One of those days that starts with layoff worries and ends with pancakes. As you may have heard, the Strib (hence the banner art this week, obviously) announced the latest staff reduction measures today, as we knew they would. Earlier in the day I noted on Twitter, somewhat cryptically, that the Hudson Hornet was not going into the barn. Sorry – somewhat cryptically? I mean this guy:

The old and presumably washed-up vehicle from “Cars,” voiced by Paul Newman.

Back up. Shortly after the night soil was flung into the Vornado in the spring of last year, I went to Disneyworld for the first time. Happiest time of my life, really – I had no idea what was going to happen, but I was sitting on an island in a make-believe place enjoying a cigar, and for the first time in 30 years I didn’t care what came next. Something would, though, and it would be different, and it would all be okay. I was not dead yet. I saw the Hudson Hornet in a toy store (they have toy stores in Disneyworld, believe it or not), bought one, brought it back and put it on my monitor at work. A reminder that I, too, could stick around long enough to watch someone younger and flashier eclipse my accomplishments –

No, that wasn’t it. A reminder that there’s still life left in this old engine! No, too trite. Oh, right: a reminder, every time I see that die-cast Hudson Hornet, that I’m a grown man who identifies with a talking car in a kid’s movie, and I’m damned lucky to have found any employment.

Anyway, I wrote that about the Hudson Hornet's barn-status before I read the actual text of the buyout. I don't want to be oblique, and I know that saying nothing says something sometimes, but sometimes saying something means nothing, if you're good at it. So, whatever.


New page.

Tomorrow I will be playing Ted Baxter on All day. We’re covering the final stages of the recount live, and I’ll be at the anchor desk in a coat and tie saying God knows what. Starts around noonI usually don’t start to talk to myself until 12:30, so this should be interesting. Tune in, please – and watch for updates on the experience on Twitter.

Now, back to the usual items in the small, happy world of

This week’s Black and White was rented for one good reason:

And it wasn’t Linda Darnell. Oh, she’s hot stuff, but too damned evil and scheming. Sort of ex-girlfriend you tell to go die in a fire. George Sanders? always good for that exquisitely civilized self-loathing evil. But it’s Laird Cregar I wanted to see. He was the big creepy cop in last week’s movie, and he made quite an impression. The title is almost over the top, even for noir:

Unfortunately, it’s not noir. The typeface warms you: period piece. Takes place in gaslight London, complete with here-now-wot’s-all-this cops and clip-clop horses drawing carriages down the streets of the titular neighborhood. Laird plays a composer who loses his mind when he hears discordant sounds – a parable of modernism, perhaps, except most of them kept their minds and got tenure – and he remembers nothing of the crimes he commits. Or does he really commit them? Could the real killer be . . . his patron?

No, that’s Alfred, Batman’s butler. Seriously, it is - Alan Napier. He looks old here too. He always looked old.

Could the real killer be . . . the doctor?


Of course it’s the doctor. He’s George Sanders. He’s a rotten scrap of sin wrapped in velvet, and it’s only a matter of time before we learn how he committed the murders!

Then you remember that the movie began with the hero stabbing someone. Oh, right. So a mystery this isn’t. What is it? Who cares?

Meet the composer:

And here’s a tale. Below, Laird Creger in the movie discussed last week, the 1941 “I Wake Up Screaming.”

He’s shed some weight, hasn’t he. Creger, convinced he could be a leading man, went on a crash diet, and in half the movie he looks haggard and drawn. If nothing else, though, the diet showed that his presence didn’t come from his bulk. I don’t know what it was that he had, frankly, but as one fellow on the DVD’s Cregar biography said, whenever he was on screen, your eye could not leave him when he was on screen.

Except, maybe, when Linda Darnell showed up.

She played Netta, a devlous biatch who toyed with the composer’s affections in order to get him to write songs for her to sing.

Sorry to be juvenile, but this always makes me laugh:

The movie has noirish moments, such this shot:


What makes it noir? The guilty man is in white, the authority figure in black. The usual hues of morality are reversed, and we’re not sympathizing with the Good Guy – he’s just a shape, a presence. The guilty man is made incandescent by his knowledge of his situation. But he has to go play his concerto! He is a murderer, an artist - O fate! Can he do it?

Not to worry; the lovely young lady he spurned for that HOOR who done showd her britches to ‘AFF A’ PICCADILLY will fill in, since she knows the piece – and its composer – by heart. In true movie tradition, she cries while she plays.

Lots of candles around; shame if any of them were knocked over –


Well, I’m not spoiling anything. From the moment the film began we knew he was guilty, and he would be punished. But only in the 40s could you conclude a movie with a man pounding the piano in a burning room, and it’s quite a scene. Cregar looks ready to die, frankly; he plays the piece because he has to be played, because he has to play it to remove the stain the nasty vixen left on his work. Flames, smoke, final chords: the end.

Literally. Cregar had already died when the movie was released. He went on a crash diet to improve his Hollywood chances, and it killed him.

Linda Darnell? Died in a fire a few years later.

The music? It’s by Bernard Herrmann, always a dark brooding gloomy favorite, and since the main character is a composer, there has to be a composition. Herrmann supplies a theme that has all the Romantic elements – brash individualism, bold statements, the Tragic Nature of Life – but it’s very much a 1940s piece. When you see 1903 audiences listening with rapt expressions, it’s like a movie about WW2 USO shows where everyone’s going crazy over Hendrix.

Very short excerpt gives you the idea:

You’re wondering if there’s a Star Trek connection. It’s tenuous. This is the suave producer who has his sights on the dance-hall hussy:


And this is him 26 years later, I believe.

The movie?

Andromeda Strain, of course. Next to him in the other TV: Kermit Murdock.

Altogether now: there are witches! There are!


See you LIVE on starting at 11:55 AM CST. And of course behind-the-scenes nattering on Twitter.