As I wasn't saying…

I did mean to write something there but I’ve got a monster head-cold this weekend, and I’m still running low on gas so this won’t be long either. (Of course, after maintaining my blackout through eight months, not to mention the sweet and stirring election of America’s first black president, the first smart and moral man we’ve elected in our lifetimes, and plainly the closest thing to a Regular (and Mortal) Joe the Oval Office has ever seen–I suspect most people would appreciate the effort  if I checked in only long enough to change my underwear.) Anyway, for whatever reason, after a couple of years of feeling that I’d moved past Howard Hawks I find myself in his grip again, so I’ve been looking at some old favorites along with some (to me) new ones, the latter with mixed results. (Air Force may start slow but it gathers steam quickly, beginning about the time that the B-17 approaches Pearl Harbor on the morning of 12/7/41 and gunner John Garfield responds to the sound of Japanese voices streaming out of the radio with, “Hey, who you got tuned in, Orson Welles?” On the other hand Ceiling Zero, despite Cagney hanging around in a dashing little flyboy’s ‘stache, is a (mostly) one-set morality play about a group of mailmen aviators and the dangers they face dealing with fog and sleet and illegible zip codes and Cagney doing everyone’s wives. It’s not merely a nearly Calvinist version of Only Angels Have Wings, it’s practically the complete inversion of every moral value we’ve ever associated with Hawks. The rambunctious, hard to predict Come and Get It brought me back down to Earth, though.)

But that scene from To Have and Have Not has always been a big favorite, for the slyness of Hoagy’s delivery, and the convincing jar-bell of intimacy enclosing the extras around him, and the softly bruised rhyme Oh, I need someone to lend me/a $50 bill and then/I’ll leave Hong Kong far behind me/for happiness once again, and the appreciative, seemingly truly spontaneous laugh he draws by stretching out “fly away-ay-ay”. But a constant point of interest to me over the years revolves around that dishy brunette who’s parked immediately behind Carmichael. Is she really sizing up the woman standing next to her? Is she really gauging the effect on Hoagy when the interloper swings her hip into the frame? And doesn’t she seem genuinely reassured when Hoagy begins singing directly to her again? During the long passages between viewings I figure it’s just my imagination, yet whenever I do watch it again I see my phantom little menage hasn’t moved an inch.

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