Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hittin' the Ceiling

It was pouring this morning when I awoke to cursing and banging downstairs. I finished out Return of the Jedi, then had breakfast while watching The Care Bears' Nutcracker. Funshine and Grumpy go to Earth to help a little girl named Anna who is lonely and wants a friend her own age. She gets her wish in a most unusual way when a nutcracker suddenly appears in her room, followed by a rat and his minions. Anna, the Bears and Care Bear Cousins, and the Nutcracker defend the house, then travel to Toyland to rescue the Sugar Plum Fairy from the evil Vizier. Anna's little brother Michael goes after them in search of adventure. The cubs Hugs and Tugs just want to find a special ornament of their own for Care-a-Lot's Christmas tree.

Did a quick short as I got ready to head out. Raggedy Ann introduces a little blind girl to "The Enchanted Square" in a Famous Studios cartoon from the early 40's. The New York corner where the girl lives appears drab to most passer-by. Raggedy Ann helps her use her imagination to "see" it as a magical place.

The rain had thankfully stopped by the time I headed out around 12:30. I began my day with a quick run to the Oaklyn Library. They were fairly quiet, maybe because of the weather. There was just one man on the computer, and another who was working on their server. I organized DVDs until the kids arrived. I listened to their teacher read stories about autumn and leaves for a while, then decided I wouldn't get to the kids' area and left.

Studio LuLoo was open when I arrived. They were also in a state of total chaos, at least even more than usual. They're apparently in the midst of totally reorganizing the store. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. The place has always been a bit of a disaster area. I helped shelve and organize "I Really Like NJ" t-shirts into men's, women's, and youth's on cubbyhole shelves. I also set coffee cups with "I Really Like NJ" and "Being Weird Is Cool" printed on them on another shelf.

Went next-door to Phillies Phatties for a nice, cheap lunch after leaving Studio LuLoo. I had my usual slice of cheese pizza, slice of mushroom pizza, and can of Diet Pepsi while listening to ESPN discussing the Russian track and field Olympic drug scandal. A couple of big fellows enjoyed sandwiches and chatted while I ate.

I took Newton River Park to and from the Haddon Township Library. I didn't need to do any shopping in Westmont, and I wanted to avoid the traffic on Cuthbert. Needless to say, on a chilly, windy day that was still cloudy and damp, the park was empty. The only people out enjoying the fall colors were a couple of college kids chatting in the stone pavilion and a huge flock of Canadian geese poking around for a snack.

Unlike the Oaklyn Library, the Haddon Township Library was busy. Everyone must have taken movies out during yesterday's holiday. I not only had a huge pile of kids' movies to shelve, but for the first time since the summer, I was able to get all of them in, even the Scooby Doo titles. (In fact, I had more trouble fitting in the B, C, and G titles.) Was able to shelve all of the adult DVDs but the N titles. Did the audio and music CDs as well.

I actually took two DVDs out. Haddon Township occasionally gets the fancy Criterion Collection sets. I took out the one for the 1928 part-talkie Lonesome. The second disc includes Broadway, another movie by the same director, Paul Fejos, that's heavily discussed in the book A Song In the Dark on early talkie musicals. Found the Irish animated film Song of the Sea among the kids' movies.

Of course, the sun opted to start coming out just as I dodged early rush hour traffic and headed home. I spent the rest of the evening inside writing anyway. Betty, Mackie, and the others put on their show for the Festival-goers and Hilary and Jeff. Hilary is so impressed, she offers to let them move to the stage at their palatial home Bedside long as Betty re-writes the story of a woman torn between two very different men for her to play it. Betty's not happy about the re-writing, but the others see it as a great opportunity. Hilary initially says only Betty, a Guardian, can stay at the main manor house. Betty won't go anywhere without the others.

Put on Broadway while making swai fillets with mushrooms, onion, and spinach sauteed in home-made chicken stock and Cranberry Flummery for dinner. This archetypal gangster tale apparently came from the real Broadway stage, where it was a hit play in 1926. Ambitious hoofer Roy Lane (Glenn Tryton) at the hot nightspot the Paradise Club wants to partner with the sweet Billie (Myrna Kennedy), but she's more attracted to a slick gangster (Robert Ellis). Billie accidentally sees the murder of another gangster (Leslie Fenton) but promises she won't talk when he gives her a bracelet. Suddenly, the murders are piling up, and Roy is wondering just how faithful Billie is...and how much she's really seen. Meanwhile, tough moll Pearl is planning some revenge of her own.

None of this mattered a whit to director Paul Fejos, one of the true characters of the late silent and early talkie cinema. Fejos is apparently better known today in archaeological circles. He did practice as a bacteriologist in his native Hungary for a while before coming to the United States. He wanted Broadway to break out of the static early talkie stage-bound formulas and helped devise an enormous camera crane to do just that. Unfortunately, he only employed it for the musical numbers set in an incredible Art Deco night club and for the (now lost) color finale. The opening, with a giant running amok in a detailed miniature Times Square, is nifty to look at but otherwise a pretty strange way to begin a gangster backstage musical.

Of the cast, Evelyn Brent comes off best as the tough chorus dame. Tryton tries hard as the hoofer, but Kennedy's naive everygirl is a little too goody-goody and ditzy, even for the film's designated ingenue. This is mainly only for fans of early gangster movies or musicals or truly dedicated fans of early sound cinema.

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