I am watching a western.
It’s called A Man Called Sledge (1970), starring James Garner. I am not enjoying it – too grim. But it reminds me of all the James Garner movies and TV shows I have enjoyed, and watching the unpleasant A Man Called Sledge, I enjoy remembering them.
(We take our pleasures where we find them. And lately, with fewer viewing options, due to comedies that aren’t funny to me, reruns of dramas I have seen too many times, the news – you don’t need me to tell you about the news – and "Eh" sports without baseball, there is very little left to for me watch. Look at that. I just blew off an entire blog post in one parenthesis. I have to stop doing that, or I am going to run out of ideas.)
A Man Called Sledge involves the robbery of gold bars, stored in a prison.
Here’s the only thing I remember about it.
Stuffing the gold bars into their saddlebags, the banditos skedaddle out of the prison, throwing the gold-laden saddlebags over their horses. I think immediately about the horses.
OUTLAW HORSE: “That’s heavy! And they’re even on yet!”
That is reflexively where my mind travels. Anticipatorily. I see the outlaws racing for their horses, I look at their eyes – the horses’, not the outlaws’ – and I see panic. Like they’re worried their vertebrae are not going to hold up.
“A rider. Bullion-laden saddlebags. Then they want us to run? Call my chiropractor! I’m gonna need an appointment!”
That’s what I’m thinking. And about how much I really liked Maverick.
I watched a silent movie last night – I’m telling you, there was nothing!
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), a film that propelled “Leading Man” Rudolph Valentino to international stardom and turned the tango into a dance craze. It also introduced the fashion alternative of “goucho pants.”
I am not thinking about any of that. (Nor the powerful, anti-war message of the movie. I’ve been anti-war since we sang “Down By the Riverside” at camp. (“I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield – bush-duh buh – down by the riverside…”)
As I read the film’s elaborate subtitles, I am thinking about the American moviegoers back in 1921 when the literacy rate was substantially lower, not to mention the numerous immigrant moviegoers, who maybe could read, but not English.
What did people at silent movies do when they were unable to read the subtitles?
(Anyone else think about that? Could it possibly be just me?)
People sitting in movie theaters, reading the faces, but not the “Title Cards.”
“I’ve got a feeling this is important, but I have no idea what it says.”
How did they handle it? Did they ask for assistance from somebody nearby?
“Excuse me. What do those words say?”
Did they go to the movies in pairs?
“I’ll pay, if you read.”
Were there people outside the theater, offering their specialized services?
“‘Reader!’ – Ten cents for the whole movie!”
People carrying signs:
“Will Translate for Popcorn!”
That’s what I think about.
How inadequately prepared audiences were required to read subtitles at the movies.
The last one is more delicate. It’s not about movies. It’s about history.
DNA testing has confirmed (with persuasive probability) that, after his wife Martha passed away, having agreed to promise never to remarry, Thomas Jefferson fathered six children with his slave-servant Sally Hemings.
INSERT APPROPRRIATE REACTION HERE.
Here’s what I’m thinking about. Besides that appropriate reaction.
Martha Jefferson and Sally Hemings shared the same father. (You can look up how that happened.)
Setting aside – momentarily – the inescapable implications of this slaveholder-slave-servant relationship –
Imagine for a moment – then you can go back to the other thing – the promised-never-to-remarry Thomas Jefferson, encountering a woman who – barring the pigmentation discrepancy – bore a “50-percent” genetic resemblance to his recently departed wife, Martha.
I ponder the entire package.
A package that includes that.
It is simply the way I think. About overworked “bad guy” horses. Helpless illiterates at silent movies. And about Thomas Jefferson, going, “Holy cow!” (Curious Query: Is there any evidence Jefferson fathered children with anyone else?)
Some might perceive any sensitive proclivity towards Thomas Jefferson as an unfathomable betrayal of Sally Hemings. I understand that. But I can’t help myself.
Sometimes my mind goes to places that are harmless.
They go other places.
It is the same reflexive impulse.
But the reaction to it is different.