The first day of fall was gorgeous – actually, is gorgeous, since I’m sitting outside at the moment outside my daughter’s school. She’s playing on the jungle gym, aka the Concussionarium, with the other kids. A baker’s dozen moms, watching; no dads. Almost no boys, either – only two, having a fight over who gets to occupy the highest spot by the slide. Loser goes down the slide to infamy; winner gets to rule the slide, and also pick Supreme Court nominees.
It could be 1958 – a prop-driven plane just flew over – except for the cars and the ages of the moms; most are older. At least older than moms used to be. No dresses or red lipstick or curler-hair in a kerchief; sandals and peace-sign T-shirts. I’ll bet their husbands don’t have ulcers, either. They have anxiety. Pity; you can wear an ulcer like a war wound, but “anxiety” is too amorphous. Back in the days, you got an ulcer for a specific reason – it’s the Johnson account! It’s boring a hole in my stomach. Real men had ulcers; 4-F milquetoasts had the vapors.
It’s a good thing no one ever asked me to design a playground set; it would be one inch off the ground and made of Nerf.
Wrote today – there’s a switch – but at least the Oak Island Water Feature put in its best performance of the season: 11 hours without running dry. Secret: I dammed the side pool that overflowed and drained the reservoir. How? With faint praise. Also a six-foot slab of rock. If you missed the buzz.mn, there was some nonsense there you might still enjoy; I was in a loose mood, and ended up writing things like PR advice to copper-pipe thieves. There was also a video set in a retro arcade, and you may enjoy that here at the official page for my alter-ego.
Today’s Noir – not to be confused with 100 Mysteries, which deals with grainy, substandard Hollydreck – is “The Naked City.” The name was later appended to a TV show, which we snickered about as kids, keeping to ourselves that strange, slightly queasy sense of unease that surrounded naked grownup stuff. Were they really naked in the naked city? Since this movie was released in 1948, it’s a rather well-clothed city, and given the heat “The Overdressed City” might be more apt. It’s a standard murder mystery – dame gets iced, cops look for the killer – but it was notable at the time for its realistic portrayal of New York, the aforementioned nude-burg. Instead of shooting on backlots, they took the cameras to the streets, so the entire movie’s exterior scenes are inadvertent documentaries of post-war Gotham life. A seasoned Knickerbocker can pick up the locations, many of which are easy to pick out:
It’s full of details, like the paper cups served in sheaths. Not to say every scene is realistic; a shot in the subway, showing how the mass media uses a murder to excite the crowd, is obviously full of actors, one of whom seems to have passed out from the crush:
Later, she pulls out her thumb and her fist explodes:
Am I wrong, or did the woman in the middle below show up 20 years later in about 9234854 sitcoms, usually in the bustling-busybody role?
You could put some guys in a burqua and digitally alter their voice, and you’d still recognize them. Derek Flint’s boss:
There's a scene in a subway that caught my eye; a thousand people are trying to pack into a subway, and one guy squirts out at the end. He has a big smile on his face. Watch for it:
You wonder if this was some guy who just wandered into a movie and was caught forever, smiling over some private joke, or just the fact that he was in a movie:
He has a credit for the movie at imdb. He's called "Smiling man departing subway." This was his first appearance in a movie or TV show. He had 193 more. Trek included? Well, of course.
This is where I get into the really city-dork stuff, so if this fails to excite, I understand. This shot interested me; can you guess why?
Because it’s a very dull building? No; it’s a building under construction, and it took a while for the New York real estate market to rebound after the Depression and the war. Where was it? Well, let’s fix it by using the landmarks.
North and east of Rockefeller Center. Any confirmation?
Ditto: that’s the Waldorf behind them. Swing around:
I think that’s the Fuller Building on the left – and therein hangs a small tale. The Fuller construction company built another HQ, but it was renamed “The Flatiron” by wags and scribes, so when it came time to build another structure, uptown, they built the word FULLER into the structure itself. No renaming possible.
Prowling around in Google, I found it.
Once I had the location, it was a bagatelle to find the name. The Universal Pictures Building.
As it happened, they released the picture.
Back to the movie. The last few scenes take place around the Williamsburg Bridge, and area that was “teeming” with “ethnic” people who spoke with their hands and haggled over everything. The good cop chases the bad guy through the streets, and shots like this remind you that complaints about the oversaturated commercial nature of modern urban life are a bit overstated. There’s not a square inch that isn’t trying to grab your eyeballs:
I love this shop: “LIKE MOTHER BAKES.”
Modern façade, but look at the door: ancient, peeling, hanging off its hinges. The appeal of urban renewal and modernization makes a lot more sense when you consider how shabby everything looked by the end of the 40s.
The film concludes with , a dreamy shot that could only come from Hollywood in the 40s. That gritty realism only takes you so far.
New Comic; see you at buzz.mn.