MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE ZILCH

Wanna know something? January 16 is NATIONAL NOTHING DAY. Since I can think of nothing I’d rather do today than filch some zilch, I’m going to take this day and make Nothing of it. Actually, Nothing couldn’t have come at a better time for this post, ’cause if there’s one thing I gotta lotta, it’s nada.

For you language purists out there, when I said I gotta lotta nada, whata oughta said was….

Now that you’ve had your fill of nothing and I’ve made the case that there’s nothing better than nothing, I have all the nothing that’s everything I need to amount to anything. Ain’t that something!

Watch out, piggy!

TWO TO GO

As 2019 goes into the history books, we close out the year and our series of 1920s-30s female songwriters with two of the best: BERNICE PETKERE and DOROTHY FIELDS.

PETKERE, the longest lived (1901-2000) but perhaps least remembered of the women in this series, had her greatest success as a composer in the 1930s. This hit (with lyrics by Joe Young) was recorded in early 1932 by a rising star by the name of Bing Crosby:

Petkere, primarily a composer, also wrote the lyrics to a few of her songs, including….

Saving the class of the field for last, we turn to the most prolific lady lyricist of the era (and the first woman to be elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame), DOROTHY FIELDS, “the only female songwriter of the golden age whose name has not sunk into oblivion with time.” –Deborah Grace Winer, author of ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, subtitled THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DOROTHY FIELDS

Named after Dorothy of Wizard of Oz fame, she teamed with composer Jimmy McHugh in 1927 to write many hits over the next eight years, including this all-time standard in 1930:

Fields went on to write many songs with other composers until her death in 1974….but as much as I’d like to post links to more of Fields work, I’m going to resist temptation (you know what they say about too much of a good thing), Take It Easy*, and call it a Fields day

….except to say, Happy New Year!

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*the title, it so happens, of a Fields song I resisted linking to (recorded by Fats Waller)

 

THE SOUND OF SILENTS

You sure you can’t move? –what Harpo Marx “said” to the tied-up hero (Richard Dix) before punching him in the 1925 film TOO MANY KISSES (fortunately, the film survived)

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Italicized above are the only words ever “spoken” (but not heard) on film by the man whose birthday we note today, HARPO MARX. The audience didn’t hear those five words because the film was a “silent” — “talkies” didn’t come on the scene until 1927, two years before the first of thirteen Marx Brothers movies (1929-49). Harpo spoke in none of them.

But why, oh why-o, should I try-o to “bio” Harpo, when here-o you can click on the official thing from his offspring:

https://www.harposplace.com/

Because Harpo associated with Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and other wits in the famed Algonquin Round Table repartee, I expected to turn up a number of witty Harpo Marx quotes for this piece. No such luck — I found only one I enjoyed enough to post here (both the “she” referred to in the quote, and who it is addressed to, are unknown):

“She’s a lovely person. She deserves a good husband. Marry her before she finds one.”

One quote being three quotes short of a gallon, I shall return to giving you “the silent treatment” with a quota of four quotes of silence said by forethoughtful others:

“Listen to the sound of silence.” –Paul Simon, American singer, songwriter, and actor

“Silence is golden unless you have kids, then it’s just plain suspicious.” –anonymous

“If nobody ever said anything unless he knew what he was talking about, what a ghastly hush would descend upon the earth!” –A. P. Herbert, English humorist, writer, and politician

“I believe in the discipline of silence and can talk for hours about it.” –George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic

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Since I didn’t give Harpo the last word, I’ll let him give his audience the last laugh….and though he doesn’t speak, you’ll hear captivating sounds escape his lips 2:42 into this clip:

Bravo, Harpo!

EPILOGUE: Listen — 90+ years after the “silents” ended*, you can still hear….

*with the exception of two Charlie Chaplin masterpieces in the 1930s, CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES

HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE: WHAT A CHARACTER (ACTOR)!

“Nobody needs a mink coat but the mink.” –S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, character actor (Feb. 2, 1883-Feb. 12, 1955)

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There have been so many great male character actors in Hollywood Golden Age history that, for this post, I’m going to narrow the field to comedic character actors….and even then, I’ll probably leave out some of your favorites. Of course, if you don’t have any old comedy film favorites, you’re probably not an old comedy film fan, so you’re excused (even though that’s no excuse….actually, you should be ashamed of yourself).

Leaving that aside, let’s move on, starting with the author of the above quote….a quote which probably didn’t go over too well with most of the Hollywood glamour girls he knew — speaking of which, did you know that Sakall was born in, and is strictly from, Hungary (btw, he was also in Casablanca). Here’s more scuttlebutt about Cuddles but…it’s not a lot:

Next, Laurel & Hardy fans will remember the trademark ‘double-take’ look of this gent, who appeared in many of their films, including here in one of their best, WAY OUT WEST:

Remember double features (two films for the price of one in movie houses of the 1930s-50s)? Here’s a double feature of two great comedic actors for the price of one in a scene from SHALL WE DANCE, one of three Astaire-Rogers movies in which they appeared together:

If you’re a fan of Charlie Chan movies, you may recall the pop-eyed comic who played Chan’s chauffeur in over a dozen films, as well as parts in Preston Sturges’ THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942), CABIN IN THE SKY (1943), CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK (1944), and many others. Here he is in a scene from THE SCARLET CLUE (1945):

In closing, I’ll mention several other great comedic character actors I could’ve/should’ve profiled here, but I have to stop somewhere: William Demarest, Edgar Kennedy, Frank Morgan, Franklin Pangborn, Erik Rhodes, Victor Moore, and many more. Thank you, one and all, for bringing character to comedy.

HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE: THE GLAMOUR GIRLS

A glamour girl is one who looks good enough to eat and dresses with taste. –Evan Esar

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In my “preview of coming attractions” post of Oct. 13, the subject of Hollywood glamour girls (in general) and Rita Hayworth (in particular) came up in an exchange of comments. October 17 being Rita’s birthday, it seems the appropriate day to do the appropriate post, focusing not only on Rita, but on several other becoming attractions who fill the bill by becomingly filling their dresses.

My glamour girl choices here are both limited and subjective, due not only to length-of-post considerations, but the implicit broadness of the term, e.g.: is, or is not, glamour girl of a piece with sex goddess? For the arbitrary purposes of this opus, I’ve drawn a distinction between the two by disqualifying actresses considered to be ‘pure’ sex symbols, such as Jayne Mansfield, Jane Russell. and (perhaps unfairly) Marilyn Monroe. They (and European sex symbols like Brigitte Bardot) may “look good enough to eat,” but dressing with taste was hardly their strong suit.

With that model of suitability out of the way, here are the glamour girls I think stand out as epitomizing Hollywood’s Golden Age by virtue of such disparate criteria as a touch of class, sex appeal more than skin deep, talent, and even pin-up popularity with WWII GIs.

Let’s start with the birthday girl, Rita Hayworth, who said “I like having my picture taken and being a glamorous person. I never really thought of myself as a sex goddess.”:

https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/10/31/rita-hayworth/

My next choice is the actress called the most beautiful woman in the world in her day:

Next, the actress called the last major star to come out of the Hollywood studio system:

With apologies to the likes of Veronica Lake, Lana Turner, and Betty Grable, I will close with this glamorous actress who, but for the overriding racism of the period, could and should have been a major Hollywood star (seen here in a scene with Eddie “Rochester” Anderson and Ethel Waters from CABIN IN THE SKY (1943):

 

RIDE THE WIND DAY

August 23 is RIDE THE WIND DAY. I can think of no better way to celebrate the day than musically. On the other hand, you may think I should go fly a kite. Why not do both — you might call it killing two words with one song:

You didn’t really think I was going to stop after one song, did you? So, did you know the wind has a name?

But no matter the name, The Wind In The Willows whispers it. Listen for it….

And in that plaintive, melancholy way, I bid you a good Ride The Wind Day.

 

THE ART OF BAD POETRY

Oscar Wilde quote: “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.” Maybe so, but you can’t blame a guy for trying.

A few days ago, in pondering the possibility of posting a post of putrid poetry for BAD POETRY DAY (August 18th), I took the precaution of reviewing a decade (my blog began in 2009) of August posts to make sure I hadn’t previously perpetrated poetic perfidy on unsuspecting readers on this day. Unluckily for you , I found that I’ve never posted a post on Aug. 18, so we’re good to go….make that, I’m good to go. Or bad to go. You have to stay, because if you don’t, you’ll break my poor art — and that wouldn’t be polite.

Perhaps you think that my calling bad poetry an art
doesn’t pass the smell test, like calling passing gas a fart.

Not to put you on the spot, but was that a bad-ass poem, or what?
Granted, it has a perfect rhyme, but is that such a crime?
As bad poetry, I still say it’s sublime….speaking of which, I’ll have you know there are actually high-class contests to determine how low a bad poem can get, such as:

With that behind us, it’s time we get back to sum-more of my cool august poetry:

CLOCKING OUT

Hickory, dickory, dock,
The doc ran up the rock.
The rock was more slippery
Than doc’s hickory dickory,
So down he fell, which cleaned his clock.

HAIR APPARENT

A Whig party wig
Is my saving grace —
It diverts your gaze
Away from my face.

I WILL ONLY STOOP SO LOW

I don’t do windows,
I don’t do lawns —
But when I doo-doo,
I do do johns.

And with that, I bid you a fond adieu-doo.