Oldie Noir: Killers

DATELINE: Hemingway Classic

Burt Lancaster Awaits the Grim Reapers.

 

A late 1940s film noir version of “The Killers” made author Ernest Hemingway wince. He was hypercritical of the Hollywood versions of his novels and stories.

Yet, the star vehicle for Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster used the first twenty-minutes to tell the short story. The rest is Hollywood explanations that have nothing to do with Hemingway except to build off his message.

The original dark opening seems to tell an inexplicable tale of a gas station attendant who is hunted down by two hired gunmen. Instead of running when he is warned, he simply waits for the inevitable killing.

When asked why he won’t flee, he gives the ultimate Hemingway man’s answer. There comes a time when you stop running because it doesn’t matter in the end.

The moody and eerie tale is brilliantly directed by Robert Siodmak and were it a short subject could have been a masterpiece after the killers climb the boarding house stairs and let their bullets fly.

Young Burt Lancaster is suitably tough and handsome, as you’d want you hero, but he is antiheroic in not fighting. The rest of the movie is a pathetic attempt to flashback to his roots and how he upset the mobsters.

Quiet nighttime moments in an old-fashioned diner and the ominous sense the Swede’s friends have about the mystery visitors is all part of the philosophical insight of the author.

Many questions about the Swede are raised and there are no answers. It was always the style of Hemingway to omit key information: you fill in the blanks. Sometimes if you have enough questions, they provide an answer. The central mystery of the Swede is explained in banal terms during the remainder of the movie.

Heminway gives you suspense in the anticipation of answers, but you will be thwarted and left to your own devices to figure out the moral of the story.

 

 

White Stone, Gold Finch, Good Fortune

DATELINE: Sweet Augurs

You may come to wonder how serendipity causes a trio of augurs to show up on your doorstep in one week.

Here, at my haunted home, there is never a doubt that serendipity is the direct action of some spirits from another dimension.

In the grand scheme of good portents of the future, we have been quite lucky to find these arriving:  the colors are as spectacular as the items. Gold and white: symbols of positive energy.

After a tropical deluge, we discovered a flat white piece of quartz sat alongside the driveway where it was not a day before. We might think it washed across a lawn and deposited itself in a visible spot.

We might think, like frogs dropping in a rainstorm, the small white stone dropped like manna from heaven, however un-gravitational the theory is.

We do know that 100 years ago a previous resident of my neighborhood was an inveterate rock collector at age 10.  He went seeking geological anomalies around the pathways. When he moved to Waikiki Beach in 1900, he went climbing Diamond Head searching for volcanic stones.

Percy was his name, and it almost feels as if Percy may have left his calling card in the flat white stone. It came to us like something from his collection.

If white quartz has any special meaning, experts of the occult will tell you it opens your mind to receiving and learning new ideas. It also has the power of patience in its feel and look; you will not be less than tactful in dealing with the world.

Above all else, you can thank white quartz, discovered by accident, to create situations not limited by stressful responsibilities.

These are the points of wisdom from centuries of soothsayers and fortune tellers. For an oldster, the white quartz likely will improve memory and concentration, not small feats.

Not long after came the next augur of something special.

We’ve never been one to believe in totem animals as our patron. Yet, having lived in urban areas for decades, to find Nature outside the window in summer has been illuminating.

We have never seen a gold finch in person and up close until now. And, twice in a week, the itsy bird with the black-tipped wings has flown up to the window as I sip coffee and gaze out.

The first visit he stayed longer and peered at me, and the next he seemed to check on my well-being later in the day.

Again, those purveyors of prophecy will tell you that the gold finch holds special symbolism.

The gold finch is known to bring with his visit the promise of brighter days and the insurance of achieving your dreams.

It seems the gold finch chooses you and presents you with his gift to appreciate beauty and art. If you are on your journey to spiritual well-being, you will find the talent to be what you need to become, no matter how old you are.

How can the appearance of these three augurs be an accident of fate? They seem part of a larger haunting spirit that stays in this enchanted home where I now live.

If ever I wondered why I found this place and why I am here, it no longer matters. A force has engulfed me in my new and final phase of life.

One moment seldom defines a lifetime unless you happen to be on the Titanic, at Gettysburg, or in the Alamo. Some spirits are enhanced by these fateful occurrences. If you are lucky, you may find a guide to take you along their mystical journey across time and space.

On the Offence with Sean Connery

 DATELINE: Endeavour Predecessor!

Back in 1972, Sean Connery did not want to play James Bond: to arrange for him to do another film on 007 romp, Connery insisted he be allowed to play a disturbed police detective based on a dark and depressing play called The Offence.

The movie showed off Connery as a powerful actor, but was a box-office fizzle. Audiences were not ready to see James Bond in a dubious psychologically damaged role. The film remains topical and fascinating: it deals with a police sergeant detective in London who cracks up while investigating another hideous child molester case (shades of Jeffrey Epstein).

With its disturbing lead character finally at wit’s end, his response is police brutality and murder that is ripped out of the headlines of 2020 without the racial angle. It’s directed by Sydney Lumet, no less.

The film mirrors Endeavour, the PBS series, set at the same time of early 1970s, now dealing with police like Fred Thursday at the end of their rope, having to face brutality and violence day-after-day. Endeavouris accurate for the feeling and style of police work in those days.

One may have sympathy for these benighted knights of crime, but they have lost the ability to make good decisions.

Trevor Howard shows up to match Connery in an interrogation scene as the chief constable of Scotland Yard. Their acting in tandem is remarkable, but the film is depressing and unpleasant as it details the reasons why the police sergeant kills a child molester while he is in police custody.

If this is to be recommended for its relevance, it is to be watched with a barf bag handy. You will likely be unhappy to see Connery’s license to kill, in this role, is not for espionage fun. This is a dark, stark, cruel movie.

 

 

Norman Mailer: American Something or Other

DATELINE: Great Writers?

Norman, is that you?

We confess that we never had much regard for Norman Mailer during his lifetime. He was an Ernest Hemingway wannabe without style or class. He was the Nixon of writers.  He reveled in the cult of personality over writing talent. However, there was no denying he was a writer: he never wavered in writing novels, journalism, history, biography, and social commentary.

Unlike many writers, he was prolific and constant in his commitment. He loved writing from his days at Harvard and like Gore Vidal, he might have gone off track now and then as an actor, film director, or even candidate for political office. He always returned to writing.

He used his fame and fortune as a writer to open every door he could: he had six wives and a passel of children. He had the buzz off money that most people envy. He could tell anyone, big or small, famous or infamous, to go to hell. He did it his way. His success with The Naked and The Dead made him rich and famous, but he was a critical target after that. He became an insulting drunkard.

In a world where you might admire talent or special ability, he never thought much of any of it. He said and did what he wanted. He was independent and might stick a fork in a snarling lion if it behooved him. He stabbed his second wife, nearly killing her, and faked insanity and begged her not to press charges. What a tool.

Gore Vidal could berate him to face and he shrugged it off. He would bait a Dick Cavett audience and sneer back at their hostility. He was larger than life.

Should we admire him now that he was been gone 20 years or so? He wrote marvelous books on Marilyn and Oswald that stand up to researchers still.

He won a couple of Pulitzers for taking on capital punishment and the Vietnam War. He was fearless and cocky. We never liked him, but in his dotage we have come to recognize our own dotage. It does not change that he was reprehensible.

Endeavour Takes Turn for Worse

 DATELINE: Unpleasant Developments

 Morse, We Hardly Knew Ye! 

In this abbreviated seventh season, the second or middle part of the trilogy of related chapters will continue to indicate to us something bad has happened to the psyche of Endeavour Morse, our stalwart and brilliant young detective.

Perhaps the constant and unrelenting crimes of violence are having a terrible effect on all the characters. Well, in a thoughtful series like Endeavour, this means your characters are developing into something you may not like.

The three major characters (including James Bradshaw as the amusing coroner) watch a woman view her teenage son on the morgue slab and go mad with denial that he is dead. Not pleasant stuff for our hardened police.

In this case, we saw veteran Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) finally fed up with murders and cruel treatment people inflict on each other. When the old cynical pro goes obsessive, you know that he will have a more divisive relationship with his sergeant Morse (Shaun Evans) likely to destroy their relationship.

The overlap of the first episode is that Thursday still believes another man killed young waitress Molly. He is now obsessed, trailing the suspect off hours when another is going on trial for the crime.

We see more of Morse’s personal beliefs than ever before: He opines the “dead deserve justice,” as to why he does a job he dislikes. He also admits he is not the forgiving type (which we think may include forgiving himself). He loses his moral scruples at last and in disappointing fashion, going after the married woman after all.  Well, actually she goes after him with wanton disregard for her millionaire husband.

Morse’s quondam friend, the woman’s husband, we suspect, knows all about this and has been observing. We will find out in the final episode of the season whether our detective skills are up to Morse’s level. He seems not to see it.

The show is overlaid with racism against Pakistani immigrants in 1970, and cruel violence even among themselves in their diaspora. We were reminded of the old chestnut movie, My Beautiful Lauderette, from the 1980s that also covered the Pakistani prejudice in England.

If this is how the show will ultimately evolve, we may at long last lose our taste for the characters and the series, whether it returns for an eighth season or not. Morse’s moral scruples have been compromised and that is never a good sign for heroic TV detectives.

Author, Author: Go Away!

DATELINE: Unwanted Gifts

 Latest Affront to Gifting.

A friend kindly scoffed at me for a bad habit.

He claimed how I had a tendency to give away gifts to people who did not necessarily want them. He was referring to my bad habit to bestow a copy of one of my books to people who have been nice to me.

I usually inscribe them with thanks for some generic kindness. It is, I am told, not appreciated because I have given people something that they cannot repay or reciprocate.

Well, okay. I realize that not everyone can write a book and return a copy to me in standoff fashion. However, I thought that providing a free, gratis copy of a personal creation would qualify as an act of generosity, not as a slap with my velvet glove.

However, my friend argues that it is not that at all: it is a brazen show of ego.

Well, you can knock me over with a dust-jacket. I would never have thought that giving a personal gift would be construed as an act of selfishness. In fact, I always thought the creative process was something to be shared.

Alas, if you share it with those who have no appreciation, no interest, or no good manners, the writer of a book may well deserve to have the gift accepted without thanks or acknowledgement.

I often note that I give away my book as a token of my gratitude and not as homework assignment. I will not quiz the recipient on the book’s message or contents. If I did, we know the result would be a failing grade. We’ve seen enough of that in the nation’s body politic.

As a resolution, I have now promised my old friend that I will be more circumspect in sharing my books. Never give a page away that is not requested, or at least has some kind of interest expressed by another. It means I will save money on copies and postage.

It is an age when reading is a chore, not a pleasure, and the disrespected writer is a prophet without honor in any country.

 

Dr. William Russo is too prolific for his own good, and he has written many movie history books and biographies.

 

 

Endeavour’s Seventh: Crime Goes On!

DATELINE: Night at the Opera

 Shaun Evans, not Groucho.

To kick off the seventh season of egghead murder mystery, Endeavour once again turns to star hotshot, Shaun Evans, to direct the first episode of Endeavour.

He is even better the second time around: with aplomb when it comes to set-ups, color, and the new modern police office settings. He seems to have wasted time filming in Venice for a few scenes that could have been faked without much notice in a studio. Producers even created an opera for the clueless.

The series has grown darker, starting with Endeavour’s heavy narrative opening about the comedy and tragedy he is about to face. Even his boss, Thursday, is now fed up with grisly killings and his humor is turning sour while Morse goes on vacation to Venice.

The episode is over-wroughtly titled “Oracle” when “Psychic” would have done well.

It’s 1970 now, and a waitress at the New Year’s bash is killed walking home from work. It is the heavy-handed start of women’s equal rights—and it is played historically nasty. Most men of the era saw it as a fad and did not take it seriously. If you use this show as history, you see something far more sinister.

Crime goes on, even at Oxford’s new fangled psychic research center where remote viewing experiments are in their infancy.

The red herrings, as usual, pile up in this show, which now have caught Roger Allam’s Thursday short-tempered.

Endeavour (Evans) remains the kiss of death, or so we suspect, as he succumbs to an operatic affair in Venice that is over before vacation ends.

There are a few intrigues that may trip you up: an old former classmate, a millionaire bon vivant seems gay and has an interest in Endeavour, and who could blame him? However, it is the petty jealousy of fellow detective Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) that is most amusing.

Psychic research is given a once-over effectively here and respectfully. If you don’t have it, you can’t fake it—and the ending is going to be a surprise for most.

The series is now in serial form, not self-contained mystery. The three-parts will meld into one.

 

 

 

 

 

Maugham: Rain in the Face

DATELINE: Somerset

Willie Maugham was one of the most successful of writers in the 20thcentury. He wrote one short story, “Rain,” that made him over one million dollars in the 1920s. You could say he was the rich man’s Truman Capote.

A short documentary gathers together some rare photos and film clips of his high-living. It’s called Revealing Mr. Maugham. But it is mostly apologetic for his transgressions and motive to write for money.

Maugham suffered from a stammer that made him less media attractive—but like Capote, he wrote about the gossip he heard, transforming the mud in novels. He was no great writer, like many contemporaries (James Joyce, Virginia Woolf or even Noel Coward) but he made big bucks and commanded movie versions (The Razor’s Edge).

Being secretly gay, he never played out or up his personality like Capote. Yet, he was notorious in his world travels to seek gay pleasure spots around the world. His “secretary” was actually his lover and procurer.

Maugham learned about human nature at medical school where he studied with Dr. Bell, the model for Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. And, his understanding of sexuality was scientific and ahead of its time.

He was scarred by his brother Harry’s suicide over a homosexual scandal—and it may have sent Maugham into the closet for the rest of his life.

His companion Gerald Haxton helped him create Cap Ferrat, the idyllic “Fairyland,” that Edna St. Vincent Millay declared one visit. Her insight is not in the film. Nor does the film tell us of the monkey gland injections to maintain his masculine vigor in old age to host boys, boys, boys.

The documentary tries hard to give Maugham literary chops, but he was interested only in fame and money, whether as a playwright or as a story writer. Yes, he wrote spy stories before LeCarre and Greene, and he was an actual spy for the British government.

Yet, he became in senility a rather unpleasant, vindictive and manipulated old fool of his new “secretary,” who managed to steal everything through poisoning Maugham’s old mind.

The documentary shows how one can outlive his own standards.

Claire Denis: High Life Tumbles

DATELINE: Pattinson Finds His Spacesuit! 

 Rocket Man, Not !

The latest film by auteur and brilliant director Claire Denis is not her best, but it is original, bizarre, and will find admirers among the critical set. High Life sets a tone and standard for sci-fi that seems sci-unfit.

However, High Life is more original than your sci-fi audience may want. This is not on the level of Kubrick tackling the topic. It is anti-science fiction: philosophical and idiosyncratic. Forward is going backward from Earth.

 

If Robert Pattinson has selected it, you know you are in for something different. He knows how to pick unusual movies.

The narrative storyline is something about a father raising his infant daughter alone on a spaceship hurtling toward a black hole.

You know you are in arthouse territory when the title of the film flashes 18minutes into the story. We slowly discern the rest of the crew is dead—and therein is the tale of sexual tension with malcontents on a ship going nowhere at nine-tenths the speed of light.

Somewhere around half-way into the movie, we find the kink foundation and disturbing fact that these are actually delinquent prisoners unethically sent out as guinea pigs with no hope of return.

Their fate is not exactly happy, and their problematic lives merely make the inevitable tragedy. In the meantime, Pattinson is a curio, ageless and aging as his daughter grows up. Their goal of a black hole is referred to as an alligator eye, but it is the bullseye of bull. This dark, dour film has convinced some it is a masterpiece.

For others, it is simply so far out there that it defies comprehension. Critical reaction is all over the landscape and under the sun.

One Last Trip to Greece

DATELINE: Literary Road Trips

 Steve Coogan with Rob Brydon.

With great sadness we are saying goodbye to the highly intelligent, witty, charming series of movies with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Their last is The Trip to Greece,all four civilized comedies were directed by Michael Winterbottom.

These have been four rarities of the modern age: witty as Noel Coward, beautifully locations, with amusing company. And they aren’t even gay. Two performers whose competition extends to out-imitating the other are sent on a fictional outing. Their job as journalists is to visit fine restaurants and write reviews.

The actors sort of play themselves in Brydon and Coogan (notable Oscar nominee for Stan and Ollie, as he was Stan). You often cannot tell where the fiction starts, as they play versions of themselves blending over into plot contrivance. Their litany of impersonations (Brando, Hoffman, Olivier, Caine, Pacino, Jagger) makes for a variety of dinner companions.

Four films feature hilarious riffs and impersonations over dinner and while driving around luscious countryside in Greece. Brydon sings the tune from Grease, and he crunches it to fit the country. Coogan is dutifully appalled.

They transform imitations of Laurel and Hardy over lunch into breath-taking jokes: Oliver Hardy morphs into Tom Hardy.

These little forays to gourmet restaurants have a price in this film (350 Euros).

The bittersweet last entry in the series showcases the performers to their greatest wish: Brydon becomes the epitome of the light comedian—and Coogan, as he likes, becomes the tragic actor of Shakespearean levels.

Their frictions and battles are nothing short of delightful wordplay. You don’t see that much anywhere in movies nowadays.

After visits to England, Italy, and Spain, this lap around the Aegean ends with a whimper. Brilliantly done, and hopefully there will be one more trip.

 

 

Every Little Step:  Distorted Version of Chorus Line

DATELINE: One Singular Omission!

 Jimmy Kirkwood.

 

The little documentary made about a revival of A Chorus Lineis so warped by time and death that it is about as inaccurate as you can find when all the principals are long gone. Every Little Step  is really Every Big Omission.

Three of the creative forces behind the great musical play were Michael Bennett, Nick Dante, and James Kirkwood. They all died way too soon: and the survivors are allies of Michael Bennett (Marvin Hamlisch, Donna McKechnie, and Bob Avian). So, you have a slightly skewed presentation of the past.

I knew Jim Kirkwood—and he has been cut out of this film and you’d never know he had any role whatsoever for A Chorus Line (which happened to win him a Tony for writing and a Pulitzer Prize for good measure).

Cutting out Kirkwood from credit began while he was still alive. I can recall his complaint about how “hurtful” all this was—and he admitted to me he did have a physical altercation with Michael Bennett. I cannot imagine what that looked like—as Jim often advised me to “Kick’em in the nuts” to start and end any fight instantly.

Jim was proud of his contribution to A Chorus Line and even put the logo on his letterhead until someone complained to him about his “colossal ego.” He removed the line of dancers and went with plain stationery. I told him to ignore such idiots, but he was overly sensitive.

This documentary would send him up to the roof and we might never get him down.

A great deal is made of the 12 hours of tapes of dancers’ interviews that served as backbone of the libretto. Bennett recorded this one snowy December night in the 1970s, but Kirkwood insisted to me he never listened to a single tape. He read a transcript and had to give structure and order to it. He pointedly said to me, “There were no tapes. I never heard any tapes.”

What intrigued him was his show biz background and literary themes of his life fit right into the storyline. If you read his works, you find every concept in A Chorus Line in books he wrote a decade earlier, from the Big Joker in the Sky concept of the “Director” to small details.

Even the biggest decision to change the ending to improve the book of the show is not given to Jim Kirkwood. It is entirely the idea of Michael Bennett. At the 1976 Tony Awards, Bennett gave a speech in which Kirkwood is mentioned as he gives “thanks to Jimmy.”

The closing credits mention permission of the James Kirkwood Trust, but never is he mentioned within the documentary. Every Big Omission indeed. As a friend of Jim Kirkwood, I am furious about this distorted movie.

 

Dr. William Russo is author of Riding James Kirkwood’s Pony.

Westworld 3, the Lost Season, Bites the Dust

 DATELINE:  Cliff-hung!

As Westworld wound down on its third season, it was clear that Jonathan Nolan was meandering without any sense of direction to his creation. The series had nowhere to go—and went there with empty shoot-out and fight scenes.

A coda after credits turns out to be the most interesting part of the show, which some could have missed: we see William confront himself as Man in Black, and we see decommissioned Bernard, covered in dust, likely years later. So, that is the teaser for season 4.

Two, not one, major karate fights between Maeve and Dolores (Miss Delos) seemed to end with their deaths: except no one in this series is ever truly dead.

The fights seem now to recur with all the regularity of Ali and Frazier.

William also seems to be trying to reform himself, sort of, to save humanity, in the same destructive way that Dolores wants to save automatons. It’s pointless as the world outside Westworld devolves into anarchy.

Some odd details seem to indicate that everyone has forgotten where they came from:  Lawrence, (Clifton Collins, jr.), shows up in haggard form to save his “friend” Bernard. But. His friend for all season two was William (Ed Harris) who runs off without seeing him. This may be a loose end for season 4, if we stick around.

As for a litany of loose ends, you are left with tatters of William, Bernard, Dolores, and whoever Aaron Paul is supposed to be:  presumably the new star of the series.

With everyone professing to save humanity, one wonders why the simple acts of kindness Dolores recalls are meant to save us all.

Whatever the series will become next season, or in its subsequent years, will not be the Westworld  of the movies, or of the first two seasons. This third season has truly been a lost season, meandering blindly for some purpose.

Dolores’s war on humanity comes to a fitting non-conclusion at the end of season three, especially since there are now three more seasons on the HBO docket. We can sleep at night knowing these talented actors, writers, and directors, will be gainfully employed for a few more years.

 

 

 

 

 

Shatner & Shakespeare on Oak Island

DATELINE: Shatner Returns to Treasure Hunt

 Cold Day in November!

We know how much everyone enjoyed William Shatner on Oak Island, but he must have also enjoyed it because he has come back for the final night of season 7.

His theory is worthy of the UnXplained,and we fully concur with him.

There is a fairly sharp start that indicates that Shakespeare may have been borderline literate: his father and mother were illiterate and only middle-class. His own education was fair, not royal and not comprehensive.

So, Shatner takes some relish in debunking the Bard and suggesting the real writer was a man with credentials, like Sir Francis Bacon, member of the Elizabethan court. There may even be several authors, as Shatner hints.

Cyphers in the original folio have intrigued researchers that there is something that matches Nolan’s Cross on Oak Island. In fact, Bacon was connected to Knights Templar through Rosiecrucians—and he may have known of the secret vaults on Oak Island—and chose to bury his Shakespeare originals there.

One can find that The Tempest may be confessional in terms of Bacon burying “my booke.”  If overlaid on the final page of The Tempest, you find a spot that would correspond to the Eye of the Swamp on the Island.

We were amused when Rick Lagina called Bacon the Michelangelo of his day: if history is correct, they were almost contemporaries as Michelangelo’s death crossed the date of Bacon’s birth. Technically, he was right.

Parchment was found over 160 feet below the earth. Bookbinding material was found near the Money Pit deep down.

Even the Laginas seemed intrigued that Shakespeare’s first folio is there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Westworld 3 Turns into Person of Interest

DATELINE: Persons of Westworld Interest

  Enrico Colatoni Returns.

It seems almost logical that creator Jonathan Nolan, mastermind of the Grand Computer of Person of Interest (not Finch), has also created the same AI for Westworld.

Now with the grand finale on the horizon for season three, we find ourselves in a strangely familiar place. There, locked away in a giant warehouse, is the computer from Person of Interest. As if to confirm this, the second banana from that earlier series, Enrico Colatoni, shows up here as a guest star in essentially the same role.

We are also given several intriguing finale confrontations: it now seems that William (Ed Harris) will save the world by destroying the creation of AI from Person of Interest. There is also the big bash between Maeva and Dolores (Newton and Wood). Their fight scenes are, of course, reminiscent of death fights with men in generations past of movies.

Now with a series of women directors and creative powers on Westworld III, we are seeing the past come alive with women in the same roles.

If you expect Jim Cavaiezel to make a guest appearance, it might not happen for another season. After all, this week HBO announced that Westworld will be renewed and will finish out six seasons.

We were most amused to find the AI of the earlier series still prisoner and now obsolete, trying still to save people as it did in the earlier show with Finch and Reese.

We presume that to continue for three more seasons the entire cast must find themselves back in their familiar roles at Westworld as the TV series roots three seasons ago. Whatever the robot revolution was meant to be, it is hardly about to come to an end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titanic & Night Wire Exposed!

DATELINE: Connections!

 Henry Ferris Arnold.

When I looked at the various reviews of “The Night Wire” on Goodreads, I felt it was my duty to add. what I have learned during research for my book, Titanic’s Forgotten Movie.

Yes, there is a creepier theme in the story that relates H.F. Arnold’s little horror tale to the infamous sinking of the luxury liner in 1912.

Published in the heyday of short story writing when magazines were devoted to the art, now basically lost to writers, were genre-periodicals as well as major magazines that published stories. Of course, in those days, you had H.P. Lovecraft, J.D. Salinger, and B. Traven.

Then in the 1920s, out of nowhere came a young writer graduated from a mid-Western college. He only wrote three stories in his life, all of the supernatural vein. You may well ask why.

Arnold’s background has been called mysterious and murky, some even questioning whether he used a pen-name. No, he was Henry Ferris Arnold. And, he went to Hollywood upon graduation from college to work in the publicity and movie advertising business. He was not necessarily a denizen of tabloid journals where he worked the graveyard shift in the Morgue (old newspaper term for the library).

He actually started out in the Goldwyn Studios and quickly rose to the exalted position as Sam Goldwyn’s Director of Publicity. He was also elected to various positions of importance at WAMPAS (Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers).

His sister Pauline Arnold, aka Polly, moved to New York in 1926 and became a pioneer woman in the advertising business—and the east coast tie-in with her brother. She founded a company called MRCA, and it was a press agency that handled people who wanted their name dropped into columns of Walter Winchell or Ed Sullivan.

Polly soon became partners with a man called Percy White, Jr.

What has this to do with “Night Wire” and Titanic?

It is the backstory.

Percy White’s father and brother died on Titanic in 1912. He was a man haunted by their ends. Polly then married Percy—and she told her brother about his family history.

“Night Wire” emerged when H.F. Arnold started to use details from Percy as the basis for a story that kept the family’s name out of it, but might be a sellable story to movies. He knew many people in movies who wanted to make a Titanic movie.

After all, one of the famous stories of wire operators centered on the two heroic Titanic men who sent out distress calls for two hours. It is the basic plot of the story.

Where are they? In a place called Xebico. If you are a cryptographer, you may have done your homework. Most have not. Xebico is an anagram for Icebox.

The fog washing over the victims might well be the frigid North Atlantic as the ship sank, becoming an icebox containing hundreds of souls.

The narrator observes the wire operator named John Morgan. IN some Titanic circles, one of the controversial figures is John Pierpont Morgan, who had a first-class suite on Titanic—and bailed out of sailing at the last moment. Some said he knew something bad was imminent.

So, that is a little background information.