A summer heat wave has hit the North Coast. When you have three days in a row above 90 degrees and humidity to boot, North Bay Ontario sounds very alluring by now.
As the air conditioner cranks up and I run out of ice cubes in the freezer, I for some reason think about an old movie that many have seen over the years, some of you even when it first came out in Cinemascope..The Long Hot Summer. This overblown 1958 melodrama (the working title for the script had to be SUDS) with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward was a big deal when it came out. However, whenever I see it, I start howling with laughter half way into it.
Cleveland’s own Newman plays Ben Quick, a redneck hustler with a history of setting fires. He stirs things up in a small Southern town owned by an even bigger redneck hustler, Will Varner, played by Orson Wells. Varner is the fat, coarse, conniving, big mouth operator who owns the entire area and nobody, not even his pig-headed daughter (Joanne Woodward) will stop him from getting his way. In this epic full of nasty rumors, fights, Angela Lansbury pestering Orson on when they’re getting married, Lee Remick running around in as flimsy a wardrobe she could under the Eisenhower Administration, Orson being trapped in a barn by his own son (played by Anthony Franciosa; now what’s a Paisano doing in a flick like this?) who tries to set it on fire, Paul nearly getting lynched, and oh yes Joanne falling in love with apparently a gay guy, Paul woos Joanne throughout and, after all THAT, there’s a happy ending. How the heck did they pack all that crap in a little under two hours?
There’s another good reason why The Long Hot Summer is on my mind and it’s not just the sweltering heat. While First Son-in-Law Jarrod is no Newman, for the life of me, when I think of Orson barking orders from the big white plantation house he calls home, it’s so easy to move on to The Donald think he can do the same thing in the Oval Office.
The reality TV show that has become the presidency is not only providing a steady stream of ‘breaking news’ for evening cable news shows, and fodder for the Australian Prime Minister to make jokes out of, but we all now despite his protestations there’s, as Malcolm Turnbull quipped “this Russian Guy” who must be elated that whatever took place last year gave him a bang for his ruble. Yet, for many Americans, there’s a dark edge to the humor and I that when I watch the news I am amazed and angry at the same time.
Even when Trump goes, the damage has been done. As I’ve written in previous posts, many of the people who voted for him did so because he promised to deliver on changing things that they believed hurt themselves, their families, and communities. What Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have been trying to ram through Congress (such as the Health Care Bill now under wraps in the Senate) are not the things many voted for Their anger and frustration will flare up again, and get worse. Now, as shown by incidents such as what happened in Alexandria Virginia, you also have disturbed people who, in this case, supported Bernie Sanders who felt they had to take the law in their own hands with near tragic consequences. If neither party really makes an effort to address the average American’s need for a living wage, good health care, opportunities for their children, safe communities, and that the future will at least get a little better (which I argue was starting to happen under the Obama Administration), there will be such an explosion that our governing class won’t know what hit them.
As I write this, another movie comes to my mind far removed in location, and tone from the Newman/Woodward Sudser. It’s a rather sparse black and white 1961 film version (with Sidney Poitier and another Cleveland native Ruby Dee) of a play by Lorraine Hansberry: Raisin in the Sun. It is the story of a black family buying a house in an all white area of Chicago. Naturally, a very polite meek looking white man from the local neighborhood association drops by to offer them a check to get the hell out of there. The happy ending in this film is that they managed to stay. For those of you reading this who don’t know it, Ms. Hansberry took the title of her drama from a poem, A Dream Deferred, by Langston Hughes. Of course it was a reflection on the hopes and frustrations of African=Americans in the 1950s but the message is universal; especially today
Starting on Sunday, things here south of Lake Erie will be a little more normal with temperatures in the high seventies by Tuesday. On that day is the congressional election in Georgia I will definitely keep an eye on it and, naturally, I hope Ossoff can pull it off. If he does, then there is hope for next year in my book. Then of course is Robert Mueller’s investigation. However, it will take a few years I fear before anything approaching normal will take place in the country. In the meantime, will things explode?