Dear Millicent,

I would like to offer you thoughtful thoughts on everything, but I’m very warm, and trying to quell general angst, anxiety, and the desire to nap. I wonder with David Foster Wallace (who I sometimes want to call Wallace, and then just go ahead and type it all out), if we have the right to look at his public footage and assume insight. And then, I think how irritated I get when people speak of ‘rights’ like this, because if one is going to go ahead and do it anyways, almost as reflex, the idea of rightness becomes as snide and affected as the “sorry, I don’t have a television” refrain.

I am also still a fusspot about the irritable men of my company. I have no stomach for them (really, no more stomach, and I consider myself a bit of an ironsides, but I am out of acid to digest them with). This leaves me in a wake of worries about success/place in the world/external praise/and understanding of my field. Then I calm down. Then I get worked up. I think I might be an eternal fusspot–one always proclaiming that it is everybody else that is wrong, everybody else that just doesn’t understand. And then (there are lots of thens today), I think of Dawn Weiner, and your description of the control of hate. Are we put in motion (backwards as it maybe) by repulsion. If pulsion, as defined medically, is “a swelling or pushing outward,” is repulsion an active shrinkening? Are we on the verge of imploding? Not creating and expanding, but erasing our initial ferocities?

That’s a bleak one for me, and I don’t want to poke it too much. It might swing me back to the superangst.

Some social questions about Pocketful of Miracles…is the movie’s thesis that goodwill is fine as long as there is no actual social mobility? Everybody rich does quite well by the great charade–the Governor forgives the Mayor for his corruption, the Mayor gets a kiss on the cheek, and they all get the fine warm glow and Christmas cheer of having done something for the sake of help alone. But, then Annie is straight back to the streets, as are her fellow urchins. I almost expected somebody to come up behind her and demand she hand over her gown and borrowed jewels ASAP. Did she drink her gin that night, in her cold hovel, and wish her apples brought something a little more substantial than an expensive kid into town and a nice little game for the upright of New York?

To think of Bette in her full power–I love the quote where a young actress asked her the best way to get into Hollywood, and she said “Take Fountain, dahling.”

To the view from the other side,



Nitpick: The Miracle is That He’s Kissing the Old Apple

First, a fun fact about Glenn Ford, the original Dude, courtesy of the New York Times:

By 1965, his star power [no pun intended] had enabled him to build a luxurious home home in Beverly Hills featuring an atrium over which hung a 900-pound artificial sun. Mr. Ford could switch it on whenever he wanted to feel drenched with light.

I suppose an atrium with artificial sun is even better than one that lets in actual sun.

Nits I picked:

  • Joy Boy’s the narrator at the beginning. It’s Peter Falk’s voice that tells us that “By the second year, the club was a sensation,” and that Queenie was “pretty good.” Why doesn’t Joy Boy give us a grumpy epilogue in which his heart either implodes or grows grows three sizes?
  • Best quote from that VO: “The dude kisses the old apple, but I know better. I kiss the iron doors.”
  • Weird things happening with literacy. Apple Annie’s pretty damn eloquent in her letters, but the high society recruits can’t read. Also, literacy humor: chauffeur guy says “If I could write, I’d be in the navy.”
  • They don’t seem to know what to do with Bette Davis’ character, whose transition from curmudgeonly weirdo drunk to lovely maternal figure boggles the mind.
  • Bizarre portrayal of alcoholism. So real in the hovel, when she’s reading the letter. So strong a theme throughout. Her alcoholism seems to have something to do with her witchy Sybilness:

    “Because the little people like you. You can’t see ‘em. They live in dreams.”

    Once she’s gone ladylike, she reaches for the bottle just once. Yes, at breaking point, but honestly. So much less complex. Not a single attempt at doubletalk? Not one attempted hustle? At least the Judge gets to play “billiards.” For a screwball comedy, there are lots of missed opportunities.

  • Why all the love for Apple Annie from the other “godfathers”? I guess it’s kind of like those “Adopt a Child” campaign, except that the poor are all chipping in to buy stuff for one girl.
  • Kind of unforgivable that the “godfathers” never even get to meet her (not counting the deaf woman who gives her a flower). Unless I missed something—they were riding in a cab at the end, but I didn’t get why.
  • The poster—at the 12 minute mark—of Queenie. Fascinating. Not a nit. Just surprising.
  • Poor Herbie. The only one deprived of a happy ending, and just because he stole her letters for her.
  • Gayness: Yes, there’s Pierre. But what do we make of the fact that Hutchings and the Judge are clearly falling in love? Also, aww, Hutchings.
  • Constant allusions to Cinderella and Snow White. Is this supposed to be the witch from Snow White redone as Cinderella? The Dude snatches Queenie’s shoe during the fight, Apple Annie’s obvious, Hutchings “likes Cinderella stories.” We’re getting beaten over the head with something. Is that something really respect for the desires of the poor and aged?
  • Is this why, even though the focus keeps sliding away from Apple Annie’s story once she gets into the Marberry, the camera keeps trying to yank us back? This is the point, it insists. The whole plot seems to be trying its darndest to honor an old woman’s life ambition. Nice. But 1) it remains a subplot, 2) it’s a clear instrument of the Dude’s growth, 3) it’s doing weird work trying to restore family values to a nutty cast, and 4) it explains why Joy Boy can’t possibly be narrating the thing. Why on earth would Capra start us off with him as the storyteller?
  • Like this list, and as you point out, the movie is SO LONG. I enjoyed it, but it’s something like 140 minutes.

Where Are The Miracles?

1.) The other best part of the strangest goat-belly compared fight scene ever? That after harshly throwing her on the bed (really, not okay–way to hard for a comedy), he says “Queenie! You have one thing coming to me!” and then he rolls her off the bed and they start making out (as you aptly described). I assume he means sex since she has been holding out on him for two years apparently? Maybe because she didn’t want to mix her body in with the debt she was paying off? And even more odd–she looks like she was somehow slipped a muscle relaxer once off the bed–or are we supposed to assume that his kisses are soooooo good that they have the same effect as Valium?

2.) What is wrong with Ann Margaret’s voice? She can’t say her fiance’s family name without slurring, and then the rest of the time she sounds like she is five-year-old. Also–if you had never ever seen your mother before, don’t you think there would be some deeper conversation going on, like “who is my father?” or something?

3.) Bette Davis can’t behave destitute. Her posture is too good.

4.) Was the pacing strangely slow for a comedy? It took forever for the shenanigans to begin. I really wanted the whole movie to be about Queenie in the nightclub. My favorite scene is her jumping around in that silver costume.

5.) David Foster Wallace died. I don’t know where this fits in, but it marked my night. I just watched a Charlie Rose clip from ten years ago, and it all fits strangely into our conversations earlier today. Thoughts?