Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the hippest hangout for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Settle in for a spell. You probably don’t have anything better to do tonight than listen to music and talk movies and baseball. It’s cold outside but it’s warm in here. There’s no cover charge. We still have one or two good tables left. Let us know if you need anything. 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.
Last night, I asked who would lead the Cubs in home runs in 2023. After two years of Patrick Wisdom leading the team, 28 percent of you think that new Cubs outfielder Cody Bellinger will take the team home run title. If he returns to his 2017-19 form, he almost certainly will. In second place, 26 percent of you think that Patrick Wisdom will once again lead the team in dingers. In third place was the rookie Matt Mervis, with 18 percent of the vote.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
I feel like I don’t present enough Latin jazz. That’s probably because I’m simply not as versed in Latin jazz as I am in . . .I dunno . . . non-Latin jazz I guess you’d call it. More mainstream American jazz.
But I do know a little, and I do know the Cuban bandleader Mongo Santamaría and his classic composition “Afro Blue.” Here is Santamaría (on the congo drums) and his orchestra. This is listed as a performance from 1984, but I have no idea where it aired.
I asked you to vote on Detour versus The Asphalt Jungle in the BCB Winter Noir Classic and you picked The Asphalt Jungle by a pretty clear margin. At least a lot of you found out about Detour however, and I take solace in that. Also in the fact that The Asphalt Jungle is a pretty great movie too.
Tonight we’ve got the final matchup in the first round and it’s two films I intentionally matched up against each other. It’s Gun Crazy (1950), directed by Joseph H. Lewis, and They Live By Night (1948), directed by Nicholas Ray in his directing debut.
I matched these two films up intentionally because they have a lot in common. Both films are (very loosely) inspired by the real-life Depression outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Darrow. Both films were also big influences on the Arthur Penn-directed Bonnie and Clyde (1967), which is one of the most iconic and influential American films of all time. Both films also feature young lovers on the run from the law.
But there are some differences as well. In Gun Crazy, the female lead is someone who is bad, admits she’s bad and leads the weak-willed man into a life of violence. In They Live By Night, the woman tries to be the moral conscience who tags along in an attempt to get her man to give up his life of crime.
There’s one other thing these two films have in common. I couldn’t find a trailer for either one. But I could find scenes for both of them, so you can watch those. Also, the entire film of They Live by Night is up on YouTube.
Gun Crazy. Directed by Joseph H. Lewis. Starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall. Bart (Dall) is a man who has been crazy about guns his entire life, which gets him into trouble. After doing a stint in reform school, he meets Laurie (Cummins), who works at a carnival as a trick shot artist. They fall in lust at first sight over their mutual love of guns. The sexual innuendo of the two and their love of guns will not be lost on anyone.
Eventually, Laurie convinces Bart to leave with her and start a life of crime.
Gun Crazy was produced from the legendary King Brothers Productions, a small and brash independent studio that was noted for churning out lots of cheap B-pictures with lurid subject matter. But they also made good cheap B-pictures and Gun Crazy was arguably their masterpiece. The script was completely re-written by legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who worked for the King Brothers anonymously while he was blacklisted. (Trumbo’s pseudonym would later win an Academy Award for The Brave Ones, another King Brothers production.) Trumbo wrote Gun Crazy as he was preparing to serve his year in federal prison for contempt of Congress.
Being shot on a small budget, Gun Crazy takes advantage of what would later be called “guerrilla filmmaking” as Lewis shot the famous long bank robbery and getaway scene on the streets of Montrose, California without really getting permission or telling anyone. OK, he did get permission from the bank so they didn’t call the real cops on him. But they were the only ones who knew apart from the actors and cameramen.
There aren’t a lot of noirs with a “meet-cute,” but Gun Crazy has one.
They Live by Night. Directed by Nicholas Ray. Starring Cathy O’Donnell and Farley Granger. Granger plays Bowie, a young man serving time for being an accessory to a murder he committed at 16. He breaks out of prison with two older bankrobbers, the one-eyed Chicamaw (Howard Da Silva) and T-Dub (Jay C. Fillpen), who has both of his eyes but is still pretty mean-looking. Also, you gotta love those criminal nicknames. They hide out at a gas station owned by Chicamaw’s brother. His niece, Keechie, works there.
The three escaped convicts then pull off a bank heist, where Bowie hopes to gain enough money to hire a lawyer to prove that he was wrongly convicted on the murder charge. But while they get away with the money, they crash the getaway car. Bowie is injured in the crash and Chicamaw murders a police officer who comes to help.
Chicamaw and T-Dub leave Bowie with Keechie as they go out to do more crimes. The two fall in love and Keechie tries to convince Bowie to go straight. But when Keechie discovers that the police think Bowie killed the policeman and not Chicamaw, they decide they have no choice but to flee.
The Live by Night was Nicholas Ray’s first film as a director, and in Bowie and Keechie, you can see a lot of the “young, misunderstood lovers” that would pop up later in his best-known film, Rebel Without a Cause. There is also a real “Romeo and Juliet” vibe to the doomed, star-crossed lovers here.
They Live by Night is set during the Great Depression, and Ray based the look of the film on the photography of Dorothea Lange and other Depression-era photographers. There’s also an aerial scene that is credited as being the first one ever shot from a helicopter.
Here’s a scene where Bowie discusses his plans with a skeptical Keechie.
Gun Crazy or They Live by Night?
This poll is closed
They Live by Night
By the way, Gun Crazy just happens to be airing on TCM this evening as I write this. If you have TCM, you can almost certainly watch it on demand.
You have until Monday evening to vote.
This is the last matchup of the first round. The first matchup of the second round will be another film directed by Nicholas Ray, In A Lonely Place, which will take on first-round winner, Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.
And a big welcome to Chicago to Eric Hosmer, who is officially the newest Cub as of earlier today. I know that people aren’t excited about this right now (as evidenced by the 57 percent “meh” vote in that linked article) but I know that no one was excited about the production the Cubs got out of first base last year either. The Cubs got a wRC+ of 86 (when 100 is league average) out of their first baseman last season and Hosmer had an wRC+ of 104 last year. Nothing spectacular, but a definite improvement.
Plus, the price was right on Hosmer, correct? Free is a very good price and while Hosmer wasn’t free, he was the major-league minimum.
So tonight, I’m going to ask you how you think Hosmer is going to do for the Cubs in 2023? Instead of wRC+, I’m going to just ask you about his OPS+, which I think is easier to understand (although maybe not as illuminating). OPS+ just adds together on-base percentage and slugging percentage, adjusts it for the ballpark, and then modifies it so that 100 is league average.
Last season, Hosmer had a OPS+ of 108. That’s also his career-average. That’s pretty good for a strong defender at an up-the-middle position, but not so good for a first baseman. Hosmer’s best season was 2017 in Kansas City, when he posted an OPS+ of 133. He also had an OPS+ of 132 in San Diego in the abbreviated 2020 season. His OPS+ was 113 in San Diego last year, but it went down dramatically with a very poor 77 after he was traded to Boston.
So what will Hosmer’s OPS+ be for the 2023 season? He’s been a left-handed pull hitter who hits a lot of ground balls in recent years, so he could be a real candidate to improve thanks to the ban on defensive shifts. On top of that, he posted a strikeout percentage of 15.3 last year, his lowest since 2013.
On the other hand, Hosmer is a year older (now 33) and moving to a new team. He’s also not guaranteed regular playing time at first base, as rookie Matt Mervis will be looking to win a spot in the lineup. There’s always the DH, but the Cubs will want to use that to give other players half of a day off from time to time. Mervis has always been an everyday player and he certainly struggled last season in Boston when he wasn’t trotting out there nearly every day.
So what will Hosmer’s OPS+ be for next year?
Predict Eric Hosmer’s 2023 OPS+
This poll is closed
Between 115 and 125
Between 105 and 114
From 95 to 104
From 85 to 94
Thank you to everyone who stopped by this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed spending time with us as much as we’ve enjoyed spending time with you. Please stay warm out there. 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 more BCB After Dark.