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BCB After Dark: Never Can Say Goodbye

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks if Willson Contreras will be back with the Cubs next year.

Chicago Cubs v. Cincinnati Reds Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the jumpin’ joint for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re glad you stopped by tonight. Grab a seat and relax. If there’s anything we can do for you this evening, please let us know. There’s no cover charge this evening. There’s a two-drink minimum, but 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.

The Cubs came back to beat the Marlins again 4-3, to take two out of three from the Fish. The depleted Cubs lineup only managed four hits, but they scored four runs in large part thanks to bad Marlins defense. It’s hard to catch the ball when you have fins instead of hands.

Last night I asked you if you thought the new rules for 2023 would help or hurt the Cubs’ chances. This turned out to be a bit of a dud of a question, but 66 percent of you thought they’d make no difference. Of those who thought they would, 27 percent said they’d help and only seven percent thought they’d hurt. Sorry. I’ll try to do better next time.

Here’s the part where I talk about movies and jazz. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Here’s a quick little video of the Christian McBride Trio at a jazz festival in Poland in 2015. They’re playing the jazz standard “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.” So here is McBride on bass (of course), Christian Sands on piano and Jerome Jennings on drums.

Humphrey Bogart in a comedy? Kinda! But 1942’s All Through the Night, directed by Vincent Sherman, is also a gangster picture before it oddly becomes a spy movie, all the while warning of the danger that Nazi Germany posed to America. It probably even qualifies as noir, even though the femme fatale turns out to be something less than that. While it certainly veers into the silly sometimes and preachy at other moments, it’s a pretty solid picture. It is never mentioned among Bogart’s best, nor should it be. But it is a fun and enjoyable most of the time.

Bogart plays “Gloves” Donahue, a small-time mobster who leads a small outfit in New York. He gets sent on a wild adventure involving a Nazi spy ring when his favorite restaurant doesn’t have his favorite cheesecake that he eats every day. Really. That’s the plot. The opening scene of the picture features Phil Silvers, Jackie Gleason and William Demarest (a full menu of classic sitcom stars!) arguing in the restaurant about the best way for Britain to defeat Hitler.

All Through the Night was a Warner Brothers picture, and Warner Brothers was the studio that sounded the warning of the threat that Nazism posed to the world more than any of them. (The other studios didn’t want to be “too political” and risk access to European or other pro-German markets.) The original idea was for radio personality Walter Winchell to star in the film as Donahue, which only goes to show that the concept of “stunt casting” goes back a long ways. Winchell couldn’t act, of course, but the idea was that his popularity would sell tickets and who cared if he couldn’t act? (Winchell would go on to be the narrator on the television show The Untouchables. But that wasn’t really acting.)

Winchell was interested, but he turned it down when he realized that he would have to take about two months off from his radio program. So the offer went out to Hollywood’s go-to guy for every gangster lead, George Raft. Humphrey Bogart had made a career out of landing parts that Raft turned down and All Through the Night was no exception. Raft had earlier in 1941 turned down The Maltese Falcon, the film that made Bogart a star. This was the next picture that Bogart made after The Maltese Falcon.

On the one hand, playing “Gloves” wasn’t a stretch for Bogart. His whole career to that point he’d been playing tough guys, thugs and wiseguys. “Gloves” was yet another tough criminal in a crime picture.

But “Gloves” was very different that the gangsters Bogart had played in films like The Petrified Forest or High Sierra. His right-hand man, “Sunshine,” was played by William Demarest, who had been a regular in a series of Preston Sturges comedies. (Nowadays he’s mostly known for playing Uncle Charly on My Three Sons.) And one member of his gang is played by an unknown comic by the name of Jackie Gleason. The waiter at his favorite restaurant, who joins in with the gang eventually, is played by another unknown comic named Phil Silvers.

All of this is a way of saying that this isn’t exactly the Corleone family here. Everyone describes “Gloves’” gang as being the kind of criminals straight out of a Damon Runyon story, complete with snappy dialog and corny gangster slang. They talk in the way a comedian who was doing a James Cagney impersonation would talk. These are also criminals with a good heart. And patriotic, as we find out later. But they’re always taking pratfalls after tripping over something. There’s even a sitcom-esque subplot about one member of “Gloves’” gang who just got married and both he and his bride are angry because “Gloves” won’t give him time off from work for the honeymoon.

By the way, Phil Silvers said that he and Gleason were cast in the picture because both were under contract with Warner Brothers and not appearing in anything. Jack Warner was unhappy that he was paying both of them to do nothing, so he ordered director Sherman to put both of them in the movie. When Sherman said that there wasn’t a part for either of them, Warner screamed “Make parts for them!” So he created an extra member of the gang for Gleason and the part of the waiter for Silvers. Neither is in the film much, but they both get in some comedic bits the small screen time they do have.

The villians in this film are played by Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre, who would both go on to play opposite Bogart in Casablanca later in 1942. The female lead, Leda Hamilton, was played by Kaaren Verne. All three of those actors were exiles from Nazi Germany.

After the scene in the restaurant with Demarest, Silvers, Gleason and a few others, “Gloves” Donahue walks in and orders his cheesecake, which he apparently does every day. Unfortunately, he only eats Miller’s cheesecake and Mr. Miller (Ludwig Stössel, another refugee from the Reich) hadn’t shown up that day with his delivery. Silvers tries to pass off the inferior cheesecake to “Gloves,” but it doesn’t fool him. He tells them in no uncertain terms that they’d better have Miller’s cheesecake available the next time he comes in.

“Gloves” does run into Miller as he leaves, and he apologizes for his tardiness. But “Gloves” considers Mr. Miller a friend and so does his mother (Jane Darwell, coming off an Oscar win for The Grapes of Wrath). Miller is not going to get into trouble with “Gloves,” which is good because he’s already deep in trouble with someone else.

The first third of this film is pretty much a comedy. Bogart himself doesn’t crack a lot of jokes—he generally plays the straight man to his supporting cast—but later in the film he does get off some bits, primarily with his right-hand man “Sunshine” (Demarest). Perhaps the biggest one is when they impersonate a couple of Nazi saboteurs and are forced to speak nonsense-German. (Like you’d speak when you were eight and were pretending to speak German.) Whenever anyone gets suspicious, “Gloves” just puts up a “Sieg Heil” and all the other Nazis have to stop what they’re doing and “Sieg Heil” back.

Some spoilers to follow:

Soon we find out why Miller was late. He’s gotten himself tied up in some criminal operation with Pepi (Lorre) and is now refusing to participate any more. So Pepi kills Miller at his cheesecake shop.

“Gloves’” mom is suspicious about what happened to Miller and calls her son to come investigate. They find Miller dead in the basement. Then Leda Hamilton (Verne) shows up, unannounced, at the shop looking for Miller. When informed that Miller is dead, she disappears.

“Gloves” tracks Hamilton down to the nightclub where she is a singer (because of course she is) and tries to get information from her. But it turns out that Pepi is her piano player and takers her to a back room of the club where he is discovered by one of the nightclub owners. Pepi shoots him and flees with Hamilton.

The cops pin the murder at the club on “Gloves” and maybe the Miller killing too. So now “Gloves” and his gang have to track down Pepi in order to clear his name.

Pepi and Hamilton are involved in a Nazi spy ring operated by Hall Ebbing (Veidt). Thus the gang, mainly “Gloves” and “Sunshine,” are forced to infiltrate the gang and prevent the sabotage that they were panning for the New York docks.

It also turns out that Leda Hamilton is working for the Nazis against her will, as they are holding her father hostage in Dachau if she doesn’t cooperate. This leads to an unfortunate Dachau joke by Bogart, but they didn’t know the whole story in the fall of 1941. They knew Dachau was bad and they point this out later in the film. They just didn’t know how bad.

End Spoilers

The first third of the film is mostly a comedy. The jokes slow down after the Nazi spy ring plot is revealed, but they never really end. The middle part of the film is a lot of gangster action with gunfire and fist fights. The end of the film combines those two elements with a warning that Nazism is a danger to the entire world, including the United States.

While this film was released in January of 1942 after the US had entered the war, it was made in the fall of 1941 and presents a strong message against isolationism. The Nazis not only won’t stop in Europe, but they are already here in America and they’re a threat. This message can come off as pretty heavy-handed to modern ears, but of course as bad as this film says the Nazis are, they had no idea at the time that they were actually a whole lot worse.

As with any comedy, some of the jokes work and some of the jokes don’t work. Making fun of Nazis was something that Charlie Chaplin had done in The Great Dictator in 1940, and it’s always a difficult balance to poke their balloons with humor while not downplaying the menace that they represent. All Through the Night tries very hard to find that balance. Whether they succeeded is a matter of opinion and of course, they were hampered by not knowing about the atrocities that had already started by the time the film was made. They emphasize what the Nazis could do to Americans, which while maybe a little egotistical, was probably the right call politically.

All Through the Night is a weird mismash of genres and tone that somehow kinda works. Obviously, the incredible talent of the cast played a huge role in whatever success it has. The actors are also what makes the film a pleasant watch. It’s not a “must-watch” by any means, but fans of Bogart and old espionage films should enjoy it. Also, fans of the “comedy-gangster-spy thriller” genre should like it, as Wikipedia describes the film.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.

Tonight’s question is one that I didn’t think we’d be asking back in July; “Will Willson Contreras be back with the Cubs in 2023?”

Earlier this week, Buster Olney wrote an article asking that very question. (ESPN+ sub. req.) It seemed impossible back in July, but the Cubs found the trade market for Contreras very soft. There were a lot of explanations for that (a belief that Contreras couldn’t mesh with a new pitching staff mid-season was a common one) but it’s clear that most MLB teams don’t value Contreras the same way the Cubs did.

On top of that, because Contreras was not traded mid-season and because MLB and the MLBPA did not come to an agreement on an international draft, Contreras is going to get saddled with a qualifying offer by the Cubs. That means that any team signing him will lose a draft pick and possibly international pool money. (What draft pick and pool money all depends on who is doing the signing.) Teams have been loathe to give up picks for anything less than elite free agents, and it’s clear that MLB collectively considers Contreras to be a good-but-not-elite free agent.

On the other hand, Contreras could accept the qualifying offer, play for the Cubs in 2023 and then hit the market without any compensation attached for 2024. That would be a risk, but considering that Contreras has struggled and has been hurt over the final two months of the season, it might be his best option. This is a strategy that worked for Marcus Stroman after he sat out the 2020 season.

Of course, it’s also possible that Contreras rejects the qualifying offer and discovers that the loss of a draft pick scares most teams away from giving him the contract he wants. In that case, the best offer might come from the Cubs, who obviously don’t lose a draft pick for signing their own player.

On the other hand, Contreras is going to be the best catcher on the free agent market, no matter what. If a team need a catcher, they may not have a better option than Contreras, even if they’re not in love with losing a draft pick. It’s been rumored that the Cardinals, who need a replacement for the retiring Yadier Molina, are interested in signing Contreras. They’d lose a second-round draft pick and $500k of international pool money. Maybe St. Louis thinks Contreras is worth it.

So tell me. Will Willson Contreras be back with the Cubs in 2023?


Will Willson Contreras be back with the Cubs in 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    (104 votes)
  • 39%
    (67 votes)
171 votes total Vote Now

Thanks to everyone who stopped by this week. We hope we made your week a little better. Please check around your table for any of your belongings. Please get home safely. If you need us to call a ride for you, let us know. Please tip your waitstaff. And join us again next week for another edition of BCB After Dark.