Amoeblog

This one's about the Blues, Pete Kelly's Blues

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 12, 2014 01:40pm | Post a Comment

Today Jack Webb is best remembered for his portrayal of Detective Sergeant Joe Friday on the radio and television series Dragnet. Friday – a stiff, slouching, robotic cop who chain smokes as he rails against drug abuse – embodies for many folks the definition of a hypocrite and a square. However, the real Webb was also quite the hepcat, an amateur jazz musician with a massive collection of records. In addition to playing hard-boiled detectives, he also used radio to attack social injustices (on One out of Seven) and, with Pete Kelly's Blues, indulge his lifelong love of jazz and Chandler-esque noir.
 


Pete Kelly's Blues lobby card

Pete Kelly's Blues began as an unsponsored replacement series for The Halls of Ivy after a 13 February audition. It debuted on NBC on 4 July, 1951 and aired on Wednesday nights in most markets (Saturdays in others). It was created by Richard L. Breen, who'd previously worked with Webb on the wonderful and not-at-all dissimilar radio noir series, Pat Novak, for Hire, which Webb had left in 1947. Throughout the series' short run, Webb continued to star on both the radio version of Dragnet, which ran from 1949 until 1957, and the television version, which began a few months after Pete Kelly's Blues and continued to air until in its first run until 1959).

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Show me the Mo Movies!!! - Missouri in Film and TV

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 30, 2010 10:00pm | Post a Comment
Some folk that know me know I have to see dang near err movie that's filmed in, set in or tied to Missouri (whurr I grew up). With the Bourne Trilogy, those ties were somewhat tenuous... Badass Jason Bourne is merely informed that his real name is David Webb and he's from Nixa. No wonder he joined the military. Needless to say, people are sick of hearing me talk about my home state, but most of yins are strangers so it will hopefully be only a fraction as annoying as what they put up wither pritnear err time I sip on somethin'.


I just sawl Winter's Bone the other day. What can I say? The boyz (and gulz) in the woodz is always hard! Wisely, they actually filmed in the Ozarks rather than in Canada or some other pale stand-in. Not much in the way of distracting celebrities either. Perfect music by Tindersticks' Dickon Hinchliffe. Real recognize real, ya heard? Anywho, hurr's my pretty complete timeline of Mo Films.


MO MOVIES IN THE SILENT ERA

  

Silent Movies were ideal for the people who made "Show Me" thurr motto. With outlaws from Missouri including Tom Horn, and badass cowgirls Belle Star and Calamity Jane, it's kind of surprising how many Missouri-set Westerns overwhelmingly favor popular Missourian Jesse James. Apparently, the most Missouri silent movie would have Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer joining the James Gang. Just consider the following silent films set in the state:

The James Boys in Missouri (1908), Coals of Fire (1911), In Mizzoura (1914), Tom Sawyer (1917), In Mizzoura and Shepherd of the Hills (both 1919), Huckleberry Finn (1920), Jesse James as the Outlaw (1921) and Jesse James (1927).

MO MOVIES IN THE EARLY SOUND ERA


People have always love songs about Missourians wildin' out. Just consider "Frankie and Johnnie," about Frankie Baker, who rubbed out her man in 1899 after she found him with another woman. It inspired the films Her Man (1930) and Frankie and Johnnie (1936).

Then thurr's Lee "Stagger Lee" Shelton, a Mack who killed William Lyons in 1895 after he made the mistake of touching his pimp hat. "St. Louis Blues" is relatively peaceful by comparison, and was in essence, one of the first music videos.

There were more movies about the creations of Mark Twain and Robert and Zerelda James too. Interestingly, thurr seems to've been a short-lived vogue for movies about people ('specially dames) from Missouri, probably in part due to the popularity of Missourian actress Jean Harlow. Consider the following:

 Meanwhile, the events of her famous lovers quarrel inspired films, including Her Man (1930) and She Done Him Wrong (1935). After that, her legend spread nationally and people hounded her for autographs and prank called her. Frankie and Johnnie (1936) followed.

St. Louis Blues (1929), Tom Sawyer (1930), Huckleberry Finn , Kitty from Kansas City (both 1931), The St. Louis Kid, The Girl From Missouri and Kansas City Princess (all 1934), St. Louis Woman (1935), The Voice of Bugle Ann (1936), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), I’m From Missouri,  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer – Detective, Jesse James and Days of Jesse James (all 1939).

Huckleberry Finn 1931Voice of Bugle Ann

Adventures of Tom Sawyer 1938           

MO MOVIES IN THE '40s

The '40s were pritnear a continuation of the previous decade as the nation remained obsessed with popular, racist murderer who stole from everyone and gave to himself (Jesse James). Just look at these'n's:

In Old Missouri and The Return of Frank James (1940) Bad Men of Missouri, Belle Starr, Jesse James at Bay, and Shepherd of the Hills (all 1941), A Missouri Outlaw (1942), Meet Me in St. Louis and Kansas City Kitty (both 1944), Down Missouri Way (1946), Adventures of Frank and Jesse James (1948) and Calamity Jane and Sam Bass and I Shot Jesse James (both 1949).

    

 

TV AGE MO

Finally, movies about Missouri started to get a little more interesting in the 1950s, focusing often on modern crimes and juvenile delinquents, and not just outlaws from the Old West. Consider the following:

The Great Missouri Raid, Return of Jesse James and The Missourians (all 1950), Pete Kelly's Blues (1951), The Pride of St. Louis and Kansas City Confidential (both 1952), Calamity Jane and The Great Jesse James Raid (1953), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Jesse James’ Women (both 1954), The Delinquents (1955), The True Story of Jesse James (1956), The Pride of St. Louis (1957), The Cool and the Crazy (1958) and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).

     True Story of Jesse James



MO MOVIES IN THE '60s

After nearly half a century, Americans seemed to have finally had enough of films about Tom Sawyer and Jesse James. As a result, movies taking place in Missouri became fewer and farther between; consider:
Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (both 1960), Hoodlum Priest (1961),  Beetle Bailey and Hottenanny Hoot (both 1963), and Ride a Wild Stud (1969).




MISSOURI IN THE '70s

After a decade away from screens, a new generation of film-goers clamored for cinematic representations of Tom Sawyer and Hollywood obliged. Missouri-loving audiences were also blessed with many new characters.

Huckleberry Finn and Kansas City Bomber (both 1972),Tom Sawyer (dir. Don Taylor), Tom Sawyer (dir. James Neilson) and Paper Moon (all 1973), Huckleberry Finn and Lucas Tanner (1974), Huckleberry Finn, Bucktown, Linda Lovelace for President and Kansas City Massacre (all 1975), The Student Body (1976), The Baxters (1977) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1979).

 
   

MISSOURI IN THE '80s

When most people think of '80s cinema, teen sex comedies often come to mind. Not in Missouri, thank you. For Hollywood, Missouri in the '80s meant a revival of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn films... and Mama's Family. Things began, finally, to change toward the end of the decade.

Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (all 1981), After MASH, The Day After and Mama’s Family (all 1983), Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (all 1984), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1985), The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (1986), Huckleberry Finn and Bird (both 1988) and Miss Missouri, Parenthood and Road House (all 1989).
After MASH 


MISSOURI IN THE '90s

For whatever reason, in the '90s it became somewhat popular to set things seemingly randomly in the Show Me state... that, and the subject matter began to expand in odd directions. Look the these:

The Josephine Baker Story, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, White Palace (all 1990), Child’s Play 3 (1991), Sniz and Fondue and Article 99 (all 1992), King of the Hill, Adventures of Huck Finn, Huck and the King of Hearts, The John Larroquette Show and What’s Love Got to Do With It? (all 1993), On Our Own (1994), Casino (1995), Malcolm and Eddie and Kansas City (both 1996), The "Airport" episode of Newsradio and Waiting For Guffman (both 1998) and Ride With the Devil (1999).

Josephine Baker Story        


 Article 99King of the Hill


THE NEW MO-LLENNIUM

For some reason, the new millennium brought a decrease in Missouri's star turns. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Lookout were both obviously filmed in Canada and the latter film was a steaming piece of horse pockey.

 



Living in Missouri
(2001), The Games of Their Lives (2003), Jesus Camp (2006), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Lookout (both 2007), Albino Farm (2009).


MO IN THE 2010s

I haven't been home in a while but Winter's Bone made me nostalgic; so far it's the only MO Movie of the decade that I know of. Update: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth was great too. 

Winter's Bone (2010)



The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (2012)


 
Masters of Sex

*****

To read about Missouri and music, click here

******

New to DVD - The Lookout - spoiler warning - in which the glaringly obvious glares... obviously

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 21, 2007 04:15pm | Post a Comment
The Lookout was written and directed by Scott Frank. It took ten years to get made and is a labor of love... and a big piece of crap. Two thumbs down from Ngoc and me.

It's set in Kansas City. Why? According to Frank, "I spent time there, but mostly what I loved was that there was an urban environment right next to a rural environment and they're very close together. He can live downtown but work two hours away in the middle of nowhere and I really liked that." That is true, if you drive two hours outside Kansas City you're in the sticks, or another city. So, the setting is very important obviously. Kansas City is like a character in the film, you might say. Of course, his observation applies to nearly every city in the country between the east and west coasts. Obviously Frank had a window seat on a cross country flight or maybe a just layover at Kansas City International. And the in-flight entertainment, I'm guessing, was Memento.
 
"I really didn't know why, but I just loved where it was. I loved that the mob was no longer there, that it was sort of a dying mob city and more of a "sons and sons of" place now. I just thought it was kind of interesting. I ended up doing a lot of research." Apparently meaning he watched lots of old movies with Kansas City in the title because Kansas City has a very high crime rate and most gangs there don't look much like the Lookout's.

  

Note to Frank: If you'd Googled "Kansas City" and "mafia," you'd have learned this:

Despite being in prison in 1995, Anthony “Tony Ripes” Civella was seen as the new crime boss. In 1992 he had been convicted of a scheme to divert pharmaceutical drugs from traditional sellers on to the gray market. He was convicted and sentenced to 4 years. Since 1996 he has been free and very active. The remaining Las Vegas interests fall under power of Kansas City LCN Family member Peter Ribaste. His underboss is William Cammisano, Jr. In 1997 all three were placed in Las Vegas’s Black Book and are barred from casinos in that area. Today the Kansas City LCN [la Cosa Nostra] Family is reported to have 20-30 “made” members and is a very tight knit group controlling many street-level rackets.

 
Winnipeg (left) and Kansas City (right)

The movie is filmed in Winnipeg because somehow there are not one but at least two cities on the continent surrounded by rural areas. And it looks just like Kansas City except it's winter all the time and everyone's white or Native American and it's a lot smaller.  Scott Frank said, "I watched Capote [filmed in Manitoba] and I thought, 'Man, that looks like Kansas,' and I followed in their footsteps." Sounds like more research to me. Or maybe watching Capote is what he meant by "spending time in Kansas City."

Now, I'm not a stickler for authenticity, honestly. I didn't protest Memoirs of a Geisha for casting Chinese women to play Japanese characters who spoke in English. Nor do I mind terribly when Ancient Romans or Greeks are played by Australians or Scots with phony English accents and staunchly heterosexual tastes. My motto, in fact, is "Keep it fake." I just think if you're going to stand all self-important-like, smugly feeling superior because of how real your movie is on account of your painstaking research, then you're asking for it.

Chris is a popular high school hockey player. The movie begins with him driving through the country with his buddies. He turns off the headlights and the car is surrounded by really hokey CGI fireflies, which Chris explains to his friends, which made me laugh out loud. Having Missourians explain to other Missourians what fireflies are is like having a Salvadoran explain pupusas to his homies or Texans explaining armadillos to each other. On the other hand, having seen real fireflies, I couldn't tell what they were supposed to be myself. I thought they were will o' wisps or something.


will-o-the-wisp... or firefly?

A brain injury prevents him from figuring out or remembering key things, a gimmick which is used to explain why he can't figure out all the obvious "twists" that we're spoon-fed and see coming for miles because I guess w
e're supposed to feel like we have a brain injury ourselves. Chris doesn't live at home. His family is rich and have all these guns that they talk about and play with but they're just for show. They're loaded too, so don't shoot them, OK?

But Chris doesn't live at home because he's on bad terms with his family. His family with all the guns. Instead, he lives with his blind friend Lewis. Chris gets a job at a bank in a one-cop-town.  You'll never guess where this is going because, I know from the DVD, that this is a thriller.

Chris falls in with this guy who's speaking with a phony accent. That's not what's supposed to make you suspicious though. He's just an English actor unsure of how to sound Missourian. He does a better job than his co-stars though. This guy is in a gang. One of the guys in the gang just sits around expressionless wearing sunglasses... even indoors and at night. He also wears all black so you just know he's a badass and probably, when he finally does do something besides sitting around scowling in silence, it's going to be badass and in slow motion.

Here's the thing that really made me think lots and lots. The blind guy is the only character in the film who can figure out why these gangstas want to be friends with Chris even t
hough he works so far away in a small town bank with only one cop around and his on such bad terms with his gun-crazy family. OK, in case you missed that. [Zoolander voice] The blind guy is the only one who sees. Deep, huh? I'll give you time to scoop up the pieces of your just-exploded mind now...

You still don't see where this is going, do you? That's because this movie is smarter than you.

Anyway, that one cop befriends Chris and keeps talking about how his wife is expecting and how he sure is looking forward to that and he hopes nothing bad happens to him because his wife is expecting a baby and if anything happens that would be really sad. Like if he got hurt on the job but how could that happen because it's a small town. But, on the other hand, it's real near Kansas City, which is full of unscrupulous city types. But what business would unscrupulous city types have at a bank in the country?

these are gang members

The cop has to remind Chris, and the viewer, this fact because Chris's brain doesn't work. Then, when Chris's unscrupulous city friends concoct a plan involving the bank (that I won't give away) the cop shows up and starts in again. "It's my last day on the job, Chris. I sure hope nothing happens to me on my last day. The reason why it's my last day is on account of my wife is having that baby tomorrow and I'm going to spend time with my new baby just as long as nothing happens to me on my last day."

And then the guy who's silent all the time walks in slow motion and something bad happens to the cop. Then there's a really tedious and prolonged ending involving double crosses and pleas for mercy and guns and a bunch of other crap that's pretty much mandatory.



*****


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