Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the hippest happening for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Thanks for stopping by. It’s always a better night if you’re here. We’ll waive the cover charge for you. We’ve even got a table reserved for you. The show will start shortly. 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 were off as they come back from London.
Last week, I asked you for your opinion of the Cubs playing in the London Series. Overall, you weren’t that keen on it as 26 percent of you thought it was “OK or mixed feeling” and gave it a grade of 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. The numbers “2” (“Eh, I wish it weren’t happening, but OK”) and 4 (“I like it.”) tied for second, each getting 24 percent of the vote. So close to a perfect bell curve.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and and movies. But over the weekend, I got to do something I don’t get to do very often. I went to a cocktail lounge and listened to live jazz. It was nobody special—just a local piano player—but sometimes I like that the best. It was intimate. There were maybe 40 people in the bar, out of which maybe a dozen of us were paying attention to the musician. But that’s still music the way it should be heard.
Still, you’re always free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
I felt like a little Modern Jazz Quartet tonight after hearing them on the radio, so here we’ve got a 1991 performance of “Django,” in Tokyo. It’s a tribute the great Romani-Belgian jazz artist Django Reinhardt, who was arguably the first great jazz musician to come out of Europe. “Django” was written by the MJQ’s pianist John Lewis in 1954, just a year after Reinhardt died.
As always, the MJQ are Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibes, Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums.
Tonight I have a short piece on Fifth Avenue Girl, the 1939 Ginger Rogers vehicle about a poor-but-happy woman (Mary Grey, played by Rogers) who comes into the life of a rich-but-miserable older man (Alfred Borden, played by Walter Connelly.) The film was directed by Gregory La Cava. As a film, it’s pleasant enough, although it’s not the kind of screwball comedy that is going to have you rolling in the aisles. However, it is worth watching just for the performance of Ginger Rogers in the lead role.
Fifth Avenue Girl is part of a long line of films made during the Great Depression about poor people running into rich people and together, they make the lives of both of them better. My Man Godfrey (1936), which was also directed by La Cava, is the pinnacle of this type of movie and if you haven’t seen that one, you should definitely go see it first. In some ways, Fifth Avenue Girl is an attempt to do My Man Godfrey with a woman in the lead role rather than a man. But comparing Fifth Avenue Girl to My Man Godfrey is doing a disservice to Fifth Avenue Girl by saying that it doesn’t live up to the standards of one of the all-time great movies. Donnie Brasco isn’t as good as Goodfellas, but that doesn’t mean that its a bad film.
The basic plot of Fifth Avenue Girl is that Alfred Borden (Walter Connelly), a rich owner of a company that makes pumps (the water kind, not the shoe kind), is facing a midlife crisis. His pump company is going through hard times and he doesn’t know how to save it. On top of that, it’s his birthday and his entire family has forgotten. His wife is out cavorting around town with lots of handsome and interesting men. She’s not having affairs with them—gotta keep it Code-compliant—although everyone thinks she is and that’s definitely embarrassing to Alfred. His son Tim (Tim Holt) has a job at the family firm but he doesn’t actually do anything there, much to Alfred’s chagrin. Alfred’s daughter Katherine (Kathryn Adams) wants to marry the family chauffeur Mike (James Ellison), who is a good-looking but doctrinaire Communist. They love each other, but Mike’s obsession with the class struggle makes overcoming the differences in their backgrounds impossible. (Mike’s Marxism is mostly played for laughs.)
Alfred goes out to celebrate his birthday by himself and runs into the unemployed Mary (Rogers) at the zoo. He strikes up a conversation and as she doesn’t tell him directly to get lost, Alfred invites Mary to a swanky restaurant to celebrate his birthday. We later find out that Alfred got too drunk to get himself home, so Mary brought him home and slept in the guest room. But the family’s discovery that Mary spent the night causes a huge scandal in the Borden household. This gives Alfred the idea of making everyone think that he and Mary are having an affair in order to make his family jealous so they’ll pay more attention to him.
Mary reluctantly goes along with this. In truth, Alfred never really gave her a chance to say “no.” Skipping ahead to the end, Alfred’s plan works to bring his family back to him, thanks in large part to Mary’s dignity and common sense. Even Mary gets a happy ending and you can probably guess what that is just by looking at the cast of characters. No, she doesn’t marry Alfred. He’s way too old for her.
These kinds of films were popular in the Great Depression. They showed a way that the poor and the rich could help each other without actually challenging the entire system in the first place—a system that studio executives benefited greatly from. Despite what the Red Scare of the late-40s and 1950s would have you believe, Hollywood of this period was not in the business of making Communist propaganda. But the movies started as cheap entertainment for poor people and they did want to tell stories that appealed to the masses in the working class. Most studio executives came out of poverty themselves, so they weren’t completely unsympathetic to the plight of the unemployed.
Part of that appeal of these films was the fantasy that everyone’s life could be changed with a little common sense, decency and a random encounter with a rich person. (Or if you were rich, a poor person.) It also didn’t hurt to tell the masses that the rich were more miserable than they were.
If you only know Ginger Rogers from her movies dancing with Fred Astaire, you’re doing yourself a big disservice. Rogers was a terrific actress apart from her dancing and she was especially sharp in comedies. Here, her character keeps a deadpan expression throughout most of the film, giving Mary a level-headed and streetwise flair. But she’ll occasionally sneak in a sly smile when no one else (other than us, of course!) is looking—primarily when she thinks Alfred’s plan is working. She shows us that she’s developed a real affection for Alfred and his family while at the same time trying to convince the Borden family that should couldn’t care one way or another about them. At least until the end when her facade collapses in the climax.
Ginger Rogers turns Fifth Avenue Girl from an “OK” movie into a good one. She’s sharp, sly, funny and she doesn’t dance even once.
Here’s Mary (Rogers) having a confrontation with Alfred’s son Tim (Holt).
Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.
The London Series is over and the Cubs will play the rest of the season either at Wrigley Field or the home park of a the other team. (Assuming there are no hurricane problems or something similar.)
But it’s clear that MLB likes these “special events” games and are going to keep doing them. And since the Cubs are one of the most popular teams in MLB, it seems likely that the Cubs are going to keep getting assigned to play in one. Last year it was the “Field of Dreams” game. (It should also be noted that in both the “Field of Dreams” and the London Series, the Cubs played in the second edition after the Yankees played in the first one. Just so you know the Cubs’ place in the pecking order.)
I’m building off this article by Andy Martinez where he asked Cubs players where they would like to play next. Marcus Stroman said he’d like to play in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson want to go to Japan. (He didn’t ask Seiya Suzuki, but I think it’s fair that he’d say “Japan” as well.)
Nick Madrigal said “Hawaii,” which, I dunno. I’m not sure what the point would be. I guess it might look nice. But Pearl Harbor Day is in December. But I suppose it could be some sort of game for the troops. I know that they play basketball games on aircraft carriers.
Miguel Amaya said that it would be a dream for him to play a major league game in his home country of Panama.
So tonight I’m going to ask you where you would like to see the Cubs play next. They’re not going back to London or the Field of Dreams again soon, so I’m ruling those two out. But I will include the player suggestions (even Madrigal’s) and toss in a few of my own. Next season, the Giants and Cardinals are playing a game to honor the Negro Leagues at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama. I think we can assume that MLB will play more games there if the first one is successful.
We know that MLB is planning to play a game in Paris in 2025. The teams for that game haven’t been announced. There have been efforts to play a game in Korea, although not much has come of that.
I think we can assume that MLB will play more games in Mexico in the coming years.
So where do you want the Cubs to play next?
Where should the Cubs play their next special event game?
This poll is closed
Somewhere else (leave in comments)
Thanks to everyone who stopped by this evening. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to a strong second-half for the Cubs in 2023. Let’s toast to that. Be sure to get home safely. Recycle any cans and bottles. Tip your waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow night for more BCB After Dark.