Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the mobile hotspot for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. So glad you can make it. Bring your own beverage. We’ll waive the cover charge just for you.
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 in to the afternoon.
We’re all in a cranky mood at the moment as the Cubbies are all making us blue. So feel free to talk about tonight’s game or the current state of the team if you’d like, but be sure to keep it within the rules of the site. Or if you want to change the subject and talk about jazz or movies or anything else, please do.
Last time I asked you if you were planning on attending a game in person this season and 29% of you said that you either already had or would sometime later this year. But 60% of you said that you wouldn’t, although a little over half of that total is from people who said “I don’t normally go to games in person.” So it’s about third of you saying that you’re going to go, another third saying that you don’t feel ready to return to the stadium yet and the rest saying either that you don’t normally go to games or that you’re taking a “wait and see” attitude.
Tonight I’m going to finish my thoughts on the 1952 classic western High Noon. I promise that I’ll move on to a different picture on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.
I did watch Godzilla vs. Kong over the weekend, just so you don’t all think I only watch arty films from three-quarters of a century ago. The movie was fine if what you’re looking for big monsters to knock the crap out of each other. (And I’m not sure why you would not be looking for that.) But if I’m Godzilla, I’m on the phone screaming at my agent tomorrow. Check that, I’m on the phone firing my agent tomorrow. Although Godzilla gets top billing in the title, this is Kong’s film. All the plot and character development are about the big ape and the King of the Monsters just serves as an obstacle to Kong’s quest. If I’m Godzilla, I’m yelling at the director that they could gotten some third-rate kaiju like Anguirus to handle this stinkin’ story. Don’t hire the best unless you are going to use the best.
Godzilla’s been working in the industry for almost 70 years and he still hasn’t gotten an Oscar nomination. If he’s not getting some parts with more meat to attract the attention of the Academy, I’m worried Godzilla will start doing Shakespeare in the Park. Or worse, some small indy film with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Hope Davis as lost souls sharing an apartment in Manhattan. And no one wants to see that.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. (I guess I already started on the movies.) As always, you can just skip to the bottom if that doesn’t interest you. You’re not going to hurt my feelings.
I was driving to an appointment on Friday, listening to the Real Jazz channel on Sirius XM when this piece of music came on. Is it the greatest piece of jazz that I’ve ever heard? No. It certainly is not. Is it possibly the most appropriate piece of jazz music that I could possibly put in this spot? Yes. Yes it is. So I knew I had to include it here at the first possible opportunity.
With that introduction, I present to you Joey DeFrancesco doing a jazz version of “Take Me Out To the Ballgame.”
Last time I introduced High Noon with the sad backstory behind the film and its role in the story of the Hollywood blacklist. I said I’d talk about the film itself today. I certainly don’t get all my thoughts on High Noon out today, but I hope I got the important ones out.
Here’s the opening of the film with the three outlaws reuniting to await the return of their leader, Frank Miller, from the penitentiary. (And yes, that is Lee Van Cleef as one of the outlaws, if you’re a fan of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.) The title song, written by Dimitri Tiomkin with lyrics by Ned Washington, is sung by film and country music star Tex Ritter. This song is all over this film. Beyond the opening credits, the song pops up at critical moments in the plot, either with Ritter singing softly or just an instrumental.
I first watched High Noon probably 25 years or so ago because I’d read it was a great movie. I watched it and I can’t remember my reaction other than “It was good.” I certainly wasn’t into westerns back then and while I could always appreciate a quality film, I don’t think I spent more than twenty minutes thinking about it before I watched it again last week. Paying close attention to it, I became aware of some flaws but also about the strengths that made it a classic.
First, Director Fred Zinnemann kept this film tight. Turning a lack of budget into a virtue, he kept the film moving. High Noon takes place over 85 minutes on a Sunday morning and the film itself is 85 minutes long. One trick that Zinnemann uses to up the tension is constant shots of clocks. I counted 16 shots of a clock in the 85 minutes of the film and I may have missed a couple. Marshal Will Kane knows that the outlaw Frank Miller is on the noon train at 10:40. At first, we get a shot of a clock every ten minutes or so. But as the film gets closer to noon, the shots of clocks become more frequent. The clocks in the second half of the film have swinging pendulums that time off each second as noon grows near. Last time I mentioned the sense of claustrophobia that comes from all the interior shots, which is very, very unusual for a western and was necessitated by the low budget of the film. The clocks act like a ticking bomb that Kane can’t defuse.
Zinnemann would go on to win Best Director Academy Awards for From Here To Eternity and A Man for All Seasons.
One of High Noon’s biggest strengths is the way it takes on the myth of American masculinity. America has always celebrated a kind of “rugged individual” that says little, does much and lives by a simple code of right and wrong. American culture has glorified this “cowboy” persona from long before there even were cowboys. It’s Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln. It’s in the basic DNA of every western from The Virginian in 1902 to today.
(Note: Some light spoilers for a 69-year-old movie to follow.)
In Gary Cooper’s Marshal Kane, High Noon gives us that hero we come to expect. Cooper had made his entire career playing those kinds of character, both in westerns and other pictures. But his American heroism is portrayed not as typical of the American man, but rather as an aberration in contrast to his fellow townsfolk. His deputy (played by a young Lloyd Bridges) is a self-centered, entitled punk. A boy, not a man, as Helen Ramirez (Katy Jurado) calls him. The mayor (Thomas Mitchell), whom Kane considers a good friend, is more worried about the town’s reputation than dealing with outlaws or protecting Kane’s life. Another friend of Kane’s (Harry Morgan—Col. Potter from M*A*S*H!) Is such a coward that he orders his wife to lie and say he’s not home when Kane arrives to ask for help. When the noon bell strikes, Kane goes off to face his fate alone, but not without having a quick cry after finishing his last will and testament. Cooper’s acting style sometimes seems wooden compared to modern style, but he knew how to show a lot with a little. He manages to show emotion at a time when real men weren’t supposed to.
In contrast, the women of the town are the ones that show some real heroism. Kane’s young bride Amy, played by a then-unknown Grace Kelly, is a Quaker and a pacifist that wants her new husband to just leave with her. She doesn’t come at this out of cowardice, but out of a sincere belief that violence solves nothing. But in the end, Amy puts her principles aside and is the only person in town willing to fight alongside her husband. It’s Amy’s intervention that wins the day.
The other primary woman in the plot is Helen Ramirez, who is perhaps the one character who sees the nuance in the entire situation. Ramirez is the saloon owner who has had a past relationship with both Miller and Kane as well as a current relationship with the deputy, which she breaks off with her “you’re a boy and Kane is a man” speech. When she discovers Miller is coming back, she knows that Miller will kill her after killing Kane and she decides to sell the saloon and get on the noon train leaving town. Ramirez has very little respect for the townsfolk and she knows that Kane will face Miller’s gang all alone. Her leaving is not so much out of cowardice as much as it is that it’s not her fight and that if Kane dies, there’s no one left in the town worth staying for. Plus, she’s not an idiot and doesn’t want to die for these people.
Amy is convinced that her new husband won’t leave town out of his affection for Helen Ramirez. Ramirez puts her in her place quite quickly, saying that if she thinks that, she doesn’t know her husband very well. She tells Amy that if Kane were (still) her man, she’d stay and fight by his side. But he’s not, so Ramirez is getting out of town while she still can. She clearly thinks Amy is just a little girl, but unlike the deputy whom she dressed down, Helen seems to see some hope in Amy. She offers to let her stay with her while they wait for the train and the two of them ride to the station together. But Amy only wins Helen’s respect when she gets off the train and runs to her man’s side during the biggest crisis of his life.
While the men of the town run for cover in High Noon, it is only the women that can see the situation clearly.
High Noon packs a lot into a very short film. I could go on about a lot more, but it’s probably best to wrap it up here. Twenty-five years later, I can say that I have a much greater respect for the film than I did when I first saw it.
Welcome back to everyone who skipped over the discussion of jazz and film. Tonight’s baseball question concerns the extra-inning rule that has been in place over the past two seasons and in the minor leagues even longer. I made my opinion of this rule clear three years ago, but since then it’s been adopted by the major leagues. Whenever the subject gets brought up on a telecast, the broadcasters usually say they like the rule. A lot of writers say that players speak of the benefits of the rule. I don’t agree with them, but maybe you do.
So what is your opinion of the extra-inning rule where a runner starts the inning on second base?
The runner-starts-on-second-in-extras rule?
This poll is closed
I’ll be back Tuesday night/Wednesday morning with a shorter version of BCB After Dark. No movie discussion tomorrow unless Godzilla’s agent gets back to me. But we will talk Cubs, music or whatever else you want to discuss.