Marlon!

Marlon Brando in ‘Guys and Dolls’ (1955)

TCM today is playing Marlon Brando movies. God I loved 50’s Brando. Streetcar Named Desire, Julius Caesar, On the Waterfront, Guys and Dolls, Sayonara. Couldn’t stand him as a kid. Then I started to actually watch him in Streetcar and Waterfront. Waterfront ended up being one of my favorite movies of all time.

Something I didn’t understand at the time was that Brando was a macho, stud muffin kind of guy then. You’d never know that if all you knew him from was Godfather and Last Tango In Paris. But what was funny about that was who his best friend in life was, Wally Cox. They grew up together in Evanston, Illinois, and later New York.

At the link they tell the story I first heard on NPR. When they were about 9 and newly met, the much more physical Marlon tied Wally to a tree and left him overnight. That would have been about 1933, heart of the Great Depression. He felt horrible about it and Wally didn’t seem to hold a grudge. Their friendship was just kind of a cool story.

Turns out he didn’t have a great friendship with his G & D costar Frank Sinatra. Frank resented the On the Waterfront role going to Brando, and especially the musical role of Sky Masterson going to Brando instead of him. By the end of filming they were only talking through intermediaries.

Then one of the most bizarre stories of their (Liz Taylor, Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando) later lives was those 3 taking a cross country road trip incognito in Brando’s classic ’71 Cadillac (I might have the wrong year of Caddy). Shoot, he’s still great in The Chase (1966).

Brando in Guys and Dolls
Last Tango
Brando and Saint in Waterfront
Brando in Streetcar
Brando in Sayonara
The Wild One (1953)
I thought this color still from the B&W ‘Wild One’ was incredibly interesting. Its rare we get to see what they really looked like.

Our Town

the ‘Stage manager’

TCM played the 1940 movie version of ‘Our Town‘ this morning. I’d ‘heard’ of it of course, every high school in America at one time has done a production of it. It was written by one Thornton Wilder (1897-1975). I’d ‘heard’ of him too of course, but that was it. You could have held a gun to my head and I might have been able to tell you that Wilder was a writer. Turns out he wrote ‘The Bridge of San Luis Rey‘ and ‘Our Town’. Quite the playwright as I understand it.

All I saw of the movie was the last 15 or 20 minutes. That’s all it took for me. Wonderful story. I can’t repeat that enough: wonderful story. The movie as near as I can tell did a great job with it. It was obviously “stagey”, but in a good way. I just love good sets and well done paintings. Anyone with a normal upbringing is going to be shaking their head at my ignorance of such a well known play. That’s the way it is sometimes. There are many others like me.

I would have guessed that the playwright had “died before the war”, many moons ago. Not so. He lived until 1975, which is about the year our high school put it on. Several thoughts came to mind while watching the movie set in Grover’s Corners, NH (pop. 2,642). The first was when the happy couple runs up the aisle after the wedding in the church. You’re looking at the altar as the people in the pews would. It’s a blank wall. There’s no Cross. What church on this earth does not have a cross on the altar? Only a Hollywood church.

As the stage manager takes us through the cemetery, there’s not one gravestone with a cross on it. Go through any cemetery and not see crosses. I don’t get it. This play above all plays is capturing Americana, and they want to deny America’s religion? I don’t get it. The other thing that occurred to me as the credits rolled, how many movies over how many years have I watched on TCM?

How many times have I seen them put on the sick and twisted ‘Double Indemnity’? Or something equally as depraved from Bette Davis? Or Hollywood glamorizing gangster life with James Cagney? Edward G. Robinson? And a lot of overacting? Garbage in garbage out. There is nothing redeeming about the movies they usually show. Nothing good for the spirit. Nothing uplifting. Nothing that inspires the human soul. On a rare occasion they do.

We live in a sick and twisted world. How did it get that way? Was it partly because of the sewage Hollywood marinates our brain in? We don’t need that. Just read the headlines, it’s a nonstop diary of man’s inhumanity to man. We don’t need Taxi Driver. We don’t need Silence of the Lambs. Leastways not on a continuing non-stop basis. There’s nothing wrong with good. I like good. I love good.

Maybe balance is good. But the steady diet of filth that Hollywood regurgitates and by extension TCM, that’s not good. That’s not balance. I have never seen Our Town on TCM in 30 years. Does that mean they’ve never played it? No. But it does mean something fishy is going on when I’ve seen them schedule Double Indemnity over 30 times. Or ditto for Treasure of the Sierra Madres.

How much other really quality stuff is out there that I’ll never see? Because TCM is the garbage man? Let’s have a mix. How many times have they shown the entertaining but nonetheless drivel, My Fair Lady? Gazillions! But you know a musical no one showed until 40 years after its release? West Side Story. Why was that? It was easily on par with My Fair Lady. Yet one is shown hundreds of times and one not at all? (until at least 2003)

Both types of movies are just playacting. Pretend. But I really can’t believe they do not affect the human soul, one way or another.

I believe there was an on purpose ‘blackout’ of this 1962 movie for 40 years.

Franco Nero

His eyes aren’t positioned quite right in this photo, but it gives you an idea of how attractive he is

I’d completely forgotten about this guy until recently, when he was in a Lacey Chabert “goes to Italy movie” for Hallmark. He was probably 79 at the time (he’d be 81 now). Even at that age you could see the image of what once was. Then I realized I knew him from Force 10 From Navarone (big Alistair MacLean fan). I always thought Franco was the guy from the Fistful of Pesos movies, but that was Gian Maria Volontè (two below). Who died at the ripe old age of 61 in 1994. Another very beautiful Italian man. I’m beginning to think Italy cranks out beautiful men like they do beautiful women (no I’m not that way).

Franco’s bio page at IMDB provides some insight into his career. I thought it was a case of Hollywood didn’t know what to do with him, and he was never utilized fully, but that’s not the case. Evidently in the world of cinema, if you want to take the easy path you play the same character over and over. Think John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Humphrey Bogart. But if you want to have a longer, more varied and fulfilling career, you take a wide variety of roles and never let yourself become typecast.

As he said, “I am the busiest actor. Why? Because an actor either decides he wants to be a star and play the same role over and over, or be an actor and change all the time. If you’re a big Hollywood star, you make one movie a year at the most. I can make five in Europe.”

Franco and longtime companion Vanessa Redgrave

That coupling is just further evidence of … well something I’m sure. The hoity-toity English actress? Oh well. In the seventies it says he dated Catherine Deneuve, Goldie Hawn and Ursula Andress. He evidently likes unique looking women. In the late 60s and during the 70s, Nero played many different roles, but most of them connected with political and criminal genre, which criticized the Italian justice system. It makes me think Italy’s cliche of being “mobbed up” is true.

Anyway, I just find him an interesting character. He has a great charisma and presence. What’s funny to me at least, with women its not always the ‘pretty boy’ they find attractive. Or at least admit to. You just never know.

Gian Maria Volontè, (Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More) I confused him with Franco Nero
Franco as Sir Lancelot
Franco in 1966 (he was younger then)
I nearly forgot to mention, in the 60’s he made a movie called Django, which was evidently quite the phenomenon in furrin countries.

For the love of noir

Bullets! Women! Can’t hold a man like this!

TCM does it again. ‘Raw Deal!‘ I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dennis O’Keefe before, or Marsha Hunt. I’ve seen Claire Trevor all of once, in Stagecoach (1939). This one is purely for the love of the genre. Wonderful cinematography, great dialogue, wonderful acting, beautiful scenery. The only thing that held it back was the plot. O’Keefe has been sent ‘up the river’, to the Big House, see. He was framed! He was the fall guy! The stool pigeon! Now he’s escaped from the ‘pen’, and he’s out to even the score with the evil mobster Raymond Burr!

1948 America in the delicious Pacific Northwest. Just wonderful. Location shooting, over the top scenes (Burr’s character feeling trapped throws a flaming Baked Alaska on his dame!). “Joe Sullivan is itching to get out of prison. He’s taken the rap for Rick, who owes him $50,000. Rick sets up an escape for Joe, knowing that Joe will be caught escaping and be shot or locked away forever. But with the help of his love-struck girl Pat and his sympathetic legal caseworker Ann, Joe gets further than he’s supposed to, and we are posed with two very important questions: Is Joe really the cold and heartless criminal he appears to be, or is there a heart of gold under that gritty exterior? And does Joe belong with the tough, street-wise Pat, or with the prim, moralizing Ann?”

Oh it’s gritty alright. Ann is getting under his skin. But its reliable old Pat that got him out! He doesn’t want to ruin the honest life of a broad like Ann, so he pushes her away! “Get out of here! That was last night! “You’re nothing to me!” Danged if Ann doesn’t get kidnapped by the evil Burr, and held for ‘insurance’! He gets Burr in the end (the fat phuck gets chucked out the window!). But he’s shot too! He dies in a studly fashion in his true love Ann’s arm’s, and poor Pat sees he loved that ‘skirt’! She had wasted her life on a guy that loved somebody else! Can you have anymore exclamation points in just 3 paragraphs?!

Great stuff. IMDB viewers gave it a 7.2 out of 10. I gave it a 9.

Joe, Ann & Pat
‘Marcy’, whose real name (okay acting name) was Chili Williams. She became a pinup girl in WW II when a picture like this one surfaced of her in a polka dot swimsuit. She became known as the ‘Polka-dot Girl’. The bar was lower back then. She was Burr’s dame, who had the accident with the flambé.

Tony Dow

I chose this pic for a specific reason. I grew up with a distinctly delineated B&W world and a color world. Tony would be in my B&W world, which is how I always saw him. Tony is in hospice as of 7/26/22.

His mother, Muriel Montrose, was a stunt woman in early Westerns, Clara Bow‘s double and a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty.

Son Christopher Dow, with Carol Marlow, born March 26, 1973.

Joined the US Army National Guard in 1965.

Was a junior Olympics diving champion.

In the 70s he attended journalism school while working in contracting and construction.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he re-teamed with his Leave It to Beaver (1957) co-star Jerry Mathers and performed in dinner theatres.

Involved in building luxury condominiums.

Is a modern-art sculptor and represented exclusively by Karen Lynne Gallery in Beverly Hills, California, USA. One of his bronze pieces was on display in the backyard garden of his one-time TV mom Barbara Billingsley. Now a grandfather, he and his wife Lauren lived close to Billingsley before her 2010 death at age ninety-four.

In 2007 the 62-year-old Dow, the 59-year-old Jerry Mathers and 91-year-old Barbara Billingsley celebrated the 50th anniversary of Leave It to Beaver (1957) by reuniting and inaugurating the 24-hour TV-Land marathon.

One of his bronze sculptures was accepted at 2008’s Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts, a 150-year-old art show staged annually at the Louvre in Paris, France.

His acting mentor was the late Barbara Billingsley.

Best known by the public for his role as Wallace “Wally” Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver (1957).

Topanga Canyon, California: living and working as a sculptor. [September 2012]

He has played the same character (Wally Cleaver) on three different series: Leave It to Beaver (1957), The Love Boat (1977) and The New Leave It to Beaver (1983).

Profiled in the 2016 book “X Child Stars: Where Are They Now?” by Kathy Garver and Fred Ascher.

Appeared in the The Kentucky Fried Movie as Wally, based on his character Wally Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver.

Appeared as a witness in a case in the 1980s version of The People’s Court.

In May 2022 it was revealed his cancer returned.

[I tried to find a human interest story on some small blog about Tony, but to no avail. Google search is obsessed right now with, “Tony Dow not dead!” stories. His wife had thought he passed, but nurses said otherwise. What these stories are is a testament to though, is how 60 years after the Leave It To Beaver series ended, the public still has a warm spot in their heart for him. Who knows why ‘magic’ happens on a television series? But it most definitely did with Leave It To Beaver. I’ve wondered about that a lot over the years. I’ve always been a fan and a student of retrospective art and entertainment. Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, Make Room For Daddy, none of them had the generational appeal of Leave It To Beaver. Not even close. None of those shows have the cultural references or fondness from the public. 6 seasons. Each season the opening credits had the same theme song, it just increased the tempo ever so slightly. By the final season (62-63) it was quite the jazzy little number. It covered an interesting time period, fall of ’57 to spring of ’63. Times they were a changing. I consider the ’50’s’ as old America. Nothing wrong with that. 1963 (before November 22 of that year) was a country full of hope and optimism. JFK, a gang-busters economy, America made things, hadn’t been defeated in Vietnam yet (in fact Kennedy was in the process of withdrawal), Mercury and Gemini rockets were going into space, we had the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, we had the best looking women and the strongest men. America was riding high in that period, and I kind of think Leave It To Beaver exemplified what was best with television and America. Not cheap, not exploitational, not pointless. A lot of times over the years some critics tried to imply that Leave It To Beaver didn’t tackle the tough issues. They didn’t wallow in the gutter 24/7 like a lot of TV today does, but they covered the tough issues. Alcoholism, divorce, class differences, race issues. The benefits of honesty, hard work, thriftiness, determination. Ideas at one time that the entire country embraced. We weren’t kidding ourselves believing that we hit those goals every time, but it was something we tried for. You lay that agenda out today you’d be laughed off the stage. Look at Trump. That’s essentially the platform he laid out in 2016. That day’s never coming back. These days we mutilate poor children under the agenda of ‘gender identity’, and dress up a man (?) as a woman and call him ‘trans’. We’re begging God to remove His hand from this nation. And I pretty much think He has. But as to the idea I posed earlier of why this show had ‘magic’, and most shows don’t? All I can come up with is that they got everything ‘right’. Actors you could empathize with. Topnotch writing. Quality directors, crew. Who knows?]

Frederick Childe Hassam

Frederick Childe Hassam (b. October 17, 1859, Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts – d. August 27, 1935, East Hampton, New York) was a prominent and prolific American Impressionist painter, noted for his urban and coastal scenes.

Along with Mary Cassatt and John Henry Twachtman, Hassam was instrumental in promulgating Impressionism to American collectors, dealers, and the museums. He produced over 3,000 paintings, watercolors, etchings, and lithographs in his career, and was a founding member of The Ten, an influential group of American artists of the early 20th century. His most famous works are the “Flag” paintings, completed during World War I.

[I saw an example of Frederick’s work in the art group on Gab. I’d never heard of him before, of course. The piece used there was the church immediately below. It really caught my eye as to me few things are as beautiful as that mixture of blue, gold, white and green. I would have loved to have seen the sky more blue in the beach scene below it. The next is just a masterpiece of snowy Boston with evening setting in, with that golden light. Next to last is one in his ‘flag’ series. I would have loved to see just a touch more detail of the people and the street scene. I understand his flag series was his most popular, painted during WW I.]

Frederick Childe Hassam

‘Best Friends’ (1982)

Burt Reynolds – Goldie Hawn

My gosh what a fun morning it’s been. This movie was from exactly 40 years ago. One of those late 70’s early 80’s “relationship” movies. But since Woody Allen wasn’t in it, it was enjoyable to watch. I was looking over Burt’s credits on IMDB. My word that man made some crap. That’s why this was so fun for me. His popular movies that appealed to the type of young man I was back then just didn’t work once you got past age 35 or so. Movies like Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, Hooper. Then the very same year he made Best Friends, Dolly Parton’s tits took top billing in possibly the worst movie of the last half of the 20th Century: The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.

Clearly I’m no film expert, I just know what I like. And for such a talented and likeable guy, he must have had the worst instinct in the business. But then my tastes don’t match up with the rater’s on IMDB, they gave Best Friends an aggregate 5.5 out of 10 (I gave it 8 of 10). Ouch. I kind of liked Deliverance. Pretty much liked The Longest Yard. Really liked White Lightening and Gator. His co-star Goldie Hawn is a real sleeper. I think she’s someone that audiences really like. And I just enjoyed seeing Burt in a role other than the aw shucks countryboy cliche like his ‘Bandit’ character.

Plus in an early 80’s film such as this, it’s so much more restrained and so much less testosterone. Sure there’s the minor annoyance of the “oh poor pitiful me, I’m healthy, wealthy, everybody loves me but my every whim is not being catered to in this relationship!” But if you can suspend that, it was a fun movie. One of the things I noticed watching it this morning on TCM, was how beautifully it was shot. A reviewer there told me it was by Jordan Cronenweth (what kind of name is that?). And the music! Michel Legrand (“Summer of ’42” “The Thomas Crown Affair”). I noticed one at least was performed by Patti Austin.

And just as interesting is what TCM played after it (below), and the mystery of it.

‘Richard’ and ‘Paula’ find out just how quickly that their 5 year relationship has gone south, once they tie the knot with marriage. You get to watch 2 very likeable people do some very nice acting.

After ‘Best Friends’ they played ‘The Thomas Crown Affair‘. A pretty silly ‘caper’ movie that was supposed to be really cool. It starred Steve McQueen and the very annoying Faye Dunaway. But the real surprise of it was the small role of ‘Gwen’ by Astrid Heeren. I have an eye for obscure female talent from half a century ago. Astrid had an unusual career. The German born beauty didn’t start her career as a supermodel until age 21, which is kind of late from what little I know. But what is really strange is her “movie career”! 4! Count them 4. And one was an uncredited role in Vice & Virtue (1963), ‘tall prisoner’. Bizarre. Then she made The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Castle Keep (1969) and she wrapped it up with the memorable Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972).

She wound up her film career when she was 32. From a fairly wealthy family and a very lucrative career as one of the 60’s top models, I’m sure she didn’t need the money. Still it just seems really weird. Then on Facebook there’s a fanpage of this little known star from 50 years ago! How does that work? Its almost as weird to me of someone else from that era named Claudia Cardinale. I would love to know an industry insider whose brain I could pick for a couple of hours to solve some of these mysteries. To find out why some people of questionable looks and talent have gangbuster careers, and others like Astrid languish in relative obscurity!

Astrid Heeren

If violent crime is to be curbed, it is only the intended victim who can do it

Lt Colonel Jeff Cooper

If violent crime is to be curbed, it is only the intended victim who can do it. The felon does not fear the police, and he fears neither judge nor jury. Therefore what he must be taught to fear is his victim.” – Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper, USMC

What brought that quote to mind was the Indiana mall shooting that was stopped by a 22 year old citizen carrying a pistol. Hats off old man. Prepared and capable, its a lot harder than it sounds. The media doesn’t like to promote those types of shootings. Last month a woman with a gun shot dead a man who started to shoot at a graduation party. They happen more than we know, a “good guy” shooting a bad guy. It needs to happen a lot more.

Guys (generally young guys) like to talk about how they’d do this or that in a crime situation to thwart the bad guy. Planning is good. Like Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Ha! I know there’s another thing that comes on in a dangerous situation that you have to overcome: fear. I reckon that’s what practice and planning is for, to be able to overcome that fear. So that an autonomous response can help overcome that initial inertia.

We all like to think we’d be like the brave 22 year old in Indiana, deftly shooting the bad guy. Most of us will never have to find out. And the bad part is, only the perpetrator knows ‘when’. Most of us go through life in condition ‘green’, without a care in the world. Which as Massad Ayoub points out, when the bad thing happens (condition ‘red’), we’re not able to respond because we weren’t prepped for it by being in condition ‘yellow’.

Most of us have to have a little warning to respond. We can’t go from 0 – 60 just like that! (snaps fingers) Old people I’ve noticed start to take this subject more seriously. They know they’re not going to live forever, but they don’t want some punk taking them out prematurely. The old and the infirm is what predators go for. So I suppose we like to give ourselves an edge. Its not just with men either. I’ve noticed this phenomenon with women too.

The last 30 years have made it incredibly doable too. The right to self-protection has exploded to large areas across the United States. Handguns have become incredibly small and reliable. There’s no excuse. $300 bucks will get you a very reliable and concealable weapon. $650 will get you one with added bling. Then there’s the larger ‘range toys’ that are just fun, like the ones below. Which could conceivably be carried also, just not in the summer.

Glock 21 with 13 rounds of .45 ACP
CZ P10F with 19 rounds of 9mm
Greenwood, Indiana Mall Shooter (allegedly) It was later determined that he was not only merely dead, he was really most sincerely dead.

Mitchellville (2)

“Unchained!” is a silly reference to the women’s prison there (Iowa Women’s Correctional Facility). Which back in the day was called the “Girl’s Training School” when they housed juveniles. I heard some boys might have jumped the fence one night at about midnight to go swimming in the pool. In July. About 1976. Eldora had the boy’s school. Late September / October the girls would make their escape before the corn was harvested surrounding the facility (they were way too easy to spot once the corn was down). The sign by the rest area on the interstate said, “Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers“. Mitchellville produced an incredible number of very good baseball players for its size. That’s the beauty of limited recreational opportunities, we got very good at sports. Because of the design of the new school, everything’s gone! The football field, the baseball diamond, the basketball court! Everything! All they produce now are a bunch a weak-assed sissy boys. Sad.

Looking southeast on Center (main street)

The new library on the site of the former grocery store ‘Gaino’s’, which I believe the owner was Gaino Stearns. I know people that wouldn’t shop there because his prices were a little higher. So they’d drive 13 miles into Des Moines to save a nickel on a box of Grape Nuts, paying no mind to the townsfolk he employed, or the service he provided being there. Small town slights never left. We were forbidden to shop at the ‘Variety Store’ because the owners had voted against the pool bond.

City Hall

More of the bustling downtown, “Lookout for that traffic!” Whew, that was close

Looking north on Center (from the east side)

I lived there until adulthood and have no idea what the vacant buildings on the left are. The one on the right is the new and improved ‘Tavern’.

Looking south on Center from 3rd I believe

Leaving downtown we go to the churches, starting with the finest the Christian Church. In small town Iowa its always nip and tuck whether a town has more bars or churches.

The Methodist Church. Being Methodist doesn’t mean they’re bad people. Really.

This one the UCC is amazing, I swear its in better condition than it was 50 years ago. Frankly I didn’t think it would still be there. (United Church of Christ)

Leaving town, looking north towards the interstate.

Octavia

Mitchellville after dark

Actually it was Mitchellville an hour or two after sunrise and the glare was horrific! Next photo shoot will be late afternoon/evening.
Can just make out the elevator

Looking right at ‘the house’ (trees)

It’s still yellow! (you can’t tell from the picture so much, but its yellow)

Across from you guys S.W. (Elmer Blood’s house)

Jacobsen’s (south)
South of town, used to be the Hoing’s (Ruth had signed the guest book) Okay I always thought this was the Hoing house, but its not.

Looking up 4th Street

Looking at what would be the pasture, wish I had been intrepid enough to go see what it looked like!

You forget just how “rednecky” Mitchellville is, once you’ve been gone and are now an “outsider”. They seem very suspicious of strangers, and not the sort of welcoming town I remember. Perhaps the strangest of all was talking to two summer workers at the elementary. I was asking about the former principal Dave Edwards (roughly 1964 to 2007), they did not know who he was! How do you work at Mitchellville Elementary and not know who Dave Edwards was??