Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the coolest spot for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. I’m glad you could join us again this week. Please let us take your hat and coat. We’ve saved you a great table near the front, but not too close. Please bring your own beverage. Shirt and shoes required, unless you’re at home. Then we don’t care what you’re wearing as long as your camera is off.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
Last week, I asked you how high a contract would the Cubs sign a free agent for this winter. The number one response was between $60 and $90 million, which was the choice of 35 percent of you. That is right in line with the contract that the Tigers just gave out to Eduardo Rodriguez, who got $77 million over five years. In second place with 28 percent of the vote was a contract of over $90 million, which would probably cover anyone from Kevin Gausman to Carlos Correa. In third place was the $30 to $60 million choice, which 25 percent of you chose.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. Feel free to skip to the baseball question at the end if you wish. You won’t hurt my feelings.
It’s getting to be that time of year when holiday music is everywhere, and the world of jazz is not immune to it. I’ll try not to post too many Christmas jazz tunes in here over the next month, but I feel that I have to post some because many of them are so good. So try not to be a grinch.
Besides, is “My Favorite Things” really a Christmas song? I guess it is now because it’s sort of been adopted as one, but there’s nothing inherently Christmas-y about it. It’s from The Sound of Music.
It also became a John Coltrane favorite and a jazz standard because of Coltrane’s version. I’m a little tired of hearing the iconic studio version that was the title track to Coltrane’s 1961 album My Favorite Things, as good as it is, so here’s Coltrane playing it live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1963.
So with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on double bass and Roy Haynes on drums, here’s a live version of Coltrane on soprano saxophone playing “My Favorite Things.”
I wish I had better news for you in the old movie front, but the only film I was able to watch over the past week was 1938’s Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, directed by Ernst Lubitsch. I mentioned in my essay on Ninotchka last time that I was going through the Lubitsch films that were getting rotated off the Criterion Channel at the end of the month, so this was the next one in the list. Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife was the film that Lubitsch made right before Ninotchka and like Ninotchka, it also had the talented writing team of Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. But whereas Ninotchka manages to be a very good film despite a lack of chemistry between its stars Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas, Bluebird’s Eighth Wife suffers a lot more from a completely miscast Gary Cooper, as well as some inferior source material. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not really a good one either. I’d mostly recommend it for fans of Lubitsch and Cooper’s co-star Claudette Colbert.
Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife is a remake of an earlier silent picture starring Gloria Swanson, which in turn was based on a French play by Alfred Savoir, first performed in 1921. The basic plot is that a rich American millionaire businessman, Michael Brandon (Cooper), falls for Nicole de Loiselle (Colbert), the daughter of an impoverished minor French nobleman. There’s a terrific meet-cute at the beginning of the film where Michael tries to buy a pair of pajama tops at a department store. The store, understandably, won’t sell him just the tops without the bottoms and Michael refuses to pay full price for just the tops. That’s when Nicole steps in and says that she’ll buy the bottoms and the two of them work out a deal for the full pajama set. It’s a clever scene and easily the best one in the film.
Nicole’s father, the Marquis de Loiselle (Edward Everett Horton—better known today as the narrator of the “Fractured Fairy Tales” on the Bullwinkle cartoons) is trying to make a business deal with Michael before the hotel he’s staying at kicks him out for not paying the bill. Eventually, Michael discovers that Nicole is the Marquis’ daughter, so he agrees to purchase a bathtub supposedly owned by Louis XIV as a way to try to win the affections of Nicole.
I could give you a spoiler warning here, but why bother? Michael proposes marriage to Nicole right away, because he’s the type of man who when he decides he wants something, he doesn’t see the need to wait. Nicole refuses at first, but through dogged determination, Michael gets Nicole to relent and agree to marry him.
But while they are having their wedding photos taken, Nicole discovers that Michael has been divorced. That doesn’t seem like a big deal to her, but she does want to know the circumstances of the divorce. Michael, while explaining this, reveals that not only has he been married before, he’s been married seven times before. (“You’ve been divorced seven times?” shrieks Nicole. “No, only six. One died,” Michael responds matter-of-factly.)
Nicole is not eager to be wife number eight, but Michael explains in the business-like way that he explains everything—that he loved the women and as a good moral man, he wouldn’t take advantage of them without marrying them. But then he fell out of love with them but he made sure they were all well-taken care of with a $50,000 a year alimony. It was a decision that left the both of them better off, according Michael.
Nicole calls the marriage off, feeling that love is just a business arrangement for Michael. Eventually, Nicole agrees to marry him as long as Michael agrees to an alimony payment of $100,000 a year.
Once married, Nicole starts behaving abominably to Michael, trying to get him to divorce him so she could start collecting that $100 grand in alimony. There’s some Taming of the Shrew stuff that goes on and a subplot where Nicole is pretending to have an affair (no one can actually have an affair—the Hays Code and all that) with a boxer who ends up punching out Nicole’s friend Albert De Regnier (A young David Niven!) in a case of mistaken identity.
This all goes on quite a bit longer than it needs to. Eventually, Michael grants Nicole the divorce and she gets the $100,000 a year in alimony. Michael also has a nervous breakdown and gets put into a sanitarium. She’s driven him mad. Nicole frantically tries to get in see him, but she can’t. Nicole finally gets in to see Michael (in the straightjacket, no less) and she tells him that she loves him and that she’s always loved him, but that she had to break Michael of his marrying habit and now that she’s on an equal financial footing with Michael (thanks to the alimony), she can marry him knowing that it’s for love.
End spoilers, if anyone cared.
Honestly, the plot of Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife is pretty strained. Colbert is well-cast as a woman who is clearly outsmarting her know-it-all husband. She was the Meg Ryan of her day. But Gary Cooper is all wrong as Michael. Cooper is known for his strong, silent and expressionless performances, which is probably why they cast him as this no-nonsense businessman for whom love is just a financial transaction. (On top of him being a top box-office draw in 1938, of course.) But a romantic comedy needs more than that and you really need to root for the two of them to get together in the end, and there is nothing in Cooper’s Michael that makes you want to root for him, except for the fact that you start to feel sorry for him after Colbert’s Nicole emotionally tortures him throughout their marriage. Then, of course, you don’t feel like rooting for Nicole either.
The movie isn’t a complete dud. The Wilder and Brackett script has the usual witticisms of their work. There are a few scenes, like the meet-cute, that really work. David Niven does well in his supporting role. Colbert is a rom-com veteran who knows how to play sassy, smart and cute as a button. But Gary Cooper was completely wrong for a romantic comedy of this type and the entire middle of the film is so mean-spirited that it’s hard to care about anyone in the end.
Here’s the trailer for the film in case anyone is still interested.
I’ll try to watch a better film for next week.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and the movies.
Tonight I’m going to ask you about free agent shortstop Corey Seager, whom at least one major on-line outlet is predicting will sign with the Cubs in the end.
These predictions are made to have something to talk about in the dead of winter and they are more often wrong than they are correct. But Seager signing with the Cubs does make a certain amount of sense from the Cubs point of view. He’s a left-handed bat that they’ve been looking for and he’s been one of the best hitters in baseball the past two seasons, at least when he’s been healthy. He won’t turn 28 until after Opening Day next year (assuming Opening Day is on time, of course) and he plays a position the Cubs have a need at. While he’s not a Gold Glove defender, he’s average defensively at shortstop and you’ll take average when it’s combined with a plus-plus bat like Seager has. But also, Seager could easily slide over to third base in a few years when and if one of the many quality minor league shortstops (Reginald Preciado, Cristian Hernandez, Kevin Made, Ed Howard) are ready at the major league level.
Of course, for all the reasons that Seager makes sense for the Cubs are all reasons he makes sense for a lot of other teams as well. This article from Mark Feinsand from last week looks at the market for Corey Seager and names the six teams that are the most-likely to sign Seager. The good news is, the Cubs are on the list. The bad news is some of the other five teams might make more sense for Seager than the Cubs do in their current situation.
The teams that Feinsand mentions are the Dodgers, Yankees, Rangers, Cubs, Tigers and Phillies. You can read that article and weigh the relative merits of those six teams, or you can go off the board and pick your own choice.
But tonight’s poll question is simple: Which MLB team will Corey Seager play for next year?
Who will Corey Seager play for in 2022?
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Yankees
Some other team (leave in comments)
Thank you so much again for stopping by. We’ll have someone bring your car around. Your hat and coat will be waiting for you at the door. Please tip the staff generously and come back again tomorrow night for another edition of BCB After DarkI.