Tortilla Flat

I still have not adjusted to Daylight Saving Time. I watched the morning news and ate my breakfast cereal with raspberries and blackberries before I left for the office. I felt drowsy all day and felt relieved when it was time to go home. I had to take a nap. I watched “Tortilla Flat,” the old movie with Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, and John Garfield. The director was Victor Fleming, famous for “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind.” The film was based on the novel by John Steinbeck. I did like the California setting, although we don’t get to see much of it around Monterey. I wouldn’t say that this was one of the notable performances from Spencer Tracy. When he has to speak with a different accent, it’s not too convincing. I also can’t imagine him as the lazy and conniving type. The characters are colorful but not too smart. I don’t like to see people wallowing in their mediocrity. It always brings to my mind “The Iceman Cometh.” I kept thinking that about twenty years after this film, Tracy would be in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Hedy Lamarr was a very intelligent woman. I thought she had a pretty face in some of the shots. Her character worked in a cannery. I thought it was funny that she received a vacuum cleaner as a gift even though her home didn’t have electricity. That’s not what you could call a thoughtful gift. I thought of John Garfield as a man caught in dark plots like “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” The death of his grandfather sets things in motion for this story because he inherits two houses. It was funny how all these paisanos were out to get gallons of wine. They also didn’t want to get tied down by women, or at least Tracy didn’t. One of the good cast members was Frank Morgan, who played The Pirate here, but was a holdover from a previous Victor Fleming movie. Of course, he was The Wizard in “The Wizard of Oz.” He was the most likeable person in this movie because he had those dogs, and he was so vulnerable and trusting. Sheldon Leonard was someone we would see in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Most of the time I wasn’t rooting for Garfield to win over the love interest, but he did make the effort to earn some money through some hard work. This was the type of story where friends sabotage each other’s plans and they may end up fighting, but it’s played for humor as if it’s a John Ford or William Wyler film. Pilon nearly goes too far with his scheme of taking The Pirate for his money. If the man collects a quarter a day for three weeks, then he must have a substantial stash somewhere. Religion enters the picture, though, and even Pilon has to pray when he’s desperate. It’s an old-fashioned movie, but not all in the best ways this time. I thought that Pilon and his friends would be extremely dirty with unbearable body odor, but in the movies in the 1940s, they can’t be too disgusting. I wondered how houses would catch fire without the situation going out of control. I thought of Sissy Spacek’s house in “Badlands.” When I was in school, I read a lot of John Steinbeck’s books. “The Grapes of Wrath” was a true classic, but the only other movie adaptation that made any kind of an impression on me was “East of Eden,” largely because of James Dean. What I wanted to see was a good film version of “The Pearl.” “Tortilla Flat” was a movie that I wished had been in color. I can think of places like Monterey only in color. Hedy was supposed to be a girl who moved into the area from Salinas. She had a good scene in which she takes care of a sick baby. The attempts of these people to get through life are rather touching. Movies like “Tortilla Flat” are not great, but they do offer something worthwhile, giving you something to think about in your life. Pilon certainly had an interesting philosophy with his rejection of material possessions. He nearly made homelessness seem colorful and fun. The trailer for the movie made it seem completely different. I have wanted to see “Cannery Row” for a long time, and I thought it was too bad that Raquel Welch did not appear in it. Hedy Lamarr was an inventor, creating a frequency-hopping system. She was arrested for shoplifting in 1966 and in 1991. She tried plastic surgery, with bad results. She died in Casselberry, Florida on January 19, 2000 at age 85. One of the best things in “Tortilla Flat” was the song “Ay, Ay, Paisano!” It was a catchy tune. After the movie ended, I watched The Big Bang Theory. The gang dressed up for a New Year’s Eve costume party as the Justice League of America with Penny as Wonder Woman. Sheldon was The Flash, and Leonard was the Green Lantern. I read through the graphic novel version of “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” One of the things that was missing was the secret transportation in London. Also, there was no training exercise with the flooding room and no visit to a church. The graphic novel also did not have the princess. When I thought of the movie, it had some very good things in it. I think I would have liked it better, though, if the main characters were Americans. I don’t know why we think that the British have such great spies. The Twilight Zone episode of the night was about a pilot who flew into a cloud and traveled in time. The best Twilight Zone episode that involved a plane had William Shatner in it. Another episode involved time travel into the past with dinosaurs. I also remember one with a plane that landed with nobody on board. I’ve been trying for a long time to find “Strohfeuer” on DVD in Region 1, but with no success. It would also be great to have “The Pedestrian,” “Les Violons du Bal,” and “Once in Paris.” I feel that I’m running out of time to get some of these movies. I might not live long enough to replace my DVDs with Blu-ray discs or something in a format with higher definition. Some of the people who died on March 10 include Harriet Tubman (1913), Ray Milland (1986), Andy Gibb (1988), Ross Hunter (1996), LaVern Baker (1997), Lloyd Bridges (1998), Dave Stevens (2008), and Corey Haim (2010). Today is a birthday for Sharon Stone (57) and Chuck Norris (75). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for March 10, Simon and Garfunkel recorded “The Sound of Silence” in 1964. In 1966, the Beach Boys recorded the instrumental section of “God Only Knows” at United Western Recorders in Hollywood. In 1995, “Outbreak,” starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Patrick Dempsey, Donald Sutherland, and Kevin Spacey, was released.

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