I BE NOMINATED FOR THE KIESTER AWARD!

Friends, I am proud, humbled and honored to tell you that I (will) be nominated for the Kiester Award for blogging (over, above and beyond the call of duty, no less). Yes, friends, I foresee that you will see fit, after reading this, not only to get off (or on) your kiester, as the case-ster may be, to nominate me….but also to kick yourself in the kiester for not doing so before. So, though your awakening may be in arrears, it is appreciated.

But I’m conflicted, friends. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the Kiester that you are aching to bestow upon me; however, there are others much more deserving. I would therefore caution you to control yourselves, because worthy as I may be, it’s only right (wing) that you should nominate someone with far superior qualities, such as:

THE DONALD — aka The Orange (T)error. America’s bully boy and wall nut who is able to leap (t)all Republicans in a single bound and make them kiss his ass in a single tweet. Drains swamps by filling them in with b.s. Loves everyone (who loves him), but retains Godfather complex (for those who don’t).

THE MIKESTER — aka Straightarrow Mike. Joined to The Donald at the hip while being the least hip VP in American hipstery. Even a dog couldn’t be more loyal. Leading contender for the Cardboard Poodle award.

THE MITCH-ELAINE MAN — aka Monotone Mitch. The Blue Grass State’s gift horse to the U.S. Senate. Was once caught smiling, and vowed never to smile again. Doesn’t parrot The Donald as much as The Mikester, but is nonetheless for the birds. Married to Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation in the horse’s ass administration.

THE HUCKABEE WASP — aka Sarah the married Spinstirrer. White House Press Secretary and daughter of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Christian Minister and former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. Read her lips. She may not be a dummy, but The Donald’s got her back (or is it the other way around?).

DUMBO THE UGLY ELEPHANT — aka The GOP. It’s the body the Republican Party has become since The Donald took power, as Ronald Reagan turned over in his grave. Who knew Ronnie’s reign as President would one day turn out to be, not only The Good Old Days of fond memory, but the elephant in the room, the ghost of civility past?

In closing, friends, a few of you may think I misspelled Keister, but in my dictionary, Kiester is also acceptable. Spelling can be like pronunciation:

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BLANK

Normally, when I write a post, I think about what I want to say — the body of the post — and at some point during this labor of love (after considerable cogitation), a title is born. With my last post, the title came first and I then had to work to shape the body (after considerable consternation) in language of the what-have-I-gotten-myself-into kind. Believe me, friends — it’s a pain in the brain to be boxed in by a title, so with this post, I decided to leave the title BLANK. I feel better already.

But, now that I have a blank canvas, one would think I should be able to paint a word picture; yet it’s like I can’t see the blog for the fog. Have I become color blind?

So it’s just the time of day, a mere matter of mind over time. Tomorrow the fog will clear and this will seem like a black and white dream….

And you know what they say about a clear day….

WHAT CAN I SAY? IT’S EMMA NUTT DAY!

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

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

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:

 

 

A MAN AND HIS ‘DOGS’

dogs, Slang. The feet: My dogs are killing me!  fantasy, n.  A play of the mind; imagination; fancy; a picture existing only in the mind. –World Book Dictionary

A footnote to the World Book definition of fantasy: it is personified, in my view, by one man — fittingly so, because beyond his pictures he still dances in the mind, as timeless as imagination….no less real than the Hollywood from which such flights of fancy emanated and stars were born. That ethe-real man is Fred Astaire, the pictures were his movies, and this day is his birthday (May 10, 1899).

Astaire’s “dogs” may have been what carried him across the dance floor with Ginger Rogers in his arms, but it was his persona that took us with him. I like to think that what Santa Claus embodied for children, Fred Astaire embodied for my parent’s generation as teenagers/young adults, epitomizing easy grace and the allure of dreams more enticing than any toy that Santa could promise.  No other hoofer in film history even comes close to capturing his magic….which is why he survives his and my parent’s generation, just as any great artist lives on in what he or she creates.

In my favorite scene from my favorite Astaire-Rogers film (SWING TIME, 1936), professional dancer Astaire comes to New York and, after a chance street encounter with Rogers doesn’t go well, he follows her to the dance studio where she is an instructor. Pretending to be a novice, he botches the dance lesson. She insults him and is fired. As she is leaving the studio….

Of course, many elements must come together to produce movie magic, and SWING TIME had the good fortune to combine the talents of the stars with those of a great director (George Stevens), a fine supporting cast (including Eric Blore, seen in the above clip), and one of the best composer/lyricist teams of the Golden Age (Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields). In addition to the ‘dance lesson’ song PICK YOURSELF UP, their outstanding score includes A FINE ROMANCE, NEVER GONNA DANCE, and this love song:

On this May 10 celebration, let’s end appropriately with this:

 

 

 

 

NOBODY’S PERFECT

Fans of Hollywood’s Golden Age movies will recognize the above title as one of the classic last lines in film history, said by Joe E. Brown to Jack Lemmon at the end of Billy Wilder’s SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959). Today being Wilder’s birthday (June 22, 1906), and me being in the middle of a biography of Wilder by the same title, I thought I’d offer my own brief tribute to one of the great directors of all time, to be followed at a later date by a review of the book when I’ve finished reading it. Seeing as how I’ve owned the book for over a year and am not yet halfway through it, don’t expect the follow-up anytime soon. I may be retired, but I still can never seem to find time to catch up on my reading. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

Even the greatest directors made some films that weren’t so hot, and Wilder made a few such, but few directors and screenwriters have made more movies that bear repeated viewings (which is my standard for greatness) than Billy Wilder. Here is my Top Ten list of favorite Wilder films:

THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942), starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson
THE LOST WEEKEND (1945), starring Ray Milland
SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950), starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim
STALAG 17 (1953), starring William Holden

SABRINA (1954), starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden
WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957), starring Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton and Tyrone Power
SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959), starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe
THE APARTMENT (1960), starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray
ONE, TWO, THREE (1961), starring James Cagney

When Wilder died March 27, 2002, he took his wit to his grave. His headstone reads:

    BILLY WILDER

     I’M A WRITER
         BUT THEN
NOBODY’S PERFECT

SMACK AND GEORGE

Today I’d like to pay tribute to two giants of jazz and film born on this date: Fletcher Henderson, jazz immortal, born Dec. 18, 1898, and George Stevens, master film director, born Dec. 18, 1904. Though gone from the scene for decades, both have left records of creative achievement in their respective fields which have stood the test of time for mortals who appreciate such things.

FLETCHER HENDERSON, nicknamed “Smack” for his habit of smacking his lips, was a trailblazing jazz arranger and leader of outstanding big bands for two decades. At various times from 1924 to 1935, his band included such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Rex Stewart, Cootie Williams, Red Allen, Buster Bailey, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Sid Catlett and J. C. Higginbotham. In early 1935 he broke up his band and began arranging for the fledgling Benny Goodman Orchestra, launching the new and exciting sound of the swing era which would define American popular music until WWII. Although he put together another band in 1936 and had one hit record, within a few years Henderson had disbanded in the face of heavy competition. Thereafter he worked primarily as an arranger between short stints leading big bands. He suffered a major stroke in 1n 1950 and died Dec. 29, 1952. According to jazz critic Stanley Dance, Henderson’s was the first big jazz band and set the standard for many to come. Here is a typical Fletcher Henderson swinger:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0Ts6vZNyqk

GEORGE STEVENS, though you may not remember his name, directed some of the best movies you have seen, if you are a classic-film fan. These include (in chronological order):

ALICE ADAMS (1935), starring Katherine Hepburn and Fred MacMurray.
SWING TIME (1936), the best (in my opinion) of the Astair-Rogers musicals, with outstanding Jerome Kern-Dorothy Fields songs, including the Oscar-winning “The Way You Look Tonight.”
A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS (1937), the first Astaire musical without Ginger Rogers, nonetheless notable for its George Gershwin score (his last before his premature death that same year). Joan Fontaine co-stars as the English “damsel in distress.”
GUNGA DIN (1939), starring Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942), starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in their first picture together. Oscar-winning screenplay by Ring Lardner Jr. and Michael Kanin.
THE TALK OF THE TOWN (1942), starring Cary Grant, Ronald Colman and Jean Arthur.
THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943), starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn. Stevens was Academy Award nominee for Best Director.

A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Academy Award winner for Best Director.
SHANE (1953), one of the all-time great Westerns, starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur and Jack Palance.
GIANT (1956), starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. Academy Award winner for Best Director.
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1959). Film version of well-known true story of Jewish refugees hiding in WWII Amsterdam. I can especially relate to this film, having actually been decades ago in the building (now a museum) where Anne hid with her family and others and wrote her diary.

Here is a clip from Stevens’ A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS, in which Fred Astaire is doing his best to escape detection behind the chorus during a function at the castle where damsel Joan Fontaine resides:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1C-_Adawq8

THE END of our post (but not of our inheritance)