Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the swinging-est spot for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re so glad you’ve joined us on an off-day as the Cubs get ready for their first road trip of the season. Let’s send the team off with a swingin’ party. We can check your hat and coat for you. There are still a few good tables near the stage. Bring your own beverage. Tipping the band is encouraged. We even take requests.
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 who the Cubs MVP would be for 2022 and in a landslide, 48 percent of you voted for Seiya Suzuki. Certainly Suzuki did very little over the course of the weekend to dissuade anyone who has that impression. In second place was Frank Schwindel with 19 percent and Marcus Stroman came in third with ten percent of the votes.
Here’s the place where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the end if you want. You won’t hurt my feelings.
They tell me April is Jazz Appreciation Month. I don’t know who decides these things (quick Google check—apparently the Smithsonian) but around here, every month is Jazz Appreciation Month.
When I started this feature last year, I spotlighted a lot of Miles Davis music. There were two reasons for that. One, of course, is that Miles Davis was very, very good and most of his music fits in with the whole “late night” theme that I’m going for. They didn’t call Miles “The Prince of Darkness” for nothing.
The other reason was that I was just very familiar with a lot of Miles’ work. I’ve never pretended to be any sort of jazz expert, just a fan. Over the past year I’ve tried to educate myself a little more so that I could write about the music here without embarrassing myself. I’ve been able to feature a lot more diverse works of jazz because of that. That’s the really cool thing about jazz music: there’s always more to discover.
This is just a long way of saying I think it’s been long enough that I can play some Miles tracks for you again. Tonight I have the complete recording of Miles Davis’ 1969 classic, In a Silent Way.
This is the “Miles goes electric” album. Bitches Brew gets all the attention, but In a Silent Way is considered by many jazz scholars as the first real jazz fusion album. But unlike the bombastic and heavily rock-influenced Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way is more mellow and contemplative. The guitar and piano are electric, but the mood is much more jazz.
Similar to how folk purists revolted when Bob Dylan “went electric,” many, but not all, jazz aficionados rejected In a Silent Way when it came out. But today it’s pretty universally considered a classic. Many prefer it to Bitches Brew.
With Davis on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on sax, John McLaughlin on guitar, Dave Holland on bass, Tony Williams on drums and Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Joe Zawinul on electric piano, here’s In a Silent Way,
I said a few weeks ago that I should take a shot at writing about a bad film, but the problem with that is that I have to watch a bad movie. But this week was pretty hectic and The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) was pretty short and I was curious about it, so I thought I’d give it a shot. But some family events (as well as having to write another 10,000 words on the Cubs minor league system over the past few days) meant that I couldn’t finish what I wanted to say about it. So I’m going to do what I did last week and just start the discussion tonight and finish it on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.
The Horn Blows at Midnight is mostly famous for the way its star Jack Benny made fun of it for decades. Benny was the biggest radio star on the planet from the late-thirties to the mid-fifties and as such, Hollywood came calling to get him to appear in films. He made a series of pleasant but forgettable comedies in the late-thirties, but when the forties rolled around, he made two films, Charley’s Aunt and To Be or Not to Be, that were big hits and are considered all-time classics even today. (I wrote about To Be or Not to Be last September. It’s great.) But like Eddie Murphy coming off Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop in the eighties, The Horn Blows at Midnight turned out to be Benny’s version of The Golden Child.
But unlike Murphy, Benny used The Horn Blows at Midnight as an excuse to quit making movies altogether and concentrate on his radio (and later television) career. While he did make a few gimmicky cameo appearances in films after The Horn Blows at Midnight, Benny never agreed to star in another film until The Sunshine Boys in the 1970s, and even then he had to back out when the cancer that would kill him took a turn for the worse. (Benny talked his good friend George Burns out of retirement to replace him. Burns would win an Oscar for The Sunshine Boys, which launched his entire second career.)
But for Benny, The Horn Blows at Midnight became a punchline. Benny’s entire radio/TV persona was that of a vainglorious celebrity who was constantly having his ego punctured by those around him. And as such, there was no better put-down for Benny than bringing up this flop. I don’t have any transcripts from Benny’s radio show available to check, but a typical joke would go something like Benny saying “How could that waiter treat me with such disrespect?” Then Mary Livingstone would riposte with something like “Maybe he paid to see The Horn Blows at Midnight?”
The joke Benny told at the film’s expense that is recounted in its Wikipedia entry is that Benny was driving onto the lot of 20th Century-Fox and he asks the parking lot attendant (played by Mel Blanc, who had been a cast member of Benny’s radio show for years) if he saw The Horn Blows at Midnight. Blanc replies “Seen it? I directed it!” (The actual director was Raoul Walsh.)
If you go around the internet, you’ll see a lot of people writing essays defending The Horn Blows at Midnight. They claim that it is actually a pretty good film and its bad reputation is the result of both the poor timing of its original release (just a week after the death of President Roosevelt) and Benny mining it for laughs for decades afterwards.
Don’t you believe those people. The Horn Blows at Midnight blows. It’s a bad film. Sure, there are worse films out there and it did get a chuckle out of me a few times, but overall it’s a leaden and poorly-conceived comedy that just showed the limitations of Benny as an actor. Its primary virtue is that it’s only 78 minutes long, so at least you’re not made to suffer for long. Maybe it isn’t quite as bad as the reputation it got from Benny mocking it for almost 30 years, but it’s not good. And I’ll try to explain why on Wednesday night/Thursday morning’s edition.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
The Cubs just finished their first series of the season and they took two out of three from the Brewers. The series was at home, but the Brewers are the overwhelming favorites to repeat as National League Central champions and they faced Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta, who make up one of the best collection of three starters on any one team in the league.
The Cubs really could have even won all three of those games. Even in Sunday’s loss, there was a lot to get excited about, such as a strong pitching effort from Marcus Stroman and a home run by Seiya Suzuki.
The other thing that was promising is that the Cubs got good starts from Kyle Hendricks, Justin Steele and Stroman. Starting pitching for the Cubs was a huge problem in 2021, but after one series, it doesn’t look so bad this year.
So tonight’s question is “Are you more optimistic about the Cubs after one series?” On the one hand, you can say that the Cubs looked every bit as good or better than the Brewers over the weekend. On the other hand, you can easily argue that one series proves nothing.
So what is it? Are you more optimistic about the Cubs now than you were at this time last week?
Are you more optimistic about the 2022 Cubs after taking 2 of 3 from Milwaukee in the first series?
This poll is closed
Yes. The team looked a lot better than I thought they would.
No. One series doesn’t prove anything.
Thank you again so much for stopping by. We’ll get your hat and coat for you. We can even call for a ride for you if you need it. Don’t forget to tip the waitstaff. I hope you stop by again tomorrow night after another Cubs victory and join us for more BCB After Dark.