Matinee Angels

Hollywood’s Golden Era by Dick Bobnick

Matinee Angels

Who’s afraid of Jimmy Stewart ?
Nobody, that’s who.
Sometimes catty, sometimes moody,
But he still comes through.
And Gary Cooper isn’t bad,
He’s just misunderstood –
And John Wayne is a good old boy
Who’s on the side of good.
They may have had to play it rough
Before they made their name,
But once above the title
Then they’re quite above all blame.
So Cary Grant is Cary Grant –
How could he be a thug ?
And Frank Sinatra’s golden charm
Will counter any drug.
They may be hapless bandits,
But we’re rooting for them still –
They never do much real harm,
They never shoot to kill.
Henry Fonda is as steadfast
As is David Niven suave –
Not for them the sleezy gangster
Or the commie Yugoslav.
Until, at last, late in the day,
Wanting credibility,
They finally might play with fire
And versatility.
Their haloes have been hocked
And their goody two-shoes put away –
But too late, guys, too late,
To find your feet in feet of clay.
We longed to see your dark side shining through
Throughout your height,
Here and there, a sneer, a snare,
An unpredicted fright –
We watched, we hoped, for menace
From an unexpected place,
Or a cold and soulless stare
Within a warm and handsome face.
The poisoned glass of milk
That did not sour by the end –
The evil that men do lives on
When done by leading men.
Like seeing Peter Lorre be gentle,
It’s the shock we need.
Make ’em laugh and make ’em swoon –
But sometime, make ’em bleed.

Actually, Peter Lorre did play a gentle and likeable character in The Mask of Dimitrios, and boy is it refreshing ! And surprisingly, Jimmy Stewart has played the bad guy three times, so best warn your spoils: firstly, pre fame, in After The Thin Man, and thirdly as by far the nicest of the outlaws in Bandolero.  But it was his second trip to the dark side that was his best – as all round shit Alfred Kralik in The Shop Around The Corner.  In it, he’s petty, vindictive and physically abusived to a man he sacks for no other reason that he doesn’t like him – what a brillant portrail of a Tory !

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