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BCB After Dark: Come to Chicago, Dansby Swanson

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks you if you think the Cubs will sign Dansby Swanson.

Larry Robinson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the boppin’ bistro for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’ve made it to the end of another week here and we’re so glad you stopped by. It’s cold outside but the music in here should warm you up. Let us check your coat for you. There are still a few tables left near the front. Let us know if we can do anything for you. Bring your own beverage—hot or cold.

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 who you thought would be the Cubs’ best (or “ace”) starting pitcher next season. The vote was extremely close between Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman, but in the end Justin Steele edged out Marcus Stroman by a margin of 36 percent to 35 percent. Jameson Taillon was in third place with 11 percent.

Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Today’s Christmas jazz ties in with tonight’s noir matchup. It’s a live performance of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by the Modern Jazz Quartet in 1957. I picked it for tonight because the MJQ did the soundtrack for Odds Against Tomorrow, which is one of tonight’s noir classics. As always (or at least from 1955 to 1974 and again from 1981 to 1993), the MJQ is John Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibraphone, Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums.

And because you’ve all been good little boys and girls, I’ll add in a special treat. Here’s the entire soundtrack recording of Odds Against Tomorrow.

Wow, the vote between Gilda and The Killers in the BCB Winter Noir Classic was close. It came down to one vote and Gilda is the film that is going to advance. I didn’t vote, as usual, but I would have had to if the vote was actually tied. If I had, I probably would have voted for Gilda because Rita Hayworth sings two great songs and one of them is “Put the Blame on Mame.” Or maybe I should have said that Rita Hayworth mouthed to the words to Anita Ellis singing two great songs. But Heyward does dance to them while she sings. I suppose Ava Gardner could have had a professional singer dub a song for her, but they didn’t bother in The Killers.

One thing I love about film noir is that they often feel a need to stop into a nightclub and listen to a song or two. And that’s relevant to tonight’s BCB Winter Noir Classic because it features two films that have nightclub scenes in it: 1957’s Sweet Smell of Success, directed by Alexander Mackendrick, and 1959’s Odds Against Tomorrow, directed by Robert Wise.

Sweet Smell of Success: Starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and Martin Milner. Lancaster is J.J. Hunsecker, a manipulative and despicable gossip columnist, loosely based on Walter Winchell, with an unnatural interest in the personal life of his younger sister (Harrison). Curtis plays, Sidney Falco, an equally slimy character. Falco is a struggling publicist who is willing to do pretty much anything to climb the Broadway social ladder and breathe in the “sweet smell of success.” Hunsecker will help Falco, but only if he breaks up the relationship between his sister and a struggling jazz musician (Milner). The screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman crackles as few other films do.

The film was a bit of a flop at the time, perhaps because two well-loved actors, Lancaster and Curtis, were playing absolute slimeballs. But it’s considered a classic today for that very reason. And other reasons, of course.

Also featured in Sweet Smell of Success is some great jazz by the Chico Hamilton Quintet, although the soundtrack they recorded for the entire film got replaced by an orchestral one by Elmer Bernstein. (Which isn’t bad, by the way.)

Here’s the trailer for Sweet Smell of Success.

Odds Against Tomorrow: Starring Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters and Ed Begley. Odds Against Tomorrow is a heist film with a rather unsubtle message about racism, although I guess “unsubtle” might have been called for in 1959. Begley plays a corrupt ex-cop who brings in Belafonte and Ryan in to his scheme to rob a bank in rural New York. But the racism of Ryan’s character gets in the way of teamwork necessary to pull off the job.

The “heist” part of the film is fine on its own, but the skill with which the script (by blacklisted writer Abraham Polonsky) is carried out is immense. Wise, one of the top directors of the era, is at the top of his game here despite a limited budget. Also, what a cast! Not only the four listed above, but Gloria Grahame has a small but important role as well. And then there’s the soundtrack by the Modern Jazz Quartet which includes “Skating in Central Park,” which would be a major part of the MJQ’s repertoire for the rest of their career. Also, Belafonte sings! (No need to dub him!)

Here’s the trailer for Odds Against Tomorrow.


Sweet Smell of Success or Odds Against Tomorrow?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Sweet Smell of Success
    (31 votes)
  • 51%
    Odds Against Tomorrow
    (33 votes)
64 votes total Vote Now

Next up in the BCB Winter Noir Classic will be The Big Heat (1953), directed by Fritz Lang and starring Glenn Ford, Jocelyn Brando, Gloria Grahame and a pot of scalding hot coffee. That film will take on The Set-Up (1949), also directed by Robert Wise and starring Robert Ryan and Audrey Totter. Ryan is a pug boxer who is being set up by mobsters to take a dive. Totter plays the woman who loves him and can’t bear to watch him possibly get killed in the ring. So tune in next week for that.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the movies and music.

Everyone agreed at the start of the winter that the Cubs needed to land an impact position player, preferably a shortstop, by the time Spring Training rolled around. Now there’s only one big free agent position player left, Dansby Swanson.

We can argue about how “impact” Swanson is, although I doubt anyone will change anyone else’s mind. Those who don’t like him (and we should say no one thinks he’s a bad player, just not an impact player) point out his just OK on-base skills, his strikeouts and his power, which is good but not great. Those who love him (and I count myself in that group) point out things that are less easy to evaluate, such as his elite defense and strong baserunning. Also his “very good for a shortstop” power. There are also those “intangibles” in that he’s considered a strong clubhouse presence and he’s been on winning teams almost everywhere he’s gone.

Al reposted his article in favor of Swanson earlier today, so there’s no point in going over it again. But tonight I’m just going to ask a simple yes or no question: Will the Cubs sign Dansby Swanson?

In their favor, there is the feeling that the Cubs need to sign someone to get the fans excited and to sell tickets and ad revenue. Maybe you don’t think Swanson is that guy, but he’s certainly the best player still available in that category. The Cubs are well under the luxury tax threshold and the team says it has money to spend. On top of that, Swanson got married over the weekend and his bride, Mallory Pugh, plays for the Chicago Red Stars. Pugh is a big enough star that she could probably force a move to a different NWSL team, but there aren’t a lot of them. The only team that is rumored to be interested in Swanson that does have a local NWSL team is the Dodgers, and they’ve not been listed as a top candidate so far. (Seattle, San Diego, Houston, Kansas City, DC and New York are the other MLB cities with NWSL teams.) So if Dansby and Mallory want to start a life together in the same city, Chicago is probably the place to do it in.

On the downside, there are still probably four or five teams left in the Swanson sweepstakes and this current front office doesn’t seem to want to overpay in terms of salary and years, despite that being what is necessary to sign a free agent this winter. The Twins just lost Carlos Correa, so they could spend the money they had saved up to keep him on Swanson. Also, the Braves would still like to bring Swanson back. He’s a Georgia native and the Braves are the only major league team he’s ever known. The closest NWSL team to Atlanta is in the Raleigh-Durham area, however, if that’s actually a consideration.

If it means anything, Jesse Rogers went on ESPN 1000 today and said there’s probably a “little better” than a 50% chance the Cubs sign Swanson. He also said that if Swanson had to pick today, he’d probably pick the Cubs. But Swanson is also on his honeymoon and he doesn’t have to pick today.

So will the Cubs sign Dansby Swanson?


Will Dansby Swanson be a Cub next year?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    (183 votes)
  • 56%
    (233 votes)
416 votes total Vote Now

Hopefully we’ll know who’s right by the time we meet again Monday night/Tuesday morning.

We’re so glad you stopped by this evening. I hope we made your night a little more pleasant. Please help yourself to a complimentary mint. Stay warm out there. Get home safely. Please tip the hardworking waitstaff. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.