The Professionals

I worked at graded a lot of papers, and it made the day seem very long. I was glad to get things done, though. The Spanish teacher down the hall is friendly towards me for some reason. I had a hamburger at Bongo Burger and returned to my work. I was relieved to be done with my late class, and I rushed home. One of my DVD box sets arrived in the mail. I listened to the end of the Giants-Dodgers game. The Dodgers eliminated the Giants from the playoff race, something the A’s couldn’t do over the weekend. I watched “The Professionals,” a Western with Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Jack Palance, and Claudia Cardinale. It was not quite “The Magnificent Seven,” and it wasn’t quite “The Wild Bunch.” Lancaster was still doing physical tasks in movies back then, like using a rope to climb a cliff, and it was pretty impressive. I thought that Lee Marvin was the same person I saw throughout his career in the movies. I didn’t notice any change at all over the years. There certainly was no difference in his acting here and in “The Dirty Dozen.” Robert Ryan was a horse handler. I questioned the need for him in this mission. He sure seemed like a weak link. Jack Palance was Jesus Raza, the man who kidnapped Claudia and took her across the Mexican border. Palance didn’t fit the part, in my eyes, and he didn’t sound the part, although he spoke some Spanish. I liked the look of the movie. Conrad Hall was nominated for an Oscar for his cinematography. I liked seeing the day for night scenes from those old movies. It felt that there wasn’t much to the story. The men are hired, they go through a passage, set off some explosives as a diversion to grab Claudia, and then return. They discover something unexpected about her. Lancaster stays behind at a critical moment to buy some time. The sequence reminded me of Steve McQueen in “The Sand Pebbles.” I’d say it was my favorite part of the movie. We saw a train. The unusual thing was that it went backwards in the sequence. This wasn’t any kind of a landmark Western, but it was enjoyable with its action and stars. It would have been helpful with Claudia Cardinale had been more familiar with the English language because it sounded like she fractured a few sentences. She did a dangerous stunt with a horse and explosives, and it was hard to believe she didn’t get injured. Apparently, Lee Marvin was drunk a lot during the shooting, which Lancaster hated. I didn’t see how Ryan could get shot and not be writhing in pain at the end of the picture. The director was Richard Brooks, who worked on films like “Elmer Gantry,” “Lord Jim,” and “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” but I felt that his best film was “In Cold Blood.” The special features on the DVD included a discussion about Burt Lancaster. I didn’t know that he was in a movie called “The Swimmer.” I wished that I had gone into the Westside Pavilion on the one day Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas were filming a scene there for “Tough Guys.” Lancaster had health problems during the 1980s but managed to be in “Atlantic City,” “Local Hero,” and “Field of Dreams.” He had a stroke in 1990 and died in 1994. I wonder what those last four years were like. I found the ending of “The Professionals” somewhat flat. It reminded me of one of those private detective stories where the private detective doesn’t get the money in the end. I had the feeling that Lancaster viewed himself as a movie actor as a professional like his character, ready to do outrageous things, feeling like he’s getting had much of the time, and just fulfilling his contract before going his own way. The characters in the Western were like the superheroes of their day. Each had his skill. I can’t name too many actors these days who make a vivid impression like Lancaster, Marvin, and Ryan did years ago. Some of the people who died on September 30 include James Dean (1955), Mary Ford (1977), Edgar Bergen (1978), Simone Signoret (1985), and Patrick White (1990). Today is a birthday for Marion Cotillard (40), Barry Williams (61), Laura Esquivel (65), Marilyn McCoo (72), Angie Dickinson (84), and Elie Wiesel (87). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for September 30, James Dean died in a car accident in 1955 at age 24. In 1991, the PBS game show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” made its debut. Today is Marilyn McCoo’s 72nd birthday and Johnny Mathis’ 80th birthday. My picks for the Biggest Jerks of September 2015 are: 5. Greg Popovich, 4. Carly Fiorina, 3. Jonathan Papelbon, 2. Kim Davis, and 1. Donald Trump.

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