Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the coolest club for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Come on in out of the cold. Let us check your coat for you. We validate parking. There are still a few tables available and there’s no cover charge this evening. We do have 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.
Last week I asked you about your thoughts about a reunion with free agent left-handed reliever Aroldis Chapman. The majority of you were against it, with 57 percent voting “Nay!” and just twenty percent saying “Yay!” The rest of you were in the “meh” category.
So here’s the part where I put the music and the movies. Those of you who skip that can do so now. You wont hurt my feelings.
Tonight we have one of my favorite pieces of Christmas Jazz, “England’s Carol” by the Modern Jazz Quartet. This is a take on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” This performance was from the MJQ’s “Last Concert” in 1974, which didn’t actually turn out to be their last concert as they reunited seven years later. But as always, the MJQ is John Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibraphone, Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums.
We have our first upset in the BCB Winter Western Classic as the #23 seed, 1949’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon took out the #10 seed, 1943’s The Ox-Bow Incident by a vote of 59 percent to 41 percent. Perhaps you preferred the feel-good She Wore A Yellow Ribbon over the feel-bad The Ox-Bow Incident. Perhaps you preferred glorious technicolor cinematography shot on location over black-and-white and on a soundstage. Perhaps you liked action over dialog. Or John Wayne over Henry Fonda. Or maybe you just voted for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon because Joanne Dru’s nephew played for the Cubs. But for whatever reason, it’s a very fine film and certainly deserving of moving on to the second round.
Tonight we have two John Wayne films facing off against each other and both have a legendary director at the helm. John Ford directs Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles and Lee Marvin in the 1962 classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Howard Hawks directs Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo (1959). When I made up the seeding for this tournament, I had not seen either picture in over a decade. Rewatching them over the weekend, I think I may have ranked Liberty Valance too high and Rio Bravo too low. Should I have actually ranked Rio Bravo higher? That’s not for me to say at this point (and I can’t decide anyway) but it is for you to decide. Will we get a second upset tonight?
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1959). #11 seed. Directed by John Ford. Starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles and Lee Marvin.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance teams up two great Western actors for the for the first time—Wayne and Stewart. The basic premise is one that has been used before in Westerns: the end of the the violent, lawless frontier and the start of modernity and the rule of law in the West. But Ford adds a note of despair to that tale: What good is the truth if no one wants to hear it? The most famous line from the movie is “This is the West. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” People don’t want to grapple with the true history of the West (or anything else, for that matter). They’d rather have a comforting story that ties everything up neatly than deal with the messy reality.
Ford made the curious decision to film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in black-and-white. He gave a lot of reasons why he did that and Ford had been filming mostly in color by 1962. Mostly, Ford just said the film wouldn’t have worked in color. The film also lacks the gorgeous vistas and desert scenery that he had been famous for. This film is shot in dark interiors and dusty frontier town streets. This is intentional, as Ford is trying to make a more personal and intimate Western with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Don’t get me wrong—its a very good-looking movie with touches that are almost noir. (OK, there aren’t so many shadows to make this a real noir-ish take on a Western.) But an older and more cynical Ford wasn’t as interested in the visual poetry of the wide open frontier.
Perhaps, as some have suggested, Ford was just trying to hide the fact that the two lead actors were way too old to be playing the parts they were cast in. Paramount insisted that Wayne play Tom Doniphon and Stewart play Ransom Stoddard. After all, Wayne was the biggest box office draw on the planet and Stewart had made a lot of popular films as well. But both men were in their early fifties playing characters who should have been in their late twenties or early thirties. Wayne and Stewart do good work in this film, but watching it, I couldn’t help but wonder what the film would have looked like with Steve McQueen as Doniphon and Warren Beatty as Stoddard, for example.
Wayne was a very good actor when he wanted to be—see Red River, The Searchers, True Grit or The Shootist. But in 1962, he was very much into just being John Wayne on screen. (Which, to be clear, was a character that Marion “Duke” Morrison had created.) He does some of that in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but thankfully, he keeps it to a minimum. There are moments in this film that Wayne really finds that other gear and becomes something much more moving and interesting, especially in his relationship to Hallie (Vera Miles).
Stewart, on the other hand, is playing a character similar to what he had done 25 years earlier in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: an idealistic young man who finds that his faith in American democracy doesn’t always hold up when reality hits it in the face. But you aren’t likely to find a bad performance from Stewart, so even though he’s too old for the part, he still delivers an interesting character in Ransom Stoddard.
Lee Marvin, on the other hand, gladly chews up the scenery in creating the despicable Liberty Valance. Valance is a thoroughly awful person that we have no trouble hating. His repeated use of a whip is a lovely touch—it shows the raw evil and physical violence in the outlaw’s soul. Valance is a detestable villain and the film is the better for it.
The film starts out with a now-elderly Senator Ransom Stoddard returning to the town of Shinbone with his wife Hallie. They are there to pay their last respects to the recently-departed Tom Doniphon. It’s clear that the two of them cared deeply for him, and the local newspaper editor wants to know why a United States senator would return home for the funeral of some unknown farmer.
The rest of the film is told in flashback, as Stoddard explains how he came to Shinbone as an idealistic young man fresh out of law school. On the way there, he’s robbed and whipped by Liberty Valance and his gang. Doniphon finds the nearly-dead Stoddard and takes him into town. Stoddard wants the cowardly sheriff (Andy Devine) to arrest Valance, but Doniphon explains that the only law in Shinbone is the law of the gun. (Plus, you’re not going to expect a character played by Andy Devine to make a big heroic stand.)
That’s the heart of the film. The argument between Stoddard’s “rule of law” and civilization and Doniphon’s belief that in the West, the man with the fastest gun makes the rules. The two men also fight for the love and affection of Hallie. Doniphon considers the pretty young Hallie to be his girl and she knows this—although he doesn’t seem to have bothered to ask her opinion. But it’s clear that Hallie finds Stoddard to be more attractive. Stoddard teaches her (and much of the rest of Shinbone) how to read and about the principles of democracy that are the foundation of the United States.
Liberty Valance also finds a lot of ways to contrast the “masculinity” of Doniphon with the more “feminine” Stoddard. Doniphon walks tall and lays down the law. He tells people what to do rather than ask. The film puts Stoddard in an apron, serving tables and washing dishes. He serves as a school teacher, which is a woman’s job in the Old West of the movies. But it’s a funny contradiction, because while Ford goes out of his way to make Stoddard look weak and womanly, we know at the very beginning of the film that Stoddard is the one that ends up on top in the end. The future is feminine, I guess, even if it is still run by men.
Stoddard becomes convinced that democracy can’t flourish in Shinbone and this unnamed territory until men of violence like Liberty Valance are taken care of. That puts Doniphon in a tough spot. A duel between Stoddard and Valance would leave Stoddard dead and his biggest competition for Hallie’s affection out of the way. On the other hand, Doniphon supports Stoddard’s drive for statehood for the territory and he also knows how devastated Hallie would be by Stoddard’s death. Plus, he’s believes Stoddard is right, even if he doesn’t like to admit it.
There are a lot of good supporting cast performances in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance as well. Woody Strode plays Pompey, Doniphon’s farmhand and faithful friend. To be honest, this part could have devolved into a bit of a “faithful slave” character to the white master, but Strode rescues it from what could have been an offensive stereotype. Edmond O’Brien is also endlessly entertaining as the usually drunk but otherwise high-minded newspaper editor Dutton Peabody. In addition to Devine, John Carradine also joins the cast in a small part after having been in Stagecoach 23 years earlier.
The trailer for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Rio Bravo (1962). #22 seed. Directed by Howard Hawks. Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Angie Dickinson.
Director Howard Hawks hated High Noon. He didn’t think that a good sheriff would go around asking for help, nor did he think that the townspeople would refuse to help him. He also didn’t like the idea that Gary Cooper had to be bailed out by Grace Kelly. Nor did he like 3:10 to Yuma. He called the mind games played by Glenn Ford’s character in that film to be “a lot of nonsense.” So he set out to make a Western the way he felt should be done with heroes that acted the way that heroes were supposed to act.
If being a rejoinder to High Noon was the target of Rio Bravo, I think Hawks missed the bullseye. But fortunately, what he made was a terrifically-entertaining Western. Rio Bravo doesn’t ask a lot of questions of its audience, but it does deliver action and a lot of fun characters that you want to spend time with.
Dean Martin plays Dude, the town drunk who wanders into a bar, where he’s taunted by Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), who tosses a silver dollar into a spittoon. When Dude tries to reach in and get the dollar, Sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) kicks over the spittoon, starting a fight with Dude. After Dude flattens the surprised sheriff, Joe Burdette starts to beat up Dude. An unarmed bar patron (an uncredited Bing Russell, Kurt’s dad) tries to protect Dude and Joe shoots him dead. The sheriff, now recovered, arrests Joe Burdette for murder, since the dead man wasn’t armed.
Joe’s brother is the leader of the outlaw gang outside of town and has every intention of breaking his brother out of jail before the federal marshals can arrive to take him away to face justice. The sheriff only has the drunk Dude (who it turns out had been a deputy) and the elderly, one-legged and trigger-happy Stumpy (Walter Brennan), who, befitting his name, doesn’t move very well.
An old friend of Chance’s, Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond), arrives into town with a wagon train full of supplies and dynamite, heading for parts farther west. Wheeler stays and town and offers to help, but Chance tells him it’s too dangerous. Wheeler also recommends his new employee, Colorado (Ricky Nelson), whom Wheeler says is the best. Chance thinks Colorado is good enough to be of use, but Colorado isn’t interested in sticking his neck out to help a town he’s just passing through.
But when the Burdette gang find out that Wheeler is trying to put together a posse to help the sheriff protect Joe Burdette, they assassinate him. After that, Colorado decides he wants to help to avenge his former boss.
There’s one more member of this “gang” of heroes, a gambler who passes through town who goes by the name of Feathers (Dickinson). Chance wants to run Feathers out of town, but she decides to stay out of curiosity and because she’s got a thing for Chance, naturally.
So that’s our gang. A tough and wizened sheriff, a once-great deputy trying hard to sober up, a goofy, one-legged old man and a beautiful young card shark. Will they be able to hold out against the outlaws for six days until the marshals arrive? You probably know the answer to that already, but the fun is in seeing this ragtag band come together and what they have to do to accomplish their mission.
As I wrote above, Wayne has a tendency to just be “John Wayne” on screen during this period of his career. But luckily, that really works here. This isn’t a character dealing with past trauma or struggling with a moral dilemma. This is just a heroic sheriff who cares about his town and the good people in it. Martin has no trouble playing a drunk and he even rises to the occasion when he has to play the sobered-up hero. Nelson was the big teen idol at the time, but he could act well enough to handle this part. And Hawks make sure there’s a scene where the gang bides the time waiting for trouble to arrive by having both Martin and Nelson sing. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
But Angie Dickinson, in her first big role, steals the show despite not having a whole heck of a lot to do. Howard Hawks had a type of woman he wanted in his films—smart, fast-talking, witty, capable, but ultimately deferential to men. The “Hawksian Woman” is a well-known film archetype, best exemplified by Lauren Bacall. But Dickinson is the next-best thing to Bacall in Rio Bravo. She was 27 when she made this picture and looked even younger, but she gives the 51-year-old Wayne more than he gives her. Wayne will enter a scene and start yelling at her, but very quickly he gets this look on his face where he knows he’s not going to win this. The two even manage to make the romance between them seem somewhat believable.
The screenplay by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett deserves some special attention for the smart dialog and the way it keeps a 141 minute film moving along without any drab spots. Star Wars fans should recognize Brackett, as she wrote the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, finishing just days before dying of cancer.
Rio Bravo was shot in Technicolor, and recent restorations make it look great, But this film is mostly interiors and town streets, so don’t come looking for some glorious vistas of the American West.
Hawks loved Rio Bravo so much that he basically remade it twice with John Wayne—El Dorado (1966) and Rio Lobo (1970). But the original is best. John Carpenter did a modern remake in Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).
The trailer for Rio Bravo.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance or Rio Bravo?
This poll is closed
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
You have until Wednesday to vote. Liberty Valance is available on Amazon Prime, Paramount+ and MGM+, as well as to rent from all the regular sites. I’ve only been able to find Rio Bravo for rent at the moment.
Next up on Wednesday is two gritty Westerns: the #12 seed, director Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, taking on the #21 seed, director Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur. Unfortunately, I’m not finding either of these movies on any of the streaming services, but they are both available to rent from the usual suspects.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.
So a lot has happened since last we spoke. Shohei Ohtani signed with the Dodgers for ten years and $700 million. Then it came out today that the deal was for ten years and $20 million with a whopping $680 million deferred. So we can stop considering that possibility for the Cubs.
The latest player connected to the Cubs is Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor after a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the Cubs, along with the Mariners and Pirates, had inquired about him.
We’ve already heard of the Cubs talking to the Guardians about right-handed starter Shane Bieber and closer Emmanuel Clase. Naylor is another player with Cleveland who fits a need for the Cubs. He’s a left-handed-hitting first baseman who hit .308/.354/.489 with 31 doubles and 17 home runs. On top of that, Naylor is a good contact hitter, striking out in just 13.7 percent of his plate appearances. His batting average this past season was over .300 thanks to some really good (or lucky) numbers on batting average in balls in play, but his career batting average is .284 and his career OBP is .344. The point is, Naylor can get on base and hit for power. He’s what the Cubs are looking for in a first baseman.
On top of that, Naylor is just 26 and has two more seasons of arbitration left. MLB Trade Rumors estimates that he’ll make an affordable $7.2 million this year and then whatever he will make in 2025.
There are some negatives about Naylor. The first is that he’s not much of a defensive first baseman. He can play there, but he’s only 5’11 and he doesn’t move that well. He’s also never played more than 122 games in one season. However, there doesn’t seem to be anything chronic about his injuries. He had a broken ankle in 2022 and a right oblique strain in 2023. And he came back from his oblique injury after missing a month and hit .315 with a .381 OBP in September, although his power numbers were down a bit.
So if Naylor is young and affordable, why would the Guardians trade him? As the article says, they don’t have to, but they are listening on everyone. The Guardians don’t expect to contend this year and they’d like to deal Naylor now when his value is at his highest. On top of that, their #2 prospect (according to MLB Pipeline) is first baseman Kyle Manzardo, who is probably very close to major-league ready after hitting 17 home runs in 94 games in Triple-A last year.
So how much would Naylor cost in trade? He wouldn’t be cheap. The Guardians would probably jump at Christopher Morel, Pete Crow-Armstrong or Cade Horton for Naylor, but I can’t see the Cubs include any of those players unless it was part of a bigger deal that included Bieber and/or Clase. But I certainly think that Naylor would demand at least one of the Cubs top prospects and probably a lesser one on top of that. I certainly think a deal could be structured around Ben Brown or Kevin Alcántara. There would likely have to be another good prospect in there as well. Perhaps a young major league reliever like Javier Assad would have to be included as well as either a replacement for one of the prospects or for the Cubs to include a less-highly regarded prospect instead.
Of course, Naylor could be part of a larger deal with the Cubs also acquiring Bieber and/or Clase, Then the price could go up exponentially. I don’t want to think what that would cost. But the Cubs could pay it.
So should the Cubs move to trade for Josh Naylor? Or should they just try to sign free agent Rhys Hoskins and not trade away any prospects? They could also just give Cody Bellinger the money he wants to play first base as well, but Bellinger would have to agree to that.
Should the Cubs trade for Josh Naylor?
This poll is closed
Thanks for stopping by this evening. We hope you’ve had a good time. We’ve certainly enjoyed hosting you. Please stay warm and get home safely. Recycle and cans or bottles. Tip your waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow night for more BCB After Dark.