Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dolls On a Sunny Day

Kicked off a gorgeous, sunny morning with breakfast and a classic Looney Tunes short in honor of Flag Day. Porky dreams that Uncle Sam teaches him about the importance of the American flag and the Declaration of Interdependence in the unusually realistic "Old Glory." This was one of Chuck Jones' earlier Disney-like shorts, and shows a lot of rotoscoping - tracing actual footage of people for use on-screen. It's almost cheesily sincere today. Warners even apparently released it right before the 4th of July.

After breakfast, I baked Blueberry Muffins and put the summer sheets on my bed. Ran Paint Your Wagon while I did my chores. Ben Rumson (Lee Marvin) discovers gold when he's burying the dead brother of a young prospector he just calls Pardner (Clint Eastwood). Their discovery brings other miners, who create "No-Name City," a mining town. When they realize there's no women in town, they convince a Mormon (John Mitchum) to auction off one of his wives, Elizabeth (Jean Seaburg). A drunken Ben is the accidentally winner. He builds Elizabeth a house at her request, and when he gets tired of the other miners eyeing her, helps them kidnap a load of French prostitutes. Elizabeth falls for Pardner...but she likes Ben, too. They just decide to live together, and are happy for a while, until Ben realizes how much three people eat. He hatches a plan with Pardner and some of the other miners to tunnel under the city and bring up the gold dust that's falling through the cracks in the saloons. Meanwhile, a fiery preacher (Alan Dexter) is convincing the locals that the town is nothing but sin and vice, and the farmers moving in are making Elizabeth have second thoughts about the marital arrangement.

I'm not sure what to think of this one. I know a lot of people complain about Eastwood and Martin's lack of singing pipes, but in all honesty, their voices suit the characters. There's some wonderful musical numbers, including Harve Presnell (as gambler Rotten Luck Willie) singing a knockout "They Call the Wind Mariah," the preacher's rip-roaring "Gospel of No-Name City," and Martin and the chorus' touching version of "Wanderin' Star." ("Wanderin' Star" actually wound up being a #1 novelty hit in England and Australia.) There's some nice cinematography, too, especially in the first half. The idea of the initial conflict being settled by them becoming a trio is actually rather interesting and unique.

I just wish the movie had the courage to follow up on its convictions. The world wasn't ready for a western threesome in 1969. In fact, I don't think the movie quite knew what it wanted to be. Eastwood and Seaburg are playing a musical romance, the cinematography shows a gritty western, and Martin seems to think he's back in Cat Ballou. Eastwood was stiff and dull, and Seaburg only slightly better. Martin and the supporting cast - including genuine singers Presnell and Ray Walston - seem to have wandered in from another movie entirely. The sequence with the Mormon and the wife auction feels awkward and a little sexist (even if Elizabeth did agree to it of her own free will), and the incident with the prostitutes isn't much better. There's also the fact that very little besides the Mormon auction, the gold rush theme, and a few characters and songs remain from the original 1953 Broadway show. The ending, with the town falling into the sinkholes Ben and his men created, is weird and anti-climatic.

Homer and Bart Simpson aren't the only ones who were confused. People who come to see Eastwood and Martin and are expecting a dark, bloody western get a (mostly) goofy musical. On the other hand, I know a lot of adults who grew up in the late 60's and 70's and loved this movie, and it did end up being a surprise hit in 1969 (even if it couldn't make it's bloated costs back). This is definitely a "your mileage may vary" movie. I say, unless you really love the cast or composers Lerner and Lowe or have fond memories of it, look up "They Call the Wind Mariah" and "Wanderin' Star" online and skip the rest.

Dressed the dolls during the second half of Paint Your Wagon. Temperatures are supposed to hit the upper 90's by next week. Time to change the girls into cooler outfits for early summer. Samantha wears her frilly pink and lavender Ice Cream Dress with the pearly-lavender boots. Molly's in her Birthday Pinafore and white t-strap shoes from the Polka-Dot Outfit. Jessa is in (Ivy's) terry cloth Rainbow Romper and the purple jelly sandals from the 90's Birthday Outfit. Put Felicity in a heavy white dress with blue roses I picked up from a booth at the Deptford Mall years ago. Josefina sports her lovely maroon and white Weaving Outfit and the "extra" moccasins she came in. Whitney's pastel polka-dot dress came from e-Bay; she wears yellow shoes from Kit's Scooter Outfit with it. Ariel gets to try on the travel-themed AG sundress Lauren gave me for Christmas last year.

Had a really quick lunch as soon as I finished with the dolls, then headed out. I wanted to get to the Haddon Township Library to return those DVDs and volunteer. At least it was a gorgeous day for a ride, sunny, windy, and warm but not hot or humid, probably in the lower 80's.

Surprisingly, considering the weather, the Haddon Township Library was busy when I arrived. It was after 3 - the kids must have just gotten out of school. Surprisingly, there weren't many DVDs to shelve. The kids' racks were overloaded. It's been too nice for people to be taking out movies. It's not going to stay nice, however, so I grabbed a couple of movies for me this week. Haven't seen Mystery Science Theater 3000 in years. They had two episodes - I went with "The Mad Scientist." Decided to try Queen of the Desert with Nicole Kidman and last year's animated version of Ferdinand. I liked Paint Your Wagon well enough to give another troubled film version of a Broadway hit, South Pacific, another chance.

Made a quick stop at Dollar Tree on the way home. I needed Father's Day cards and canned diced tomatoes for dinner. It was rush hour by the time I was there, and the lines were long. Thankfully, they opened a second register the minute after I got in line.

When I rolled in, I worked on writing for a little while. I'm returning to that 30's novel I started two years ago and have worked on off and on since. It's the fall of 1939. Ben Kenobi, a reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Star, has just told his intern Luke Skylark and Luke's archaeologist twin sister Leia about the Force and how to use it to wield the Swords of Power. Harry Solomon, the cynical pilot who is taking them to the Empire to find the swords, scoffs at such "simple tricks and nonsense"...until he performs one himself.

Broke for black bean dip for dinner and to watch two episodes of Rick Steves' Europe. The next part of my story is set in the Fascist Empire country. It's fictional, but it has it's roots in Nazi Germany and other Fascist countries. I watched the episode on Berlin, which goes heavily into it's recent and Cold War history and on Normandy, with it's museum dedicated to the D-Day invasions.

Finished the night after a shower with the MS3K episode, the third episode of the original series, in fact. Actually, this was a two-for-one. I have to admit, I almost enjoyed the thrilling (if cheesy) Radar Men from the Moon serial episode more the main feature, The Mad Monster, which was the fairly standard story of a mad scientist who turns his dim-witted assistant into a werewolf, then has to convince everyone else that he's not off his rocker. This show is just as funny now as it was 20 years ago. I loved it so much, I looked up another one, a riff on the Italian sword-and-sandals fantasy film Hercules, after the other ended.

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