Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bad Day At Black Rock; Bob Randisi

Bad Day At Black Rock was on TCM this afternoon. One of my all-time favorite westerns. Bad Day demonstrates how durable the western form can be in the right hands. Make it contemporary, give it a serious theme but keep the pacing and excitement of the genre...and you've got one of the best scripted films I've ever seen.

I'd forgotten how often the film becomes a bit stage bound but to great effect. The lobby of the dingy hotel where Robert Ryan and his thugs gather to confront Spencer Tracy is a perfect setting for long speeches and character development. Two scenes in the third act are especially memorable. The fight in which one-armed Tracy dispatches Ernest Borgnine is staged better than anything in John Ford.

But for all the jabber this is pure movie. The desert, the ghost town-like whistle-stop, the dirt and grit of the actors and the hotel interior are a mosaic of desolation. Ryan, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and the others add their individual colors to the mosaic. Young Anne Francis is the desert flower, a stunner in looks and a fine strong actress.

This is one of the great ones.


Bob Randisi has responded to my post on Amazon Top Ten reviewers

I can't post on your blog so I'm sending this here. Some years back I went back and forth with emails to Amazon, talking to them about their reviews. I whole heartedly disagree with their policy of reviewing books, especially when they slam them. This is NOT the way to sell books. I liken it to a grocery store putting canned peas out on their shelves, and then a sign telling people they're BAD peas and not to buy them. I tried to get some support from my fellow scribes, but no one wanted to take Amazon on. Others didn't agree with me. One well known author even accused me of advocating censorship. I gave up, but I do NOT buy books from Amazon, I buy them from other sites like Barnes & Noble and

And whenever I get a chance, I have my say, like now.



Anonymous said...

And Spencer Tracy's genius was never better displayed.

Richard Wheeler

pattinase (abbott) said...

I watched part of it but it was letter-boxed into a slit so I decided to rent it. When Spencer Tracey enters the room, you can't look anywhere else. Does anyone know him today?

Fred Blosser said...

Sadly, I suspect that the answer to Pattinase's question is, "A dwindling few."

Aside from a handful of exceptions with iconic status -- Marilyn, Wayne, Dean, Brando, Bogart -- I daresay that most '30s, '40s, and '50s stars are little remembered except by the people who grew up watching them. I'm 57, and when I grew up watching movies in the '60s, I couldn't really identify with Tracy because by then, he was an "old guy." Ask people today in their 20s and 30s about, say, Richard Harris, and I bet they would have a similar reaction, picturing the mellow old guy from the Harry Potter movies. Never mind that, for me, Harris remains the electrifying, angry young scrapper from "This Sporting Life."

TCM is about the only mass exposure that the older stars still get. I hope that younger viewers will pause long enough to watch Tracy, Cagney, Robinson, Flynn, Ford, and Lancaster, but they're more likely fiddling with their iPods.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna try posting here again. Wathed TCM last week, back-to-back-back Cary Grant/Clark Gable/Stewart Granger, not to mention Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner. I hate to use a cloche, but they DON'T make 'em like that anymore.


Anonymous said...


You're so right. It finally dawned on my why those people seem to tower over the young and modern ones. They were adults.

Richard Wheeler

Graham Powell said...

I think that the mass audience will move on, but there will always be film junkies who will keep the memories of those stars alive.

I myself was a big Bogie fan (KEY LARGO is still one of my favorites) when I was a mere lad of 20. Of course that was 19 years ago...

Anonymous said...


I will say this for the Amazon sites -- they keep backlists alive. I currently have 28 editions of my UK-published westerns listed at

In 2007, I had three hardcovers published. None of them is now listed my publisher's website. The message is "no search results" as though they never existed. The last of the three, Peace at Any Price, was published on November 30. The July title, Misfit Lil Fights Back, was out of stock at the publishers' site just 17 days after publication.