CONFUCIUS SAY HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW

Today is birthday of Chinese philosopher Confucius, born September 28, 551 BC (not to be Confucius-ed with Chinese philosopher who long Ago Too Young die like fool, choking on egg). Confucius, of course, left us even more wise old sayings than the inscrutable Charlie Chan, which was pen name of writer called None the Wiser (not to be Confucius-ed with his agent — a gent named Ah So).

In any case, in the interest of being fair and balanced and sly as a Fox, we herewith present selection of Confucius sayings to go along with those in CHARLIE CHAN post of Sept. 15. No matter which you prefer, may you benefit from their wisdom, and may all your male children be wise guys.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.

He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.

The funniest people are the saddest ones.

Sad to say, my work here is dumb….make that done. On second thought, maybe right first time.

 

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MARSHAL LAW and SOILED DOVES

I have often not been asked who my favorite Old West marshal is. Just as often, I have not replied: “I have not often given it any thought.” I suppose that if, for some desperate reason (such as drawing a blank for something to write about for this post) I had given it any thought, I would’ve come up with Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok or Bat Masterson. Don’t ask me to name other famous marshals. Were there any other famous marshals?

Today is the 228th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Marshal Service, so I decided to marshal my resources, round up a posse, and pursue my query. Unfortunately, it wasn’t posse-ble to corral volunteers for such a questionable undertaking; I will have to go it alone. If I don’t come out of this post alive, please pray that I have gone to a better place. Philadelphia will do.

As you may have noticed in the above clip, Mae West was mighty handy with a six-shooter….but in yesteryear’s wild and wooly West, female marshals were scarcer than beer and whiskey drinkers on the wagon in a one-horse town with two saloons — a sobering thought, indeed. Thus, it mae be necessary to put up wanted posters in order to uncover additional famous marshals (preferably female).

Well, that didn’t take long; there WERE female marshals in the Old West. Here they be:

https://glitternight.com/tag/female-marshals/

That appears to be the extent of their ranks — out of hundreds of marshals/deputy marshals, only four were of the fair sex. But that seems only fair. After all, 99% of the ‘bad guys’ were just that — ‘guys’ — so why should women be charged with maintaining law and order in the Wild West when almost all of the lawbreakers were men….though it’s no stretch to assume that certain upstanding citizens weren’t above regarding certain ladies as ‘hardened’ offenders:

As Jesus and mistermuse not often say (therefore it bares repeating):  Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stein.

Needless to say, I’ll drink to that!

 

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!

 

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.

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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

WHAT CAN I SAY? IT’S EMMA NUTT DAY!

“I’m very thankful that my first name was not Imma.”EMMA NUTT

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Who was Imma — I mean Emma — Nutt….and why do we celebrate her day today? Imma glad you ask-a that question. For the answer in a Nuttshell, click here:

Emma Nutt, The World’s 1st Woman Telephone Operator

Hello, Central? (I’d explain what Central was, but it’s less than central to our conversation.)

I’m calling because, as you can tell from Emma’s hiring by A. Bell, it was soon clear to him that this was both a Nutt job and a switch for the better. But back in those simpler times, being a telephone operator wasn’t all that simple:

Even a switchboard manned by a male in a military school wasn’t off the hook when it came to complications (sorry about the clipped picture in this clip, but unfortunately I can’t find this scene in full screen (it’s from a Billy Wilder film starring Ginger Rogers):

Telephones have played a major part in many movies. Here are more of my ‘phoney’ favorites from yesteryear, starting with the one that started it all:

THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL* (1939), starring Don Ameche as Bell
BELLS ARE RINGING (1960), starring Judy Holliday and Dean Martin
DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954), starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly
SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948), starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster
HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940), starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell

*If you ever pay a call on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, don’t miss the outstanding ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL MUSEUM at Baddeck. It’s a ringleader among museums!

Of course, telephones weren’t featured only in classic films. Remember this TV skit?

And now I’m going to GET SMART and quit while I’m ahead….and Agent 86 is afoot:

 

 

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.”

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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.

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