Welcome back to BCB After Dark, the swingin’ spot for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Come on in out of the rain. If you need to check your coat or umbrella, let us know. We’re all nice and dry in here. Come in and relax. Bring your own beverage. There are still a few tables available up front. Tell the hostess if there’s anything you need.
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 and Cardinals were rained out tonight.
Last night, I asked you how you felt about All-Stars Willson Contreras and Ian Happ still being on the team after the trade deadline has passed. For the most part, you all were happy about that. Fully 63 percent of you said “Yay!” that Contreras was still around and 72 percent were happy that Happ is still here. Only 16 percent voted “Nay!” on Contreras and only 8 percent said that about Happ.
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 we have a concert from the Newport Jazz Festival in 1992 by a band led by drummer Thelonious Sphere Monk III, who generally goes by the name T. S. Monk to differentiate himself from his more famous father. They play a two tunes here written and made famous by his dad: “Monk’s Dream” and “‘Round Midnight,” as well as four other songs.
Hold Back the Dawn, the 1941 film, starring Charles Boyer and Olivia de Havilland and directed by Mitchell Leisen, is a solid melodrama that is going to seem familiar to modern audiences because its plot has been recycled so many times. But this may have been the first time it was used. It’s the story of a man who wants to emigrate to America, only to find the gates closed to him unless he finds an American citizen to marry. The plot is pretty predictable, but the charisma and chemistry between Boyer and de Havilland make the film worth watching. It also adds a message that most romances of this period lack.
Whatever you want to say about current American immigration laws, I would hope we could all agree that the immigration laws passed in the 1920s, and still in effect in the 1940s, were racist. The congressmen who passed them were openly proud of how racist the laws were. They boasted that the quota system was designed to keep out the “inferior races” from Eastern and Southern Europe.
This fact hit screenwriter Billy Wilder hard, since he was an immigrant to America from what is today Poland. He got in because he had a talent (writing screenplays) that powerful Americans wanted, but most people in his situation would have been denied entrance to the US at the time. So he and his screenwriting partner Charles Brackett adapted this novel by Ketti Frings about a community in Tijuana waiting for their chance to move to the United States.
Our main character is Georges Iscovescu (Boyer), a Romanian playboy/gigolo who is trying to emigrate to the US. (They have a throwaway line about Georges having grown up in France to explain Boyer’s accent.) He’s first seen trying to get into Paramount Studios to see a director that he met once in Europe. He offers to sell the director his story for the $500 that he desperately needs. When asked why he needs the money, he proceeds to tell the story of the film.
Georges starts in Tijuana (technically an unnamed border town that is clearly meant to be Tijuana) where he tries to get an entry visa to the United States. He is quickly informed that because he is Romanian and the immigration quota for Romanians is very small, he will have to wait five to eight years before he can get in. Georges becomes depressed, but he quickly falls in with a community of Europeans in Tijuana who are in the same boat. Why they are all trying to get to America is left unsaid, but I don’t think any audience in 1941 would wonder why people were leaving Europe for the US.
While in (not) Tijuana, Georges runs into Anita Dixon (Paulette Goddard), an old dance partner of his from Europe. She explains that she got her entrance into the US by marrying a US citizen and then divorcing him as soon as she got her permanent resident status. It’s the only way to jump the line, so to speak. Anita proposes that as soon as Georges gets his entry visa to the US, that they go on tour together and do their old act.
Being a professional gigolo, Georges thinks the task of finding an American woman to marry will be easy. But he quickly discovers that there aren’t a lot of unattached American women running around (not) Tijuana. But after a few failed attempts, he discovers Emmy (de Havilland), a schoolteacher from Azusa who has taken her class on a field trip and the bus broke down. Georges sabotages the repair efforts on the bus, forcing her and the class to stay overnight at the same hotel he and the other Europeans are staying at. (Named “Hotel Esperanza” or “Hotel Hope.”) By morning, Georges has successfully wooed Emmy and the two run off to get married.
I don’t want to reveal many spoilers here, but I think you all know where this is going. Georges is planning to use his marriage to Emmy to gain entrance to the US and then divorce her. He’s not a jerk, however, so he’s planning on finding some way to end the marriage in a way that lets Emmy down easy. But Georges definitely intends to divorce her as soon as he’s across the border.
At this point my wife said to me: “I feel sorry for her.” I replied, “I don’t. You know he’s going to fall in love with her by the end of the picture.” I’m sorry if that spoils anything for any of you, but I’m guessing you all could figure that out on your own. (My wife’s response was “Oh, yeah.”)
The two of them have an adventure/honeymoon in Mexico that Georges wasn’t planning on. A US immigration official makes it clear that the government is cracking down now on these “Green Card marriages” (to use the modern term—they don’t call it that) and that there would be serious consequences to these sham marriages. (Although Emmy doesn’t think it’s a sham.) Also, when Anita starts to realize that Georges might actually be falling in love with Emmy, she takes actions to split to two of them up so that Georges won’t be tempted to not go on tour with her.
The main attraction of Hold Back the Dawn is the charm of Boyer and how he makes this kind of low-life drifter seem like a good guy. Boyer could play a hero or a villain, but he couldn’t play anything other than debonair and charming. Here he starts out as a villain and becomes a hero, but he’s forced into his deception of Emmy by the unfair immigration system. He was never a bad guy, just desperate.
Olivia de Havilland is also solid, but I did have trouble believing that anyone who looked like Olivia de Havilland in 1941 would be a spinster schoolmarm. They do try to dowdy her up a little. (They film does make it clear she had another suitor, but not a real great one.) Still, she has some real chemistry with Boyer and the two of them falling in love makes sense. It never actually makes sense that some American woman would marry a man she met in Tijuana after knowing him for just a few hours, but if anyone could convince someone to do it, it would be Boyer.
As a great piece of trivia, de Havilland was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for Hold Back the Dawn. She lost to her younger sister Joan Fontaine in Suspicion, which no doubt made her furious. (Hold Back the Dawn got seven nominations, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay.)
There are also a few solid subplots about the people in the expatriate community in (not) Tijuana that add to the film. The film makes clear that America is a wonderful place and that these good people have good reasons for wanting to become Americans, but Hold Back the Dawn is also extremely critical of the US immigration policy of the time. The point is made that America was not exactly living up to the Emma Lazarus poem at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.
Hold Back the Dawn is a nice little message picture from 1941 with winning performances from Boyer and de Havilland. It’s not a must-see film by any means, but it’s a pleasant romance that you won’t regret watching.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
Tonight we’ve got the trade deadline behind us and the next thing we have to look forward to is the playoffs. So I’m just going to ask you “Who will win the World Series?”
This article by Dan Szymborski looks at which teams improved their odds of winning with the trades they made the most. Obviously the Padres helped themselves enormously, but so did the Twins and the Mariners, although they had a lot further to go.
So using Fangraphs’ playoff odds, I’m listing every team with better than a 5 percent chance of winning the World Series. I’m even making them choices in the order that Fangraphs has them, best-to-worst. But you can also vote other if you want and tell us how the Cub are going to win 40 games in a row and sweep their way to the title.
So who is winning the World Series?
Who will win the World Series? (Fangraphs odds)
Blue Jays (6.9%)
Other (explain in comments)
Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you were able to dry off some and relax. I hope you had a nice beverage during the show. If you need us to call you a ride home, let us know. Don’t forget anything you checked. And please join us again next week for another week of BCB After Dark.