Monday, February 11, 2019

From the Top of the Hill # 14: January 22, 1948

Here's another installment of John D MacDonald's weekly 1947-48 newspaper column From the Top of the Hill, published in the Clinton Courier.

Battle Royal

Sunday the Town Team carries the fight to Syracuse.

A healthy rivalry is a fine thing. The desire to win makes for good contests. But the payoff is in goals, not in Bandaids and iodine.

Last fall's football warfare between Columbia and Syracuse was a black eye for college football. A good, hard, clean, tough game is a wonderful thing. That game last fall drew penalties for everything except biting the ears off the opposition. It was on the same level of sportsmanship as a barroom brawl where a busted bottle is better than a chair leg.

The last Clinton - Syracuse hockey game had its free-for-all, too.

Seems odd, when you remember that the payoff is on the scoreboard, and it isn't measured in the size of the lump that can be put on somebody's head.

For our money, if the game degenerates into the sort of fracas that the last one did - nobody wins.

A little tangle between players is expected in the fine, wide-open game of hockey. But not a mob scene. Not a deal where a young kid with the flag is trounced for trying to do his job.

* * *

Cicero Makes a Movie

Once upon a time there was a joker named Cicero Bugwilder, who, between writing the comic book sequences for Doc Destruction, managed to get the novel done that his wife had been needling him about for lo these many years.

To Cicero's intense astonishment, the prominent publishing firm of Hardesty and Snood took the book and appropriated enough advertising so that Cicero's book, The Breeze Across the Woodwind, poked a cautious nose up over the bottom line of type in the best seller lists before sinking down into eventual oblivion.

Snood, being almost as smart as Hardesty, manages to put the bite on Magnifico Films to the extent of one hundred and ten thousand bucks for the movie rights to Bugwilder's novel, even getting them to agree to take Bugwilder on the Magnifico payroll to work on the screen treatment of The Breeze Across the Woodwind.

Cicero Bugwilder, wondering what Wilshire Boulevard would do for his asthma, packs a bag, kissed his wife and spent a long time on the Super-Chief watching small dark men play gin-rummy, before climbing down into the arms of the agent recommended by Snood.

Within an hour Bugwilder had been located in the small damp room in the small damp hotel on the small damp street, and had been dragged off to Magnifico and installed in a small, anemic office with a typewriter and three reams of paper.

His secretary was an amphibious looking little creature with a face like a child moose, and, within the hour she announced a Mr. Wenesly Gnud. Mr. Gnud, a solid man with hair, muscles and a cerise sports shirt came breezing in, contemptuously tossed a book onto Bugwilder's desk and said, "Weep for us, pal. Lookit the turkey they gave us to make a picha outa!"

Bugwilder fingered the book, looked carefully at Gnud, and said, "I... I wrote it."

Gnud looked at him with barely disguised contempt and said, "Cheer up. Mabe there's a picha in it. I doubt it. I had to read it last night... Got too much labor stuff. No music. No young love. No nothing. Anyway, we got a month to think it over. The producer is Ben Rustle, great guy. He wants Hillary Grainway as director. Great guyt. Grainway won't be off Spring Angels for maybe a month.

It turned out to be two months before Grainway was ready for The Breeze Across the Woodwind. During those two months Cicero Bugwilder gradually became accustomed to going about without a hat and necktie. He found that he enjoyed the circus excitement of watching pictures made, and he spent many happy hours roaming around the lot.

When Grainway was ready, Magnifico, distressed by the low gross of Grainway's last two pictures, let him go.

The day before the second director was selected, Bugwilder's three month option came up and wasn't renewed. His agent was, at the moment, re-marrying in Mexico, so Cicero Bugwilder, fit and tanned and reasonably affluent, went back to New York by train.

One year later, most of the money was gone, and two days after Hardesty and Snood sent back the manuscript of his second novel with sincere regrets, Cidero Bugwilder and his wife went to the movies.

Cicero was disturbed out of his usual sound sleep by the sound of a familiar name. One of the characters on the screen was being called Henry J. Thyme. Cicero stayed and saw the picture twice and then went to see his lawyer.

"Joe," he said, "They stole the name of a character out of my book and used it in another picture. I want to sue."

Joe sensed a certain nuisance value in the suit which, in contingency, might net his some small change, so he investigated.

Thus it was with considerable regret that he called up Cicero a week later and said, "Old man, I'm afraid we haven't got a leg to stand on. You see, that picture you went to -- the one called Love Dawning -- is the picture they made from your book. They didn't like your title, the plot, or the action -- but they did keep the name of one character. Hey! Bugwilder! Anything the matter?"

For, over the line he had heard a soft muffled thud. For several minutes Joe sat listening to the dense silence, frequently shaking the phone as though that would somehow help.

* * *

Post Script to the Radio Argument

In the Sunday, January 18th issue of the Herald Tribune, B.H. Haggin, in his column "Music on the Radio," points out that by virtue of the principles established by Congress, the people own title to the wave lengths of the air which private persons and commercial companies may use as leasees for a limited period, provided they operate in the public interest, convenience or necessity.

Then he said something which reminded me of the letter we got last week which spoke of the "kindness of sponsors in giving us these wonderful programs with their "modicum of advertising."

We quote Mr. Haggin: "That is something for radio listeners to keep in mind when they are asked to be grateful to the broadcasting industry for what they receive from it. It is the broadcasting industry that owes radio listeners something for the privilege of using their property to make a lot of money. And it can be held to account for its failure, out of sheer greed, to give music lovers what it owes them."

The letter we received last week was obviously the result of indignation that someone, who knows as little about radio as we do, would dare to criticize it.

We not only dare to criticize, but, in absolute fairness we fail to see how any of the data contained in that letter had much bearing on the point. Thus, it is only fair that we request of him an additional letter. Surely there must be more convincing arguments on the side of the broadcasting industry!

* * *

See you next week.

1 comment:

  1. As always, thank you for posting. I always look forward to reading JDM or even reading about him.