SIGNS OF OUR TIMES AND FAREWELL MY LOVELY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Last night, I was gritting my teeth over the Senate Impeachment travesty and another household repair issue. The tank on the toilet in our primary bathroom cracked just hours after Marilyn had workers back to redo problems on our new shower. All this while we’re figuring out how to pay for a newer version of our 31-year-old oil burner, the baseball sign-stealing scandal, the recent bitterly cold winter, never-ending begathon calls from political candidates, not to mention marathon barkathons from our furry kids, I was ready for the cuckoos’ nest.  (Yes, I know this is exhibit A of a run-on sentence.)

I opted for the MLB Channel and Ken Burns’ “Baseball’ series. Marilyn had bought me the boxed DVD series but this was running, so I tuned in. We got the 1960s episode.  As only Burns, Lynn Novak and company can do it, it was a Ph.D. on the good, bad, and ugly of the 60s which remain etched in most of our memories. Certainly, it’s etched in mine since I was in the middle of many of its biggest stories.

1969 The Amazing Mets!

The Curt Flood saga is always good to see. I think most people don’t remember Flood’s contribution to the game and the price he paid for going up against the establishment. Today’s free agents and their agents should be forever grateful to Curt Flood and maybe send him a cut of their deals.

It was also good to see Casey and his Amazin’ Mets. I had the good luck to be a young newsie, covering Casey, Marvelous Marv, Elio Chacon and those loveable, bumbling guys who would blossom into Seaver and the ’69 World Champs. I loved seeing Casey, the 70+ loveable legend who gave me some of the funniest interviews ever. I usually forgot the question I asked as Casey continued talking in Stengelese –10 minutes or more, uninterrupted.

Ebbets Field

The eulogies to Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Shibe Park and other ancient stadiums paving the way for domed stadiums and fake grass would make another great post.

Profiles on Sandy Koufax (what a handsome dude), Stan Musial, Earl Weaver, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Ty Cobb (his last days, never to be mourned at this address),  Marvin Miller, Yaz, and Bob Gibson were so well done. Bob Costas, the perennial Boy Scout with the great pipes and memories of the game — and Billy Crystal, The Yankee fan, recollecting the flight of the Dodgers and demise of Ebbets Field.

Then it was time for my bedroom movie. Robert Mitchum in his 1975, “Farewell, My Lovely.”  I’d seen it first run in the movies and didn’t fully appreciate Mitch. I thought he was too old.

Time makes all the difference. Last night’s viewing was a revelation. Mitch was perfect as the aging, tired, down-on-his-luck private eye. He brought a new meaning to world-weary. He was the best Phillip Marlowe of them all. His narration of the film was an added delight. I listened carefully to the narration.  A lesson for would-be narrators or audiobook performers.

Although in color, director Dick Richards used washed out hues to give it a film noir look. It should’ve been in B&W – but I guess the AVCO Embassy suits nixed the idea.  Mitchum’s work was masterful and now is in my top five ratings of his body of work.

John Ireland was sublimely good as Mitch’s cop pal.  Ditto the rest of the cast including Harry Dean Stanton, Sylvia Miles (Oscar-winning best-supporting actress), Charlotte Rampling, Anthony Zerbe, and a young Sly Stallone.

I waited for and enjoyed Mitch’s weary line to Ireland. “Dave, why is it that everything I touch turns to shit?” Mitch gave a Tom Selleck mega-sigh and Ireland stares at him with compassion.  Great scene.

What a guy!

10 thoughts on “SIGNS OF OUR TIMES AND FAREWELL MY LOVELY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

  1. I agree, black and white would have been perfection, but I always thought he was the guy for the part. Personally I thought it was because of his rugged edgy look, for me that’s why it worked so well.

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  2. That is a great movie!! I viewed it for the first time last year, and must agree that Mitchum was the greatest Phillip Marlowe. Film noir is a medium I’m just learning to really enjoy. The subtle plots, the classy actors, the whole package. Today’s film makers could learn a thing or two by watching such films. Thanks Garry for reminding me! 🙂

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    • Melanie, we have good taste!
      As I said, I didn’t fully appreciate Mitchum’s “Farewell, My Lovely”, back in its 1975 first run. I was in my 30’s and used to seeing a youthful and/or in his prime Mitch on the screen. Plus, all the other cinema Marlowes were played by actors in THEIR prime — Bogie, Robert Montgomery, James Garner, George Montgomery and Elliot Gould (who I just couldn’t believe–nothing personal, Elliot).

      Robert Mitchum, in the memorable day I spent with him back in ’71 (BEFORE he did “Farewell”) explained he didn’t care about always playing the perennially young good/bad guy stud. He was aware he was getting older (He was in his 50’s and still looked great) and thought it was only honest to play his age if it didn’t adversely impact the plot or the film. Mitch also observed that the Phillip Marlowe character was aging for all familiar with Raymond Chandler’s hero from the earlier movies and books. The 30 something Garry didn’t fully grasp Mitch’s words. He was still too young and oblivious to aging. That would come later.

      Melanie, it’s been a long time since a movie hit me like Mitch’s “Farewell, My Lovely”. I’ve been swapping emails with an author friend who just wrote a book about Mitchum’s westerns and included some of my anecdotes (It’s so weird to see your name in a book as a contributor. It’s a different kind of acknowledgement and one that’s boosted my ego). Anyway, Mitch is always in my thoughts. So, viewing “Farewell, My Lovely” resonated strongly with me — the Garry, looking at 80 in the not too distant future. I watched it again–the following afternoon with Marilyn who had never seen it. She also enjoyed it and shared my thoughts about the movie and Mitchum. The TCM (Turner Classic Movies) host summed it up perfectly, “Robert Mitchum was put on this earth to play Phillip Marlowe”.

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