Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pretty bad recommendation as a candidate for husband

I have no doubt that you could have flung bricks by the hour in England's most densely-populated districts without endangering the safety of a single girl capable of becoming Mrs. Augustus Fink-Nottle without an anaesthetic.

(from Right Ho, Jeeves, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Little Sorrell - Stonewall's horse

For the 20 years after General Jackson died, Little Sorrel was a hit at Southern fairs and Rebel reunions, even making a trip to the New Orleans World's Fair in 1885. His health deteriorated quickly afterward and he spent his last few months at a Richmond old soldiers home. He was so enfeebled that he couldn't stand; the Confederate veterans had to rig a sling to hoist him to his feet whenever visitors arrived. One day the sling slipped and Little Sorrel fell to the floor, broke his back, and died.
Little Sorrel's hide was immediately mounted and presented to the Virginia Military Institute Museum, where it's still a popular attraction. 

More HERE on Stonewall.

I must admit I have never done this

You have not been through the experience of starting to ask the girl you love to marry you and then suddenly finding yourself talking about the plumelike external gills of the newly-born newt.

(from Right Ho, Jeeves, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

The older I get, the more I like home.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Uncertain Glory (1944)

Errol Flynn is awaiting executing. Paul Lukas is the detective who caught him. He robbed a jewelry store, and hit the guard, who was killed when he fell. Just before he goes to the guillotine, there is an air raid. After the bombing, Flynn escapes. He goes to the apartment of Sheldon Leonard to get some money to escape. (Leonard's accent on a character named Henri is a little humorous.)  Leonard leaves to get it, and Flynn flirts with his girlfriend (Faye Emerson). Leonard returns, but sees two wine glasses and knows what has been going on. He goes to Lukas to turn Flynn in. Flynn and Emerson have gone to Bordeaux, but Lukas finds him. He thinks she turned him in. She slaps him and runs out.

Their train back to prison is diverted because the underground has blown up a bridge. The Germans threaten to kill 100 hostages unless the saboteur is turned in. Flynn offers to go to the Gestapo and turn himself in as the saboteur. After a struggle with his conscience, Lukas agrees. In the home village, citizens whose relatives are among the hostages are meeting to try to persuade someone to claim to be the saboteur. In the meantime, Lukas is grilling Flynn, preparing him for what he will face. He then reports that Flynn was shot trying to escape, but his body has not been recovered. They overhear a policeman saying that the saboteur was picked up by a plane. While they stall in a shop, posing as fishermen on vacation, Flynn sees Jean Sullivan. She shows them the way to the brook, and she and Flynn talk. Back at their room, the police are waiting. They have arrested a saboteur, but Lukas pretends he is a police undercover agent. 

In truth, Flynn plans to escape once he's turned himself over to the Nazis, leaving the villagers in the lurch, but at the last moment his latent patriotism overcomes his sense of self-preservation. 

Flynn and Sullivan

It is interesting, isn't it?

Watching the decline and fall of a civilization from a front row seat. Well, maybe "interesting" is not quite the right word.

"Cannot sell bearskin before shooting bear."

Charlie Chan, from The Shanghai Cobra, 1945

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Two Yanks in Trinidad (1942)

Brian Donlevy is a gangster, and is spotted by the police going into a public library. They storm the place, but he is merely reading about Damon and Phythias because he has to give a speech that night about his best pal (Pat O'Brien). He sends his girl (Veda Ann Borg) to keep him busy while they get his surprise party ready. But O'Brien has been making a sucker out of Donlevy with a trick using a dollar bill, and a fight breaks out and O'Brien flees in the car Donlevy has bought him. The next day is the day men have to register for the draft, but O'Brien goes ahead and enlists - for protection. (The enlisting officer for the army is our old friend Ken Christy, who played Chief Gates on the Gildersleeve radio show.) Donlevy and his henchmen also enlist to keep an eye on O'Brien. Donald McBride is their longsuffering sergeant.

They are shipped out to Trinidad. Donlevy spots Janet Blair in the crowd with her boyfriend and breaks ranks to talk to her. He is continually getting special privileges in spite of the best efforts of McBride. Blair sings at a local night club. O'Brien sees here there and falls for her. She gives him a sob story about her sick father and he gives her money. Then Donlevy comes in, and the the club owner (John Emery) recognizes him and tells her to cozy up to him and find out what is doing there. O'Brien keeps sending messages to get he to return to his table. They start a brawl.

They get involved in war games, except that they use live ammunition to take over the enemy positions. Then they hi-jack a tank - and end up in the klink. Donlevy tries to get his sidekicks to desert, but they say they want to stay in the army. However, they fake their way past the guard and get into town. In the meantime, Donlevy has gone to Emery to get help getting out of Trinidad. It turns out this guy is a smuggler and wants help getting through the mine field. Blair asks him to take her with him, but he has to get out of the night club, so she dresses him up as an old woman. O'Brien dances with him and figures out that Blair is leaving with him. Emery wants his help with the mines, but O'Brien is getting patriotic inclinations by now and refuses to help him. They tie up them both, but one of their buddies has hidden on the boat and frees them. He tells them that the Japs have just bombed Pearl Harbor and they are now at war. Emery is going to cut loose the mines so that they will drift into the path of the fleet. The tugboat they abandoned is sinking with O'Brien tied up in it, but Donlevy rescues him. They set out to disable the mines, and get a Citation for Valor for their trouble. They are promoted to sergeant - and get 30 days in the guardhouse.



Finding fault, huh?

Beginning with a critique of my own limbs, which she said, justly enough, were nothing to write home about, this girl went on to dissect my manners, morals, intellect, general physique, and method of eating asparagus with such acerbity that by the time she had finished the best you could say of Bertram was that, so far as was known, he had never actually committed murder or set fire to an orphan asylum.

(from Right Ho, Jeeves, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Cute little princesses

These three little ladies are the daughters of the King of the Netherlands. These pictures were taken about the year 2009.




A cultural history of World War II

If a professor were teaching a class in the Cultural History of World War II, he could do a lot worse than to use old radio shows. It is amazing how much of the home front during that conflict is woven into those programs.

I wish management would spend less time smiling

and use that energy making things better. (As if their smiles will make us forget the things they are not doing that they ought to be doing.)

Do it right, but do it

Just because someone has been offensive or obnoxious in their manner in opposing error does not release you from the responsibility to oppose it.

Ah, yes, the Prime Minister

Fred Allen comes to the next door on Allen's Alley, which is Mrs. Nussbaum's.

He greets her, "Ah, Mrs. Nussbaum."

She replies in her wonderful Yiddish accent, "You vere expecting maybe Weinstein Churchill?"

Monday, June 24, 2013

Michael Shayne TV - "Murder in Wonderland"

A man is shot in a phone booth in a tobacco shop while he is talking to Mike (Richard Denning). The police know him well. He was an accountant connected with the mob in Miami, and had a list of every bigwig hood in the city. All they found in his briefcase was a copy of Alice in Wonderland. Police Lt. Herbert Rudley is very frustrated because he had expected to get the list. In the police station the killed man's daughter (Carolyn Kearney) is waiting in a bad temper. When Mike arrives back at his apartment, Anthony Caruso is waiting for him with a muscle man.

On her way to lunch, Mike's secretary, Patricia Donahue, is kidnapped. (Private eyes always have beautiful secretaries.) Al Ruscio shows up to tell Mike about the terms for her release. He wants Mike to get the copy of Alice in Wonderland. Mike's assistant and Lucy's brother (Gary Clarke) tails Ruscio. Mike calls his reporter pal, Jerry Paris, and asks him to call Rudley and keep him busy for five minutes. When Mike gets to Rudley's office, he meets Caruso coming out with his lawyer, Wesley Lau. Paris calls, and Mike is able to switch books, but Rudley spots it immediately. Meanwhile Ruscio goes to a warehouse, with Clarke close behind, but he is knocked out and loses him. Mike goes to see Kearney. She wants the book because she hates Caruso. Mike tells her that Lau is Caruso's lawyer, and she throws Lau out of the house. Mike goes to see Caruso with an offer of the book, but he is not interested and disclaims any knowledge of Ruscio. Ruscio calls Clarke at Mike's office, and then someone comes to the door and shoots him. Donahue is still tied up, but Clarke finally finds her.

When Mike gets to his office, he finds Kearney there. She tells Mike that her father had called her two days before, frightened because someone was following him, and that he was getting out of his connection with Caruso. Rudley now has Mike on the carpet for stealing evidence, but Mike tells him the book is worthless, and that Caruso had bought it for a girl next door, so the evidence is still in the tobacco shop. Caruso and his thug break in, and Rudley nails them. It turns out that Rudley's assistant is the murderer.



What do you call a pigeon who flies into a neighboring coop?

A trespassenger pigeon.

(he, he, he)

Same old Harlow

Harlow Wilcox was the announcer on the Truth or Consequences radio show, as well as on Fibber & Molly. His persona was the same irrepressible salesman, continually hawking his product, which on T or Q was Duz detergent.

Fibber and "Back Home Again in Indiana"

One of my favorite moments on the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show was when Fibber sang "Back Home Again in Indiana" with The King's Men quartet. Fibber actually had a very pleasant tenor voice, and the arrangement they used was beautiful. It is from the episode, "Businessmen's Symphony."

The King's Men Quartet

Fibber McGee (Jim Jordan)

Truth or Consequences radio show question

Q: How many successful jumps does a paratrooper have to make before he is ready for combat?

A: All of them.

"Cannot see contents of nut until shell is cracked."

Charlie Chan, from Charlie Chan in Paris

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Double Deal (1950)

Richard Denning is a petroleum engineer who comes to bring in a gusher for Carleton Young. He meets Marie Windsor at a high stakes craps game going on in a bar. He finds out that James Griffith was using loaded dice to beat Young and goes to bat for him. Young asks him to work to bring in his well, but warns him that he will have to fight his sister (Fay Baker), who runs the town. Baker tells Griffith that she does not want the well to come in. She holds a grudge against her brother because he hit one of her boyfriends in a fight, and he never regained consciousness. She decides to take the feminine approach with Denning and invites him to dinner, but he will not play along. So, Baker sicks her thugs on him, who tell him to get out of town after they work him over.

Then Denning finds Young dead in his room, just before the police walk in. It is a frame, but the coroner's evidence exonerates him. He packs to leave, but Windsor talks him out of it, telling him that Young left his entire estate to her, so she owns the well and the ranch. They get the local drunk, a lawyer called "Corpus" (Taylor Holmes), to draw up a partnership agreement. Holmes tells them that Baker has to get her oil across their land. They are under a time deadline on the well, and no oil is appearing in the samples. In the meantime the money has run out and they are going into debt - but Denning does not want to quit.

Baker sends her thugs to sabotage the well. They do not stop it, but the repairs do cost money they cannot afford. Griffith and Baker quarrel after she demeans him for not doing the job successfully. Holmes suggests Denning and Windsor try to work a deal with Baker - money in exchange for pipeline easement. After Windsor has left her unsuccessful interview with Baker, someone shoots Baker. Griffith comes in just after it has happened and assumes Windsor did it. She is released, but is in fear for her life that the real killer will come after her. The killer turns out to be Holmes, who forces her at gun point to the ranch. Holmes owned all the land in years past, but it was given to others when his leases ran out. Griffith comes in with a gun, but a pet monkey diverts his attention and Holmes shoots him. Then Denning arrives to try to get Holmes dried out in order to get his legal help. Holmes hides the body and puts a rug over the blood on the floor. He tells Denning that Windsor is in town. About that time the police are figuring out that Holmes is the culprit, and the monkey climbs out the window into Denning's car with blood on him. He gets suspicious and climbs back in a window to find Griffith's body. There is a tense face-off in a dark cellar, and the police arrive just in time.

The well finally comes in - a gusher - with some pretty impressive photography at the end.



Al Jolson

Few people would know him today, but in the 1930's he was America's most famous and highly-paid entertainer. I never cared for Jolson's brassy style of singing, but in his day it went over big.

File:Portrait sitting.jpg

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Not the way to win the girl

In a situation calling for words of molten passion of a nature calculated to go through Madeline Bassett like a red-hot gimlet through half a pound of butter, he had said not a syllable that could bring a blush to the cheek of modesty, merely delivering a well-phrased but, in the circumstances, quite misplaced lecture on newts. A romantic girl is not to be won by such tactics.

(from Right Ho, Jeeves, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Weed salad?

She had turned away and was watching a duck out on the lake. It was tucking into weeds, a thing I've never been able to understand anyone wanting to do. Though I suppose, if you face it squarely, they're no worse than spinach.

(from Right Ho, Jeeves, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

A girl like that could put a crick in your neck

"Oh, look," she said. She was a confirmed Oh-looker. I had noticed this at Cannes, where she had drawn my attention in this manner on various occasions to such diverse objects as a French actress, a Provencal filling station, the sunset over the Estorels, Michael Arlen, a man selling coloured spectacles, the deep velvet blue of the Mediterranean, and the late Mayor of New York in a striped one-piece bathing suit. (from Right Ho, Jeeves)

Stay downwind!

"She wrinkles her nose at me as if I were a drain that had got out of order." (from Right Ho, Jeeves, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Does your wife ever look at you like this? Mine often does, usually after I have been mowing grass.

Quiet Saturday mornings are good for the soul

not to mention the body.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Charley's Aunt (1941)

This is a typically slapstick Jack Benny production. A cricket game is underway at Oxford. Lord Fancourt Babberly (Benny) is playing cricket. At the break for tea, a competitor trips him, and he chases him into the bell tower, where he is knocked out and rings the fire bell accidentally, breaking up the match. He is summoned to Reginald Owen's office the next day. Benny is in his tenth year, pursuing a three-year course in order to join the family law firm. Owen expels him, but he persuades him that his two roomates can testify in his behalf that he was knocked unconscious.

Benny's roommate (Richard Haydn) is going to meet his aunt (Kay Francis) at the station. He has never met her. She has met with her solicitor and intends to come incognito, because Edmund Gwynn, the guardian of Benny's roommates' girlfriends, intends to take them away so they do not get involved in romances to cut off his source of income. His other roommate, James Ellison, is the son of Sir Francis Chesney (Laird Cregar). Cregar comes to visit him, strapped for money, and learns of the rich aunt Donna Lucia, and immediately plans to woo her. Just then Haydn gets a telegram from his aunt saying (falsely) that she will be delayed a couple of days. Benny comes into the room dressed in an old woman's costume for a play, and they rope him into posing as the aunt. He refuses, but they blackmail him by saying that if he doesn't pose as Charley's aunt, they won't testify for him to Owen. Their fiancees arrive just then (Arleen Whelan and Anne Baxter), followed by Gwynn, whom Benny kicks out. Cregar comes in, taken aback initially ("I thought you said she was only 90"), but recovers in time to be suave. Then Gwenn comes in, hostile until he learns who Benny supposedly is, when his eyes turn to dollar bills and his manner to honey.

When Ellison learns that Cregar intends to propose to Aunt Benny, he objects strenuously, since he knows who "she" is. Benny intends to call off the charade, but Ellison blackmails him into carrying on. He turns down Cregar's proposal. Just then Francis arrives, disguised as a Mrs. Smythe, whom Benny is supposed to entertain. Then Gwynn shows up to do his courting. Benny needs a shave, so he slips out to his room to do so. Gwynn interrupts him when his face is half lathered. Benny runs and has to shave in the courtyard by looking at his reflection in a trophy. Ellison persuades him to string Gwynn along so he won't leave with the girls, and give him time to propose to Whelan. Benny playfully flees, with Gwynn huffing along behind. Ellison proposes and she says yes, just as Benny comes charging past with Gwynn in pursuit. Farther along, Haydn is proposing to Baxter. Both girls say they have to get Gwynn's permission in writing, and they get Benny to agree to string him along until they get it.

Now Benny has to meet Francis in his room, while maintaining the aunt persona at the same time. He speaks to her in glowing terms of their fiancees. They hit it off famously, but his roommates throw pebbles at his window letting him know that he is wanted downstairs as the aunt, so he rushes out. Cregar and Ellison come in, and Francis learns of the phoney aunt, whom she is eager to meet. A dinner is planned, and everyone bashes Benny for not escorting Francis as he was supposed to. After dinner, while Gwynn is writing the permission letter, Francis catches Benny smoking a cigar and reveals that she knows who he is. Everyone ends up happy except for Gwynn.



Levi Stiles & Nancy Powell Heard (my great-great-grandparents)

A very rare animal

The Anderson Family was an old radio show. On one episode a neighbor sells Mr. Anderson a fur that he calls "genuine Bronx wolf." I am sure there are thousands of such animals, but I did not realize that their pelts were wearable.

Why would Tolstoy write a novel named after that guy?

Warren Peace

Clifton Fadiman comes back at Fred Allen

On Information Please.

Allen: "Mr. Fadiman, do you mind if I set a precident on this program?"

Fadiman: "We don't even mind if you set a Vice Precident."


Fred Allen's quip on Information Please

He was a panelist for this particular program, and they were answering questions about music that referred to swans. Pianist Oscar Levant was one of the panelists, and had answered the first two questions. When the third theme was played, the moderator asked, "Did you get it, Mr. Allen?" Fred replied, "Oscar gets it  before they are out of the egg, even."

Perfectly awful

(This is, of course, borrowed.)
P. D. Q. Bach is a ficticious character, who supposed was a lesser-known inept relative of the famous Bach clan of musical fame. I do not remember the exact details of the gag, but I think it says that P. D. Q.’s father was a maker of toilets, or W. C.’s (water closets) as they were sometimes known. They had several different varieties, but their top-of-the line model was the Claude Achille W. C.  (You might have to think about this one for a minute.)

Washington's first unauguration

Since the Chief Justice had not yet been appointed, who swore in George Washington in his first inauguration in 1789? It was Robert Livingston, Chancellor Of New York.


The wisdom of Charlie Chan

"Can fallen fruit return to branch?"

(from Docks of New Orleans, 1948)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What my grandmother-in-law stuck me with

My wife's paternal grandmother was a kind and gracious lady who lived to be 100 years old, and whose graveside service was the first funeral I ever conducted. When Pam would spend the night with her in the old days, Grandmother Adams would scratch her back while they would watch television (often the Lawrence Welk Show). Perhaps because of that, my wife is addicted to having her back scratched. I don't mind too much, but it cuts down on my fingernail clipper costs.

Trial Without Jury (1950)

Kent Taylor (Boston Blackie on the TV series) comes into an office at night to see why Theodore Von Eltz turned down his last play. Von Eltz is getting ready to leave for Honolulu. They argue and Taylor leaves. On his way out he finds a scarf and tucks it into his pocket. The papers the next morning announce Von Eltz' murder. Taylor goes to see his girlfriend, Audrey Long, who is a theatrical agent. She suggests that he rewrite his play to fit the death of Von Eltz, but he tells her he will be the main suspect, and that he has the suspect's scarf. Just then her brother (Robert Rockwell) comes in, a policeman who has been assigned to the case. Taylor decides to indeed rewrite the play, and use it to expose the real murderer.

Rockwell assembles all the main players at the  theater to begin the investigation. They tell him what they intend to do, and he tells them that Von Eltz was strangled and that two strange fingerprints were found. Long and Taylor listen to the investigation on the intercom. Barbara Billingsley was Von Eltz' partner, and the executor of his will, which enrages his wife. Barbra Fuller was a lady friend actress of Von Eltz's. Stanley Waxman was his partner. Elmo Lowe was a backer of his show. John Whitney has a leading role in the play. All are suspects. Rockwell tells Taylor that he was seen going into the office building. Then Taylor gets a threatening telegram. A man breaks into his apartment to get the scarf, and attacks Taylor, but gets away.

The suspects assemble again as play rehearsal begins. Accusations fly in every direction. They all leave for lunch, but Taylor stays to work on the play. In Billingsley's purse he finds a catalog with a picture of the scarf he found, and draws a picture of it. Then Rockwell tells Long that he thinks Taylor is guilty, and that if she conceals anything pertinent she will be arrested as an accessory, even if she is his sister.

The play opens amid much tension. A man concealed in darkness strangles Von Eltz with a rope. At intermission, Rockwell calls the play's management together to see who introduced a phone cord into the play, and Taylor admits to having been in the office. Rockwell arrests him. Before Taylor leaves, he asks Long to introduce the duplicate scarf she has knitted into the play somewhere to upset the culprit. At the police station Taylor makes a break and hides in a truck in the alley. At the theater the murderer is moving around, his face always in the shadows. Taylor makes it back to the theater. He knocks at the door while the culprit is trying to strangle Long. He breaks in and they struggle, but the killer breaks away. Taylor walks onto the stage as if he were one of the actors, and shows the scarf to Fuller. Her father is the murderer, but she has not yet revealed who it is. It turns out to be Lowe, who was not her real father, but had promised her mother to take care of her.



Sleep is overrated?

"Sleep is overrated," one of my work colleagues frequently says, but I do not think that I agree with him. Superfluous sleep, perhaps, but not adequate sleep. "For so he giveth his beloved sleep," the Bible mentions, and if it is a gift worth thus mentioning, surely it is very important. We need enough of it. I suspect that if all Americans got at least adequate sleep, health care costs would go down.

How dumb are they?

Our board of experts are so dumb they think Emily Post is a branch of the American Legion.

(from It Pays To Be Ignorant)

Rogers of the Gazette

This was a radio show from 1953-54 that starred Will Rogers, Jr.  In it he played a small-town newspaper editor.

 He sounds remarkably like Jimmy Stewart.

Blue blood and green money

Rothschild and Rockefeller begin joint venture
Nathaniel Charles Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild

One of the great facts of American history

is that if Stonewall had not been shot at Chancellorsville, the outcome at Gettysburg very likely would have been entirely different.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Her Adventurous Night (1946)

Dennis O'Keefe is about to leave on a fishing trip. He and his wife (Helen Walker) and their imaginative son (Scotty Beckett) talk about the Midvale Bank killing, which happened about the time that his parents left. He is in constant trouble at school because of making up stories about the faculty. O'Keefe's unloaded gun falls out of the car as he drops Beckett off at school, so he tucks it into this belt. He visualizes the front door as a trap, so he and buddy crawl in through the basement. He drops the gun and it goes off. The police are called in, and in order to keep them from calling back his father, he makes up a story to connect the gun to the Midvale case. He launches into an imaginative tale, which the police take as genuine testimony.

The bank robber flees. Walker was driving down a country road and swerves to avoid O'Keefe's telephone repair truck, and gets stuck in the mud. She bums a ride from him, but he has to stop to make more repairs enroute. Just then the bank robber roars by, pursued by the police, bullets flying. O'Keefe is now smitten, but they have a Donnybrook first. In the middle of the fight, the robber pops up from the back of the truck with a gun. Because the vehicle breaks down, they have to hike it, and he ends up carrying her until they find a car the robber can steal. But the car owner stops them with a gun. The robber says they are newlyweds, and the car owner puts them up for the night. Finally the killer flees. It turns out that the killer, in Beckett's imagination, is the principal.

They call in O'Keefe from his fishing trip and he is furious with Beckett. They arrest O'Keefe and Walker. Since they cannot stop him now, Beckett launches into a full scale investigation of the crime - and solves it, but it was not the principal, but a supposed salesman.



As good as it gets