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BCB After Dark: How long a winter?

The swinging night spot for night owls, early-risers and Cubs fans abroad asks you how long the lockout will last.

Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the dive bar for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. I’m glad you could join us on this cold night. I hope you brought a warm beverage. There are a few prime tables still left for you. We’re waiving the cover charge and the dress code for tonight. Let us take your hat and coat.

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.

Yesterday I asked you two questions about free agent left-handed pitcher Steven Matz. The first was whether or not you thought the Cubs should sign him, and 67 percent of you gave a big “Yay!’ to the idea of Matz in Cubbie blue. Only 15 percent were against the idea and the rest were in the “meh” category.

As far as whether you thought the Cubs would sign him, only 14 percent of you felt that Matz would be a Cub in 2022. That makes sense, since there are reportedly eight teams bidding on him. But it does sound like were are going to get an answer on where Matz is going to sign sometime later today.

Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip to the baseball poll question at the bottom of you’d like. You won’t hurt my feelings.

I’m running a bit behind tonight as I’m making preparations for my holiday, so I’m going to keep this brief. Here’s French pianist Jacky Terrasson (and Friends) doing a live jazz version in 2012 of the Amy Winehouse classic “Rehab.”

If you missed what I wrote about the 1944 film Laura, directed by Otto Preminger, I’d recommend you go back and read what I wrote yesterday. Today I’m going to talk about the odd story behind how it got made. Because it’s a terrific story.

Preminger was an Austrian working as a director and an actor on the Vienna stage when he met Joseph Schnenk, a top executive at the newly-merged Twentieth Century-Fox studio. Schnenk, who was born in Russia, was scouting Europe looking for talent that would allow the struggling studio to compete with the big ones. Although Preminger had only a little experience working behind or in front of a camera, his theater work impressed Schnenk and he convinced Preminger to sign with Fox and move to America.

The problem was that Schnenk wasn’t the guy who really held power at Fox. That was Darryl Zanuck, and Zanuck took a dim view of most of the talent that Schnenk was sending him from the other side of the Atlantic. These signings had to prove themselves to Zanuck before he’d give them anything worthwhile to work on.

So Preminger was given a couple of turkey scripts to turn into films and to Zanuck’s surprise, the movies did better business than anyone expected. They weren’t big hits, but they weren’t the flops that everyone expected either. So Zanuck gave him a script for Kidnapped!, based on the Robert Louis Stevenson book.

Preminger asked to make a different film. He’d never read the book and as an Austrian Jew, he felt no connection to the tale of people from the Scottish Lowlands. But a young director simply didn’t say “no” to any movie mogul of the 1930s and especially not to Darryl Zanuck. He was ordered to make the picture, and very quickly Zanuck and Preminger started arguing about what Preminger was doing with the script,

Eventually, Zanuck started yelling at Preminger over something he cut from the script, and rather than meekly take the abuse like most young directors, Preminger started screaming back at Zanuck. He also, probably correctly, pointed out that the scene that Zanuck wanted in the film was never in the script in the first place. Zanuck was outraged, both at being yelled at and corrected. So he fired Preminger on the spot and told him he’d never work for 20th Century-Fox again, or anywhere else in Hollywood for that matter. Preminger was told to apologize to Zanuck and then he could go finish the film, but Preminger refused. Instead, he went to New York and returned to directing on the stage.

Then World War II happened. Every prominent movie mogul, eager to prove their American bonafides, rushed to enlist. (The loyalty and moral character of most Hollywood executives had been repeatedly questioned throughout the twenties and thirties, as most of them were either immigrants or the sons of immigrants and most of them were Jewish.) But by “enlisting,” what these executives meant was using their influence to get commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel or something similar and put in charge of some meaningless unit stateside making training films or things like that.

So while Zanuck was “off to war,” his temporary replacement wanted to make a film out of one of the plays that Preminger was acting in and directing. While he initially refused to let Preminger be anything more than an actor in the film, an inability to find anyone else willing to do it allowed Preminger to be back at Fox as a director.

The newspapers eventually got wind of these cushy military sinecures that the millionaire movie moguls were getting, and Zanuck resigned his commission and returned to Fox before a Congressional investigation started. He was angry Preminger was back at Fox, but Zanuck couldn’t deny that he was making money for the studio

Zanuck told Preminger that they were having trouble making a film of the novel Laura, whose rights Fox had purchased. He said he could produce the film, but under no circumstances would Preminger be allowed to direct it.

Zanuck and Preminger immediately started fighting again, but this time Preminger picked his battles. Preminger wanted the relatively-unknown Dana Andrews as police detective Mark McPherson, so he agreed to cast the big-name Gene Tierney in the role of Laura Holt, whom Preminger didn’t find that interesting anyway.

But the big fight was over who would play Waldo Lydecker. Zanuck wanted Laird Cregar, a noted “heavy” at the time. Preminger felt that audiences would immediately figure Cregar as a villain and he wanted someone whom audiences wouldn’t immediately suspect. His choice was Broadway actor Clifton Webb.

Webb had been under contract at M-G-M a few years earlier, but he’d never appeared in a film. Zanuck asked one of his assistants about Webb and he reported that Webb “doesn’t walk, he flies,” which was almost certainly an allusion to Webb’s sexuality. Preminger insisted, so Zanuck asked for Webb’s screen test at M-G-M. As it turned out, M-G-M never even bothered to give Webb a screen test. So Zanuck told Preminger to give Webb a screen test and he’d think about it.

Webb refused to do a screen test. He said if Zanuck wanted to know if he could act, he was welcome to come to New York and watch him perform in Blithe Spirit. Zanuck wasn’t going to do that, so Preminger paid for a film crew to go out and film a scene of Webb on stage.

Preminger took the filmed scene back to Zanuck, who watched it and told Preminger “You’re a son of a bitch. But you’re right. He’s very good.” Webb got the part.

Preminger hired Rouben Mamoulin to direct the film, but after Zanuck got a look at the early rushes, he declared the early returns terrible. Preminger asked if he wanted him to fire Mamoulin and Zanuck told him yes. That’s how Preminger got to direct Laura.

Even then, Zanuck couldn’t keep his fingers out of Laura. He hated the ending of the film and ordered a new, happier ending to the picture. Preminger, against his instincts but to keep himself from getting fired again, agreed to shoot the new ending. But then Zanuck showed an early copy to his friend and columnist Walter Winchell and Winchell’s wife. Winchell told Zanuck “You’ve got a winner here, Darryl. Except for the ending. I didn’t get it.” Zanuck let Preminger put his original ending back in the film.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.

Today we just have one simple question: How long is the work stoppage going to be? We don’t know that the owners are going to lock the players out on December 2, but pretty much everyone thinks that it is going to happen.

Now an off-season lockout is certainly preferable for fans than one during the season. After all, no games are being lost. The owners aren’t losing any gates and the players don’t even get paid in the off-season anyway. It means there will be no trades or free agent signings while there is a lockout, but that’s a lot better than losing games.

But the problem is how long will the lockout continue? If neither side is losing money during the lockout, they don’t have a lot of incentive to end it. (The MLBPA will have to pick up the health insurance costs for the players, but they’ve planned for that.) And if no one ends it, then it could last into Spring Training or beyond.

So give me your prediction: How long will this lockout last?


When will the lockout end?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    There won’t be a lockout.
    (4 votes)
  • 14%
    Before Spring Training is scheduled to start
    (13 votes)
  • 16%
    Before any Spring Training games are cancelled
    (14 votes)
  • 34%
    Sometime before Opening Day.
    (30 votes)
  • 29%
    It’s going to last into the start of the regular season
    (26 votes)
87 votes total Vote Now

Thank you again for stopping by. We’ll bring you your hat and coat. Be sure to tip your waitstaff. We hope to see you again tomorrow with a short edition of BCB After Dark. Have a happy Thanksgiving.