Cat’s Paw

Harold Lloyd’s talking Cat’s Paw (1934) satirizes dirty politics. Lloyd plays Ezekiel Cobb, the son of a missionary who grew up in rural China. Cobb comes to California to find a wife. He’s supposed to stay with a minister, who for years has run for mayor against a corrupt machine politician. The minister is a puppet who doesn’t realize he’s simply used   to make it look like there’s democracy in this town.

When the minister suddenly dies, his corrupt campaign manager needs a chump to run in his stead. He decides this naive newbie Cobb is just the man for the job.

Cobb’s an endearing character. He’s a fish out of water in America. Though he looks like he belongs here, China is his home. So he’s constantly bowing and has no idea what our slang means. He’s often mistaken for a “native” and this often gets him into all kinds of scraps. He lacks the street smarts and skepticism frequently found in corrupt cities.

Yet while the film never directly says as much, God helps the innocents and through a hilarious series of mishaps, Cobb is photographed punching the corrupt mayor and becomes a sensation. He’s swept into office. He’s as upset as anyone. He wants to return to China where everyone understands his references to the revered Ling Po, who’s wisdom he frequently imparts.

Cobb accepts his office and brings his innocent honesty into practice. He outfoxes the foxes and it’s a delight to see.

Lloyd is delightful. It offers satire with a clever story that still entertains. There are times when supporting characters use words like “Chink” which are derogatory and wouldn’t be used in a film today, but the characters who use such terms are portraying prejudiced people in contrast to the hero who respects and understands Chinese culture.

Cobb does search for a wife and looks for an idealistically innocent, poised woman. Pet Pratt, a woman in his boarding house is a worldly woman who tricks him by taking him to a nightclub with 1930s adult entertainment. She’s just the woman to help Cobb govern. It’s an added twist to the film, especially since Harold Lloyd films usually feature American sweethearts. Pet Pratt does not fit that mold and is fun to watch.

I was amazed by Cobb’s plan to clean up the city. He wasn’t the goody-two-shoes he seemed at the start.

Cat’s Paw was a fun film, which shows 1930s views of China.

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Gayle Waters-Waters

A colleague at my new job suggested I watch Chris Fleming as Gayle Waters Waters on a comedy show on YouTube. It’s an outlandish look at upper middle class suburbia. Enjoy.

I’m impressed with the how entertaining this show is when there’s no studio or big budget. The humor isn’t cookie cutter. It’s also not G rated. They don’t swear, but there are some risqué comments.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

The old holiday song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has created quite a stir. I do get how it is now inappropriate, but given the era, I do think the lady was able to leave and it’s more about flirtation than Harvey Weinstein-style sexual abuse.

This is just a bit of silliness.

Poem of the Week

While watching The Crown, I heard part of this poem and had to track it down.

In Westminster Abbey

by John Betjeman
Let me take this other glove off
As the vox humana swells,
And the beauteous fields of Eden
Bask beneath the Abbey bells.
Here, where England’s statesmen lie,
Listen to a lady’s cry.Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans,
Spare their women for Thy Sake,
And if that is not too easy
We will pardon Thy Mistake.
But, gracious Lord, whate’er shall be,
Don’t let anyone bomb me.

Keep our Empire undismembered
Guide our Forces by Thy Hand,
Gallant blacks from far Jamaica,
Honduras and Togoland;
Protect them Lord in all their fights,
And, even more, protect the whites.

Think of what our Nation stands for,
Books from Boots’ and country lanes,
Free speech, free passes, class distinction,
Democracy and proper drains.
Lord, put beneath Thy special care
One-eighty-nine Cadogan Square.

Although dear Lord I am a sinner,
I have done no major crime;
Now I’ll come to Evening Service
Whensoever I have the time.
So, Lord, reserve for me a crown,
And do not let my shares go down.

I will labour for Thy Kingdom,
Help our lads to win the war,
Send white feathers to the cowards
Join the Women’s Army Corps,
Then wash the steps around Thy Throne
In the Eternal Safety Zone.

Now I feel a little better,
What a treat to hear Thy Word,
Where the bones of leading statesmen
Have so often been interr’d.
And now, dear Lord, I cannot wait
Because I have a luncheon date.

Speed the Plow


Another David Mamet play seemed a fitting read as I’m currently taking his MasterClass online.

I’d seen the play at the Remains Theater in 1987.

The play is a satire of show business. Charlie Fox brings a movie deal consisting of a hot star and a blockbuster-type script to his long time buddy, Bobby Gould, who’s career is on fire since he’s gotten a promotion. He’s got till 10 am the next morning to get a producer to agree to make it. So he trusts his pal to make the deal, which will earn them boat-loads of money.

They talk about the business and their careers.  They dream of what they’ll do after this life-changing film is released. In the background a temp secretary bungles along with the phone system. Eventually, she comes into the office and winds up having to read a far-fetched novel as a “courtesy read” meaning she’s to write a summary of a book that’s not going to be adapted to film.

 
After she leaves the office, the men make a bet, a bet that Bobby Gould, whom Karen is working for, will succeed in seducing her. Karen’s not in on this but she agrees to go to Gould’s house to discuss the book she’s to summarize.

Karen finds the book about the end of the world life-changing. Like many 20-something’s She’s swept up by its message. What’s worse, when she goes to Gould’s house she convinces him to make the crazy book into a film and to leave his pal in the dust. The book and play are brisk and, as you’d expect, contain rapid-fire dialog. I enjoyed this book, but can see how some would find problems with Mamet’s portrayal of women. I think he portrays Hollywood quite realistically.

The Minutes

Written by Tracie Letts, The Minutes stars Billy Peterson as the mayor of a middle American town called Big Cherry. The play focuses on a town council meeting where the newest member of the council can’t stop wondering why no one will answer his questions about Mr. Carp, a councilman who’s no longer on the council or why last week’s meeting minutes are delayed. No one is willing to explain this.

As the meeting on this stormy night proceeds, the audience is treated to jibes about small towns and their small minds. The Steppenwolf Ensemble members Francis Guinan plays the oldest council member who goes on and on, annoying many with his suggestion on what to do with the freed up parking space. This issue hints at the problem, the elephant in the room, which is the absence of councilman Mr. Carp. Whenever Carp’s name comes up, the council members get silent. What are they hiding?

Like a dark version of Parks and Recreation, Letts satirizes the trivial aspects of small town government. Should a Lincoln Smackdown be part of the town’s festival? Should the town pay for a new fountain commemorating their history and enabling people with disabilities to see clear to the bottom be funded? (Trivial to those on the council who aren’t the least bit PC.) Should Mrs. Innes be allowed to ramble on and on?

You know there’s more to Mr. Carp’s absence and, of course, the title clues you into the significance that last week’s meeting minutes have not been presented. But I highly doubt you’ll guess the disturbing end to the play, which finishes at the Steppenwolf January 7 and then will open on Broadway.

The performances, as is the case 99% of the time at Steppenwolf, were great. Both Billy Peterson and Cliff Chamberlain, who plays the town newcomer who wants to be active in town politics so he can make a difference, were excellent.