Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Give them the ooh la la!" Mais oui, ce sont Jean Simmons et Marlon Brando dans: “Desirée”!

Another ingenious sonnet from Arnold Schnabel, bravely or obliviously published in the May 25th 1963 issue of the “Olney Times”.

(A note for the young people:
The Schaefer Award Theatre came on at 11:30 on Saturday nights and showed movies with only one commercial interruption. This show introduced a generation to such classics as On the Waterfront, Viva Zapata, The Wild One, and, yes, some perhaps not so great ones like Desirée.)

(Grateful acknowledgement to the Arnold Schnabel Society.)

“The Schaefer Award Theatre”

The Schaefer Award Theatre, and this is my reward:
Brando on the screen, and in my hand a beer;
Mother upstairs, asleep, and nothing untoward
Shall disrupt this quiet night with madness or fear.
I have gradually stopped taking the little capsules;
They were a wall between me and life and, yes, this:
The keening and swooping of these razor-winged rascals
Who zoom past my sofa with a chilling hiss;
I do not mind them much; somehow they always miss,
And so I drink my beer and watch the movie Desirée;
Jean Simmons is so very lovely as Mademoiselle Clary;
When the devils flock in front of her I bat them away
With this poker; I refuse to let them scare me.
But I mustn’t relax my guard. Victory goes to the wary.

(If you transfer your stunned gaze to the right hand column of this page you will find links to many other brilliant Arnold Schnabel poems as well as to his addictive (and Schaefer Award-winning) memoir Railroad Train to Heaven.)


Bob said...

Oh, great, now I'm never gonna be able to watch Desirée again without worrying about a bunch of demons swarming all around my head. Thanks a load, Dan!

Becker said...

Bob, you've always got a bunch of demons swarming around your head.

Jake said...

I thought they were flies.

Don't Call Me Francis said...

I don't get it. What's so strange about having demons (or flies for that matter) swarming about one's head?

Dan Leo said...

Lighten up, Francis.

wbhist said...

I presume that this "Award Theatre" would have been on WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, if this were published in a paper that came from a suburb of Philly. I noticed two other stations that aired "Award Theatre" over the years - WBBM-TV in Chicago and WCBS-TV in New York.

Dan Leo said...

And a wonderful Schaefer Award Theatre it was!

wbhist said...

The other thing: On WCBS, Award Theatre was presented with four commercial interruptions in each special presentation. I haven't yet noticed On the Waterfront or the other titles you mentioned among the films debuted under the Award Theatre banner (I am getting there though), but I did notice such others as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mister Roberts, Holiday Inn, From Here to Eternity, Damn Yankees, the original 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty, Rio Bravo, and Operation Petticoat.

On its brief 1970 revival (the original series had run from 1959 to 1968 before key holidays), Schaefer alternated its Award Theatre between WCBS and WNBC-TV. On the latter station, they presented under this banner two films that were hardly first-run - Charade and The Birds. In the latter case, it had previously run on both NBC's network movie shows, and locally on WABC-TV several months before.

Dan Leo said...

Thanks for the info, Wbhist! I was working entirely from memory, a memory no longer quite green, in my description of that noble program. It somehow seemed to me that this show always had only one long commercial break, and somehow I was sure also that I had seen all these great Marlon Brando movies on the Schaefer Award Theatre. Perhaps I was mixing it up with some other late-night weekend show?

I know I'll never forget the song:

"Schaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one. Schaefer's pleasure doesn't fade even when your thirst is done."

Purest poetry, worthy of a Schnabel.

But by the way, let's give Olney its due, as a neighborhood and not a suburb of Philadelphia!

wbhist said...

It could have had one commercial interruption in Philly, for all I could tell. And thanks for the clarification on Olney.

However, WCBS did play On the Waterfront for many years, so it's likely that film did have its debut under the Award Theatre umbrella.

As for Desiree, as of the 1970's it played on WABC-TV in New York. Probably debuted on that station's The Best of Broadway film showcase of 1963-71?

wbhist said...

Turns out Desiree and Viva Zapata were held in New York by WABC in the '60's, while The Wild One was in WCBS's library.

But it would appear, again, that the certain quality movies that were selected for Award Theatre debuts differed in both Philadelphia and Chicago from what was debuted in New York. On Aug. 5, 1962, for example, WBBM in Chicago ran Arsenic and Old Lace under the Award Theatre showcase. But WCBS also held that film in its inventory through the early 1960's, after which it moved to WNEW-TV. (The day before, Aug. 4, 1962, WCBS ran an Award Theatre presentation of Destry Rides Again.)

Dan Leo said...

Thanks so much, Wbhist. One thing's for sure, "Schaefer Award Theatre" did much to fill out my film education, not forgetting good old "Saturday Night at the Movies", although by a certain age I no longer wanted to stay home on a Saturday night no matter how alluring the movie...

wbhist said...

I've since found one Brando film that had its debut on "Award Theatre" on WCBS: "Sayonara" (1957).

They did, however, have a few Gary Cooper films debuting under this prestigious umbrella: the 1939 Beau Geste, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Northwest Mounted Police, possibly even Sergeant York. Plus some films starring Jimmy Stewart (Destry Rides Again, The Spirit of St. Louis, The Glenn Miller Story, The FBI Story, Bell, Book and Candle and, of course, the aforementioned Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), some Cary Grants (Indiscreet, the previously-mentioned Operation Petticoat and The Bishop's Wife) and a few Tyrone Power entries (the 1939 Jesse James and The Eddy Duchin Story).

Dan Leo said...

Wbhist, what a great batch of movies. I remember vividly watching "Sayonara" as a young boy. Brando was soooo damn cool with the soft southern accent he had in that movie. There's nothing like seeing a classic movie for the first time...