and the Devil himself...

and the Devil himself...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quotes from Your Host

"You're living a Quintin Terrantino movie, Liz. You really are." - Sylvia Payne

I start most mornings with Alfred Hitchcock and a mile walk. This keeps me morbid of mind but not body.

Most things are improved by tap dancers and a gospel choir.

I'm going outside to see if I can hail the tornado, you know, like a cab...

You don't know how far out you're going till you get there. 

I can't find my bottle of Give a Damn.

Never mind my jaded past, I'm looking forward to my jaded future.

Being poor is expensive and time consuming.

I'm going to have to kick my guitar out of bed. This could get ugly.

I think I've got Outlaw Lag. It’s like jet leg but only happens to highwaymen.

Watch out... I've got a banjo and I'm not afraid to use it.

All kites need tails. Otherwise, they just drift in the wind.

I need a 'Not to Do List'.

Holding my tongue but boy oh boy are my hands getting tired.

It’s hotter ‘n Hell in Macon GA right now. Feels like the Devil’s been dancing on the sidewalks…

Today has already been just a bit too Woody Guthrie. Even for me. Seriously.

Watching them run was like watching the spirit of the wind twined with some of the best parts of the spirit of the South. The parts full of roses and magnolias and ladies in hats with white gloves. And, more importantly, with really good bourbon being given the reverence it deserves. -- from Hunter S. Thompson and the Kentucky Derby at Outlaw Magazine.

 I most enjoy writing about the adventures of ghosts and cowboys. Ghosts who are cowboys get special attention.

I'm not sure where my last nerve went. It snapped in half about 10 minutes ago I think ... when someone got on it.

Go!!! There are awesome things waiting for you.

I dreamt that I went back in time to my room at 8 years old...
and could read things, open things, it was extremely real… and I had the certain sense that nothing ever really goes away, we never lose anything or anyone. It’s all still there somewhere.

That should have been 'day'... should it have been 'epiphany's'? Too early in the am to spell or think beynd monkees, trains and gypsy's.

I got lost in the Seleucid Empire yesterday. If only it had been by time machine rather than timeline!

it's like all of a sudden you see things really clearly. And you're not seeing what you expected to see.

The winds of karma are blowing pretty hard today... I wonder how that'll turn out?

I'm eating a box of granola that says 'fits your daily adventure' and I can't stop eating it. My daily adventure's more than one box.

Careful witch bridges you burn.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Poetry by Rimbaud and Verlaine

By Verlaine

Segasse a Poem by Verlaine

Come, my poor heart, come, old friend true and tried,
Repaint your triumph's arches, raised anew;
Smoke tinsel altars with stale incense; strew
Flowers before the chasm, gaping wide;
Come, my poor heart, come, old friend true and tried.
Cantor revivified, sing God your hymn;
Hoarse organ-pipes, intone Te Deums proud;
Make up your aging face, youth wrinkle-browed;
Bedeck yourself in gold, wall yellow-dim;
Cantor revivified, sing God your hymn.
Ring, bells; peal, chimes; peal, ring, bells large and small!
My hopeless dream takes shape: for Happiness--
Here, now--lies clutched, embraced in my caress;
Winged Voyager, who shuns Man's every call;
--Ring, bells; peal, chimes; peal, ring, bells large and small!
Happiness once walked side by side with me;
But DOOM knows no reprieve, there's no mistaking:
The worm is in the fruit; in dreaming, waking;
In loving, mourning. And so must it be.
--Happiness once walked side by side with me.


Your soul is like a landscape fantasy,
Where masks and Bergamasks, in charming wise,
Strum lutes and dance, just a bit sad to be
Hidden beneath their fanciful disguise.
Singing in minor mode of life's largesse
And all-victorious love, they yet seem quite
Reluctant to believe their happiness,
And their song mingles with the pale moonlight,
The calm, pale moonlight, whose sad beauty, beaming,
Sets the birds softly dreaming in the trees,
And makes the marbled fountains, gushing, streaming--
Slender jet-fountains--sob their ecstasies.

By Rimbaud

Rimbaud Drunken Morning Read by Patti Smith

From "A Season in Hell"

A while back, if I remember right, my life was one long party where all hearts were open wide, where all wines kept flowing.
One night, I sat Beauty down on my lap.—And I found her galling.—And I roughed her up.
I armed myself against justice.
I ran away. O witches, O misery, O hatred, my treasure's been turned over to you!
I managed to make every trace of human hope vanish from my mind. I pounced on every joy like a ferocious animal eager to strangle it.
I called for executioners so that, while dying, I could bite the butts of their rifles. I called for plagues to choke me with sand, with blood. Bad luck was my god. I stretched out in the muck. I dried myself in the air of crime. And I played tricks on insanity.
And Spring brought me the frightening laugh of the idiot.
So, just recently, when I found myself on the brink of the final squawk! it dawned on me to look again for the key to that ancient party where I might find my appetite once more.
Charity is that key.—This inspiration proves I was dreaming!
"You'll always be a hyena etc. . . ," yells the devil, who'd crowned me with such pretty poppies. "Deserve death with all your appetites, your selfishness, and all the capital sins!"
Ah! I've been through too much:-But, sweet Satan, I beg of you, a less blazing eye! and while waiting for the new little cowardly gestures yet to come, since you like an absence of descriptive or didactic skills in a writer, let me rip out these few ghastly pages from my notebook of the damned."
The Star Has Wept Rose Color
The star has wept rose-colour in the heart of your ears,
The infinite rolled white from your nape to the small of your back
The sea has broken russet at your vermilion nipples,
And Man bled black at your royal side.

somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond, e. e. cummings

photo by Alix Mattingly
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Woody Guthrie, Mean Talkin' Blues

A folk song is what's wrong and how to fix it or it could be
who's hungry and where their mouth is or
who's out of work and where the job is or
who's broke and where the money is or
who's carrying a gun and where the peace is. - Woody Guthrie 

125 Reasons For Admission to the WVA Hospital for the Insane 1889


OCTOBER 22, 1864 to DECEMBER 12, 1889

Weston State Hospital
Bad company
Bad habits & political excitement
Bad whiskey
Bite of a rattle snake
Bloody flux
Brain fever
Business nerves
Carbonic acid gas
Cerebral softening
Congetion of brain
Death of sons in the war
Decoyed into the army
Deranged masturbation
Desertion by husband
Disappointed affection
Disappointed love
Dissipation of nerves

Dissolute habits
Dog bite
Domestic affliction
Domestic trouble
Douby about mother's ancestors
Effusion on the brain
Epileptic fits
Excessive sexual abuse
Excitement as officer
Explosion of shell nearby
Exposure & hereditary
Exposure & quackery
Exposure in army
Fall from horse
False confinement
Feebleness of intellect
Fell from horse
Female disease
Fever & loss of law suit
Fever & nerved
Fighting fire
Fits & desertion of husband

Gathering in the head
Gunshot wound
Hard study
Hereditary predisposition
Ill treatment by husband
Imaginary female trouble
Immoral life
Jealousy & religion
Kick of horse
Kicked in the head by a horse
Liver and social disease
Loss of arm
Marriage of son
Masturbation & syphillis
Masturbation for 30 years
Medicine to prevent conception

Menstrual deranged
Mental excitement
Milk fever
Moral sanity
Novel reading
Opium habit
Over action on the mind
Over heat
Over study of religion
Over taxing mental powers.
Parents were cousins
Pecuniary losses: worms
Periodical fits
Political excitement
Religious enthusiasm
Religious excitement
Rumor of husband's murder or desertion
Salvation army
Seduction & dissappointment

Self abuse
Severe labor
Sexual abuse and stimulants
Sexual derangement
Shooting of daughter
Snuff eating for two years
Softening of the brain
Spinal irritation
Sun stroke
Supressed masturbation
Supression of menses
Tabacco & masturbation: hysteria
The war
Time of life
Uterine derangement
Venerial excesses
Vicious vices in early life
Women trouble
Young lady & fear

Asylum Nurses, 1800s

Pete Seeger's Testimony Before the House Un-American Activities Committee

More About the Hollywood Blacklist

Mr. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled “What’s On” appears this advertisement: “Tonight—Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming.” May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party?

Mr. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal.

Mr. TAVENNER: I don’t believe there is any more authoritative document in regard to the Communist Party than its official organ, the Daily Worker.

Mr. SCHERER: He hasn’t answered the question, and he merely said he wouldn’t answer whether the article appeared in the New York Times or some other magazine. I ask you to direct the witness to answer the question.

Chairman WALTER: I direct you to answer.

Mr. SEEGER: Sir, the whole line of questioning—

Chairman WALTER: You have only been asked one question, so far.

Mr. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.

Mr. TAVENNER: Has the witness declined to answer this specific question?

Chairman WALTER: He said that he is not going to answer any questions, any names or things.

Mr. SCHERER: He was directed to answer the question.

Mr. TAVENNER: I have before me a photostatic copy of the April 30, 1948, issue of the Daily Worker which carries under the same title of “What’s On,” an advertisement of a “May Day Rally: For Peace, Security and Democracy.” The advertisement states: “Are you in a fighting mood? Then attend the May Day rally.” Expert speakers are stated to be slated for the program, and then follows a statement, “Entertainment by Pete Seeger.” At the bottom appears this: “Auspices Essex County Communist Party,” and at the top, “Tonight, Newark, N.J.” Did you lend your talent to the Essex County Communist Party on the occasion indicated by this article from the Daily Worker?

Mr. SEEGER: Mr. Walter, I believe I have already answered this question, and the same answer.

Chairman WALTER: The same answer. In other words, you mean that you decline to answer because of the reasons stated before?

Mr. SEEGER: I gave my answer, sir.

Chairman WALTER: What is your answer?

Mr. SEEGER: You see, sir, I feel—

Chairman WALTER: What is your answer?

Mr. SEEGER: I will tell you what my answer is.

I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.

Chairman WALTER: Why don’t you make a little contribution toward preserving its institutions?

Mr. SEEGER: I feel that my whole life is a contribution. That is why I would like to tell you about it.

Chairman WALTER: I don’t want to hear about it.

Mr. SCHERER: I think that there must be a direction to answer.

Chairman WALTER: I direct you to answer that question.

Mr. SEEGER: I have already given you my answer, sir.

Mr. SCHERER: Let me understand. You are not relying on the Fifth Amendment, are you?

Mr. SEEGER: No, sir, although I do not want to in any way discredit or depreciate or depredate the witnesses that have used the Fifth Amendment, and I simply feel it is improper for this committee to ask such questions.

Mr. SCHERER: And then in answering the rest of the questions, or in refusing to answer the rest of the questions, I understand that you are not relying on the Fifth Amendment as a basis for your refusal to answer?

Mr. SEEGER: No, I am not, sir. . . .

Mr. TAVENNER: You said that you would tell us about the songs. Did you participate in a program at Wingdale Lodge in the State of New York, which is a summer camp for adults and children, on the weekend of July Fourth of this year?

(Witness consulted with counsel.)

Mr. SEEGER: Again, I say I will be glad to tell what songs I have ever sung, because singing is my business.

Mr. TAVENNER: I am going to ask you.

Mr. SEEGER: But I decline to say who has ever listened to them, who has written them, or other people who have sung them.

Mr. TAVENNER: Did you sing this song, to which we have referred, “Now Is the Time,” at Wingdale Lodge on the weekend of July Fourth?

Mr. SEEGER: I don’t know any song by that name, and I know a song with a similar name. It is called “Wasn’t That a Time.” Is that the song?

Chairman WALTER: Did you sing that song?

Mr. SEEGER: I can sing it. I don’t know how well I can do it without my banjo.

Chairman WALTER: I said, Did you sing it on that occasion?

Mr. SEEGER: I have sung that song. I am not going to go into where I have sung it. I have sung it many places.

Chairman WALTER: Did you sing it on this particular occasion? That is what you are being asked.

Mr. SEEGER: Again my answer is the same.

Chairman WALTER: You said that you would tell us about it.

Mr. SEEGER: I will tell you about the songs, but I am not going to tell you or try to explain—

Chairman WALTER: I direct you to answer the question. Did you sing this particular song on the Fourth of July at Wingdale Lodge in New York?

Mr. SEEGER: I have already given you my answer to that question, and all questions such as that. I feel that is improper: to ask about my associations and opinions. I have said that I would be voluntarily glad to tell you any song, or what I have done in my life.

Chairman WALTER: I think it is my duty to inform you that we don’t accept this answer and the others, and I give you an opportunity now to answer these questions, particularly the last one.

Mr. SEEGER: Sir, my answer is always the same.

Chairman WALTER: All right, go ahead, Mr. Tavenner.

Mr. TAVENNER: Were you chosen by Mr. Elliott Sullivan to take part in the program on the weekend of July Fourth at Wingdale Lodge?

Mr. SEEGER: The answer is the same, sir.

Mr. WILLIS: Was that the occasion of the satire on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

Mr. TAVENNER: The same occasion, yes, sir. I have before me a photostatic copy of a page from the June 1, 1949, issue of the Daily Worker, and in a column entitled “Town Talk” there is found this statement:

The first performance of a new song, “If I Had a Hammer,” on the theme of the Foley Square trial of the Communist leaders, will be given at a testimonial dinner for the 12 on Friday night at St. Nicholas Arena. . . .Among those on hand for the singing will be . . . Pete Seeger, and Lee Hays—

and others whose names are mentioned. Did you take part in that performance?

Mr. SEEGER: I shall be glad to answer about the song, sir, and I am not interested in carrying on the line of questioning about where I have sung any songs.

Mr. TAVENNER: I ask a direction.

Chairman WALTER: You may not be interested, but we are, however. I direct you to answer. You can answer that question.

Mr. SEEGER: I feel these questions are improper, sir, and I feel they are immoral to ask any American this kind of question.

Mr. TAVENNER: Have you finished your answer?

Mr. SEEGER: Yes, sir. . . .

Mr. TAVENNER: Did you hear Mr. George Hall’s testimony yesterday in which he stated that, as an actor, the special contribution that he was expected to make to the Communist Party was to use his talents by entertaining at Communist Party functions? Did you hear that testimony?

Mr. SEEGER: I didn’t hear it, no.

Mr. TAVENNER: It is a fact that he so testified. I want to know whether or not you were engaged in a similar type of service to the Communist Party in entertaining at these features.

(Witness consulted with counsel.)

Mr. SEEGER: I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. That is the only answer I can give along that line.

Chairman WALTER: Mr. Tavenner, are you getting around to that letter? There was a letter introduced yesterday that I think was of greater importance than any bit of evidence adduced at these hearings, concerning the attempt made to influence people in this professional performers' guild and union to assist a purely Communist cause which had no relation whatsoever to the arts and the theater. Is that what you are leading up to?

Mr. TAVENNER: Yes, it is. That was the letter of Peter Lawrence, which I questioned him about yesterday. That related to the trial of the Smith Act defendants here at Foley Square. I am trying to inquire now whether this witness was party to the same type of propaganda effort by the Communist Party.

Mr. SCHERER: There has been no answer to your last question.

Mr. TAVENNER: That is right; may I have a direction?

Mr. SEEGER: Would you repeat the question? I don’t even know what the last question was, and I thought I have answered all of them up to now.

Mr. TAVENNER: What you stated was not in response to the question.

Chairman WALTER: Proceed with the questioning, Mr. Tavenner.

Mr. TAVENNER: I believe, Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I will have the question read to him. I think it should be put in exactly the same form.

(Whereupon the reporter read the pending question as above recorded.)

Mr. SEEGER: “These features”: what do you mean? Except for the answer I have already given you, I have no answer. The answer I gave you you have, don’t you? That is, that I am proud that I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I have never refused to sing for anybody because I disagreed with their political opinion, and I am proud of the fact that my songs seem to cut across and find perhaps a unifying thing, basic humanity, and that is why I would love to be able to tell you about these songs, because I feel that you would agree with me more, sir. I know many beautiful songs from your home county, Carbon, and Monroe, and I hitchhiked through there and stayed in the homes of miners.

Mr. TAVENNER: My question was whether or not you sang at these functions of the Communist Party. You have answered it inferentially, and if I understand your answer, you are saying you did.

Mr. SEEGER: Except for that answer, I decline to answer further. . . .

Mr. SCHERER: Do you understand it is the feeling of the Committee that you are in contempt as a result of the position you take?

Mr. SEEGER: I can’t say.

Mr. SCHERER: I am telling you that that is the position of the Committee. . . .

Mr. SEEGER: I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them. . . .

Source: Congress, House, Committee on Un-American Activities, Investigation of Communist Activities, New York Area (Entertainment): Hearings, 84th Congress, August 18, 1955

Glimpses of Bob Dylan

Time Magazine Interview

Receives Medal of Freedom

Bob Dylan's Guitar, PBS

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Lonesome Liz, 'Shelter From the Storm'

In 'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid'

Salvador Dali With Hitchcock and More

Dali, photographed by Carl Van Vechten

Dreams by Dali in Hitchcock's 'Spellbound'

Hitchcock on the Dali Collaboration

On 'What's My Line'

Film Noir, 'Nightmare Alley'

by Matthew Hoffman

Carnival Film Noir - "Nightmare Alley"

Nightmare Alley

“Throughout the ages, man has sought to look behind the veil that hides him from tomorrow. And through the ages, certain men have looked into the polished crystal… and seen. Is it some quality of the crystal itself, or does the gazer merely use it to turn his gaze inward? Who knows? But visions come…slowly shifting their form. Visions come.” – Pete Krumbein, Nightmare Alley

“I’m a hustler, God damn it. Do you understand that, you frozen-faced bitch? I’m on the make. Nothing matters in this goddamned lunatic asylum of a world but dough. When you get that you’re the boss. If you don’t have it you’re the end man on the daisy chain. I’m going to get it if I have to bust every bone in my head doing it. I’m going to milk it out of those chumps and take them for the gold in their teeth before I’m through.” – Stan Carlisle to Dr. Lilith Ritter, Nightmare Alley (the novel)

      Nightmare Alley is the story of Stan Carlisle, a carnival hustler with dreams of the big time. He starts out his career as part of a mentalist act with Zeena, an older woman he’s sleeping with, and her drunken husband, Pete. But after he learns Zeena’s “code” of working the crowd, Stan leaves his carny roots with a younger girl, Molly. He forms a spiritualist act as “The Great Stanton” and is able to con his way into the pocketbooks of the rich and elderly who seek his comfort. He moves up in the world until he meets the one person who is as manipulative as himself, a psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Lilith Ritter.

      In the 1947 film, Tyrone Power portrays Stan, and this would be his finest performance-- and his personal favorite. He was so determined to break away from his romantic, swashbuckler image that he bought the rights to the original novel in the hopes of turning it into a film. Studio head Daryl Zanuck gave the project the green light, and the end result became one of the darkest film noirs of the era. However, the studio did little to promote it. Despite the fact that Daryl Zanuck washed his hands of it as soon as he could, Nightmare Alley was a very daring movie for its time. It was a shock for audiences to see what handsome Tyrone Power becomes in this movie in his transformation from cool huckster to degenerate, sideshow “geek.”

      The novel Nightmare Alley was written by William Lindsay Gresham, a troubled, alcoholic author who wrote about carnival life and later fell under the spell of spiritualism. Gresham’s only successful book is a phenomenal first novel about a hustler who knows human nature all too well. Though Gresham was an editor for a true crime pulp magazine, this was no formulaic pulp story. There are no gangsters or gunplay in this tale of carny life. But it is an ambitious, almost experimental work which is as cynical as anything Jim Thompson wrote. The novel is out of print but can still be found in a terrific Library of America anthology of American noir of the ‘30s and ‘40s. In recent years it has been turned into an acclaimed graphic novel.

      But the original 1946 novel is a great work about the kind of person who preys upon a world in need of emotional comfort, and it’s very contemporary in this day and age of televangelists, home shopping hucksters, New Age charlatans and the Psychic Friends Network. In the eyes of Stan Carlisle, it’s a world of easy marks—people who are desperate to believe in something better, who can be taken in so easily with the right words of comfort.

      Author Gresham attributed the genesis of Nightmare Alley to conversations he had with a former sideshow employee while he served as a volunteer medic with the Loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. He later wrote the novel while in New York City in the 1940s, living in the Dixie Hotel near Coney Island where he researched carny life. It was in this very same hotel where, in 1962, Gresham would take his own life by downing a bottle of sleeping pills.

      The novel is divided into 22 chapters, each representative of a Tarot card. Often times in noir fiction and film it is Fate that is the unseen, primary character, and in Nightmare Alley, Fate takes the form of Zeena’s Tarot cards. And no card is more telling than that of the “Hanged Man.”

      Tyrone Power saw the potential in the story—there was something in the character of Stan, a darkness that drew him. But it is the guilt he brings to the onscreen version of the character that humanizes him. With this film, along with The Razor’s Edge the previous year in 1946, he would break away from the romantic and heroic characters he had played in films like In Old Chicago, Blood and Sand, The Black Swan, and many others. He’s a long way from Zorro in this film.

      Jules Furthman adapted the Gresham story. He had been the screenwriter who had worked on The Big Sleep. Edmund Goulding directed, having recently helmed The Razor’s Edge. But this nightmare would be his best achievement—a bleak vision far removed from the 1930s melodramas he had made like Grand Hotel. Cinematographer Lee Garmes was a native of Peoria, Illinois, and he had started in motion pictures back in 1916. He photographed many of the Joseph Von Sternberg films at Paramount in the early 1930s, as well as having shot one of the most beautiful films of the 1930s, Zoo in Budapest, for director Rowland V. Lee. Although he was uncredited, he had done some of the camera work on Gone With the Wind—shooting the famous rail yard sequence.

      But on Nightmare Alley Garmes brought what has been called a Rembrandt-style of lighting to the film in which the light seemed to come from a single source. Characters are lit in such a way that only in a film noir could a cinematographer get away with such disregard for classical high key lighting. There are the hard shadows and the fractured, low-key lighting that is most evident in the scenes within the carnival world.

      Supporting Tyrone Power is a wonderful cast including Joan Blondell as Zeena, best remembered for the series of Busby Berkely musicals she had appeared in throughout the 1930s at Warner Brothers. Coleen Gray plays the young sideshow performer Molly, but she is nowhere near as electrifying as Helen Walker’s psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Ritter. Helen Walker is the ultimate, intelligent femme fatale, and her final scene is remarkable on many levels. (Most surprising for a 1947 film, she gets away with her crime; not even the Hollywood Production Code could get her.)

The film also stars Mike Mazurki as Bruno the strongman, best remembered as “Moose Malloy” in Murder, My Sweet. Ian Keith is wonderful as Joan Blondell’s drunken husband, Pete. Keith had been around in Hollywood for many years, having portrayed John Wilkes Booth in D.W. Griffith’s first sound film, Abraham Lincoln. His name would later be mentioned in conjunction with Dracula—a part that would instead go to a Hungarian stage actor by the name of Bela Lugosi. And silent film star Taylor Holmes plays the rich industrialist, Ezra Grindle. All these characters are straight from the book.

      This is a big studio film noir, and 20th Century Fox spared no expense, even going so far as to build their own carnival on 10 acres of studio lot. Though it wasn’t actually filmed in Chicago, the story is partially set in Chicago with references to the Rogers Park neighborhood as well as to the rich North Shore—a world of money. And not much has changed all these years later.

      Nightmare Alley touches upon many themes, from class division (and how there really is none on a moral level) to self-deception and self-destruction-- and the horrors found at the bottom of a whiskey bottle.  There’s a line in the film where Stan speaks about this sideshow hustle. “It gives you kind of a superior feeling,” he tells Zeena in the shadowy midway, “as if you were on the inside and everybody else is on the outside, looking in.” Nightmare Alley takes us inside in a way that no other film could before. We see Stan’s power over others and what that power can lead to when you reach too high.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Favorite Poems: The Lake Isle of Inisfree

William Butler Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.