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Friday, December 16, 2011

NYT: Bonds Avoids Prison - Sentenced To 30 Days Home Confinement

Starts with GWB’s attack in the State of the Union, ends with a whimper. Parallels to Iraq at your own risk.

Ephus Posted: December 16, 2011 at 08:13 PM | 217 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: giants

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   1. Ron J Posted: December 16, 2011 at 08:33 PM (#4018014)
Well that was worth the 1.25 billion or whatever it was they spent on getting the dastardly villain.

He is appealing. For the lawyers out there isn't this a tad risky?
   2. McCoy Posted: December 16, 2011 at 08:35 PM (#4018015)
Hell, by the time everything gets wrapped up Bonds will probably be dead.
   3. Repoz Posted: December 16, 2011 at 08:37 PM (#4018018)
Tip, Barry. Just don't answer the door when the Feds ring your bell. Treat 'em like creepy suited Jehovah's Witnesses children.
   4. Ephus Posted: December 16, 2011 at 08:38 PM (#4018021)
He is appealing. For the lawyers out there isn't this a tad risky?

No. The DOJ can appeal the sentence, whether or not Bonds appeals. I haven't seen Judge Illston's statement of reasons for the downward departure from the sentencing guidelines, but given that the Probation Report recommended a "no jail" sentence, I am confident it would stand up on appeal.
   5. Ron J Posted: December 16, 2011 at 08:46 PM (#4018025)
#4 The article does mention it's in line with what she handed down to others.
   6. WhoWantsTeixeiraDessert Posted: December 16, 2011 at 08:46 PM (#4018026)
Hasn't his supplier suffered enough?
   7. Swedish Chef Posted: December 16, 2011 at 08:59 PM (#4018030)
NYT: Bonds Avoids Prison - Sentenced To 30 Days Home Confinement

I assume they gave him a copy of Civilization V to enforce it.
   8. Gamingboy Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:00 PM (#4018031)
I wonder what kevin would say right now...
   9. The District Attorney Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:01 PM (#4018032)
And I'm sure his home is a hellish landscape where a man could scarcely hope to survive.
   10. esseff Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:04 PM (#4018034)
The good news for Bonds is that he got home confinement.

The bad news is that it's in Jeff Kent's home.
   11. Bernal Diaz has an angel on his shoulder Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:08 PM (#4018036)
Whew. I feel safer now.
   12. Banta Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:22 PM (#4018047)
This is a classic result for our society. The whole process was stupid and corrupt, but the end result ends up being something so trivial that few will even remember this ordeal in a year. And thus, nothing will change.
   13. Endless Trash Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:27 PM (#4018051)
That'll teach him to .... ramble incoherently and answer questions in a less-than-direct way!
   14. The District Attorney Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:31 PM (#4018054)
I guess it's okay to go easy on him the first time, but if Bonds escapes from his home in the next 30 days and gives evasive testimony to another grand jury, they better bring down the hammer hard.
   15. Ephus Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:36 PM (#4018058)
I blame Harold Baines.

If George Bush never traded Sammy Sosa for Harold Baines, he never would have had the anger towards PEDs in Baseball to insert the issue into the State of the Union.

Without that encouragement from GWB, the US Attorney never would have devoted the resources to BALCO.
   16. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:38 PM (#4018060)
One thing's for sure: if I ever get convicted of a federal crime, I sure hope it's in Susan Illston's courtroom!
   17. Spahn Insane Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:42 PM (#4018062)
One thing's for sure: if I ever get convicted of a federal crime, I sure hope it's in Susan Illston's courtroom!

Yes, because the magnitude of Bonds's offense was so grossly disproportionate to the sentence imposed. Or, what Shock said.
   18. RMc Has Bizarre Ideas to Fix Baseball Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:42 PM (#4018064)
He is appealing.

Soupy Sales says, "Oh no, he's isn't...!"
   19. Spahn Insane Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:43 PM (#4018065)
I blame Harold Baines.

If George Bush never traded Sammy Sosa for Harold Baines, he never would have had the anger towards PEDs in Baseball to insert the issue into the State of the Union.

Without that encouragement from GWB, the US Attorney never would have devoted the resources to BALCO.


It's much simpler to just blame Ralph Nader.
   20. Spahn Insane Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:45 PM (#4018069)
That'll teach him to .... ramble incoherently and answer questions in a less-than-direct way!

Somehow, this reminds me of this.
   21. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:48 PM (#4018070)
Yes, because the magnitude of Bonds's offense was so grossly disproportionate to the sentence imposed. Or, what Shock said.

Yes, it's pretty simple: Illston thinks like most of the people who post on this web site do. She's a modern version of "Cut 'Em Loose Bruce": a light touch, a softie.

Judges like Illston are the reason why so many frustrated legislatures in America often feel compelled to pass mandatory minimum sentences. But hey, this is how our system works. The courtroom is an even bigger crapshoot than the playoffs are.
   22. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:51 PM (#4018072)
Leno is going to have a "Bonds said '30 days? I can do that standing on my head.'" joke.
   23. Spahn Insane Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:52 PM (#4018074)
Yes, it's pretty simple: Illston thinks like most of the people who post on this web site do. She's a modern version of "Cut 'Em Loose Bruce": a light touch, a softie.

Do you have any basis for saying this, other than the Bonds sentence and your opinion thereof?

EDIT: Also:

Judges like Illston are the reason why so many frustrated grandstanding legislatures in America often feel compelled to pass mandatory minimum sentences.

FTFY.
   24. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: December 16, 2011 at 09:59 PM (#4018082)
Yes, because the magnitude of Bonds's offense was so grossly disproportionate to the sentence imposed. Or, what Shock said.


True, but another judge might've just imposed a sentence within the guidelines range. Although not mandatory any longer, they remain "presumptively reasonable."
   25. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:00 PM (#4018083)
That'll teach him to .... ramble incoherently and answer questions in a less-than-direct way!


It's heinous.
   26. Ray (CTL) Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:04 PM (#4018090)
Cue Andy telling everyone how he never wanted the jihad to go this far.
   27. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:12 PM (#4018100)
another judge might've just imposed a sentence within the guidelines range


Is there any data on what other judges think of the guidelines in cases like this, or has Illston presided over all of the BALCO trials?
   28. The Good Face Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:19 PM (#4018104)
Cue Andy telling everyone how he never wanted the jihad to go this far.


Hey, Andy may love him some angry mobs waving torches and pitchforks, but ONLY if those torches and pitchforks have warning labels drafted by a blue ribbon federal panel carefully explaining that the user should not jam the torch and/or pitchfork into their own eye. Also, while he supports angry chanting, overturning vehicles and the burning down of tool sheds/small businesses, he totally opposes such mobs engaging in tarring and feathering or burning down residential buildings.
   29. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:21 PM (#4018106)
Cue Andy telling everyone how he never wanted the jihad to go this far.

Cue Ray pretending that if you're against a roider getting into the Hall of Fame, you're therefore responsible for the actions of every half-baked prosecutor. It's the impeccable logic of a tiresome one-note ideologue, and it rather neatly parallels the logic of Novitsky himself:

Novitsky: You don't favor spending millions of dollars trying to lock up Barry Bonds? You must be soft on steroids and in favor of perjury!

Ray: You don't want Bonds in the Hall of Fame? You might as well be Novitsky's assistant!
   30. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:23 PM (#4018109)
With enemies like Ray and Good Face, who needs friends?
   31. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:29 PM (#4018111)
has Illston presided over all of the BALCO trials?

No. Marion Jones was sentenced to six months in prison by Judge Kenneth Karas, and Troy Ellerman got two and a half years from Judge Jeffrey White for leaking those grand jury documents to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Out of everyone who Illston handled, it looks like Bonds actually got the lightest sentence of them all. She apparently put a lot of weight into the charitable works he did, while deciding to ignore the fact that he was a serial adulterer who threatened to kill one of his mistresses. Oh well, some people are luckier than others.
   32. UCCF Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:36 PM (#4018115)
Shouldn't they just handcuff him to Lindsay Lohan for 30 days? She always seems to be in home confinement for one thing or another, and you'd have a pretty good Odd Couple-type reality show with Bonds and LiLo forced to spend 30 days shackled to each other.
   33. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:38 PM (#4018117)
Marion Jones was sentenced to six months in prison by Judge Kenneth Karas, and Troy Ellerman got two and a half years from Judge Jeffrey White for leaking those grand jury documents to the San Francisco Chronicle.


Jones admitted to multiple counts of perjury and that sentence was part of a plea bargain. I believe it was much less jail time than the guidelines would have called for. Just looked it up, and Ellerman's sentence was actually longer than what the prosecution sought, but he served only about half of it.
   34. Endless Trash Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:38 PM (#4018118)
If Bonds gets 30 days house arrest for rambling in a useless trial, what sentence should Joey get for his nonsensical posts on BBTF? 2 years seems to scale.
   35. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:38 PM (#4018120)
[32] And you'd only need one ankle bracelet!
   36. EddieA Posted: December 16, 2011 at 10:45 PM (#4018124)
[33] Marion Jones was also convicted of being a hands-on participant in a check fraud scheme.
   37. valuearbitrageur Posted: December 16, 2011 at 11:09 PM (#4018138)
Judges like Illston are the reason why so many frustrated legislatures in America often feel compelled to pass mandatory minimum sentences for victimless crimes like this


I'm glad legislatures waste enormous amounts of our tax monies to make you so happy.

She apparently put a lot of weight into the charitable works he did, while deciding to ignore the fact that he was a serial adulterer who threatened to kill one of his mistresses.


Maybe she put more weight on proven facts, and less on dramatic allegations, unlike you?
   38. valuearbitrageur Posted: December 16, 2011 at 11:11 PM (#4018140)
Jones admitted to multiple counts of perjury and that sentence was part of a plea bargain.

[33] Marion Jones was also convicted of being a hands-on participant in a check fraud scheme.


Stop confusing Joey with facts.
   39. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 16, 2011 at 11:16 PM (#4018146)
One thing's for sure: if I ever get convicted of a federal crime, I sure hope it's in Susan Illston's courtroom!

No worries. It isn't a federal crime to shake one's fists with rage from the moment one wakes up until the moment one collapses at night.

For Bonds haters who've been living and dying with this saga, this ending has got to be like Attila the Hun dying from a nosebleed.
   40. Ray (CTL) Posted: December 16, 2011 at 11:19 PM (#4018147)
Ray: You don't want Bonds in the Hall of Fame?


The idea that you think Bonds is not a Hall of Famer is just laughable.
   41. esseff Posted: December 16, 2011 at 11:27 PM (#4018151)
One thing's for sure: if I ever get convicted of a federal crime, I sure hope it's in Susan Illston's courtroom!



are you sure?
   42. Bob Tufts Posted: December 16, 2011 at 11:52 PM (#4018165)
Does Judge Illston throws William Faulkner novels around her home while complaining that his sentences never got to the point?
   43. Spahn Insane Posted: December 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM (#4018170)
The prison term given to Roberto Heckscher, 55, of San Mateo, by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston was the maximum allowed by law for a mail fraud count to which he pleaded guilty in October.Illston said, “I find this was the worst kind of fraud because the people who came to Mr. Heckscher relied on him and were totally deceived.”This isn’t just investment fraud but a loss of retirement and life savings. That makes it particularly cruel,” the judge said.

"She's a light touch, a softie."
   44. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: December 16, 2011 at 11:56 PM (#4018174)
For Bonds haters who've been living and dying with this saga, this ending has got to be like Attila the Hun dying from a nosebleed.


More like Elvis on the can.
   45. Joe Bivens, Slack Rumped Rutabaga Head Posted: December 17, 2011 at 12:14 AM (#4018180)
Does "home confinement" mean he has to stay indoors, or can he walk outside, on his property?
   46. Joe Bivens, Slack Rumped Rutabaga Head Posted: December 17, 2011 at 12:17 AM (#4018182)
Also, can his friends come over and play?
   47. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: December 17, 2011 at 12:38 AM (#4018189)
Also, can his friends come over and play?

All the sleepovers with Rich Aurilia and Jason Schmidt will have to be at Barry's house.
   48. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 17, 2011 at 01:11 AM (#4018200)
One thing's for sure: if I ever get convicted of a federal crime, I sure hope it's in Susan Illston's courtroom!


are you sure?

That link about Illston's other case is far more interesting than anything that she did today. We could use a few more judges who are as "soft" on crime as she is:

An accountant who had an office in San Francisco’s Sunset District was sentenced in federal court today to 20 years in prison for defrauding 292 middle-class investors of at least $34.5 million.The prison term given to Roberto Heckscher, 55, of San Mateo, by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston was the maximum allowed by law for a mail fraud count to which he pleaded guilty in October.Illston said, “I find this was the worst kind of fraud because the people who came to Mr. Heckscher relied on him and were totally deceived.”This isn’t just investment fraud but a loss of retirement and life savings. That makes it particularly cruel,” the judge said.Fifteen victims testified about their losses before a courtroom audience of more than 80 victims and spectators during a three-hour hearing at the Federal Building in San Francisco. Former Los Angeles Rams football player Bob Fields, who lost $1.7 million, told Heckscher, “You lied and cheated every single one of us.”Evelyn Fahnbulleh, who said she was introduced to Heckscher by a neighbor and lost her life savings of $187,000, said, “I’m destitute, penniless, without a cash reserve.”Heckscher ran a tax preparation and bookkeeping business called Irving Bookkeeping and Taxes, which he took over from the Irving family in 1979.Prosecutors said he bilked friends, relatives, neighbors, clients and others through a supposed private loan operation in which he claimed he was lending money to small businesses. The annual interest he promised to the investors was typically between 7 and 13 percent, more than the investors could get through certificates of deposit,but not excessive enough to arouse suspicion, according to prosecutors.Heckscher paid the investors the phony interest and in some cases also repaid the principal, but according to prosecutors financed those payments in a so-called Ponzi scheme by obtaining more money from new investors. Prosecutors charged Heckscher spent an unknown but substantial amount of the investors’ money in a “secret, second, sordid life of gambling in the casinos of Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Atlantic City.”Defense attorney James Reilly claimed that Heckscher spent no more than 10 percent of the lost investments on gambling and said the gambling was partly a desperate attempt to recoup the money. But Daniel Irving of Chico, who said he lost $1.7 million, said he accompanied Heckscher on lavish gambling trips to Las Vegas.”He was gambling bigtime. He lived another lifestyle”there,Irving said.Irving said his grandfather, Henry Irving Sr., founded the accounting business and his father, Henry Irving Jr., sold it to Heckscher in 1979. “My dad was cremated but if he were in the ground, he would be rolling over in his grave,” Irving told Illston.Prosecutors said in a court filing that Heckscher took in $53.9 million from 292 individuals or families between 1979 and 2009 and paid $19.4 million in supposed interest and principal.The total loss is thus at least $34.5 million, but information from victims is still being compiled and the amount could be greater than that, according to prosecutors. Illston scheduled a restitution hearing for July 29 to determine the amount owed to the victims.The prosecution filing said that 45 to 50 of the victims were made financially insolvent by the fraud, while others may still be solvent but lost their retirement or nest eggs. One victim in the latter group was Carolyn Fox of Concord, who said she lost $500,000 in an inheritance she had planned to use for retirement, philanthropy and her granddaughter’s college education.Now, she said, she will have to forego retirement from her job as a school administrator and her 60-year-old husband had to take a night job as a janitor so that they can keep their house.”To others it may not seem like a fortune, but it was to us,” Fox said. “Not one day has gone by that I am not consumed with anguish and regret” for having trusted Heckscher, she said.Heckscher read a statement in which he told the victims, “I am truly and sincerely sorry for the pain I caused you.” He asked Illston to sentence him to less than 20 years so that he could resume earning money to pay down the restitution, and asked the victims to forgive him for the sake of “your peace of mind and your health.” Some victims said in their statements that they had forgiven Heckscher but others said they found it difficult to do so.Robert McPherson, who said that he and his wife can sometimes afford only two meals per day in their home in rural Washington state, said that when Heckscher is in prison, “I hope you’ll learn that your greed has ruined lives.”
   49. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: December 17, 2011 at 01:45 AM (#4018211)
Also, can his friends come over and play?

All the sleepovers with Rich Aurilia and Jason Schmidt will have to be at Barry's house.


Will Bonds have his clubhouse recliner taken away from him?
   50. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: December 17, 2011 at 05:07 AM (#4018288)
Home confinement is so silly, especially for someone that lives in a virtual palace. "I sentence you to 30 days in the comfort of your luxurious estate!" Now, 30 days here at my house with my wife and four screaming kids ... well, maybe that would teach him a lesson.
   51. Walt Davis Posted: December 17, 2011 at 09:31 AM (#4018317)
surely he should have to do some community service where he lectures kids on the dangers of rambling off-topic.
   52. jwb Posted: December 17, 2011 at 09:35 AM (#4018320)
   53. jwb Posted: December 17, 2011 at 09:38 AM (#4018322)
Treat 'em like creepy suited Jehovah's Witnesses children.
I had a neighbor once who saw them coming. He took his clothes off, stretched out on his sofa, and said "Come on in!" They never came back. Ever.
   54. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 17, 2011 at 11:26 AM (#4018333)
Bonds' place of confinement.

Sarah McLachlan needs to do a public service announcement for this poor abused creature locked inside a cage. Won't you help?
   55. akrasian Posted: December 17, 2011 at 06:20 PM (#4018487)
Bonds' place of confinement.

What if he hits a tennis ball over the wall? He won't be able to fetch it for 30 days!
   56. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 18, 2011 at 02:07 AM (#4018731)
Cue Ray pretending that if you're against a roider getting into the Hall of Fame, you're therefore responsible for the actions of every half-baked prosecutor. It's the impeccable logic of a tiresome one-note ideologue, and it rather neatly parallels the logic of Novitsky himself:
Once more: it's not that you were against him going to the HOF; it's that you eagerly endorsed the congressional show trials.
   57. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 18, 2011 at 03:20 AM (#4018757)
Cue Andy telling everyone how he never wanted the jihad to go this far.**


Cue Ray pretending that if you're against a roider getting into the Hall of Fame, you're therefore responsible for the actions of every half-baked prosecutor. It's the impeccable logic of a tiresome one-note ideologue, and it rather neatly parallels the logic of Novitsky himself:

Novitsky: You don't favor spending millions of dollars trying to lock up Barry Bonds? You must be soft on steroids and in favor of perjury!

Ray: You don't want Bonds in the Hall of Fame? You might as well be Novitsky's assistant!


Once more: it's not that you were against him going to the HOF; it's that you eagerly endorsed the congressional show trials.


And once more, there's a world of difference between hearings and prosecutions. If those first steroids hearings*** by themselves had a connection to prosecutions, then it would have been Palmeiro sitting in the defendant's dock, not the non-subpoenaed Bonds.

**Prior to that comment by Ray, I hadn't even entered the discussion, as my opposition to the Bonds prosecution had been stated repeatedly in other threads and I felt no need to reiterate it.

***Which were the only hearings I endorsed.
   58. Ray (CTL) Posted: December 18, 2011 at 06:49 AM (#4018812)
And once more, there's a world of difference between hearings and prosecutions. If those first steroids hearings*** by themselves had a connection to prosecutions, then it would have been Palmeiro sitting in the defendant's dock, not the non-subpoenaed Bonds.

**Prior to that comment by Ray, I hadn't even entered the discussion, as my opposition to the Bonds prosecution had been stated repeatedly in other threads and I felt no need to reiterate it.


They investigated Palmeiro for perjury, and issued a formal report on the matter, stating that they couldn't prove that he had actually perjured himself.

***Which were the only hearings I endorsed.


But that's exactly the point, and is the point of Good Face's "Andy supports overturning vehicles but not burning down residential buildings" comment in post #28: You basically joined an angry mob, and then acted all "Who, me?" when the mob went further than you personally would have gone. (*) Congressional hearings lead to putting people under oath which leads to subjecting people to perjury investigations which leads to holding perjury trials which makes trials such as the Bonds and Clemens trials acceptable.

Clemens, quite simply, walked into a perjury trap. They knew McNamee would say X and Clemens would say Not X and therefore Clemens was going to have his neck on the chopping block. "They" being the same cohorts you had been a part of for the first Congressional hearings, that you felt you had washed your hands of before the second Congressional hearings because they suddenly got too lynchy for you.

The Bonds grand jury testimony was in 2003, before the first Congressional hearings, but the prosecutors somehow felt it was acceptable, years after the first Congressional hearings, to bring him to trial for some $50-80 million spent over several years.

(*) This is the concept behind the felony murder rule, if it helps you to understand it in a different context. If you rob a gas station with an accomplice and the accomplice shoots the cashier, you're as guilty as he is. You can't later say, "Well, gee, I didn't expect it to go THAT far."
   59. Chip Posted: December 18, 2011 at 07:12 AM (#4018814)
(*) This is the concept behind the felony murder rule, if it helps you to understand it in a different context. If you rob a gas station with an accomplice and the accomplice shoots the cashier, you're as guilty as he is. You can't later say, "Well, gee, I didn't expect it to go THAT far."


See the five guys in the NYC cop killing the other day - one trigger man, all five facing murder charges now.
   60. Something Other Posted: December 19, 2011 at 10:15 AM (#4019217)
Hey, Andy, do you have any recollection of The Bedford Incident? It arrived from my Netflix queue. I thought with Sidney Poitier and Richard Widmark it couldn't miss, but Widmark (despite an early career choice or two of roles) doesn't have that edge that, say, Gene Hackman did in Crimson Tide. Widmark just seems like too nice a guy--and has his character make the mistake of allowing as how some of his bluster towards a sobordinate might be mere theatrics--to play a destroyer Commander who might start a nuclear war. The doctor in Panic in the Streets is more the kind of role he's right for.
   61. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 19, 2011 at 01:49 PM (#4019230)
Never seen The Bedford Incident, probably because it's a genre I'm mostly saving for later. But if you want to see a Widmark performance that's on the level of his Tommy Udo role in Kiss of Death, you should check out Time Limit, where he plays an Army Colonel who's investigating the charge that a soldier (Richard Basehart, best known as the cop killer in He Walked By Night) had collaborated with the enemy during the Korean War. It's got the format of a courtroom drama, but what makes it stand out is the acting, and the fact that the plot takes us into levels of discussion about honor and loyalty that very few films dare to enter. I've watched over a thousand movies in the past couple of years (I know, this makes me certifiably insane), and Time Limit is in the top 10 or 15. Too bad Widmark's first movie got him typecast in the minds of so many people who've never had a chance to see him in any non-noir roles.
   62. Morty Causa Posted: December 19, 2011 at 03:38 PM (#4019279)
Widmark had a lot of edge early in his career. Widmark's performance of crazed killer Uddo in Kiss of Death is overrated. It's nothing Cagney couldn't have done between dance steps in his sleep. Where I find Widmark at his best is in roles like Pick Up On South Street and NIght and the City, in which there's kind of a slimy allure to go with his rattiness.. When he goes for the generic leading man role, a Gregory Peck type like in Panic in the Streets or Time Limit or Warlock there's not much to cheer about, and it's easy to see how another leading actor with more star quality might have infused the role with some pizazz. Without the edge of ruthlessness, there's not much left except a journeyman's craftsmanship. It's not that I don't like him, but when he only does his ordinary guy thing, guys like James Stewart in Two Rode Together (or Fonda and Quinn in Warlock) easily overwhelm him. The Bedford Incident is pretty good suspense movie and character study, though.
   63. Hack Wilson Posted: December 19, 2011 at 04:33 PM (#4019304)
I really liked Widmark in the movie Madigan. BTW Widmark's daughter was once married to Sandy Koufax (according to Wiki).
   64. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 19, 2011 at 04:56 PM (#4019325)
Widmark had a lot of edge early in his career. Widmark's performance of crazed killer Uddo in Kiss of Death is overrated. It's nothing Cagney couldn't have done between dance steps in his sleep.

Perhaps, but since Cagney's the gold standard of crazed criminals, I'd say that that's a pretty high standard you're holding him to. But who can ever watch Kiss of Death and deny the imprint that Widmark made upon the Tommy Udo character? His crazed and menacing presence dominated the screen from the first moment he flashed that sinister laugh to his final denouement laid out on the sidewalk.

Where I find Widmark at his best is in roles like Pick Up On South Street and NIght and the City, in which there's kind of a slimy allure to go with his rattiness.. When he goes for the generic leading man role, a Gregory Peck type like in Panic in the Streets or Time Limit or Warlock there's not much to cheer about, and it's easy to see how another leading actor with more star quality might have infused the role with some pizazz.

I'm not sure whether or not you've actually seen Time Limit, but if you have, exactly what sort of "pizazz" do you think would have improved Widmark's performance? A song-and-dance number, perhaps? (smile) There are roles of his such as in Kiss of Death or Night and the City that call for pizazz, and there are other roles such as in Panic in the Streets and Time Limit that call for passion mixed with intelligent sobriety. IMO one of Widmark's many virtues is that he was always able to distinguish one sort of requirement from the other, and that unlike a wooden father figure archtype like Peck, he's capable of distinguishing himself in more than one type of role.
   65. Morty Causa Posted: December 19, 2011 at 05:44 PM (#4019369)
Perhaps, but since Cagney's the gold standard of crazed criminals, I'd say that that's a pretty high standard you're holding him to.


Yes, it is the highest standard, but if you're saying that he meets it (as many do wrt Uddo), then it's the appropriate standard to judge him by--and he doesn't meet it.

I'm not saying Widmark isn't an excellent actor/star, even a great actor/star; he is, and I really like him. He's just not inner circle/top tier. And there's a reason for that. Without taking away from his accomplishments, it behooves us to parse why that is so if we are to place him in his proper niche.

There's nothing wrong with Widmark's performance in Time Limit--or, really, any of the leading roles--but it's not so much a performance-driven movie as it is a script-driven movie. He brings his craft as a very good actor, but it's nothing that many an actor couldn't have done.

Bringing something to the role that isn't written into it? Cagney in Love Me or Leave Me. Bogart in The Harder They Fall. Spencer Tracy in The Last Hurrah come quickly to mind. James Stewart in just about anything--but let's say The Man Who Knew Too Much. Now, that is a superbly constructed by Hitchcock and his writers, but that's all it is. It's essentially empty. What makes it distinctive, though, ratchets it up in the Hitchcock pantheon where it is almost in the category of Hitchcock's best is Stewart's force as the driven everyman father. In fact, you could say that Stewart, not Hitchcock, is the auteur in that movie. I don't see Widmark doing that in his non-flamboyant role. You like Panic in the Streets. Me, too. But compare Widmark's banter with his wife there with Stewart and Helen Walker's in Call Northside 777. And Walker's role and importance there is a lot less than Bel Geddes in the Widmark film. It takes a special actor to do that. One with more than generic qualities. To unassumingly subvert a more flamboyant role is what an actor of enormous resources like Stewart can do. He not only does it to Widmark in Two Rode Together, he even does it to John Wayne in Liberty Valence--after all the John Wayne flourish there (and I really like Wayne in that movie), Stewart effortlessly (or seemingly effortlessly)assumes control of the picture in the concluding scenes. He makes you feel for that character who has lived a lie in a way that goes beyond the script. What makes it even more impressive is that the picture is really against him. Now, that's something. He has to deal not only with a performance tailor-made for Wayne, but Ford, despite protestations to the contrary, is really not sympathetic to Stewart or his character. He really wants Wayne to win our hearts.

Time Limit is on youtube

As for Peck, you're hopeless (:>|). I'm not going to repeat my previous exegesis of his roles that go outside the stereotype seared in your sensibilities (Duel in the Sun, Yellow Sky, The Gunfighter, The Bravados, Behold A Pale Horse, The Million Pound Note, Night People).
   66. Steve Treder Posted: December 19, 2011 at 06:35 PM (#4019396)
surely he should have to do some community service where he lectures kids on the dangers of rambling off-topic.

RDF
   67. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 19, 2011 at 07:29 PM (#4019446)
Perhaps, but since Cagney's the gold standard of crazed criminals, I'd say that that's a pretty high standard you're holding him to.

Yes, it is the highest standard, but if you're saying that he meets it (as many do wrt Uddo), then it's the appropriate standard to judge him by--and he doesn't meet it.


Since you implicitly acknowledge that this is just a matter of opinion, I'll simply counter-opine that in the Udo role even Cagney couldn't have done any better, not without changing it into an entirely different movie. And I bow to nobody in my admiration of Cagney.

I'm not saying Widmark isn't an excellent actor/star, even a great actor/star; he is, and I really like him. He's just not inner circle/top tier. And there's a reason for that. Without taking away from his accomplishments, it behooves us to parse why that is so if we are to place him in his proper niche.

I'd put him just below the "star" level as an actor, but that's because he wasn't given "star"-like roles in major movies, in part because like Robert Ryan, he never sought them out. He didn't have the physical presence of a Gable or a Cooper, and he couldn't sing and dance like Cagney or Astaire, but without taking away from the latter of those two giants, Astaire in turn wouldn't have made a very convincing Tommy Udo.

And anyway, we all know that the true inner circle of actors is limited to Mifune, Gabin and Stanwyck, and possibly Jeanne Moreau, with Stewart** right behind.*** (/ducks under heavy artillery fire and the entire contents of the Simpsons' Cat Lady's house)

**Part of our differences about Stewart and Peck lies in my admitted dislike of the entire "westerns" genre, which means that I haven't seen what you consider to be some of their best performances, whereas my 3 or 4 pets almost always seem to be playing in genres that I particularly like (pre-codes, noirs, and heavy non-"westerns" drama, although the Samurai films are a variant of that). For this reason I'd be the first to concede that I'm a completely biased and unobjective opinionator when it comes to talking about actors like Peck or Fonda or even Tracy. (But then I'd rather watch Lee Tracy than Spencer Tracy, which probably makes me double hopeless.)

***You continue to make a very good case for Stewart, who's one of my favorite American actors, and it's a very thin line that separates him from Mifune and Gabin, a line that possibly has to do mostly with their better, or more "realistic" scripts. But Mifune is sui generis (his role as a kidnapper's victim in High and Low is even better than Stewart's somewhat similar role in The Man Who Knew Too Much), and Gabin's a much better version of Bogart than Bogart himself ever was, the perfect embodiment of working stiff masculine reserve. IMO even at his best, Stewart works on a level that's just below those two, even though he's a first rate actor all the way.
   68. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 19, 2011 at 07:52 PM (#4019475)
he even does it to John Wayne in Liberty Valence--after all the John Wayne flourish there (and I really like Wayne in that movie), Stewart effortlessly (or seemingly effortlessly)assumes control of the picture in the concluding scenes. He makes you feel for that character who has lived a life in a way that goes beyond the script. What makes it even more impressive is that the picture is really against him. Now, that's something. He has to deal not only with a performance tailor-made for Wayne, but Ford, despite protestations to the contrary, is really not sympathetic to Stewart or his character. He really wants Wayne to win our hearts.

Interestingly, John Wayne disagreed with that assessment. He said the movie was very difficult to act because it was built around Stewart and against him, and gave Wayne almost nothing to do when compared with the other characters.
   69. Srul Itza Posted: December 19, 2011 at 08:22 PM (#4019507)
Richard Basehart, best known as the cop killer in He Walked By Night


No. Best known for that cheesy sci-fi TV show, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
   70. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 19, 2011 at 08:30 PM (#4019512)
Could be, but I'm talking about best known among TCM buffs, who are the arbitrators of all such matters. (/ducks again)
   71. Morty Causa Posted: December 19, 2011 at 08:44 PM (#4019529)
Just as a side note: I went ahead and took my own recommendation and re-watched Time Limit. I hadn't seen it in years. I kind of remembered it as one of those TV Playhouse 90 productions. I admit it's more than that, and I take back some of the conditional appreciation. It is a very fine movie, with a powerful script, and very fine ensemble cast of actors. Widmark is very good, note perfect just about. The ending is kind of Stanley Kramerish, but that’s not all bad.
   72. Morty Causa Posted: December 19, 2011 at 08:44 PM (#4019530)
I've already admitted that my appreciation of foreign actors speaking foreign languages is necessarily limited. I won’t go into that again, just say that I don’t see how you can fully do foreign actors justice without knowing the language. I’ll give an example, using an American movie and an American actor: James Stewart (surprise!) in Vertigo. [SPOILERS] When James Stewart says to Kim Novak in the bell tower at the end, after she beseeches him to let it go—they can still have a life together, he just stares through her and says in what I consider the most poignant line in movies: “I loved you so, Madeline.” The voice and rendering of the line—there’s nothing between you and that man’s pain. You want to grab him and shake him and say: “That is not Madeline; that is Judy. You never knew Madeline. There never was, for you, a real Madeline.” I have to know English to appreciate that line reading. You can not sense fully the feeling expressed in that reading unless you know English.
   73. Morty Causa Posted: December 19, 2011 at 09:00 PM (#4019544)
He makes you feel for that character who has lived a life in a way that goes beyond the script.


“’[L]ife’ should be ‘lie” in that sentence.

Interestingly, John Wayne disagreed with that assessment. He said the movie was very difficult to act because it was built around Stewart and against him, and gave Wayne almost nothing to do when compared with the other characters.


I can see why Wayne might have felt like that. That’s why I said the movie is “really” against the Stewart character. Ostensibly the movie is about how the West is passé and how it has to give way to Eastern civilizing influence, but the primary feeling conveyed, the song always playing in the background, is a lament about loss. The case for change that is made is extended, and pro forma, but the passing of a time and place is deeply felt. Plus, the Stewart character in the end recants: not only is he made to realize, and admit, he lived a lie as to the shooting of Liberty Valence, but it is revealed he gained a love and wife that he perhaps didn’t deserve, even under false pretences. It has been said by many critics and aficionados of movies, that of the natural film actors James Stewart had the most expressive face. And his look when the conductor lights his cigar and says as a compliment, “Nothings too good for the man who shot Liberty Valence”, catches all the ambiguity in that statement and of the entire thread of the movie.
   74. Monty Posted: December 19, 2011 at 09:15 PM (#4019553)
Richard Basehart, best known as a name that Gypsy used to shout at random times in the early seasons of "Mystery Science Theater 3000"
   75. ray james Posted: December 19, 2011 at 09:41 PM (#4019572)
Richard Basehart, best known as the cop killer in He Walked By Night Ishmael in Moby Dick


Fixed.
   76. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: December 19, 2011 at 09:43 PM (#4019574)
I've already admitted that my appreciation of foreign actors speaking foreign languages is necessarily limited. I won’t go into that again, just say that I don’t see how you can fully do foreign actors justice without knowing the language. I’ll give an example, using an American movie and an American actor: James Stewart (surprise!) in Vertigo.
You don't really get the full impact of that scene unless you watch an illegally downloaded copy of it.
   77. ray james Posted: December 19, 2011 at 09:45 PM (#4019575)
But then I'd rather watch Lee Tracy than Spencer Tracy


Andy, you blaspheme!
   78. Morty Causa Posted: December 19, 2011 at 10:09 PM (#4019598)
I've come to respect Spencer more, but I can certainly identify with the initial sentiment. Lee Tracy was a master at dialogue. The Blessed Event is probably the most unknown great early screwball comedies there is--or was, anyway, at one time.
   79. Morty Causa Posted: December 19, 2011 at 10:27 PM (#4019613)
That should be "Blessed Event" without the "The".
   80. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 19, 2011 at 11:32 PM (#4019642)
I've already admitted that my appreciation of foreign actors speaking foreign languages is necessarily limited. I won’t go into that again, just say that I don’t see how you can fully do foreign actors justice without knowing the language. I’ll give an example, using an American movie and an American actor: James Stewart (surprise!) in Vertigo. [SPOILERS] When James Stewart says to Kim Novak in the bell tower at the end, after she beseeches him to let it go—they can still have a life together, he just stares through her and says in what I consider the most poignant line in movies: “I loved you so, Madeline.” The voice and rendering of the line—there’s nothing between you and that man’s pain. You want to grab him and shake him and say: “That is not Madeline; that is Judy. You never knew Madeline. There never was, for you, a real Madeline.” I have to know English to appreciate that line reading. You can not sense fully the feeling expressed in that reading unless you know English.

I understand that sentiment, but since the full force of Mifune and especially Gabin is so centered in gesture and facial expression, the effect of that particular limitation is minimized. The acting ability of those two is so transcendent that the lack of the spoken English language in your ear is no more unsettling than the lack of spoken dialogue in a Lon Chaney silent film.

-----------------------------

You don't really get the full impact of that scene unless you watch an illegally downloaded copy of it.

It's okay, I download everything in languages I can't understand.

----------------------------

I've come to respect Spencer more, but I can certainly identify with the initial sentiment. Lee Tracy was a master at dialogue. The Blessed Event is probably the most unknown great early screwball comedies there is--or was, anyway, at one time.

Spencer's best comic shot: Libeled Lady

Lee's reply: Bombshell

Da Winnah and still champeene: Harlow

(Serendipitous spinoff wish: A film co-starring Harlow and Fernandel)

Spencer's extracurricular claim to fame: Katharine Hepburn

Lee's extracurricular claim to fame: Getting arrested by the Mexican police for pissing onto a parade from his hotel room balcony.

I'd take Hepburn if I were given the choice, but for many of us Lee's extracurricular accomplishment would be a more realistic aspiration.
   81. Morty Causa Posted: December 19, 2011 at 11:53 PM (#4019652)
The problem, I would think, with comparing foreign actors to silent film actors is that you can hear the foreign actors speak. Maybe I should just shut the sound off, but, then, sometimes the score matters.

Bombshell is wonderful, but he doesn't dominate there as much as he does in Blessed Event.

Tracy is also good in some other comedies: Woman of the Year; Adam's Rib, Father of the Bride and its sequel, and (yes, I'm serious) It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. True, his peak is not very high (and Libeled Lady is his most vibrant comedy performance, but he had some heavy competition, so he had to turn it on), but there's quality.
   82. ray james Posted: December 20, 2011 at 12:43 AM (#4019679)
True, his peak is not very high


??? He and Tom Hanks are the only men to win back-to-back Oscars for best male lead!
   83. ray james Posted: December 20, 2011 at 12:44 AM (#4019680)
I also thought Tracy was tremendous in Inherit the Wind, Bad Day at Black Rock and A Guy named Joe.
   84. Morty Causa Posted: December 20, 2011 at 01:11 AM (#4019697)
I was only considering his comic performances.

Yeah, he has some good dramatic performances. Those you name. I would add Fury and The Last Hurrah, and a more or less forgotten Capra, State of the Union--a real political film that might appeal to JOSN.

Academy Awards are not the end-all be-all with me, anymore than getting a MVP or being elected to the HOF is. I'm not impressed that much with the roles he won for. In 1938, Robert Montgomery for Night Must Fall would have been a much better choice. Or even Fredric March for A Star is Born. I mean, Cary Grant for The Awful Truth wasn't even nominated and that's a superb performance in a great movie.

In 1939, the roster of nominees was even weaker; still, I prefer Cagney in Angels With Dirty Faces. Stewart could have been nominated for either Vivacious Lady or You Can't Take It With You. But, really, Cary Grant gave a world class performance in Briinging Up Baby. Hell, his performance in Holiday is a lot better. Boys' Town, harrumph.
   85. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 20, 2011 at 01:52 AM (#4019737)
The problem, I would think, with comparing foreign actors to silent film actors is that you can hear the foreign actors speak. Maybe I should just shut the sound off, but, then, sometimes the score matters.

I guess that just never has bothered me, but you're not the only person I know who says this. There's one particular friend of mine, otherwise a huge movie buff, who flat out refuses to watch any foreign and / or silent films because he can't deal with any kind of subtitles. But hell, in many silent movies, the wording of some of the subtitles---not those with dialogue, but the descriptive ones---are an integral part of my enjoyment. 40 years after I first watched Intolerance, I still remember a character as being described in one of those subtitles as "The Musketeer of the Slums". Such a perfect description, yet one that would have been hard if not impossible to slip into the dialogue of a sound film.

Bombshell is wonderful, but he doesn't dominate there as much as he does in Blessed Event.

Well, that's only because in Blessed Event (a great movie in its own right) he's got a relatively minor supporting cast (Ruth Donnelly, Mary Brian and Allen Jenkins) playing off him, rather than Jean Harlow, Frank Morgan, Pat O'Brien, Isabel Jewell, Louise Beavers, Franchot Tone, C. Aubrey Smith and God knows how many other bright lights of the MGM stable. And yet along with Harlow, he still manages to be the center of attraction from beginning to end.

--------------------------------------------

I also thought Tracy was tremendous in Inherit the Wind, Bad Day at Black Rock and A Guy named Joe.

I'll have to admit that the more I see of (Spencer) Tracy, the more his fine acting stands out and the less his irritating Irish redneck persona annoys me. He now stands as maybe my 30th favorite actor instead of my 100th, though he still can't hold a candle to Grant when he plays comedies alongside Hepburn. Inherit the Wind and Bad Day at Black Rock are two very good films. Ditto his Jekyll / Hyde performance, though I liked March's version even better.

--------------------------------------------

Boys' Town, harrumph.

Yeah, and that's the other part of Tracy that completely turns me off. Too many priests and too many grouchy fathers in his resume. The subjective part of me admittedly reacts negatively to an actor whose roles I simply find unappealing in every way, and Tracy's career was full of roles like that. And by "unappealing" I mean without the redemptively interesting qualities of Robert Ryan's psychos or Bogart's early dimwitted thugs. Tracy's characters are too often careening between too noble and too pigheaded in not particularly multidimensional ways. He probably would have appealed to me much more if during his earlier years he'd been more with Warners and less with MGM, but the only early movies of his that really stick with me in a good way are Fury and A Man's Castle---and in the latter film a lot of the attraction for me is just looking at the drop-dead gorgeous 20 year old Loretta Young.
   86. Something Other Posted: December 20, 2011 at 02:47 AM (#4019795)
@61: Thanks for the rec, Andy. It looks perfect for me. And it just happens to be available in the watch instantly section on Netflix. By the way, if you get the chance, check out Baseheart in Fourteen Hours, as the would-be suicide. Great B-pic and excellent process photography for a film from the early 50s. I was half convinced they were really on a ledge 150 feet above Manhattan.

...and that unlike a wooden father figure archtype like Peck, he's capable of distinguishing himself in more than one type of role.
Agreed. Peck is great at what he does. He just doesn't do very much.
   87. Morty Causa Posted: December 20, 2011 at 03:42 AM (#4019848)
I guess that just never has bothered me, but you're not the only person I know who says this. There's one particular friend of mine, otherwise a huge movie buff, who flat out refuses to watch any foreign and / or silent films because he can't deal with any kind of subtitles.


Subtitles--that's a whole other issue. It's the voices that impede and degrade appreciation. Silent movies and foreign sound films--it's not the same experience.

As for subtitles: If you know the language, the subtitles distract you because they are often inaccurate translations. They almost have to be because you have only so much time and so much space for a particular one to run. If you don't know the language, then you are reading, reading at a movie, reading stuff they aren't saying, while hearing the actors speak--that's not all like a silent movie. The solution: keep the original, of course, but voice characterizations should be recognized as an art form in and of itself, as it is with cartoons. They should be an interpretive art just as much as translations in literature strive for.

Still, subtitles or dubs, they are not the original--and if you watch the original without aid of subtitle or dubbing, I just don't see how you can partake of the experience as you would if you knew the language. That's just doesn't compute. Silent movies were made, taking that into account; sound films are not.
   88. Morty Causa Posted: December 20, 2011 at 03:43 AM (#4019849)
Well, that's only because in Blessed Event (a great movie in its own right) he's got a relatively minor supporting cast (Ruth Donnelly, Mary Brian and Allen Jenkins) playing off him, rather than Jean Harlow, Frank Morgan, Pat O'Brien, Isabel Jewell, Louise Beavers, Franchot Tone, C. Aubrey Smith


None of those supporting players in Bombshell have anything but a minor role, except for Tone and Harlow, and Tone's isn't much in quantity--although it is choice ("Your hair--I'd like to walk barefoot in your hair"). All the players in Blessed Event--the mother is a perfect foil for the comedians; Dick Powell made a nice antagonist, as did the heavy; Sparks, Jenkins and Donnelly have substantial roles--Donnelly is as good with repartee as is Tracy--too bad she looked like horse. The concluding scene with all the reporters was a cornucopia of screwball players. It was a fitting way to end it.
   89. Morty Causa Posted: December 20, 2011 at 03:43 AM (#4019850)
I'll have to admit that the more I see of (Spencer) Tracy, the more his fine acting stands out and the less his irritating Irish redneck persona annoys me.


Spencer's kind of grown on me, too. I used not think that much of him--oh, I saw he was good, but I wondered why so many considered him the film actor's film actor--why, for instance, whenever Olivier condescended to make a movie, the first thing he'd do with he hit town was spend some time with Spencer. Without much flair (or zazz) he just knew how to play the notes--he was an extremely sensitive instrument. He rarely overrates and never underplays. I question his choices of roles; many of his movies simply haven't stood the test of time, like those of, oh, say, Gable (and Crawford and even Hepburn herself).

But there's this scene in a nothing movie, The Actress, with Jean Simmons and Teresa Wright where at the dinner table he recounts how as a boy he was indentured essentially to this family that brutalized him, and as he runs the scale of emotions in what is basically a one take monologue, he is so natural and subtle you really don't think about what an organic piece of acting it is. You really connect with him. He goes from at the beginning of his spiel being against his daughter going off to school to be an actress to reluctantly sympathizing with her, and he makes you see how it relates to his bad experience as a youth when he had no choices, and he does it without ever doing any special pleading. He had great instincts and a great ear. He just doesn't have much magnetism, but he does know his stuff.
   90. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 20, 2011 at 03:50 AM (#4019859)
Just as a side note: I went ahead and took my own recommendation and re-watched Time Limit. I hadn't seen it in years. I kind of remembered it as one of those TV Playhouse 90 productions. I admit it's more than that, and I take back some of the conditional appreciation. It is a very fine movie, with a powerful script, and very fine ensemble cast of actors. Widmark is very good, note perfect just about. The ending is kind of Stanley Kramerish, but that’s not all bad.

Just noticed this comment of yours, Morty, and I'm glad you liked it as much as you did. (See below for TCM note.) One thing that we both forget to mention is that the director of Time Limit was none other than Karl Malden, who unfortunately directed but one other film, The Hanging Tree, that I've yet to watch for more than a few minutes.

--------------------------------------------------

@61: Thanks for the [Time Limit] rec, Andy. It looks perfect for me. And it just happens to be available in the watch instantly section on Netflix. By the way, if you get the chance, check out Baseheart in Fourteen Hours, as the would-be suicide. Great B-pic and excellent process photography for a film from the early 50s. I was half convinced they were really on a ledge 150 feet above Manhattan.

That is a terrific film. I rented it from Netflix a couple of years back and would do so again. IIRC Paul Douglas, one of my favorite lunchpail actors, was the cop who tried to talk him off of the ledge.

And BTW if you like Time Limit and have a recorder, it's playing on TCM on Wednesday, March 14 at 12:15 AM, for the first time in 21 months.
   91. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 20, 2011 at 04:02 AM (#4019872)
Morty, with what you just wrote about Tracy in The Actress, I can't believe you don't rate Jean Gabin at the very top. Is it just that you don't go for foreign movies for the reasons you've described above?

Well, that's only because in Blessed Event (a great movie in its own right) he's got a relatively minor supporting cast (Ruth Donnelly, Mary Brian and Allen Jenkins) playing off him, rather than Jean Harlow, Frank Morgan, Pat O'Brien, Isabel Jewell, Louise Beavers, Franchot Tone, C. Aubrey Smith

None of those supporting players in Bombshell have anything but a minor role,


Are you kidding? You might say that about Jewell and Beavers (though they both get some terrific lines), but Morgan as Harlow's besotted father has one of the key roles in the movie, and the hysterically funny final turn in the plot is anchored by Tone, Smith, and Smith's wife Mary Forbes, who are hired by Tracy to play the part of a family of society swells. The look on Harlow's face when she learns she's been played for a chump by Tracy and that trio is one of the great moments in screen history.
   92. Morty Causa Posted: December 20, 2011 at 04:51 AM (#4019907)
Without much flair (or zazz) he just knew how to play the notes--he was an extremely sensitive instrument. He rarely overrates and never underplays. I question his choices of roles; many of his movies simply haven't stood the test of time, like those of, oh, say, Gable (and Crawford and even Hepburn herself).


Let me clarify this (trying to get other work done while trying at the same time to do give this exchange its due is hell on the mind that easily gets ahead of itself). Spencer Tracy doesn't overact and rarely underacts--that is, he rarely doesn't give a reading its due. Many of his movies are dated and aren't memorable, except as memorabilia. Of course, only select films and actors survive. That's the nature of the process that makes a classic. That doesn't make the other films of the time bad; it just means they're not HOF inner circle. This can be said of many stars of bygone eras and will be said in the future about many when this era is over. Tracy, Gable, Crawford, much of Hepburn, Tyrone Power and Robert Taylor--just to name some prominent stars from the past, don't loom as large as they once did. Their movies tend to be more like curiosities than those I've discussed over and over that still seem fresh and modern. Those of--well, I don't need to go through that again.
   93. Morty Causa Posted: December 20, 2011 at 04:51 AM (#4019908)
None of those supporting players in Bombshell have anything but a minor role,


Well, if you're going to ignore the conclusion of this sentence, you can get the wrong idea.

Bombshell has two stars that have equal roles--Tracy and Harlow. That's about it when it comes to comparing the way the roles are allocated in the two movies. Blessed Event stays focused on one character--Tracy's character. Unlike Bombshell, which is like a His Girl Friday thing. Tone and Morgan, if you insist, have fairly large supporting roles in Bombshell. Well, so do Jenkins and Donnelly and Dick Powell and Emma Dunn who plays Tracy's mother in Blessed Event. Not to mention Gobel. This is not even going into the gangster and the moll that Tracy exposes in his tabloid fashion. In fact, because there aren't two stars, more time is allocated to the many diverse supporting players. Mary Brian as the romantic interest has a very large supporting part--but she's only there as ballast and to emphasize Tracy's essential good-guyness. She does the job, though--she's sympathetic and natural. But she's not funny; she's there to make Tracy likable in his hustling way. The supporting players in Blessed Event are just as noteworthy as those in Bombshell. I mean, Ned Sparks, Frank McHugh, Dick Powell, Donnelly, Jenkins, Dunn, Maxwell--these are big names in the supporting character game of the '30's--MGM or no MGM.

I guess we could do the Sabermetric thing--get a copy of the script and count everyone's lines.
   94. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 20, 2011 at 03:45 PM (#4020066)
Without much flair (or zazz) he just knew how to play the notes--he was an extremely sensitive instrument. He rarely overrates and never underplays. I question his choices of roles; many of his movies simply haven't stood the test of time, like those of, oh, say, Gable (and Crawford and even Hepburn herself).


Let me clarify this (trying to get other work done while trying at the same time to do give this exchange its due is hell on the mind that easily gets ahead of itself). Spencer Tracy doesn't overact and rarely underacts--that is, he rarely doesn't give a reading its due. Many of his movies are dated and aren't memorable, except as memorabilia. Of course, only select films and actors survive. That's the nature of the process that makes a classic. That doesn't make the other films of the time bad; it just means they're not HOF inner circle. This can be said of many stars of bygone eras and will be said in the future about many when this era is over. Tracy, Gable, Crawford, much of Hepburn, Tyrone Power and Robert Taylor--just to name some prominent stars from the past, don't loom as large as they once did. Their movies tend to be more like curiosities than those I've discussed over and over that still seem fresh and modern. Those of--well, I don't need to go through that again.

It's hard to respond to that without knowing how you're defining "HOF inner circle", and who's doing the electing.

If in order to get into that inner circle, you have to have your mannerisms mimicked by wannabe gangsters in the hood, then the inner circle consists solely of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney.

If you mean "which stars of the 30's / 40's / 50's get anything more than a trace of name recognition from the average 20-something movie goer today?", then that inner circle is made up of Marilyn Monroe, even more so now with the Michelle Williams movie.

If you mean recognition by the AFI (their "screen legends" lists) or PBS (which shows movies from that era on Saturday nights), then you get a whole slew of stars. Of course the catch is that in many cases, these stars are "remembered" for no more than one or two films. (Quick, how many Gable movies do you think a non-film buff under 30 has even heard of, other than GWTW? How many current filmgoers who flock to the latest animation spectacular know Jimmy Stewart from anything beyond Christmas screenings of It's a Wonderful Life?)

Then when you get into the movie equivalent of BTF, which is the TCM Forums, you get a whole fresh perspective. Those former stars you describe as "curiosities" are seen and remembered by people who've actually been exposed to their work, and who don't rely on PBS or nationally televised Lifetime Achievement Award presentations to know who the hell these actors were.

Among that group, while you still see reverence for the Bogarts and the Monroes, their "inner circle" is just as likely to be made up of Stanwyck, Harlow, Stewart, and (Spencer) Tracy. In the year or so I've been visiting and occasionally posting on that site, the closest thing to a consensus choice of "Greatest American actor or actress" would be Barbara Stanwyck, not Bogart or Stewart (though he'd be very close) or Cagney or Gable, and certainly not Marilyn Monroe. Of course if your exposure to that era of movies is limited to the 25 or 50 films that get endlessly recycled on PBS and Summer in the Park showings around the country, then your opinions are naturally going to reflect what those programmers choose to schedule.

And then if you take it up a notch and don't limit yourself to the Hollywood product, your inner circle quickly expands to Mifune, Gabin, Moreau, and many other foreign stars who are every bit as talented and charismatic as the "legends" we've been exposed to here. It isn't like baseball, where 90% or 95% of the world's best talent automatically gravitates to one country's Major League. You have to get out of the box that recognizes charisma and "star" quality only in films where everyone speaks English.

Again, this is all 100% opinion and there's nothing "objective" about it, and I realize that you (Morty) have likely forgotten more about movies than I'll ever hope to know. But it's a perspective that has to be taken into consideration. There's more to an "inner circle" than what's defined by the non-existent memories of people who've never seen most of the great stars of yesteryear (let alone the foreign ones), and there's more to an "inner circle" than the actors whose highlight films happen to be chosen for mass viewing by the major TV broadcast networks.
   95. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 20, 2011 at 03:53 PM (#4020074)
As for Bombshell vs Blessed Event, I think we're divided on semantics, not substance. Whether Tracy has a bigger role in Blessed Event is something I hadn't even thought about until yesterday, but even if he does (and I'll concede that he "dominates" it more in the sabermetric sense), the superior script (especially the denouement) and supporting cast of Bombshell override any other consideration.
   96. Morty Causa Posted: December 20, 2011 at 09:54 PM (#4020527)
94:

You write as if the concept of a “classic” in the arts is an entirely alien concept to you. Why does Shakespeare, Twain, Dickens, etc. in literature still live? Who decided they were the classics? It’s not just subjective opinion, and it’s certainly not simply left to one person’s expressed “it makes my gonads tingle” subjective opinion.

It applies to baseball, too. Ted Williams was always thought highly of—but never as high as he is now. What happened? Who made him the stellar icon that he is?

Whose movies from the golden age of movies are better known and more widely appreciated at this time? It begins with a clique, a cadre of fans and, to use the term broadly and loosely, scholars and critics and historians. Who among these elite is really extolled? You’re on the internet. Google. There are tons of fans and critics and scholars. It begins with an elite clique, but that’s not where it ends. It’s the same as with literature, music, poetry, painting, sculpture.

Of the classic stars, James Stewart (followed closely by Grant, then Bogart, Cagney, and a few others) has more movies rated over 8 on IMDB, and then you add the movies rated between 7 and 8, and then you consider the tens of thousands who think enough of him to vote and comment on him and his movies—well, that ought to tell you something.

Then you look at the terms with which he is referred. And compare that to how his competitors are. And you do that just like some sort of Elo rater. See the same as it applies to, oh, say, Robert Taylor, or Warner Baxter, or Chester Morris—that should speak volumes. As should the number of viewers and voters those movies get.

(I mean, are you really at a loss when it comes to seeing who has the greater classic stature?) (I don’t want to throw Harold Bloom, or Film’s equivalent to Harold Bloom or Matthew Arnold or T. S. Eliot on you, but c’mon.) How many does, oh, say Tyrone Power have? Or Gable? There’s a reason Stewart, Grant, Wayne, Bogart, Cagney, and Cooper movies are more popular and more deeply respected than those of Gable, Taylor, Power, and others. There’s a reason they lap the field.

When it comes to women, Stanwyck has only been broadening her general appeal in the last ten years or so. In fact, I’d point to her as an example of her a classic standing can expand its base. She’s always had a cadre of the faithful—as I say, that’s where it starts, but it’s not where it ends. It begins and is sustained by learned movie fans (real cranks in the old baseball parlance), by critics and scholars, and by just real movie lovers of a very serious stripe?

Saying it’s all subjective opinion doesn’t explain anything. In fact, reduces an argument about cultural assessment to – well, not nihilism, but pointlessness. It’s about what a culture, small or huge, believes about itself. You know, there has to be a frigging reason Grant and Stewart are icons of a much broader and more powerful sort now than, say, Gable and Spencer Tracy. Why is that?
   97. Morty Causa Posted: December 20, 2011 at 09:55 PM (#4020528)
95:

It wasn't just about the size of Tracy's role in those movies--it was about the supporting players, and the quality of the supporting players. There is no difference. Or if there is, it redounds to the credit of BE. The supporting cast in Blessed Event has, and had at the time, as much status as the one in Bombshell. I prefer BE to Bombshell, but that may be just splitting hairs, as well as thinking that the characters and story of BE is more novel than Bombshell.
   98. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 20, 2011 at 11:52 PM (#4020672)
Saying it’s all subjective opinion doesn’t explain anything. In fact, reduces an argument about cultural assessment to – well, not nihilism, but pointlessness. It’s about what a culture, small or huge, believes about itself. You know, there has to be a frigging reason Grant and Stewart are icons of a much broader and more powerful sort now than, say, Gable and Spencer Tracy. Why is that?

It ain't that simple, Morty. But no time to reply right now.
   99. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 21, 2011 at 12:38 AM (#4020710)
You know, there has to be a frigging reason Grant and Stewart are icons of a much broader and more powerful sort now than, say, Gable and Spencer Tracy.

Because "The Philadelphia Story" is way better than "San Francisco" or "Boom Town."
   100. Morty Causa Posted: December 21, 2011 at 12:50 AM (#4020716)
Yes, that's one. There are a lot more. I really don't think The Philadelphia Story has much to do with either's status--now for Hepburn it did, because she was in disfavor, but for G. and S., no. Grant did it because he owed Hepburn and wanted to help her expunge that box office poison albatross that had been tied around her neck. His role is rather thankless (but he gets top billing). Stewart had the best role, and he was just coming into his superstar own--sharing co-star billing with the other two superstar (even if one was in purgatory) had to be an incentive. But, the legend of the two giants looms large because of other movies. A good many other movies that people still appreciate.
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