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!

 

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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.

ME(ET) MR. RIGHT

To err is human, but it feels divine. –Mae West

To err is human – to blame it on a computer is even more so. –Robert Orben

To err is human; to blame someone else is politics. –Hubert Humphrey

To err is human, but when the eraser wears out before the pencil, you’re overdoing it. –-Josh Jenkins

I recently chanced upon a book titled BEING WRONG — which, of course, is a concept completely foreign to where I’m coming from (and I’m not even a politician) — but I decided to read the book anyway in the hope of learning why other people are so prone to being wrong.

It turns out that people are often wrong because they’re human….an attribute I was fairly certain that I possess (naturally, I can’t speak for some of the elephants and jackasses in Congress), so to be sure, I checked my birth certificate. Sure enough, “human” was written in the space after where it says “Genus” (or maybe it says “Genius” — the small print is hard to read). In any case, birth certificates don’t lie (I don’t care what Tea Party Republicans say). Make no mistake: mistermuse IS human — and possibly a genius as well, which could account for my never being wrong.

Now that that’s settled, let us turn to BEING WRONG, the book. Written by Kathryn Schulz, journalist, writer and “wrongologist,” this book should be required reading for anyone who thinks they’re always right, because (says Schulz) “the need to be always right simply keeps us from growing.” I can take that to heart (though my stomach may not be so easily deterred), and so can anyone at the point of “realizing halfway through an argument that you are mistaken, or halfway through a lifetime that you were wrong about your faith, your politics, yourself, your loved one, or your life’s work.”

But. of course, many people never (says I) “get” to that halfway point….and even if they do, refuse to admit — even to themselves — that they could be mistaken about anything (think Donald Trump, the poster child for this type, who, unlike yours truly, doesn’t have the excuse of being born a genius). You don’t really want to be like Donald Trump, do you? You do want much food for thought, don’t you? Then read this book….or at least, for starters, give its author a listen:

THE END
(but will it be the end, for long,
of my denying BEING RONG?)

I AM IN CONTROL HERE

March 30 is I AM IN CONTROL DAY. According to holidayinsights.com, the genesis of the day goes back to March 30, 1981, when chaos reigned after President Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt in Washington D.C., and Vice President Bush was out of town. Secretary of State Alexander Haig (in an attempt to calm the nation) famously and injudiciously announced, “As of now, I am in control here” — in a manner which suggested a putsch.

Well, when putsch comes to shove and a situation seems to be spinning out of control, obviously someone needs to get a handle and do something, otherwise you’re just going around in circles:

So, when it comes to control, we may benefit from what these wise guys and gal have to say:

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs — maybe you just don’t understand the situation. -Evan Esar

If I was meant to be controlled, I would’ve come with a remote. -Unknown

Taste cannot be controlled by law. -Thomas Jefferson

If they took all the drugs, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine off the market for six days, they’d have to bring out the tanks to control you. -Dick Gregory

The difference between want and need is self control. -Unknown

Never do something permanently foolish just because you are temporarily upset. -Unknown

Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him. –Groucho Marx

I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it. -Mae West

1 + 1 = 3 (if you don’t use a condom). -Unknown

What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do. -Aristotle

Sorry to say, I must close for now. Please control yourself.

ONE MORE TIME

A year ago today, I noted the birthday of one of my favorite directors, a man whose best films you can’t forget (unless, of course, you’ve never seen them) — even if you don’t remember who directed them. At the time, I’d just resurrected this blog after a bad experience blogging for another site, so the “theater” for that October 3rd screening was all but empty. I am therefore going to do a remake, beginning with the question, Who was that man who directed those movies, including the Marx Brothers’ DUCK SOUP? Here’s another clue: his first name is Thomas.

OK, I doubt that last clue was helpful, as he didn’t go by Thomas. His full name was Thomas Leo McCarey, and here is a clip from DUCK SOUP (1933):

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here are some other goodies McCarey directed and/or wrote:

THE COWBOY AND THE LADY (1938) – Romantic comedy starring Gary Cooper
THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937) – Academy Award winner for Best Director
MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (1937) – “One of the most exquisitely sad motion pictures ever made” -Robert Moses
RUGGLES OF RED GAP (1935) – One of McCarey’s best comedies. Charles Laughton did it (starred as the butler)
BELLE OF THE NINETIES (1934) – A Mae West classic, despite heavy cutting by censors
SIX OF A KIND (1934) – Cast includes W. C. Fields, George Burns, Gracie Allen and Charles Ruggles. Need I say more?

I’VE GOT NO STRINGS, KNOCK WOOD

You think your brother or sister is a dummy? You got nothing on Candice Bergen.

You’ll recall from my last post that in the 1940s, I was a big boyhood fan of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wooden alter ego, Charlie McCarthy. Not long after the end of World War II, Mrs. Bergen gave birth (May 9, 1946) to a daughter, Candice, who grew up to become a leading-light in her own right. In her fine 1984 autobiography, KNOCK WOOD, Candice wrote:

When I was born, it was only natural that I would be known in the press as “Charlie’s sister.” “Charlie’s room”  was redecorated and renamed “the nursery.” And even though at my birth, he was simply moved to the guest room, next to the nursery, soon everyone again began referring to “Charlie’s room.” The sibling rivalry thus established was certainly unique, considering I was the only child and the sibling was, in truth, my father.

Quoting from the book’s dust cover: Christmas was a visit from David Niven in the role of Santa, and a present from “Uncle Walt” Disney, the neighborhood was the Barrymore estate that bordered her yard….and because she was the daughter of Edgar Bergen, radio’s greatest dignitary/comedian, her “sibling” was Charlie McCarthy, the impudent dummy beloved of millions, vaguely resented by one little girl whose father was the center of her universe.

KNOCK WOOD is the candid story of a celebrity’s daughter growing up in a unique environment, and I recommend it highly. It is full of anecdotes and “name-dropping,” including the likes of W. C. Fields, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe and the aforementioned Walt Disney. Fields, as you old-time radio buffs know, carried on a famous “feud” with Charlie McCarthy, primarily on The Chase and Sanborn Hour starring Edgar Bergen. Here’s a typical example :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUZYUM6kOTs

To appropriately wrap up the subjects covered in this and the previous post, let’s go with I’ve Got No Strings from Walt Disney’s 1940 acclaimed animated feature, PINOCCHIO:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAykOz1gWi4