Friday Video: What’s The Matter, Othello?

A Bedford Falls Splash from Past

I’ve been thinking about this scene from IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1947) lately for two reasons. The first is that I’m doing some historical research for a client that centers on a 1928 high school basketball team, and this reminded me that George Bailey’s kid brother was a class of ’28 high school graduate and how much the fashions, haircuts, and faces in this film look right for 1928 based on the period newspaper stories and yearbook photos I’ve been reading.

The other reason has to do with another one of my projects that deals with cinematic storytelling. The performances, the editing, and the directing are superb, but this deceptively fun and simple flashback of Twentieth Century Americana is also a nifty bit of screenwriting by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Frank Capra (who may have also directed the film). It sets up the conflicts and themes of the rest of the film, but it’s done so skillfully that we’re having too much fun to see the writers laying the pipe.

I’m probably going to write more about this scene in a few months, but for now, let’s join join the festivities at Bedford Falls High School prom dance, already in progress…

Friday Video: Bruno Bozetto

Bruno Bozetto’s kitty does a sad waltz through memories.

This Friday’s video is a exquisite segment from 1976’s ALLEGRO NON TROPPO, written, directed, and produced by the great Italian director, Bruno Bozzetto.

The film is a surreal and irreverent parody of Disney’s FANTASIA and, like the Disney classic, is an anthology of short films that matches moving images with classical music to tell a tight story or evoke a mood in the course of a few minutes. The colorful animated segments are framed by black and white live action behind-the-scenes interludes featuring an enslaved “animator”(played by Italian comic actor, Maurizio Nichetti), the “orchestra,” comprised of octogenarian women, most of whom are one high note away from the grave, a bullying conductor, and a slick, glib announcer who has never heard of this “Prisney” fellow.

When this film was initially released wide in the U.S., I was immediately smitten and saw it seven times during its original run, often dragging friends and family to see it. In a just world, this film would have launched Bozetto’s feature film career, but it flopped. He returned to doing animated shorts and continues to animate. Ah, but what could have been.

While some ALLEGRO NON TROPPO segments go for a laugh, others tackled deeper ideas and commentary or matched the emotions of the music with animated imagery. That’s exactly what this video does with the Sad Waltz by Jean Sibelius.

Friday Video: Eddie Cantor

Eddie Cantor likes the sheikh, he likes his daughter, but he prefers her…

Here’s a bit of popular entertainment from nearly eighty-eight years ago. This is Eddie Cantor singing and dancing the “Okay, Toots” number in KID MILLIONS (1934).

The movie is a trifle, a musical about a Brooklyn ne’er-do-well who inherits 77 million in depression era dollars and must travel to Egypt to claim. On the way, he encounters a sheikh and his amorous daughter. In the number, Cantor resists temptation from the sheikh’s neglected wives, exalts his Brooklyn and the steadfast nature of his love for her, and puts the sheikh’s daughter in her place.

It’s hokey as hell, culturally insensitive, and firmly embraces a more patriarchal view of women. Still, thanks to the clever wordplay of the song (by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson) and Eddie Cantor’s charisma and energy as a performer, I can’t help but love it. A relic of an earlier time, but an enjoyable one, nonetheless.

Friday Video: George Booth

One of the greatest New Yorker cartoonist of all time.

I’m going to leap feet first into deep unknown chasm known as 2022 by launching a new weekly feature where I post an inspiring or interesting video.

Today’s video is THE DRAWING LIFE WITH GEORGE BOOTH, a New Yorker documentary directed by Nathan Fitch that profiles the prolific George Booth, w who, at 95 years old, is the oldest living cartoonist to contribute actively to The New Yorker magazine. As noteworthy as that might be, what’s truly phenomenal about this film is the glimpse into Booth’s creative process. You would be hard-pressed to find a better model for your own creativity than George Booth.

A Tale of Child Care and Bomb Threats

WARNING: Authority Will Become Explosive When Challenged

There’s an article at with the headline, “Colleges say campuses can reopen safely. Student and faculty aren’t convinced,” and it reminded of something I witnessed over thirty years ago. I used to manage a bookstore at a community college that didn’t have enough enrollment to fill all the classroom space available. Consequently, a portion of the college’s decaying lower campus was leased as classrooms to a local high school district that had the opposite problem of a student population overflowing beyond the capacity of its schools. In addition to a few hundred high school students, the college’s lower campus also hosted a day care center, an underused cafeteria, a few minor administrative offices, and the bookstore where I worked.

One Spring day, everyone from the lower campus – college employees, high school students, and daycare children and staff — were evacuated to the parking lot due to a bomb threat. To be honest, this wasn’t that serious a threat since it was finals week for the high school students (finals for the college came a few weeks later). Still, the fire department spent a couple hours searching the lower campus where the “bomb” was supposedly located before declaring it safe.

All of that is background and context. What stays in my mind is an incident I witnessed in the parking lot.

About half an hour into the evacuation, the building and playground for the day care center search was finished, and the fire department moved on to search other buildings and trailers. One of the college’s assistant VPs then told the head of the day care center to move the children from the parking lot back to the day care center which was located on the edge of the lower campus next to the parking lot.

She politely (and sensibly) declined to do so, and he would have hit the ceiling if he hadn’t been standing in an open air parking lot. His fragile administrative male ego was threatened by this woman’s commitment to the safety of the children in her care. He “directed” (“directed” being a key managerial verb when writing up an employee for insubordination) her to follow his order, and she bravely refused.

A couple things to keep in mind.

When Dr. Fragile Administrative Male Ego (Dr. FAME for short) gave this order, the fire department was still searching the building where the bookstore and other offices were located. This building stood snugly along the edge of the playground and had yet to receive the all clear. Think of the keen judgement in play that lead Dr. FAME to order employees and children back into an area right next to a building being searched for a bomb.

The other aspect of this incident worth noting was that at no time during this incident, did Dr. FAME suggest or show any willingness on his part to go with the children himself to the day care facilities. He was ordering this women to risk her life and the lives of the children and her employees while he safely stayed in the parking lot to… I don’t know, “supervise” or something.

The incident ended with Dr. FAME loudly threatening to write her up and stomping off to pout when she continued to refuse. No bomb was found, and we all returned to our workplaces a couple hours later.

I’d like to share a little background about Dr. Fame. The bulk of his administrative career had been spent at another community college in the district where his incompetence, stupidity, and conflicts with staff and faculty were so obvious and egregious, that the district leaders took swift and decisive action to… transfer him to my campus.

This was this was standard operating procedure for dealing with incompetent administrators in the district. Some mediocrities spent decades failing sideways to other campuses before safely retiring with a cushy pension, leaving a wide swath of poorly run campuses and bungled leadership in their wake. I consider the select class of college deans, assistant deans, vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, and presidents that belong to this sideways failure club — never fired and unassailable from consequences. I also think of the quality and nature of their leadership and decision-making skills.

And the fact that people like them are probably the ones insisting that their college or university will be safe to reopen.


Overheard #3: Of Books, Benjamin, and Buxom Babes

A tale from my past as an assistant manager for a discount book chain

Thirty-six years ago, this letter was printed in the Los Angeles Times Book Review section. I can verify that this is a true story because I was one aisle away shelving books and heard every word.

Further, I can confirm the manager of the Santa Ana CrownBooks deliberately hired an attractive and extremely large-bosomed seventeen year-old blonde for exactly the reason cited in the last sentence of the letter.

When I quizzed Bill on why he hired someone who showed no interest in books during her interview, he explained without shame, “If I hire a ugly girl and she can’t do the job, I’m stuck looking at an ugly girl. If I hire her and she can’t do the job, at least I have something sexy to look at.”

(Yes, it was exactly as creepy then as it sounds now.)

She was a nice enough kid, but an un-trainable ninny. Bill, of course, dumped her on to my shift where I had to do my work plus all the work that a real book clerk would normally handle. Luckily, she could just barely handle basic cash-handling, so I could stick her at the cash register where this happy interaction occurred.

The young lady in question is now in her early fifties. Her name had fled my memory, but her mammaries loom large in her legend.