John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Friday night highlights

I just saw something in abby20's journal that suggested that she watched the U.S. Presidential debate this evening.  I myself did not, but I'm glad to see one of my neighbors to the north picking up the slack.  I'll try to make up for it by listening to my MP3s of "O Canada" and "Tears Are Not Enough" before I go to bed.  Hey, it's the least I can do.

Although I didn't watch the debate, I understand that President Bush came out forcefully against the Dred Scott decision. A bold stance! Earlier today, I saw a car with pro-Bush and anti-Kerry stickers and signs plastered all over it and a Confederate Stars & Bars sticker on the bumper. And a lot of Bush's staunchest supporters in the South—many of whom live right here in Viriginia—love to display the Confederate battle flag. So it's not inconceivable that Bush's anti-slavery stance could cost him some votes. Still, it's comforting to know that Bush doesn't plan to appoint the reanimated corpse of Roger Taney to the High Court.

I'd actually be more interested in hearing what Bush thinks about Plessy v. Ferguson. It's not too hard in this day and age to come out against slavery, but Plessy is fundamentally a business-friendly decision that, notwithstanding the racial elements, a pro-business conservative like George Bush would probably support enthusiastically.

So what did I do instead of watching the debate? Naturally, I watched Hollywood Revue of 1929, an early MGM talkie that was shown on Turner Classic Movies earlier this week. It's very crude by modern standards—or even by the standards of the silent movies of the day, some of which were surprisingly sophisticated—but nevertheless it's an interesting piece of film history.

I was primarily interested in it because of its influence on one of my favorite movies, Singin' in the Rain. The song "Singin' in the Rain" was first featured in Hollywood Revue, and both the title sequence and Jean Hagen's performance of the song at the end of Singin' in the Rain were clearly influenced by the way the song was presented in Hollywood Revue.

Also, it's thought by some people that John Gilbert, who was one of MGM's biggest stars at the time and who is featured prominently in Hollywood Revue, provided the inspiration for Lina Lamont . Gilbert was a huge silent film star, the leading romantic idol of his day. His movies with Greta Garbo were sensations, and their on-screen chemistry led to a real-life romance that the MGM publicity department hyped relentlessly. But then Garbo left him at the altar, denting his credibility as a romantic lead, and when he started making talkies he was discovered to have a rather high-pitched voice that seemed ill-suited to his masculine image. His career slid downhill rapidly; MGM didn't renew his contract when it expired in 1933, and three years later he died. I trust anyone who's seen Singin' in the Rain can see the similarities between Gilbert's career and Lina Lamont's.

Anyway, Gilbert appears in Hollywood Revue performing a scene from Romeo and Juliet with Norma Shearer. And you know, his voice is not the most mellifluous I've ever heard, but it's hardly as goofy as Lina Lamont's. If he'd started out in talkies, I imagine he would have had a successful career as a second lead or at worst a character actor.

I'm not sure I would go so far as to call Hollywood Revue of 1929 "good," but it was definitely interesting. And I'm certain I had a better time watching it than I would have watching the debate, so in that respect it was an evening well spent.

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