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More Dates for Kay (1952)
Hilarious and Horrifying
During the social chaos of the Depression and the War, young people had kinda gotten out of hand. They had to be taught now how to get back in hand.
In early 40's movies remember the fad of making up fake technical jargon ? When you consider all the technical education involved in gearing up an industrial economy for total war and maintaining huge fleets, air forces, and mechanized armies, that fad was what was actually happening. After the war, one of the companies that produced those wartime training films switched over to making films that were intended to be shown in high schools to "gear up" teenagers for peace and domesticity. Teenagers who had seen the Great Depression had to be sold a kind of 50's sitcom world and social order where Dad always wore a suit at home.
Girls had to be taught that their only value was to get and keep a man. "More Dates for Kay" is a brief short about a teenage girl who will bear any task, however menial, lie, manipulate, suck up in an endless quest for more and more dates. No put down, however brusque, stops Kay or causes her to suspect that there is maybe more to life than boys. The film presents Kay's desperate behavior, her total lack of introspection or self-respect, her inability to see any worth in herself without a guy without any criticism, seeing it as perfectly normal. Apparently 50's teenage girls were encouraged to be this man-dependent.
Kay's desperation is unintentionally hilarious but chilling when you look at it. You watch this short aghast at a mentality that would think that this is how girls should be raised.
Dominant Women and Weak Men
This episode introduces the most beloved of recurring characters, Lady Heather who runs an S&M establishment. Melinda Clarke is absolutely lovely in the role.
Lady Heather is the only person Grissom has ever encountered who is as astute a judge of character as he. She is the only person who can see through him and deal with him as a true intellectual equal. In fact, in the scene where they have tea, he is distinctly uncomfortable at her ability to penetrate his defenses. She could plow right through them to his heart if she chose to and that visibly scares a man who has built his life around pushing intimacy away.
The dominance theme is continued in the plots which revolve around the attempts of castrated men to revolt against dominant women. From the check cashing place woman owner whose brother and husband foolishly and incompetently attempt to rob her to the house husband tamely tending a baby that he knows isn't his for his corporate careerist "wife" who treats him with undisguised contempt.
Without a Trace: Silent Partner (2002)
Then Again, It was Probably the Current
The son in law of a crooked, ruthless financier disappears.
The team discovers that Patrick Kent has been living three lives. In one he works for his father in law in New York and puts up with his boozy, daddy's girl wife. In the second he is a whistle blower who realizes that his life is a devil's bargain, who sees the people his father in law has ruined, and secretly passes proof of his father in law's corruption to the government. In the third he is committing bigamy with a kind hearted working class Hispanic single mother in California.
The women in the team resent the lies Patrick has told. The men in the team like and admire him. Jack takes an immediately dislike to the daddy's girl wife. All of the men like Wife #2 a whole lot more than Wife #1. All of them despise the crookedness of the father in law, who we learn later was setting Patrick up all along to be his fall guy. The tension in the father in law relationship is maintained well (he volunteers no information to the FBI team, not even that he was having Patrick tailed. after all, they work for the same government that is trying to put him in jail.).
The conclusion suggests an enjoyable twist.
Cold Case: The Key (2006)
Annie Wersching Shines in this Episode
It is the height of the sexual revolution and a man bored with his schoolmarm wife pushes her into a 'key party'. Never once did it enter his head that another man might want her. Never once did it enter his head that she might blossom into a babe which she does. Never once did it enter his head that 'open marriage' cuts both ways. Never once did it enter his head that she would get the 'better deal' instead of him.
Annie Wersching does a remarkable transformation here from rejected wife who thinks she has kinda missed out on life by always playing by the rules and doing what was expected of her to 'liberated swinger' and back to responsible mom. Libby Bradley remains profoundly sympathetic throughout because she brings more generosity of heart to this situation than any of the other 'swingers' do. Unlike her husband and unlike her new lover she is a giving person. I am glad to see that Annie Wersching went on from this to "General Hospital" and will be starring in this season of "24".
The story line clearly disapproves of their actions. The fashionable at the time belief that sexual exclusivity in marriage is a 'hangup' which the truly liberated can just outgrow was on a collision course with reality. The authors of the '70's "Open Marriage" book which touted all of this themselves acknowledged in their follow up book that they got buckets of mail from people who tried it and ended up either in divorce court or going back to monogamy. It is massively "too much information" for the children to handle and much damage is done out of sheer carelessness.
Billy Bathgate (1991)
Like a 'Godfather' Movie Centered on Tom Hagen
If there is one thing that strikes you about Billy it is that he is not a killer. He likes the money and the sharp suits and the girls and the party life of being mobbed up. But he doesn't have it in him to look someone in the eye and pull the trigger (Notice how it never occurred to Dutch Schultz to ask Billy to kill Drew. Or even let him in on the plan). Billy is not Henry Hill.
Otto Berman, Schultz's money man, the 'consigliere', in the film immediately recognizes that about Billy and takes him under his wing in a mentoring way. He is constantly risking Schultz's psychotic wrath by protecting Billy, telling him more than Schultz means him to know. In the end he saves Billy's life by getting him out of that steak house when he knows that everyone has turned against them and they are doomed.
This film denies the viewer the vicarious thrill of reveling in mob movie violence on several counts. One is that Billy is a horrified onlooker to Schultz's violence. Never an active participant. The second is that Schultz's violence is always self-defeating. Prohibition is over and the Jewish Schultz has been reduced to whatever scraps Luciano and the Five Families deign to leave him (protection rackets and the Harlem numbers rackets). He is on the way down. It sure looks as if Luciano is perfectly happy to toss prosecutor Dewey a bone to make him happy and that bone will be Schultz. In the end Schultz's political protection abandons him notwithstanding the offer of a $17,000 bribe (multiply times 20. $340,000. That's a lot of money. After all, the $50 Berman lent Billy covered a new suit, black leather shoes, a new dress for Becky, a present for his Mom, and a night on the town credible enough to earn rooftop sex with Becky. Around a thousand.). And furthermore, the presence of Drew. She's no 'moll'. She is a bored, slumming wife and daughter of old money power and privilege. It is the people in her world who really pull the strings, who make phone calls, who have state troopers as personal bodyguards. Schultz is just a cheap hood, not even good enough to meet her friends as Billy is.
The ending for Billy is best. He is out of a world where he never belonged. He has a nice nest egg. And he will doubtless have the undying gratitude and friendship and maybe patronage of Drew and her powerful family.
If Ever I See You Again (1978)
Joe Brooks, You're not Orson Welles
There are different types of bad movies.
This falls into the pretentious bad category, which is the most fun. It is the sort of movie created by someone who takes himself far, far too seriously. He has a degree of talent but not nearly as much as he thinks he has so his strivings for Meaning and Significance and Truth are as clichéd as .... a commercial.
Joe Brooks, a jingle writer of the era, was the 'creative genius' behind this effort. Director, writer, star, teeth grindingly sappy ballad writer. Hey, it was the 'auteur' era so why not get in on the action ? Fortunately, the summer special effects blockbuster was discovered at precisely that time so the threat of Joe Brooks, auteur, was nipped in the bud.
Learning that Dad is Just a Man
There comes a time when you see your parents as the rest of the world sees them.
This was an incredibly touching episode.
Kevin had always wondered why his Dad came home grumpy from work. Now, after a day watching his father at work he learns that...
1. His father is a shipping manager.
2. It is a high pressure job.
3. When anything is late for any reason (even because a subordinate disobeyed his instructions) he is reamed out by his boss.
4. So he only gets negative recognition.
The soundtrack of the episode is the Beatles' "Blackbird" which beautifully conveys the crushed hopes of a trapped man.
Kevin sees how disappointed in his life his father is. It is very awkward to be put in the position of feeling sorry for a parent. And he realizes how deeply his father needs his family.
The Fighting 69th (1940)
It's About Turning a Hood into a Man
Hollywood released quite a few films with the Pat O'Brien, Jimmy Cagney pairing with the same general theme, one which I think is unfairly dismissed here as 'cliched'.
In each of these films, Cagney's character was an Irish ghetto hood, full of street values (toughness at all costs... taking, lying, and using ... physical aggressiveness ... resistance to authority or discipline ... contempt for 'chump' 'soft' moral values). He saw Pat O'Brien's character as 'soft' because he was a 'sucker' with all his 'morality' talk.
The redemption came when Cagney's character contrasted Father Duffy's steady courage under fire with his own terror. His street values taught him to respect courage. But he saw that his street values can teach him defiance but not serenity. Serenity comes from moral character and the street cannot teach you that. He saw that there is, as the song goes, more to being a man than just being macho. And there is a courage that has nothing to do with your fists.
That is a very, very important point.
Dr. Cook's Garden (1971)
Marcus Welby from Hell
A very popular series of the time was 'Marcus Welby' where the all wise, all knowing doctor educated his patients out of their pride, prejudice, and folly in resisting his counsel. The doctor is wise. The doctor is all knowing. The doctor is only here to help.
1971, and indeed, the era of the Warren Court represented a high water mark of the notion that we can have a perfect society if we just turn loose experts and therapists guided by the social sciences on our problems. The intelligentsia then were absolutely certain of the ability of the social sciences to rehabilitate all criminals, to end poverty, to end racial inequality, to make a perfect land. All we had to do was use the tools of the social sciences to fix the 'root causes'.
This film was a marvelous criticism of that zeitgeist. Dr Cook is the ultimate therapist. He is only there to help.
A hilarious, warm, insightful case study of entrepreneurship
Flickers has a delightful plot, deeply engaging characters, hilarious wit shading to drama in the final episode. But when I first saw it, I was struck by Arnie and Maud's struggle with the problems of a startup business in a startup industry. There is no body of experience to turn to so everyone is making it up as they go along.
You can see the ones who will prosper because they can improvise. Initially likable Clara Brewer (the pretty daughter in a sappy musical hall family act) turns into a starlet on the make.
Corky, a music hall slapstick comic whose one reelers were the initial bread and butter of the firm, is pushed into the background as Cole and Lejeundre move upscale to making real movies with plots. He doesn't have the talent to grow into "The Gold Rush" as Chaplin did.
Arnie and Maud will prosper because they can listen to each other and work well together. The love comes in time from this. They can also respond quickly to market change. I loved the scene where Arnie is initially furious at Legendre for spending so much money on a new movie. Maud mediates their quarrel. When Legendre explains that the technology and the market have outgrown slapstick one reelers Maud agrees and Arnie listens. If they play it safe and stick to what they know they will pushed onto the scrap heap like Mack Sennett. Betting the survival of their studio on trying to break into the rich end of the market is an enormous risk but it is a risk you have to take if you want to play with the big boys.