Saturday, March 24, 2012

Strange Radio Titles Come to Mind

Waking streams of consciousness have brought back names of radio and TV shows of the 40s and 50s and I needed to check Wikipedia to see if they were real, including IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT, LADIES BE SEATED, JUKEBOX JURY AND ISH KABIBBLE.

It Pays to Be Ignorant was on Mutual for Philip Morris, Chrysler and Desoto. The show spoofed popular radio programs like Quiz Kids and Information Please. It obviously was a favorite on the Crosley at home and may have featured a character called “Park Your Carcass” but I need confirmation on that. Or maybe that character was on Fred Allen’s show?

Ladies Be Seated was a stunt game hosted by Minnesota native Johnny Olson and was on NBC in the 40s. I can’t see how this would work on radio.

Jukebox Jury had a short run on ABC TV and was hosted by disk jockey Peter Potter with celebrity actors on the panel. The panel judged newly released songs.

Ish Kabibble was the name of a comedian featured on the radio show Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge. He also appeared in movies starting in 1939. I probably remember the name from a popular song of the day (ish kabibble mit the ya ya). Anyone recognize this?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Life is Cruel and Conflicted at “Cairo Station”

A lonely sexually repressed obsessive newspaper vendor played by director Youssef Chahine longs for the country life and a sultry vixen who sells American Coca Cola to passengers at an urban train station. It’s an existential nightmare that doesn’t end well.

This is the premise for Chahines 1958 Egyptian film triumph “Cairo Station” which is not what you expect in a Middle East film. Chahine must have studied European masters of neo realism of the 1940s to craft a troubling mix of desperation as seen through shadows and light.

The newspaper vendor and women who sell soft drinks to middle class travelers at the depot are central to the drama that pits traditional Muslim beliefs against decadent western capitalism. Workers shed your chains preaches a union organizer who offers hope to those oppressed by their bosses. Women are used and physically abused with sex and sadism an underlying theme.

Against the backdrop of a billboard with a voluptuous woman, men gather on the public square to face Mecca for their daily prayers, not a hospitable setting for the devout. We are not far from pagan Western influences in the depot when we see on the wall a poster advertising the sexy 1953 Hollywood movie “Niagara” with Marilyn Monroe.

Beyond the depot, Chahine offers a glimpse of Cairo’s urban possibilities teaming with hope and poverty with western jazz making us forget we are in the Middle East. (“Cairo Station” is available on DVD with subtitles).

Monday, March 05, 2012

Game On -- Stop the Hate

MINNEAPOLIS -- About 500 people Sunday stood up for dignity and against tyranny and hate Sunday at a meeting in a suburban Minneapolis synagogue to kick off the campaign against the ill-advised constitutional anti-gay marriage amendment.

“My blood boils” said Minneapolis Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman as she recalled the plaintive plea of a toddler who asked if her two moms would go to jail if the amendment passes.

The amendment which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot would further marginalize members of the LGBT community to further the radical agenda of the Republican legislative majority.

Against formidable odds, like the corporate Catholic Church which is sinking a million dollars into the anti-gay campaign, the advocates of dignity and freedom need to convince 160,000 Minnesotans to vote against the amendment. or else don’t vote on the amendment. Gay and lesbian couples with children will have compelling stories to tell those wavering that could tip the balance in November.

The Minnesota Rabbinical Association on Jan. 18 adopted a statement opposing the amendment.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Seeking Edgar Ulmer’s Film Legacy

Movie director Edgar Ulmer from the 30s and 40s was worried about his legacy. Would anyone remember him for “Detour” and “The Black Cat”? Good question. Answer: yes and no, but an international documentary about Ulmer from Kino Video seeks to establish him in the lexicon of innovative directors with testimonials from contemporary directors Joe Dante, John Landis, Roger Corman and Wim Wenders.

Ulmer is a contradiction in that he resisted being ground up in the Hollywood “hash” machine of the major studios and yet he had an unsustainable faith that the “mythic Hollywood” would allow him to establish his legacy as a movie genius. So he chose a path less traveled. Ulmer signed on with poverty row studio PRC (Producers Releasing Corp.) And he said he enjoyed his years at PRC, making movies on a shoestring. Necessity is the mother of invention so with few resources he crafted at least one memorable movie, “Detour”, at PRC. (“The Black Cat” was a loan out to Universal).

Some of his movies dealing with desperate living are available cheap, like at the dollar store. (Two different DVDs that I bought of Miracle Pictures “Monsoon” (“Isle of the Forgotten Sins”) are un-playable. The Kino issue of “Isle” is playable but the soundtrack is distorted. Obviously it was made from a 16mm print but I am happy to have it.

The 1943 “Isle” movie is interesting in that it features a somewhat comical puppet as a deep sea diver searching for sunken gold. John Carradine and Gale Sondergaard spark romantic while Sidney Toler of Charlie Chan fame and handsome Rick Vallin (Ava Gardner’s fiancĂ© in “Ghosts on the Loose” at Monogram) are evil doers. Toler in a swimsuit with sagging titties flopping in the breeze is amusing and not all that sinister. The villains’ shootout in the closing minutes is notable in that not a drop of blood was shed.

Like an earlier Ulmer film, “Moon Over Harlem”, it reveals incidents in the lives of people living on the edge.

So what happened to PRC and Ulmer? The notable director rests in peace at Hollywood Forever cemetery, a short distance from Santa Monica Blvd. and LaBrea Aveniue where once PRC made movies with Lash Larue and John Carradine. Now it is the undistinguished Movetown Plaza Shopping Center. Not even a plaque exists to commemorate a fascinating era 60 years ago when movies were made cheap in six days.