Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the coolest joint for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re open again for another week of shows. Please come on in and make yourself at home. Especially if you’re at home right now. Find a table, have a drink and settle in for a while. Bring your own beverage.
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.
Tonight the Cubs got to play the Reds for the first time this season and they downed the Porkopolis Nationals by a score of 7-4. (Porkopolis is maybe my favorite nickname for a city. Congratulation, Cincinnati.) Patrick Wisdom (more on him later) hit his tenth home run of the year and Ian Happ became the first player to ever hit 500 career home runs* against any one team when he hit a three-run bomb in the seventh inning.
*Number of home runs is an estimate and may not be exact.
Last week, I asked you if the 2022 Cubs were living up to your expectations. A resounding 70 percent of you thought that they were doing exactly what you expected them to do. Another 23 percent of you thought they were underachieving and only seven percent think the team is better than you thought they’d be.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. Feel free to skip to the baseball question at the end if you wish. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Tonight I’ve got something that you’re probably already familiar with, but I love this video anyway for the introduction by Eartha Kitt and the sixties costuming and TV special sets.
This is Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66 with “Mas Que Nada” which was an easy-listening hit in America in (checks the year) 1966. Wow, that’s a coincidence. It’s a bossa nova tune that probably just as well-known today as it was back then thanks to a re-recording that was included on the soundtrack of the 2011 animated picture, Rio.
It’s a catchy tune, but I also just love the sixties-television-special-vibe of the entire performance. Because it was done on an Eartha Kitt TV special from 1967.
Now it’s time for the classic movie section of this feature. This week we’re getting a two-for-one for our movie discussion with 1938’s Algiers, starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, which is a remake of the 1937 French film, Pépé le Moko, which stars Jean Gabin. I watched Algiers over the weekend, which I had never seen before, and I really need to watch Pépé le Moko again before I can write about the two of them. But my first impression of the two films is that the American version stuck pretty close to the French original. The main differences between the two films are a few minor changes made to bring the film in line with the Hays Code of the Production Office.
American producer Walter Wanger bought the rights to the French hit crime film almost as soon as it was released. Much like the producers of the Oscar-winning movie CODA prevented any showing in the English-speaking world of the French film La Famille Bélier that it was based on, Wanger also bought up all the prints of Pépé le Moko in order to prevent any more showings of that film until after Algiers was finished. So for English-speaking audiences, this version was the original version.
When you’ve got a film set in a French colony and whose main character is a master thief from Marseilles, there was really only one choice for a Hollywood producer in 1938 to star in the role: Charles Boyer. Boyer was already established as a debonair leading man in Hollywood and had made a couple of pictures with Wanger at Paramount, although Algiers was an independent production released through United Artists. Boyer certainly had the star power to sell the film and no one had to worry about how believable he would be playing a Frenchman. (Although none of the other actors really bother to try to do a French accent in the picture, which was probably for the best.)
But while his nationality, friendship with Wanger and his star-power recommended Boyer for this part, in reality he was an awkward fit as the master thief. Boyer’s image was that of a sophisticated, upper-class Frenchman who was charming, witty and romantic. While the character of Pépé had the kind of charisma and dashing romance that Boyer could pull off easily, Pépé was, at least as portrayed by Jean Gabin, a rough-around-the-edges rogue from the wrong side of the tracks. He was much more at home among the cutthroats and thieves of the casbah than he would be in the salons of Paris. Basically, Wanger took a role that James Dean would have been perfect for (had he been around back then) and cast Cary Grant in it. Sure, Boyer was a good enough actor (and I love his performances in Gaslight and Cluny Brown, for example) to pull it off, but he falls short of Gabin’s performance in the original. From what I’ve read, Boyer readily admitted this. He said he was forced to mimic Gabin’s style, which was not his style.
In case you don’t know, Boyer’s performance (or maybe just his accent) in Algiers as Pepe le Moko was the inspiration for the Looney Tunes character Pepé Le Pew. There are, however, no instances of Boyer’s character in this film sexually harassing cats who accidentally get a stripe of white paint on their back. So don’t let that keep you from watching the film.
And in case you were wondering what “le Moko” means, it’s just a slang term for someone from Marseilles. It’s like calling a character “Philly Pete.” I know I had to look that up.
Also starring in Algiers as the woman who brings Pepe down is the Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr in her American film debut. Lamarr led a fascinating life and there is no way to go into all of it here. There was a very good American Masters documentary on PBS about her life a few years ago if you can find that. Suffice it to say, her real passion wasn’t modeling or acting but science and technology. During World War II, she and a partner invented a way to communicate with guided torpedoes that couldn’t be jammed by enemy interference. The Navy didn’t adopt the technology until the late-1950s, but even today it forms the basis of modern bluetooth and wi-fi communications. Lamarr didn’t invent the internet, but she invented something that would one day help make it possible. She would likely have given up acting in an instant for an engineering position. She tried to get a job like that during World War II, but they told her she was more valuable selling war bonds.
Lamarr was another attempt for Hollywood to find the next Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich: a sexy and exotic European beauty for the American screen. But unlike Garbo, who had several years of silent films in America before having to speak on screen, or Dietrich, who was already quite fluent in English before she came over, Lamarr was still struggling with English when she arrived in America. It shows in her performance. It’s clear she had a dialect coach teaching her American pronunciations and her diction is easily understandable. But it also seems like Lamarr is concentrating so hard on getting the words right that she’s distracted throughout the performance. She’s better when she doesn’t have to speak.
To audiences in 1938, however, it didn’t matter. Lamarr was billed as the most beautiful woman in the world and a lot of Americans agreed. She was there to look pretty and give Pepe a reason to sacrifice everything. Lamarr was a big reason why Algiers was a hit. While she was never as big a star as Garbo or Dietrich, Lamarr did have a rather successful career playing beautiful and exotic women who didn’t talk much. She resented this typecasting, which continued long after she became became fluent in English and more skilled as an actress. But that’s what the public wanted out of her and the studios were in the business of giving the public what they wanted.
John Cromwell, who was the father of actor James Cromwell, directed Algiers. John Howard Lawson wrote the screenplay with some help from novelist James M. Cain. Both were highly-accomplished Hollywood veterans in 1938. Both would also end up blacklisted in about a decade’s time with Lawson being one of the famous “Hollywood Ten.”
Both Cromwell and Lawson are following a template set by the original picture in Algiers, but manage to find a few ways to insert their own touches in it. I’ll try to say more about that next time after I’ve rewatched the original.
So on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, I hope to have rewatched the original Pépé le Moko and have something to say about both films. It hasn’t been too long since I watched Pépé le Moko as it was one of the films I watched during the early days of the pandemic. But I would like to review it again so that I don’t say something stupid about it. So you have until then to watch one or both of these films if you want. I can say that I’d recommend both of them, but I’ll keep to myself which one I’d recommend first until later this week.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
The Cubs are now 41 games into the season, which is about as close to the one-quarter mark of the season as you can get. And Patrick Wisdom has ten home runs. You can do the math as to what that pro-rates out to for an entire season.
Wisdom was one of the great surprises of the 2021 season as he set a Cubs’ rookie record with 28 home runs despite playing in only 106 games. That’s cause for celebration and I think we all did celebrate that. But many of us also pointed out some real issues with Wisdom’s game. In 2021, he struck out in 40.8 percent of his at-bats, which isn’t normally a number that’s compatible with a successful hitter. For comparison, Javier Báez, whom many of us complained about the number of times he struck out, has a career strikeout percentage of 29.2 percent. Joey Gallo, the poster boy for high-power and high-strikeouts, has a career strikeout percentage of 36.9.
Many observers, including myself, thought that Wisdom would have to drop his strikeout percentage to at minimum something close to Joey Gallo’s in order to be successful this year. It certainly looked like the league had caught up to Wisdom in the last half of 2021, when he had a .150 batting average with a .261 OBP and just three home runs in September and October.
Unfortunately, Wisdom really isn’t making much more contact in 2022. His strikeout percentage is down to 40.2, which is really just a rounding error difference. His batting average and on-base percentage are down, although they are improved from that terrible last month of last year.
Despite this, Wisdom has ten home runs. He’s on a pace for 40. He leads the team with a .508 slugging percentage? Can he keep this up?
So tonight I’m just going to ask you “How many home runs will Patrick Wisdom hit in 2022?” If you want to share what you think his year-end OBP will be in the comments, please do so.
How many home runs will Patrick Wisdom hit in 2022?
This poll is closed
Fewer than 20
Between 20 and 29
Between 30 and 39
More than 40
Thank you again so much for stopping by. If you checked anything with us tonight, we’ll get it for you now. You do have the claim check, right? If not, we will figure it out. Please get home safely unless you’re already home. Then just stay right where you are. Tip the waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow night for another edition of BCB After Dark.