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BCB After Dark: How many wins for the Cubs?

The late-night/early-morning spot for the Cubs asks how many games will they win this year.

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Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It’s another Wednesday night here at BCB After Dark: the coolest club for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s great to see you again. New members are always welcome. Come in out of the cold. Let us take your coat for you. There are still one or two tables available. 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 you which Cubs prospect would make you the happiest if they signed a long-term extension? Every prospect got at least some votes and the top three choices were all pretty close. But right-hander Cade Horton won the vote with 27 percent. Matt Shaw was second with 26 percent and Pete Crow-Armstrong got 20 percent.

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.

The great Mojo Nixon (né Neill McMillan Jr.) died earlier today. He was the writer and singer of such timeless songs as “Elvis is Everywhere,” “Don Henley Must Die” and “Debbie Gibson is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child.” He was also an actor and a DJ, most recently for the SiriusXM Outlaw Country channel, which is one of my wife’s favorites. So I heard him there often in recent years, howling at the moon. Nixon also never worked at the record store the Dead Milkmen visited in the song “Punk Rock Girl.”

Mojo Nixon had nothing to do with jazz, but he was one of the true original characters in music and the world over the past forty years. Rest in Peace, brother. You made us all laugh along the way.

I don’t have any jazz versions of Mojo Nixon songs, obviously. But here’s pianist Jon Batiste performing Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” from the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

You voted in the BCB Winter Western Classic and the love for Rio Bravo continues. The Howard Hawks-helmed film edged out The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by a margin of 53 percent to 47.

So half of our final four is set. One more will join them by Monday. Will it be High Noon or Stagecoach?

Both of these films are classics. Gary Cooper won the Best Actor Academy Award for High Noon. The film also took home Oscars for Best Editing, Best Score and Best Song. Stagecoach won Best Supporting Actor for Thomas Mitchell (who was also in High Noon) and it also won Best Score.

High Noon (1952) #2 seed. Directed by Fred Zinnemann. Starring Gary Cooper, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado and Grace Kelly.

As always, I don’t write a new essay on each film as it advances to the next round. However, at least one of you in the comments last time mentioned the job that Lon Chaney Jr. did as the old town marshal and yes, it deserves special mention. Also, Harry Morgan—aka Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H—plays one of the town cowards.

It’s amazing that a Western as classic as High Noon started as, basically, a low-budget contractual obligation movie. Most of the credit has gone to scriptwriter Carl Foreman, who turned the story into a condemnation of the blacklist, and star Gary Cooper, who fought for the film to be made. Cooper was rewarded for his tenacity with a Best Actor Oscar. Foreman was rewarded with exile to Great Britain. (He did get a Best Screenplay nomination before that.)

Three years ago I wrote something in this space about the history of High Noon and I don’t really want to go deep into it in this spot. After all, we’re judging it as a movie and not as a piece of history. You can go back and read it if you’re interested. But briefly, Foreman was in the process of getting blacklisted as he was writing High Noon, which caused him to turn the script into an allegory about the blacklist. Cooper, despite being an fierce conservative and anti-communist, loved the script and fought for it. Besides, although Cooper didn’t like communists hanging around Hollywood, he liked the idea of forcing people to rat out their friends even less. That Foreman told him that he no longer believed in communist ideology or the party was good enough for him.

High Noon starts with the marriage of marshal Will Kane (Cooper) to his Quaker bride Amy (Kelly) on a Sunday morning. Kane, at his pacifist wife’s urging, is leaving the law enforcement business and this dusty New Mexico town to open a store somewhere. The new marshal is not expected until Monday.

But as the newlyweds are preparing to leave, word comes that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) has been pardoned and is heading their way. Miller wants revenge on Will for sending him to prison. Amy’s solution is to leave town quickly and avoid violence, but Will believes that you can’t run from trouble. Trouble will find you soon enough if you don’t confront it. (Yeah, that’s a metaphor for America in 1952.)

Frank figures that if the town bands together, it won’t be much trouble taking care of Frank and his three henchmen. But everyone finds a reason not to help. Deputy Harvey Pell (Bridges) is upset that he was passed over for town marshal. A saloon keeper welcomes Miller back as he was a good friend and customer. The mayor (Mitchell) doesn’t want the bad publicity of a gunfight and argues that if the town doesn’t do anything to provoke Miller, this whole thing will just blow over. Other townsfolk are just plain scared of dying.

Fred Zinnemann’s direction of High Noon is a masterclass in economy. The film checks in at a brisk 85 minutes and it takes place in real time on a Sunday morning. Will and Amy get married at 10:40 in the morning and Frank Miller is arriving on the noon train. The final confrontation takes up the final five minutes. There isn’t a wasted shot. The editing is tight and clean. It’s no surprise that Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad won an Oscar for Film Editing. (High Noon also won an Oscar for Cooper as Best Actor and a third for the title song, which is played several times though the course of the movie and sung by Tex Ritter.)

Along the way, Zinnemann ups the tension with repeated (I counted at least 16) shots of clocks that countdown the ticking time until noon. Cooper has a deserved reputation as a restrained actor, but he does a master job here of showing increasing anxiety through subtle movements of his face and eyes as noon approaches. Cooper’s understated approach gives the scene where he eventually loses it while alone in his office more power. Even then, Cooper (and Zinnemann) allow Will to have a one-second emotional outburst and then grimly returns to the task at hand.

Zinnemann also used the low-budget to his advantage by giving the film a grainy, documentary style look. While most of the film is shot in interiors, he keeps them small, as if the walls were closing in on the 6’3” Cooper.

Cooper got the part because he was the only “name” actor willing to do it and willing to do it at a big discount. Grace Kelly was an off-Broadway unknown who got the part because she could act, was pretty and would work cheap. Not only that, but she accepted fifth billing despite really being the female lead. (Second-billed Thomas Mitchell was a bigger name, but he’s essentially in just one scene.)

Kelly is a natural playing a young, innocent pacifist, of course, but the age difference between her and Cooper is noticeable. Cooper was thirty years older than Kelly and looked at least ten years older than that. Still, while you can’t figure out how Amy fell in love with this grandpa, Kelly makes you believe that she does, in fact, love him.

Mexican actress Katy Jurado plays Helen Ramirez, the “woman from Will’s past” that Amy finds threatening. But she—and us, the audience—eventually find out that Helen is probably the wisest person in town. Helen is also the one who convinces Amy that her place is by Will’s side.

The Western has throughout its history played a role in defining what American masculinity means. But High Noon takes direct aim at that by portraying the men, not including Will, to be mostly selfish and cowardly. The women on the other hand, both Amy and Helen, are the ones who take decisive action, even if they go in opposite directions.

But don’t get the impression that High Noon is just a psychological drama. Yes, the action takes a while to build, but it comes, There’s a fistfight between Will and Harvey and the final four-on-one gunfight between Will Kane and Frank Miller does not disappoint.

High Noon is also a very influential film. It was pretty much the template for Clint Eastwood’s career. The “lone gunman” takes on a band of outlaws is repeated in A Fistful of Dollars. The “lone cop stands against the criminal tide” is basically the entire Dirty Harry franchise. Will Kane may not be a “rogue cop” and he does, in fact, “play by the rules,” but so many movies that have just one outnumbered cop making a stand against the forces of anarchy with little or no help owe a debt to High Noon.

Last time I featured the trailer for the restoration of High Noon, but I thought I’d share the original tonight. You can re-watch the restoration one at the link.

Stagecoach. #7 seed. Directed by John Ford. Starring Claire Trevor, John Wayne, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell, Louise Platt, George Bancroft, Donald Meek.

I will add tonight that Stagecoach is the last time in his career that John Wayne did not get top billing.

Also, while I wrote here that I think I ranked Stagecoach too low, I think when I was seeding the field that I knocked it down a place or two or three for its portrayal of the Apache. That’s something that John Ford would come to regret later in his career.

I feel like I have Stagecoach is seeded too low here, because I think it’s close to a perfect movie. It may seem somewhat cliché at times, but that’s only because so many films made since have copied its setup.

There were a ton of Westerns made before Stagecoach, but by the 1930s, they were all cheap B-movies made mostly for Saturday afternoon matinees for children with a dime to spend. John Wayne starred in a lot of them. Ford wanted to make a Western with a big budget that adults could enjoy, like he had done in the silent era. He also insisted upon casting Wayne, whom he thought had star potential. The studios wanted a bigger name (Gary Cooper was suggested), but Ford said it was Wayne or no one. Eventually producer Walter Wanger relented, but the better-known Claire Trevor had to get top billing and a much bigger salary.

The success of Stagecoach (and a few other films) kicked off a Western craze in the US that would last until the early-seventies.

Stagecoach is an “Ark Film,” which is a term that means you take a bunch of random people with little in common and throw them together in a situation where they are stuck with each other. You’ve seen other films or TV shows that have used this concept. Stagecoach, naturally enough, is about the dangerous passage of a stagecoach through hostile Apache territory, with Geronimo on the warpath. There are nine people on the stagecoach, and they all have their own story.

Buck (Devine) is the good-hearted but somewhat bumbling stage driver. When the town gets the message that the Ringo Kid (Wayne) has escaped from prison, Marshal Curley (George Bancroft) decides to ride shotgun—both to protect the stage from the Apache and to bring Ringo, for whom he has a soft spot, back to prison alive.

The passengers are diverse as well. Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), is a pregnant and aristocratic Southern lady who is determined to be with her cavalry officer husband when she gives birth. A shifty gambler of poor reputation named Hatfield (John Carradine), recognizes Lucy as the daughter of the man he served under in the Confederate army. He decides to go on the stage to protect her.

Two people have no choice but to get on the stage as they are being kicked out of town. Dallas (Trevor) is the stereotypical “hooker with a heart of gold” who has been run out of town by the local Decency League, as has Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell). While Doc Boone is an actual doctor, his alcoholism has turned him into an undesirable as the town drunk.

Gatewood (Burton Churchill) is the local banker who gets on the stagecoach because he’s been embezzling funds and is trying to get out of town before the law catches up to him. Finally, there is Peacock (The aptly-named Donald Meek), a timid whiskey salesman from Kansas City, Kansas. Doc Boone naturally wants to sit next to him.

Shortly after the stage leaves, the group runs into the Ringo Kid in one of the greatest entrances in the history of film. (Video) Wayne flags down the stage and twirls his rifle with Monument Valley serving as the backdrop; the camera moving in for a closeup.

Curley arrests Ringo but he knows that they’ll need another gun to get through Apache territory and Ringo gives him his word that he’ll surrender when this is all over. But Ringo is also heading to their final destination, Lordsburg, to have a final showdown with the three Plummer brothers who killed his kid brother. Ringo is not expecting to survive long enough to go to prison. Ringo is an outlaw and a killer, but a good-natured one that we’re supposed to root for. That seems old hat today, but it was revolutionary in 1939.

Everyone in the stage has their own agenda and point of view. Ringo and Doc Boone are the only ones to treat Dallas with any respect at first, but she earns the respect and friendship of the very proper Lucy along the way. Lucy gives birth along the route, and Doc Boone has to sober up enough to deliver the baby.

Of course, Dallas and Ringo fall in love. Dallas, as a “fallen woman,” doesn’t feel worthy of Ringo’s love. Ringo says he knows all he needs to know about Dallas and the rest doesn’t matter. Dallas begs Ringo to run—away from certain death at the hands of the Plummer brothers and away from Curley taking him back to prison.

The best scene in the film is also the most problematic—an incredibly thrilling Apache attack upon the stagecoach. (Video) It’s basically Mad Max: Fury Road 75 years earlier. Yes, the Apache are unthinking and bloodthirsty savages, but the attack is so well-filmed that you don’t really think about that stuff. And we have to give a special credit to someone who wasn’t credited in the film, legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt. The stunts in Stagecoach are thrilling and have been imitated, but never topped, in many films over the years since.

One of the reasons the stunts are so terrific is that it’s amazing what you can do if you really don’t care if horses or stuntmen live or die. But Canutt was a master at planning a stunt and even though they were very dangerous, if everything went right, he’d get out of it alive. Ford had to get it all in one take because Canutt wasn’t doing it again. Almost thirty years later, Canutt got an honorary Academy Award, the only stuntman to ever get an Oscar.

Here’s the trailer for Stagecoach. One of the things I find interesting about this tournament is the way the art of the movie trailer has evolved over the years.

So now it’s time to vote:


High Noon or Stagecoach?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    High Noon
    (89 votes)
  • 50%
    (89 votes)
178 votes total Vote Now

High Noon is on Amazon Prime, MGM+ and Paramount+. There’s also a copy here. Stagecoach is on Amazon Prime, Max and the Criterion Channel. It’s also available with ads on Tubi, Pluto, Crackle and the Roku Channel.

Up next is our final quarter final. The number-one seed, The Searchers takes on the number-eight seed, Once Upon a Time in the West. I hope you watched The Searchers when it was on TCM, because it’s gone now. But it’s available for rent. Once Upon a Time in the West can be streamed on Showtime. It’s also showing this weekend on the Flix channel.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.

Baseball Prospectus came out with there PECOTA projected standings earlier today and they pegged the Cubs for winning 80 games in 2024. They also give the Cubs a 30.6% chance of making the playoffs.

So, do you agree with that? To be clear, PECOTA hasn’t been very accurate with their Cubs predictions in recent years.

So what’s your wins prediction for the Cubs this year? To be clear, PECOTA only goes off the current roster. The computer can’t or won’t predict that the Cubs will sign Cody Bellinger or Matt Chapman or whomever. But you can predict that if you want. I’m not asking you to predict the Cubs win total if they don’t make another move the rest of the season (other than minor league promotions) like PECOTA does. I just want to know how many wins do you think the Cubs will finish 2024 with when all is said and done.


How many wins will the Cubs have in 2024?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    95 or more
    (9 votes)
  • 8%
    90 to 94
    (35 votes)
  • 47%
    85 to 89
    (187 votes)
  • 29%
    80 to 84
    (114 votes)
  • 8%
    75 to 79
    (34 votes)
  • 3%
    74 or less
    (12 votes)
391 votes total Vote Now

I’m confident this isn’t the last time you are going to be asked this question on this site before the season starts. But let’s take your temperature now.

Thank you ever so much for stopping by. We really appreciate those of you who offer comments and vote in our polls. We have a special extra thank you to those of you following along with the Westerns. Tell your friends. Please get home safely. Stay warm. Recycle any cans or bottles. Tip the waitstaff. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.