Third Point in the Triumvirate

I read, yesterday, that Ann Savage, who created one of my three favorite film femmes fatales – Vera of the noir masterpiece, Detour – died on Christmas Day, at the age of eighty-seven.
By all accounts, the actress, whose most recent screen appearance occurred in 2007, in the highly regarded Canadian feature, My Winnepeg, was a far cry from the vicious Vera, the hitchhiker who proves the undoing of perennial loser Al Roberts (Tom Neal).

There's Barbara Stanwyck's steely Phyllis Dietrichson of Double Indemnity, Jane Greer's cold-blooded Cathie Moffat of Out of the Past, and Ann Savage's savage Vera: the Femme Fatale Triumvirate. Though no less lethal than her noir sisters, Vera is the only one among the deadly three to display any vulnerability. She is the crudest; unlike Phyllis and Cathie, she has no intriguing, beguiling veneer – but ultimately she arouses sympathy, even as she inspires repulsion.

Al Roberts in Detour:

That took me by surprise and I turned my head to look her over. She was facing straight ahead so I couldn't see her eyes, but she was young, not more than twenty-four. Man, she looked as if she'd just been thrown off the crumbiest freight train in the world. Yet, in spite of this, I got the impression of beauty. Not the beauty of a movie actress, mind you, or the beauty you dream about when you're with your wife, but a natural beauty, a beauty that's almost homely because it's so real.

Ann Savage was indeed "not more than twenty-four" when she played Vera. Nice acting, kid.

Who Comes Down Your Chimney – Santa or Santy?

I have been fascinated by the word Santy – a variant of Santa, as in Santa Claus – since first I heard it, some years ago, uttered by
the most recognizable child actress of all time, in one of her films. Why Santy and not Santa? I wondered. Encountering Santy again, in other vintage movies, but still not in real life, I imagined the word to be a colloquialism fallen out of favor in these homogenized times in America. (Since forming this conclusion, I have happened upon, in song and verse, the rather rustic-sounding "chocolate [substitute flavor of your choice] sody" for "chocolate soda," which seems confirmation.)

Whence Santy and does anyone in this day exercise this pronunciation option? This from "The History of Santa Claus" at

In the 1600's, the Dutch presented Sinterklaas (meaning St. Nicholas) to the colonies. In their excitement, many English-speaking children uttered the name so quickly that Sinterklaas sounded like Santy Claus. After years of mispronunciation, the name evolved into Santa Claus.

According to Wikipedia, Santy Claus is one of a few designations used by the Irish for the jolly, bearded one.

I kind of like the air of informality in "Santy," with its
t softer in emphasis than that in "Santa." I find myself keeping track, in my movie-viewing, of who says "Santy" and who says "Santa":

Clark Gable says "Santa" in It Happened One Night
Ginger Rogers says "Santy" in I'll Be Seeing You
Kay Francis says "Santy" in In Name Only (this floored me, by the way)
Shirley Temple and James Dunn say "Santy" and Jane Withers (playing Shirley's inappropriately named nemesis, Joy) says "Santa" in Bright Eyes
Betty Grable and Robert Cummings trade choruses on Robin and Rainger's jauntily romantic "You Started Something" – Betty singing "I believe in Santa Claus" and Bob singing "I believe in Santy Claus" – in Moon Over Miami

In popular music, (the ill-fated) Joe Harris baritones "Santy Claus came in the spring" in Benny Goodman's version and Cliff Weston tenors "Santa Claus came in the spring" in Tommy Dorsey's version of the winning Johnny Mercer concoction.

A New Deal-era Santy
(Some viewers may find certain images, reflecting racial stereotypes, offensive)

For whom are you leaving out milk and cookies tonight?

"[A] force of nature"

Davy Graham,
"The Complete Guitarist"
November 22, 1940 - December 15, 2008

Davy Graham, virtuoso guitarist, chief exponent of the DADGAD tuning system, melder of geographically native musical styles, innovator and fearless improvisor, has died – this I just learned from my fellow web journalist and friend, who, incidentally, introduced me to this astonishing artist.

Those initiated, listen to "Anji" ... and then work your way through the recordings; those not, discover the miracle that is Davy Graham.

Your Hand in Marriage?

[...B]ut, you see, marriage is a very tricky business. People have impulses, compulsions, drives, let us say, towards escape – escape from loneliness. They seek that escape in the companionship of someone else and, lo, just when they think they've achieved it, they find they've put on their own handcuffs.
Sydney Greenstreet as Dr. Mark Hamilton in Conflict

Though it's not in my nature to knock something I haven't tried, I, a bachelorette, incline toward this belief held by Sydney Greenstreet's Dr. Mark Hamilton – the character himself a bachelor.

To Really Live

One must have courage to really live in the world.

Miss Gilchrist in The Seventh Victim

Sometimes you just have to split the infinitive. ... Yes, really living – as opposed to merely existing, which demands neither effort nor bravery – requires determination and great courage. Living is an active state; existing passive. In living, you make things happen; in existing, you let them happen. What are you doing? What do you want to do? ... I want to live, to really live!

CD, Sixteen Bucks; Dorsey, Priceless

Chapter Six, "Swing High: More White Bands," of Bruce Crowther and Mike Pinfold's The Big Band Years begins, beneath the sub-header, "DANCING ON THE CEILING," with a quote from The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing, Tommy Dorsey: "They paid $1.75 to get in; let's give 'em $3.50 worth."

Today, on the 103rd anniversary of TD's birth, with five Dorsey discs shuffling around in the CD player upstairs and "Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra, 1938" pouring from the computer speakers before which I sit, I consider the tremendous kick given me by the music of the Irish-American Thomas Francis Dorsey Jr., my favorite musician. Dorsey, peerless legit player and facile hot man; his arrangers, my favorite, Sy Oliver, and Paul Weston, Axel Stordahl, Deane Kincaide, Bill Finegan; his musicians, my favorite trumpeter, Bunny Berigan, and Ziggy Elman, Bud Freeman, Charlie Shavers, Buddy Rich, Joe Bushkin, Dave Tough, Johnny Mince, Don Lodice; and his vocalists, my favorite, Jo Stafford, and Frank Sinatra, The Pied Pipers, Jack Leonard, Dick Haymes, Edythe Wright, Stuart Foster, could deliver – something for everybody. The Dorsey crews had no weak spots, no holes; all of the many aggregations fronted by Dorsey in his 20-plus year bandleading career were able to alternate between quiet, crawl tempo romantic ballads and blazing, pounding killer-dillers with ease, assurance and authority.

Tommy Dorsey died – one week to the day after his 51st birthday – not quite ten years before I was born, so I never got that $3.50 value live performance for a $1.75 admission. (Oh, how I wish I had been around in the '30's and '40's!) I have gotten, though, something from that trombone and those bands, on records, now transferred to compact disc, whose worth is inestimable.

Dig Dorsey today!

Cornell and the Snake Woman

I'm currently perusing Darkness at Dawn: Early Suspense Classics by Cornell Woolrich, a fourteen story representation of the The Father of Noir's pulp magazine beginnings in the realm of suspense fiction. I found oddly fascinating the entry that I most recently read, "Kiss of the Cobra," a yarn in which a woman, exotic to the extreme in that she resembles and behaves like – goodness, it seems she even smells like – a snake, systematically goes about killing, in a highly unusual manner, the relatives she has only just acquired through marriage.

Narrating in the present tense, the protagonist, Charlie, an L. A. County detective on sick-leave, tells of his, his wife's and his kid brother's homicidally disastrous meeting with the reptilian bride of his father-in-law. As this unmistakably Woolrichian tale slithered before my eyes, I thought of a phrase my mother frequently used to describe those not exactly overflowing with the milk of human kindness – "all the warmth of a hooded cobra."

This passage in "Kiss of the Cobra" quite amused me:

"Charlie, I think you'd better notify the state asylum," she whispers. "I think his death has made her lose her mind. She must really think she's a snake."

This is putting it so mild that I have a hard time not laughing right in her face. That creature lurking back there in the house doesn't only think she's a snake; for all practical purposes, she is one. I don't mean in the slang sense, either. She is sub-human, some sort of monstrosity or freak that India has bred just once in all its thousands of years of history.

Now, there are two possibilities as I see it. She is what she is, either of her own free will—maybe a member of some ghastly snake-worshipping cult—or without being able to control herself. Maybe her mother had some unspeakable experience with a snake before she was born. In either case she's more than a menace to society, she's a menace to the race itself.

"[S]ome unspeakable experience with a snake" – I love it. And "a menace to the race itself." Ah ... Mr. Woolrich, ever the outsider, sometimes chooses to cast himself, perhaps for a refreshing change, as the observer of the outsider. Clearly, some rather interesting fancies, distortions of reality, flitted through this extraordinarily reclusive man's mind – his biographer, Francis M. Nevins Jr., believed that Cornell had an obsession, intriguing in its psychological implications, with orally administered death – and yet he was able to depict facets of the real world, i.e. New York in the '30's and '40's, with startlingly stark genuineness. Surely, he didn't pick up all his insights from his brief and professionally uneventful stint in Hollywood, the land, after all, of surreality. I must imagine that he simply kept his ears wide open as he hunched, perched on a barstool at the local watering hole, over his procession of drinks.

Don't ask me why the snake woman kills (Cornell's description of the method of murdering is to be relished); I'm not sure that even the "Kiss of the Cobra" author knew. I enjoyed, though, second-hand, the effects of her poison.

Five Questions

Listening today, Jo Stafford's birthday, to the music of my favorite singer, I remembered an interview I heard for the first time a few months ago, shortly after the incomparable vocalist's passing. In this conversation between Jo and a California DJ – which took place in 2006, some time before Jo's eighty-ninth birthday that year – Jo responded in her usual thoughtful and intelligent manner – to the same tired, old questions that I, in my capacity of audience had encountered many times before and she, in her capacity of subject, surely must have encountered hundreds of times before. As I listened, back in July, I thought, This is the latest interview with Jo that I've heard; most likely, I'll never run across a more recent one – now she's gone ... and I'll never know the answers to the questions that have burned in my mind since I discovered that voice.

The interview – conducted by musician and Standards Era historian, Michael Feinstein – that concludes the 2003 CD debut of Jo's 1959 concept album, "Ballad of The Blues," is, by far and away, the best with Stafford that I've come across. Because Michael talked to her musician-to-musician. He posed questions that allowed Jo to reveal aspects of the musical miracle that was/is Jo Stafford. There was none of that "Well, what was the young Sinatra like?" (Why ask Jo Stafford about Frank Sinatra when you can ask her about Jo Stafford?) ... Still, the exchange with Feinstein serves to intrigue rather than satisfy fully.

Now, in 2008, like in the late '80's when first I heard that voice, that tone, Jo seems to have come out of nowhere. I'm sure that all whose initial exposure to the Stafford sound came in 1940 reacted as I did – and musician/composer/arranger Johnny Mandel did: "Who is THAT!?" Where did she come from; what did she evolve from?

In 1995, I wrote to Jo. I didn't ask for an autographed picture; I didn't ask any questions – I just rhapsodized, without expectation of acknowledgment. A couple of weeks after I sent my missive, I got a reply from her, which opened with, "Thank you for one of the nicest – if not the [she underlined the – twice] nicest letter I have ever received." Well, did I smile. .. Perhaps such was merely this gracious lady's standard response to a devotee's outpouring of enthusiasm, but I like to imagine that I met my objective of communicating to my favorite singer my tremendous admiration for her talent and music.

If I had had the opportunity that many others had (and, it seems to me, squandered) to speak with that musical enigma, Jo Stafford, I would have asked:

Who and what were your musical influences?
What did you listen to when you were growing up?
What do you listen to now?
Who is your favorite composer?
Does an identification with the lyrics aid you in your interpretation?

Banal? Maybe. Yet, I believe these five questions might have helped me to understand. ... Jo's parents came from Tennessee. Her mother played banjo. Jo had five years of operatic training and took piano lessons. She spoke of having listened, in the '30's, to Glen Gray and Benny Goodman. She dug the Mercer-Teagarden duets with Paul Whiteman's orchestra. The Stafford Sisters, the vocalizing trio in which Jo made her professional debut, took their stylistic cue from the jazzy New Orleanians, The Boswell Sisters. "Our talents — his and mine — fit the music of the time,” she said, of herself and her husband, bandleader/composer/arranger, Paul Weston. “And the music fit us." ... Still, where the heck did Jo Stafford come from? How do you take the environment and the times and get Jo Stafford? Recently, I was listening to her Reader's Digest recordings from the late '60's; Jo, at the time these sides were made, was a 30-year veteran of the music business. And the musical landscape had changed considerably since her heyday. She, singer-trombonist Warren Covington and the then current edition of The Pied Pipers were doing, among other things, that easy-listening '60's anthem "What the World Needs Now," (penned by the then ubiquitous Burt Bacharach), in a take, extremely late '60's in manner, on the quasi-spiritual "Yes, Indeed" approach of Dorsey arranger, Sy Oliver. I could just envision the vocal assemblage swaying, on a variety show (Ed Sullivan; The Smothers Brothers), before a mod, bold, colorful backdrop. The one timelessly hip element of the record was Jo's delivery. That cool tone and laidback style. Jo was hip and modern in 1940. She's hip and modern today. She will be so, long after we, of this moment, are gone. Perhaps the simple, one-word explanation for the newness, the unprecented quality that Jo brought to her environment and times – or anybody else brought to his/hers, for that matter – is uniqueness. Just the same, I would like to have heard her responses to those five questions.

The People's Choice

Well ... for Election Day: a Swing Era favorite introduced to me by The First Lady of Swing, Ella Fitzgerald, with Chick Webb and His Orchestra

Vote For Mr. Rhythm
Music by Ralph Rainger, Words by Leo Robin, Al Siegel

Vote for Mr. Rhythm –
Raise up your voice,
And vote for Mr. Rhythm,
The people's choice.

You'll be happy with him –
Take my advice,
And vote for Mr. Rhythm;
I'm voting twice!

Ev'ryone's a friend of his;
His campaign slogan is,
"Change Your Woe
Into a Wo-De-Ho!"

Vote for Mr. Rhythm –
Let freedom ring,
And soon we'll all be singing,
"Of thee I swing!"

Have you exercised your right to choose today?

Bunny and Me

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of my favorite trumpeter, Bunny Berigan. I've been celebrating his genius in listening to some of the many recordings to which he lent his unmistakable tone, formidable technique, boundless creativity and matchless vitality.

Today, also, is the 2nd anniversary of the inception of Relative Esoterica, the web journal I'm keeping, after a fashion.

Assessing the Damaged

From my viewing, which took place many years ago, of a mere snatch of
Moontide I had retained a foggy memory only of fog, the nebulous stuff of both literal and figurative atmosphere, and Ida Lupino. These elements were enough to convince me to order the film, a brand new addition to the "Fox Film Noir" DVD series. A couple of nights ago, I watched Moontide and found it beautiful – in the way that something containing ugly aspects can be beautiful. Beneath the falseness of its dreamlike construction lies the truth of Moontide's essential substance: Loneliness, a condition intrinsic to human beings, and the need to be comforted and loved compel even those emotionally mangled to reach, from the crushing rubble that is the past, for one specific understanding soul.

Among the special features accompanying the film is a fairly short but densely-packed with information and insight documentary entitled Turning of the Tide: The Ill-Starred Making of Moontide. I was surprised – and yet not – to find two Noir experts – Eddie Muller and Megan Abbott – using the phrase "two damaged people finding each other" in summarizing the main point in the story's plot. I don't imagine for an instant that these cinephiles decided together upon the "two damaged people" label. It just fit, and they both knew it. The pair of dinged and dented souls to whom the description is applied are Bobo, a longshoreman and nomad, played by Jean Gabin and Anna, a former "hash-rassler" and wharf waif, played by Ida Lupino. Bobo has a dark secret buried in the shallow grave of memory: His quick temper and strong hands came to his aid when a man came at him with a knife – he strangled the weapon-wielding antagonist. Too, his most recent alcoholic blackout (depicted in a Salvador Daliesque sequence) gives rise to the suspicion that he has killed another man. Though under '40's Production Code dictates, Anna's past is kept unclear, she enters the story attempting to drown herself to escape this past and prevent the unfolding of an unpromising future. (Documentary contributors reveal that in the book, Willard Robertson's Moontide, on which the film was based, Anna, a prostitute, has been raped, is poor and can't find work.) Bobo pulls Anna out of the water, takes her home to his bait barge ... and, the next morning, Anna fixes eggs – sunny side up – for Bobo. She, a "damaged" person, becomes – almost inconceivably, at first – his "Sunny Side." "[A] gypsy is dying and a peasant is being born," observes Nutsy, Bobo's sage friend, of Bobo's transformation. A tender treatment of Irving Berlin's bittersweet "Remember," wafting from the phonograph of a neighboring barge, provides the film's love theme. How ironic: "You forgot to remember," reproaches Berlin's heartbroken protagonist – while Bobo and Anna must remember to forget.

, indeed, is, in Eddie Muller's full phrase, "[a] story of these two damaged people finding each other and falling in love." More generally, it is about these two and other damaged people. Tiny (played by the great Thomas Mitchell), weak and yet sadistic, having witnessed the murder-in-self-defense, has attached himself like a lovesick flea to Bobo and demands maintenance in exchange for silence. Nutsy (played by adorable Claude Rains) – wise, clearly well-educated and kind – hasn't "slept since about 1936" ("or was it '37?") and wanders about, casually-groomed, in an old "Smokey the Bear" ranger hat, philosophizing in his nightwatchman's off-time. (His toasting with a bottle of Coke suggests a reformed alcoholic.) Mildred (played by Robin Raymond), a young patron of the extremely lively Red Dot bar, is a prostitute. Everyone, it seems, bears scars, nicks and chips.

Having seen Moontide, when I heard "damaged people," I found myself wondering when experience becomes damage . At what point do some of us transmogrify from a person to bring to a relationship a unique perspective, shaped by the individual process of living, to something like those shelter puppies deemed "hard-to-place?" However horrific the event, however great the accumulation of events, it is, I decided, not what has happened but its effect on the affected that is the determinant. In Moontide, Bobo and Anna are damaged but not totaled, and each recognizes this not only in the other but in him/herself. I like to believe that those beyond the celluloid realm, you and I, too may assess our own damage and decree our own redeemability.

Bigger than the Great Norvo ... and All of Us

After having consulted Whitney Balliet's American Musicians: 56 Portraits in Jazz for a recent post, I didn't return the volume to its home in the bookshelf but instead kept it handy beside the computer. I was thumbing through the silver-covered paperback this evening. The title of the chapter on vibraharpist/xylophonist Red Norvo once again caught my eye – "The Music Is More Important." I've read this book many times, but, hey, you can't retain everything; I decided to peruse these few pages. Frequently Balliet's chapter titles in this book are taken from a statement made by the subject; such, as I imagined it would be, was the case here:

Red Norvo in the Balliet book:

The main thing is that jazz should be fun. After all, the music is more important than any of us musicians. I'm beginning to think it's not that way anymore, which is too bad. We've come into an age of geniuses, of big musicians swaggering down the sidewalk, and nobody has any fun anymore. I've never done anything musically unless I liked to do it. [...]

I strongly agree – the music is more important. Serving the music – the gerund, in this instance, having two intended meanings – is what matters most: Playing in service to the songs and offering these songs to an audience; therein lies the fun and the reward. While I can think of many instances in which a musician has taken mediocre (or worse) material and fashioned it into something beautiful, I regard this not as proof that the music is secondary to the performer thereof but, rather, as an act of selflessness on the instrumentalist's part. He/she looks at what is at hand and tries to find in it something of merit to emphasize; he/she promotes compositional substance over self. Bunny Berigan – still, sixty-six years after his death, an instantly recognizable, widely-admired virtuoso trumpeter – was a master at finding and exposing the one felicitous melodic twist in an otherwise humdrum piece. Playing music, as far as I'm concerned, is about songs and chords and melodies and lyrics; it's not about image and personal stature. I love Red's phrase, "... big musicians swaggering down the sidewalk." I believe that those who swagger, literally or, as in interviews, figuratively, are big only in self-conception. Red Norvo was a giant of his instruments – first the xylophone and then the vibraharp – but his facility and imagination were to him, clearly, not the end but the means. The music was more important. It remains so, I think.

"... thinking over Sunday"

I've never been crazy about Sunday. It seems that, since childhood, I've always been too preoccupied with the fact that the dreaded Monday would follow to enjoy the traditional day of rest. I am, however, mad about the 1926 published "Sunday," the first hit for Jule Styne, who, in those days, was spelling his name differently. I like the song's chord changes and upbeat melody; "Sunday" is a very good vehicle for improvisation.

Music and Words by Ned Miller, Chester Cohn,
Jules Stein, Bennie Krueger

I'm blue ev'ry Monday, thinking over Sunday –
That one day when I'm with you.
It seems that I sigh all day Tuesday, I cry all day Wednesday –
Oh, my! how I long for you!

And then comes Thursday;
Gee it's long; it never goes by.
Friday makes me feel like I'm gonna die.

But after payday is my fun day;
I shine all day Sunday –
That one day when I'm with you.

Playing "Sunday" this Sunday evening, I thought of an interesting anecdote involving the song, in
Rhythm Man: Fifty Years in Jazz, guitarist Steve Jordan's autobiography:

The 1973 Chiaroscuro album Buddy Tate and His Buddies was recorded on a Sunday because of me. Producer Hank O'Neal called to say that Buddy Tate wanted me for the date with Roy Eldridge, Illinois Jacquet, Mary Lou Williams, Milt Hinton and Gus Johnson. But the only night off I had from a regular gig in Washington was Sunday, and I told him it would be tough for me to take it and, anyway, there were a lot of good guitar players in New York. "No, no, Buddy wants you, not anybody else," O'Neal told me. So, the date was scheduled for a Sunday, and six prominent jazz musicians had to rearrange their schedules to fit mine. That was nice of them and good for my ego. That's also the reason why the old standard, Sunday, is on the album. After we had finished recording the special tunes for the date, a new piece by Buck Clayton, two by Buddy, and one by Mary Lou, we had time for one more. I suggested Sunday simply because it was a Sunday and because I knew it was a tune all these jazz veterans knew and would be comfortable with. Or so I thought. Mary Lou, a veteran of countless jam sessions and one of the best pianists of the swing era, insisted she didn't know Sunday. I couldn't believe it. Nor could Roy. "Everybody knows Sunday," Roy kept telling her, "Mary Lou, I know you know Sunday!" But she said she didn't, and when we decided to go ahead with it I wrote out the chord changes for her. And if you listen closely to the lengthy solo by Mary Lou on the recording I think you will notice that she doesn't play the melody of the song. I guess she really didn't know it. But it's a marvelous solo, anyway, as her solos always were, and conceived only from the chord changes, a kind of conception all good jazz players are able to achieve.

Both of us having read Rhythm Man, my mom and I one time discussed this story. I expressed my amazement at Mary Lou's not being familiar with "Sunday," but, like Roy Eldridge, Mom insisted that the pianist could not have not known the jazz standard. I like my mother's romantic theory – that "Sunday" held for Mary Lou some unpleasant association and, for this reason, she wished to avoid playing it. We'll never know, I'm sure, but this does seem a plausible possibility.

Having heard this treatment of "Sunday" since initially reading the amusing tale, I have to say that I am certain that Mary Lou's hesitation to make the recording had nothing whatever to do with a lack of acquaintance with the song. Jordan's right – she doesn't play the melody; she does, however, dance around it here and there, and her paraphrases, though brief, are close enough to indicate that she knew the ditty. Besides, she followed Eldridge who stated the melody in the opening chorus; any jazz musician would have taken off after the song was introduced. Maybe Mary Lou just wasn't especially fond of "Sunday." You'd never guess this, though, from the way she goes through the jaunty tune, tinkling brightly and throwing in the occasional modern alternate chord. Only Jordan's story would arouse your suspicions.

Ok, we'll imagine that Mary Lou didn't really dig "Sunday." Surely, though, she, who became an extremely religious person, loved Sunday. Me, I'm just the other way around.

Watching Westerns like a Girl

My copy of Warner Brothers' newly released
Errol Flynn Westerns having arrived yesterday afternoon, I watched, last night, the earliest film in the collection, 1940's Virginia City. Well, I found the picture rather entertaining – if a bit convoluted. I've grown quite fond of Westerns in these last few years; I never paid any attention to them before – which is odd, really, as when I was a tot, I adored playing cowboys and Indians. I suppose that at some point I realized that a little girl's conception of the world of cowboys is quite different from that world itself, or even from '30's and '40's Hollywood's version of it. However ill-suited I have come to see that I am for a life on the open range, though,I can't watch a Western without thinking that I hope that, before I die (naturally), I have an opportunity to ride in a covered wagon.

Well, I shan't launch into a plot description of Virginia City. Lacking the gift of conciseness, I have never been terribly adept at writing synopses. Besides, I've lost all taste for trying to write them. Too, fond as I am of what I term "Golden Age" movies, I crave no identification with the fraternity of the so-called "classic film blog." ... I will, though, say something about Virginia City.

When the credits were rolling, I was surprised by Randolph Scott's name. I've always thought him awfully handsome; I like his boyish haircut as well as the fact that it appears that he used little or no pomade. For some reason, once I learned that he was in Virginia City, I wasn't prepared to find him playing antagonist to Flynn; I didn't think about The Spoilers, with Scott and John Wayne, which I saw a few years ago. Well, Randy, as Confederate officer Vance Irby in this one, is an honourable, if desperate, adversary to Union man Flynn.

Bogie I was expecting to see. My goodness – that mustache ... ugh! And the Mexican accent – horrible, phony as a three-dollar bill. How Warner Brothers abused that poor guy. At this point in his career, his fine and, it later became apparent, iconic turn in The Petrified Forest – a film in which star Leslie Howard had insisted that Bogie be cast in the part of Duke Mantee, as he had been in the Broadway play – had proven a false breakthrough. The powers that be (or were) just didn't recognize his gifts or potential. He'd been curly-haired, riding-booted, Irish Michael O'Leary in Dark Victory in '39, and now, in '40, he was a half-breed outlaw, opponent to both Flynn and, as things turn out, Scott. And it appeared that big Flynn or big Scott could have flattened slightly-built Bogie with one punch. Well, a gun compensates. ... Thank goodness that High Sierra came along for the one-and-only Humphrey Bogart.

... And Mr. Errol Flynn. Well, he was just excruciatingly beautiful. I don't mean that he was pretty – I don't like pretty men; he was very masculine-looking. I just mean that he was so exquisitely put together. My gosh – the eyes, the profile, the jaw, the (naturally streaked) hair, the physique. In Virginia City, he delivers another thoroughly convincing, heroic performance. I'm glad to see that critics are beginning to acknowledge what a fine actor he was. As was the case with Gable, Flynn's larger-than-life quality became the preoccupation and his talent was unjustly neglected.

I don't want to sound catty, but I'm not sure that Miriam Hopkins, excellent actress though she be, was just the girl for Virginia City's Julia Hayne, barroom chanteuse/Confederate spy, role. Then again, I'm not sure that frequent Flynn co-star Livvy de Havilland (who, at this time, sagely understood that she had to get away from Errol and period pictures) would have been right. Whom would I have cast? Well, let's see, who was at Warners then: Well, Queen Bette – she was out. ... Ann Sheridan maybe? Or was she too sexy – perfect for the saloon singer bit but not quite so for the determined Rebel agent aspect. This is a tough one. Anyway, Miriam was far from bad ... and she did have a number of costumes that I found to die for. Also, she had a marvelous line:

Once in the titular town, Flynn's Kerry Bradford goes into the local watering hole and is disillusioned to discover that Julia, whom he thought a proper lady, is a common entertainer. Julia, becoming torn between patriotic duty and love, wistfully tells him:

[B]ut, you see, Kerry, no matter how much a man's in love, he really wonders whether the woman's quite ... good enough for him or not. But when a woman's in love, well ... she's just in love and ... that's the end.

I share this point of view. 'Course, I'm a girl.

Well, though, after she says this, Bradford responds with, "Uh-huh." So he evidently agrees ... and he's a guy. Is this, Julia's statement, so? I can speak only from a girl's perspective.