Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Casey Anthony and the Hollywood Stoners

In THEY WONT FORGET (1937) a frenzied mob takes the law into their own hands after the hottest girl in town is murdered and the ambitious local D.A. (Claude Rains) spurs it all on the with the help of an unscrupulous journalist. The murdered girl Lana Turner in her film debut and the camera catches her every tight sweater bounce as she struts through the blindly celebratory Memorial day crowd before her death. Audiences remembered that bouncing sweater, not so much the grisly murder, just as it is forgotten within the film as lynching fever takes hold and right there one must shudder at America's cold, lusty, lethal gaze. How implicated are we in the audience via the fact Lana's sweater bounce won her fame and fortune via the ultimate in sacrificial volcano virgin unwilling martyrdom?

FURY (1936), THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943), and THEY WON'T FORGET (1937) were recently shown back-to-back on TCM, a lynch mob triple feature; it may be some wise old programmer's subliminal nod to the crazy mobs outside Casey Anthony's trial. Just as in the stacked deck of rube eggin' in OX-BOW, with Fonda in his pious 12 ANGRY MEN lecture mode:  "Hangin's any man's business that's around," in Casey's case it's everyone's business regardless of being around. Old Henry delivers his OX-BOW recitations well, but I actually preferred old Ma Joad (here the bad guy) to the blubbering lynch victim: "Keep yer chin up. You only die once, son."  Yeah, don't we wish?

Did people outside of the liberal media elite (Oscar voters) ever want to see these films? What's the hook in lynch mob message pictures? Even the media elite shouldn't want to actually pay money to sit down in a theater and learn how skeezy and easily led the throngs around them in the audience are. If there is a fire in the theater you begin to suspect you would surely get trampled on your way to the exit. But at the same time, they are riveting, compelling viewing, and that's the answer: nothing gets us feeling personally involved, gives us the feeling something is at stake, than an abused, missing, or murdered child. Hollywood films aren't crammed with revenge against sleazy pedophiles and ruthless kidnappers for nothing. When films like THEY WON'T FORGET come around they're like Hollywood's chance to preach against what the studios themselves practice, the anti-liberal backlash mob action they both cause with their rabid headlines and tut tut with their sober message movies.

Lynch mobs seem less abundant in an age where we don't need a marriage license to check into a hotel room and are allowed to marry people of other races, but the repressed, frustrated ugly main street populace still haven't fought for the right to party, and still get mad at those who do. Now, instead of Claude Rains' fame-hungry D.A. we have Nancy Grace, tireless in her hounding the accused mom, Casey Anthony. When a child's involved it's the business of any accusatory hysteric that's around, and when it's a dead blonde girl child and the mom looks good even in the harsh overhead lighting of the courtroom; and--something even more shocking for the strictly sober Christian wives out there--you can show pictures of her orgymongering, that's where careers like Grace's are made. 

The three anti-vigilante violence films TCM screened all get a royal four stars from the obedient Leonard Maltin, which is not surprising. They're all well done enough to be solidly entertaining despite the sermons but the liberals of the Hollywood media aren't necessarily right just because they can make a movie about people being wrong. The liberal media has never hid its contempt for the red state working man. Just show an American flag, some jeans, a cowboy hat, an endangered toddler, a sixer of beer and, as far as New York's advertising elite are concerned, the suckers are hooked.  The game is just as fixed in FURY as it is on Fox News, as fixed in Stanley Kramer's films as it is at a carnival pitch game.

Still, my rage at these cretins FURY director Fritz Lang depicts is so blazing it threatens to engulf me, even though I know it's a fixed game, even though I know that Lang hates them more than I ever could, and if my rage is so easily inflamed, how much better am I than the mob? Just because I am more 'educated' and 'debauched' I may feel I am free to join Fritz Lang in his cosmopolitan revulsion towards the provincial reactionaries of these films, whom he considers little better than the Nazis he left behind in Vienna, whom he considers as sheepdogs for whom the law is like a leash, roping them by the neck to a master they hate and fear. With the leash comes off they only answer to the general consensus of the rumor mill which is by nature predisposed towards exaggeration and a common enemy, and which has no sense of future responsibility.

And nothing blinds oneself to one's own faults quite like rage, awareness of one's own inner struggle is the only way to survive it. How many of our evil transgressions were done to impress someone, even if they only spoke to us through radio or TV? How much are we owed, we think, for the stress we feel assuming responsibility for events that have nothing whatever to do with us? Next time, let us think of Claude Rains in THEY WONT FORGET, a man smart enough to know that mobs don't want truth, they want blood, and who gives it to them. Let us try, in the heat of the moment, to never cast even the second stone... without first stoning... ourselves... let us not condemn drugs until we have tried them. Let us not condemn the mob without first knowing the terrifying thrill of bloodlust belonging.

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