Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday’s sticky note

The second of what will ultimately be six reviews of the films in the Whistler series is up this morning at the Radio Spirits blog, timed to coincide with the airing of these wonderful B-programmers every Saturday morning this month at 10:45am on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™.  This week (September 8) it’s The Power of the Whistler (1945), which, although a slight notch below the quality of the first two films (The Whistler and The Mark of the Whistler), is still an enjoyably suspenseful mystery, with series star Richard Dix as an amnesiac getting help from a concerned Janis Carter…although her sister, played by Jeff Donnell, isn’t particularly convinced that’s a good idea.

One of the players in Power of the Whistler that unfortunately does not receive screen credit is Nina Mae McKinney, a charming and talented African-American actress many might know from the 1929 all-black musical Hallelujah!  Sadly, because there was little opportunity for McKinney to get movie roles that didn’t require her to wear some sort of maid’s uniform back then, her movie resume is understandably brief—but when she did land a meaty part, she ran with it and never looked back.  Her role as Leonie, the manager of the hotel in the pre-Code classic Safe in Hell (1931) is a marvelous example, and she also appeared in such films as Sanders of the River (1935), Reckless (1935), Dark Waters (1944) and Pinky (1949).  Her screen time is limited in Power but she leaves an impression all the same.

Also in Power is our old friend Tala Birell, whom you’ll remember as faux Swedish botanist Dr. Elise Bork in the excruciatingly boring Jungle Queen (1945), a serial featured on Serial Saturdays that took me two years to get through.  Birell does get mentioned in the cast credits (she plays a ballerina); she is McKinney’s employer.  Oh, and just to demonstrate the stupefying serendipity that surrounds the world of classic film:

The ever-present Cy Kendall (who appeared with Birell in Jungle Queen) is in this one, too—as a druggist who’s reluctant to answer Donnell’s questions.

When my mother and father moved to Athens from Savannah in August of 2008, she announced that she desperately wanted to get a library card from the Classic City’s public library—because she could no longer afford to shell out money for the latest Patricia Cornwell novels.  It took her four years to accomplish this (the Shreve family credo should definitely be “I’m workin’ on it”) but two Mondays ago she finally made the pilgrimage to the Athens-Clarke County Library and made her dreams come true.  (I accompanied her on her quest, because I had a little bit of research I wanted to do on my own.)

We obtained library cards with very little effort…the problem occurred when Mom wanted to get some books to check out, and the adult section was upstairs.  The library is currently in a state of renovation, so you do occasionally have to dodge a workman or two—and the regular elevator is out of order, which means you have to hike towards the back of the building to use the auxiliary “lift,” as they call it across the pond.

I didn’t go upstairs right at that instant mainly for two reasons: a) I am not the poster boy for physical fitness, and those stairs looked as if they might rob me of some wind, and b) I discovered that the library had a not-too-shabby DVD rental section that I had planned to avail myself with until Mom walked over and snorted, “Yes, because God knows you don’t have nearly enough DVD’s at home.”  (I don’t know where she gets that sarcasm, by the way.)  Well, I was eventually going to have to make the trip upstairs anyway because that’s where the reference section was located…so I told Mom: “Follow the signs leading to the auxiliary elevator, and I’ll meet you upstairs.”

I arrive on the landing midpoint on the stairwell, preparing to tackle the second flight…and I see Mom trudging up behind me.  “I couldn’t find the elevator,” she whines.  Well, now we’re in for a penny, in for a pound—so we finish the climb and as I predicted, I was sucking up more oxygen than usual.  I noticed with some amusement that there were a couple of raggedy-looking homeless characters asleep in some chairs on the second floor…and I joked to Mom: “They must have taken the stairs, too.”

Well, as it turns out—the library couldn’t help me with what I was looking for…so by the time we were ready to leave, Mom had located a couple of books she wanted to read and we made our way back downstairs.  (The next day, she complained all afternoon about how her legs hurt.)  Mom’s a pretty fast reader, so she had both books devoured by last Friday…and though she had planned simply to return the books, she ended up checking out four more.  (She finally found the elevator, by the way.)  But it looks as if I’m going to have to show her how to access the library online, so she can perhaps have them hold whatever books she wants in future instead of trudging up the stairs again or riding the elevator (she hates elevators because she’s claustrophobic).  And as God as my witness, there will be some DVDs checked out on the next trip.

1 comment:

Elisson said...

Richard Dix, strangely enough, began his career as a urologist.

Yes, indeedy: Dick Dix, the Dick Doc.