Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the swingin’ spot for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s good to see you after a long weekend. Please come on in and grab a table. There’s still a few good ones left. Let the hostess know if you need anything. Bring your own beverage. The show will be starting shortly.
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 won their fifth-straight game tonight, 3-2 over the Pirates. If it weren’t for the fact that this winning streak was preceded by a nine-game losing streak, we’d celebrate with Judy Garland tonight. But I think it’s going to take more than a five-game win streak to wash away the stink of a nine-game losing streak. Still, it’s tons better than a 14-game losing streak, so I’m hoping everyone is in a good mood.
Also, there was supposed to be a Minor League Wrap earlier today because the Iowa Cubs were scheduled to play a rare Monday morning game. But that game got rained out, in case you were wondering what happened.
Last time I asked you who the first Cubs player to get traded before the deadline would be and 52 percent of you said David Robertson. Willson Contreras was in second place with 16 percent. I didn’t include Rafael Ortega or Patrick Wisdom in the voting and I’m a little upset that I didn’t, although I did include “Someone else” for those who wanted to vote for them. With Wisdom, I just didn’t think he was that likely to be traded, although I may very well be wrong on that point. With Ortega. I just dropped the ball.
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.
Tonight I’m giving you a song that probably 95 percent of you are familiar with, although probably not this version. This is guitarist Russell Malone doing the theme song to the television show “The Odd Couple.” This studio performance is from 2000.
Tonight I’m just going to give a quick summary of two films I watched this past week, neither of which I think are worthy of a full, in-depth write-up. Both of these films feature the great Anglo-American star Ida Lupino. The first one, 1942’s Moontide, features Lupino in front of the camera opposite the great French star Jean Gabin. The other one, 1953’s The Hitch-Hiker, has Lupino behind the camera as the director. Neither film is great, but in my opinion, The Hitch-Hiker is the better watch.
Moontide was a real disappointment to me. It has an incredible cast: Lupino, Gabin, Claude Rains and Thomas Mitchell. The director, Archie Mayo, replaced the much superior Fritz Lang early in the shooting, but Mayo was a decent director, having done The Petrified Forest and Charley’s Aunt, among many others. But with all that talent, the film just isn’t that good. It’s not terrible and the excellent cinematography by Charles G. Clarke is a redeeming element. But overall, it just doesn’t live up to its promise.
Gabin was one of the greatest actors of the 1930s, not just in France but in the whole world. He starred in such great French films as Pépé le Moko, La grande illusion, La bête humaine and others in the late-thirties. Hollywood studios made many offers to get Gabin to cross the Atlantic, thinking he could be a Charles Boyer from the wrong side of the tracks. But Gabin always said no to Hollywood until Hitler kind of forced his hand.
Moontide was supposed to be a star vehicle for Gabin. It paired him up with Lupino, who played a role in making Humphrey Bogart a star just a few years earlier. The plot was a romance on the docks between a drifter Bobo (Gabin) and a woman with a questionable past, Anna (Lupino). They don’t go into much detail on her past because of the Production Code. It throws in a murder plot that Bobo may or may not have committed in one of the alcoholic rages that he was prone to. If you wanted to call it a noir, I wouldn’t argue with you, although I personally think it’s better classified as a romance.
And the whole thing just doesn’t come together for me. Gabin was a truly great actor, but here, performing in English, his thick French accent gets in the way of his performance sometimes. (At least his character is supposed to be French.) I just didn’t buy the romance between him and Lupino, whom he saves from committing suicide early in the film. Raines and Mitchell are pretty good in supporting roles, but their purpose in the film is mostly to serve as the metaphorical angel (Raines) and devil (Mitchell) sitting on Bobo’s shoulder and whispering in his ear.
I actually bought into the romance more than I accepted the murder plot, which seemed to come and go like a hummingbird and was not really well-integrated into the story.
This was also a bit of a cursed production, as Lang was pulled from the production early in the shooting because of an inability to get along with Gabin. (The rumor is that both men were dating Marlene Dietrich at the time.) There’s a drunken montage early in the film that was reportedly designed by Salvador Dali, but most of it was discarded as either being too weird or too difficult to film. It’s too bad, because that montage was one of the few ambitious parts of the movie.
As I said, Moontide isn’t terrible, but it’s not good either. It looks good and the dockside stage where much of the film takes place is pretty. The actors are great, even if they aren’t really given much to work with. It’s too bad, because this film could have made Jean Gabin a star in this country as well as France. After making one more film in Hollywood after this, Gabin returned to France to serve with the Free French and Charles de Gaulle. He never returned to American cinema afterwards.
I’ve been wanting to see The Hitch-Hiker for a long time because it’s famous as the only real noir ever directed by a woman. (Or at least the only American noir.) There isn’t much to the plot, which is adapted from the true story of spree killer Billy Cook who killed six people over 22 days in 1950 and 1951. Emmett Myers (William Talman) gets picked up as a hitchhiker by people, he forced them to drive to where he wants to go and then he kills them when they get there. Soon he is picked up by Roy Collins (Edmond O’Brien) and Gilbert Bowen (Frank Lovejoy), two buddies on a fishing trip to Mexico together. Myers forces Roy and Gilbert to drive him through Baja California at gunpoint. Myers plans to kill the two men as soon as he can shake the trail of the police and Roy and Gilbert try to figure out a way to stay alive. But neither man is willing to save themselves at the expense of the other one.
There’s really not much more to the film, which I think is why it’s effective. It’s only 71 minutes long, so there isn’t a lot of extraneous stuff packed in. Lupino keeps the story moving along quickly. Talman does a great job playing a psychotic killer and Roy and Gilbert have separate personalities with one wanting to take a chance and try to get Emmett’s gun and the other arguing that’s too risky and the correct play is to try to slow down as much as possible so the police can catch up to them.
It was very unusual for Lupino to direct a “man’s film” like this. In fact, every actor in this film is a man except for a corpse (with an off-camera scream) in the opening sequence and a young Mexican girl who has one line. But she co-wrote the screenplay and she even visited Billy Cook in prison to get some insight into his motivations. That led to problems with the Production Code, as films weren’t supposed to feature contemporary criminals. (Cook would be executed before the film was released, but he was still alive during shooting.) So Lupino had to try to fictionalize the killer as much as possible and focus the story not on Emmett Myers, but on the two victims. Of course, RKO and Lupino got the last laugh in the end by having the film and the promotional materials emphasize that this was “based on a true story that could happen to YOU.” Since the Billy Cook killing spree had been national news just two years earlier, everyone knew what true story it had been based on.
I also wanted to mention Lupino’s very unusual for the time decision to have the Mexican characters speak to each other in Spanish without subtitles. One of the kidnap victims speaks Spanish and translates some of that, but if he’s not in the scene, you’re just out of luck if you don’t speak Spanish. It’s not hard to figure out what they are talking about from context, but it’s an interesting risk that might have ended up alienating some 1953 audiences.
Overall, The Hitch-Hiker isn’t great art. It’s a fun little crime film. I didn’t really understand some plot points, but I didn’t really care. This film was about one psycho holding two ordinary men hostage and whether or not they’d survive. In that sense, it kept me entertained for 71 minutes.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and the movies.
Scott Effross got his first career save in tonight’s game against the Pirates. Before the season started, I asked you who would finish the year as the Cubs save leader and those of you who said “David Robertson” look to be correct. Robertson has 14 saves and Rowan Wick has four in second place. Effross, Mychal Givens and the released Robert Gsellman each have one.
But it doesn’t look like Robertson is going to get many more saves for the Cubs. He’s pretty much a lock to get dealt before the August 2 trade deadline, which is a week from today.
So tonight’s question is “Who will get the most saves for the Cubs after the trade deadline?” This is a tough question because we don’t really know who else is going to join Robertson on his way out the door. Sure, Givens is a candidate, but will he also get traded? The same goes for Chris Martin. Maybe tonight was an audition for Effross. If so, he appears to have passed. On the other hand, it was against the Pirates.
So who will get the most saves for the Cubs after the trade deadline?
Who will lead the Cubs in saves after the trade deadline?
This poll is closed
David Robertson (He’s not going anywhere!)
Someone else (leave in comments)
Thank you so very much for stopping by. Please get home safely. Call a friend if you need to. Please tip your waitstaff. Tell your friends about us. And join us again tomorrow night for another edition of BCB After Dark.