Posts Tagged ‘Humphrey Bogart’

GCMyers 2013- The Song We Carry smWe all carry a lot of baggage with us on our journey through this life.  It’s a rare moment when we find ourselves free from all the  traces from the past that we lug along– all the snippets of conversations, faces, song melodies and lyrics, pictures, smells, film clips and everything else we have input into the hard drive of our mind is always whirring around.  I know that I will sometimes pull up some fragment from the past and wonder how I was still holding on to this piece of information.  It might be the name of someone that I barely knew forty or fifty years before.  Somehow it hangs on and occasionally pops out, confounding me with the idea that this seemingly useless bit of data is taking up space that could be occupied by truly meaningful information.

Like old Popeye cartoons. ( The one with Olive Oyl singing  What We All Need is Brotherly Love runs on a loop in my head)

Or the year that Humphrey Bogart died.(1957)

Or the name of the book that influenced the original Superman comic. ( It was Philip Wylie‘s Gladiator— an interesting read, by the way.)

But somehow,  despite and because of all this detritus, we  emerge in some individual form.

A single distilled version of everything that we take in.

A single voice.  One song.

I guess that is how I would characterize the thought behind the painting at the top, The Song We Carry.  It’s 7″ by 11″  on paper and is going to the West End Gallery for my upcoming show.

Now here’s a little Popeye along with Wilco.  It’s a video for Wilco’s  Dawned on Me from last year and it features the first hand-drawn Popeye cartoon in over 30 years.  I can’t remember if Olive Oyl danced like this in my memory but now I will.  The data has been entered.


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Watch on the Rhine 1943Tonight is night when the Oscars are handed out for the best movies, directors, actors and so on.  I’ve always been a big film fan and I always look forward to seeing who wins even on the years when I have hardly seen a movie.  It also makes me think of many of my favorite movies, films that stick in my mind and, like any other  form of art, define who I am.

A few weeks ago, I saw one of these favorites of mine, Watch on the Rhine.  It was made in 1943, adapted for the screen by Dashiell Hammett from  the prize-winning play written by his wife, the great Lillian Hellman.  It concerns a family in the Northern Virginia area across the Potomac from DC whose daughter ( Bette Davis in a supporting role here) returns home from a war torn Europe for the first time in many years with her husband and children.  It is set, and was written,  in the years before our entry into World War II.

Her husband is a German freedom fighter, Kurt Muller,  who is a wanted leader in the underground movement against the Nazis. He is  played by Paul Lukas in a magnificent performance, one that won him the Academy Award for Best Actor that year over Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Gary Cooper in For Whom the Bells Toll.  Yes, it was that good.

His Muller is the common man who finds himself in the role of the selfless hero willing to give up everything– his career, his family, his life– in order to stand against evil.  It’s not a task Muller sought but is one he must shoulder.  His words are simple, direct and powerful.  Lukas, who also originated the part on the Broadway stage, is brilliant and, whenever I see this movie, I am haunted for weeks afterwards by Lukas’ performance.  The power of it thrills me but I find myself questioning my own strength and beliefs as a human.  Thankfully, I have never been put into a situation like that faced by Kurt Muller and hopefully never will.  But would I be able to stand with even a fraction of the grace and courage of Lukas’ character?

I doubt it but I don’t know.

But I know that this movie’s ability to fix that question in my mind for weeks make it a great movie with great acting and world-class writing.  Hopefully, this year’s movies will have a film like Watch on the Rhine that will haunt future generations when they watch it years from now.


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Hoagy CarmichaelIt’s Saturday morning and I just had a thought about Hoagy Carmichael, the great composer of some of the most recorded songs of the last century.   Classics like Stardust, Georgia on My Mind, Am I Blue, Up a Lazy River and on and on.  He also appeared in a number of films in parts that allowed him to showcase his piano playing and song skills, most memorably in as the bar-owner uncle to the Harold Russell character in the great The Best Years of Our Lives .

My favorite was from the Humphrey Bogart/ Lauren Bacall classic  To Have and Have Not where he was the piano player in the island dive.  He does a version of his Hong Kong Blues which has a real funky sound, very reminiscent of something Tom Waits might do forty or fifty years later.  I couldn’t find that version but I found a later one from the Rosemary Clooney Show in the 50’s that’s still pretty good.

For  my money he was a pretty cool customer.  I may not have agreed with all of his views ( he once got into a fistfight with Bogart over Bogart’s pinko leanings) but how can you not like a gut who write songs with titles like I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doin’ Those Beat-o, Beat-o Flat-On-My-Seat-o, Hirohito Blues ?

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Michael CaineI saw a short piece on the news-magazine show CBS Sunday Morning that profiled actor Michael Caine.  I have always liked Caine and many of his movies, although I sometimes question some of his choices.  The interesting part was when they pointed out how many of his 60’s era movies have had modern remakes.  Alfie, The Italian Job, Get Carter and several more have all been subjected to an updated retelling.  All fell short of the originals.

Caine said he didn’t understand why a moviemaker would want to remake a successful, well made film.  To his mind it made more sense to find a movie that had flopped but had a good storyline and remake that.  His Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was such a case, having been a flop, with another name,  starring Marlon Brando.

This kind of reinforced what I had mentioned in my Saturday post about The Ten Commandments where I talked about how modern moviemakers remake a classic film with new people and the newest technology and deliver films with more realism but less entertainment value.  They can never recreate the chemistry required to make a film  work. They forget that movies are about people first.  All the greatest cinematic technology and attention to detail mean nothing if the viewer can’t make some type of connection with the characters.  This human element is somehow overlooked by modern moviemakers.  

Like painting, all the technical prowess in the world means nothing if people can’t feel attachment to the work. 

I just thought it was an interesting point to think over while I’m waiting for them to remake Casablanca.  I hear they’re going to cast Matthew McConaughey to take over Bogart’s Rick character.

Just kidding- I hope…

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