Just Above Sunset
May 15, 2005 - "...a slap in the mouth or a slug from a .45."

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Book Wrangler

May 16, 2005

By Bob Patterson


I was mulling over some quotes from Play It Again Sam, when it hit me like runaway truck loaded with bananas careening down a hill in Scranton.  I would find the McGuffin in Santa Monica.  (Not the Geffen Playhouse, that’s in Westwood – the McGuffin – just ask any fan of the Hitchcock movies.) 


The rain had stopped.  It was one of those beautiful Los Angeles days where the sun seemed to be directly overhead from early morning until late afternoon.  It was the kind of day when the colors were deep saturated hues and the shadows were pitch black.  (It’s a bitch to print the negatives for photos taken on those kinds of days – but no one uses film anymore so why worry about that?) 


Ray (Raymond Chandler for you mugs that aren’t hip) changed the name Santa Monica to “Bay City” because he wanted to intimate that the local cops were not on the up’n’up and he didn’t want to be sued for libel. 


Shaking a cancer stick from my deck of cigarettes, I wondered did they even have filter tip cigarettes back in Marlowe’s day?  They had a wonderful streetcar system, but they tore it down so they could have gridlock on the freeways.  They had a ship off the coast so that you didn’t have to drive all the way to Vegas to “pay your dues.”  Remember the TV series “Mr. Lucky?”  They didn’t call him that because of the brand of coffin nails he preferred.  Henry Mancini wrote the theme song.


What ever happened to Fatima cigarettes?  Can’t seem to find them these days.


LSMFT?  Don’t ask.  You don’t want to know.


Back in those days one of the cigarette companies sponsored the music count-down. It was called Your Hit Parade.  Casey Kasem would come along later.  Does the name Snooky Lanson ring a bell?  Maybe this will refresh your memory:  Gisele MacKenzie?


Did Red Wind refer to something the House Un-American Activities committee investigated or was it something else?  “There was a desert wind blowing that night.  It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch.  On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight.  Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks.  Anything can happen.  You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”  Raymond Chandler from Red Wind.


The good old days still live in some books.  Here are some of interest:


Film Noir by Alain Sivver and James Ursini ($19.99 paperbackTaschen)


San Francisco Noir by Nathaniel Rich ($17.95 paperback The Little Bookroom) 

San Francisco even named a street after a character in the Maltese Falcon.  “Mr. Spade, you are a card, sir.”

Shades of Noir: A Reader by Joan Copjec (Editor) ($20 paperback Verso)  This is a collection of essays on the noir films and their motifs and style.


The Horror Spoofs of Abbott and Costello: A Critical Assessment of the Comedy Team's Monster Films by Jeffrey S. Miller ($29.95 paperback McFarland)


Marlowe and Spade must have occasionally gone to the movie between cases, don’tcha think?


Belarski Pulp Art Masters by Rudolph Belarski, JOHN GUNNISON ($20 paperback Adventure House)


Uncovered: The Hidden Art Of The Girlie Pulp by Douglas Ellis  ($40 Adventure House)


Film Noir Reader 4: The Crucial Films and Themes (Film Noir Reader) by Alain Silver;  ($22.95 paperback Limelight Editions)


Film Noir Guide: 745 Films of the Classic Era, 1940-1959 by Michael F. Keaney  ($75 McFarland & Co.)


'Tis Herself: A Memoir by Maureen O'Hara, John Nicoletti ($25 Simon & Schuster)


The Hollywood Book of Scandals: The Shocking, Often Disgraceful Deeds and Affairs of Over 100 American Movie and TV Idols - by James Robert Parish, James Parish ($16.95 paperback McGraw-Hill)


Close-up on Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder, Norma Desmond, and the Dark Hollywood Dream by Sam Staggs ($15.95 paperback St. Martin’s Griffin) 


How could we not include this book?


Pulp Art: Original Cover Paintings for the Great American Pulp Magazine by Robert Lesser


City Room by Arhur Gelb ($29.95 Marion Wood Book) 

He worked at the New York Times for 45 years.  Where did I steal this line: “Back then men were men and reporters were broke.”  Why did this book make me think of that line?

The Sopranos and Philosophy: I Kill Therefore I Am (Popular Culture and Philosophy) by Richard Greene (Editor), Peter Vernezze (Editor) 


One Hundred Violent Films That Changed Cinema by Neil Fulwood ($14.95 BT paperback Batsford)  We have ways to make you talk.


Writing a column about the film noir genre is like opening a can of worms.  This might take more than one column to cover it fully, and Los Angeles and Bay City are the right places to be, if you’re gonna do it.


Hey, if there can be a national Talk Like A Pirate Day, why can’t there be a national talk like a tough hard-boiled detective day, also?  Who’s in charge of that?  Mebbe we should slap him around a little bit and slip a double sawbuck into his hand, eh?


You could practice up for the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival. 


Do you know where the convention of detective fiction fans will be held this year?  Are you going to tell me… or will I have to smack you around a bit?


You want a film noir quote?  OK, wise guy, take this: “I distrust a man who says ‘when.’  If he's got to be careful not to drink too much, it's because he's not to be trusted when he does.” - The Maltese Falcon (1941) Sydney Greenstreet to Humphrey Bogart   


So now, if the disk jockey will play Harlem Nocturne, which was recorded by Mel Torme in 1940, we’ll slide out of here like a smoke ring that blends into the haze in the room.  Come back again next week.  Until then, don’t take any wooden nickels.  



Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson

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Bob's copy...

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Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
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