Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You Do Something To Me

Today was laundry day. Turner Classic Movies concluded it's month-long biopic theme with movies about jazz and big band composers and performers. I spent most of the morning while the laundry was running enjoying Night and Day, the sort-of biography of debonair composer Cole Porter from 1946. Some of it was more accurate than most reviews led me to expect. Cole Porter did go to Yale and Harvard to become a lawyer, did marry a fellow wealthy member of his smart set he was devoted to, Linda, was close friends with character actor Monty Woolley, and sadly, did end up with paralyzed legs after a horseback riding accident and was constantly in surgery in the late 30s.

In real life, though, Porter didn't really care about making Broadway shows. He did grow up wealthy, but was apparently something of a dilettante, which probably explains why, though he got songs published as early as his teens, he didn't have his first genuine Broadway hit until 1928. Even today, his songs are sometimes censored for recordings and movies. He was also a closet homosexual - when he and Linda have marital problems midway through the film, if you know anything about Porter, you start to suspect it isn't female flesh Linda should be worrying about him having his eye on. Historians have questioned his World War I military service for years, too, though they do agree he wasn't wounded.

Actually, my biggest disappointment with this film was with the lifeless musical numbers. Despite all of the wonderful songs from Porter's early career, it feels as icy as Alexis Smith's demeanor. When Cary Grant sits down at a piano and shares a delectable "You're the Top" with radio singer Ginny Simms, it's all pure fun, but the bigger musical numbers, especially ballads, often come off as arty and just plain pretentious. Jane Wyman has some fun comic bits (especially all the millionaires she drags around in a running gag), but is only a so-so singer, and Simms is no actress.

On the other hand, Porter loved Cary Grant as him, and who am I to disagree with him? I thought this was one of Grant's better performances. Shame he didn't do more musicals. Eve Arden was odd but quite funny in a short role as a French(?) chanteuse.

The biggest irony is that, for all the hoopla about Porter's career in this film, his greatest triumphs and sorrows were ahead of him. His career was revived two years later with the Broadway musical Kiss Me Kate; he would go on to do the Broadway shows Out Of This World, Can-Can, and Silk Stocking, and the original movie musicals The Pirate, High Society, and Les Girls. Unfortunately, Porter never really got to enjoy his rebirth. Linda, of whom he was supposedly very fond of in real-life, died in I believe the 50s, and he finally lost one of his legs later in the decade and spent the last years of his life in pain and seclusion.

Work was steady-to-dead, no major problems, and should continue to be so tomorrow. Halloween is not a really big holiday for grocery stores. We won't pick up again until after Veteran's Day.

I also watched three horror-oriented sitcom episodes this morning, two Perfect Strangers eps and one from Remember WENN. The first of the two Strangers episodes, the fourth season's "Aliens," was the only one to outright deal with Halloween. Larry holds a Halloween party to watch a horror movie marathon, but everyone else (including Balki) eventually drops out, leaving Larry alone with his movies and popcorn. He eventually has the second of three nightmare sequences that turned up on the show, here dreaming that Balki is an alien from the planet Mypos who has come to invade the Earth.

"Fright Night," from the seventh and last full season, was a tad more generic. Balki is excited when neighbors reveal their new home is haunted, but Larry doesn't believe him, as usual...until the ghost actually comes out of hiding. And yes, Balki, Elvis is really dead.

The staff of Pittsburgh radio station WENN also finds themselves handling ghosts in "The Ghost of WENN" from the third season. Soap opera diva Hilary Booth is targeted by an unseen poltergeist who has an odd thing for cranberry jelly. Meanwhile, the rest of WENN has varied reactions as they put on a spooky ghost story with some rather frightening back history.

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