Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. - Countdown to Publishing

We've four weeks to go before Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is published.  I'm going to be quite busy around here until then, and can hardly believe the culmination of two years' work is fast approaching.  I'm excited, and a little nervous, but mostly just sort of stupidly stunned that I seem to be where I am.

But I did not get here alone.  The acknowledgements page in the book will introduce you to an army of support that really made the book possible.  Among them are professionals -- photographers, librarians, as well as fellow bloggers, but most astonishing to me are longtime fans of Ann Blyth who graciously shared their time, their memories, and their treasures.

And what treasures!  Photos, magazines, clippings, coveted and rare audio from radio and television, recorded movies and TV episodes that have enabled me to comb through Ann Blyth's career and enjoy her work in a way that perhaps no one else has in decades.  They are dedicated and discerning fans to have preserved this valuable material, and they are my heroes.  More than being helpful to me, they have created and left a legacy for all those who would become Ann Blyth fans in the future. 

There are some interviews in the book as well, from colleagues of Ann's who generously gave me their time and their thoughts.   I hope, like those who gave me their treasures, their trust in me will be worthwhile.  I do not take their trust lightly.  They can all be sure, at least, of my gratitude.

Here's what's going to happen in June:  I'm going to blog every day until Thursday, June 18th, when the book is published, or "launched" as the term goes.  Beginning on Monday, June 1st and every day until the 18th, I'm going to give away a small piece of memorabilia I've gathered on this journey: photos, magazines, an audio CD of old time radio, a DVD of a film, of a television appearance, a few original lobby cards from Ann's films.  So stop by frequently and see what's happening.  I'll let you know day by day what the prize is, and I'll just pick the winners from a hat. 

Since a number of bloggers have kindly offered to review the book, I'll link to their blogs throughout the month, before and after the launch, whenever they decide to post.  Others have offered to interview me.  I'll also be making good on my offer some months ago to thank participating bloggers by drawing names among them for copies of the print book, with eBooks going to the rest.

I'll see you next Thursday for more on this publishing adventure.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

National Classic Movie Day - a one-act play



 
In celebration of the holiday that should be,  May 16th,National Classic Movie Day, we join Rick at Classic Film & TV Café who is hosting a one-day blogathon called My Favorite Classic Movie. 

It's never been easy for me to narrow my favorite classic film down to one, but for today my entry is The Best Years of Our Lives, because I guess if my arm were twisted to name a title, this would have to be it.  So here is my tribute.  Since I've already blogged about this film here, instead I'm posting a one-act play about one fan's obsession with this particular movie. 

(The following script is copyrighted by Jacqueline T. Lynch, and any use is prohibited.  For inquiries on purchasing scripts or performance rights, email me at JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com.)


*************************
 
RELIVING THE BEST YEARS

Cast of Characters: 

Jane:                         A woman about 45 years old.  She is in a state of almost trance-like exhaustion at the beginning of the play. However, she slowly reawakens by the end, comforted and healed by her habit of using an old movie as a crutch.

Bobby:                    Her younger brother, about 35.  He is likeable, easy-going, well-meaning, but ineffectual and inevitably irrelevant.  He has begun to notice this himself.

                                                            TIME: The late 1990s.

                                                            SETTING:  JANE’s upstairs bedroom in her parents’ house.  The play can be done with a minimalist set to suggest her room, but if using a full set, a twin bed is situated DR, the door leading out the hall is UR, a dresser is against the wall up center, a closet UL, with perhaps a desk or small bookcase DL.  Towards down center there is a television on a small stand or table with a VCR connected to it.  The screen is not seen by the audience, but the television is on.  The sound is too low to hear. 
 
AT RISE: JANE is sits on the end of the bed, quite still, watching a film.  She wears a black dress, shoes, holding a black handbag in her lap, as well as a presentation American flag folded into a triangle.  She has just returned from her father’s funeral.  She is exhausted.  She also holds two remotes, one for the TV and one for the VCR. She looks blankly at the screen as if shell shocked, however she is quite alert.  She does not react when her brother enters, but she knows he is there.

BOBBY
(Opens her door slowly after a brief, soft knock.  He sticks his head in.)

Jane?

            (JANE does not speak, but cocks her head slightly.)

BOBBY
            (Steps in, leaving the door open.  He looks all around the room, and finally, at JANE.  He speaks as if on eggshells.)

I wondered where you went.  Sure has been a long time since I’ve been up here.  Wow.  Your room is just the same.  Well, you’ve got yourself a TV in here.  Or did you have that when I left home?  I don’t remember.  What’s that you’re watching?



JANE
              (In a tired, yet completely serene voice)

The Best Years...of Our Lives.

BOBBY

Oh, that’s a real old one, huh?  (With barely disguised repugnance.)  Black and white.

JANE

Nineteen forty-six.  Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell.  William Wyler directed it.

BOBBY
            (Pleasantly.)

Well, I guess you’d know.  You’re the old movie expert.  It sure was a nice day, wasn’t it?  We couldn’t have had a better day for the funeral.

            (He walks downstage and facing the audience, appears as if he is looking out a window.)

All the kids are playing out on the front lawn.  Digging up your grass, though.  I had no idea all the cousins would show up today.  I mean, I knew some of them would, but I haven’t seen George, or Steve, or Lori since … I don’t know when.

JANE

They came for Mom’s funeral, five years ago.

BOBBY

Did they?  I don't remember.  Julia and her daughter came all the way from Florida, did you know that?  Sure was nice of them.  I thought I was coming a long way, from Ohio.  Isn’t this a nice day, though?

JANE
            (She takes her gaze off the screen and looks out towards the audience as if  looking out the windows of her room.  She takes a deep breath.)

Yes.  That air is wonderful.  This is the first, real spring day.  Spring has been so late this year.

BOBBY

You must be really tired.  You’ve had so much to do.  All the arrangements.  And taking care of Dad for so long.  You’ve really earned a rest, Janie.  It’s a shame Charlene had to drag everybody back to the house like this.  Still the bossy big sister.  I think she’s sending Steve and Uncle Jimmy for out for beer.  She sure does love to take over.  Anyway, I’m sorry you’ve got a house full of people when you’d probably rather be alone.

JANE

Would you like this?

BOBBY

What?

JANE
            (Holding out the flag.)
This.  You can have it if you like.

BOBBY

You don’t want it?  You should take it.

JANE

You can have it, Bobby.  Take it.

            (BOBBY approaches her, anxiously.  He looks at the flag in her outstretched hands.)

JANE

It won’t bite you.

BOBBY
            (Feeling foolish, he takes the flag and steps down center again, appearing awkward as if he does not really know what to do with it.)

Thanks.  It was nice you arranging this…flag thing.  Dad probably would have liked it.  I don’t know much about his time in the war, though.  Do you?

JANE

I know some things.  He was in Italy.  I know from Mom more than Dad.  He never talked much about it.

BOBBY

He never talked much about anything.  I always felt, I came along so late, he just wasn’t into in kids anymore, if he ever was.  He was fifty when I was born.  Well, you took good care of them both, Jane.

 
JANE

Do you think Teresa Wright would have put Myrna Loy and Fredric March in a nursing home?

BOBBY
            (Not comprehending.)

Whoever she is, I don’t think it’s up to Teresa Wright whether or not Myrna Loy and Fredric March go to a nursing home.  I’m pretty sure she can’t go around putting people in nursing homes.

JANE

She’s their daughter.

BOBBY

Oh, the movie.  You mean, would her character have put her parents in a nursing home?  I don’t know, why not?

JANE

I always wondered.  Sometimes I’d think yes, other times, no.

BOBBY

Well…I think you did wonderful by Mom and Dad.  I mean that.  Nobody could’ve done better,  keeping them at home.  I guess I wasn’t much help.  Of course, I couldn’t really do much long distance, could I?
 
JANE

Sometimes I think I know them better than anybody in real life.  I suppose that comes from seeing the movie so much.  I can imagine any number of scenarios for Fred and Peggy in their future life, after the movie ends, I mean, and Wilma and Homer, and Al and Millie.  But, I can’t see myself five years down the road.  Isn’t that funny?

 
BOBBY
         (Dubiously.)
It’s your favorite movie, huh?

JANE

Oh, yes.  Any time I need a little help, out comes that video.  When I lost my job last year, the first thing I did was come home and put it on.  When I got into the fender-bender three years ago, Best Years of our Lives.  You just can’t come home from spending nine hours in the emergency room waiting for some doctor to put your arm in sling, and not find a little comfort somewhere.  When Mom was diagnosed, it was back to Myrna Loy.  When Dad had his last operation, Fredric March and Harold Russell sat up all night with me.
 
BOBBY
            (Sits on her bed, still holding the flag in his lap.)

An old movie gives you that much comfort? 

JANE

Some people drink.  Some people do drugs.  I watch the The Best Years of Our Lives.

BOBBY
            (Chuckling, feeling at ease enough to put the flag on her bed, though occasionally still sneaking looks at it.)

Well, I’m glad you’ve got a sense of humor about it. 

JANE

I’ve loved it since I first saw it, and felt that way ever since.  I’ll bet you don’t remember when I first saw that movie, do you?

BOBBY

No, why?  Should I?
 
JANE

I was seventeen years old, and you were seven.  I saw it only by accident.  I used to work at the drug store after school.  In fact, I used to pretend it was the drug store where Dana Andrews worked.

BOBBY

Who’s he?

JANE

In the movie.  But, I got out early from school that day because I had a tooth pulled, so instead of taking the bus down to my job at the drug store after high school that afternoon, I got to stay home.  Mom let me lie on the couch and watch the TV.  It was a day just like this, early spring.  She was waxing the wood floors.  The smell of the polish and the spring breeze coming through the curtains.

BOBBY

I remember when she used to wax the floors.  I almost killed myself once in socks.  Slid right into the radiator.  I still have the scar on my knee.

JANE

Channel 30 had a movie every afternoon from 3:00 to 5:00.  Back when we only got three channels.  And no remote controls.  Now I've got two, one for the TV, one for the VCR.  Life has become very complicated.  They showed The Best Years of Our Lives that day.  Only, it’s a long movie.  And they had to fit in all the commercials, too.  So, what they did, is they put half the movie on Thursday, when I was home, and put the second half on Friday.  But, I wasn’t going to get to stay home on Friday.   I had to go back to school and back to my after school job.  Do  you remember?

BOBBY

Remember what?

JANE
            (Chuckles)
I asked you to watch the rest of the movie for me when you came home from school.  I think you were in the first grade at the time.  I wanted you to tell me how it ended.  I gave you a quarter to watch the movie for me.

BOBBY
            (Laughs)
I don’t remember.  Did I watch it for you?
 
JANE

Oh, you gave me a full report when I came home from work.  You said, “The big Easter egg was on the beach, and the two tiny ladies came out of the box, and they were friends with the big bug.”

BOBBY

Huh?

JANE

Yes, that’s what I said.  And you said, “The big bug wanted the Easter egg back because it was his, and the jungle people were mad, and the two tiny ladies sang songs and were very sad about the egg, because it belonged to the bug and the men should give it back.  But even though they were mad, the bug still helped when Godzilla pulled down all the power lines and the people ran away screaming because they were all a-scared.”
 
BOBBY

Godzilla?

JANE

You were watching the wrong channel.  You gave me a movie review of Godzilla Versus Mothra.  Only three channels to pick from and you got the wrong one.

                        (They both laugh.)

BOBBY

I guess I owe you a quarter.

JANE

You had nightmares and I felt kind of bad.  It was too much responsibility for such a little boy.

BOBBY
            (He gestures to the video box.)

I guess you eventually saw the end of the movie.

JANE

Oh, long before it came out on video.  It was on a couple years afterward, after I had graduated from high school.  It was on the late, late show, and I had to practically beg Dad to let me stay up and watch it, which he did not want to do because he was afraid the sound of the TV would keep him up all night, but Mom said, “Oh, let her.  She could be out all night doing Lord knows what, but here she just wants to watch a harmless old movie in our living room.”

BOBBY

That was nice, Ma sticking up for you.

JANE

Yeah, but the way she said it made me feel like there was something wrong with me for not staying out all night doing Lord knows what.  I thought of that all the while I watched the movie, with the sound very low, sitting right in front of the TV so I could hear it, and all the lights turned off in the living room.
 
BOBBY

You were a good kid, that’s all.  You were a good daughter to them.

JANE

Did they know that when they let me stay up for the movie?  (As she speaks, she notices the flag on the bed between them and puts it back on his lap.)  Did they think then, “Ah, this one will stay home with us when we are old and take care of us, and never try to have a life of her own.”
 
BOBBY
            (Uncomfortable.)
Just forget it, Jane, it’s done.  So, what are you going to do now?

 
JANE

I saw the end of the movie, and the national anthem, and then the sign off and the test pattern.  Then I just sat in the dark for a while feeling empty inside that it was all over.  There was no re-winding then.  It was over, and you didn’t see it again for years.

BOBBY
        (As if a sudden sense of desperation comes over him, he breaks her reverie with fast speech and quick looks to the open doorway, the window, his watch, but trying to avoid looking at her or the flag.)

I guess I’d better get back to our company.  I haven’t seen the cousins in ages.  I really should visit with them before I go back on the flight tonight.

JANE

What airline?
 
BOBBY

Delta.

JANE

I’m going United.

BOBBY

What?  What do you mean?

JANE

Fred Derry took the ATC flight to Boone City.  They all flew in the nose of the bomber, him, Homer and Al.

 
BOBBY
          (Angrily.)
Knock it off, Jane.  Can’t you stop talking about that stupid move?  It’s just a movie.  (With disgust.)  Black and white.

JANE

I know.
            (She pops the cassette out and hands it to him.)

You want it?
 
BOBBY

No, I don’t want it!  Why would I want it?  I don’t want the flag, either, to tell you the truth.  I just want to get out of here.  I’m sorry.  You’re just creeping me out a little.

JANE
Sorry.
 (Stands, tosses the cassette to him.)

I’ve never flown in a plane before.  It’ll be my first time.

BOBBY

What, are you really going somewhere?

JANE

Tonight.  I’m flying to Sacramento, California.  I have new job there.

BOBBY

Well...that’s...great.  I’m...glad for you.   But why... (Double take)  Tonight?!

JANE

My boss at the insurance company left before all the downsizing, and he’s with another firm out there.  We’ve been in touch, and he got me the job.

            (She pulls out a suitcase from the closet.)

I’d better put this on the porch.  My cab is supposed to come at 3:30.

BOBBY

Jane!  This is crazy!   You can’t leave.  You’ve got a house full of people.

JANE
             (Deadpan, as if delivering a punch line.)
I used to be afraid they’d put that on my headstone.  Isn’t it funny--Charlene, none of them have any idea they’ve come to my going away party.
 
BOBBY

Jane, this is crazy.

JANE

No it’s not.  It’s not even impulsive, because I’ve planned it for a long time.  I wish I could be impulsive, but I have a habit of writing everything I’m going to do on the calendar.  I can never take myself by surprise.  Even my impulsiveness is scheduled.  I suppose that’s why Dave wanted me with him in his new firm.  I supposed that’s why Mom and Dad could count on me.  I suppose that’s why you and Charlene never came home, except to party after the funerals.  You knew everything was being handled.
 
BOBBY

That’s not fair.  We have families, we have our own lives.

JANE

Now you can have my life.  I meant it, you know.  You can have the movie, and the flag, and everything you see.  The house.  You and Charlene.  It’s all yours.

BOBBY

Jane, listen, nobody wants to take anything from you….

JANE

Legally.  You’ll find a copy of Dad’s will on his dresser.  You and our big sister Charlene are inheriting everything equally.  I explained how I felt about it all to Dad, and he agreed to do it the way I wanted.  He really was a great guy, you know.  It’s a shame you never really got to know him.  Now that you and Charlene are going to share everything, you’d better learn to start getting along.  Oh, and Aunt Doris is the executrix, but she doesn’t drive anymore, and does not really see too well, so you and Charlene will have to pretty much do everything.
 
BOBBY
          (Stands, as if in panic.)
This is crazy!  What about you?

JANE

First thing I’m going to do when I get set up in my new apartment is get a DVD player.  Did you know that with a DVD you don’t have to re-wind?  You just stop, and push a button to start the movie  again, from anywhere in the film.  You can just keep going, from wherever you are.  Or wherever you want to be.
(Looks out the window.)

My cab’s here.  When Fred and Al were going home in the cab, Al was nervous and told him that he felt like he was hitting a beachhead.  I don’t feel that way at all.  I feel like Teresa Wright at the end of the movie.

BOBBY

Jane….

JANE
            (Tosses him both remote controls. Firmly, almost angrily.)

And I’m never going to re-wind any of it again.  I’m only moving forward now.

            (JANE stares him down, picks up her suitcase, and exits.  BOBBY sits slowly down on the bed, with the remote, the cassette, and the flag in his arms.)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF PLAY)


 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Updates, Blogathon, and a Plea for Boris Karloff

A couple of updates today, but first, a call for help in finding an old kinescope.  Yeah, I know, you've got a cellar full of them.

And this is not for me, by the way, but for a university professor in Spain who contacted me about this previous post in which I mentioned that Boris Karloff once starred in an early television special as Don Quixote, with Grace Kelly as Dulcinea.

This program was part of the CBS Television Workshop, broadcast January 13, 1952.  TV-land was a wild place then, unafraid of experimentation or attempting to do a revered literary classic in a half hour.  

The gentleman who contacted me is writing a book on the filmed versions of Don Quixote, and wanted to know if I had any information on this program, if I had seen it, and where he could obtain a copy, or view it himself.  Unfortunately, I have not seen it, and am coming up blank in my attempts to help him.

Therefore I ask readers of this blog to pass the word along, and if there is any hope of finding this show, if it still exits, please email me at: JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com and I'll pass the word along. 

*******************

A reminder that this Saturday, May 16th is National Classic Movie Day, or will be if there can be enough people on board.  To celebrate, Rick at Classic Film & TV Café is hosting a one-day blogathon called My Favorite Classic Movie. 



I'll be blogging about The Best Years of Our Lives, but with a little twist.  Since I've already blogged about this film, I'll be posting a one-act play about one fan's obsession with this movie.  See you Saturday.

**********************
I’ll be speaking and giving a PowerPoint presentation at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site in Springfield, Massachusetts, in celebration of Armory Day on Saturday, June 20, 2015.  The topic will be “Revolution versus Rebellion” about nineteenth century mill girls, arms manufacturing, inventions, Milton Bradley’s games for soldiers, and author Charles Dickens’ tour down the Connecticut River on a steamboat—the lively world of technological and commercial revolution springing to life in the North during the American Civil War.  The talk will be at noon, part of the day-long festivities of Armory Day.  One Armory Square, Springfield, Mass.  Have a look at the website for more information: http://www.nps.gov/spar/index.htm

 
 
I’ll be doing a book signing at the Agawam, Massachusetts, Public Library on Monday, June 22nd at their READLocal author fair from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. 750 Cooper Street, Agawam, Massachusetts.  A selection of all my books, fiction and non-fiction, will be available.
 
More next week about my upcoming book on Ann Blyth. 


Thursday, May 7, 2015

National Train Day with Ann Blyth


Today we celebrate my favorite holiday, National Train Day, which is observed this coming Saturday, May 9th. This year, however, Amtrak, our national passenger railroad, is expanding the hoopla to National Train DAYS, a series of them throughout the year to demonstrate "the importance, benefits, and value of train travel."

They've already sold me.  I'm a train fan from way back.  Here's a shot of the blogger on the platform at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station. Or maybe it was Philly?  Or Baltimore?  I can't remember.  It was a flashback scene, anyway.  Actually, this isn't from "way back," it's from last year.  I'm waiting for Cary Grant to bring my luggage.  (Quick, what movie?)


Last year, you'll no doubt recall, I was a bit busy with my year-long blog series on Ann Blyth.   More on the upcoming book in the next few weeks.  For today, we take the train with Ann.  The lead photo was from her first film, Chip Off the Old Block (1944), discussed here.

She met Donald O'Connor by accident, and immediately went out to the rear observation platform with him to sing.  I can't tell you how many times that's happened to me.


Her next film, The Merry Monahans (1944), discussed as well in the above-linked post, also featured a meet cute where Donald strolls along the roof of the moving train, like a hobo, and later takes Ann up there with him for a little quiet conversation.

I can't even tell you how many times that's happened to me.  


In The Helen Morgan Story (1957) discussed here, Ann begins the movie traveling to the big city to make her way in the world.  Please note the black beret, a style of headgear to which I am particularly disposed, and which we discussed in this previous post on black berets in the movies.  Seriously, that could be me.  In my dreams.


In the only movie I didn't cover in depth last year, Katie Did It (1951),  Ann has a couple funny scenes on a train from New England to New York.  She tries to avoid her co-star, Mark Stevens, but he has convinced the train conductor that Ann is his mentally disturbed wife and it would be safer for the rest of the passengers if he sat with her to keep her calm. Arguments, melees, and a pulling on the emergency cord which sends people flying into the aisle.  


Rest assured, it'll be covered in the upcoming book ANN BLYTH: ACTRESS. SINGER. STAR.

Have a look here, meanwhile at Amtrak's TRAIN DAYS site, and next time you have a hankering to roam to the big city, or anyplace else that you can get to by train, for heaven's sake, TAKE THE TRAIN, the most economical and environmentally valuable way for most of us to crisscross this great nation of ours.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hallelujah, I'm a Bum! - 1933


Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (1933), released during the worst period of the Great Depression, is, paradoxically, joyful and fearless.  It is not, however, a sample of those fantasy type films so prevalent during the Depression meant to lift the nation’s spirits and take away our troubles; on the contrary, it mocks and accuses and deals with the sin and hypocrisy of wealth disparity with a sly grin and a sneer.

This is our entry in The Fabulous Films of the ‘30s blogathon sponsored by the Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA).


The movie is rife with risk taking in terms of story and camera technique, and is so avant garde a piece today’s viewers will ultimately scratch their heads in wonder.  But it is not a movie to disparage, idolize, or even analyze.  It defies close examination by virtue of its freewheeling and utterly unconcerned posture with what we think.

Hallelujah, I’m a Bum! stars Al Jolson, and here is about the only area where the film does not take a risk. He was a top star of vaudeville, records, radio, and movies back in the day, and if we find his eye-rolling, blackface shtick ridiculous or offensive, we must still credit the man with enormous success and fame.  But here, there’s none of his usual manic overacting, no blackface, no shtick.  He is a likeable leading man, and even a romantic hero—who spurns our admiration with mocking even as he earns it. 

Frank Morgan, who made a career of elderly scamps plays—who’d have thought it—a leading man and handsome lover with a mistress whom he drives to a suicide attempt with his paranoid accusations of her unfaithfulness. 

This is also a buddy picture, and Jolson’s best pal is Edgar Connor, a diminutive fellow ex-vaudevillian, and rare example of a black man being best pals with a white man. 



Harry Langdon, silent screen comic destroys his former innocent baby-like persona and becomes a disgruntled, disgusted, and loudmouthed communist.

Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart wrote the tunes, and more.  On several occasions in this movie, the dialogue is spoken in a burst of rhyming couplets. 

Rhyming couplets.



If these oddities weren’t enough, there is the delightfully flippant manner in which the movie deals with the crisis at hand: the Great Depression.

The bums, or hoboes, who occupy Central Park in New York are a mob of unrepentant shirkers standing on the edge of society and refusing to join the rat race.  They like their indolence, and some are outright thieves.  Harry Langdon rebukes them for their laziness and says everyone should work, but hates the prevailing capitalist society that brands them as failures even more.  He calls a troop of mounted policemen converging on them “Hoover’s Cossacks.”  He hates everybody, but works diligently as a street cleaner, picking up trash, like Sisyphus rolling back the stone.

Society gets its knocks in this film.  Another scene shows the laying of a cornerstone at a new public school, and the pompous officials being ragged by the blasé construction workers perched on girders.  

An assembly of schoolchildren close the ceremony with “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” and as they sing, the camera, strobe-like, flashes on their faces in close-up on each face to the beat of each phrase of the song.  These are not prettied up Hollywood moppets; they’re regular scruffy kids with suspicious expressions at the unfamiliar camera right in their faces.  It’s a fascinating and even disorienting look into our future—which our children represent.  Where is this society taking us?  Where are we taking these kids?  And it’s funny.  There is no point made in this film, however serious and thoughtful, that is not also funny.

We get a tracking shot of business being done in the interior of a bank.  At the beginning, two wheeler-dealer types are discussing a transaction of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Then the camera moves us along and two others speak of less money, hundreds.  Deals are made and agreed upon.  Money changes hands freely.  By the time we get to the end of the shot, a poor schmuck is standing at a teller window and asking to cash a check for $5.  The teller shakes his head.  They don’t cash checks for that small amount.

Incidentally, both Rogers and Hart get cameos in this movie.  They’re in a scene with Frank Morgan, who kisses babies like a good politician, and they’re in the bank.

Frank Moran is the mayor of New York, a rakish, somewhat corrupt official, but charming as heck, whose good friend is Al Jolson, the “mayor” of Central Park.  Their paths will crisscross throughout the movie.  

Mr. Morgan’s lady friend, played by Madge Evans, attempts suicide by jumping off a bridge, but Al Jolson saves her.  She has suffered amnesia, and with no ID on her (her missing wallet becomes an intricate part of the plot), Jolson has no idea where she belongs.  She is helpless, and he becomes a romantic hero by finding her a room to stay in, and by (gulp!) taking a job to support her.

It’s all very childlike, how he brings her trinkets and takes her to the merry-go-round.  She is an innocent, transformed from the hardened mistress of a politico, and quite charming as she beams over Jolson’s attentiveness to her.  She begs him not to leave her alone, because she is frightened.  In a very warm, romantic scene, they watch from her window a dancehall across the street.  We see the neon sign in a blur, and the figures of dancers in the lighted windows, and hear the music, the lovely tune, “You Are Too Beautiful.”  Jolson takes her in his arms and dances with her, and sings the lyric.  She melts into his embrace, her face truly beatific in her happiness.



Morgan, meanwhile, is distraught that she has gone missing, and begs Jolson to help him find her.  Jolson discovers, heart breaking, that his girl and Morgan’s are the same.  Nobly, he takes Morgan to her, and the shock of seeing him snaps her out of her amnesia.  At once, Jolson is a stranger to her, and she begs Morgan not to leave her, with the same words she pleaded with Jolson. 

Al Jolson stands, framed by the window, watching his happiness slip through is fingers, and we see the neon sign from the dancehall across the street clearly, mockingly: “LOVELAND.”  

He smiles only a very little, with self-deprecating resignation, and with something else—a wish for this woman to be happy.  His moment of stillness, for this usually frenetic performer, is a beautiful and most moving piece of acting.

Our troubles are not forgotten in this movie, let alone solved, but we share the burdens of others and somehow that lightens the load for us.  But we have to be tough.  You never know when life is going to kick you in the teeth while you’re waiting for that bowl of cherries.

At the end of this bitter decade, Clark Gable famously shocked the nation by saying he didn’t “give a damn” in Gone with the Wind.  Here, much earlier, those worst hit by hard times say it in spades.

Hallelujah, I’m a Bum! is on DVD, and occasionally shown on TCM.





©Jacqueline T. Lynch, 2007-2015. All rights reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Another Old Movie Blog, please be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission. 

**********************
I'll be sending out advance copies of my Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. tomorrow, and will email them in PDF form (which you can read on your computer) to any blogger who wants to review the book in June.  Please email me at: JacquelineTLynch@gmail.com

....so I can email you the book.