Saturday, September 29, 2018

henry fonda's daughter(s)

Henry Fonda was married five times.

He had three children with two of his wives. Plus one adoptive daughter.

Henry Fonda had one son and three daughters.

That's right, three daughters.

Most people would assume that Henry had only two children - Jane and Peter. And that Jane was his only daughter. Which isn't the case, of course.

Susan Lacy's otherwise extraordinary HBO documentary, "Jane Fonda in Five Acts," makes no attempt to acknowledge Henry Fonda's other two daughters. They would be Frances de Villers Brokaw - aka, Pan Corrias - whose mother, Frances Seymour Brokaw, was Henry's second wife and the mother of Jane and Peter, and Amy Fishman, from his marriage to his third wife, Susan Blanchard. Got that? Amy was Henry's biological daughter, while Pan was his adopted daughter. Her father was George Tuttle Brokaw.

Throughout "Jane Fonda in Five Acts," there are flashes of family pictures (such as the one above), in which Henry, Frances, Jane and Peter are identified. But who is that other girl? That would be Pan. And why isn't she ever mentioned? According to this doc, Henry had only two children.

For some reason, this gnawed at me throughout Lacy's astute take on Jane Fonda's remarkable career and even more remarkable life. It's refreshing that there are (thankfully) few film clips in "Jane Fonda in Five Acts" in favor of many more archival shots of Fonda's off-screen life, causes and lovers. Defining Jane Fonda through the men in her life makes this documentary singular - and I love it that both filmmaker and star also reference the different hair styles that were attendant with each man.

But I would have appreciated Jane's take on Pan, who presumably was present during her formative years, and Amy who came along when Henry put Jane in boarding school. Throughout the film, Jane refers to herself as "his daughter." Shouldn't that more correctly be "one of his daughters?"

I would have also loved to see current footage of Peter, whose presence is limited here to old footage. But this film is about Jane who remains intelligent, insecure, extremely talented and, at 80, drop-dead gorgeous.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

portrait of the judge as a young entitled frat boy

During the past two or three months, I've probably seen at least 20 or 30 films and, each time, I've had to sit through that same damn trailer for Bradley Cooper's "A Star Is Born." I. Can't. Take. It. Anymore.

That said, not one of those 20-odd films has been as compelling or as perversely entertaining as the on-going, relentless "Trump Show," which is available 24/7 on every television set in our home. The latest episode of the reality series was Thursday's pointless hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to accommodate (and presumably placate) a woman charging Trump's Supreme Court nominee with an alleged sexual assault.

It was like a bad traffic accident: You didn't want to watch but you couldn't look away. The showstopper, so to speak, was the afforentioned nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, who stormed into the Senate chambers like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Or, given his afflilation, an elephant.

His barking, bulging veins and sneers prompted the various pundits commenting on the show to compare him to Trump. And Trump approved, deeming the performance "incredible." But his demeanor was actually closer to a drunk. And Trump, of course, is noted for avoiding alcohol. Anyway, I lost count of how many times the word "beer" was invoked.

The highlight of his performance came when  Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked Kavanaugh if he ever had so much to drink that he “couldn’t remember what happened or part of what happened the night before.”

“No, I remember what happened,” Kavanaugh retorted, before gratuitously adding, “and I think you’ve probably had beers, Senator.”

“So you’re saying there’s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before or part of what happened?,” Klobuchar asked

“You’re talking about blackout. I don’t know. Have you?” Kavanaugh then sat back with a snarky grin on his face and a self-satisfied air.

Wow. Real mature. Real Supreme Court material here.

Following a break, he apologized to Klobuchar. Well, sort of.

The Senate clearly positioned Kavanaugh to be the day's star attraction. His opening act was Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who alleged that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in 1982 when he was 17 and she was 15. Dr. Ford's performance was the polar opposite of Kavanaugh's - soft-spoken, humble, relatable and, more to the point, likable. Her authenticity made her the immediate anti-Trump.

In a world where this one reality show is broadcast on all 9,354 cable channels, it's a safe bet that we will be seeing a lot more of Brett Kavanaugh and almost nothing of Dr. Ford whose character, I hear, has already been written off the show after her one appearance.

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed  anonymous. Thank you.


~Brett Kavanaugh, TV's newest star

~Christine Blasey Ford

Sunday, September 23, 2018

cinema obscura: Jacques Demy's "Trois places pour le 26"/"Three Tickets for the 26th" (1988)

Jacques Demy's last (live-action) movie and one of the final films of Yves Montand, made three years before his death, 1988's "Trois places pour le 26"/"Three Tickets for the 26th," is something of a secret gem.

Inexplicably, it has never been shown in the United States, particularly given that Montand's co-stars are Françoise Fabian and Mathilda May.

Very much a burst-into-song, MGM-style musical that Demy loved (and appropriated), "Trois places" is also something of a fictionalized biopic of Montand who plays himself as he prepares for "Montand Remembers," the show-within-the-film, and reminisces about his life and career while rehearsing. There's an apt vérité quality to Jean Penzer's cinematography.

Watching it, one is struck by just how much Montand was the French equivalent of Frank Sinatra, a solid actor who was also a first-rate song-and-dance man. Few Americans realize that, even though Montand sang in two American films - George Cukor's "Let's Make Love" (1960), a movie that was overshadowed by the notoriety of Montand's affair with Marilyn Monroe during the production, and Vincente Minnelli's "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" (1980).

But even more relevant to "Trois places" is the one-man show, "An Evening With Yves Montand," which opened to ecstatic reviews on Broadway at Henry Miller's Theater on September 22nd, 1959 and whose limited two week run was extended and played for 42 performances.

Not surprisingly, Demy's house composer, Michel Legrand, wrote the original score for "Trois places," which also has several standards interpolated, classics such as Edith Piaf's "La Vie En Rose" and Monroe's version of Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," recorded for the Cukor film.

Montand would appear in two more films - Jacques Deray's "Netchaïev est de retour" (1991) and Jean-Jacques Beineix's "IP5: L'île aux pachydermes" (1992), both released after his death. He died on the set of the Beineix movie on its last day of shooting in 1991, after filming his final scene.

He was 70.

As for Demy, the same year he made "Trois places," he also collaborated with cartoonist Paul Grimault on "La table tournante"/"The Turning Table," an animation about a clown who visits Grimault - the clown being the star of Grimault's movie "Le Roi et l'Oiseau." Their conversation is laced with clips from other Paul Grimault films. Demy died two years later in 1990.

He was only 59.

Note in Passing: I long had a fantasy of a remake of "South Pacific" - with Yves Montand as Emil De Becque. Well, one can dream, right?

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

(from top)


~Playbill for "An Evening with Yves Montand"

Friday, September 21, 2018

façade: george axelrod

George Axelrod is one of those fringe-Hollywood curiosities who exhilarates me more than those names that cause most movie critics to bow and genuflect and the movie industry to bestow its highest honors.

His filmography is the movie equivalent of a slim volume - 12 screenplays and two directorial credits, during a career that spanned 35 years. And much of his allure among cinéastes has everything to do with a single credit - his adroit screenplay for John Frankenheimer's brilliant "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), based on the Richard Condon book.

It's a rare, presient work that remains ever relevant and modern.

Axelrod got his start writing for radio and live TV in the late 1940s and early '50s before moving to the legitimate theater, making his Broadway-writing debut with "The Seven Year Itch" in 1952, followed by "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" in '55 and "Goodbye, Charlie" in '59. The screen rights to all three were snatched up by one studio, Twentieth Century-Fox.

Of the three, Axelrod was involved in the making of only one. He co-wrote the screenplay for "The Seven Year Itch," released in 1955, with its director, Billy Wilder. Meanwhile, he publicly disavowed the 1957 film of "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" because Fox encouranged its director-adapter Frank Tashlin to switch its backdrop from the publishing industry to television which, at the time, was the chief rival of and threat to movies.

The change actually made the movie more timely and pointed. "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" is regarded as one of the best film comedies of the 1950s. (Sorry, George.) The play starred Jayne Mansfield, who recreated her role on film and who, along with Marilyn Monroe who starred in the movie of "The Seven Year Itch," gave Axelrod an image (whether he wanted it or not) that Hugh Hefner was working overtime to cultivate.

But before his plays found their way it to the screen, Axelrod made his screen-writing debut with Mark Robson's underrated "Phffft!" in 1954. A Judy Holliday-Jack Lemmon vehicle about divorce, it remains surprisingly contemporary and is alive with dialogue that's both snappy and quick.  Axelrod gave co-star Jack Carson one particularly memorable monologue on which he lectures Lemmon about the importance of facial hair:

"Grow a moustache. A moustache is very important, It's all part of the famous Charlie Anderson Theory on the Efficacy of Face Hair in Dealing with the Opposite Sex. Sure. Always remember this, Bobby - dames become unpredictable when faced with a moustache - it both arouses and angers them. Being as it is a symbol of masculinity, they feel drawn toward it. And at the same time, because of envy, they feel impelled to cause its removal. All men should raise moustaches from time to time."

Axelrod followed "Phffft!" and "The Seven Year Itch" with another Monroe film, Joshua Logan's 'Bus Stop" (1956), which he adapted from the William Inge play. In the 1960s, he wrote the screenplays for two Audrey Hepburn films, Blake Edwards' "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961) and Richard Quine's "Paris When It Sizzles" (1964); penned another for Jack Lemmon, Quine's "How to Murder Your Wife" (1965), and created and wrote a sitcom for the singular Tammy Grimes called ... "The Tammy Grimes Show" (1966).

His third play, "Goodbye, Charlie," starred Lauren Bacall as a womanizer who is reincarnated as a woman and who has a difficult time reconciling her feelings about women with now actually being one. The role made good use of Bacall's handsome beauty and husky voice. But when Harry Kurnitz adapted Axelrod's play for the 1964 film version, director Vincente Minnelli opted for less obvious casting and brought in a very game Debbie Reynolds to play the slyly butch Charlie.

A risk but it works.

Both "The Seven Year Itch" and "Goodbye, Charlie" have proven to be versatile pieces, having been adapted into European film and TV productions.

There have been two German versions of "The Seven Year Itch" - both titled "Meine Frau erfährt kein Wort"- one filmed in 1970 (and running 100 minutes) and one made in 1982 (running 88 minutes). There is also a TV production filmed in Argentina in 1973 for the series "Alta Comedia."

"Goodbye, Charlie" has been the basis of a 1971 German film," Letzte Grüße, lieber Charlie" (105 minutes), as well as a 1979 French TV version (109 minutes), which retained the American title, filmed for "Au théâtre ce soir," a series devoted to plays. ("Au théâtre ce soir" has also included  Gallic productions of "Born Yesterday" and "Boeing Boeing.") In 1985, Suzanne Somers was signed by Twentieth Century-Fox Television for a sitcom version of the material but only the half-hour pilot was filmed.
When he developed some clout, Axelrod attempted a directing career, starting in 1966 with a novelty titled "Lord Love a Duck," which unsparingly satirizes/savages the teenage culture of the '60s with a cast completely in sync with his edgy sense of humor. Roddy McDowell, who was 36 at the time, plays a disreputable high school senior, who takes student Tuesday Weld under wing, becoming her mentor with the goal of helping her get everything she wants, including a collection of cashmere sweaters.

The two stars, who clearly enjoy one another and are having the time of their lives (which is contagious), are surrounded by a cast of delicious misfits - Ruth Gordon, Martin West, Harvey Korman, Sarah Marshall, an uncredited Martin Gabel and, most memorable of all, Lola Albright and Max Showalter as Weld's divorced parents. Showalter and Weld share a particularly hilarious sequence (which could never been filmed today because of its queasiness) in which they go shopping for the aforementioned cashmere sweaters - in colors named Grape Yum Yum, Banana Beige, Lemon Meringue, Pink Put On, Papaya Surprise, Periwinkle Pussycat, Turquoise Trouble, Midnight A-Go-Go, and Peach Putdown.

"Lord Love a Duck," one of those misunderstood films, went nowhere but has sustained a loyal cult following, deservedly so.

Two years later in 1968, Axelrod tried directing again - this time with something more conventional, "The Secret Life of an American Wife," which is less George Axelrod than Neil Simon. Not a bad thing, but not necessarily good either.

The too-often-underused Anne Jackson had one of her infrequent lead movie roles as the wife of a Hollywood agent (Patrick O'Neal) who tries to impress her husband by seducing one of his most important clients (Walter Matthau as an unlikely sex symbol).

In 1971, Axelrod composed his wry memoirs, "Where am I Now When I Need Me?"  He died on June 21st, 2003 at age 81, but had been inactive for the last two decades of his life. Towards the end of his writing career, he worked in England and one of his lesser-known credits was written there -  his script for Anthony Page's 1979 remake of "The Lady Vanishes," starring Cybill Shepherd, Elliott Gould, Angela Lansbury, Herbert Lom, Ian Charmichael and Arthur Lowe. It's quite good. I'll say more about it later.

Look for a Cinema Obsura.

Note in Passing: Finally, here's a delightfully nutty, Axelrod-solid scene, with Tuesday Weld and Max Showalter, from "Lord Love a Duck." Enjoy!

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

(from top)

~George Axelrod in a publicity shot for "How to Murder Your Wife"
~photography: United Artists 1965©

~Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday in "Phffft!" 
~photography: Columbia Pictures 1954©

~Advertisement for the Broadway production of "Goodbye, Charlie"

~Shots of Tuesday Weld, Roddy McDowell and Ruth Gordon in "Lord Love a Duck"
~photography: United Artists 1966©

~Poster art for "The Lady Vanishes"

Monday, September 17, 2018

cinema obscura: the pre-release "South Pacific"

In March of '79, I saw something unexpected - a version of Joshua Logan's "South Pacific" before Logan did some last-minute tightening prior to his film's roadshow premiere 21 years earlier - on March 19th, 1958 - at New York's Rivoli Theater. It was a rare Todd-AO print and this version followed the continuity of the original Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical.

Which means the film's first musical number wasn't the seabees' antic "Bloody Mary" - which has always opened the film, following a brief airborne scene between John Kerr and Tom Laughlin - but rather, "Dites-Moi," "A Cockeyed Optimist" and "Twin Soliloquies"/"Some Enchanted Evening," which introduced the characters of Nellie Forbush (played by Mitzi Gaynor),  Emile De Becque (Rossano Brazzi) and De Becque's children in one continuous sequence set at De Becque's hilltop estate.

The version that I saw in 1979 opened with the De Becque children singing "Dites-Moi." The "Bloody Mary" number followed about ten minutes later.

The occasion for my discovery was a film series titled "Broadway Comes to Broadway," programmed by my friend Ralph Donnelly, a pioneer of specialized exhibition who, at the time, was booking New York's RKO Cinerama, once located on Broadway and 47th Street but now long gone. Ralph's pet project in the 1970s was the invaluable First Avenue Screening Room which was devoted entirely to unreleased/shelved titles ("The All-American Boy," "The Christian Licorice Store"). Ralph's screening there of Paul Bartel's "Private Parts" encouraged MGM to actually release the film.

click on image to enlarge

"Broadway Comes to Broadway" was a series of nine roadshow musicals (plus "Cabaret"), most of them shown in 70mm. Both "South Pacific" and "Oklahoma!" were screened in Todd-AO, the latter particularly gorgeous in that format. But the version of "South Pacific" that Ralph secured was the real find of the series. He told me that the print was acquired from the people overseeing the Rodgers and Hammerstein estate. ("South Pacific" was made independently by the Magna Theater Corporation, which developed Todd-AO, and then distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox.)

The film that Ralph screened ran 171 minutes, which was its running time for a few weeks in 1958 before the powers elected to trim it down to 157 minutes (following less than enthusiastic reviews). The 14 minutes eliminated from the film consist mostly of trimmed dialogue here and there and much of it reduced Ray Walston's Luther Billis character.

The 171-minute and 157-minute versions of "South Pacific" are both included on the DVD and BluRay discs, but the longer cut on home entertainment has the usual/familiar order of sequences.

The souvenir program for "South Pacific," which is rather creative and arty for a movie program (designed, no less, than by legendary production designers Dale Hennesy and John De Cuir), includes a section called "the continuity...," which is the film from the point of view of its editor Bob Simpson - and, again, the opening follows the contours of the play.

If I had to guess, I would say that Logan's decision to change the chronology of the early musical numbers prior to the film's opening was made strictly for commercial reasons. It's more audience-friendly to open the film with something rousing like "Bloody Mary" than with the moody and introspective "Some Enchanted Evening." Just a hunch.

Finally, there's Paul Osborn's screenplay for "South Pacific" (final draft, dated August 8th, 1957), which is available from Script City, that corroborates the continuity detailed in the film's program and the movie that I saw that day at the RKO Cinerama.

For the 157-minute cut of the film, Logan of course kept the introductory Nellie-Emile song medley intact, but eliminated the kids' first version of "Dites-Moi." He also removed a moment later in the film, just before the intermission break, during which Emile imitates Nellie, doing a mocking version of "I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair."

Regarding that song, the version of it performed by Mitzi Gaynor was trimmed - truncated actually - way before the film's release, with the entire middle (sung by a chorus of nurese) eliminated. Rumor has it that Rodgers and Hammerstein wanted the song cut from the film altogether. From their perspective, while it was a big moment in the play - i.e., the novelty of the leading lady washing her hair on stage every night - it made less sense on film. It was less of a novelty in a movie. Also, it was a popular song - too popular to cut out entirely. So it was merely trimmed.

Writing this makes me wonder if that version of "South Pacific" is still in the archives of the Rodgers and Hammerstein estate. I hope so.

Note in Passing: Ralph Donnelly passed on September 21st, 2007. He was 75. He's missed.  

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

(from top) 

~The opening title cards for "South Pacific"

-The advertisement for the RKO Cinerama's "Broadway Comes to Broadway" series in 1979

~Rosanno Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor in a scene from the film
 ~Gaynor in the "Twin Soliloquies" number
~photography: Magna Theater Corporation/Twentieth Century-Fox 1958©

Friday, September 14, 2018

"It's Burt Reynolds..."

My first encounter with Burt Reynolds was in the form of a hand-written note that was dated March 2nd, 1976.

Dear Joe:

I am delighted and quite touched by your review of "At Long Last Love" and what you said about me personally. Peter Bogdanovich was particularly thrilled with your review, too. As you probably know, Roger Ebert, last year's Pulitizer Prize winning critic, also loved "At Long Last Love." If you are planning to be out here for the Oscar show, please call and we'll lock in a date to get together.


There were a handful of interview sessions and brief social meetings after that, but the one occasion that's burned in my brain was early in 1979 - either in January or February. It was a Friday, a day that I routinely took off to decompress after a week of multiple screenings and deadlines.

The phone rang. It was Burt Reynolds. He was in New York to meet with producer David Merrick about doing a second movie together, "Rough Cut." (They had previously worked together on Michael Ritchie's "Semi-Tough" in 1977.) The reason for the call? Twentieth Century-Fox was screening "Norma Rae" for him at 5 p.m. - its first screening before its March 2nd opening. Burt was, of course, dating Sally Field, the film's star, at the time. Hence, the screening. Anyway, would I like to attend?

For some reason, Fox screened the movie at the Paramount Screening Room on Columbus Circle. There were two other people there - David Gershenson, Burt's manager, and the stage actress Diane Kagen, Burt's friend. They were both alumni of Florida State University and, although I'm not certain, Diane may have also appeared in plays at Burt's eponymous dinner theater in Jupiter, Fl.

Afterwards, three of us - Burt, David and me - went to Elaine's for dinner. The now-gone restaurant, once at 2nd Avenue and East 88th Street, was the "It" place in Manhattan in those days, the place to be seen, and owner Elaine Kaufman was always there, greeting and briefly joining her celebrity guests at their tables.

Seated at another table was ... David Merrick, whom Burt found to be a distraction. So much so that he couldn't focus on the conversation. He'd glance over at Merrick from time to time, clearly annoyed about something. Finally, Burt said to David, "Could you go over there and tell him to stop staring at me?" Apparently, Merrick was transfixed on Burt.

Merrick promptly switched places at his table, now with his back to Burt.

It was a curious/amusing moment that, as I said, remains burned in my brain. I had no idea what was going on. I didn't inquire, although I really wanted to. If our paths should ever cross again one day, my plan is to ask David Gershenson if he has any recollection of the incident - and to share.

Oh, yeah, Burt eventually did make "Rough Cut." 

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

~ (from top) Burt Reynolds, Elaine Kaufman, David Merrick and the exteriors of Elaine's

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

steve dejarnatt's rapturous noir

Steve DeJarnatt.

That name has haunted me for the past 30 years. Could it really be 30 years since I first saw "Miracle Mile"? Steve DeJarnatt wrote and directed this rapturous film and, as a working movie critic, I always wanted to meet him. But he's remained teasingly elusive for the same number of years.

"Miracle Mile" is DeJarnatt's second film, a follow-up to his debut feature, "Cherry 2000," of 1987. It is also the last theatrical film that he directed before heading into television where he apparently worked until 2006.

I couldn't even find a photo of him for this essay. Yes, elusive is the word.

"Miracle Mile," if you are among the uninitiated, is drop-dead beautiful and with an intense sense of style that's matched by its excellent, legendary script. DeJarnatt's original screenplay, which he wrote in 1978, was chosen in by American Film magazine in a 1983 issue as "one of the 10 best unmade scripts." And it remained unmade for another five years.

Its originality and lack of compromise must have frightened Hollywood because DeJarnatt spent the next decade working on other people's films.

DeJarnatt made his directorial debut with the much-touted premiere episode of the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" revival - "The Man From the South," starring John Huston, Melanie Griffith, Steven Bauer and Tippi Hedren - and then made his big-screen bow directing Griffith in "Cherry 2000" (which was delayed and barely released theatrically by Orion).

In the meantime, he persisted and finally persuaded John Daly of Hemdale to let him make "Miracle Mile." And his small movie is just about perfect.

DeJarnatt's plot is a boy-meets-girl romance that's threatened to be aborted by a nuclear catastrophe. And the situation that cleverly sets it all in motion is what happens when the wrong person answers a phone.

Harry Washello (Anthony Edwards) is a traveling jazz musician (he plays the trombone) - single and shy - who meets the woman of his dreams in a natural history museum near the La Brea Tar Pits in L.A.

Julie Peters (Mare Winningham) is a waitress who works the night shift at Johnie’s Coffee Shop, a 24-hour diner in the Park Brea district. (The movie's title comes from the famous strip along Los Angeles' Wilshire Boulevard that connects the preserved fossils of the tar pits to the area's contemporary skyscrapers, and Johnie's, now gone, was fabulous.)

Anyway, they make plans for a big date - at one in the morning, after Julie gets off from work. Well, Harry gets there three hours late - Julie, brokenhearted, is long gone, having headed home to sleep off her depression, with the help of some pills. How Harry manages to stand her up provides a good example of the movie's details and ricocheting quality: He's on the balcony of his apartment, smoking, when he flicks away his butt. A pigeon picks it up and takes it to the electrical wire where it's nesting. A fire breaks out, blacking out Harry's apartment and thereby cutting off his alarm clock. Hence, he's three hours late for the date.

Harry is about to call Julie on the pay phone outside Johnie's when ... it rings: The voice on the other end is calling from a North Dakota missile silo. He's hysterical and has obviously misdialed. He wanted to talk to his father, to apologize for something and to warn him that the base's warhead has been locked into countdown: "We shoot our wad in 50 minutes!"

Then there's the sound of a gunshot and another voice comes on.

"Forget everything you just heard."

In a scene reminiscent of the one in Hitchcock's "The Birds," Harry tries to tell Johnie's motley assortment of night crawlers - a transvestite, two truck drivers and a yuppie stockbroker named Landa, who is speed-reading "Gravity's Rainbow" - what's about to happen. Is it real or a sick joke?

Landa (Denise Crosby, granddaughter of Bing), who happens to know the right people, makes a phone call and learns that a state of readiness is in the works.

Incredibly, she lines up a helicopter to transport everyone to where the air apparently will be clear of radioactivity. But if he's only got a little time left, Harry wants to spend it with Julie and embarks on an impetuous, romantic chase to find her.

For this moment, DeJarnatt comes up with another zany touch: Julie is still in a deep sleep, zonked out, and so Harry just plops her in a shopping cart and races through a deserted, very noir-ish L.A. in the dead of night.

"Miracle Mile," with its ripe camera work (courtesy of Holland's Theo Van de Sande), is over-the-top filmmaking, all twisty and quirky and bizarrely funny - like a fever dream. And visually, it's like a love poem to a very special time - the hours between darkness and dawn, as neon signs blink on/off and the morning light gradually seeps through buildings and alleys.

The film, released briefly on VHS, went full circle. It disappeared and was forgotten again - and only half-remembered - until it surfaced on DVD in 2015. To paraphrase a line from Ernest Dowson's poem, "Miracle Mile" emerged "from a misty dream, for a while, and then closed, within a dream." I'm glad it's back. But where, oh where, is Steve DeJarnatt?

I'd still like to meet him.

Note in Passing: The title of the Dowson poem is, of course, "The Days of Wine and Roses." 

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

(from top)

~Poster art for "Miracle Mile"

~Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham outside Johnie's
~photography: Hemdale  1988©

~Edwards transports Winningham throughout a noir-ish L.A.
~ photography: Hemdale 1988©

 ~The "Fat Boy" logo for the legendary Johnie's