“Bad Hombre” Rings Twice at the Movies


An audience bursts out laughing when Frank O’Hara finishes the reading of his Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!]. http://www.frankohara.org/audio/ (Lockwood Memorial Library, SUNY, Buffalo, 25 September 1964 recording).

Surprising that actress Lana Turner got hilarity instead of sympathy! In 1964, females screamed (and probably fainted) when The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. Was that the reason for Miss Turner’s case of “the vapors”? Or was she contemplating her next husband in Pedro Armendáriz’s portrayal of a Turkish spy in To Russia With Love? David Lehman explains a bit in “The Last Avant-Garde.”

O’Hara’s poem reminded me of Imitation of Life where Miss Turner appeared in the 1959 film of the Fannie Hurst novel. This is one of my favorite movies, especially the funeral scene with Mahalia Jackson. Love watching movies and am easily seduced by film noir, so I checked out the 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice. And then, …


Yabba Dabba Doo, another surprise: Screenwriters Ruskin and Busch embellish James M. Cain’s novel––which already refers to “the Greek” and “Mex” and “enchiladas”––with the term “bad hombre.” Alan Reed plays the defense attorney’s gumshoe Ezra Liam Kennedy. In his pre-Fred Flintstone voice:

“Willy’s gonna bring the papers out here in an hour. But he’s awfully suspicious. Willy’s a bad hombre when he gets suspicious.”

Wondering if this is where a certain oddity sourced the term? Another possibility: http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/965557/Sugarland-Express-The-Movie-Clip-We-ve-Got-A-Bad-Hombre.html.

What are the other “bad hombre” origin myths? I don’t know. As another oddity might say, “I really don’t care, do U?” (Sidebar: ¡Ay, mis gallegos! ¡Ay, mis caricaturas!)

Mr. Reed was just reading his lines, no? “Work is work,” was Frank Langella’s line. Yet, I’m not so sure character actor Reed meant to be hilarious when he “passed” for “Mex” in Viva Zapata! (The Castilian Spanish dubbing in this clip was pretty funny.)

I only know there’s a thread that stitches Viva Zapata! to Spartacus by way of soundtrack composer Alex North. Tug that thread––along the way is Spartacus screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo was denied credited work after he was summoned to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). HUAC also entangled actor John Garfield (the “hobo” in Postman) in its sticky web. There’s a common belief the Senate HUAC hearings hounded Garfield to death.

Livelihood and life lost. Not funny. But if we keep weaving the good web, we’ll transcend those points of hopelessness. We can collapse the bad actors into one regrettable corner. Let time and love anonymously, simply, freely act on warp and weft. And, for our soundtrack, try Alex North’s Love Theme from Spartacus with Terry Callier’s lyrics:

Can it be? Do you hear?
A new freedom song is ringing
No more dark, no more fear
There’s a new day that it’s bringing

Something simple is the key
Only love will set us free
It’s so far, it’s so near
Almost close, almost here



A few words about … autodidacticism

The more we learn about the multiverses, the more we increase the perimeter of our ignorance.  I’m paraphrasing Neil deGrasse Tyson in We Might Be Living In Higher Dimensions…But Our Senses Can’t Tell Yet.  Exploration of the multiverses seems similar to my trekking through Paschen, E. & Mosby, R.P. (Eds.) (2007).  Poetry speaks–Expanded.  Naperville, IL, USA:  Sourcebooks (ISBN-13: 978-1402210624).  This is a weighty, big book with three compact discs of poets’ readings.  I wish there were more time and space to indulge in more annotations and hyperlinks, but I needed to return the book to the public library.  There is so much more to explore, much more to learn from the text and audio recordings.  My lingering feeling is that of a window-shopper with no consumer identification or credit card.

For now, let us share a “sample” from page 210, Elizabeth Bishop’s 1976 piece “One Art”:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent,
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) disaster.