Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Orson Welles’ Ghost Story

Halloween is this week, so it is a good time to shine a spotlight on a dark, little-known movie.

In the early 1950s, while Orson Welles was in Europe filming his adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” he also helped his friend, Irish actor Hilton Edwards, by starring in Edwards' eerie short film, “Return to Glennascaul,” which is also called “Orson Welles’ Ghost Story.”

The 22-minute film was shown in 1953 and was nominated for an Academy Award for best two-reel short of that year. (It lost to Walt Disney’s “Bear Country.”)

Here is a link to Edwards’ movie on YouTube.

And here is a link to an introduction to the film by Peter Bogdanovich.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

FFB: The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man are Dashiell Hammett books I’ve read and re-read over the years. But I don’t think I’ve opened his 1931 novel, The Glass Key, since college. It was time for another look.

Between the covers is a good murder mystery and great character study.

Main character Ned Beaumont is a part-time gambler and a full-time political operative working for Paul Madvig, a power broker who runs a small American city.

Madvig also owns a club that offers illegal gambling and booze (the story is set at the end of the Prohibition era). Since Madvig has control of everything in town, the police leave him alone. But he has a problem. The son of a U.S. senator is found dead, murdered, just down the street from Madvig’s club. All of Madvig’s people are up for re-election, including the senator. Madvig cannot have this unsolved murder hanging over them. The opposition will eat them all alive.

Ned Beaumont, who found the body, sets out to clear things up. But the harder he works, the more complicated things get and higher the stakes grow.

A bigger mystery than finding the killer is trying to understand Beaumont’s actions. He will walk right into dangerous situations, and at one point takes a hell of a beating from the guys working for the gangster who is trying to oust Madvig.

Beaumont keeps his cards close to his vest, also keeping his plans and reasons for them a secret from the reader until he springs into action.

Madvig himself throws Beaumont several curves that lead to their splitting up professionally and ending their long-time friendship.

Ned continues to work on the murder case, because more is at stake than Madvig and his political pals.

As always, Hammett’s lean, tight prose style and cooler-than-cool main character make The Glass Key a pleasure to read – and re-read.

(For more posts on books, check out Patti Abbott’s blog.)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Darktown is a Book to Read

In 1948, the Atlanta Police Department, under political pressure, hired its first African-American officers.

Eight men were sworn in and sent out to enforce the law in a community where they were viewed with suspicion by some and hatred by others. Their follow white officers resented them, did not consider them real cops, and would not allow them in their station house. A separate office was set up for the eight black officers in the basement of a YMCA. (The Butler Street Y building still exists in Atlanta.)

Author Thomas Mullen takes readers back to that time and place in his 2016 novel, Darktown.

Just three months on the job, new officers, Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith (Mullen’s fictional characters), encounter a drunk, middle-age white man who crashed his car into a light pole. The passenger in the car is a young black woman who appears beaten up. The driver ignores Boggs’ request for his license and drives off.

Later, the young woman is found dead. When the detective squad shows no interest in solving the murder, Boggs and Smith start digging. This could get them fired or worse, killed, as they uncover corruption in the police department and local politics.

Mullen blends fact and fiction into a violent and suspenseful crime story.