Welcome back to BCB After Dark: The nightclub for night owls, early-risers new parents and Cubs fans abroad. So glad you’re here. Bring your own beverage and take a seat. Or hit the dance floor. Your call.
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. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of good things to talk about as the day goes on.
So I’m in a bad mood because Gonzaga got crushed in the National Championship Game. At least they just got beat and didn’t get robbed. They looked tired and Baylor was clearly the better team tonight. But I’ll get over it and the ‘Zags will be back in the title game soon.
Last time I asked you “How optimistic are you about the Cubs on Opening Day?” Fully 51% of you said that you were “reasonably optimistic!” Combine that with the 5% who said that they were going all the way, that’s 56% of you who are happy about the way things are going. I bet that number would rise after the Cubs have won 3 of their first 4 games. Only 12% of you voted for the two pessimistic categories.
So here’s a bit of news. Starting tomorrow, BCB After Dark is going to go three nights a week. I’m going to start publishing these pieces on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night. There is one caveat here. There is no way I can talk three nights a week about old movies. I’d run out of stuff to say by June. I’m already in danger of running out of topics by August, although I do have the opportunity to watch more old movies before then. I’m also not going to have a nightly jazz lesson, although there’s no reason I can’t find a good jazz track on YouTube and share it.
So for now, the Tuesday night After Dark will just have a jazz song and a Cubs or baseball-related poll question. But if you want to talk about movies in the comments, feel free.
Also, when Al and I first outlined what we wanted BCB After Dark to be, neither of us mentioned jazz or old movies. What we did envision was a place for people who did not have a chance to participate in the game threads or who just don’t want to shut up about the game to continue the conversation. Now that doesn’t mean that BCB After Dark has the Game Threads’ loose commenting rules—you still have to follow the normal site rules here. But if you want to talk about tonight’s game or any game from this weekend, please do.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. As always, you can just skip to the bottom if that doesn’t interest you. You’re not going to hurt my feelings.
Last time reader Coghlan’s Bluff said he was expecting a certain album to show up in a future installment of the great jazz albums, and if it’s the one that I think they were referring to, it’s coming. I’m just not ready to talk about that one, which is the first jazz CD I ever bought and is often ranked as the second-best jazz record of all time behind Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” which we already covered.
So today I’m going to look at Sonny Rollins’ breakthrough 1957 classic, Saxophone Colossus. Rollins has the distinction, at 90 years old, of being the only one of the jazz greats of the post-war era still with us. He started playing as a sax sideman right out of high school and over the next few years, he played with such greats as Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and even the Bird himself, Charlie Parker. Rollins also did time for armed robbery and spent time in a rehab facility for his heroin addiction. By 1956, he’d kicked the heroin habit and he discovered that far from helping his musicianship as he once believed, the drugs were just dragging him down.
Rollins recorded Saxophone Colossus that summer with pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Max Roach, arguably the greatest jazz drummer of all time. (I’m going to hear it from Art Blakey fans.) It’s only five tracks long and checks in at just under 40 minutes. But it shows a wide range of styles. It starts with the calypso-tinted “St. Thomas,” which has long become Rollins’ most-famous song. It ends with his own composition, “Blue 7,” which is a blues-oriented piece that gives all four members of the quartet a chance to shine. Many Rollins fans consider “Blue 7” as the best piece of music he ever recorded. In the middle. there is the traditional ballad “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” the bebop track “Strode Rode” and a sultry version of “Moritat,” which you may know as “Mack the Knife.”
I had a real difficulty deciding which Rollins track from Saxophone Colossus to feature so I suggest you just go listen to the whole album on YouTube or whatever streaming service you get your music from. You can listen to the whole album here and as I said, it’s only 40 minutes long so you should. But in the end, I decide to embed “Blue 7,” since that’s the one that highlights everything this record does,
Finally, here’s a baseball connection! Sonny Rollins’ nickname is “Newk,” because people thought he looked like Don Newcombe.
Rollins has retired from playing, but he was playing live gigs as recently as 2012 at the age of 82.
Tonight’s movie is the pre-code musical masterpiece, Gold Diggers of 1933, starring Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, and Dick Powell. Oh yeah, Guy Kibbe makes an appearance too, and if you know old movies, you know who Guy Kibbe was.
The film is based on a 1919 play called The Gold Diggers and had been made into a movie twice before. (Perhaps that’s why they called it Gold Diggers of 1933. I don’t know.) Anyway, the movie 42nd Street had been a big hit for Warner Bros. earlier in 1933 so the studio wanted more pictures like that one. They got Keeler, Powell and Rogers from 42nd Street to star again in Gold Diggers and had choreographer Busby Berkeley to do the dances again. The even brought songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin from 42nd Street back for Gold Diggers. And yes, Guy Kibbe was brought back too.
In my mind, while 42nd Street is a good movie, Gold Diggers of 1933 is the better picture. (I admit that not everyone thinks that, but not everyone disagrees with me either.) The plot brings four young actresses, Keeler, Blondell, MacMahon and Rogers together as performers in a musical. However, financial problems bring the show down and throw the girls out of work, as you can see in the clip below. Powell plays a mysterious songwriter from the other side of the alley from the girls and he has had a long-distance crush on Keeler’s character. Powell offers to pay for the musical but he won’t tell anyone how he has the money, leading them all to assume he’s a gangster of some sort.
In fact, he’s a rich millionaire’s son whose prim and proper family disapproves of the theater and show business people. The rest of the film is a farce about the three girls (Rogers’ character doesn’t actually share the apartment with the other three and isn’t in on the scheme) trying to get Keeler and Powell together over the objections of his family. And if they can snag rich husbands for themselves in the process, all the better.
The script is pretty funny and actually pretty risqué. This is a pre-code movie so they were able to get away with a lot more than they could just 18 months later. You can see the skimpy outfits the girls wear in the dance number below (with large coins over their lower area) and if you stick around to the end, you can hear MacMahon get off a pretty risqué joke, at least by 1933 standards.
The film is also perhaps the ultimate film of the Depression. The girls are out of work and they know they can’t just find another job. The specter of poverty is everywhere for these girls. The film is also pretty pro-Roosevelt and the New Deal, which is unusual for Hollywood. Most Hollywood studios were very Republican and conservative, which anyone who saw Mank would know about. But Jack Warner, at least at that time, was a Democrat. Personally, from having read about Jack Warner, I think he did it more to upset the other studio heads than from any actual political conviction. But he also thought that supporting Roosevelt would be good business. He’d later turn on FDR and the New Deal when he felt the administration wasn’t listening to his advice or giving him the respect and perks he felt he deserved. At this time, however, Warner wanted to highlight the incoming administration that was giving hope to America.
But of course, the highlight of this film are the four Busby Berkeley musical numbers. If you’re familiar with his work, Berkeley was known for the most over-the-top and elaborate musical dances you’ll ever see on the screen. The best of them is the one that closes the film, “Remember my Forgotten Man,” which is a musical gala about homeless World War I veterans and the Bonus Army. Dancing soldiers with open head wounds. Yes, it’s moving and ridiculous at the same time.
But the spirit of the film is better captured by the first musical number in the film, where Ginger Rogers sings “We’re in the Money” literally dressed in nothing but gold coins. She also sings one verse in Pig Latin, just to make it even more over-the-top.
Yes, it’s bonkers. That’s the point. There are two other over-the-top musical numbers in the picture. “Pettin’ in the Park” is a number full of double entendres and features a nine-year-old Billy Barty as a baby. The other one, “The Shadow Waltz” features a glorious dance with glow-in-the-dark neon violins. The filming of that scene was also famously interrupted by the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933, which nearly killed Busby as he knocked off his camera boom, hanging on with just one hand.
Welcome back to all the fans who just want to read about baseball, although you missed the baseball reason for Sonny Rollins’ nickname. Tonight the Cubs put on a power show in the fourth inning as Willson Contreras, Javier Baez and David Bote all hit home runs. So my question for you tonight is simple: Who will lead the Cubs in home runs at the end of the season?
Ian Happ led the team in home runs last year, but nothing that happens in 2020 counts, right? In 2019 it was Kyle Schwarber, and it seems pretty unlikely that he leads the team in home runs this year, considering he plays for the Nationals. Baez led in 2018, Rizzo in 2017 and Bryant in 2016. So who’s going to take the crown this year?
Who will lead the Cubs in home runs in 2021?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave in comments)
I’ll see you again tomorrow night for a less-wordy version of BCB After Dark.