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Pitchmen & Private Eyes
THE HALF-NAKED TRUTH, directed by Gregory La Cava, features fast-talking Lee Tracy as carnival pitchman Jimmy Bates who finagles his girlfriend, fiery hoochie dancer Teresita (Lupe Vélez), into a major Broadway revue under the direction of a befuddled impresario (Frank Morgan). It's the kind of fast-paced nonsense that La Cava (My Man Godfrey) did best: Jimmy is a carnival barker aspiring for grander things -- but he's a whiz at improvisation, taking any situation and turning it to his advantage. Early on, when the jealous Teresita confronts him with a gun over an affair with a blonde, he brushes it off as he is inspired by an idea: he pretends to have been shot wrestling the gun from her. His story to the crowds gathering outside? She was trying to kill herself after having learned that the town the carny is in is the same town where her father abandoned her as illegitimate – and she'll reveal his name at the show. Later, Jimmy jumps in and saves her Broadway debut, which is not doing her hot "hootchie" number, but a staid, stately boring piece that the powers that be imposed on her. When she does the "common man" number, it is a toe-tapping success; the band gets into the swinging nature of the number and Jimmy's instincts are shown to be the correct ones. And when Terresita forgets her roots and tries to become hoity-doity, Jimmy abandons her, and she flops soon after. La Cava's work is always great to watch because he is always for the common man, not the hoity-toity (what would today be called "the one percent"). He skewers the nouveau rich, as well, and anyone who is pretentious, self-involved, or selfish. He would have had a ball taking apart. Romney-Ryan.
MANNIX (1967-75) is not your typical private eye show, but Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) is not your typical private eye. In the first season of this popular series, Mannix worked for a big detective agency called Intertech. In the first episode, "The Name Is Mannix," it was quickly established that Joe was an old-fashioned dick: he preferred following hunches not paper printouts from Intertech's huge bank of computers. He often squabbled with his computer-loving boss (Joseph Campanella), and the concept (created by the Columbo team of Richard Levinson and William Link and developed by executive producer Bruce Geller) had potential. But it was dropped in the series' second season, when Mannix set himself up in an office of his own. Although this made it a tad more conventional, the plots are usually well-constructed, the action scenes well-staged (Mannix has a great right hook), and the music (theme by Lalo Schifrin; scores by Schifrin, Jerry Fielding, and Robert Drasnin) is evocative and effective. At its core is the charasmatic Conners, who is worth watching even when the scripts are conventional.
September 26, 2012
ACE IN THE HOLE (1951) Director: Billy Wilder. Cast: Kirk Douglas. Grim, relentless story about how a reporter (Douglas) exploits an accident for his own purposes. Douglas is excellent as the cynical, hard-bitten reporter and it's no wonder that the movie was a commercial flop: he is completely unlikable, nasty to the end, even when he is overcome by his conscience for what he's done. The story is amazingly prescient: the callousness and exploitation that seem so shocking in Douglas (and the other characters, as well) is now commonplace among members of the media. (Also known as The Big Carnival. ) February 5, 1998.
ACROSS THE PACIFIC (1942) Director: John Huston (and Vincent Sherman, uncredited). Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet. Follow-up to The Maltese Falcon, using some of the same cast and keeping the original movie's fast pace. The story finds disgraced Army captain Rick Leyland (Bogart) getting involved with spies and saboteurs in pre-Pearl Harbor Panama and on shipboard. Fast-paced and highly enjoyable, with good repartee between Bogart and Astor and Bogart and Greenstreet. August 19, 2006