The Discreet Bourgeois

Possessed by an urgency to make sure all this stuff I love doesn't just disappear


4 Comments

You can go home again………………….

wnew-am-1130-movie-poster-9000-1020149517

My reverence and love of The Great American Songbook must be attributed to the legendary New York radio station WNEW-AM 1130. For close to seventy years it was the bastion of this music. In the early days it presented live performances by the greats and in later years it took on a more ‘curator’ type approach to the repertoire.  I remember hearing it when I was a kid. I was well aware that it had been on the air for some forty years before I ever came on the scene.  When I was older and better able to control my music consumption, my radio was firmly set to 1130.  By that time many of the great singers and musicians were gone, but they lived on in the passion and knowledge of the announcers who seemed to live to bring this music to the world and never let it be forgotten. I particularly cherished Jonathan Schwartz’s weeknight show.  The man is a fountain of stories and trivia and knows more about Sinatra than Sinatra probably did.

When I moved to Chicago twenty-five years ago WNEW was one of the few things I desperately missed about New York. WNEW and kasha knishes, but I won’t even bother to explain the ecstasies of the kasha knish.  There was a radio station here in Chicago that was merely adequate but it went off the air soon after I got here. This was in the years before radio on the Internet, so I had to content myself with amassing a huge CD collection of the great songs and singers and occasionally picking up WNEW late at night through the vagaries of AM broadcasting.

Within years of my move to Chicago came the tragic news that WNEW-AM was no more.  Jonathan Schwartz moved his show to the New York NPR station, which was some comfort, but I knew that an era that had lived longer than I could have ever hoped for, was now definitively dead.

Until last week…..

I was searching Youtube for some of the jingles WNEW used to play.  For those who remember the station, I was searching for ‘It’s springtime in New York, a wonderful time of year….’.  I found a video that, miracle of miracles, led me to the astounding discovery that Metromedia has resurrected the station, after a fashion.  The jingles are there, all the tunes are there, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Peggy Lee and, of course, The Chairman of the Board are all there. It is not WNEW as it was in the glory days, but it is more than we could have ever hoped for.

And now, those of you who have missed it as much as I did can now experience Paradise Regained.  Those of you who never knew it are in for the treat of a lifetime.  Just click here: WNEW-1130

No need to thank me.


Leave a comment

The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo)
  2. Lola (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
  3. Fort Apache (John Ford)
  4. Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
  5. Macbeth (Orson Welles)
  6. All These Women (Ingmar Bergman)
  7. The Son of the Sheik (George Fitzmaurice)
  8. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
  9. Deathdream (Bob Clark)
  10. Ginza Cosmetics (Mikio Naruse)

.

1- When I first when crazy for movies, like around the age of 12 or so, I saw Orson Welles’ Macbeth on TV and was bowled over. I was intrigued by the play to begin with, but I had never seen anything like the movie. The ultra-expressionistic lighting and camerawork were thrilling to me. I roundly declared it my favorite movie.  I hadn’t seen it since then, but I had seen the other Welles Shakespeare adaptations (Othello, Chimes At Midnight) and was concerned that my youthful enthusiasm would be a little embarrassing to the adult me. I must say, that for what it is, it is really good.  He kind of massacres the play to make it fit into his vision. Characters are cut, new ones invented but it works.  Very well.  Jeannette Nolan is terrifying as Lady Macbeth.  Roddy McDowell is adorable and callow as the young Malcolm. I wonder how much Kurosawa was influenced by the Welles film when he made Throne of Blood? Perhaps not at all.  Perhaps the two films seem similar because an film version of the play would have to have to have similar atmospherics.

2-  I first got to know Ingmar Bergman when I was about 15 years old. One of the local TV stations would show his films late on Saturday night, hosted by critic Judith Crist. I was enthralled.  I am pretty sure that it was the only time that I saw All These Women.  I don’t know what I made of it then. Probably I thought something like ‘Europeans are very witty about sex and the relations between men and women.  This is probably very funny and when I am older I will understand it’   Well, I am older and it is awful.  I see what he was doing.  It is a sex farce but extremely labored. Smiles of a Summer Night from about 10 years before seems so much more effortless and honest (as well as funnier!) He seems use Fellini’s 8 1/2 as his jumping-off point, but in addition, he has his knife particularly sharpened for the critics. It is extremely tedious.  Hard to believe this is what he chose to make after the harrowing films informally referred to as Bergman’s Trilogy (Through A Glass Darkly, Winter Light, The Silence). Talk about a change of pace!

What really struck me is how even with this mediocre film he exerted such an influence on Woody Allen.  The smarmy sex jokes, the frantic farce pace, even the choice of music – a 20s Jazz band version of ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’, seem to inform the Allen farce style.

3- Rudolph Valentino dressed up in sheik garb is so iconic, that I figured it was probably unnecessary to see the films that the images come from, since they were probably awful. Well I was a little right. The movie, The Son of The Sheik, is a dumb, Arabian-nights piece of fluff but what struck me was the erotic gaze of the camera on Valentino.  He was extremely gorgeous and exuded a real animal sex appeal. Is this the earliest example of a man being objectivized by the camera?  Probably not, but it is maybe the most powerful.

4- I really didn’t like Wes Anderson – then I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel and was delighted. But, I thought it was a fluke, its success riding on the wonderful performance of Ralph Fiennes. Wrong.  Moonrise Kingdom completely charmed me, despite my earnestly trying to hate it for the first 20 minutes.  I watched it twice in one day. I wonder what delights Mr. Anderson has in store for us.

5- In Deathdream, a variation on the famous short story, The Monkey’s Paw, a distraught mother prays that the notification of her son’s death in Vietnam is an error and that he will return home.  Well, she gets her wish, sorta. I remember this truly horrifying film fondly from my days in NYC when one of the local stations would show horror films late on Saturday night.  Deathdream was a standout among the other kind of awful but fun films that were shown.  What strikes me now is that this was filmed at the height of the anti-war protests.  Could war really turn us into family killing zombies?

6- I really need to write a Have You Tried ….. piece about the great, unjustly unknown in the West Mikio Naruse.  Stay tuned.