Saturday Odds & Sods: Town Without Pity

Cover art for Paul Eluard’s Reflections by Max Ernst.

Extreme heat is the price we’ve paid for missing out on Hurricane Dorian. As cranky as I am, I’m glad this heat-bringing high is warding off any tropical activity. I won’t miss it when it’s gone but I’m glad it’s here as Dorian creeps up the east coast. That storm is a relentless motherfucker. The fucker should return to the attic from whence it came.

Drew Brees ate my Friday morning. I hope he buttons his lip and keeps his foot out of his mouth until after Monday’s game.

The featured image is a collage done by the great Max Ernst for a book by his fellow surrealist, Paul Eluard. You may have noticed that I love surrealist art. I use it a lot in this space and have even threatened to post nothing but Ernst and Magritte featured images for Odds & Sods. I’ve also used an Ernst image for my new Bayou Brief column, 13th Ward Rambler.

This week’s theme song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for the 1961 Kirk Douglas film, Town Without Pity.¬† I’d never seen the movie until last weekend. It’s a cross between film noir, Italian neo-realism, German expressionism, and a Cassavetes flick. I liked it a lot and give it 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

We have three versions of Town Without Pity for your listening pleasure: the Gene Pitney original, Stray Cats, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. My boy Brian knows a hidden treasure when he hears one.

Let’s escape the bleak mean streets of a German town without pity by remorselessly jumping to the break.

Before moving on to the substance of our second act, here are a pair of eye tunes in honor of Max Ernst and Paul Eluard. A German and a French surrealist walk into a bar…

It’s time to set the Wayback Machine to 1860 and explore (explode?) a particularly persistent historical myth.

Black Confederates? Slate’s Rebecca Onion sat down for an interview with historian Kevin Levin. Together they peel back the layers of the myth that there were black soldiers in the Confederate Army. Levin’s new book, Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, is a serious attempt to debunk the myth. Damn, I may have overused the word myth. Oh well, this is something of a hit and myth process…

I’ve heard tell that some New Orleans gens de couleur libre attempted to enlist and/or form their own unit but were rebuffed. Some of them owned slaves but they all had the wrong skin color. If it didn’t happen in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, it didn’t happen anywhere.

The aforementioned Rebecca Onion has the details at Slate. Btw, I love the name Kevin Levin. His parents had the nerve to rhyme. That ain’t no crime, it’s out of tyme. I just gave myself an unlikely earworm:

Jefferson Airplane and Sparky Schulz had something in common: they were both based in Northern California. Sparky, of course, was a transplant but wrote the bulk of his Peanuts strips in the Golden State. Before continuing, another musical interlude:

Hats off to Dwight for this great line, “I ain’t old, just out of date.”

Let’s hang out with the Peanuts gang. Try not to stand next to Pigpen until the dust settles.

The Paradox Of Peanuts: Despite¬†Schulz’s second act in California, he remained at heart a Midwesterner with a dry wit and mordant worldview. Believe it or not, there’s some similarity between his take on the world and that of the Coen Brothers. You can take the artist out of Minnesota, but you can’t take Minnesota out of the artist. You betcha.

There’s a wonderful piece at the Atlantic by Bruce Handy that poses the eternal question: was Peanuts really written for kids? In my book, the answer is an emphatic no.

Before moving on, a Peanuts related musical interval without any Vince Guaraldi content:

Trust me, I like Vince but I try to avoid the obvious whenever possible. Hence this Billy Cobham tune featuring Tommy Bolin on lead guitar and Jan Hammer on keyboards:

Now that we’ve flown the unfriendly skies of the Great War, it’s time for our third act.

The Weekly DC: This swell clip featuring Laurence Olivier on the Dick Cavett Show nearly made the cut before this week but somehow got, well, cut.

Olivier was in his share of classic films but it’s not his turn in the dubious spotlight that follows.

The Classic Movie List: Thus far, we’ve a had a director and an actor. This week’s list features one of the best actresses of the Golden Age.

My Top Ten Favorite Barbara Stanwyck Movies:

  1. Double Indemnity
  2. The Lady Eve
  3. Ball Of Fire
  4. The Furies
  5. Christmas In Connecticut
  6. The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers
  7. The Miracle Woman
  8. Forty Guns
  9. Crime Of Passion
  10. Executive Suite

Stanwyck was consistently good as well as a great comic actress. Her star turns in The Lady Eve and Ball of Fire prove that. It’s hard to go wrong with the words of Preston Sturges in the former and Brackett and Wilder in the latter.

Ready, set, go to our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth: Mark Zuckerberg not only thinks he’s royalty, he bears an eerie resemblance to Felipe IV, Rey de Espana. He lacks the Hapsburg lip but nobody’s perfectly imperfect.

I think Zuck and Felipe would echo the sentiments of the next song:

I adore that extended live version of what was originally a 5-minute song. Talk about a royal jam or is that scam? Let’s ask Steely Dan:

Saturday GIF Horse: I hope my readers are fans of the demonically clever life after death comedy, The Good Place. We just finished streaming season three on Netflix and I already miss reformed Arizona trash bag Eleanor and her pals.

What’s not to love about Ted Danson pouring ice on Kristen Bell’s head?

As Kristen’s character Eleanor would surely say at this point, DUDE.

Weekly Vintage Music Video: George Michael was perhaps the most successful Greek to ever ply his trade in show biz. Cat Stevens was a big star, but George was even bigger. He made some swell videos. Here’s one of them:

And now for something completely different.

Saturday Classic: I wore out my vinyl copy of Joni Mitchell’s brilliant 1976 album Hejira. It’s not only one of her best albums, it’s one for the ages.

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to the stars of Crime Of Passion: Raymond Burr, Barbara Stanwyck, and Sterling Hayden:

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