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BCB After Dark: Perfection lost

The cool spot for night owls, early-risers and Cubs fans abroad asks if Clayton Kershaw should have been allowed to finish a perfect game.

Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: your baseball, music and movies club for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s our final night of the week and we’re so glad you could stop by. Please grab a table. There’s no cover charge tonight and no dress code. The show will start any time now.

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.

The Cubs lost to the Pirates earlier today. That stinks.

Last time I asked you how many home runs you thought Seiya Suzuki would hit this year. With 65 percent of the vote, you said “25 to 34,” which is perfectly reasonable and indicates to me that I probably should have broken that category in two. In second place were the optimists, a 19 percent said “35 to 44.” The pessimists were in third place with “18 to 24.” I want to give a special shout out to that four percent of you who said “More than 45.” I think you’re wrong, but I do like the way you think!

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.

Our regularly scheduled performer cancelled on us at the last minute, but we are so lucky to have the legendary tenor saxophonist Ben Webster step in for us at the last minute. Here’s Webster on the BBC in 1965, along with another saxophonist, Ronnie Scott, who was both a jazz club owner in London and also one of the best British jazz performers of the era.

Here’s the two of them with the jazz standard “A Night in Tunisia.”

Also, I didn’t have a video cancel on me. I just said that as part of the bit.

On Monday night/Tuesday morning, I promised to say a few words about why the 1945 comedy The Horn Blows at Midnight blows. I’ve been so busy this week with the start of the minor league season so I’m not really able to really give it the raking over the coals like I want to. But I’ll try to get in a few licks.

The concept of The Horn Blows at Midnight isn’t a terrible one. Heaven has decided that the Earth has become too wicked and too troublesome to deal with anymore, so they’ve decided to bring on Armageddon. The angel in charge of the Planetary Management (legendary comic character actor Guy Kibbe) gives the kind-hearted Athanael (Jack Benny) the job of blowing the doomsday trumped on Earth at the recommendation of his assistant, Elizabeth (Alexis Smith). Elizabeth has a bit of a crush on the kind Athanael and would like to see him get a promotion from third trumpet in the Heavenly Orchestra.

Except that not what is actually happening. In reality, it’s just all a dream that Athanael is having as he falls asleep playing third trumpet for a radio commercial. That’s not a spoiler. That’s how the film begins. So I guess they deserve some credit for not trying to trick us and then saying “It was all a dream,” but that also means that they don’t actually have to write an end to the film. Which is good, because there isn’t one. Anthanael just wakes up at the end of the radio show.

A lot of people have blamed the flop of The Horn Blows at Midnight on its timing. It came out ten days after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt in April of 1945 and people weren’t in the mood for a comedy about heaven and the afterlife. But I’ve got another theory. Telling Americans that the Earth is too wicked to save at the same time that the War in Europe was winding down and the War in the Pacific was still raging may not have been the best idea. Plus, over the previous few months, all of the atrocities of the Holocaust and the Bataan Death March and similar stuff were hitting the front pages of newspapers after having only been whispered rumors before then. A lot of people probably agreed that the world was too wicked to go on in April of 1945. I don’t think that was what people wanted to laugh at.

But our opinion of the film shouldn’t be restricted by the events of early 1945, even if things may not seem all that much better today. But a lot of the humor is Jack Benny going down to earth and talking to someone about their plans for tomorrow. He wryly tells them not to bother. That’s not a terrible joke to do once, but the film does it again and again and again.

Then there are all the jokes about references to famous dead people and how Athanael (and later Elizabeth) say that they’ll have to tell them about it the next time they see them. Again, it seems like pretty much every Angel on Earth comedy has to do that joke at least once, but The Horn Blows at Midnight goes to that well at least three or four times too often.

The other problem is that the rest of the humor plays against Jack Benny’s strengths. If you’re familiar with The Jack Benny Show (which was actually called The Jell-O Show with Jack Benny or something like that, but retroactively we just call it The Jack Benny Show) or his humor, it all revolves around a vain celebrity who gets his bubble burst repeatedly by those around him. Benny always tried to make himself the butt of the joke. His earlier picture, To Be or Not To Be, played to these strength brilliantly.

But Athanael is a kind and naive man. We’re supposed to find humor in the fact that Anthanael doesn’t know what dancing is or what modern food is or that you’re supposed to pay when you order food in a restaurant. But that kind of simpleton humor was not what Benny was known for and it’s not all that well done in any case.

There are two fallen angels on Earth who recognize Athanael and realize what he’s up to. The plot of the film revolves around those two Angels trying to stop Athanael from blowing his horn at Midnight and bringing on Doomsday. Why do they want to stop him? Is it because the earth actually has some redeeming qualities and is worth saving? Nope! It’s just because those two angels are having the best time living it up on Earth. They don’t want the party to stop.

Athanael never really questions the wisdom of blowing up the world either. In films like this, that dilemma is always at the central heart of the plot. Will the person tasked with destroying the earth have second thoughts? Nope! In fact, Athanael doesn’t interact with humans all that much. Most of his time he’s fighting with those two Angels or talking with Elizabeth (who goes down to Earth after him) to see how he can get back in Heaven’s good graces after failing to blow the horn on his first opportunity.

That leads to the other problem with the humor, in that there is a whole lot of slapstick as the two fallen angels try to stop Athanael. Now Benny was a comedian who’s signature physical move was to place two fingers on his cheek, turn to the audience and go “Well!” Benny was not a physical comedian. Had they stuck Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd in this, maybe the stunts would have been more creative and funnier. Instead, we just have Benny flailing around a bit.

It’s not a terrible movie, just a bad one. Benny does get a couple of jokes in that made me laugh (one or two) and Guy Kibbe was always terrific in small roles. And it’s short, so you never think “When will my misery end?” But mostly, it’s a miscast and poorly thought-out mess. No wonder Benny quit making movies after this one. Plus, making fun of it gave him great material for his radio shows for years afterwards.

Welcome back to all of you who skip the jazz and movies.

The biggest news of the day was that Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw had a perfect game going after 7 innings and manager Dave Roberts took him out of the game. Kershaw had only thrown 80 pitches and has struck out 13. But in his first start of the season, Roberts pulled him from the game for reliever Alex Vesia. The second batter that Vesia faced in the eighth inning singled, ending the perfect game.

People have debated a lot about this, but I’m just going to let two respected sportswriters make the case for and against pulling Kershaw, since they pretty much sum up the argument on both sides perfectly. (Heh. No pun intended.)

First, there is Jeff Passan.

Then there is Molly Knight.

Kershaw, for his part, said he agreed with the decision to leave the game.

So who is right? Should Dave Roberts have left Kershaw in the game until he gave up a baserunner or did he do the right thing?


Should Clayton Kershaw have been given a chance to finish a perfect game?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Yes. It was a perfect game!
    (81 votes)
  • 45%
    No. The risks to his health were too great under the circumstances.
    (68 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now

Thank you so much for your patronage this week. We hope that you’ll return next week and bring your friends. Be sure to tip your waitstaff. Tell us if we need to call a ride for you. Get home safely. And join us again next week for another edition of BCB After Dark.