Welcome back to BCB After Dark, the happiest hangout for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s our last week of shows before baseball. I’ve got to admit, there were moments this winter when I thought this week would never come. But now that the end of the winter is in sight, please come on in, take a break and have a drink. Bring your own beverage. No dress code tonight. And by all means, talk about your plans for the baseball season.
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 time I asked you to pick who would lead the Cubs in home runs in 2022, since you all did such a great job last year on that. But unlike last season when he wasn’t even mentioned, 37 percent of you thought that last year’s champion, Patrick Wisdom, would repeat this year. Twenty-six percent of you thought the newest import Seiya Suzuki would lead the team in home runs and 16 percent of you picked Clint Frazier.
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.
Today we’ve got a performance from South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela in the greatest concert film ever made, D.A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop. (And yes, Monterey Pop is better than Woodstock and I will defend that hill until the day I die.)
It’s struck me that I could do a film essay on Monterey Pop one day. Or one comparing Monterey Pop to Woodstock. I’ll put that aside for future reference.
So here’s Hugh Masekela with “Bajabula Bonke (The Healing Song),” which was the B-side of his international hit “Grazing in the Grass” that you are probably all familiar with from insurance commercials these days.
I have to admit that this past weekend and Monday have just been crazy as far as I’m concerned. Between getting ready for Opening Day (of both the majors and the minors) and some chaos going on around my own house, I really didn’t have the time to do a full essay today. But I did watch a classic film and I did get started on an essay. So I’ll give you the beginning of what I have to say about In A Lonely Place tonight and then hopefully I can finish what I have to say on Tuesday night or Wednesday night. Probably Wednesday. It will also give some of you a chance to watch the film, which is available for free for anyone who has Amazon Prime.
As I noted, this week’s film is director Nicholas Ray’s 1950 film noir masterpiece In A Lonely Place, starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. The film has many of the hallmark characteristics of a noir—crime, ambiguity, doomed romance, shadowy camera work—but what makes it stand out is rather unique presentation of a kind of homme fatale in the character of Bogart’s Dixon Steele. It’s also a fairly illuminating portrait of a domestic abuser that was way ahead of its time, even it it probably didn’t realize it was.
In A Lonely Place has a big reputation among noir fans in large part because of the performances of Bogart and Grahame. Some Bogart scholars think Dixon Steele is the best performance of Bogart’s career, in part because the character was so similar to Bogie’s real personality.
“Dix” Steele is a successful and cynical Hollywood screenwriter with a gregarious but relaxed personality that most people instantly take to liking. He also has a violent temper that can explode in instant with the smallest provocation. If you’ve read anything about Bogart, you know that all you need to do is substitute “actor” for “screenwriter” and you’ve got Bogie. Dix is definitely more hair-triggered than Bogart was, but maybe not by much, at least according to the stories.
That description also describes a lot of domestic abusers. Dix gets into several fights with little provocation in this film. Afterwards he always justifies it, either by saying that the other person had it coming or by admitting that he was in the wrong and promising to never do it again. While he doesn’t turn truly violent against a woman until the film’s climax, he is controlling, threatening and more than a bit scary to Grahame’s Laurel Gray throughout their relationship.
I don’t think In A Lonely Place was supposed to be a movie about domestic violence and abusive relationships. It just comes out that way to modern sensibilities. What Ray was probably going for here was a tragedy about a good person with a tragic flaw of an uncontrollable temper that leads to his downfall. But over the last 70 years, society has realized that it’s not right to say “He’s a good person, but . . .” again and again and again. Dix’s anger and violence is as much a part of him as the easy-going personality and his talents as a screenwriter.
Grahame gets the character of an abused woman in Laurel down pat. She makes excuses for his temper. She points out all the times he’s good and kind. She says she loves him. She forgives him for his violence and believes him when he says he won’t do it again. But she definitely sees the warning signs and says repeatedly that Dix scares her. She even begins to think he’s capable of murder, Eventually, she can’t live with this dissonance in Dix’s personality, but by then it may be too late for her to get out.
Gloria Grahame is best remembered today as Violet Bick in It’s a Wonderful Life and she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the soapy melodrama The Bad and the Beautiful. But those that love Grahame’s performances know her best as a noir actress and in particular, for this film.
Grahame was married to director Nicholas Ray at the time and despite the fact that their marriage was falling apart, he insisted that Grahame was the right actress for the part over the studio’s choice, Ginger Rogers. (Bogart’s wife Lauren Bacall was everyone’s first choice, but she was under contract to Warner Brothers, who weren’t going to loan her to Columbia for this.) In fact, Ray’s marriage to Grahame wouldn’t survive the shooting of this picture. The most famous line from the film was added to the script by Ray:
I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.
In the film, that’s a line from the screenplay that Dix is working on. But it’s clear that Ray is saying that to Grahame as much as Dix is saying it to Laurel.
There’s also this meta dimension going on with the plot of the film. It starts out when Dix’s agent gives him a trashy novel that the studio wants to turn into a movie. Dix doesn’t want to do it, but his agent tells him it’s an easy job—just stick to the novel. In reality, In A Lonely Place is based on a novel that bears very little resemblance to the film. In the novel, Dix is basically a serial killer and readers know that from the very start of the novel. Bogart’s Dix is certainly violent, but we don’t find out whether or not he’s a killer until the end of the picture.
And you’re just going to have to wait for the rest of it. Stop by again on Wednesday night/Thursday morning!
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
One of the most interesting players in Cubs Spring Training is first baseman/outfielder Alfonso Rivas. The Cubs got him from the Athletics in a trade for Tony Kemp after the 2019 season. Then he missed all of 2020, like every other minor leaguer, and was injured to start the 2021 season. He was in the Cubs organization for almost 18 months before Cubs fans got to see him play in a blue uniform.
But since then, he’s been pretty good. He’s not been dominating and he doesn’t make any of the lists of Cubs’ Top 30 prospects. But he was good in Triple-A Iowa last year with an .816 OPS over 58 games. Then he made his major league debut in September and hit .318/.388/.409 over 49 plate appearances.
Al talked about Rivas’ chances of making the Opening Day roster here, and I think it’s very likely that he will with the expanded rosters. But I think a better question is how long is he going to stick around?
Today’s question is simple: How many games do you think Alfonso Rivas will play for the Cubs in 2022? If you say more than 120, you think he’s going to earn a starting job. You think he’ll be this year’s Patrick Wisdom. If you vote for less than 30, you think he’ll go bust (or get seriously injured) and not make much of an impact at all. Then there are the levels in between those extremes.
So how many games will Rivas play this year?
How many games will Alfonso Rivas play for the Cubs in 2022?
This poll is closed
More than 120
90 to 120
60 to 89
30 to 59
Less than 30
We’re so glad you stopped by again before the season started. We hope you’ll continue to see this as your post-game spot once the season starts. We’ll always have a table ready for you. Please get home safely. Tip your wait staff. And join us again tomorrow night for another edition of BCB After Dark.