Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, January 03, 2005


A few days before Christmas I mentioned Frank Capra's Meet John Doe and the Baby Jesus Christmas episode of Dragnet, among other Christmas movies and TV shows. On Christmas Eve I saw the Dragnet episode, broadcast by channel 4 without commercial interruption, pre-empting the local news. I'd gotten a few details wrong in my post -- the priest has a Spanish name, not Anglo, though he speaks un-accented English; and the boy doesn't smile until the very end -- in fact, he's afraid he might go to hell because he's borrowed the Baby Jesus without permission. The priest tells him, in uncaptioned Spanish (my beloved spouse translated, as I don't know Spanish), "No, Jesus loves you very much." The boy had prayed to the Baby Jesus for a red wagon and promised Him the first ride in it if he got one, and he got one.

"Meet John Doe" isn't as powerful as "Wonderful Life" or other Capra movies from the era ("Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"); it's also darker than the rest. What stood out was the wonderful Edward Arnold (who was younger in the movie than in this photo) as faux-populist quasi-fascist tycoon D. B. Cooper. Pre-saging the careers of countless radio and TV shouting heads, he lied shamelessly, falsely pretended to be for the common man ("the John Does of the world"), and when publicly confronted with reality he relentlessly shouted it down. Capra had the type nailed, and the type is faring much better in today's America than it did in his movie.

In other, cheerier, 10th-day-of-Christmas news, I'm happy to tell you that composer and blogger Marcus Maroney has a wonderful post on classical Christmas music.

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