Monday, you get the Bemused Domestic-Event Round-Up. Tuesday is usually “I’m working, no time, go look at this site i did six months ago and forgot.” Wednesday seems to be when my entire spleen shoots out my nose in steaming streams; sorry about that. Thursday, some sort of meander through a cultural matter, with weblinks standing in for footnotes. Friday? Well, I never know. I could tell you about this book I jut got: “The Art of Noir / posters and graphics from the classic era of film noir.” You can boil the entire book down to one image: a desperate man in a suit and tie holding a gun. The tie’s usually knotted all the way up, too. You wanted to give a good impression when you shot someone. To modern eyes, the pictures look faintly absurd - it’s as if the staff of a local Brooks Brothers store went postal en masse in the 40s. But that was how things were: men wore suits. Men wore hats. Men knew that when you had to give a fellow the lead pill, you welded your elbow to your side, sneered, and let your roscoe do the barking.

Dames? The posters are full of ‘em. They’re the kind of dames who can wear floor-length gowns and look completely naked. The kind with hair piled up on their head like compliant serpents, or falling down in smooth lustrous waves. Dames with hard faces and mocking smiles and eyes that sized you up and found you wanting . . . but you’d do, for now. Bad dames, good girls, hard men, and William Bendix. This book has it all.

And more. “The Art of Noir” also has versions of posters from other countries - the movie Born to Kill, for example, was retitled for tender Australian sensibilities: Deadlier than the Male. The poster doesn’t show any guns, but one fellow in a suit and tie appears to be grasping a curtain rod. I’ve never heard of most of these movies; pity. How could I resist 1954’s Shield for Murder? The poster is pure Ellroy - “Dame-hungry killer-cop runs berserk!” In smaller type: “A wild trigger finger - a lust for big money - and a weak spot for fast blondes hurled him from the straight-and-narrow to a crooked one way street.” In even smaller type, this splendid endorsement: “if ever a picture was crammed with guts, this is it!”

I love that last line. You can imagine a guy leaving the theater, running into a friend, who’d say hey, Bob, you just see this movie? How was it?

“It’s crammed with guts.”

And of course there would be a nonnative English speaker who would overhear this, process the idiom as “filled to overflowing with intestines” and think, well, I’ll stick with musicals this week.

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Spanish poster for Redada - that is, Dragnet. Picture Jack Webb. Picture Jack Webb in a brown suit and fedora. Picture Jack Webb holding out a card that says POLICIA. And in the background? The skyline of New York, not LA. Details, details. I know I haven’t lived because I’ve never seen Shack Out on 101, which featured Lee Marvin as a beachcombing Marxist attempting to infiltrate a local diner on behalf of International Communism. How have I missed I Cover Big Town, a movie about a crusading crime-busting newspaper editor? Every day I see editors from my paper slam down the phone, stub out a Lucky, grab their coats and head out the door to meet with some Underworld Enforcer or a Nervous Informant or a Bad Girl Who Secretly Hopes the Love of a Strong Man Will Make Her Good, or a William Bendix. I have to see the movie, just to learn how newspaper editors really solve all those crimes. Did you know that the movie The Sniper was called Prick-Skytten in Sweden? I didn’t. According to the book, however, the Belgian poster for The Sniper looked like this: “typically rich and warm Belgian colors managed to soft-pedal the story of a man lying in wait to kill women with a high-powered rifle.”

Yes, they’ll do that.

In Italy, the movie Dillinger was titled Lo Sterminatore. He’ll be back - with a nice antipasto!

This is a marvelous book. I advise anyone with an interest in the 40s, poster art, and / or film noir to give it a look. Just click on the BUY THIS BOOK! link down at the bottom and enter “the art of noir” in the Amazon search field, and there you go. If nothing else it’ll remind you of the movies you need to see - I was prompted to go to Amazon and buy The Sweet Smell of Success, for example. And my hand hesitated over the Add to Shopping Cart button - what if they came out with a new Special Edition in a year or two, with a restored print, a documentary, script notes, storyboards, gallery of posters?

Well, let’s be frank. There’s no chance I’ll watch them. I have enough time for one movie a week if I’m lucky; the idea that I’ll watch the movie again and listen to Tony Curtis narrate the movie is practically nil. The commentary tracks are a nice bonus if you love a movie beyond reason and you’ve seen it six times, but the reason I prefer to watch movies at home is because I’m assured no one will be talking during the good parts.

I would like a David Lynch commentary track, though: golly, this was a hard scene. Gosh, she hated it when she had to be all wrapped up in plastic, because it was colder than Christmas in Canada, but gee, it did turn out nifty, didn’t it? (long drag on cigarette)

It was a day at home, mostly. Gnat spent the morning as Little Bo Peep, a character she has decided to inhabit 24/7. She has this frilly outfit her Nana bought her, and her first request in the morning upon waking is “I be Bo Peep.” And then she wants to watch this inane cartoon about sheep. I am beginning to think that the desire for wearing dresses is genetically hard-wired - I mean, Mommy wears professional suits, all the older women she knows wear pants, Daddy certainly doesn’t wear a dress, because he only has that striped one and it makes his butt look huge, so where does she get this desire for dresses, this need to flounce around, accessorize and look pretty?

We’re not the sort of Modern, Involved Parents who go through the videos frame-by-frame looking for doubleplus ungood gender-messages. I don’t worry about that stuff. If she wants to play with a car, I’m not going to bat it away and insist she should play with pink unicorns. It’s their wedding day! The unicorns are getting married, in a nice purple kitchen! She’ll be fine. When she hits high school she will no doubt regard Daddy as Adolf Reagan because I am not in totally agreement with replacing individual nation-states with the Vegan Imperium, but she will always have to reconcile this with the long-standing memory of Daddy as the guy who happily stayed home to cook, clean, sweep, dust and make the beds while Mommy toiled in the dragon’s lair. It won’t help me, of course, but I’ll have fun pointing her out.

Here she is in her Bo Peep outfit, smiling in the contrived way she has when cameras come out. She’s clutching the vagrant balloon I wrote about the other day. Pictures like this remind me that if ever I should be unhappy, about anything, I am a total idiot. Who could be sad with this in their life?
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