Friday, March 17, 2017


    When the Anglosphere was actually a more masculine culture, it was often considerable remarkable by foreigners of how Anglo-American men could maintain a seeming levity even in the face of the most desperate circumstances. It was something of a testimony to that era that men had that kind of courage. In a week where we've seen American men sink to the level of Jon Decker's and Jason Pollock's complete public meltdowns, the 'devil-may-care' attitudes of our tougher ancestors should be highlighted.

      This masculine attitude gave rise in mid-20th Century popular culture to a genre called Dark Comedy. Almost all of this genre came from American and British studios. Typically, the story concerned a serious subject, but was interspersed with typically human and understandable comedic or romantic sidelines. A common theme was a hard-boiled detective who used his wits and found time to romance heroines or deal with personal problems along the way. Their foils were usually types who took everything too seriously: bumbling by-the-book police and/or ruthless criminals constantly frustrated by the hero's clever ruses.

       This weekend's recommendation is a specimen of that genre from 1941 titled No Hands on the Clock. It stars Chester Morris---best known for the Boston Blackie series---as private detective Humphrey Campbell and the beautiful Jean Parker as Louise, his newlywed bride.

      So the storyline begins in Nevada, where Campbell has been sent by his boss Oscar Flack to find a runaway girl named Louise. Campbell not only finds her, but marries her too and they elope together for a romantic honeymoon in Reno. The wily Flack tracks the Campbells down and tries to get him to postpone the vacation until he locates a wealthy rancher's missing son. Flack promises Mrs. Campbell that "it will only take a couple of hours" and throws a new mink coat into the bargain.

     Instead of a few hours, Campbell finds a murder scene for which he's framed; and worse still, his picture is in the newspaper and he finds to his chagrin that he also resembles a gang member upon whom the mob has a contract and for whom the FBI is searching. To complicate matters further, his jealous bride has a habit of finding him just when he's questioning another woman. Campbell has to race against the clock to stay one step ahead of the real killer, the vengeful mob, the FBI, and smooth things over with his wife at the same time.

     One thing that characterizes most of Chester Morris' films: nobody dies of boredom watching them.

      The so-called Snowflake Generation that agonizes over 'micro-aggressions' and 'hurtful words' of course can't even relate any longer to the kind of confidence that laughs at desperate situations or the faith that things will work out in the end. This film genre was born from a generation that lived through WW1 and the Great Depression, and whose immediate relatives had survived the US Civil War and the economic turmoil of the Industrial Revolution. WW2, Korea, and the Cold War were on the horizon. It took the best characters that America could produce to rise above and overcome such circumstances---and enjoy the happy things of life in the process. Character portrayals like these are testimony to the resilience, confidence, and faith that characterized a once-great people.

     And it makes refreshing viewing on a St. Patrick's Day weekend that would otherwise be spent with anti-Trump riots; homosexual intrusions into children's parades; and the annual orgy of Catholic-bashing that today accompanies what was once a day to honor an Irish saint. An hour-and-a-half of adventure, fun, and romance is a lot more productive use of one's time.

     Maybe we need an outlook like Humphrey and Louise Campbell possessed. It would certainly make life a lot easier.

      No Hands on the Clock did fairly well at the box office, though ironically it was released less than a week before the Pearl Harbor attack. It is available currently for free viewing on Youtube and also on DVD.

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