DEAR DEANNA DURBIN: I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Marilyn and I were discussing “legacy.” Our legacies. Such as they are. The subject matter was the basis for Marilyn’s piece yesterday (WHO HAS A LEGACY?) and left me thinking.

It’s interesting to ponder. Who will care about you after you’re gone? If you’re a public figure, you’re only famous until you’re not. I was a very familiar figure to tens of thousands during my TV news career. Now, I am frequently asked, “Didn’t you used to be Garry Armstrong?” (Yes, I was … and remarkably, I still am.)

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For the past week, I’ve been watching Deanna Durbin’s movies on Turner Classics. Who remembers Deanna Durbin? For a short period during the late 1930s and early 1940s, Ms. Durbin was one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, more popular than Judy Garland.

MGM mogul, Louie B. Mayer, screen tested Durbin and Garland as starlets. Mayer chose Garland. Universal Pictures snatched up Deanna Durbin who quickly shot to stardom, saving the studio from bankruptcy.

Durbin projected a sweet, wholesome, cute-as-dickens image that won the hearts of many people seeking options to screen sirens like Harlow, Dietrich, and Crawford. Deanna had a wonderful, rich singing voice — almost operatic. Very impressive for a twenty something, always top billed over veteran stars.

Deanna Durbin

I discovered Deanna Durbin after she had retired in 1948,. She was at the height of her fame, but decided the glitter of Hollywood was not enough. She moved to France where she lived quietly until her death a few years ago.

My memories of Deanna Durbin, 60 plus years ago and now, remain vivid. She glows with performances of “Loch Lomond,” “Going Home,” and “All Alone By The Telephone” in movies that are rather less than memorable.

“Going Home,” is usually associated with FDR’s funeral train procession. It’s a guaranteed heart-tugger when Deanna sings it in “It Started With Eve.” I usually skip through most of the film, then do a multiple replay of Durbin singing that song. It always gets to me.

I had an immediate crush on Deanna Durbin as a boy. I wanted to meet her and tell her how much I loved her. Alas, it was not meant to be. Yet all these years later, I still have a crush on her.

That’s a legacy.

GUN SENSE AND SENSIBILITY – TOM CURLEY

NOTE: Tom and Ellin are off in the northland skiing for a couple of days, so you’ll have to make do with Marilyn and Garry answering comments:-)


 

I’ve been thinking about why this country is so gun crazy. The craziest of the crazies keep saying: “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is, of course, ridiculous.

Then it hit me. It’s our fault so many people believe this kind of thing. By “our fault,” I mean the fault of those of us who grew up in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Our heroes were cowboys. We grew up watching Westerns in which everybody, men and women alike, had guns strapped to their waists. (Dale Evans was a hell of shot. So was Annie Oakley.)

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Everybody had a gun. Good guys. Bad guys. Grandma. But, the world was a lot safer in those westerns than it is now — and not because everyone had a gun. Or two. Or three.

First. The bad guys rarely — if ever — actually hit anybody at whom they shot.

Second. The good guys merely shot the guns out of the bad guys hands. They weren’t trying to kill them.

Third. Grandma just shot people in the ass. Usually with a shotgun filled with rock salt.

Okay, sometimes the good guy would need to be little more extreme, so he’d shoot the bad guy in the shoulder (or “wing em” as we used to say). But it was always just a flesh wound.

BAD GUY: “OW! You shot me in the shoulder!”

GOOD GUY: “Oh stop whining. It’s just a flesh wound.”

BAD BUY: “Well if you shot me between the eyes wouldn’t that technically be a “flesh wound” too?”

GOOD GUY: “Hmm. Never thought of it that way. You know, you’re rather astute for a bad guy.”

BAD GUY: “Thank you.”

Another thing. When the bad guy used up his bullets shooting at the good guy, he ‘d throw the gun at him! I never understood this. Seriously. You just fired a few dozen bullets, each traveling at about 1000 feet per second, at a guy a couple of hundred feet away. You missed every shot.

What exactly do you hope to accomplish by throwing the gun at him? Bonk him on the head?

GOOD GUY: “OW! What the hell?! Did you just throw your gun at me!?”

BAD GUY: “Uh, yeah.”

GOOD GUY: “Well that really hurt! Look! I’ve already got a lump! What’s wrong with you?? Why would you do that?”

BAD GUY: “I ran out of bullets.”

GOOD GUY: “And whose fault is that?! If you’re going to a gun fight, come more prepared.”

BAD GUY: “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

At this point, seeing that the bad guy doesn’t have a gun with to shoot anymore … and all the good guy was intending to do was shoot the gun out of his hand, both go home feeling oddly unfulfilled.

I don’t own a gun, but I took a gun safety course. I’ve done some target shooting. So I know guns are REUSABLE! That’s right! All you gotta do is find more bullets for Pete’s sake — and that gun’s back on the job.

FYI, don’t call them bullets. They’re cartridges. The bullet is the lead part you actually fire from the gun. (See? I told you I took a course.)

One more thing we tend to forget about Westerns. If you went into a town that had a Sheriff, you had to leave your guns at the sheriff’s office. When you left town, you got your guns back.

The Sheriff understood the only reason anyone came to town was to go to the saloon. Which, let’s face it, was a brothel with a liquor license. Letting a bunch of horny, drunken cowboys hang out in a confined space with booze, hookers, and guns is not a great idea.

Even if you were in a town where they let you keep your guns, there were rules.

1. If two bad guys got in a fight, they at least gave everybody a few seconds to move their chairs out of the way, or jump behind the bar.

2. If a good guy and a bad guy got into a disagreement, they would usually schedule the gunfight for the next day in the middle of town. That way, no one else got shot.

3. They set it up for high noon.

Why high noon? Probably because it was the lunch hour. Everybody in town could come out to watch. It also made it easier for the combatants. It wasn’t necessarily easy to get time off for a gunfight.

BAD GUY: “Hey boss? Can I get off early today? I have a gunfight at 2 o’clock.”

BAD GUY’S BOSS: “Okay, but I’ll have to dock your pay.”

BAD GUY: (Sighing) “Never mind. I’ll reschedule it for lunchtime.”

Besides, “Gunfight at Two-ish” doesn’t have the gravitas of “High Noon.”

So yeah, everybody had guns in old Westerns, but they were more mature about using them.

You could argue things were simpler back then. “Things were more black and white,” you say.

To this I reply: “So what? Westerns weren’t more black and white. They were completely black and white.”

They didn’t go to color until the mid-sixties.

These days, everything contains infinitely more shades of gray. With a whole lot of color thrown in.

THE LAST HURRAH: SURVIVING OUR POLITICS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

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Marilyn stirs the pot for this piece on our political porridge — which is boiling over.

So many seemingly poor choices on the menu of presidential candidates. How do you choose without a four to eight year siege of mental Montezuma’s revenge?

The potty mouth exchanges between the Republican candidates are less and less funny with each passing day. It’s no longer Spring Training. They’re playing for keeps — with our baseballs.

John Ford’s classic, “The Last Hurrah”, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. It’s still very timely. I frequently used a clip from the film during my working years until it was suggested I was riding a dead horse.

I didn’t agree then and don’t agree now. Spencer Tracy, aka Frank Skeffington, aka James Michael Curley, explains how Politics has become a media show — the number one spectator sport in the land.

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I knew many of the real life characters from the movie based on the popular novel about Boston politics. “Tip” O’Neill, the late, legendary Speaker of the House, was my friend, confidante, and muse. O’Neill frequently explained how he cut bi-partisan deals while orchestrating “good cop-bad cop” scenarios so no one looked bad on “the hill.”

O’Neill said he used an end-game big picture hand to win big political pots. He knew how to bluff the bully boys who didn’t know when to walk away from the game.

Today, there’s a lot of bluster from the bully boys. Who has the best hand? Some have already folded and walked away. The cards appear a bit grimy. Maybe they need a new deck.

Tip O’Neill urged me to always look and listen beyond the sound and fury. He smiled in recollection of the deals brokered while end-of-days threats filled Congress. Sadly, there are no Tip O’Neills today, but his advice about not yielding to the bully boys remains valid — and relevant.

When the rhetoric abates, it’s our duty to vote with intelligence — and not fold our hand.

 

“SHANE” – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT – BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

(Shane & Jack Wilson square off, eyeing each other as a stray dog limps out)

Shane: “I’ve heard about you..”

Wilson: “What have you heard, Shane”..

Shane: “I’ve heard your name isn’t Wilson. It’s Isidore Moshe Rabinowitz”…

Wilson: “Prove it”…

(Gunshots exchanged. Wilson/Rabinowitz falls)

Shane: “Shalom, Sucker!!”

(Shane riding away)

Joey: “Shane, come back, Shane!!”

Shane: “F#@k off, you little bugger” …

(Shane gives the kid a finger as he rides off into the sunset with music up full)

– The End –


HIS HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS …

LIFE IMITATES ART (OR VICE VERSA) – THE WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE

His heroes have always been cowboys. Garry loved them all from Randolph Scott, to The Duke. Being in Arizona, the place where so many of his heroes rode the dusty trail to greatness in their classic movies was a special time.

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HIS HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS … AND THEY STILL ARE, IT SEEMS

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GREAT NARRATORS FROM WHOM TO CHOOSE

Voice Work – Your blog is about to be recorded into an audiobook. If you could choose anyone — from your grandma to Samuel L. Jackson — to narrate your posts, who would it be?


Narrating is not acting. It is a separate skill set from acting, though it is certainly related. Many great actors make atrocious narrators. Witness Meryl Streep’s venture into narration where she totally failed to grasp the concept — the narrator is not the voice of any or all the characters. The narrator is the mind of the author.

More than that, the narrator is the mind of the reader, the almost subliminal prompt that gives us the images without forcing us to notice what he or she is doing. It’s the subtlety of narration that makes it such a difficult art form. Enough animation to make the characters identifiable from one another … but not so “acted” that the narrator becomes more important than the story. It’s a thin line.

As a devotee of audiobooks, I think I’d have to go with either (both?) of my two favorite narrators — Will Patton, who narrates all of James Lee Burke’s books as well as many other southern authors and was terrific in the movie I saw last night, playing the good-bad CIA director in November Man

Will Patton

Will Patton

If a woman seems called for, Marguerite Gavin, who has done a remarkable job narrating Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series would be my top choice.

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I’m very much looking forward to listening to her one more time as she narrates the just-released final (13th book) book of the series, The Witch With No Name.

And because he is willing and has such a beautiful voice, Garry — who offered to narrate my book for audible years ago before life so altered my plans — can narrate anything. Because he will do a wonderful job and understands the difference between narrating and acting.

 

THE NEVER-ENDING PLOT – TO BE CONTINUED … ?

I hate it when one of my favorite weekly TV dramas decides to forgo the “new story each week” format and go in for one of those seemingly endless “story arcs”. It usually involves a particularly sinister person or group who is out to get one of the lead characters. Subsidiary characters multiply and plots give birth to sub-plots. Complexity is fine when you watch a movie … or binge-watch a series. The you can follow the twists and turns in a condensed period of time. You don’t need to have a scorecard … or take notes.

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It’s arrogant of TV producers to believe we will remember the details and subtleties of their story not just a week later, but through an entire season of weekly viewing. We have lives (or at least I assume we do).  We may actually miss a show now and then. Maybe we want to keep track of what’s going on in the world around us.

Then there are the even more annoying “to be continued” cliffhangers which assume you’ll still have a clear memory of what was going on five or six months later or whenever the show returns to the air with a new “season.”

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I’m a senior now but my age is not why I can’t remember every detail from the many shows over long periods of time. When I was younger, my life was even busier and more complicated. My mind held onto gigabytes of more information I needed merely to get through the day.

I doubt I’d have had an easier time back then remembering who did what to whom — or why — after weeks or months. I would have been pausing the show to ask my husband “Who’s that guy and why is he back?”

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I watch weekly dramas, movies, and series because it’s easy and fun to watch familiar characters deal with a new self-contained story every week. There aren’t too many new characters or complex interrelationships to keep track of. I can sit back and relax for the forty odd minutes of the show (minus commercials).

I don’t want to be burdened with long-term, twisting plots. Or have to remember numerous characters who pop in and out at the scriptwriter’s whim. If I want to be quizzed on irrelevant facts, I’ll watch Jeopardy.

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I prefer to save what remains of my brain for really important stuff … like what my husband asked me to get him at the store today, or which mid-eastern country is Sunni versus Shiite.

Give me my a straightforward story with a plot. Characters who make sense. Leave the brain teasers for the 2-hour made-for-TV movies … or bingeable series.