LIKE WISE

Noble goal like chasing rainbow — beautiful while it lasts.

If the above quote sounds familiar, you have the memory of an elephant. It — the quote, not you or the elephant — appeared in my previous post as a Charlie Chanism which I made up after a trip to the latest local library book sale where my returns are becoming re-nowned and their books are becoming re-owned….and one of my new buys was titled CHARLIE CHAN — The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History, by Yunte Huang.

If you’re an old movie buff like me, you’ve probably seen a number of 1930s-40s Charlie Chan films (based on the 1920-3os novels by Earl Derr Biggers) in which Charlie chanted such gems of wisdom as these:

Hasty deduction, like ancient egg, look good from outside.
Mind, like parachute, only function when open.
Trouble, like first love, teach many lessons.
Facts like photographic film — must be exposed before developing.
Advice after mistake like medicine after funeral.

You will find these, and many more, Chanisms in Appendix I of the book. But that’s just a bonus — the real story of this book is “The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective”…. a story I can’t tell you because either I would have to kill you (leaving no clues), or it would spoil the story and leave you without a motive to buy the book. But I will tell you that the fictional Honolulu detective Charlie Chan was based on real-life Honolulu detective Chang Apana, who was a character in his own right and whose career included jobs ranging from gardener to gumshoe. So get the book, plant yourself in your favorite chair, and enjoy the read.

Speaking of flowery characters, Earl Derr Biggers was no shrinking violet. Before turning novelist, Biggers (a Harvard grad)) was an outspoken newspaper columnist and drama critic. In one of his columns, he wrote of “a citizen of Mingo, Okla., [who] whipped out his trusty six-shooter the other day and shot the mustache off another citizen. We sincerely hope that the gentleman who lost the mustache appreciated the fact that he had a mighty close shave.” Shades of such baldfaced punsters as Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and mistermuse! (The latter includes himself in such company on the grounds that the dead can’t object.)

But enough about me. Here’s Charlie!

 

Advertisements

A LAUGH AND A SONG AND DANCE

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. –Sir Isaac Newton

Comedian Sid Caesar, in his autobiography, CAESAR’S HOURS, quotes the above and adds, “I too stand on the shoulders of giants. Nobody does anything alone.”

To me, to call Sid Caesar (born 9/8/22) a comedian is akin to calling Newton a physicist — accurate, yes, but hardly adequate. In a down-to-earth way, I might even say that what Newton was to gravity in the 1680s, Caesar was to levity in the 1950s. The bottom line is, I was in my teens then (the 1950s, not the 1680s), and still reasonably sentient at the time; thus I can bear witness to the comic genius that I, as a geezer, still see in Caesar.

And just who were those giants on whose shoulders Caesar stood? He tells us in his book: “I always wanted to be Charlie Chaplin. He was one of my earliest comedic heroes, along with Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, and W.C. Fields. Most of their comedy came from their character. They each believed in what they did, and I believed them.”

Caesar was an up-and-coming comic performing mainly in the so-called Borscht Belt in New York’s Catskill Mountains when this opportunity arose in the infancy of network TV:

It was called YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, and what an innovative show it was. It premiered live on 2/25/50 with writers like Mel Brooks, Max Liebman (who also produced) and (later) Woody Allen. Said Caesar: “For nine years, I presided over what was arguably the best collection of comedy writers ever assembled in the history of television, and possibly in the history of the written word — unless you think the U.S. Constitution is funny.”

Add co-stars Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris, and the show was both a commercial and artistic success from Hour One. Here, they show you why:

Again quoting Caesar: “Until that time, the only big things on television were bowling, wrestling and Charlie Chan. [Max Liebman] wasn’t interested in the American public’s lowest common denominator. He wasn’t going to dumb down. His goal was that the quality of the show would drive its popularity and ultimately elevate taste.”

As Charlie Chan might say: Noble goal like chasing rainbow — beautiful while it lasts.

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

Originally, I came to this post with the idea of making it a birthday (9/8/1896) tribute to Howard Dietz, one of my favorite lyricists, whose autobiography (titled DANCING IN THE DARK) I also commend. Then I learned that Sept. 8 is the birthday of Sid Caesar as well as Howard Dietz, and I thought I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN.

Hold on — it wouldn’t be right not to dance with the dude what brung me, so rather than ditch Dietz, I’ll sing his praises here too….starting with his first big hit (above), then an excerpt from early in the book, closing with a realization of the song which titles his story.

The following is quoted from the book’s forward by Alan Jay Lerner: As for that quality of life known as charm, I can only shrug sadly and chalk it up as another victim of that creeping nastiness called modern civilization. I think about the man whose reminiscences are contained in this book. They come to mind because of that special gift of charm that is so characteristic of his lyrics. Howard [Dietz]  is the Fred Astaire, the Chevalier, the Molnar, the Lubitsch of lyric writers.

Dancing in the dark
Till the tune ends
We’re dancing in the dark
And it soon ends
We’re waltzing in the wonder
Of why we’re here
Time hurries by we’re here
And gone

HOW TO MAKE A WORLD OF (NON)SENSE

If you cannot read these directions and warnings, do not use this product. –WARNING ON DRAIN CLEANER LABEL

What’s Walmart? Do like they sell wall stuff? –Paris Hilton

I believe I’ve been reincarnated because every time I eat chicken, I eat with my hands….like they did in the olden days. –Lee Ryan, English singer/actor

I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman. –Arnold Schwarzenegger

Just remember the words of Patrick Henry: “Kill me or let me live.” –Bill Peterson, football coach

I don’t think anybody should write his autobiography until after he’s dead. –Samuel Goldwyn

It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it. –George W. Bush

[Who was President during the Civil War?] Ummm…. Winston Churchill? I wasn’t around then, so who cares? –Tommy Lee, rocker

Predictions are difficult, especially about the future. –Yogi Berra

I guess I’m gonna fade into Bolivian. –Mike Tyson, boxer (after losing his last big fight)

I make Jessica Simpson look like a rock scientist. –Tara Reid, actress (suggesting Jessica was stoned?)

[This world is] the best of all possible worlds. –Gottfried Leibniz, German philosopher

REALLY? That makes a world of sense to me….if our soul competition is the worst of all possible worlds. –mistermuse

EAST IS EAST AND WEST IS BEST?

Hat-check girl in Mae West’s first film: “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds.”
Mae West: “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.”

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

Some actors and actresses (and I don’t mean this pejoratively) basically play themselves in their films, while others are so believable and natural in varied roles and genres, they completely inhabit whatever given character they portray. An example of the latter, going back to Hollywood’s Golden Age, is Henry Fonda (if you think he played only serious parts, you haven’t seen the classic 1941 comedy, THE LADY EVE, in which he co-starred with Barbara Stanwyck — another of the most versatile players of that era).

Mae West was of the first category, very much the Diamond Lil character she created. Today being her birthday (8/17/1893), it’s her day to sparkle:

It has been said that “Mae West literally constituted a one-woman genre.” Basically playing herself, she was one of the country’s biggest box office draws in the 1930s, despite being almost 40 years old when offered her first movie contract (by Paramount) in 1932. Previously, she’d appeared in a number of rather risqué plays, including Diamond Lil and her first starring role on Broadway (appropriately titled Sex), which she wrote, produced and directed. As with all the plays she wrote and performed in, there was much controversy and publicity, and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling.

Her first film (see opening quote) was NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, making such an impression that co-star George Raft reportedly said, “She stole everything but the cameras.” Her next film, SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933), featured Cary Grant in one of his first major roles, and was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. It was such a big moneymaker that it saved Paramount from bankruptcy in the midst of the Great Depression.

West went on to make six more movies in the 1930s, but in 1934, the Production Code began to be strictly enforced, and censors doubled down on her double-entendres. By today’s standards, such censorship seems ludicrous, but those were moralistic times, and after her last ‘naughty’ picture for Paramount in 1937, they thought it best to terminate her contract if they knew what’s good for them. She did manage to make one more hit movie, co-starring with W. C. Fields in My Little Chickadee for Universal Pictures in 1940.

Unbawdied and unbowed, when asked about puritanical attempts to impede her career, West wisecracked, “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.” Not for nothing was one of her nicknames “The Statue of Libido.” She died in 1980 at the age of 87.

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

Coincidentally, August 17 is also the birthday of my mother, who passed away 17 years ago. Happy Birthday, Mom — YOU WERE THE BEST.

POLITICAL ANIMALS

Friends, if you think that a dog was elected U.S. President in the last election, you should live in Rabbit Hash, KY, where, in January (the very month Trump was sworn in as Pres), a PIT BULL was ‘indawgurated’ as the town’s fourth canine mayor since 1998:

The Rabbit Hash election may have been the pit’s, but there’s no denying the popularity of the dog mayor. As town historian Don Clare said last week, “People are tired of the political climate of lying. I think humans are finally coming to their senses after all we’ve been through in the last seven months. You just can look at a dog’s face and know that he is true blue and not trying to fake you.”

Long-time followers of this blog may recall that I’ve hopped on down the bunny trail to the nearby town of Rabbit Hash and posted in the past about the former mayor (border collie Lucy Lou)….but now I come to find that Rabbit Hash isn’t alone in having animal mayors. At first, this may get your goat, butt hang in there; at second, it’s the cat’s meow:

There have also been animals elected to political office in several small towns in Washington state, Minnesota and elsewhere, but alas, it seems that most voters aren’t as enlightened as their Rabbit Hash counterparts, and continue to elect less deserving humans (though it must be admitted that some have been jackasses). But then, as H.L. Mencken pointed out: Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise than religion has made them good.

I will close with a few ass-inine quotes as examples of why humans leave a lot to be desired as political animals:
Once you’ve seen one ghetto, you’ve seen them all. –Spiro Agnew, former Maryland Governor and U.S. Vice President
[On my commission, I have] every kind of mix you can have. I have a black, I have a woman, two Jews and a cripple. –James Watt, former U.S. Interior Secretary
The President has kept all of the promises he intended to keep. –George Stephanopolous (when he was an aide to Bill Clinton)
As for yours truly, I haven’t posted all of the quotes I intended to post, but as they say of Trump’s tweets, enough is enough.

 

IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT

On the dubious theory that you can’t get too much of a good thing, I’m going to follow up I’VE GOT A SECRET and TO TELL THE TRUTH (my last post) with a take-off from another old radio (1940s) and TV (1950s) panel show called IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT. Never let it be said, however, that I don’t have standards. Thus, I found 1940s-50s IGNORANT clips to be a bit beneath my readers’ level of sophistication, so I have opted instead for an updated 2013 spoof of the original program (the word “Alawite” in the clip refers to a religious sect in Syria):

Now, friends, we’ve all heard the old saying that ignorance is the sincerest form of flattery (or something to that effect). Therefore, in order to showcase certain public figures, past and present, in the revealing light of their own words, let us take a look at some of the more outstanding (though not necessarily funny) examples of why it pays to be ignorant (except when it doesn’t):

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the dumbest of you all? –Anne Robinson, British TV host, who “asked for it” when she left herself open to the answer on her own show:

Adolf Hitler was a Jeanne d’Arc, a saint. He was a martyr. Like many martyrs, he held extreme views. –Ezra Pound

Rural Americans are real Americans. There’s no doubt about that. You can’t always be sure with other Americans. Not all of them are real.Dan Quayle, former U.S. V Pres

My fear is that the whole island [Guam] will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize. –Hank Johnson, Democratic Congressman from Georgia

Everything that can be invented has been invented. –Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Patent Office, 1899

Hurray, Boys! We’ve got them. We’ll finish them up and then go home to our station. –General George Armstrong Custer, before battle at Little Big Horn

I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves. –John Wayne

Son, looks to me like you’re spending too much time on one subject. –Shelby Metcalf, former Texas A&M Head Coach to one of his players who got a D and four F’s.

Saving the most classless and gratuitous example for last, this comes with our best wishes for a full recovery from brain cancer for the object of this quote:

 

 

 

 

TRUTH BE TOLD

When in doubt, tell the truth. –Mark Twain

Truth be told, I just found out that July 7 was TELL THE TRUTH DAY.  Better late than never?  That may or may not be true, but today I’m in the mood to post, and at this “late” juncture, truth is doubtless as good a thesis as any (if you believe Mark Twain).

Friends, I don’t claim to be in the same league as such legendary and current truth-tellers as Pinocchio and Donald Trump, but I am (almost) always in favor of telling the truth. In fact, one of my favorite TV quiz shows back in the day was TO TELL THE TRUTH. But before we go there, I need to set it up with a clip from a quiz show I featured in a previous post (I’VE GOT A SECRET)….the reason being that one of the panelists on the latter program (a humorist who is little-remembered today) plays a big part in the surprise ending of the TO TELL THE TRUTH clip, and it helps if you know he was once famous.

Assuming you can abide a bit more truth-telling, I will close with some quotes on the subject:

The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and simple. –Oscar Wilde

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. –Aldous Huxley

If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor. –Albert Einstein

Beware of a half-truth: you may have gotten hold of the wrong half. –Evan Esar

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. –Charles Spurgeon

All men are born truthful and die liars. –Luc de Clapiers

Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move.
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
–William Shakespeare