Monday, September 28, 2020

Problems for Cary Grant in “Crisis”

Until recently, I had never seen the 1950 film “Crisis.”


Cary Grant cast in a serious picture is not always a good thing – unless it is an Alfred Hitchcock production. But “Crisis” is a pretty good movie – not a great movie – but an interesting one.  


In it, Grant and his wife, played by Paula Raymond, are on vacation in Latin America when they are kidnapped by soldiers and taken to the capitol of an unnamed country. The dictator there, played by Jose Ferrer, has a brain tumor and cannot leave. Neighboring nations will not accept him and there is political unrest and riots in the streets at home. The only solution is to convince Grant to do the operation in the presidential palace.

But, the horrible dictator is not worth saving, and the rebels would appreciate it if the doctor’s hand should slip ever so slightly during the delicate operation. 

In summary, it all sounds too far-fetched, but director Richard Brooks, who also wrote the screenplay based on a story by George Tabori, turns it into an intriguing political and moral struggle for Grant.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tabloid City by Pete Hamill

A newspaper editor, a young reporter, an old columnist, a bitter fired employee, a successful commercial artist, a famous painter, a patron of the arts, an NYPD detective, a disabled Iraq War veteran, and a radical bomber lose in New York City, plus a double homicide are some of the many elements of Pete Hamill’s last novel, Tabloid City.

Hamill, a long-time New York newspaper columnist, novelist, memoirist, screenwriter, raconteur and man about town, knew his city. Pete Hamill died August 5, 2020, at age 85.

This 2011 book gives readers his insider’s view of  the 21st century struggle of newspapers to survive in the digital world. All of his experiences and interests, including his love or art, are here in this sprawling book that is also a taught thriller.

Tabloid City is a fast read and well worth the time. Anyone unfamiliar with Hamill should also pick up a copy of A Drinking Life, a memoir of his early years, his Irish-American family living in Brooklyn, and the path that brought him into the newspaper business.


(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)

Monday, September 14, 2020

I Died a Thousand Times starring Jack Palance story by W.R. Burnett


The 1955 crime film, “I Died a Thousand Times.” is the third movie made from the W.R. Burnett novel, High Sierra, (book review here).

The first is the more famous picture, with the original title starring Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino (review here). The second, was a Western called “Colorado Territory,” starring Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo and was made by the same director as the first, Raoul Walsh.

“I Died a Thousand Times” stars Jack Palance as Roy Earl. Earl is a John Dillinger-type criminal recently paroled from an Illinois prison and on his way west to meet some guys who are planning to rob a resort hotel.

Palance was a better actor than people gave him credit for being – check out his performance in Elia Kazan’s “Panic in the Streets,” or in the original TV production of  “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” In “I Died a Thousand Times,” Palance will make a viewer forget Bogart’s portrayal of Roy Earl. Palance is edgier and more physically dangerous than Bogie.

His hold-up crew, played by Earl Holliman and Lee Marvin, are also more dangerous than the actors in the earlier film.

The only misstep in “I Died a Thousand Times” was the casting of Shelly Winters in the part originally played by Ida Lupino. Winters and Palance do not connect.

Director Stuart Heisler, a long-time Hollywood craftsman, kept the whole thing moving. This wide-screen, color production is worth watching for Palance, Marvin and Holliman.

Monday, September 7, 2020

The Pulp Jungle by Frank Gruber


A book I long wanted to read and finally got my hands on was Frank Gruber’s The Pulp Jungle.

This was his 1967 memoir of becoming a writer for the pulp magazines in the 1930s.

Aside from the accounts of living in flea-bag hotels, and hammering out dozens and dozens of stories on a manual typewriter, his book is full of stories about his fellow writers – some of them famous, some of them not so. They helped each other, introduced each other to editors, shared their experiences in the pulp market and gave tips and advice.

It was not all work and no play. Gruber talks about the many get-togethers with other writers for lunch, drinks and parties.

He tells a great story about one of those parties:

...George Bruce, who had a temporary apartment in Brooklyn, gave one. It was a rather small apartment and the thirty-some guests who were there were jammed into the place so that you could hardly move around. About ten o’clock in the evening George announced that he had a deadline for a twelve thousand-word story the following morning and had to get at it. I assumed that it was a hint for the guests to leave, but such was not the case at all. George merely went to his desk in one corner of the room and began to bang his electric typewriter. George sat at that typewriter for four solid hours, completely oblivious to the brawl going on around him. At two o’clock in the morning he finished his twelve thousand words and had a drink of gin.

They don’t make them like that any more!

The Pulp Jungle is a must read for any writer, for any reader of pulps, and for anyone interested in the lives, struggles and laughs of people working their way through the Great Depression.


(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)