The Shop Around the Corner (1940) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

“The Shop Around the Corner” is an MGM movie starring Jimmy Stewart that combines elements of comedy, drama and romance to tell the story of a retail store in Budapest, Hungary called Matuschek and Company.  Mr. Matuschek, played by Frank Morgan is the owner of a leather goods store that is struggling to survive at the end of the Great Depression.  Matuschek is enthusiastic, self-important and comically hot-headed.

His lead salesman is Alfred Kralik, played by Stewart.  Kralik is intelligent, earnest and falling in love with a woman he’s never met.  He’s in an anonymous pen-pal relationship with a woman that he knows simply as “dear friend.”  As it turns out dear friend also happens to be his co-worker Klara Novak, played by Margaret Sullavan.  But in their real life Kralik and Klara detest each other.  In addition to this comedy of errors love/hate relationship, there are other characters and other sub-plots.  Kralik’s closest friend at the shop is Mr. Pirovitch played in a wonderfully comic turn by Felix Bressart.  Pirovitch is Mr. Matuschek’s favorite whipping boy.  His favorite statement is “Pirovitch you’re an idiot.”  To which the meek Pirovitch replies, “Yes, Mr. Matuschek, I’m an idiot.”

There is Ferencz Vadas, another of the sales clerks, played with enormous pomposity and self-regard by Joseph Schildkraut.  And finally, there is the errand boy Pepi Katona who snipes sarcastically at all his superiors and ends up as the hero of the second plot line.  For along with the romance there is a drama.  Mr. Matuschek has become aware of the fact that his wife is having an affair and he believes it is with one of his employees.  And since Kralik has had the most opportunity to meet Mrs. Matuschek he is the prime suspect.  So, whereas formerly Matuschek treated Kralik almost as a son now he hates and distrusts him.  After goading Kralik into anger, Matuschek discharges him.  But when the private detectives finish their investigation, they name Mr. Vadas as Matuschek’s rival.  With his life in shambles Matuschek attempts to end it all with a pistol.  But in the nick of time Pepi breaks in on his suicide and hands Matuschek over to the hospital for psychiatric observation.

Meanwhile Kralik discovers that on top of being fired his “dear friend” is Klara Novak.  He finds this out when he is supposed to be meeting her at a café with each of them wearing a carnation.  Spying Klara’s carnation from outside he throws away his carnation and pretends that he was just stopping at the café to meet Pirovitch.  Klara accuses him of trying to spoil her prospective date, insults him and finishes by calling him an insignificant clerk.  After this he leaves in complete dejection and misery.

But in the next act Matuschek calls Kralik to his hospital bed to apologize for his terrible treatment and to beg him to come back and manage the store while Matuschek recuperates from his nervous breakdown.  Even Pepi is rewarded for saving Mr. Matuschek by becoming a salesman.  Now with roles reversed Klara is dejected because her date never showed up and on top of that she finds that the man she insulted is now her boss.  But all ends well.  Kralik fires the despicable Vadas in royal fashion.  The store has a stellar Christmas sales total and Mr. Matuschek returns in time to give everyone a wonderful bonus.  And finally, the lovers are re-united.  But first Kralik has some fun with Klara by pretending that he had met her “dear friend” and he was fat, bald, old, and a greedy fraud.  When Klara finally discovers that Kralik is her “dear friend” she is relieved and happy.

This is a relatively silly story.  But the dialogue and the acting are remarkably good.  Even the minor parts are played skillfully and with great comic verve.  There is great heart here.  And the humanity of all the characters, even the villainous Vadas feels very real.  You believe the story.  There is a Dickensian feel to the production.  I highly recommend this story to everyone.  It’s a gem.

23JUL2021 – OCF Update – The Prisoner Speaks

I’ve been washing venetian blinds all morning and am still only half done!  I’ve calculated that there are 450 individual slats to clean by hand one at a time.  Camera Girl is a harsh mistress.  Pardon my absence.  I will catch up as soon as I am released from bondage.

As a quick note I listened to ZMan’s Friday podcast and it was on “The Book of Five Rings.”  The book’s author was a 17th century Japanese swordsman named Miyamoto Musashi.  The book is ostensibly on the strategy of sword fighting but is actually a meditation on the philosophy of living in the real world.  I thought his podcast was extremely interesting and I’ll have to read book soon.  I wish the podcast was much longer it took my mind off the drudgery I am enduring.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Sky News host Alan Jones says Joe Biden is a Stuttering Senile Old Simpleton

And he shows cuts from Biden’s recent CNN Town Hall as evidence.  Wait for the clips of Biden.  They’re pretty convincing evidence that Dementia Joe is an accurate nickname.  If Kamala is looking for proof to allow her to use the 25th Amendment to yank Biden out of the White House this should do nicely.

I say bring on Animatronic Biden.  He’s clean and articulate.

This guy Jones is hilarious when he is ripping into Biden’s incomprehensible search for a sentence.  Come on Joe, give us a noun, give us a verb.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 26 – Assignment: Earth

This the last episode of season 2.  We are told at the beginning of the episode that the Enterprise has been sent back in time to 1968 by means of blah, blah, blah.  They are there to do research.  By a remarkable coincidence they intercept an enormously powerful transporter beam coming from 1,000 light years away.  The beam deposits a seemingly human man holding a black cat.

The man identifies himself as Gary Seven (played by Robert Lansing), a human agent of a far off highly advanced race that he claims maintains a population of humans to visit Earth and influence human history in a way that limits the possibility of self-destruction.  Gary tries to convince Kirk to let him continue on to Earth to fulfill his mission which is to harmlessly but frighteningly destroy a nuclear weapon during a launch into orbit.  Kirk is unsure of Seven’s story and refuses to release him without proof of the truth of his story.  He fears that Seven is an alien enemy trying to destroy Earth by triggering WW III.

Seven manages to escape from detention on the Enterprise and proceeds to his base in New York City.  There he finds out that the agents meant to sabotage the orbital rocket have died in a car crash.  He must go himself to the Florida rocket launch and program the rocket to explode 100 miles above Russia thus convincing the Americans and their enemies that keeping H-bombs orbiting the Earth is a very bad idea.

At this point a woman hired by his two late associates to be their receptionist, Roberta Lincoln (played by a very young Teri Garr in a miniskirt) shows up and further confuses Gary Seven’s mission.  Meanwhile the Enterprise has identified the destination Seven transported to and sends Kirk and Spock dressed in mid-century American clothes.  They get into an altercation with Roberta and she manages to send for the police.  Gary Seven transports to the rocket launch location before Kirk and Spock reach him.  Meanwhile the NYPD shows up and Kirk has Scotty beam the two policemen and himself and Spock to the Enterprise.  The two policemen are stunned by their transportation.  Kirk and Spock exit the transporter and Scotty returns the officers to Earth before they can recover their wits.

Kirk now knows that Gary Seven has reached the rocket base and he and Spock decide to go there to stop Seven’s plan.  They are immediately arrested by the base’s armed guards and hauled off to, of all places, the mission control location.  Gary Seven is now on the gantry next to the rocket and has begun reprogramming the rocket.  At this point back on the Enterprise Scotty locates Gary Seven on the side of the rocket and attempts to beam him aboard the Enterprise.  But as Seven begins to materialize in the Enterprise transporter Roberta Lincoln fiddles aimlessly with the controls of the transporter in New York and the machine finds Gary Seven and brings him to New York.  How’s that for ridiculous!

After that we have Roberta Lincoln realizing that Seven can’t be from the CIA and knocking him out with a metal box.  Then Kirk and Spock, who in the interim have been rescued from detention by Scotty, show up and use up all but a few seconds of time needed to detonate the bomb in the upper atmosphere.  Shatner uses his confused face to let us know he isn’t sure whether he should do the only reasonable thing and let Seven prevent the nuke from reaching Earth.  Spock has to bless his decision by saying there is no information to make a logical decision so Kirk’s human intuition is the only choice.  Kirk says, “Do it!”  And the show comes to a blessed ending in the glare of a thermonuclear explosion at exactly 104 miles above the ground.

In the epilogue we learn that history had recorded that the bomb did go off at that altitude and was the impetus for nuclear negotiations between the United States and Russia.  And Spock informs Seven and Lincoln that they will have interesting adventures together in the near future.  We then see that Seven’s cat Isis can also transform herself into a scantily clad and buxom woman and when Roberta questions Gary about this female rival, “Who’s that?”  She transforms back into a cat in time for Gary to tell Roberta, “That’s my cat.”

Okay, let’s go over this a little bit.  This episode was a sort of pilot for a spin-off starring Lansing and Garr that never happened.  And I will say that these two were definitely a notch above the caliber of most of the guest stars.  They both had good presence, some comedic timing and decent acting skills.  The script although filled with improbabilities piled on ridiculous coincidences moved along quickly and reached a satisfying climax without Shatner breaking out too much of his classic emoting.  In fact, having Lansing and Garr dominate the air time was extremely refreshing.  And this is one of the few episodes I can think of where Dr. McCoy has almost no time on screen.  So, it’s a real win/win.

I would say this in one of the good episodes.  As mentioned above Shatner doesn’t get to use much of his bag of painful tricks so the Shatner mockery value will be sort of low.  Let’s call this an 8 // 3.

An Interview with Victor Orban

Victor Orban is the Prime Minister of Hungary and a staunch Hungarian nationalist.  He is trying his best to push his country back in a direction that aligns with Family, God and Country.  And because of this he is despised by his EU neighbors.  The openly gay EU leaders have been triggered by his recent passing of a law that forbids proselytizing the LGBTQ lifestyles to minors.  But he is indifferent to their hysteria.  The fact that Hungary elected this man four times speaks volumes about their superiority to our own with respect to survival instinct

Recently he was interviewed by a religious publication from Croatia.  Here are some excepts.  Note:  This is a machine translation from a Croat publication and therefore not particularly polished.

 

How much does it cost you to swim against the dominant European political current?

Whoever swims with the multicultural fashion of this time loses everything that matters in life. True, everyone who goes against the current causes themselves a lot of problems. We pay a high price. Hungary pays a high price for not signing the Istanbul Convention, then refusing to support any Cold War policy; we pay a high price for not kicking the Russian president every day together with Westerners, but giving him the respect he deserves as president; we pay a high price for protecting the Christian model of the family; that LGBT madness has no place here; then we pay a high price for our position on migration and we pay a high price for not accepting the Brussels bureaucracy, but first and foremost as a counterweight to building Central European cooperation. So, we really pay a high price. But if we don’t pay that price, and if we don’t represent our interests, we may live more comfortably, but we will end up losing a lot more. We do better if we fight. I think Zrinski would understand that too.

 

How strong are the influences of pre-democratic structures in Hungary today?

In the Hungarian soul there is generally a desire for what is more important than personal life, which transcends it. Hungarians usually look for it in three directions: in the direction of family, nation and God. Usually, conversion also occurs when these three worlds are connected. It is a process that is progressing and I would not say that we are hindered by pre-democratic structures, no one else is responsible, it is our responsibility. Clearly, there are atheists in Hungary as well, there are opponents of the Church, there are liberals who do everything to stop the spread of Christian values. They have their own media, they are organized, they have strong civic associations. However, we have them on the conservative side as well – there are at least as many Christian media as there are anti-Christian ones, our civil associations are at least as strong as theirs, maybe even stronger; and we hold political positions because we have a Christian government. Therefore, the lack of spiritual renewal cannot be attributed to our opponents. The fault is not in others, but in ourselves.

 

You mention the soul of Europe, the spiritual struggle. Is the current political struggle actually the materialization of a spiritual struggle waged in the background?

Politics takes place on three levels simultaneously. The first level is practical: it deals with issues related to power, the acceptance of the budget, the appointment of persons, the maintenance of order. I would call the second level a vision, because all national communities must have a vision. What will happen to the Hungarians, not tomorrow morning, but in five, 10, 20 years? However, behind everything there is another broader dimension, the world of transcendence. We live in that dimension as well, and it is a part of life. In Hungarian political thought, this is called the problem of majority and truth. It could be said like this: if someone has a majority, but does not strive for the truth with that majority, what will the majority do for him? It’s just profanation. If, on the other hand, one advocates the truth but cannot move the majority, how will he act in the interest of that truth? It is a key challenge of Christian politics that emerges in democratic conditions. To simplify, we no longer have sacral kings anointed by God, so we must exist in a democracy, connecting the majority and the truth. It is not easy, but it is possible. Demo-Christian politics also has its mandate in relation to Christian culture. Christianity, first of all, created a free man. Therefore, we must first and foremost protect human dignity. Then, Christianity created a Christian family. We must protect the concept of the Christian family. Furthermore, Christianity has created nations in this part of the world. If we, the Hungarians, had not followed Christianity for a thousand years, we would have disappeared, so we must also protect the nation. But we must also protect religious communities and the Church. To summarize, our task is not to protect theological principles, it is the mission of the Church, but the great Christian achievements of civilization. And when I protect them, I fight not only with the sword, I use not only power, but also arguments.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) – A Movie Review

“The Friends of Eddie Coyle” is a crime drama that takes place in and around Boston.  Robert Mitchum is Eddie Coyle, a small-time member of an Irish gang who is about to be sentenced for a truck hijacking that he did for another gangster named Dillon who is played by Peter Boyle.  Because Eddie doesn’t want to do anymore time he agrees to act as an informant to ATF agent Dave Foley.  He informs on the gun runner Jackie Brown who has been providing Eddie with pistols for use by a bank robbing gang being run by Eddie’s friend Jimmy Scalise.

At the same time, we discover that Eddie’s associate Dillon is also providing information to Foley too.  Eventually Dillon provides information on Scalise’s operation and the gang gets busted.  When both Jackie Brown and Scalise both get taken down by ATF the head of the gang decides that Eddie is responsible for the leaks and sends his hitman to kill Eddie.  And ironically the hitman is Dillon.

The movie consists of the various crimes, the gun-running and the bank robberies along with Eddie’s and Dillon’s meetings with Dave Foley.  The movie’s strengths are the dialog and the portrayal of these characters.  Listening to them justify the various and contradictory actions they take rings true.  Even Eddie’s relationship with his wife and family demonstrates what a hopeless mess his life is.  And the ending where Dillon takes Eddie to a Bruins hockey game and gets him black out drunk before executing him in a car ride into the suburbs is completely believable and emblematic of the faithless fraternity that these men inhabit.

Living in New England I asked a friend of mine what he thought about the somewhat recent Boston mob movie, “The Departed.”  He said that the legitimate quintessential New England mob movie was the “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.”  And I agree with him completely.  This movie feels about right as a representation of Boston corruption.  Whether it’s gangsters or crooked politicians this is what that world looks and feels like.  It’s petty and disloyal and penny-ante and very, very local.  There’s nothing grandiose and nothing heroic.  It’s gritty and believable.

If you like crime movies that reek of small-timer sweat, this is it.

The ZMan Doesn’t Hate J. D. Vance!

I suspect the FBI has swatted the ZMan, spirited him away to an underground, under-volcano lair for torture and replaced him with a robotic imposter.  How else to explain this post where he more or less declares that J. D. Vance might just not be an establishment fink.  Be still my beating heart.

Well, good for the ZMan.  Being a protege of Peter Thiel I imagine Vance is a very smart guy who has one foot in the cloud world but with still one foot dragging wistfully on the dirt side.  Let’s call him an ally for now.

14JUL2021 – City Journal – Why Cops Are Quitting by Charles Fain Lehman

Here’s an article where the writer interviewed policemen who had either just resigned or were preparing to.  He gets their read on why policing the blue cities is no longer worth the personal risk.

A newly retired Minneapolis officer said, “And the fundamental conclusion that I reached was that following Derek Chauvin, it no longer matters if what you were doing was legal, trained, the morally right thing to do, reasonable under the circumstances, the best effort of a reasonable human being in a marginal circumstance, which is basically what cops do. None of that matters. What matters is the outcome, and if you become the next spark in a viral firestorm.

Basically the officers know the mayors and the police commissioners don’t have their backs, “There’s not a single leader that steps up for the regular cop, the regular street cop,” a now-resigned Chicago officer said. “They have the power, they have the ability to get up there and say why this was justified, and then they can sit there and explain it if they want, but they don’t know how to, or they don’t want to, or they don’t care.

Reading the comments I found several readers who have my opinion.  Let the voters of Minneapolis and Portland and Chicago stay in their cities and defend themselves once the police are no longer there to protect them from the mob they’ve created.

 

 

 

 

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) – A Movie Review

“The Bad and the Beautiful” is a film about Hollywood.  Kirk Douglas plays Jonathan Shields, the son of a famous Hollywood producer who has his sights set on following in his father’s footsteps.  Starting out as the producer of B movies for a friend of his father’s, Harry Pebbel (played by Walter Pidgeon), Jonathan finds, befriends and ultimately betrays the best director, actress and author that fate sends his way.  The movie is about this destructive mode of living that Jonathan inhabits.  Along the way we see that Jonathan is both tremendously talented and possessed of enormous personal magnetism.  But these positive traits are set against his staggering disregard for the welfare of the people around him.  Basically, he’s a narcissist.  He also suffers from bouts of clinical depression when he finishes each of his film projects.

The set up for the plot is the actress (Lana Turner playing Georgia Lorrison), the director (Barry Sullivan as Fred Amiel) and the author (Dick Powell as James Lee Bartlow) arriving at the office of Harry Pebbel who is trying to get the three of them to agree to star, direct and write Jonathan’s next project.  His last film was a financial disaster and the only way he can get funding is to have a team of celebrated professionals like them involved.

Harry is the narrator introducing the three vignettes that chronicle Jonathan’s disastrous relationships with Georgia, Fred and James Lee.  Each of the stories features Jonathan catalyzing the creative success that each is capable of but also betraying each of them in a way that is unforgivable.

Fred hands Jonathan the script of a great movie with the understanding that Fred will direct it.  Jonathan manages successfully to get the studio to provide a lavish million-dollar budget for the project but then decides to hand the direction to a more experienced man.  This ends Fred’s friendship and partnership with Jonathan but allows Fred to pursue his own career which ends in him becoming a highly successful director for other studios.

Georgia’s story features Jonathan saving this fragile young daughter of a famous actor who has fallen into a self-destructive cycle of drunkenness and loveless affairs.  He realizes that in order to give Georgia the confidence she needs to succeed he will have to pretend to be her great love.  With Jonathan’s help she finds her acting skills and makes the part and the movie a great success.  But after the film wrap Jonathan goes into his typical depression and when Jonathan isn’t at the opening party Georgia returns to Jonathan’s home to cheer him up.  Instead, she finds him entertaining a starlet in a negligee.  But instead of being embarrassed he becomes enraged that she thinks she can own his affections.  She flees into the night in a torrential rainstorm and we see her driving wildly and almost crashing into the oncoming traffic.  This is the weakest scene in the movie.  Her hysterical screaming while braking the car into a spin strikes me as absurdly comical.  The next day she quits her job and even though she was bound by contract Jonathan lets her out of it.  She goes on to become the most acclaimed, in demand and highest paid actress of her time.

James Lee’s story finds him recruited by Jonathan to write the script for a movie being made from his own best-selling book.  It’s actually James Lee’s wife Rosemary (played by Gloria Grahame with an awful Southern accent) who wants him to stay in Hollywood for the movie work.  But at the same time Rosemary is the greatest impediment to James Lee accomplishing much writing.  She interrupted him at every turn and distracts him with chaperoning her to Hollywood parties.

Jonathan is frustrated by this lack of progress so he arranges for James Lee to accompany him to a cabin in the woods where they can work undisturbed.  But to make sure that Rosemary doesn’t intrude Jonathan arranges for his handsome friend “Gaucho” to keep Rosemary company.  Of course, Jonathan knows Gaucho will make a pass at Rosemary and he also believes she will welcome it.

Sure enough, James Lee and Jonathan make enormous progress and finish the script.  But in the meantime, Gaucho and Rosemary take the opportunity to fly to Acapulco for a love tryst.  They are both killed in a plane crash and James Lee is devastated by his wife’s death and by the knowledge of her infidelity.  Jonathan convinces him to stay on in Hollywood to assist in the production of the movie and this lifts James Lee out of his despair.  But Jonathan inadvertently says something that reveals that he knew about Gaucho’s affair with Rosemary.  But instead of apologizing Jonathan goes on the attack and tells James Lee that Rosemary’s death was her own fault and that she was a hindrance to James Lee’s career.  And the outraged widower punches Jonathan in the face and walks out.  Afterward James Lee writes a book about a woman like Rosemary and the book wins the Pulitzer Prize.  We are led to understand by Harry’s remarks that James Lee’s new understanding of his wife’s hidden desires was what made the book the success it became.

After finishing the reminiscences Harry is going to call Jonathan in Paris and tell him whether Fred, Georgia and James Lee will be willing to work with him on his new project.  As the call is connected the three of them tell Harry they refuse and begin to leave the office.  As they walk into the anteroom, we hear Harry talking on his phone to Jonathan as he begins to hear the details of the new movie.

In the last scene Georgia carefully picks up the receiver of an extension phone in the anteroom and starts listening very interestedly in what Jonathan is saying.  Quickly Fred and James Lee huddle around her eavesdropping with her.  Obviously as much as they despise Jonathan for his selfishness they are fascinated by his talent.

This movie is a narcissist’s love letter to itself.  Hollywood almost prided itself on destroying the people it used up to make its products.  Vincent Minelli was the director and his wife Judy Garland could have been the model for the character Georgia.  And any number of other Hollywood actors, producers, directors and writers could probably have been templates for the characters in this movie.  The only difference would be that the betrayals were worse in real life and the talent of the producer would have been much less impressive.

I’m of two minds about this movie.  It is very well made.  It captures the spirit of the industry it portrays.  But the shabbiness of the people on display revolts me.  Jonathan is never apologetic.  He always attacks his victims.  He always justifies his betrayal.  He is a sociopath.  I guess taken as a cautionary tale it would have value.  Maybe it speaks to the selfishness in all of us.