Three from the past

When you grow older, you find yourself thinking more about the past than the future. This makes sense, because you’ve got more of the former than the latter. This weekend I watched a little TV in between studying sessions, and noted the following things…

I love the new digital broadcast TV channels, like Me TV and Antenna TV, that show old programs from my childhood and youth. I watch them quite a lot, especially on weekends. On Sunday after church I had the Burns and Allen show on. They did a story centered on some absurd plan to bring a carpenter in to George and Gracie’s house to build a dresser, so they could pretend to their friends that George had built it himself. (I know that makes no sense. If you know Burns and Allen, you’ll understand sense has nothing to do with it.)

The carpenter shows up, ready to go to work.

He is wearing a suit and tie.

I’m not kidding. It seemed perfectly normal in the 1950s for a carpenter to show up at a work location in a suit and tie.

Of course it was Beverly Hills. That probably makes a difference.

On Saturday night, I was working on a paper for my class, and looked for something to watch on the tube. (I like to study in silence, but years of writing books have led me to prefer TV buzz for writing.) To my delight, Antenna TV was running a Rita Hayworth marathon. You know how I feel about Rita. So I settled in with Fire Down Below, a 1957 flick co-starring Robert Mitchum and a very young Jack Lemmon. The guys play seedy Americans running a smuggling boat in the Caribbean, who end up transporting a passportless Rita, who’s supposed to be a woman of mystery with questionable associations from World War II.

It’s not a classic. In my opinion, the realism (by 1957 standards) of the majority of story doesn’t mesh well with the big production dance number that every Hayworth movie demands. Also the lady was beginning to show her age – though that’s actually consistent with her character. And it didn’t slow down her dancing.

But what amazed me was a scene involving a secondary character – Dr. Blake, played by Bernard Lee. We first meet Dr. Blake when he’s awakened from bed by a call to an emergency. Before he leaves, though, he stops to open his Bible and read a verse, then to bow his head.

Whoa, I thought. This guy must be some kind of psychopath.

Because we’ve all learned from more recent films that anyone who reads the Bible has something profoundly wrong with them.

Then I remembered that this was 1957. He could be a good guy. And in fact he was. He turned out to be the moral center of the story, a man who risks his life to save another, and attempts to reconcile two estranged friends.

Sometimes even I forget how much times have changed.

In a similar vein, Scott Johnson at Powerline writes fondly of the late Steve Allen, and embeds a video of Allen and some friends doing his greatest song (he holds the Guinness world record for songs copyrighted by one individual), This Could Be the Start of Something Big. I’ve always liked that song. The tune is catchy and the lyrics genuinely clever.

I don’t think the guy who “looks a lot like Frank” is actually Sinatra, though. I believe, on the basis of comments on YouTube, that he was a Sinatra imitator who had a vogue at the time (1958).

5 thoughts on “Three from the past”

  1. We first meet Dr. Blake when he’s awakened from bed by a call to an emergency. Before he leaves, though, he stops to open his Bible and read a verse, then to bow his head.

    According to Judaism, he isn’t all that good. Religious obligations are held in abeyance if a life is at risk.

  2. Was there a chance those 20 seconds would have made a difference? However, I agree that we tend to be excessively legalistic about stuff like that.

  3. No, it was an ongoing problem on a boat. The problem was a man trapped in wreckage, who would not die immediately, but would die if the rescuers couldn’t get him out before a deadline.

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