An Excercise In Random Thoughts
Posted by BigWords on December 10, 2009
A recent post at Merrilee Faber’s blog, where you’ll discover the reason why she’s grinning like a loon, put me in mind of a story which has been told and re-told over the years. I’m a big fan of Humphrey Bogart, and there is a tale concerning the car journey on the way to his (only) Oscar win, which bears repeating for the benefit of the kids who have never seen any of his movies. Impossible as it seems, there are people who have gone through their lives having never seen Bogey in action – it ain’t your fault kids, I know how lacking the modern literature on the cinema truly is.
So, the story starts a ways before the big Oscar night, with Humphrey being his usual disdainful self about the awards. Even back then there were folks who saw it as a hollow and gaudy affair, and he loved playing up his tough-guy image. His remarks, not all of which have survived, ran the usual gamut of “I don’t care if I win” to “Why the Hell would anyone waste a vote on me.” Some people would probably blanche at the idea of dismissing one of Hollywood’s few saving graces, but Bogey was a rock star before there were such things. I hand you over to Richard Brooks telling of events from the biography Bogart, picking up the tale in the limo on the way to the ceremony:
It was [Richard] Brooks who broke the silence. “Well, Bogie, when you win the award, what are you going to say?” He said, “I’m not going to win, I don’t want to talk about it, all right? I said, ‘You never know. They don’t give you an aisle seat for nothing.’ He said, “Brando is going to win it, now will you, for Christ’s sake, stop talking about it! Cut it out!’ So we drove in silence again for a while. Finally Nunnally [Johnson] said, ‘Bogie, the guy is trying to help you. How do you know? Let’s just say you’re not to be chosen, but if you are–what are you going to say?’ He said, ‘I don’t know! I’m not going to say anything! There’s nothing for me to say.’
“So,” Brooks continued, “Nunnally asked me, ‘What would you have him say?’ Bogie’s looking out the window, he doesn’t want to hear it. He’s very nervous. I said, ‘You see, they name the five nominees, and the woman is going to say: “And the winner is…” And when she calls your name, like everybody else you’re going to jump out of your goddamn seat, you’re going to run down the aisle, you’re going to run up on stage, you’re going to kiss her and she’ll kiss you–and then you’ll start to thank every son of a bitch in this town, and then you’ll cry and all of that crap. And that’s what you must not do!
“The first thing you do, they call your name, you get up! And you walk down the aisle. Do not run! You get up on stage, don’t run to kiss the broad! They hand you the Oscar. And this is where the acting comes in, Bogie. You look at the Oscar. You look out at the audience over the Oscar’s head. And you wait for a whole minute. Now it’s going to seem like a year. You wait for one minute. Or as long as you can. Say nothing. Then: here’s your speech: “Well–it’s about time.” And walk off the stage.’
I first heard that, or a similar telling, in a documentary about Bogart. I always loved his films, and the “fuck you’ to Hollywood implicit in that moment was on a par with Brando’s later snub. The thing is… Bogey never gave that speech. He bottled it at the last moment, giving in to the excitement and hysteria which winning a piece of badly sculpted, gold-plated crap can bring. That four word speech has long been a favorite of mine, and I fully intend to use it if I win something cool. Maybe I wouldn’t have the balls to use it at something important like the Hugo’s, but at the Oscars? Fuck ’em. If I win an Oscar, I’m stealing that line.
Kirsten is the latest blogger to do a meme on their book of the year (Ben did a good one too), but I can’t say that anything I have picked up in the last year has impressed me as much as a non-fiction book about comics. It’s sacrilege, I know, but The Essential Guide To World Comics by Tim Pilcher and Brad Brooks has left a serious impression on me. I’ve already been picking up some manga, and have quite a few Diabolik issues now, but there is so much that I want to own having seen the extent of good comics. It may be four years old, but having only got my hands on it a couple of months ago, it has gone straight to the top of my favorites list. That is how good it is. Seriously, if you have no idea about comics, you need to own this book.
For fiction… In the last year… Umm… How about I go for the completely obvious, because I really can’t be bothered checking the title pages of the titles lying around here to get the date of first publication. Generation A by Douglas Copeland is sitting within arm’s reach, and it has a very bright cover. Maybe I’m voting it my book of the year because it’s so bright you can’t miss it, but it does have a very clever story to tell, so don’t take my apathy as meaning anything. The book is awesome. Go read.