Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tarzan of the Movies 3: THE REVENGE OF TARZAN (1920)

This film was originally supposed to be titled The Return of Tarzan 
(after the novel it was sort of based on) but was changed to Revenge before release.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Forgotten Books: GIRL IN A BIG BRASS BED by Peter Rabe (1956)

Confession time. I didn’t really read the 1965 Gold Medal edition shown here. I read the first novel in the review copy of the Manny deWitt Omnibus (containing Girl in a Big Brass Bed, The Spy Who was 3 Feet Tall, and Code Name Gadget), due to be published next month by Stark House Press (and shown way down below).

I didn’t know what to think at first. The Peter Rabe books I’d read before were crime novels. They were tough and fast moving. Girl in the Big Brass Bed is about a lawyer involved into the world of international big business. It tries to be funny, and the humor slows the pace. So at first, I wasn’t liking it much.

But it grew on me. The trick, as Rick Ollerman reveals in the Introduction, is to slow down and take it as it comes. Once I curbed my impatience, I began to enjoy the story, get into Rabe’s style, and appreciate some of the humor. So it ended up a very enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

The plot involves a Vermeer painting called “Apple Girl,” stolen during the war by Hermann Goering. (This is not the same Vermeer you’ll find online as “Apple Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and is probably fictional.) Manny deWitt’s eccentric and somewhat crazy boss sends him to Munich to bring it back, under extremely secretive and unusual circumstances. Once there, deWitt starts behaving more like a secret agent than a lawyer, which is surely a good thing, and the story moves on to Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Several mysterious individuals in and out of the art world, and representing (or acting in spite) of various governmental agencies, are after the painting, which may or may not be genuine. This results in murder, mayhem and assorted other crimes, with a little time on the side for romance.

DeWitt develops into an intriguing character, often at odds with his boss, but plowing ahead and getting to the truth anyway. And the truth turns out to be pretty cool.

The title, I’m guessing, was wholly the invention of the publisher, and leaves me wondering what Rabe's title was. There’s a brass bed mentioned, and a girl who sleeps in it, but if there was any sex I don’t remember it (and I finished it yesterday), and certainly no nudity or provocative behavior. It was more on the chaste side. It’s sort of a shock that Gold Medal published it anyway.

My takes on deWitt’s follow-up adventures will be coming soon.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Film Funnies: What did Clark, Jimmy and Bing say? (1935)

The wrapper said that to enter, you must provide the answers from any 12 cards (you'll have to wait for 9 more), write a story of 100 words or less about your favorite star, and send your entry to FILM FUNNIES, P.O. Box 7406, Philadelphia, Pa. Prizes include cash, autographed photos and badges. Tell them 1935 sent you. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Forgotten Books: PRISONER'S BASE by Rex Stout (featuring the Missing Chapter and the Mysterious Captain)

1955 - 1st paperback edition, nothing missing here

If you're a Nero Wolfe fan, you've no doubt read Prisoner's Base. The Wolfe books are so good that most folks who read enough to consider themselves fans can't resist reading them all. (If you're not a Nero Wolfe fan, you have a lot of reading to do and should get started immediately, with Fer-de-lance.)

But shockingly, a lot of folks who've read all the books may not have read all the chapters. That's because way back in 1963, Bantam Books screwed up and omitted the final, 1 and 1/2 page Chapter 17 from their new paperback edition of Prisoner's Base. And, apparently, they kept on omitting it for 48 years, with no one getting wise until 2011.

1952 - 1st Edition, has Ch. 17

That, at least, is the story as told on Wikipedia, where Random House (who gobbled it up in 1998) gets the credit for catching the mistake. Did the legions of hardcore Wolfe fans really not notice? Did even Art Scott, for god's sake, fail to spot it? 

I was certainly clueless. My first reading, sometime in the '80s, was one of the faulty editions, and though I acquired a first edition paperback at some point, it was for collecting, not re-reading. In fact, I remained in the dark until a couple of weeks ago, when I was hipped to the jive by well-known Wolfe authority Tough Jim Gaston (thanks, TJ).

1953 - British 1st, has Ch. 17

Is Chapter 17 essential to the story? Nope. The mystery has already been solved. But it's another nice look at the often prickly relationship between Wolfe and Archie, and you deserve to see it. For your convenience, the entire short chapter is provided below.

1963 - New Bantam edition, Ch. 17 goes missing

But first, Mr. Gaston also poses a question about a character seen only briefly and described by Archie in Chapter 6. Archie is sitting in the police station, unsure whether or not he is officially under arrest, and someone comes to remove his handcuffs. Archie credits this to a police captain he appealed to on the previous page. The description goes as follows:

"I don't know his name, but if you ever get stuck in an alcove at headquarters with handcuffs on, ask for a captain around fifty to fifty-five with a big red nose and a double chin, wearing metal-rimmed glasses."

1969 - Ch. 17 still missing

So what do you think? Was Stout playing games here? Any suggestions who that character might be? Despite the fact that Mr. Gaston refuses to accept the perfectly obvious truth that the characters of Wolfe and Archie were inspired by Jeeves and Wooster (Stout waved a big red flag with the names Bertie Wooster and Archie Goodwin), his Wolfean instincts are otherwise good.

1992 - still missing Ch. 17


    One morning the following week Wolfe entered the office at eleven o'clock, got seated at his desk, removed the paperweight from the little stack of morning mail, and took a look.
     One of the office rules is that he is to see all incoming checks, whatever the source, before I stamp the endorsement on them and take them to the bank. That morning there were two. The first one was from a client for whom a confidential errand had been performed two months back. Wolfe put it aside, picked up the second one, frowned at it and then at me, and demanded, “What the devil is this?"
     "You have instructed me," I replied, "never to reply to a rhetorical question, but since it's you who ask it, that is my personal check on the Metropolitan Trust Company, dated today, to your order, for sixteen hundred twenty-four dollars and thirty-seven cents. Do you want me to go further?"
     "You told them that day in the DA's office that I was your client, and I know what you invariably do to clients when you get their job done, especially if you provide fireworks. I have waited ten days for you to soak me, but you have not given me a bill or told me to make one out. With my fingers crossed, which was an ordeal on account of my sore knuckles, I have made out that check for the amount of the expenses you incurred, and there it is."
     He grunted. "Do you remember what I said to Miss Eads about my self-esteem?"
     "I do. I remember everything."
     "Very well, I still have it. It's a costly indulgence, but I choose to keep it." He took the check, with thumbs and forefingers at the middle of its top edge, tore it across, put the halves together and tore again, swiveled, and drop shreds into his wastebasket.
     "Gee, that's wonderful," I said gratefully. "I appreciate that warmly. And knowing how much you value your self-esteem, I want to do all in my power to help you keep it. I myself spent close to two hundred bucks that week—taxis, phone calls, meals for myself and others, incidentals. I haven’t put in an expense account for it, but now I will, since you feel so strongly—"
     "You will not!" he roared. "Not a cent!"
     "Okay." I waved it away. "It's your self-esteem, not mine.”
     He’s a hard guy to please.

1955 - backside of the first paperback