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BCB After Dark: Fireman games

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks who is going to be the best reliever for the Cubs this season.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

It’s another week here at BCB After Dark: the swingingest soirée for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. So glad that you could join us this evening. Come on in, get warm and sit with us for a while. No cover charge. There is still a good table available. The hostess will escort you. 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 the possibilities of the Cubs signing either Nico Hoerner or Ian Happ to contract extensions this spring. It seems that most of you are optimistic about Hoerner and pessimistic about Happ. Fifty-two percent of you voted that Hoerner and the Cubs would agree to an extension. In second place with 26 percent was that neither player would sign an extension before Opening Day. (Although the Cubs have time to sign Hoerner to an extension after this season.) Only 16 percent thought that both of them would sign a new deal.

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.

It’s been a while since I featured any Miles Davis, so I thought I’d rectify that this evening. Here’s the second great Miles Davis Quintet—with Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums playing “I Fall in Love Too Easily” in Germany in 1967. The first three and a half minutes here is quiet with just Herbie and Miles playing and then Tony WIlliams goes Keith Moon on the drum kit (except he’s in control) and the performance takes off from there.

You voted in the final quarterfinal of the BCB Winter Noir Classic and you picked Sunset Boulevard (1950) to advance over The Big Heat (1953) with a vote of 57 to 43 percent. Obviously there wasn’t a wrong choice here, but Sunset Boulevard is the more famous film. That means one of our two semifinals will feature two Billy Wilder-directed films going head-to-head against each other: Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity. It does make me wonder whether I should have stuck Wilder’s Ace in the Hole in the competition. I did consider it.

But that battle will start on Wednesday evening. Tonight we have the other semifinal which features The Maltese Falcon (1941) going against The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

Here’s what I’ve written about The Maltese Falcon previously.

The Maltese Falcon. Directed by John Huston. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet in his film debut. It’s also the directing debut for Huston.

“The stuff that dreams are made of.” Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you probably know the famous last line of this film. Humphrey Bogart steps into the role of Sam Spade, a hard-boiled private investigator who is only slightly more honest than the corrupt cesspool of San Francisco where he works. One morning into his office steps the beautiful Ruth Wonderly (Astor), who hires him to find her sister’s boyfriend. Spade believes nothing that Ruth tells him, which is good because everything she told him was a lie. That includes her name, which is actually Brigid O’Shaughnessy. But Spade believes her money, so he takes the job.

Spade’s partner gets murdered on the job for Brigid and Spade gets caught up in a quest for the Maltese Falcon, a medieval treasure of immense value. Brigid is after it, as well as Kasper Gutman (Greenstreet) and the two gangsters working for him, played by Lorre and Elisha Cook Jr. It’s a tale of murder, love and betrayal. It’s a classic for a reason.

This was actually the third attempt to adapt the Dashiell Hammett novel, after a 1931 version starring Bebe Daniels and Ricardo Cortez, and Satan Met a Lady (1936), starring Bette Davis and Warren William. The first one was good (although not anywhere near as good as this version) but it was basically banned in the US after the Production Code was adopted in 1934. I’ve never seen Satan Met a Lady, but everyone who has seen it has called it hot garbage, including Bette Davis.

But Huston’s The Maltese Falcon was a departure from the previous versions and even from the crime movies that preceded it. It’s often called the very first film noir, although that’s a bit like declaring what was the first rock ’n’ roll song or the first crime novel. There’s no clear dividing line, but The Maltese Falcon certainly influenced every noir film that was made in its wake. Huston and cinematographer Arthur Edeson revolutionized the look of the the crime picture that became the look of noir. They put the shadows and darkness into it, among other innovations. Huston also de-emphasized the whole mystery whodunnit aspect of the plot and put the focus on the characters and their motivations, especially on Spade. This is also the film that made Bogart a superstar and Astor, Lorre, Greenstreet, Cook and Lee Patrick as Spade’s secretary are all terrific.

I feel like I owe you a little something more than what I’ve written previously. I’ve previously said that the titular Maltese Falcon is the ultimate example of what Hitchcock called the “MacGuffin.” What the statue is and what it represents is truly unimportant. What matters is that people are willing to kill or die for it.

Also, The Maltese Falcon is often called the first film noir, and it (and noir itself) is really a product of what America was in 1941. The country was just emerging out of the Great Depression, but everyone was scarred by it. There was also a second darkness creeping over the country with the Second World War and fascism. Bogart’s Sam Spade is a cold man who shows little emotion beyond an occasional fit of anger. He’s learned it’s best to not be vulnerable, because those that do get played for a sucker. When his partner, Archer, is killed, Spade’s primary reaction is to coldly have Archer’s name removed from the door. Spade tries to solve his murder, but only because it’s something expected of him, not because he cared whether or not Archer lived or died.

Here’s the scene where Spade first faces off against Greenstreet’s Kasper Gutman. As you can see at the end of the scene, the emotional outburst here was an act.

And here’s what I wrote about The Postman Always Rings Twice.

The Postman Always Rings Twice. Directed by Tay Garnett. Starring Lana Turner and John Garfield with Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames and Audrey Totter in supporting roles. Turner stars as Cora, one of the ultimate femme fatales in classic noirs. Garfield is Frank, a drifter who ends up working at a diner in a rural area outside of Los Angeles operated by Cora and her much-older husband Nick (Kellaway). Cora’s marriage to Nick is loveless—not that Nick knows that—and she quickly seduces Frank and makes plans to run off with him. Fearing they’d be broke if she divorced Nick, Cora convinces Frank to murder Nick instead so she’d inherit the diner. Which kind of sucks for Frank because he kind of likes Nick. (To be fair to Cora, Nick decides he’s going to sell the diner and move the two of them to a Canadian town located on the Arctic Ocean without asking her first. If that’s not reason for murder, I don’t know what is. But Cora planned to kill Nick even before that.) For a while, it looks like the two of them got away with it. But the postman always rings twice, right?

The Postman Always Rings Twice has as much sex in any film of the 1940s. Which means, yeah, not much by modern standards, but there’s little doubt of what’s going on off-camera. Lana Turner was one of the most famous of the Hollywood sex symbols. Garfield had the same kind of everyman appeal that Bogart had, but his acting style was most more akin to Marlon Brando and the others coming out of the Method acting schools. In fact, Garfield was considered to be a big influence on Brando, Montgomery Clift and other method actors who would come to dominate the 1950s.

As is common in noir, you can tell from the first scene that Garfield and Turner are in together that Frank is in way over his head with Cora. Unlike Bogart’s cold Sam Spade, John Garfield was an actor who almost always wore his heart on his sleeve. The Postman is no exception. Here it’s Turner’s Cora who is the one always in control. Even when she shows emotion, you get the strong sense that she’s just acting that way to manipulate Frank.

In a turn from standard femme fatale wardrobe, Turner almost always wears white in this film. It was reportedly an attempt to con the Hays Code into thinking Cora was more virtuous than she was. Whether it worked or not, the Production Office did eventually OK the film. She doesn’t seem very virtuous to me no matter what she wore.

Here’s the scene where Cora’s husband (Cecil Kellaway) gets murdered.


The Maltese Falcon or The Postman Always Rings Twice?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    The Maltese Falcon
    (66 votes)
  • 26%
    The Postman Always Rings Twice
    (24 votes)
90 votes total Vote Now

You have until Wednesday evening to vote.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.

I’ve asked similar questions to this one before, but with the signing of Michael Fulmer, it looks like the Cubs bullpen is close to set. Yes, there are still some rumors about Zack Britton, but the Cubs are also running out of space on the 40-man roster to add someone like Britton. I guess they still could by sticking someone else on the 60-day IL, but the Cubs are going to want some flexibility to add a NRI from Spring Training if the opportunity presents itself. Or just another player that gets designated for assignment during Spring Training.

Tonight’s question is just “Who will be the Cubs’ best reliever in 2023?” This isn’t necessarily tied to saves. Certainly the guy who comes in to get the important outs in the seventh and eighth innings could be more valuable that someone who regularly protects a three-run lead for three outs. But the best reliever certainly could be the pitcher who eventually emerges as the main closer.

I’m leaving it up to you to define “best reliever” however you want. If it’s WAR, that’s fine. If it’s saves, that’s good too. Or anything else. ERA, for example. Whatever you think defines “best” is fine with me.

I’ve left out Adrian Sampson and Hayden Wesneski from the poll because at least one of those two is going to start the season in the rotation and the other one will probably join him as soon as there is an injury. But if you are convinced it will be one of those two pitchers or someone from the minor leagues, feel free to vote “Someone else” and tell us about it in the comments.


Who will be the Cubs’ best reliever in 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Adbert Alzolay
    (33 votes)
  • 7%
    Brad Boxberger
    (15 votes)
  • 9%
    Michael Fulmer
    (18 votes)
  • 11%
    Brandon Hughes
    (22 votes)
  • 2%
    Julian Merryweather
    (4 votes)
  • 45%
    Keegan Thompson
    (89 votes)
  • 4%
    Rowan Wick
    (9 votes)
  • 3%
    Someone else (leave in comments)
    (6 votes)
196 votes total Vote Now

Thank you so very much for joining us this evening. I hope you’ve had a good time. I know we’ve enjoyed having you around. Be sure to stay warm out there. Get home safely. Tip the waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow evening for more BCB After Dark.