…having the new Richard Stark novel on your nightstand and being too busy to start reading it.
Archives for November 28, 2006
I may be busy, but that hasn’t stopped me from going to the gym every day I’m in town. With the first anniversary of my near-death experience just around the bend, I’m disinclined to get lazy, so even on mornings when I’d rather curl up on the couch and look at the Teachout Museum, I pull on my sweats, plug in my iPod, and hit the road.
Sunday morning was especially difficult–I’d seen a show the night before and had two more coming up later that day–but I bit the bullet anyway, in part because I was actively looking forward to spending an hour with the latest version of the Terry Teachout Workout Tape:
Bill Monroe, “New Muleskinner Blues”
Donald Fagen, “Security Joan”
Horace Silver, “Opus de Funk”
Duke Ellington, “Never No Lament”
Abba, “S.O.S.” (a guilty pleasure, I suppose, but it’s still one of the best-made pop singles of the Seventies)
Gene Krupa, “Leave Us Leap” (composed by Eddie Finckel, whose son David is the cellist of the Emerson String Quartet)
Lionel Hampton, “Haven’t Named It Yet” (on which Big Sid Catlett’s drumming can be heard with exceptional clarity)
Pentangle, “Sally Go Round the Roses”
Benny Goodman, “Ridin’ High” (the thrilling live version recorded off the air in 1937)
Johnny Winter And, “Rock ‘n Roll, Hoochie Koo” (an old high-school favorite, recently downloaded from iTunes)
Dave’s True Story, “Sequined Mermaid Dress” (the song that first turned me on to DTS)
Flatt & Scruggs, “Six White Horses”
Miles Davis, “Seven Steps to Heaven”
Not only did all these songs give me great pleasure, but for once there was something on the TV monitors at the gym that I didn’t mind seeing: the burning-of-Atlanta sequence from Gone With the Wind. I last saw that grossly overrated movie in 2004, and once again found it wanting:
The only other costume piece I can think of that uses Technicolor as vividly is John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Clark Gable and Hattie McDaniel are excellent, Max Steiner’s score is wonderful in its old-fashioned way, and the siege and burning of Atlanta are fully as effective–and unexpectedly unsentimental–as I remember them. But Vivien Leigh’s two-keyed performance as Scarlett is wearying, while the script scissors out most of the novel’s ambiguities, such as they are….
I haven’t changed my mind, but I can report that Gone With the Wind is a good deal more tolerable with the sound off. I especially appreciated the irony of seeing Rhett and Scarlett galloping toward Tara to the accompaniment of Miles Davis, whose opinion of Gone With the Wind is unrecorded but must surely have been unprintable in the extreme. To be sure, I didn’t get to hear Clark Gable’s deliciously growly voice or Max Steiner’s lush score, but I was also spared Vivien Leigh’s flibbertigibbet accent (they really should have dubbed her) and the pitiful minstrel-show antics of Butterfly “I Don’t Know Nuthin’ ‘Bout Birthin’ Babies!” McQueen.
I looked up McQueen’s Wikipedia entry after coming home from the gym, and found it edifying:
By 1947 she had grown tired of the ethnic stereotypes she was required to play and ended her film career.
By 1950 she had played another racially-stereotyped role for two years on the television series Beulah, which reunited her with her Gone with the Wind co-star Hattie McDaniel.
Her acting roles after this were very few, and she devoted herself to other pursuits including study, and received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1975. She had one more role of some substance in the 1986 film The Mosquito Coast.
McQueen lived in Aiken, South Carolina, and died in Augusta, Georgia, as a result of burns received when a kerosene heater she was attempting to light exploded and burst into flames. A lifelong atheist, she donated her body to medical science and remembered the Freedom From Religion Foundation in her will.
I like that last detail.
“Absolute catholicity of taste is not without its dangers. It is only an auctioneer who should admire all schools of art.”
Oscar Wilde, Pall Mall Gazette, Feb. 8, 1886
On Saturday I devoted my “Sightings” column in The Wall Street Journal to a cold-eyed consideration of the desperate state of dance in America:
Thirty-two million Americans tuned in the other night to see Emmitt Smith, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, win the Cheesetastic Disco Ball Trophy on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” The network claims that the latest episodes of its primetime ballroom-dancing competition were the most widely viewed programs of the current TV season. That’s an impressive statistic no matter how you slice it, but it’s noteworthy for another, grimmer reason: If you want to see dance on TV, “Dancing With the Stars” is pretty much all there is.
Things were different in the ’60s and ’70s, when Edward Villella would fly through the air on “The Ed Sullivan Show” one week and swap one-liners with Tony Randall on “The Odd Couple” the next. Those were the days of the “dance boom,” the heady interlude when America was dance-crazy. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Jerome Robbins, Broadway’s hottest musical-comedy director, made popular ballets like “Dances at a Gathering” on the side. Even George Balanchine was a celebrity, thanks in part to “Dance in America,” the PBS series that introduced a generation of TV viewers to ballet and modern dance.
Back then, dance was the most glamorous of the lively arts. Now it’s the one most in danger of slipping through the cultural cracks. New episodes of “Dance in America” are as rare as funny sitcoms. Mr. Baryshnikov was the last classical dancer to become famous, and he stopped appearing in ballet years ago. As for Balanchine, how many Americans under the age of 40 even know the name of the greatest choreographer of the 20th century, much less that he was as significant an artist as Pablo Picasso or Igor Stravinsky?…
Now the Journal has posted a free link to this column, which has been stirring up talk. To read the whole thing, go here.