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Not reviews of classics, but classic reviews


Richard Kimble
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An open letter to Mr. Charlie Chan, Chinese detective, Beverly Hills, California:

 

Dear Mr Chan:

 

Please begin investigation, with assistance of honorable number one son and honorable number two son, into reasons why Charlie Chan series keeps getting worse. Warner Oland much talent, Sidney Toler little talent, Roland Winters no talent at all. Norman Foster honorable director, William Beaudine not honorable; work always bungled. On tablet of jade is written: "Folly is sister of genius," but Charlie Chan series of films less folly every day than day before. Send explanation immediately. Payment in Chinese dollars. May Confucius be with you.

 

-- Review of *The Feathered Serpent* by Francois Truffaut, 1953

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Excerpt from *From Here To Eternity* by James Jones:

 

"I get my cards," he said and handed Prew the book. "Man, I feel good. I been readin Tom Mix and the Ralston Straight Shooters. Pow! Pow!" he said, jabbing a forefinger and cocked thumb at the jockstraps and special duty men scattered around on their bunks. "Straight Shooters always win and a nuther thousand yowling redskins bit the dust."

 

"The Mystery of the Haunted Ranchhouse, starring Tom Mix," Prew read.

 

"This aint the Ralston Straight Shooters. The Ralston Straight Shooters is an ad."

 

"So whats the difference? I use to be a Junior G Man onct. Its the same difference. Me and J Edgar was like that. Them drawings really look like old Tom, dont they?"

 

"I wonder what happened to him? You never see him any more."

 

"His horse died," Maggio said, "and he had to retire."

 

'Tony," Readall Treadwell said, coming in from the latrine, a towel wrapped around his big, fat, but heavily muscled under the fat, belly with its navel like a dimple and the hair on it thick enough to comb. "His name was Tony."

 

"Remember Buck Jones's horse Silver?" Prew said. "There was a real horse."

 

"Yes, man," Maggio said. "Between Buck and his horse they had the two biggest chests in creation."

 

"He was a deep sea diver," Readall Treadwell said, sitting down, "before he got in the movies. I read it in a movie magazine. Our Lucky Stars, it was."

 

"He was a sailor," Maggio said scornfully. "You dont want to believe the crap in them magazines. Its propaganda. He was a sailor and he bummed around some, like Jack London."

 

"Well anyway," Readall Treadwell said, "when Buck Jones hit them they stayed hit. Deal me in."

 

"Dont get my goddam blanket wet," Maggio said, "or I'll hit you so you'll stay hit."

 

"Remember Bob Steele?" Prew said, as Reedy moved to put a paper under him. "He was the one could hit. He was a natural hooker. He was good to watch when he fought, you could tell he been a fighter."

 

"I seen him in Mice and Men," Maggio said. "He was Curly, the boss's brother-in-law. Boy, he was a mean son of a **** in that one."

 

"But he was a good guy in his own pictures though," Readall Treadwell said.

 

"Sure he was, you jerk," Maggio said disgustedly. "You dont think he'd be the villain when he was the star, do you? I wonder," he said, "what ever happened to old Hoot Gibson? I can just barely remember him. My god, he had grey hair when I was just a kid."

 

"I think he's dead now," Prew said.

 

"Jesus," Maggio said. "I wish I had some popcorn."

 

"Me too," Prew said. "I been wantin some the last ten minutes." "They got a machine over to the Main PX," Readall Treadwell said hopefully.

 

"We're broke," Maggio said.

 

"So'm I," Treadwell said. "If thats what you mean."

 

"I use to go regular," Maggio said, "every Sataday afternoon and eat popcorn.

Remember Johnny Mack Brown?" "Had a southern accent?" Prew said. "And a rawhide hatcord? Let his hat hang down his back half the time?"

 

"Thats the one," Maggio said. "I wonder what ever happened to him? You never see him any more either."

 

"You said it a while ago," Prew said, laying down his hand.

 

"They die. Or graduate. Or retire. What do you say we talk about something else?"

 

"We gettin old, men," said Angelo Maggio, aged nineteen and a half. 'T never realized it."

 

"Tom Tyler," Readall Treadwell said. "He was another one."

 

"I never liked him," Maggio said. "Too handsome. But I remember him. He plays villains now, in the Technicolor ones. The western epics."

 

"Sagas," Prew said. "They call them sagas.

 

"All the regular cowboys got to be musicians now," Prew said. "Musicians first

and cowboys second. Because they're not Westerns anymore, they're Musicals," he said, suddenly surprisedly realizing sadly that he had watched and been a part of a phase of America that was dying just as surely as the Plains Indians Wars that gave it birth had died, had watched and been a part of it all this time, without ever knowing it for what it was, or that it was dying.

 

"You mean Gene Autry," Maggio said. "Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger.

 

"I read Gene Autry was a Eagle Scout when he was a kid," Readall Treadwell said.

 

"I believe that," Maggio said. "My hometown, the ony ones ever got to be Eagle Scouts was the preachers' sons and the schoolteachers' sons. I was a Second Class onct myself, till they kicked me out of the Troop for gettin in a fight with the Assistant Scout Master."

 

"Gene Autry cant play Come to Jesus in whole notes," Prew said, argumentatively. "Neither one of them can. You cant commercialize that kind of music without killing it."

 

"Dont look at me," Maggio said. "I dont like them either. You cant commercialize anything without killing it. Look at the radio.."

 

"But those guys," Prew said irritably, because this was a thing of great importance to him, and because he was trying hard to explain it, to find the word for this that always made him angry, "those guys. They're imitation," he said, finally, lamely.

 

"John Wayne was another good one," Readall Treadwell said, almost a hunger in his voice, when they stopped laughing.

 

"Not any more," Maggio said. "He's graduated into Adventure. Give him five more years he'll move up into Drama." "Thats the same way Gary Cooper started," Readall Treadwell said. "He really use to be a real cowboy once."

 

"You cant compare Gary Cooper to John Wayne," Maggio protested.

 

"I aint comparing them. All I said was they both started out in Westerns. You cant compare none of them to Gary Cooper."

 

"I guess not," Maggio said. "I hope not. Gary Cooper goes deeper than just plain adventure. If theys anybody shows all the things this country stands for its

Gary Cooper."

 

"Thats what Hedda Hopper says," Readall Treadwell nodded.

 

"Hedda Hopper, my ****," Maggio said heatedly. "If I like Gary Cooper its my business. And its in spite of Hedda Hopper, not because of Hedda Hopper. Even my old daddy likes Gary Cooper. He go to see him every time he's on, even if its raining, and he cant speak ten words a English."

 

"All right," Readall Treadwell said, good naturedly with the strong fat man's unrufflability, and with none of the weak fat man's malice that is the worst malice there is except a woman's malice, Prew thought, a world of difference between fat Reedy and fat Willard, "all right. I jist mention it."

 

"Well dont mention it," Maggio said.

 

"All right," Readall Treadwell grinned. "You dont care if I read her column, do you, Angelo? You wont beat me up if I read it will you?"

 

Maggio grinned, then laughed, the fiery Italian anger gone as quick as it had come. "Sure," he said, "I'll beat you up. You think you'd stand a chance with me? I keep a sawed off pool cue in my wall locker just for guys like you."

 

"All right," Prew said, "beat him up later. Right now, deal the cards."

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Pretty sure no one ever called Richard Kimble "Rick".

 

The posted excerpt has always been one of my favorite pieces about movies. I suppose the relevance would be common soldiers acting as film critics, as in the classic passage:

 

"John Wayne was another good one," Readall Treadwell said, almost a hunger in his voice, when they stopped laughing.

 

"Not any more," Maggio said. "He's graduated into Adventure. Give him five more years he'll move up into Drama."

 

But my favorite section would have to be:

 

"All the regular cowboys got to be musicians now," Prew said. "Musicians first and cowboys second. Because they're not Westerns anymore, they're Musicals," he said, suddenly surprisedly realizing sadly that he had watched and been a part of a phase of America that was dying just as surely as the Plains Indians Wars that gave it birth had died, had watched and been a part of it all this time, without ever knowing it for what it was, or that it was dying.

 

Perhaps I exceeded my original boundaries a little. But then where would we be if no one ever exceeded boundaries?

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