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BCB After Dark: Arms of Steele

The hip hideaway for night owls, early-risers and Cub fans abroad asks you if Justin Steele will be a starter for the next great Cubs team.

Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the happening for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s been a quiet night around here and why don’t you come on in and liven it up? There’s no cover charge tonight. There are a few tables available over on the right. Your waitress will take your order now. It’s 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.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 had a well-earned day off today. Or maybe it wasn’t so well-earned. The Arizona Complex League got underway tonight and Cristian Hernandez homered.

Last week, I asked you if you thought Christopher Morel would be a part of the “next great” Cubs team. Morel has taken the city and fan base by storm since his major-league call-up and that is certainly reflected in the voting in which 90 percent of you think he will be on the next contending Cubs team.

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.


I thought tonight I’d give you a jazz track that most of you are familiar with tonight. It’s Quincy Jones’ version of the Benny Golson-written jazz standard, “Killer Joe.”


I have been very busy over the past week and I only got a chance to watch one movie. Normally I watch a few and write about the one that speaks to me the most. It’s best if I’m enthusiastic about the film. But the only film I have to write about tonight is not one that really speaks to me. So my essay tonight will be a bit shorter than usual.

I’ll try to write something anyway about John Ford’s 1941 film, How Green Was My Valley. Any John Ford film is going to be well-made and How Green Was My Valley certainly is a fine picture. But it’s a family melodrama with an ode to the end of a way of life and honestly, those kinds of films aren’t really my bag. I appreciate it for what it is, but I don’t really need to watch it again.

The first thing that strikes me about How Green Was My Valley is that it’s in black-and-white. When I watch a film called “How Green Was My Valley,” I really want to see the green, you know? It’s kind of hard to appreciate the supposed beauty of the South Wales mining town it’s set in if you can’t see the vibrant green.

To be fair to the producers, the plan was for it to be shot on location in Wales and in color. But there were some things going on in Wales at the time of shooting that made that impossible. (Something about Hitler’s Luftwaffe dropping bombs all over the place. You can look it up.) So the film was shot in California in a recreated Welsh mining town. Why they couldn’t still shoot in color, I don’t know. Perhaps the California landscape looked too brown to shoot in color.

Ford is known for his spectacular settings, especially the many Westerns he shot in Monument Valley in Utah. Ford has an eye for natural beauty and he’s able to make this faux Welsh mining valley looks as nice as possible in black-and-white. Yes, there’s a big coal mine spouting black soot into the air, but even that looks poetic in a more menacing manner. (Although the soot gets less poetic and more destructive at the end of the film’s events.)

The film itself is the story of the Morgans, a family of coal miners told from the point of view of the youngest son, Huw. (Roddy McDowall) It takes place in a late 19th-Century coal mining town and when the film starts, wages are good and life is treating the Morgan family well. Huw’s father Gwilym (Donald Crisp) is the undisputed patriarch of family and respected in the community. His mother Beth (Sarah Allgood) is kind and generous, but not a woman to be messed with. The family is united, the town is a place of fellowship and all is good. Huw’s oldest brother is getting married.

Things start to go downhill after that. There are several plots that carry this family through the movie. Huw’s sister Angharad (Maureen O’Hara) meets the town’s new preacher, Mr. Gruffydd, (Walter Pidgeon) and is immediately smitten with him. The feeling is mutual, but Mr. Gruffydd refuses to pursue a courtship because he doesn’t want Angharad living the penurious life of a local preacher. (This indicates to me that Mr. Gruffydd belongs to a Nonconformist denomination. Positions within the Church of England were well-paid civil service jobs.) Angharad ends up marrying the son of the mine owner instead and leaving for a miserable but wealthy life. When she returns to the mining town without her husband, the town is scandalized by a presumed affair between the two (in reality) unrequited lovers.

The town is also torn asunder by labor troubles. The previous high wages for the coal miners are cut and Huw’s older brothers want to do something about it by forming a union and going on strike. Gwilym is absolutely opposed to labor organizing and strikes. The dispute tears the family apart until mom Beth and Mr. Gruffydd bring the family back together by telling them to be practical and compromise. The coal miners go on strike and win their higher wages back, but Huw’s older brothers, because they were leaders of the strike, are fired by the mine.

Then there’s the story of Huw. He loses the use of his legs in an accident, but through therapy recommended by Mr. Gruffydd, the use of his legs eventually returns. Gwilym dream for his youngest son is for him to get an education and become a professional away from the mines, so they arrange to have him go to school at a distant town. However, Huw is mercilessly picked-on and bullied for being from a poor coal mining town. Huw eventually quits school with the intention of becoming a coal miner like his father and brothers, much to the disappointment of his father.

Those are the three main storylines going through the film. The film is Huw’s love letter to his family and the idyllic way of life that ended because of the events of the film. Huw does say that that community will never be gone as long as he remembers it in his heart.

How Green Was My Valley came out in 1941, which many historians list among the greatest years in the history of Hollywood. It’s often remembered today as the film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture for that year, beating out such all-time classics as Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon and Sergeant York. There were ten films nominated for Best Picture that year, and I’d argue that How Green Was My Valley wasn’t as good as Here Comes Mr. Jordan or Suspicion either. I haven’t even seen the other films. Maybe they’re better too.

But unlike a lot of other films whose Best Picture Oscar looks bizarre in hindsight (The Greatest Show on Earth, Going My Way, Dances With Wolves), How Green Was My Valley is a good picture. It’s not my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the work that Ford put into making the film and the acting jobs by a stellar cast. It’s rather treacly and that it’s not in color is a big mistake, but it has its strong spots as well. It’s just in a year when you had two of the greatest films ever made (Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon) and several other terrific ones, How Green Was My Valley just looks bad by comparison.

(Crash doesn’t look bad in retrospect. People were saying it was a bad Best Picture winner when it was announced.)

Here’s a particularly comic scene from How Green Was My Valley where two neighbors of Huw decide to teach his abusive school teacher a lesson about boxing.

I hope next week I’ll have a film to write about that I’m more enthusiastic about. But if you love this film or any of those 1941 films, please tell us your thoughts in the comments.


Welcome back to all of you who think the jazz and movies are a waste of time.

The entire “Will (player x) be a part of the next great Cubs team” question that I asked last week seems to have been a big hit, so I’m going to keep it up until I run out of players to ask about or I can think of a better question.

So tonight I’m going to ask you if you think Justin Steele will be a starter on the “next great” Cubs team and World Series contender.

One of the things that gets debated in the Minor League Wrap is how the current Cubs farm system compares to the 2014 to 2015 systems. The thing I find odd/funny/tragic about the 2015 Cubs Top 30 prospects (at least the Baseball America rankings) is that the only prospect on that list still in the organization is Steele. (Willson Contreras was in the minors, of course, but he wasn’t considered a Top 30 prospect until his breakout 2015 season.)

So it’s been a long journey for Justin and he turns 27 in a month. So even though he’s only in his second season in the majors, he’s not exactly a young arm. On the other hand, pitchers tend to develop at their own pace, unlike hitters who have a more predictable aging curve.

Steele’s statistics this season, on the surface, are not impressive with a 1-5 record and a 4.79 ERA. He’s also walked too many people. On the other hand, his FIP is a very solid 3.35 and a lot of that ERA is the result of one bad start in late May against the Reds.

I don’t need to tell you much more about Justin Steele. You’ve seen him pitch. I’m going to give you three choices in this poll. The first one is simply “Yes.” That means you think Steele will be in the rotation on the next Cubs World Series-contending team. It doesn’t mean you think he’ll be a great pitcher or an ace, simply that he’ll be good enough to take the mound every fifth day for a contending Cubs team. The second answer is “No.” That means you think Steele will be traded or released before the Cubs are really good again. The final choice is “He’ll be in the bullpen.” That means you think Steele will be on a contending Cubs team, but pitching out of the bullpen.

So will Justin Steele be in the rotation on the “next great” Cubs team?

Poll

Will Justin Steele be a starting pitcher for the next contending Cubs team?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Yes
    (66 votes)
  • 16%
    No
    (21 votes)
  • 32%
    He’ll be in the bullpen
    (42 votes)
129 votes total Vote Now

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