless pair.  That would prove the actors undoing since he had been running around as a postman after killing the real one who was supposed to take over the town’s route. If Holmes had just read James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Ring Twice he could have solved the whole sordid mess in about ten minutes. Instead number four. Yeah, cordwood. Here’s the clincher though that actor is run to ground not by Holmes and Watson but by the irate father who in poetic justice killed the villain with that self-same clawed garden tool.        

Like I said the last two time, a fake, fake all the way. Unless that Irregular crowd of thugs and blood-stained aficionados get to me, find my hideout, this is not the last you will hear about this campaign of mine to dethrone this pompous junked-up imposter. I am just getting into gear now.      

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Memories Of Victor Lazlo-With The Anniversary Of Ingrid Bergman And Humphrey Bogart’s “Casablanca” In Mind

Memories Of Victor Lazlo-With The Anniversary Of Ingrid Bergman And Humphrey Bogart’s “Casablanca” In Mind

By Bradley Davis

[For those in America who do not know, or have forgotten, the name Victor Lazlo who died on January 20, 1989 he was a living legend during World War II as the key leader of the armed civilian resistance to the Nazi juggernaut that tried to permanently roll over Europe. First in his native Czechoslovakia where he stood in the main square attempting to rally Czech resistance as the Germans crossed the border to “claim” what they saw as their historic hinterlands. Hardly the first crew to run that argument to the ground before the wrath of the risen people put paid to that notion. Later after the Germans had captured Lazlo and put him in concentration camps he became one of the last hopes in those dark days for the average occupied European when he repeatedly escaped from the Nazi barbed wire enclaves to fight another day. That despite repeated German High Command announcements complete with photographs that the brave man was dead. Only to appear again and again until even the Germans saw it was useless to make an example of Lazlo once he made his way to Casablanca along with a very much younger woman companion, Ilsa, to forge a working resistance underground network to jam up the Germans as best they could.   

Strangely Lazlo came from a very well-to- do family who had done well in the munitions business (which the Nazis took over with every hand once they crushed benighted Czechoslovakia) and could have easily gotten out of Prague and into London or Paris before all hell broke loose. But the times demanded “no heads in the sand” and so some layers of society whom one would not expect to dirty their hands with the work usually left to the plebian masses found a calling. For a short time after World War II there were several statues dedicated to Lazlo’s service in Prague and other Czech towns, a few in other grateful liberated countries too, which were taken down during the Soviet period. They were eventually restored well after 1989 too late for Lazlo to bask in his well-deserved accolades.

Lazlo’s death prompted some of those of his comrades still alive, a dwindling number as the actuarial tables grind away, to write about their heroic leader. One whose article I had seen in the New York Gazette I contacted at the time through a friend who worked at the paper. His name Christian Berger, Danish by birth and subsequently a naturalized American citizen. He had been part of Lazlo’s underground operation and had actually helped get Lazlo and Ilsa out of Casablanca to continue his work without having to look over his shoulder every minute for some dastardly pro-Nazi assassin looking to get a name for himself.

This Casablanca period in Lazlo’s exploits has been the subject of some differences among those who have written extensively about the armed civilian resistance during the war. About those who fought the Nazis and their various national indigenous allies as best they could. The main bone of contention in the matter is who actually set the wheels in motion to get Lazlo out of Casablanca. During the war it was always, correctly it seems, assumed that the local branch of Lazlo’s operation-the Knights Templar- got him out. 

Immediately after the war though an American ex-patriate, Rick Blaine, who during the war and for many years after ran a gin joint in the Casbah, Rick’s Café Americian, claimed that as a gesture of love for Ilsa, who was actually Lazlo’s wife which they were keeping quiet for security reasons and to protect Ilsa if the Germans found out their real relationship, gave the couple a pair of “letters of transit” to get on the nightly midnight plane to neutral Lisbon. No such documents were ever found in any archive or file. The failure to not find the missing documents would not have been conclusive since in wartime all kinds of regular business are churned up and lost in movements and withdrawals but would have helped Blaine’s case immensely. For years after the war Lazlo, long after Ilsa had left him for an English nobleman and a country estate and not having seen Rick since 1941, insisted that there were no letters of transit and while not calling Rick Blaine a liar he always claimed the local Knight Templars were the agents through which he escaped.              

Since Lazlo’s death the Rick allegations have resurfaced and have had some champions, romantic fools mostly, who have bought into that long ago gesture of love business. The following is Christian Berger’s take on the matter from his perspective as the leader of the local ex-pat resistance which found itself stranded in Casablanca during those troubled times. Bradley Davis] 


Sure I knew Victor Lazlo, the great Czech World War II anti-fascist liberation leader, who passed away the other day at 91, the day George H.W. Bush was sworn in as President of the United States here in America. I first met him in Casablanca, down in Morocco, the part that the French, the Vichy French, had control of not the Spanish part. In those days, the days when one scourge Adolph Hitler, his minions, and his tanks were making mincemeat of Europe I, Christian Berger, having barely escaped with my life from my native Denmark got to Casablanca through the underground network that Victor Lazlo was the key man setting up once the night of the long knives set in over the benighted continent.

I have been a life-long working man, a dock-worker, a union man with the ILA in Copenhagen and Newark, New Jersey here in America who had been then a part of a small socialist resistance unit who had as the Nazis came waltzing into Denmark blown up as many tunnels and other impediments as possible to slow down their inevitable march. My, our, escape was a close thing since I, we, had to get through France, the southern part that was controlled by Vichy, by those damned French collaborators with the Nazi Germany regime which had set itself up in fallen Paris with papers that were not too good. Papers that claimed I was from the Ukraine since Russia was in some kind of devil’s pact with Hitler at the time. The customs officers at Marseilles had a hard time believing I was a Slav what with me looking like the map of Copenhagen and talking like some Nordic skier seen in the movies in one of those sports films in the mountains which dealt mainly with love interests back in the 1930s. I got through okay, took a derelict freighter across the Mediterranean through Algiers (again with papers problems but since I had been stamped by French officials in Marseilles less so) and down to Casablanca where I was to await orders to either head to America via the midnight plane to Lisbon, the only safe neutral spot at that point,  and then across the Atlantic to raise funds from among the Scandinavians sprouted throughout the Midwest or head back to Vichy France with some others stranded in Casablanca and join the French resistance which was beginning to be organized (mainly then by loosely affiliated individuals and later by the Communists after Hitler turned the tables on “Uncle Joe” Stalin and did a massive invasion of Russia).  

My cover strange as it seemed given my real background in Casablanca was as a jeweler since we needed to be able to move money without having the fucking French, fucking Louie the corrupt Captain of the [A1] [A2] [A3] [A4] [A5] coppers looking over our shoulders every minute. An out of the suitcase seller was my cover but mostly I was a buyer of high-priced gems at a fraction of the price since anybody who made it to that sullen town needed plenty of dough to not be condemned to die in the damn place. I was looked at as either a bastard for robbing the unfortunates who wound up there or a savior for giving that last bit of money they needed to make arrangements to get out of that hellhole. That made me look like the real thing as people either enjoyed my company or avoided me like some dreaded medieval plague.

I was in those days just hanging out in Casablanca awaiting orders about which way I was heading, hanging out mostly at Rick’s Café Americian where every transient exile went to do any kind of transaction, legal or illegal, or just to get the sand out of their mouths with some of Rick’s high-end liquor which he obtained on the international black market which had its heyday then for quality goods. I did a little work in that market as well to strengthen my cover and met some strange guys, a guy like Santo Diaz who would have stolen the shirt off your back and sold it back to you for twice what you paid for if the weather was too hot or too cold to go bare-chested but who had so many connections that I would have paid the price if he had taken my shirt. Some of the more bewildered and younger transients came just to dance and listen to a guy, a black guy everybody called Sam but whose real name was Dooley something, sorry I forgot his last name, play all the current Tin Pan Alley tunes on his piano (accompanied by a pretty good back-up band). Everybody went crazy over his rendition of If I Didn’t Care although Rick would make sure he played I’ll Get By every set although he once told me he hated the damn song thought it was pretty corny and not well-written ne but Rick was the boss and so the damn thing got played every set (the customers apparently once they got a load on didn’t know he played the song three times a night. As least I never heard anybody complain on the matter).

I will mention this Rick, Rick Blaine, originally from New York City in America I believe he said when I asked one time when he offered to buy me a drink after buying some jewels from one of his lady friends, Rita, a luscious redhead, whom he had picked up in Senor Ferrara’s whorehouse in the Casbah where he stocked plenty of loose European women for the local wealthy trade who seemed to have tired of their own kind and  whom he wished to get rid of on the next flight to Lisbon. (The  jewels which he had bought from me in the first place when his love was in fresh bloom as he expressed it to me upon purchase and which I had gotten on the black market and given him a good price on to help establish myself as a regular at Ricks’. Tiring of redhead and blondes, brunettes too was a luxury that Rick could afford with the proceeds from his gambling racket and letting his place be used by a guy named Frenchie for his pimping transactions. Yeah, Rick was that kind of guy even then.) 

Right now though I want to mention the first news I had heard that made me think we might win against that bastard Hitler and his henchmen like General Petain who was running Vichy France. Like I said I belonged to the same resistance organization that Victor Lazlo had set up after the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia-The Knight Templars was our code name and an old time Celtic cross our means of identifying each other. Mine I had placed in a ring that I would take out occasionally and look at as my own possession, so people, so the local Vichy cops, the swine, would not think to look there. Lazlo was so much the public face of the organization that when the Germans captured him the morale of the organization sank like a stone. Then we would hear that he had escaped, usually with the help of local Knights Templars. 

A few times the Germans claimed they had killed him and then he would be sighted again. A real old-time romantic revolutionary, old school no question even though he had been brought up in a very upper middle class bourgeois family. The last time we heard he was killed we thought that really was the end. Then one day out of the blue we got news that Lazlo was not only not dead but had escaped again and was heading to Casablanca. Elated we prepared for his arrival. That meant that the local organization that I had put together would have to insure that Victor Lazlo was able to get out of Casablanca and get to Lisbon and head to London or New York depending on what we could do for him.          

One night bold as we figured him to be Lazlo walked into Rick’s, walked in with the Nordic goddess, a Swede from her looks, a woman who I would later find out whose name was Ilsa, Ilsa Lund, whom he was either married to (privately) or was shacked up with. In any case a good looking dame although quite a bit younger that Lazlo. Lazlo by the way was a tall, kind of thin good-looking guy who always dressed like he had just come out of a men’s magazine. Everything about him spoke of coolness under pressure and strong nerves. I would not say that he was a lady’s man, more of a man’s man but not a few femmes in Casablanca threw glances his way so he must have appealed to a certain kind of woman. Frankly this Ilsa didn’t seem his type but she must have had her charms and some kind of unknown back story to be attached to his arm coming half way across Europe hunted in every quarter.

Now Rick’s was not only the favorite of the transients looking for something but also the favorite watering hole of the Germans assigned to watch over the local Vichy government and the Vichy cops and bureaucrats, especially Louie, everybody called him Louie except his men, the Captain of the cops. Cool as a cucumber Lazlo walked in, sat at a ringside table ordered a couple of drinks, martinis I think, for himself and his lady friend and checked things out. I knew at once he was looking for me. Although we had never met I knew he would have known that the local organization existed and that somebody would contact him once he was safely in Casablanca. Once I spotted him I went over and showed him my ring. We were in business, the business of getting him to Lisbon and whatever future work would come his way. Our relationship for the short time we were together then was cordial and he displayed no class superiority like some of the unattached intellectual French resistance fighters did. (Lazlo and I met a few times after the war when he came to America after Ilsa had left him from that British title and estate and after the fall of Czechoslovakia to pro-Soviet elements who had given him the options-exile or jail.)

I have read different stories over time about how some so-called letters of transit were what got Lazlo and his Ilsa out of Casablanca in a nick of time. I have heard that Rick, Rick Blaine, a guy who stuck his neck out for nobody somehow was holding them for a little two-bit con man named Peter Lorre who got caught and Rick was going to use them himself but gave them to Lazlo for him and Ilsa to get out of town as a gesture to love. Bullshit, excuse my Danish-etched English. Never happened, somebody must have been at the hashish pipe too long. But the story, stories, have persisted to this day and even the New York Times in its obituary for Lazlo mentioned that hoary tale as if it was the real deal. So it is worth going into before I tell what really got Lazlo and Ilsa out of Casablanca and allowed him to lead the freedom fighters of Europe against the night-takers.

According to the stories, I will use the story the Times used since in its particulars it gives most of the current view that has been going around forever. Rick, who passed away in the mid-1970s still stuck in Casablanca selling hashish to the locals in collaboration with a couple of unsavory characters in the Casbah when Rick’s Café went to seed after the war, knew this Ilsa, this Ilsa Lund who was travelling with Lazlo, in Paris before the war started. The stories mainly agree that they had some kind of torrent affair, some serious time under the sheets after Rick had escaped from Spain once Madrid fell in 1939.

Supposedly Rick had been at one time in the International Brigades helping the Loyalists defend the Republic against the military machine of General Franco who was aided in no small way by the Germans. Later when the Brigades were withdrawn he stayed on as a free agent until Madrid fell.  I had a chance later after the war to check out what Rick had done exactly in Spain, or if he had even been there with some guys I met from the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, the American section. I could never get anything to prove he was, or was not, there but since everybody used aliases anyway I let it ride. I will say that Rick never let anybody believe otherwise than that he had been with the good guys but he didn’t talk about it much one way or the other. Ran his saloon business he called it and never let on about this torrid affair with Ilsa as the cause of his brooding many nights from what his head waiter, Charles, told me. Drank by himself stupid alone or with some whore or princess who needed dough to flee to Lisbon. Always discarded them or shipped them off to Louie when he was done with them.          

Everything changed when Ilsa came walking in hand and hand with Lazlo. You could feel the tension in the air when Rick spotted her after being told Lazlo was in the café. Even sitting at the bar later waiting for Lazlo to come and get the low-down on the local situation from me I could see that Ilsa and Rick had had a big thing in Paris. Could see too that it was not Rick who walked away from her. But I could also see, knowing Scandinavian women a little that Ilsa would not be found wanting for company, would always find a safe haven even hanging around with a guy like Victor Lazlo. I won’t say she was a whore, although in a tight spot she might have been a high class call girl to make ends meet. But that look, that pasted innocent look which certain jaded women can put on or take off like their daily make-up told of a few dark secrets that somebody less worldly than Lazlo (or Rick for that matter) would have gone screaming into the night over. But all of that is sheer speculation on my part about her past and it may have all come to being nothing like that. She didn’t need that, need to play the virgin whore since guys would be more than happy to give her whatever she wanted for a little attention, maybe a little loyalty too. But I insist to this day her rose-petal pure and simple young woman was a façade, was a game she played to insure her own future. Whatever had broken up her and Rick in Paris didn’t seem to have touched her at all. Just another affair and move on. That’s the best way that I can explain it.

You would have had to have been there to see her effect on men, tough men like Rick and Lazlo to get a real feel for what was driving everybody crazy. (I will admit that one time when she was waiting at the bar for Lazlo to show after a meeting and I was sitting a few seats down that her wayward smile my way and that scent she wore, gardenia, something like that had me going too since I had left my Danja back in Denmark and had not been with a woman for a while.) All I know for sure was that she was not leaving Casablanca alone and without resources.   

That part was real enough. What was not real and nobody ever to my knowledge ever produced any documents which would pass muster, would not fool even a gullible U.S. customs inspector were those so-called letters of transit. Of course if they had existed then many things would have made sense, or more sense. You have to understand how desperate people were who were able to get to Casablanca in those days and who either by lack of resources or no luck looked like they were never going to get out of there, were going to as Rick once said to Charles as I overheard a conversation between them “die” there. (There is a certain irony in the fact that he did die there pretty wealthy from what I heard about his take on the drug trade and a little off-hand pimping of the local Casbah girls). To hear about “no hassle” just sign your name documents fired many an imagination. Made people believe in what was nothing but thin air.

The whole thing was a concoction made up by this Peter Lorre, a two-bit con man, a German ex-pat of some sort, probably saw no benefit to himself to stay in Germany after 1933 since while Hitler had an assortment of hangers-on, flaks, devotees, and bone-crushers two-bit non-ideological con men were being run out of town and fast.  Hell he could hardly pay his bar tab never mind his rent. Borrowed money off of me (with interest which I never got as it turned out nor payment one on the loan) to get some stuff out of hock. He took advantage of the news, the real news, that two German officers had been killed on their way to Casablanca and figured that he could make a “killing” maybe several, by getting money upfront from those desperate people stranded and running out of hope by saying he had some fool-proof documents which real letters of transit would be no question about that. Of course this idea fizzled when Louie to impress the German officers watching the henhouse decided that Lorre was the perfect guy to take the fall for the killing of the two Germans. He staged a big raid at Rick’s one night for just that purpose, just to impress this bigwig Major Strasser nothing but a strutting fool if you asked me. They found Lorre out in the sand about twenty kilometers from the Casbah a few weeks later with two slugs to the head.

Funny Lorre just before the end in the café had passed a couple of crude documents that he called the letters of transit to Rick from what I heard for safekeeping. Those documents were of the crudest sort that even a half-wit would have been able to see that they were nothing but forgeries and bad ones at that. Would make the possessor who tried to use them prime bait for the concentration camps the Germans were setting up all over occupied Europe.                        

Rick was slick though, or maybe better love sick since he never let on at the time that Lorre had conveyed the “documents” to him or that he knew that they were crudely forged documents. So as far as anybody in Casablanca knew, or wanted to know, like I said they were still around town. Somehow Lazlo found out that Rick had these documents, or some documents and tried to bargain Ilsa, or rather Ilsa’s safe passage out of Casablanca for some sum of dough to be forwarded later. No sale even though while they were discussing the matter Rick let on about the torrid affair in Paris and Lazlo, eternally a European sophisticate, brushed it off as so much collateral damage of war. Lazlo probably knew better than anybody the slightly sluttish side of Ilsa when she wanted something so he probably went to Rick first before she made her charge at the love sick guy.

Which came the next night while Victor and seemingly half the foreigners in town, including me were at a meeting to plan his escape and our tasks after he left. (I was to go to Europe to join the resistance and did not get to America until a few years after the war when I married an American citizen whom I met in Paris right after Liberation day. I never saw Danja again after I fled Denmark and so do not know what happened to her after the fall).    

Ilsa must have really given Rick the business, the whole pitch since when she left his room all disheveled she had made a promise to go away with Rick and forget about Lazlo. Yes, I think I was right that she knew all the arts, probably gave him a blow job to seal the deal since most guys will buckle under if they have some gal “play the flute” for them. Since he had nothing to get out of Casablanca with Rick stalled her as long as he could until the Germans, using Louie as a front man, were ready to grab Lazlo. It was a close thing. When Rick came up empty he would wind up spending many lonely nights thinking about Paris and that last night up in his room with her because Ilsa was back in Victor’s fold when things were getting dicey. So much for the Rick legend which he pursued mercilessly I understand after the war when he claimed that that without him and those so-called letters of transit Lazlo would have been a goner, and by implication that Europe would still be under the Nazi boot heel.    

The real story which I can tell now that Victor Lazlo is in his honored grave, Rick is long gone to his rather shabby grave and Ilsa ever since a couple of years after the war is the Countess of Kent and not bothered by anything these days since she suffers from a series of mysterious diseases. The long and short of it was when that bastard Major Strasser ordered Louie to round up Lazlo with or without Ilsa we, the local branch of the Knights Templar, kidnapped the Major and executed him out in the desert not far from where Lorre had been found earlier. We then held Louie at gunpoint while we ordered him to clear the airport and allow Lazlo and Ilsa to board the late night plane to Lisbon. No big mystery just what freedom-fighters did when they had to face the facts of life at any given moment. The rest is so much thin air. RIP, Victor Lazlo, RIP.     


The Struggle In Ireland In Song-The Harp Beneath The Crown- With The Chieftains In Mind

The Struggle In Ireland In Song-The Harp Beneath The Crown- With The Chieftains In Mind

By Sam Eaton

“I’m as Irish as the next goddam bogger,” shouted Jack Callahan, “I just don’t like to wear it on my sleeve. I don’t have to break out in song every time I think about what my maternal grandfather, Daniel Patrick Riley and that should be Irish enough for you, called the “old sod.” For him it was the old sod since his own grandparents had come over on the “famine” ships in the 1840s after the bloody Brits had starved them out of County Kerry with their wicked enclosure policies so they could have grazing land for their sheep or something and they, the Brits hoarding enough food for a full larder for everyone and the starved broken bodied piling up on the roads after eating tree bark or something you wouldn’t feed a pig. At least that was the way my grandfather told me his grandfather told him.” 

Jack’s whole uproar over his heritage, over his bloody green flag, harp beneath the crown heritage had been brought about innocently enough as he and Bradley Fox, a friend whom he had known since his school days at Riverdale High, sat in The Plough and Stars bar on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge when Bradley had mentioned that the Chieftains would again be doing their yearly series of shows around Saint Patrick’s at the Wang Center in downtown Boston and had assumed that Jack would once again jump at the chance to show his green side.

And that outburst was the way that Jack had answered him with some put-upon air of righteous indignation that he had to prove himself and his Irish-ness. Prove it he added to a half-breed like Bradley whose own father was descended from the bloody Brits, had only with fire and determination on his mother’s part had he been brought up in the true church rather than some heathen Protestant chapel with those god-awful hail high Jehovah psalms beseeching an unjust god to forgive them their bloody heathen sins, and who had only been saved by his mother’s full-blooded Irish lineage (his mother’s great-great grandfather having come over on the famine ships with Jack’s maternal great-great-great grandfather if that was the right number of “greats”)from being totally ostracized in the whole neighborhood by the old “shawlies” who commented on every little deviation. So no this year he would not be going to the annual concert, maybe would not even go to the Saint Patrick’s Parade over in South Boston which he had been going to since he was a kid although less frequently over the previous few years as he had lost patience with the drunks, the rowdies and the one-day-a-year Irish. The Polish Irish they would call them when they were kids, the Poles being the other big ethnic group in the town, the ones who worked on the watch factories that had dotted the river in those days. They would come into school on Saint Pat’s Day all in green calling themselves MacWalecki or something. That was the way the two old friends left it that night, left like they did many a blow-up argument with a semi-smile since half the time after a certain hour or a certain number of whiskeys they would collapse in on their arguments. This one had that same fate.            

[What Bradley did not know that night, did not know for several more weeks, was that Chrissie (nee McNamara) Callahan, Jack’s wife of many more years than any of them wanted to count and who had been the classic high school sweethearts was giving signals that she wanted to leave Jack now that the kids were grown and they were “empty-nesters.” Wanted to in her words “find herself” before it was too late and that she had felt like a stranger in Jack’s presence. That fate weighted heavily on Jack since Chrissie had been his rock through those many years and he was not sure what he would do if she left him high and dry like that. Tried to argue her out of her thoughts always going back to the usually tried and true argument about how they had first gotten together and that night had pledged their eternal love. Bradley had known that story since he had been at Molly’s Diner the night it happened. Jack had had a crush on Chrissie since sixth grade when she had invited him to her twelfth birthday party and as such things went at “petting parties” she had given him a big kiss that he never really forgot about. But being shy and self-conscious he never pursued the matter. Time passed and as they entered high school it turned out that Jack was a hell of a football player who led his team to the state division championship senior year.

So Jack could have had any girl he wanted from sophomore year on. But he still retained his Chrissie thing and his shyness. Chrissie had been harboring some such feelings as well although as more outgoing and a beautiful girl she did not lack for dates and the evil intentions of guys. One Friday night in the later fall of sophomore year though she had had enough and knowing that Jack and the boys would be at Molly’s playing the latest rock hits on Molly’s jukebox while having their burgers and fries she went into Molly’s front door, drew a bee-line to Jack, and to Jack’s lap. The way Bradley always described it later was that Chrissie had had such a look of determination on her face that it would have taken the whole football team to get her off that lap. A look a Jack said that it would take the whole football team and the junior varsity too to get her off his lap. So that night their eternal love thing started. Jack had told Bradley in confidence that he could have had anything Chrissie had to offer that night when they left Molly’s for Jack to take her home. That would come later, the next spring when on Saint Patrick’s’ Day night after the parade was over and after they had both consumed too many illegal beers they went over to nearby Carson Beach and Chrissie had given Jack all she had to offer. So those mist of memories had been were driving Jack dyspeptic response to Bradley’s question.]              

Later that night after Jack got back to Hingham where he had his business, his Toyota car dealership (he was perennially Mr. Toyota in Eastern Massachusetts), and his too big house, Chrissie asleep upstairs (in one of the kids’ bedrooms, so that was the way things were just then) turned the light on and went into his den. Sat down on his easy chair and turned the light off. He had just wanted to think in the gentle dark about how he was going keep Chrissie with him but he found that he started to drift back to the days in Riverdale when he was a kid and being Irish meant a lot to him, felt he had to uphold the Easter, 1916 brotherhood, had to buck the trend that his parents and their generation had bought into-becoming vanilla Americans. Losing the old country identities that men like his grandfather held too with granite determination in the flow of too many other trends driving them away from what they had been, where they had come from in this great big immigrant-driven country.           

All the funny little rites of passage. First of all listening to his grandfather’s stories about the heroic men of 1916 (women too but they slipped through cracks in his telling the womenfolk being held in the background in that generation), above all James Connelly who had place of pride on his grandfather’s piazza wall. Then the times once his grandfather was in his cups a bit the singing of all the old songs, some he had never heard of then but which later he would find were ancient songs going back to Cromwell’s bloody hellish times. Later when he and his friends, usually not Bradley since his father was adamant that he not attend some frivolous doings, would sneak out of school, walk to the bus which would take them to the Redline subway station and over to South Boston and the Saint Pat’s Parade. See that day, March 17th was a holiday in Boston and Suffolk County, not Saint Pat’s Day but Evacuation Day, the day the colonial patriots drove the bloody Brits out of Boston during the American Revolution. But Riverdale in Middlesex County did not get a holiday hence the sneaking out of school.

Of course of all the Saint Pat’s Days the night he took all Chrissie had to offer stood well above all others. He thought about how Chrissie, all prim and proper on the outside, at first refused to skip school until he made a fuse over it that he wouldn’t have any fun without her. That got to her, and so they went with Jimmy Jenkins, Frankie Riley and a couple of other girls whose names he could not remember over to South Boston. They ran into one of Jack’s older cousins who gave them some beers. At first Chrissie balked at drinking the stuff but Jack said just take a sip and if she didn’t like it that was that. Well she liked it well enough that day (which was probably the last time she had beer since thereafter it was respectfully Southern Comfort, mixed gin drinks, and later various types of wine). They drank most of the afternoon, had somehow lost the rest of the crowd from Riverdale and Jack saw his big play. He asked Chrissie if she wanted to go to the beach to sit on the seawall and watch the ocean before going home. She didn’t resist that idea.  So they went to Carson Beach as it was starting to get dark, went to a secluded area near the L Street Bathhouse, and started to “make out.” Jack began to fondle her breasts and she didn’t push him away, didn’t push him away as he put his hand between her thighs either, actually held his hands there. And so they as they saying went after a Howlin’ Wolf song they had heard on Molly’s jukebox did the “do the do” for first time. He blushed as he thought about that first time and how they, foolish high school kids, didn’t have any “protection,” didn’t even think about such an idea. Later they got wise but then they were as naïve about sex and what to do, or not do, about it as any two Irish kids could be.

Jack as he sat there in dark then thought enough of this or he might head up those stairs, kids’ room or not. But above all that night he thought about his sainted grandmother, Anna, by his account, by all accounts, a saint if for no other reason than she had put up with his grandfather and his awful habits but also because she was the sweetest woman in the whole neighborhood and was not, it bears repeating, not afraid of the “shawlies” and their vicious grapevine (which had even caught wind of his and Chrissie’s trysts although they denied the whole thing every time somebody mentioned it-they were after all as good  virginal Catholics as anybody else in the neighborhood so there). He then remembered how when he was young she would sing the songs from the old country while she was doing the washing (the old-fashioned way with scrub board and wringer, clothesline-dried), Brendan on the Moor, Kevin Barry, The Rising of the Moon, and many others. He would always request The Coast of Malabar, ask her to sing it twice when she was in the mood. Such a song of being away from home. He always loved it when the Chieftains played the song as a part of their show.          

Jack had that song on his mind the next morning when after Chrissie had come down for her morning coffee he asked her, half expecting to be turned down, if she wanted to go to the Chieftains concert in March. She brightened and said “yes, yes of course.” Later that day he sheepishly called Bradley and told him to order three tickets for the Chieftains concert. Bradley chuckled. Enough said.         

In Defense Of Consumer Spending- With The Film Adaptation Of Sophie Kinsella’s “Confessions Of A Shopaholic” (2009)-A Film Review

In Defense Of Consumer Spending- With The Film Adaptation Of Sophie Kinsella’s “Confessions Of A Shopaholic” (2009)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Seth Garth   

Confessions Of A Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, from the novels of Sophie Kinsella, 2009

I can’t believe that I have been given an assignment dealing with the addiction of shopping, girl’s stuff, Confessions Of A Shopaholic starring Isla Fisher as Rebecca, a girl’s film that should by right be done by somebody who knows something about the subject, about shopping. For myself I am like the guy, like Luke the money magazine editor, played by Hugh Dancy have set world records for shopping and getting the hell out-fast. But this is the genesis of how I got this turkey, turkey for me not for the people who might get a few chuckles out of the film or could relate to this shopping mania. Greg Green, the new site manager who has very different ideas about the way forward for this site, has been looking, has been foundering as far as I am concerned trying to grab a larger, younger audience and has been running a streak of so-called super-hero bang-bang films and now has branched out to this kind of odd-ball comedy to grab the shopping consuming crowd which peaks on Black Friday after Thanksgiving Day I guess. He had originally approached Leslie Dumont but she balked having written two consecutive women-related film review and had expressed in print that she did not want to be tagged as the token “women’s page” writer. Rebuffed then Greg approached me under the principle of “broadening my horizons” and having avoided those super-hero films could not back off. So here we are.       

Here we are beyond the obvious boy meets girl theme which I will address later that Hollywood has been hatching and working for its entire existence. Rebecca is a shopaholic who also happens to be a journalist working for a low-rent gardening magazine who has dreams of working for the bigs, for a high end fashion magazine on her career rise. By hook or by crook she gets a job working for the aforementioned Luke in a smart money magazine owned by the same parent company who owned the fashion magazine. That will start the long haul attraction which will lead to their love affair by film’s end.

Along the way it turns out that the perky, vivacious Rebecca has not only a shopping jones, is purebred junkie, which is probably more common than expected but had been eaten up her credit cards. Proved that her eyes were bigger than her pocketbook. Something had to be done if she was to keep afloat, grab that high end job and grab that poor little rich boy (his parents were super-rich but he wanted to pull himself up by his own bootstraps ) while dodging the repo men, the debt dead beat pursuers. The bulk of the film, including a bout with Shopaholic Anonymous, at first as a lark then more seriously, involves her getting out from under without dear Luke getting wind of the idea. That was not be and the couple went through a period of deep freeze once he found out she was in debt up to her ass. Naturally that freeze would only last for a bit until she got out of hock. Got back to the real world, a world without going crazy over consumer goods. Beyond that the storyline could not carry any additional weight. Greg I have done my duty.