It’s another Wednesday evening here at BCB After Dark: the grooviest get-together for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Come on in and talk playoffs with us. Your name is on the guest list. Take any available table—or sit with someone else and make a new friend. 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.
This is disappointing. All four Division Series ended up in 2-0 sweeps, meaning we have no baseball on Thursday. Except for the Arizona Fall League, of course, but that’s not on TV. Another problem was that two of the game today—The Rangers’ 7-1 win over the Rays and the Phillies’ 7-1 win over the Marlins—were uninteresting blowouts. Even the Diamondbacks’ 5-2 win over the Brewers was fairly anticlimactic after the Snakes scored four runs in the sixth. The only true thriller we got today was the Twins’ 2-0 shutout over the Blue Jays.
Last evening I asked you about the rumors that the Cubs are interested in trading for Mets first baseman Pete Alonso and whether you thought that was a good idea. You mostly have a much more negative view of Alonso than I do as 57 percent of you didn’t think he’d be worth the cost.
Here’s the part where we play the tunes and talk movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Tonight we have saxophonist George Coleman playing his own composition “Amsterdam After Dark.” This appears to be from the early ‘80s.
On Monday night, I wrote about the pre-Code horror film Murders in the Rue Morgue, which I found to be a ridiculous story with hammy acting but some very terrific camera work by legendary cinematographer Karl Freund. I also put in some praise for the look of the sets and the production design.
Today, I’ve got another movie from that same Criterion Channel Pre-Code Horror block from the very same year of 1932—Thirteen Women. Directed by George Archainbaud, Thirteen Women was one of the first “women’s ensemble” film from Hollywood. Unlike Murders in the Rue Morgue, Thirteen Women has a solid (if still somewhat silly) plot and some strong performances from two terrific Classic Hollywood actresses—Irene Dunne and Myrna Loy. Ricardo Cortez also does a solid job as the detective who is trying to solve the series of deaths among a group of sorority sisters. The film is not as visually compelling as Murders in the Rue Morgue, but Archainbaud and cinematographer Leo Tover do a good job, especially in capturing Loy’s villainous character.
But there is one thing about the plot this film that really sticks out and says something about race in America in the 1930s. And there is a bit of trivia to this film that keeps it somewhat famous to this day.
Before Loy became a big star with The Thin Man movies (and yes, you should watch them if you haven’t), Hollywood had pegged her as an “exotic.” What that meant was that Loy could be cast in non-white roles—mostly Asian characters in what we today call “yellowface.” Before we go on, you should know that’s what Loy is doing here—playing a half-Asian woman with heavy eye makeup to make her eyes appear less round. And yes, she’s a murderer, but not a completely unsympathetic one. But this film also plays into a lot of bad stereotypes about Asian women—and they use a Scottish-American woman to do so. That was the movies in the 1930s.
The movie is about 12 sorority sisters and best friends who have all written in to an astrologer—Swami Yogadachi (C. Henry Gordon)—to all have their future told. Unbeknownst to them, Swami Yogadachi has fallen under the spell of Ursula Georgi (Loy), who has some sort of hypnotism power. (Because all exotic women have that power, probably.) While the Swami says the stars foretell prosperous futures for the 12 friends, Ursula tears up their horoscopes and sends them new ones that foretell horrible doom to each of them.
Ursula then goes about trying to make all of these prophecies of doom come true. On some she doesn’t really even have to try—these women are so superstitious that the mere prediction of doom has them so rattled that they either die in accidents or commit horrible crimes out of fear. To convince this circle of friends that the Swami’s predictions always come true, she sends them letters from the Swami that the stars predict a horrible fate for him as well. And sure enough, Ursula hypnotizes (or maybe just pushes) the Swami into the path of a moving subway train.
Others are not quite so superstitious, so Ursula meets up with them and manipulates them into their fate. One woman is manipulated/hypnotised into committing suicide, for example. It’s here that we learn why Ursula is trying to destroy these sorority sisters. Ursula was a student at their school, but the 12 women mercilessly tormented her because of her Asian heritage. She eventually had to drop out of the school and whatever happened to her since then (that’s not really clear), she blames on the sorority that bullied her.
So that’s a plot that makes sense, right? We’ve seen this plot in horror movies over the last 90 years. It works, even if the way Ursula goes about her revenge is a bit on the silly side.
But Laura (Dunne) is the leader of the sorority sisters and she doesn’t really believe in astrology or the supernatural. But she went along with getting her horoscope told because that’s what all her friends want. And Laura’s horoscope foretells death for her young son. She doesn’t believe it, but once all her other sorority sisters start turning up dead, she gets suspicious that someone is out to get them. The rest of the film is about Ursula trying to kill Laura’s son and Dunne and Ricardo Cortez trying to figure out who is behind this and trying to stop her.
Unfortunately, the film is only an hour long so we don’t get to see Ursula bring doom to all 12 sisters. Several of the women’s stories got cut and others are so brief that they might as well have been cut.
One thing I found really interesting about this film is Ursula’s motivation. She was the victim of racism by the girls and she wants revenge. Fair enough. But the interesting thing is that Loy delivers a speech where she doesn’t argue for racial tolerance, but rather that the sorority should have let her “pass” as white. She (correctly) says that white people have the chance to be whatever they want but that Asians gets stereotyped and pigeonholed into what white society want them to be. But her argument (in her evil villain monologue) isn’t that bigotry and racism is wrong, but rather that she should have been allowed to be white. It’s a very different message than a similar film would deliver today. And I think that says something about America of the 1930s.
But if Thirteen Women is remembered today, it’s remembered for being the only movie that Peg Entwistle ever appeared in. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, you are probably still familiar with her story. Entwistle was the actress who committed suicide by jumping off the “H” in the Hollywoodland sign—thus forever serving as a warning to those who come west seeking fame and fortune. The movie came out a month after she died and I don’t think the finished product would have made her any happier. She’s only in about two minutes of the film as a sorority sister whose horoscope of doom drives her to murder her husband. Her part was apparently originally a bit bigger than that, but most of it ended up on the cutting room floor. Future consumer affairs reporter and Today Show regular Betty Furness’s part was completely cut.
If Thirteen Women is worth watching for its own sake, it’s worth watching for the performances of Dunne and Loy as the hero and the villain of the piece. It’s also short and you might just end up cheering for Loy’s Ursula, although I’m pretty positive that wasn’t the intention of the filmmakers back in 1932. Otherwise, it’s an interesting piece of Hollywood history for the way it approaches race and for Entwistle’s small part.
This is the first four minutes of the film. Entwistle is the woman in the hat talking to the acrobats. (The caption for this video is wrong. Entwistle also appears later in the film for about ten seconds as she shrieks in horror after killing her husband.)
The last 15 seconds has Loy in yellowface.
Welcome back to all of you who skip the music and movies.
I said that if I no news broke today, I’d ask you for your pick in the American League tonight. Since I’ve got nothing else, let’s hear your choice to win the AL Pennant. Since we delayed this poll a day, we’ve got two fewer choices since the Rays and Blue Jays were eliminated earlier today. That worked out nicely for me.
This isn’t a prediction, but I do want to say that I am 100% pulling for the Twins to win the AL Pennant, if only because I very much want to see a World Series outdoors in Minneapolis in November. I was living in St. Paul the last time the Twins were in the World Series and that means I was also in St. Paul for the 1991 Halloween Blizzard. Game 7 of that Series was on October 27, so they (and the victory parade) missed the carnage by a couple of days. But let me tell you, they would have had to postpone Game 7 even in the Metrodome because no one would have been able to get to the stadium. Officially, the Twin Cities got 28.4 inches of snow in that storm, but that was at the airport and I suspect they got a couple extra inches in Downtown Minneapolis, where I worked. There were also snow drifts that were well over six feet.
But even without a blizzard, I suspect that a World Series game played outdoors in Minneapolis on November 1 would be something that none of us would ever forget.
Who will win the AL Pennant?
This poll is closed
Thank you all for spending another week with us. The nights are getting colder, but they’re a lot more bearable with good company and good talk. Please recycle any cans or bottles you may have brought. Please get home safely. Tip the waitstaff. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.