Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Road to Pride


Is comedy inherently subversive or is it inherently reactionary? Does it make fun of, and thereby attack, the status quo, or does it reenforce existing norms by taking potshots at anyone or anything that poses a challenge to those norms? I guess it all depends on what you're laughing at. If it's the Marx Brothers in the 1930s ruining a wealthy matron's dinner party along with the mansion where it's being held, then you could say what you're laughing at is an attack on the capitalist system, and thus the status quo, making it subversive.  However, if you're somebody who laughed hysterically every time the late Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh made mention of "feminazis" on the radio, then you're laughing at, and in agreement with, a potshot taken at those who would challenge a woman's freedom to be nothing more than barefoot and pregnant, a challenge to a norm that today apparently still holds some appeal (we'll see just how much at election time), and that makes it reactionary.

Then there's the curious case of Bob Hope. A lifelong Republican, much of his material was written by lifelong Democrats (such as Larry Gelbart, who went on to create the TV version of MASH.) In his monologues, Hope pretty much made fun of anybody in the news, be they on the left or the right, though in a no-blood-drawn sort of way. And he made fun of himself (most famously his failure to win, or even be nominated for, an Oscar), the comic self-effacement a big part of his appeal. The movies he made in the 1940s and '50s, such as the The Princess and the Pirate and Son of Paleface (where his costars were Roy Rogers and Trigger), as well as the Road pictures he made with Bing Crosby, were mildly subversive in the way his cowardly heroes stumbled head first into one movie genre after another, making chaotic mincemeat out of Hollywood depictions of machismo, but as he got older, and older, and older still (he lived to be 100), Hope became much more of an Establishment figure, and the trademark self-effacement lost much of its credibility. Whatever shame he felt in not winning an Oscar was probably more than made up for by getting White House invites throughout ten different administrations. Finally, like many comedians who got their start in vaudeville, he peppered his monologues with jokes aimed at ethnic and racial minorities. He did that less and less as time passed, but there was one minority which he just wouldn't let up on:

“I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d better get out before they make it compulsory.”

By 1989, the homophobic humor had begun to catch up with Hope. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) wrote him a strongly worded letter of complaint, reminding him that whatever Orwellian fears he had of a future homosexual police state, for the time being it was gays and lesbians themselves who were uncomfortably at the mercy of a heterosexual ruling class. Whether out of sincere regret, or a realization that a public relations fix was in order, or maybe even both, Hope surprised the alliance with a letter of apology. Furthermore, he offered to film a Public Service Announcement condemning violence against gays and lesbians. GLAAD had only been around four years at that point, and couldn't afford such an announcement, so Hope went and paid for it out of his own pocket. Watch: 

Bob Hope may have been at his most subversive when playing it straight. Thanks for the memory.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Graphic Grandeur (She Was Flagged Edition)



This Peter Steiner cartoon makes me wonder if it was the report due on Marbury vs. Madison.

Now let's hear from a different Supreme:

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Vital Viewing (Heroes and Villains Edition)



Though he played all sorts of characters throughout his long career, Dabney Coleman's specialty was the comic scoundrel, the man you not so much love to hate, but rather are too busy laughing at to hate. Yet the real-life Coleman comes across as anything but a scoundrel as he receives his Hollywood Walk of Fame star back in 2014:

In addition to Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Leon Gubler, the other two men speaking were filmmaker Mark Ryder, who directed the movie version of On Golden Pond (which we'll get to in a second), and television director Dennis Klein, who helmed several episodes of Coleman's critically acclaimed but short-lived sitcom Buffalo Bill. Actress Penelope Ann Miller was also on hand. I can find no movie or TV production that Coleman and Miller appeared in together, so maybe she was just there as a friend. There are such things as friendships in Hollywood.  

Though he worked steadily throughout the 1960s and into the '70s, Dabney Coleman's career didn't really take off until he joined the cast of the above prime time/late night comedy soap opera in its second season. Coleman played the somewhat devious Merle Jeeter, father of nine-year-old child evangelist Jimmy Joe Jeeter. After that story line came to its (literally) shocking conclusion, Merle ran for mayor of Fernwood, Ohio, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman's fictional setting: 

Merle won, naturally. He fit right in with that fucked-up town.

Taking a break from the comic scoundrel for just a moment, 1982's On Golden Pond, based on a Broadway play of the same name, gives me a chance to show you Coleman's range as an actor, that he could do drama as well as comedy. Despite his character not deemed significant enough for his visage to appear on the above movie poster, in the following scene you'll see that Coleman more than holds his own with the great Henry Fonda (as he also does in scenes with the great Katharine Hepburn and the great Jane Fonda):

Did that old dude just say you could ask him anything you wanted to about sex?

Sorry Dr. Reuben, you've just been replaced by a Fonda.

Back to Dabney Coleman. Hank's daughter Jane must not have minded working with Coleman, because a year before On Golden Pond, they both appeared in this comedy blockbuster:

Unlike Jane, Lily, and Dolly, Coleman doesn't receive above-the-title billing, but at least he's prominently displayed on the poster, as well as the movie itself. We'll show him with each of these ladies, starting with Lily:

Now Dolly:

And finally, Jane:

Where's a golden parachute when a corporate executive needs one? 

Friday, May 17, 2024

Graphic Grandeur (The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth Edition)


Michael Cohen faces another grueling day of cross-examination by Donald Trump's lawyers in the former president's hush money and business records falsification trial, but does he deserve such scathing attacks on his character? 

Well, if you put it like that, then yes.

Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Quips and Quotations (Declaration of Independents Edition)


Roger made us work hard and long, I remember that! He was always fascinating to me, a fascinating man – and a good businessman! He had such incredible energy, it was tremendous – he was a dynamo to be around. I always knew he was going to be a huge success because there was no stopping him. He just made up his mind that he was going to be a success and that was it.

--Beverly Garland

Roger seemed a driven man. Roger wanted to accomplish a lot, he had to have a lot of drive to do it, and he pushed through. He not only pushed through, he punched through! With a lot of energy, and a lot of disregard at times...What we did for Roger Corman – I mean, things that you could never do in a real studio, but you did for this guy! Everything seemed unreal with him.

--Susan Cabot

I wrote a screenplay titled 
Gluttony, about a salad chef in a restaurant who would wind up cooking customers and stuff like that, you know? We couldn't do that though because of the [production] code at the time. So I said, 'How about a man-eating plant?', and Roger said, 'Okay.' By that time, we were both drunk.

--screenwriter Charles B. Griffith 


It's not precisely the Edgar Allan Poe short story known to high school English that emerges in House of Usher, but it's a reasonably diverting and handsomely mounted variation ... The film has been mounted with care, skill and flair by producer-director Roger Corman and his staff.


[Frank Sinatra] was very worried that his daughter was in a film with the Hell's Angels. And for some reason he didn’t want to bring it up to me, so he arranged to meet with my second assistant director, Paul Rapp, and said, “Is Nancy going to be all right?” And Paul, we had never even thought about it, but Paul made up a whole lot of nonsense, just, “Well, we’ve got people there, we’re going to be protecting her all the time.” It was all just talk, but Frank accepted it, and Nancy was great.

--Roger Corman


(Things happen, so I'll just save the Mother's Day post until next year. You know how it is--Kirk)



Sunday, May 5, 2024

Graphic Grandeur (Suspended Animation Edition)


In case you didn't know, today is National Cartoonist Day. Put on a smock and find one to hug. Before you do, however, I should point out that the word "cartoonist" is really kind of an umbrella term covering a wide range of artists. Generally speaking, there are two different kinds of cartoonists.

There's the still life cartoonist, such as Charles M. Schulz, who drew Snoopy.

And then there's the moving pictures cartoonist, such as Ub Iwerks, who (under the watchful eye of Uncle Walt) drew Mickey Mouse.

Not that cartoonists always stay within their respective boundaries. Sometimes there's...



Thursday, May 2, 2024

Vital Viewing (Twangbanger Edition)


Guitarist Duane Eddy became an early rock and roll star solely on the strength of his electrifying guitar instrumentals. As Eddy himself once said "One of my biggest contributions to the music business was not singing."

He wasn't much of a talker either:

 In the above interview, Eddy mentions a big swordfish he had caught, but I bet it wasn't as big as the one caught by...

...Jerry Lewis.

But I digress. Here's one of Eddy's biggest hits:

Eddy came out with "Rebel-Rouser" in 1958, yet the above video looks like it's from about ten years later, if that one girl whose hair is dancing as much as her feet is any indication. Shows you just how well Eddy's sound fit into a musical era quite different from the one in which he emerged. I mean, I can't imagine Bill Haley or Carl Perkins in such a raucous 1960s setting.

Composer Henry Mancini fit in with both the 1950s and 1960s, mainly because his audience wasn't composed primarily of teenagers. After all, parents were still spending money on records, if not quite as much money as were their kids. Yet as someone whose music would one day be categorized as "easy-listening", Mancini was one of the more forward-looking composers of his era. No more so than when he came up with the opening jazz-and-rock-tinged theme to the 1950s TV detective show Peter Gunn. Duane Eddy must have taken notice, as he recorded his own version in 1960 that charted at #27. However, the story doesn't end there. In 1986, he re-recorded the song with the British alternative synth-pop band Art of Noise, and that version was a worldwide hit. Watch and listen as Eddy and his advant-garde friends perform the Gunn theme in front of a live audience in Nashville:

Noir rocks!