I’d planned on writing today, and maybe even going out to see a movie, but the truth is that I’m worn to the nubbin. I wrote too much and did too much this past week, and it’s too cold outside this afternoon. I think maybe what I need to do is stay indoors and look at my new Arnold Friedman lithograph and catch up with some of the movies stored on my magic cable box.
Last night I watched Kings Row. The movie itself is more or less preposterous, a whole field full of stale corn, but I marveled at the late-romantic beauties of the Erich Wolfgang Korngold score–more Straussian than Strauss–and marveled, too, at how utterly inappropriate it is to the small-town story it purports to illustrate but in fact overwhelms. I was no less surprised to discover that Ronald Reagan was a damned good actor. The only Reagan movie I’d ever seen was Bedtime for Bonzo, not exactly a fair test of his skills, but he was definitely up to the challenge of the demanding part he played in Kings Row. (In case you’ve forgotten, it’s the one where he wakes up, sees that his legs have been amputated, and shrieks “Where’s the rest of me?”) Just to confirm my first impressions, I looked up Otis Ferguson’s 1941 New Republic review of the film, and found that it refers in passing to “Ronald Reagan, who is good and no surprise.” Obviously Ferguson, the best American film critic of his generation, took Reagan’s gifts for granted–surely the finest kind of tribute.
Today, in an odd parallel, I’ve been watching Will Penny, a Seventies western with a slightly off-key score by David Raksin (he wrote “Laura”), lovely to hear but not quite right for the Old West in winter, and a first-rate performance by Charlton Heston, another gifted actor whose reputation has gotten lost in the political shuffle. Whatever you happen to think of gun control, he sure could act–in the right roles, anyway–and he’s excellent here as an aging cowboy whose best years have slipped away from him. Heston actually made quite a few interesting small-scale films in between Ben-Hur and the big-bucks disaster movies with which he occupied himself in the waning years of his stardom. Will Penny is one of the best of them, not at all the sort of vehicle you’d expect from a name-above-the-title Hollywood star, and decidedly worth seeing on a cold Sunday afternoon.
What do you know? I actually wrote something! But that’s enough for now: I’ve got a lot of work to do this week, and I think it might be smart for me to lay fallow for the rest of the day. I may tinker with the Top Fives, and I might even post a bit of reader mail if I start to feel restless, but otherwise I’ll stick to sitting on the couch, chewing through some of the other old movies my digital video recorder has stored up for me. Have a nice day.