Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the get-together for night-owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Thanks for stopping in on this sweltering evening. No dress code and no cover charge tonight. We always have room for a friendly face. Come on in and have a cool beverage—that you brought yourself, as always.
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.
We’re in the All-Star Break. So take a break with us.
Last night I asked you to grade the Cubs recent draft and I promise you, I’ll have more to say about it when I get settled back in and have a chance to write something up. But your votes were pretty generous as 56 percent of you gave the Cubs’ front office a “B” on the draft. Another 18 percent handed out a “C” while 15 percent gave the Cubs an “A.”
Here’s the part where I write about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
So I’ve been traveling the West Coast these past two days and I’ve spent a lot of time in the car. And while I can promise you that I didn’t listen to the SiriusXM Jazz channel the whole way, I did listen to it a lot.
(In deference to my wife, we listened to channels she enjoyed more as well, but she does like jazz well enough. My teenage daughter didn’t get a vote and had her headphones on the whole way anyway so she wouldn’t have to listen to her stupid parents talk.)
The point of all this is that on the Jazz channel, they were encouraging people to go to their Facebook page and tell everyone what their favorite jazz composition was. And according to what they said on the air, the Paul Desmond-written Dave Brubeck song “Take Five” was running away with the vote.
So assuming that’s representative, I’m guessing a lot of you love “Take Five” as well. I’ve played Brubeck’s version of it here before and I’ve also played George Benson’s guitar version. So looking for something fresh, he’s the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis playing “Take Five.”
I wrote on Monday that I’d write some more about Scarlet Street, the Fritz Lang-directed film noir from 1945 that starred Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea.
As I wrote earlier, I really enjoyed this picture. It’s a tawdry melodrama that has pretty much everything you’re looking for in a noir: a willing sucker (Robinson), a femme fatale (Bennett), a violent and despicable crook (Duryea) and some clever plot twists along the way. It’s not a perfect film—for one, it lacks any hint of subtlety although that’s part of its charm—but I’d say it’s something that any fan of the noir genre would enjoy.
Robinson stars as Christopher Cross (Chris Cross—see, that’s what I mean by a lack of subtlety) who is a meek cashier at a clothing store. In the opening scene, his boss and co-workers are throwing a party for him for his 25 years working for the company.
But as you might guess, being a store cashier is not a fulfilling life for Chris. He envies his boss and the gorgeous blonde in a limo (who is not his wife) who picks him up from the party. He also longs to be loved. Chris is in a loveless marriage to a one-dimensional battleaxe of a wife, Adele (Rosalind Ivan). His wife was previously married to a police officer who tragically died trying to save a woman who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge into the river. Nothing that Chris can do can every live up to her heroic late husband.
The film also shows how emasculated Chris is by having him constantly wearing an apron at home and doing the dishes, per the orders of his wife. It’s a sad but true commentary on mid-century America that a man who does housework is portrayed as a negative, rather than a positive trait.
The one thing that gives Chris a small amount of joy is painting on the weekends. Chris’ work is in an American primitivist and it’s not bad at all. (The actual painting were done by artist John Decker, who had become quite famous around Hollywood at the time by doing portraits of the stars. He also participated in a bit of art forgery as well and was good enough to fool a lot of experts.) But the one thing that Chris’ art lacked was perspective. Chris readily admits that he could never master that.
Like I said, the film does not aim for subtly. But Chris isn’t the only character in Scarlet Street who lacks perspective.
On his way home from his celebration dinner, Chris sees a man on a street corner beating up a woman. He steps in to intervene and knocks the abuser Johnny (Duryea) on his rear. When Chris sees the woman Johnny was hitting, Katherine “Kitty” March (Bennett), he is immediately smitten with the much-younger woman. Kitty is a self-described struggling actress who doesn’t actually act anywhere.
Spoilers to follow:
As it turns out, Johnny is actually Kitty’s boyfriend and she’s pretty used to him slapping her around every once in a while. Kitty doesn’t care because she loves him, she later explains. (And here the film does at least give Kitty a roommate who makes the point that she shouldn’t be dating a man who beats her up. It’s not exactly the kind of stand against domestic violence that you’d hope to see in a film today. But at least it’s something, which is more than a lot of the films of the era do.)
When Chris goes for a cop to arrest Johnny, Kitty helps him get away. She also immediately recognizes that Chris is infatuated with her and figures she can lead him along long enough to get a free drink out of him.
While having a drink, Kitty asks Chris what he was doing in Greenwich Village in the middle of the night. Figuring that Chris has to be in some sort of creative profession to be in the Village at that time of night, she asks if he’s a painter. Wanting to impress this younger woman, Chris says he is, which isn’t exactly a lie but it’s not the truth either. Kitty immediately jumps to the conclusion that Chris must be a rich and successful painter and Chris doesn’t disabuse her of the idea. See what I mean about Chris not being the only one who lacks perspective?
Johnny returns to Kitty and she tells him about Chris. Johnny figures that if Chris really a rich artist, he’s ripe for a con. Kitty is reluctant at first, but her poverty and general reluctance to get an actual job herself gets the best of her.
Meanwhile, Adele the Shrew is busy chewing out Chris again and threatening to throw out all of his paintings. So when Kitty (at Johnny’s urging) suggests that he rent an apartment for her that he could also use as an artist’s studio, Chris agrees. But he has no way of affording the place, so he steals from Adele to pay for it.
Johnny becomes convinced (correctly) that Chris is a fraud and tries to sell his artwork. After getting rebuffed by his normal fence, he gets a local artist in the park to sell them on commission. To his great surprise, they sell to prominent art critic who wants to find the artist. Johnny tells everyone that Kitty is the artist and tells her to put her acting skills to use. She convinces the art critic and gallery owner that she actually painted them by repeating what Chris had told her about his painting when he was trying to impress her.
Adele finds Chris’ paintings hanging in a gallery window and confronts him about it. Here’s another example of a lack of perspective. Whereas Chris thinks Adele has found out about the affair he’s been trying to have with Kitty (although she always rebuffs him when he gets too close), Adele actually thinks Chris has just been copying the artwork of the great artist Katherine March and is angry about his plagiarism.
When Chris confronts Kitty about the art, he’s not actually upset. He says that he’s a “loser” who could never get a prominent art critic to even look at his work. But if they’re passed off as the original art of “Katherine March,” then they could sell. Chris also see this deal as a way to bring them closer together.
Meanwhile, who shows up at Chris’ office but Adele’s supposedly-dead husband. He tries to extort Chris into remaining dead, but for Chris, this is a way to get out of his marriage and marry Kitty. But when Chris goes to the apartment that he’s paying for Kitty, he finds her in the midst of a tryst with Johnny and leaves in anger and embarrassment.
Johnny and Kitty then have a fight over his indiscretion and he hits her some more and leaves. (We really are not supposed to feel sorry for Johnny.) Kitty gets a phone call warning her that Johnny is coming back home to hit her some more, but she doesn’t take it seriously, saying that Johnny never seriously hurts her.
But it’s not Johnny who shows up first, but Chris. Chris confronts her about her relationship with Johnny and Kitty starts laughing in his face. She calls him a fool to think that she could ever love an old, ugly loser like him. Chris then takes an ice pick (and yes, Chekov’s ice pick was introduced earlier) and stabs her to death repeatedly.
Johnny then returns to the apartment to find Kitty’s body. He steals her jewelry (figuring she won’t need it anymore) and makes a run for it, but the cops catch up and arrest him. Johnny protests his innocence, but all the evidence points to him as the killer. Johnny reveals the entire art scam, but no one believes him. He goes to trial, is found guilty, and executed in the electric chair.
After the trial, Chris becomes haunted by the guilt of his crime. (He was also fired from his job for embezzling funds to pay for Kitty’s lifestyle, which he did do, but his boss refused to prosecute him out of friendship.) Chris begins to hear the voices of Kitty and Johnny haunting him. Again, not subtle. He tries to commit suicide, but fails. Chris becomes a homeless man wandering the streets of New York, never able to escape the voices that represent his guilt. (Again, it’s not subtle.)
One day he walks past the gallery where his paintings hang. The “Self-Portrait of Katherine March” that he painted as part of the ruse has just sold for $10,000.
As you might have noticed, Chris is never arrested for the crime of murder. This is a cardinal sin of the Production Code in place at the time—the criminal must be punished for his crime. (And committing suicide isn’t allowed either, although attempted suicide is OK, as long as it fails.) But Lang was able to convince the Production Office that the homelessness, guilt and being haunted by the voices of the people he killed was a punishment worse than prison or death. That isn’t an argument that normally worked, but somehow it did in this case.
Lang made another noir, The Woman in the Window, the year before that also starred Robinson, Bennett and Duryea. But Lang wasn’t happy with it after the studio got finished meddling with it and softening the story to fit in with the Production Code. So after he formed his own production company, he brought back the same cast for this film, which was a remake of the 1931 French film La Chienne (The Bitch) directed by Jean Renoir. Robinson wasn’t eager to play another sap and he didn’t particularly like the part. But he was an avid art collector and the chance to play an artist, even one as pathetic as Chris Cross, was more than he could resist after a career of being a gangster.
Freed somewhat from the studio system that had kept him under wraps in America, Lang returned to some of his German Expressionist roots in this film. This is most evident in the trial scene, which is just a series of quick shots of the actors on a bare stage with nothing but a chair and a spotlight on their faces. As they give testimony in rapid succession, the camera narrows its focus more and more on the actors faces.
This is also a film that packs a lot of plot turns in it, even if they are ones that more self-aware characters would have seen coming. (And you may see them coming in this film as well.) Scarlet Street all comes back to that great word “perspective.” The characters in the movie lack it and that’s their fatal flaw. But Lang is able to get his perspective of a twisted world in to Scarlet Street.
Here’s a great scene where Chris asks Kitty to marry him. This is an example of how Kitty leads Chris on during the film. It also shows how weak Chris is.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
I think we’re all resigned to go through another big sell-off over the next ten days. We have no idea how many player the Cubs are going to trade away, but it’s probably going to be a lot more than just one.
So rather than ask you if the Cubs are going to trade Willson Contreras or David Robertson (seems guaranteed on both of them right now) or whether or not they’re going to trade Ian Happ or Kyle Hendricks, I’m just going to ask you “Who will be the first of the following players to get traded?”
Now clearly, I don’t think every one of these players will get dealt. Some will probably still be on the team after the deadline. But I do think that more than one and probably more than two of them will be gone.
(In case you don’t recognize it, the title of today’s edition is Whad’Ya Know? host Michael Feldman’s explanation for what “WGN” stands for. I thought it appropriate.)
So which one is going to go first?
Which Cubs player will be the first one traded?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave in comments)
Thank you so much for stopping by tonight. Hopefully some of you will still be here after the trade deadline as well. If you need us to call you a ride, please let up know. Tip your waitress. Don’t be a stranger. Come back next week for another edition of BCB After Dark.