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Friday 11/20/20

The radio series Suspense isn't at the level of Quiet, Please. It's not particularly close, though a special Suspense episode--like "The House in Cypress Canyon"--sometimes reached Quiet, Please heights. The problem with Suspense is that so often the episodes are built on the twist ending. The beginnings--the mood setting--is typically much richer than the last act--which is more akin to a scene, if that. The intro to each of them told you that this was how it was going to be, so there wasn't any surprise. It was the recipe, which the series was upfront about. And any occasional listener would have understood the drill. That's a drawback. But there are quite a few pluses. From the standpoint of all of these decades later, there's the positive that almost all of the episodes survive in excellent fidelity. That's up around 1000 episodes. Will keep you busy. Whereas, Quite, Please only ran for two years, and most of the episodes sound pretty rough--it's like the difference between a soundboard and a sketchy audience recording. You get used to it, though, with Quiet, Please, and then it's fine. Another perk with Suspense is the level of talent with the actors, who were frequently cast against what you'd expect from them. They must have paid a lot, because they got everyone, people at the height of their Hollywood stardom. And others. This is my favorite actor, Robert Mitchum, in a 5/15/47 episode called "Death at Live Oak." One will note the twist ending, of course, and also that Mitchum doesn't even really sound like Mitchum. He's doing something different with his voice--making it lower. For his primary character, anyway. To situate the chronology, Out of the Past came out in late November of that year--not only the greatest noir film, but one of the dozen or so best American films of all in my view. So this is Mitchum on the radio around the time he's in the best picture of his life.

Yesterday I reread this 1958 Cahiers du Cinéma interview with Orson Welles, conducted by André Bazin. Welles was my age when he did this--it contains some of the most profound comments on cinema--and art--one will find anywhere, especially in the second half of the interview. Consider what he ways about beat, synthesis, value systems, muses and mistresses. I write in part as I do because I don't come to writing from writing--I came from music. I don't mean as a subject--I mean that I began as a musician who wrote, who was always a writer more than anything. And not a musician who played what we think of as a musical instrument. It's complicated. But I was coming from music. Welles was the same way with what he did, and Leonardo. Note what he says about story and stories. There's actually an awful lot of overlap. Story is everything. Nothing is more important than story. It's the great human binding element. Nothing connects us to each other more than story. Even love and friendship fall under the aegis of story. Also note what he says about the television, and what listening makes our minds do.


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