Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Morning In-Box ... Might I Entertain You at Your Boring Job?

John Ringling North and Lou Jacobs

You might be reading me at your desk at work? Or maybe passing the time over coffee at your favorite sit down. In a mobile home on some dusty lot? At a desk of power ... It's okay, wherever you are; I won't tell your supervisor ...

Peanuts yet to crack: The bag sent to me by John Ringling North II a while back, unopened, now takes on new urgency as I anticipate a possible DVD of the recent show landing in my mail-box. If the anticipation holds, then --- it just struck, no cracked me, I might finally break the plastic container open and sample peanuts pitched at America's One Ring Wonder ...

Speaking of which -- oh, will we ever be free of the old Ringling spell? -- gotta tell you that last night I watched the movie again. Any die-hard circus fans will instantly know what movie. It's a ritual kept alive by certain scenes. When, for instance, the main spec, Circus Serenade, rolls by, especially when we see it coming around the corner from a high seat in the reserves, I sometimes superimpose over the floats images of the Holiday spec floats from the 1955 show, just to reach back in a vain, rather sad effort to relive that day so long ago when I saw the only Ringling show I would ever see under big top. I still feel tingles ... In the dark, still?


Think Greatest Show on Earth. Sometimes when I watch it, the experience feels more like a drill than a pleasure; Sometimes, something new comes through I had forgotten about or had never noticed. And it happened right here, in my one bedroom rental, last night. Are you ready? Hint, hint -- a finely directed and acted scene, making it feel like we are in a another movie, one more intimately dramatic than spectacularly overwhelming. Two characters are interacting in a rather private place, somewhere on the lot. One, trying to get closer to the other, the other rather confusingly flattered and amused. Can you guess? Read on ...

India's Olympic Indifference: I read in The Wall Street Journal that India couldn't care less about collecting Gold Medals, or even Copper or Wood medals, at the games, which are becoming, as I see it, a showcase for the comparative merits of various drugs designed to turn athletes into freaky superhuman robots. HaHa! Says the story's writer, Theodore Dalrymple, "It's not that India tried and failed. It did not try. The country does not believe in this nonsense." Love it! Stand up and laugh, you who refuse to fall for all the phoney steroid-enhanced spectacles of fakes and frauds on parade. All of which points to a future when drugs themselves might become an event, with Big Pharma firms competing for the gold. You heard it right here.

Boring Big Show Buffoons: With this years Ringling effort, Dragons, writes a not impressed Chuck Burnes in Circus Report, the funny faces amount to the "Only act in the entire show that doesn't come up to Ringling's historic quality. " Chuck's not too pleased with a minimum of makeup; that doesn't bother me -- I've more and more started to wonder if the old-era overly made up faces are simply, somehow too quaintly grotesque. Maybe it has to do with new generations of clowns seeming out of sync with these masks. Continues Chuck, "I wish I knew just how clowning on this show has seemingly zoomed down to zero ... Most of them just look like the young chorus dancers, they actually are wearing show costumes with clown shoes .... H-E-L-P!" How I'd welcome an unruly invasion of the old-guard Ringling fun makers in their thick greasepaint (yes, on their faces, somehow it worked), each a quirky character. Stress "character."

So getting back to last night, when I tried digging in to enjoy De Mille's great big top flick (I really should lock it up for two years -- it requires patience between the draggy high points -- only 41% on rotten tomatoes -- sorry to pop your balloon), I was struck by the one scene which shows textured direction and acting: Up into the boss's wagon steps Angel (Gloria Grahame), determined to show a more sweet face and win over Brad (Charlton Heston) . She wants to serve him coffee, to pack his pipe -- something, he protests (inside joke?), the boys usually do. Their extended exchange brings out the best acting that Heston probably ever had to offer. You see it in his subtle facial expressions. Grahame, anyway, was a great actress (see In a Lonely Place, among others fine films she made).

That one oh-so-sophisticated scene gives me something definite in the way of drama to look forward to the next time I face the film. Of course, among other fun things -- there is always Klaus (Lyle Bettger), his brooding presence, his pitiful infatuation with Angel; his kindergarten vocabulary utterances --- "Angel!!!" .... "Shut up!" ... "What you say, I do it." I love it the most when Heston kicks him off the lot, that look of disgraced embarrassment on his face as he exits the ring ... Hey, when you've seen this movie as many times as I have, you take inflated pleasure in the tiniest discovery, however momentary ... "Shut up!"

Last night was like that. Maybe, last night, I should have cracked a Peterson Peanut.

2 comments:

Harry Kingston said...

David,
I bet I have watched the DVD of The Greatest Show on Earth hundreds of times.
It being the best circus film ever to me.
The beautiful Technicolor and all the excitement and drama that went with it.
Sure it has good and no so good spots in it.
But captured on Technicolor film is something that we will never see again a real railroad tent circus.
The great circus performers and the largest tent in it's day.
When the film starts with it's Greatest show on earth music you know your in for something great.
If it were not for this movie all I would have is memories of a 7 year old when I saw the 1955 show here in town.
Gone but not forgotten.
Harry in Texas

Showbiz David said...

Hi Hairy,

YOU saw Ringling in 1955? That would mean we share one memory in common -- we both saw Ringling under the big top but once -- '55. You were a little younger than me, so I guess I enjoy an advantage in recall.

I have seen the movie, I'd guess, dozens of times.

You make a good point about the rich Technicolor quality of the film; sometimes just gazing at the wagons on the flat cars, the seat wagons under the tent, etc., gives me a high.