o/t: RIP, Peggy Cummins.

***Sad news, via The Hannibal 8. I must get out of the habit I’ve had for years, every time I saw the name Peggy Cummins, of smiling at the cheerful thought that she was still alive after all these years.

The Hannibal 8

Peggy Cummins (Augusta Margaret Diane Fuller)
(December 18, 1925 – December 29, 2017)

Peggy Cummins, who is absolutely incredible in one of my favorite films, Joseph H. Lewis’ Gun Crazy (1949), has passed away at 92. She’s in a couple other favorites — Jacques Tourneur’s Night Of The Demon (1957, Curse Of The Demon in the States) and Cy Enfield’s Hell Drivers (1957).

b111eab68b76e503d3e373ef54559281--simple-art-cummins John Dall, Peggy Cummins and Joseph H. Lewis on the Gun Crazy set.

Was just thinking the other day that Gun Crazy would be a great candidate for a Warner Archive Blu-ray. If it happens, it’s a shame she won’t be around for it.

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o/t: December’s leisure reading

And so another year circles to its end. I read eleven books during December (plus a couple of abandonments) and, although nothing blew me away, a couple came close and I enjoyed most of the rest.

The links go to my often rather scrappy Goodreads notes:

2017 has been a vile year on so many fronts it’s hard to tally them, and the destruction that’s been waged during it by our science- and reality-deficient overlords will redound for decades to come: our descendants are going to have to cope somehow with a severely damaged world. (My own book Corrupted Science — in a new edition nearly double the size of the 2007 one and coming in May — discusses a lot of this.) If this weren’t too much of a hostage to fortune, I’d say 2018 could hardly be worse than its predecessor. As it is, I guess we just have to hope for the best, while working each in our own way to improve things.

Gloomy, I know. Even so, here’s hoping the coming year brings you joy.

Happy Hogmanay!

A Gun for Christmas (1952 TVM)

vt The Big .22 Rifle for Christmas
US / 26 minutes / bw / Mark VII, NBC Dir: Jack Webb Pr: Michael Meshekoff Scr: James Moser, Jack Webb Cine: Edward Colman Cast: Jack Webb, Herbert Ellis, Wm. Johnstone, June Whitley, Sammy Ogg, Virginia Christine, Rennie McEvoy, Olan Soulé, George Fenneman (voiceover), Hal Gibney (voiceover).

Ladies and gentlemen, the story you’re about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

The series opening (voiced by George Fenneman) is famous; for the even better-known radio series upon which Dragnet’s TV incarnation is based, it was of course “the story you are about to hear.” Both series can trace their origins to Alfred Werker’s HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948).

Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday.

For this particular episode (season 2, episode 7, first aired December 18 1952), Jack Webb, in his role as Sergeant Joe Friday of the LAPD, adds a voiceover that wastes no time in getting us into the Christmas spirit:

This is the city. All year around it wears work clothes. On holidays it dresses up. To most people, Christmas brings happiness and prayer. To some it brings heartbreak. Then my job gets tougher. I’m a cop.

Admit it. You’re starting to feel that festive glow of good cheer already. But don’t relax too much into Continue reading

The Christmas Caper (1952 TVM)

US / 26 minutes / bw / Showcase, CBS Dir: Erle C. Kenton Pr: Hal Roach Jr, Carroll Case Scr: Arthur Orloff Cine: Norbert Brodine Cast: Reed Hadley, Lloyd Corrigan, John L. Coogan (i.e., Jackie Coogan), Alan Dexter, John Phillips, Willie Best, Louis Lettieri, Jeri Lou James, Paul Keast, Argentina Brunetti, Frances Drew, William Fawcett.

Produced at the Hal Roach studios and (alas) sponsored by tobacco giant Philip Morris Inc., Racket Squad ran for a total of 98 episodes between 1951 and 1953. (The Christmas Caper, series 3 episode 15, was first aired on December 25 1952.) As its series hero, Captain John Braddock (Reed Hadley), explained at the outset of each episode,

What you are about to see is a real-life story taken from the files of the police racket and bunko squad, the business protective associations and similar sources all over the country. It is intended to expose the confidence game, the carefully worked-out frauds by which confidence men take more money each year from the American public than the bank robbers and thugs with their violence.

Reed Hadley as Captain John Braddock.

In this particular instance:

Tonight I’m going to tell you a story that’s a little different from the ones you’ve been seeing. It exposes a racket just as the others have done, and it’s a nasty racket that takes hard-earned money from honest people and puts it into the pockets of thieves. But still it’s a different story, first because it’s a Christmas story and second because it put me on a spot I never want to be put on again: I had to arrest Santa Claus . . .

In a poor quarter of the large city where Braddock’s Racket Squad operates, elderly Charlie Dooley (Corrigan) lives alone with his dog Monster. Alone? Well, not so much. All the kids Continue reading

Christmas Story (1956 TVM)

US / 26 minutes / bw / ZIV Dir: Herbert L. Strock Pr: Vernon E. Clark Scr: Donald A. Brinkley Cine: Monroe Askins Cast: Broderick Crawford, William Leicester, Jeanne Baird, Michelle Ducasse, Morgan Jones, Elmore Vincent, Billy Wayne, Art Gilmore (voiceover).

When this was first aired in 1956 it came not during the Christmas period, as one might have expected, but on June 25. It was Season 1, Episode 39 of a successful series, Highway Patrol, that ran for four seasons (1955–9) and a grand total of 156 episodes. The star throughout was Broderick Crawford as Dan Mathews, head of the Highway Patrol in an unnamed state that looked uncommonly like California—not surprisingly, since the series was instigated at the suggestion of the California Highway Patrol, which is acknowledged in the opening credits and served as technical consultant for the first two seasons.

Broderick Crawford as Captain Dan Mathews of the Highway Patrol.

You can get the flavor of the series from the introductory narrative, spoken by Art Gilmore:

Whenever the laws of any state are broken, a duly authorized organization swings into action. It may be called the State Police, State Troopers, the Militia, the Rangers . . . or the Highway Patrol. These are the stories of the men whose training, skill and courage have enforced and preserved our state laws.

Of course, in real life the Highway Patrol is concerned with things like Continue reading

o/t: The Beautiful Refugees of Casablanca

***Over at Silver Screenings, Ruth recently posted a splendid piece about an aspect of Casablanca that I’d never really thought about. She has kindly permitted me to reblog it here.

Silver Screenings

The beautiful people of Rick’s Cafe. Image: The Source

Look at the people in the above photo.

These are actors portraying refugees in a fashionable nightclub in French Morocco during WWII. This photo was taken in Soundstage 7-8 at Warner Bros. Studio in California.

Look at how these actors are dressed. These are refugees of Means; they are not poor. If they were poor, they would be mired in war, not sipping cocktails in Rick’s Café Américain.

Even so, these folks are stuck in the Moroccan desert, pawning jewellery and making sordid deals with local officials for a seat on The Plane to Lisbon (i.e. The Plane to Freedom). When this plane flies overhead, activity ceases while people gaze at it longingly:

Watching the plane to Lisbon. Image: The World

The film Casablanca (1942) – written in a hurry, filmed in a hurry, released in a hurry – explores the…

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Reblog: Looking Back at Gun Crazy

***B Noir Detour, written by Salome Wilde, is one of my favorite blogs on the intertubes. She’s recently published an excellent piece on one of the greatest of noirs, and has kindly given me permission to reblog it here.

B Noir Detour

1950’s Gun Crazy (Deadly is the Female) was hardly seen upon release, ignored by critics, and entirely ahead of its time. It’s full of wonderful cinematographic flourishes, wildly creative mise-en-scene, and wicked sexually — especially its link between sex and violence. It’s Bonnie and Clyde meets Detour, yet neither of those. Whatever it is, my hearty applause goes to Joseph H. Lewis, a director whose The Big Combo is another favorite, an equally unique and visually stunning film.

Image result for gun crazy dvd

I recently bought the DVD, complete with commentary track by author Glenn Erickson, and I was amazed to find I’d actually never seen the film at all! (Such “holy crap, I was sure I knew this movie” moments are priceless, if embarrassing.) I watched it straight through, and then I watched it again with Erickson’s voiceover, in which he shares background information on the cast and crew; information about the…

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o/t: leisure reading during November

A reasonable cluster of books read this month, especially since one of them (Night Film) is really quite long and a couple of the others are longish, and especially since the Philcon weekend, my birthday and Thanksgiving between them disrupted life quite a lot. Oh, and there was an abandonment as well. (In line with my general policy, the abandoned book isn’t listed here.)

I can’t decide whether the pick of the bunch was Night Film or Syndrome E – both were memorably good – while a couple of the others were splendid as well. All in all, then, a pretty satisfying month’s leisure reading.

As always, the links lead to my often hasty Goodreads notes.

 

o/t: why oh why?

I woke up this morning to discover that a rather obscure short I included on the site a couple of years ago has suddenly started to garner hits.

Why oh why could this be?

It’s because The Candidate (2010) has Meghan Markle in it, that’s why. Puzzle solved.

The Candidate 2010 - 1 G's secertary Kat opens Tucker's invitation

And congratulations to the happy couple.

 

o/t: Creeping Crawlers goes into new edition

Shadow Publishing tells me that its Creeping Crawlers, the 2015 Allen Ashley-edited anthology that includes my story “Little Helpers” alongside a shedload of far better stuff, is going into a second edition, and with a new cover, this time by Peter Coleborn:

Creeping Crawlers, Edited by Allen Ashley

You can find out a bit more about the book by clicking on the image.

Peter Tennant, in his story-by-story review of the book for Black Static, was kind enough to say:

John Grant’s ‘Little Helpers’ is a pure delight, as two knights with a penchant for pillage and slaughter find that they may have bit off more than they can chew. Told with tongue firmly in cheek, it’s a sly, amusing tale in which you never doubt the author has something nasty up his sleeve for his protagonists, and waiting for their comeuppance is a pleasure.

No accounting for taste, eh? Meanwhile, at Rising Shadow, “Seregil of Rhiminee” said of the book as a whole:

Creeping Crawlers is an intriguing and unique anthology filled with depth, style and originality. If you enjoy reading well written speculative fiction, I strongly urge you to read this anthology, because it’s one of the best speculative fiction anthologies of the year.