A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Bullets or Ballots (Bogart)

Monday, June 8th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Bogart_BulletsLobbyposter“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Humphrey Bogart worked his way up the ladder at Warner Brothers, frequently playing a bad guy who went up against James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson, who were big stars and a part of Warner’s ‘Murderer’s Row.’ I count seven times Bogie was pitted against one or the other, in a supporting actor role. Bogart was the star the eighth time, in Key Largo. It comes as no surprise that Bogart inevitably lost, up to that last time.

Bogart had failed twice in Hollywood before The Petrified Forest gave him the traction to stick on the west coast. He was so grateful to star Leslie Howard, who insisted that Bogart reprise his stage role as Duke Mantee, that Bogie named his daughter after Leslie. Bogart’s first film after that one is my favorite of his gangster flicks, Bullets or Ballots. It’s a typical thirties gangster film from Warners, which is a good thing.

Picking Lead (trivia) – The Petrified Forest was a smash on Broadway, and Warners bought the rights. Howard was the star and signed on to do the film. Warners wanted to use Robinson for the role of Mantee. Howard was determined the part be played by Bogart, saying he wouldn’t do the movie otherwise. Warners blinked and Bogart returned to the west coast, receiving strong reviews.

Picking Lead – Howard was killed in 1942 when the Luftwaffe shot down the Dutch commercial airliner he was flying on. His son, Ronald, also became an actor and starred in a British Sherlock Holmes television series. He played a younger Holmes and it’s an under-appreciated performance: in part because of poor scripts and low production values.

Edward G. Robinson plays Johnny Blake, a pipe-smoking cop finishing his career out-of-favor with the current leadership. He’s from the two-fisted school, and makes bad guys tip their hat to him. When one refuses to do so, Blake punches him out. When the thug takes a swing at him, he throws him through a glass door and has him arrested for destruction of property.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Johnny O’Clock (Powell)

Monday, June 1st, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Powell_OClockPoster1“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

And for the third year in a row, A (Black) Gat in the Hand makes a hardboiled reservation for Monday mornings. It’s a limited run, but for the month of June, I’ll look at some hardboiled/noir on screen efforts: Ones that you might not be quite as familiar with. Not totally off the beaten path, but not the big names, either. And we kick things off with Dick Powell’s follow up to Murder My Sweet, Johnny, O’Clock.

When you think of the hardboiled movie, or book, it’s usually a private eye that comes to mind. There’s Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe, and Mike Hammer. Of course, there were also cops in movies, like Glenn Ford’s Dave Bannion in The Big Heat; and Frederick Nebel’s MacBride in print. Those stories were changed into seven Torchy Blaine movies, and quite different from Nebel’s hardboiled stories about MacBride, unfortunately.

Other occupations were covered, including reporters, and lawyers. Ex-soldiers of various stripes, like Alan Ladd in The Blue Dahlia, were popular. A movie that I really like in this genre starred a gambler. Like Humphrey Bogart’s Dead Reckoning, this film doesn’t appear on any top ten lists, but it doesn’t feature a private eye, and it’s a ‘could have been really good’ film.

Like James Cagney and George Raft, Dick Powell was a successful song and dance man in Hollywood. Then, he was surprisingly cast as Raymond Chandler’s world-weary Phililp Marlowe in Murder My Sweet, and he nailed the part. That 1944 effort was the first of four hardboiled films he made in a five-movie span, of which Johnny O’Clock was the third.

Picking Iron (trivia) – This new side of Powell made him perfect for the singing, funny, tough radio PI, Richard Diamond (I love that series).

Powell plays the title character, and he’s manager of a fancy (and legal) gambling joint in NYC. He dresses well, knows lots of people, and lives in a fancy apartment with an ex-con named Charlie, who is his jack of all trades assistant.

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Looking for a Heist Show? Lemme Tell You About ‘Leverage’

Monday, May 25th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

LeverageSeason1I recently rewatched most of the episodes of Leverage, which streams 24/7 on a Pluto TV channel. I had watched every episode during the initial run on TNT, from 2008 through 2012. It’s said to bear a strong similarity to a British show called Hustle, which aired from 2004 through 2012, though I’ve not seen the latter. Leverage is a throwback to the classic caper/heist movies of the sixties and seventies. If you like Mission Impossible, or Ocean’s Eleven – or even The Rockford Files, for a feel good tone – this is your kind of show, developed by Dean Devlin. Devlin wrote the screenplay for the Will Smith smash, Independence Day.

Timothy Hutton, who I’ve written about as Archie Goodwin in A&E’s A Nero Wolfe Mystery, is the show’s star, though it’s as ensemble-centric as you’re likely to find. Nathan Ford had been the best insurance investigator in the business (maybe Johnny Dollar trained him), but then the mega-company he worked for refused experimental treatment for his critically ill son. When the son died, Nate went off the rails. Job, marriage, everything: he becomes an unemployed alcoholic.

In The Nigerian Job (the pilot), the chance to get back at his former employer draws Nate to team up with three thieves he had pursued before. They form a team to retrieve some stolen airplane plans which had been stolen in the first place. The con goes awry when the client, played by the excellent Saul Rubinek (another Nero Wolfe regular), double crosses the team. Nate adds a fourth member to the team, plans a new con, and they take down the client, for a satisfactory ending. In episode two, The Homecoming Job, a soldier wounded in Iraq comes to Nate for help. Nate summons the team from around the world for another job, and Leverage Consulting & Associates is born.

Nathan is represented as an honest man, who knows all the ins and outs of thieves. Which makes him the perfect head for the team. Dungeons and Dragons players know that a well-rounded party is of great benefit. Computer-generated parties often give you a fighter, a thief, a magic user and a cleric of some sort. That’s so the party has the myriad of skills required for different demands. The Leverage team is built on the same principle.

Sophie Deveraux, played by Gina Bellman, is a grifter. She was the late addition to the team. As an attractive female who is also an actress (in the role), she is an asset to any con. She also has the strongest emotional ties to Nate as the series progresses, and is the only one who can get through to him when despair and his recurring alcoholism come into play. She becomes Nate’s voice of reason, though she’s often unsuccessful at it. Bellman had starred in the British show, Coupling.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Some Hardboiled Streaming Options

Monday, May 18th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Today, I’m going to talk about two streaming sites for your hardboiled/noir lock down needs. And then, a third site with a show I really dig. First, up:


BrotherOrchid_LobbyCardI have recently spent a lot of time on Watch TCM. It can be streamed free on your PC and Smart TV, and you can download the app for mobile devices.

Most movies running on TCM (Turner Classic Movies), are posted on Watch TCM within several hours of airing. Some which they sell, like Casablanca and Key Largo, are not posted, and movies generally drop off after a week. You can watch any movie listed, as many times as you want, free. If you have TCM through your cable provider, you can watch the east coast and west coast feeds live. So, if you miss something on the east coast, you can still catch it later on the west coast. This is good for the ones that don’t end up posted.

I’m obviously a hardboiled/noir fan, and May’s Star of the Month is Edward G. Robinson. Which has resulted in a plethora of movies in that genre, plus other non-genre movies from stars like Robinson, Bogart, and Ida Lupino.

Thursday is Star of the Month day, and in less than 24 hour period from last Thursday afternoon, the following movies were posted:

All Through the Night (Bogart), The Hard Way (Lupino), The Return of Doctor X (Bogart), The Whole Town’s Talking (Edward G. Robinson), A Slight Case of Murder (Robinson), Larceny, Inc (Robinson), The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (Robinson, Bogart), and Brother Orchid (Robinson, Bogart).

And the previous Thursday’s haul remained up until Friday, and it had some VERY good stuff as well. Last Monday’s post was about a bunch of the movies showing through the rest of May. Check it out.

Of course, there’s far more than hardboiled/noir, which is my favorite area. As I type this, there are two Marx Brothers movies, and one from The Bowery Boys. They had a musical day, so Yankee Doodle Dandy and several others are up. I will always watch Mister Roberts when I can. There are relatively ‘newer’ classics, such as Network, and Coma, as well. It’s not just all old black and white movies.

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Rogue Blades Author: How Robert E. Howard (and Glenn Lord) Changed My Life

Friday, May 15th, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

The following is an an excerpt from Roy Thomas’ essay for the upcoming book from the Rogue Blades Foundation, Robert E. Howard Changed My Life.

I’ve told this story so many time by now that I figure everybody who would want to know it is tired of it already, but I can’t make up new facts just because I have to write a new article, can I? Well, maybe there’ll be a few twists in my tale this time, because I want to tell it a little bit more from the angle of Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) and Glenn Lord (1931-2011).

Robert E. Howard came first, but just barely.

I had, to the best of my memory, never heard of Robert E. Howard — or of Conan or any of the other Howard characters — when the Lancer Books paperback Conan the Adventurer appeared on the racks in 1966, some months after I started working for Stan Lee at Marvel Comics. Well, truth to tell, he was mentioned in a couple of paragraphs in my fan/friend Richard A. Lupoff’s 1965 book Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventures as one of the literary heroes inspired, at least in part, by Tarzan of the Apes… but that part of Dick’s study slipped right past me, leaving no imprint on my mind. When I saw the first Conan paperback, my eyes were drawn — as they were meant to be — by Frank Frazetta’s stunningly savage cover. I bought that book as I’d been buying others of an ERB ilk, pastiches of Burroughs by Otis Adelbert Kline, Gardner Fox, Lin Carter, whomever. I didn’t always actually read those pastiches, but I kept a little collection of them on a shelf in my apartment. One day I might get around to them.

castle of blood brunner the bounty hunter Rage of the Behemoth

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 11, 12, and 13

Thursday, May 14th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ArchieFritzHopefully by now, you know what this series is all about. Over at The Wolfe Pack Facebook Group page, I am doing daily entries from Archie’s notebooks, as he endures Stay at Home with Nero Wolfe in these pandemic days. Over the weekend, I hit forty-three straight days, and over 41,000 words. You can check out the group for all of the posts. And there are links to to the first ten days down at the bottom of this post – plus all my other Nero Wolfe writings here at Black Gate.


DAY ELEVEN – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

Saul Panzer called today. Del Bascom was always scrambling to make payroll and turn a profit, and he was still finding jobs related to essential services. Saul had agreed to help him track down some money that had gone missing from a bank. He said that seemed healthier than trying to track down some masks taken from a hospital. I was surprised he was doing any work at all out in the danger zone. He didn’t need the money. Maybe he was tired of practicing the piano.

“Bascom told me that Bill Gore is in the hospital. It looks bad.”

Oh. “Covid 19?”

“Yeah. He was working for Bascom and called off sick one morning. Then, a couple days later, he called him from the hospital.”

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Son of 19 Movies: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird Edition

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020 | Posted by John Miller

Six-String Samura-small

Six-String Samurai (Palm Pictures, 1998)

Check out Nineteen 1950’s SF Movies To Help Get You Through the Next Few Weeks, posted at Black Gate in April.

A mix of genres this time around, not all sf/fan. The thing these films all have in common is that they’re weird. Off the beaten track. Cock-eyed and sideways. The “weird factor” is rather unmeasurable by scientific means, but then what isn’t when you’re dealing with the arts? You’ll note that all these films have a dual rating, 10+ to 1, best to worst. Since this list (by any measure) does include some bad movies, the first number refers to entertainment value rather than quality, since some (I stress, some) bad movies can be very entertaining. The second number refers to weirdness factor, my best effort at evaluating this vague, but important component. YMMV.

19. Six-String Samurai (1998: 8/8) A good example of Indie film-making which spoofs Mad Max movies, after the apocalypse films in general, Lone Wolf and Cub, and The Wizard of Oz. Decent martial arts action set on a bizarre alternate world where Russia attacked the U.S. in 1957 and wiped out every city except Vegas, where Elvis had ruled for forty years as king. Well, Vegas needs a new king, baby.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: It’s a Hardboiled May on TCM

Monday, May 11th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

EdwardRobinsonSo, Edward G. Robinson is the May Star of the Month on TCM. Every Thursday there is a batch of Robinson movies, as well as some other movies featuring hardboiled stars, like Humphrey Bogart. Things kicked off May 7th with eight Robinson flicks, including two excellent Bogie movies, Key Largo, and Bullets or Ballots. But the past is prologue.

Let’s take a look at some of the films coming up this month, all EST. A note: any movie shown on TCM, which they don’t sell the DVD for, can be viewed on WatchTCM for a week after it airs. So, for example, Bullets or Ballots can be seen right now, but Key Largo can’t.

May 14th

8:15 AM – All Through the Night

This is one of my Top Ten Bogart films – might even be Top Five. Bogart is Gloves Donahue, a NYC gangster. It opened up in January of 1942, in the early stages of the war. Hollywood was shifting from making gangster movies to war films, and this is both! Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser in Casablanca) leads a Nazi spy ring that runs afoul of Bogart’s gang. It’s a comedy-gangster-spy movie, and I think it’s a great watch. There’s a superb supporting cast, including Peter Lorre, William Demarest, Frank McHugh, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, and Barton MacLane! I highly recommend this one.

In Casablanca, when Rick is advising Major Strasser about invading certain parts of New York, that’s an in-joke back to this movie.

4:15 PM – The Return of Doctor X

This is a bad, science fiction/horror movie. It’s a little campy; but mostly just bad. I’ll let Bogie tell you himself how bad it was:

“This is one of those pictures that made me march in to (Warner Brothers boss Jack L. Warner) and ask for more money again. You can’t believe what this one was like. I had a part that somebody like Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff should have played. I was this doctor, brought back to life, and the only thing that nourished this poor bastard was blood. If it’d been Jack Warner’s or Harry (Warner’s) blood, I wouldn’t have minded as much. The trouble was, they were drinking mine and I was making this stinking movie.”

That’s from an essay I wrote about it here at Black Gate. Watch the movie, read my essay. You’ll thank me later.

9:45 PM – A Slight Case of Murder

I’m not crazy about Robinson’s gangster comedies, of which this is one. A gangster goes straight. Much hilarity ensues. Sort of. It does have the always reliable Alan Jenkins, who appeared in lots of Warners crime films.

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Neverwhens: Where History and Fantasy (Careers) Collide — an Interview with Christian (and Miles) Cameron

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 | Posted by Greg Mele

C Cameron as Hoplite -- Alternate-small

Christian Cameron as a Hoplite

Christian Cameron, a well-known historical fiction author who writes espionage novels under the pen name Gordon Kent and fantasy under Miles Cameron, is a Canadian novelist who was educated and trained as both an historian and a former career officer in the US Navy. His best-known work is the ongoing historical fiction series Tyrant, set in Classical Greece, which by 2009 had sold over 100,000 copies. But in recent years he’s not only chronicled ancient Greece, but 14th-century European history — military, chivalric, and literary — in England, France, Italy, and Greece and roughly in parallel with the career of Chaucer’s knight (the Chivalry series). And, as Miles Cameron, he also writes fantasy with the Traitor Son tetralogy and Masters & Mages trilogy.

Cameron is a passionate reenactor, and uses the experiences of reenacting, including knowledge of the material culture and the skill sets required to recreate any portion of life in the past as essential tools in writing his novels. Cameron helps organize and direct military and non-military reenactments in the United States, Canada, and Europe. In addition to recreating the life of an early 5th-century BCE Plataean Hoplite, Cameron also runs a group dedicated to the role of rangers and Native Americans in the American Revolution, and participates in tournaments as a knight of the late 14th century. One such tournament is the Deed of Alms, an annual HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) charity tournament hosted in Toronto to combat homelessness.

GDM: So you’ve had a long and very successful run as an historical fiction writer before adding fantasy to your repertoire. Which genre was your first love?

CC: Fantasy all the way.  Except Dumas’ Three Musketeers, which is to me the greatest adventure novel ever written. I had a friend who was seriously in to ‘Old School’ fantasy; Lord Dunsany, Tolkien, E.R. Eddison, Robert E Howard… etc.  Amazing stuff.

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The Stories We Tell: Bias in Research and Its Effects on Fiction

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 | Posted by S.M. Carrière


Hadrian’s Wall, from the ruins of a Milecastle. Image from publicdomainpictures.net.

Good morning, Readers!

Last week, I was watching a lecture on Hadrian’s Wall, as you do, hoping to learn something new about the situation in Britain during the Roman occupation. I did not, incidentally, learn anything I had not already known (if money was no object, I would have a doctorate in archaeology, specializing in the British Isles, and probably a few extra degrees in archaeogenetics and archaeolinguistics. I am fascinated by these things). The lecture did, however, serve as a stark reminder of the frustrating presence of bias that permeates even intellectual pursuits. This lecture, in particular, veered hard towards a Roman bias, something that has been so prevalent in the field I am so interested in, that I’ve often shut books and thrown journals across the room.

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