Friday, 21 November 2014

Wednesday night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

The Elderly Brothers: -
Crying In The Rain
Oliver's Army
Don't Throw Your Love Away
So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)
Lola
I Saw Her Standing There

Da Elderly: -
In The Morning Light

A busy and enjoyable night; The Elderly's, fresh from their previous night's gig at the last Drop Inn, gave a debut outing to Oliver's Army and for once sailed through Lola without a hitch!
There was a tremendous variety of music on show, including a guy from Spain who sang two songs acapella in his native tongue - great voice, went down a storm.
Yours truly was asked to finish off the night with an original song, so I chose one from the new album.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Mike Nichols RIP



Mike Nichols obituary
Film and stage director whose movie The Graduate ushered in a new kind of male Hollywood star

Ronald Bergan
The Guardian
Thursday 20 November 2014

The career of the director Mike Nichols, who has died aged 83, triumphantly straddled Broadway and Hollywood. Most of his movies, plays and musicals were thought-provoking and beautifully crafted, if sometimes ironic and even cruel in their humour. But none of his later work equalled the impact of his second film, The Graduate (1967), which won him the Oscar for best director, and resonated strongly with the baby-boom generation.

When offered the film, Nichols had already made his reputation as the boy wonder of the Broadway stage, where he had directed a string of smash-hit comedies. Two were by Neil Simon, with whom he would have a long association: Barefoot in the Park (1963), which gave Robert Redford his first leading role, and The Odd Couple (1965), with Walter Matthau and Art Carney. Others included Murray Shisgal’s Luv (1964) starring Alan Arkin, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, and the musical The Apple Tree (1966) featuring Alan Alda. At the start of the decade he had established a reputation on Broadway in the comedy duo show that he wrote and performed with Elaine May.

Born in Berlin as Michael Igor Peschkowsky to Paul, a doctor, and his wife, Brigitte (nee Landauer), he arrived in the US with his younger brother at the age of seven, having fled the Nazis. His father, who had arrived a few months earlier (Brigitte joined them after two years), changed the family’s name to Nichols. Mike remembered being able to say just two things in English: “I don’t speak English,” and “Please don’t kiss me.” At the time he was totally bald, having lost his hair in reaction to a whooping cough vaccine. (He wore a toupee all his life.)

When he was 12, his father died of leukaemia, leaving the family financially destitute. A bright and ambitious boy, Mike was able to continue his studies thanks to scholarships and doing odd jobs, eventually becoming a US citizen in 1944.

While at the University of Chicago (1950-53), he made a living as a night janitor, hotel desk clerk, and delivery truck driver. It was at university that he first began to perform, and he later went to New York to study acting with Lee Strasberg. However, he was unable to find work as an actor in New York and returned to Chicago to form the Second City, an improvisational group with similarly unwanted performers: May, Barbara Harris and Arkin.

He and May then formed the duo Nichols and May, whose quick-witted comedy got them known as “the world’s fastest humans”. They lampooned previously sacrosanct institutions, becoming part of the satire boom of the period, along with Lenny Bruce, Jules Feiffer, Mort Sahl, and Terry Southern, pioneers in extending the range and subject matter of American comedy. The pair recorded a number of comedy albums, and won a Grammy for An Evening with Nichols and May, a recording of their Broadway show, directed by Arthur Penn (1961-62), after which the two went their separate ways, with Nichols embarking on his work as a stage director.

In 1966, Ernest Lehman, who was producing and adapting Edward Albee’s acid drama of marital non-bliss, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, persuaded Warner Bros to hire Nichols to direct. It was a baptism of fire for the debutant film-maker, who had to control the leading couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. After the three less than convincing films they had previously made together, Virginia Woolf brilliantly restored their credibility as performers,* and Nichols’s essentially theatrical but competent direction was nominated for an Oscar.

Whereas on Virginia Woolf he had been constricted by the starry couple and the confines of the Albee play, Nichols had far more power to exercise on The Graduate. For the title role of Benjamin Braddock, the producers wanted Robert Redford. However, Nichols felt he was too dishy to be convincing as shy with women. He realised he had found the right man when he saw Dustin Hoffman acting off-Broadway.

Hoffman was doubtful: “I don’t think I’m right for the role. He’s a kind of Anglo-Saxon, tall, slender good-looking chap. I’m short and Jewish.”

“Believe me, Benjamin is Jewish inside,” replied Nichols persuasively. Hoffman turned out to be the movie’s greatest coup, ushering in a new kind of male actor in American films. Yet Hoffman was later to say, “If there is any victory in the film, it is not mine. It has nothing to do with me. The film belongs to Mike Nichols. Nichols knew every colour, texture and nuance he wanted and worked like hell to get it.”

Today, it seems stranger than ever that a movie that made no reference to civil rights or Vietnam would be taken as a symbol of counterculture. “I was interested in [Benjamin’s] rejection of a materialistic life in a way that was a little retarded, like young teenagers do until they’re trained away from it,” Nichols commented years later.

The skin-deep rebel had a great appeal among middle-class college kids, and the use of the Simon and Garfunkel songs Sounds of Silence, Mrs Robinson and the irrelevant Scarborough Fair, instead of the usual music score, added to the film’s attraction. The soundtrack album reached the top of the US charts, and arguably started the tradition of marketing movie music.

The most telling symbol of the young man’s alienation, which Nichols lightens and makes funny, is Benjamin standing awkwardly in a rubber underwater suit. A subjective camera, filming through goggles, picks out the inane faces and soundless mouths of his elders as he descends to the bottom of the pool, where he stands silently and alone.

Catch-22 (1969), which could possibly have worked if made by Stanley Kubrick, was shot at a cost of $18m, and failed both commercially and critically. Nichols made the mistake of reshaping Joseph Heller’s bitterly satirical novel of the second world war into an overly arty anti-war movie with unsubtle allusions to Vietnam.*

Further film flops followed, although to their credit they were all rather quirky and unconventional: Carnal Knowledge (1971)** examined contemporary sexual mores; Day of the Dolphin (1973) saw George C Scott teaching dolphins to speak; and The Fortune (1975) starred Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty as dumb and dumber crooks.

Because of these disappointments, Nichols worked almost exclusively on Broadway for almost a decade, collecting a number of Tony awards on the way. He continued to show his affinity with Neil Simon, directing Plaza Suite (1968) and The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1972), as well as Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (1984) and Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden (1986). One of the few classics was Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which Nichols himself translated.

Silkwood (1983) was hailed as his major film comeback, but despite fine performances from Meryl Streep and an interesting decision to concentrate on the daily life of its blue-collar heroine, it ended at the point where the real story began. Similarly, Heartburn (1986) started from promising material – Nora Ephron’s fictionalised account of her marriage to the Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein – but took it nowhere.

It was soon after that Nichols had a breakdown, believing that he was broke and unable to provide for his three children. He left The Last Tycoon during pre-production (Elia Kazan took over) and had a highly publicised on-set dispute with Robert De Niro on The Man Who Looked Like Bogie, abandoning it after several days of filming.

However, in 1988, after marrying his fourth wife, the TV anchor Diane Sawyer, one of the richest and most successful women on American television, everything changed. He took on more mainstream material, starting with Biloxi Blues (1987), a pleasing, workmanlike transposition of Simon’s semi-autobiographical Broadway play.

Working Girl (1988), in which he showed more cinematic flair than hitherto, combined a feelgood romantic comedy with an incisive look at working women in Manhattan, in which a secretary (Melanie Griffith) triumphs over her boss (Sigourney Weaver). As the camera celebrates her moment of victory – in her own office – it pulls back to reveal her as just one of hundreds of office workers in just one of hundreds of tower blocks.

Postcards From The Edge (1990), which dealt with the explosively difficult relationship between a self-obsessed Hollywood star (Shirley MacLaine) and her unstable daughter (Meryl Streep), was directed with a confident sweep. These films were concerned mainly with women’s choices, while the less successful Regarding Henry (1991) and Wolf (1994) were both attempts to examine masculinity in crisis as viewed from New York’s Upper West Side.

Nichols returned to comedy and to Elaine May, who wrote the screenplay, with The Bird Cage (1996), better made than and almost as funny as La Cage aux Folles, the 1978 camp French film from which it derived. Primary Colors (1998), also written by May, and based on Joe Klein’s bestseller about a Clintonesque politician (John Travolta), was sharp without cutting deeply.

By now, Nichols could ask for $7m per movie plus a share of the gross. He had proved himself an astute businessman, having been the first American stage director to insist on a share of the author’s royalties and subsidiary rights, including movie profits.

He continued to embark on theatrical ventures, appearing to acclaim in a London production of Wallace Shawn’s The Designated Mourner (1996), and expertly transposed several plays to television and film. Nichols made few attempts to open out Wit (2001), Margaret Edson’s original off-Broadway near-monologue play about an academic dying of ovarian cancer, with most of the action taking place around the heroine’s hospital bed, and Emma Thompson speaking directly to camera in theatrical fashion.

Tony Kushner’s Angels in America (2003), described by the author as a “gay fantasia on national themes” was made into an intelligent TV mini-series, and Closer (2004), Patrick Marber’s unrelenting look at two couples who fall in and out of bed and love, showed some of the bite of Nichols’s earlier work. The eclectic director was back on Broadway with Spamalot (2005), a musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which later opened in London.

His last feature film was Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), a controversial political comedy starring Tom Hanks as a wily US congressman who gets involved in the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In 2012, Nichols crowned his Broadway career with a powerful production of Death of a Salesman, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his last stage role, as Willy Loman.

He is survived by Diane, and by three children: Daisy, with his second wife, Margo Callas, and Max and Jenny, with his third wife, Annabel Davis-Goff. His first three marriages ended in divorce; the first of them was to Patricia Scott.

• Mike Nichols (Michael Igor Peschkowsky), director, producer, writer and performer, born 6 November 1931; died 19 November 2014

http://www.theguardian.com/global/2014/nov/20/mike-nichols

* Possibly Taylor's only good performance
** No, no, no. Hugely underrated film with great performances - especialy Arkin's - and direction. Wouldn't have worked at all with Kubrick. Not as good as the book, of course, but to paraphrase Heller, what is?
** Another hugely underrated film.


Mike Nichols: a director who found the zeitgeist in every decade
Nichols, who has died aged 83, was an astonishingly versatile and fluent director, who specialised in adult drama which sang because he coaxed such fine performances from his stars

Peter Bradshaw
The Guardian
Thursday 20 November 2014

From Burton and Taylor’s ugly marital war in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf (1966) right through to Aaron Sorkin’s snappily expressed Washington intrigue in Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Mike Nichols was bringing literate, grownup dramas and comedies to the screen. He had a gift for helping stars bring their performances into pin-sharp focus and teasing out the romantic chemistry and fizz between his male and female leads.

Born in Berlin in 1931, named Mikhail Peschkowsky, to Russian Jewish parents (and a distant cousin to Albert Einstein), he was sent alone as a child to the safety of the United States, where his father anglicised his name. He became a Broadway comic performer with Elaine May and then a much-admired stage director who was to become a member of the exclusive EGOT club (having won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony) and in the movie projects he chose he had the knack of finding the Hollywood zeitgeist in almost every decade.

After the exciting if somewhat stage-bound Virginia Woolf, Nichols’s sexually daring The Graduate (scripted by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry) opened things up – and introduced the world to Dustin Hoffman, a veritable standard-bearer for smart, disaffected, pained youth, a representative of the alienated times and yet somehow orphaned by them as well.

He was the spoiled brat with the college degree, floating around all summer in his parents’ swimming pool, embarking on a jaded affair with next-door neighbour Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and realising almost too late that he has fallen in love with her daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross). The Graduate got Nichols his best director Academy award and in it he pretty well invented the romcom staple: the last-minute rush to prove your love. (Twelve years later, in Manhattan, Woody Allen made this the last-minute rush to the airport.)

In the 1970s, Nichols again found himself upscale, modish movies which moved with the times. His screen version of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1970) again scripted by Buck Henry, chimed with anti-Vietnam sentiment and caught the same wave as Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H that year, and his direction of the Jules Feiffer-scripted Carnal Knowledge (1972) reinforced the seductive charm and celebrity status of its star, Jack Nicholson.

In the 1980s, Nichols was working with the biggest female stars and instinctively found a way for their personalities and feelings to register on camera. His Silkwood (1983), co-written by Nora Ephron, reverberated with liberal America’s growing unease with the nuclear industry and gave Meryl Streep one of her most powerful and memorable roles. The “Silkwood shower” scene dramatised a widespread shiver of fear and disgust at nuclear dangers. Another Nora Ephron script, Heartburn (1986) about Ephron’s relationship with Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, was another opportunity for Nichols to show his expert handling of smart, grownup romance – with Streep and Nicholson.

At the end of the 1980s, Mike Nichols made what for me is among the best of his movies, the rather underrated Working Girl, a terrifically buoyant and effervescent New York romantic comedy with Melanie Griffith as an ambitious secretary whose wicked boss (great work from Sigourney Weaver) pretends to mentor and just steals her business ideas. Nichols makes it all look very easy. In the 90s, Nichols showed how America and the world was beginning to turn away from the yuppie-ism, with his sombre film Regarding Henry, in which Harrison Ford – playing a super-smooth businessman not that far from the one he had played in Working Girl – suffers a brain injury and has to go through painful rehab.

Primary Colors was a coolly efficient movie version of Joe Klein’s sensational bestselling fictionalisation of the Bill/Hillary political partnership, and he was an eminently sensible choice to direct the screen version of Patrick Marber’s play Closer, although there was now probably a generational difference between the sexual-social mores of Nichols’s generation and Marber’s.

Mike Nichols was a kitemark of intelligent mainstream Hollywood cinema – his directorial style was the sympathetic platform for smart writing and great acting performances.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2014/nov/20/mike-nichols-a-director-who-found-the-zeitgeist-in-every-decade


Mike Nichols: 10 of the best, from Virginia Woolf to Charlie Wilson
The director Mike Nichols has died aged 83. Here are clips from 10 of his key movies – and why they’re important

Henry Barnes
The Guardian
Thursday 20 November 2014

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Nichols raised the bar into the stratosphere with his very first film, an adaptation of Edward Albee’s vinegar-sharp relationship satire. Nichols, who had won the best play Tony for his stage version of Albee’s play, needed two actors with hands-on experience of tempestuous relationships, two people who knew what it was like to hate and love your S.O. at the same time. Step forward: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Everyone was nominated for Oscars, obviously.

The Graduate (1967)
A young Dustin Hoffman showed up to the audition for the part that would change his life nervous and insecure. He read as Benjamin Braddock, the virginal college kid who gets a schooling in sex and sophistication from the much older Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft). Hoffman, auditioning opposite Katherine Ross, said she would “never be interested in a guy like me in a million years”. It was exactly the self doubt Nichols was looking for. The film was a giant hit. Nichols won his Oscar.

Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Scripted by Carrie Fisher and based on her experiences of living in her showbiz mum’s shadow while recovering from a drug addiction. Meryl Streep played fragile Suzanne Vale with a style that would become almost stereotypical, but the real star was Shirley MacLaine as her defiant star-to-the-end mum. It’s of its time, but the film’s energy? Still here.

Catch-22 (1970)
Nichols spent two years hammering out the kinks in the script for this tricky adaptation, based on Joseph Heller’s sprawling satire. M*A*S*H (released the same year) would get the popular vote, but Nichols’ take on the insanity of war found a cult following, partly thanks to a gang-busting performance from his lead, Alan Arkin.

Silkwood (1983)
Nichols’ first collaboration with Meryl Streep (who he would later cast in Postcards from the Edge and the romcom Heartburn) and inspired by the story of whistleblower Karen Silkwood, who died in mysterious circumstances after challenging the safety record of the nuclear power plant where she worked. Streep was due to work one more time with Nichols before he died, this time playing world famous opera warbler Maria Callas.

Working Girl (1988)
Wall Street with a heart. Nichols cast Melanie Griffith as Tess McGill, a naive secretary who wheedles her way to the top of the financial food chain. Griffiths got her only Oscar-nomination to date. With Sigourney Weaver (as Tess’s dragon boss) and Harrison Ford (the moneyed mover and shaker who falls for Tess) Nichols got even more bang for his buck.

The Birdcage (1996)
Based on the stage play La Cage aux Folles and starring Robin Williams as Armand, the gay owner of The Birdcage drag club. He’s in a relationship with Albert (Nathan Lane), who moonlights as “Starina” the club’s hottest act. The pair are asked to pretend they’re not together when Armand’s son brings his fiancĂ©’s ultra-conservative dad for a visit. Lively and touching, Nichols was praised by GLAD for a film that portrayed gay characters as rounded and complex. A rarity to this day.

Primary Colors (1998)


Nichols raked over the mucky business of Clinton-era US politics with the help of John Travolta, who delivered a convincing approximation of the man who had sexual relations with that woman. Nichols’ film helped The West Wing swing (the TV show would debut a year later) and its influence can be seen in political satire since, namely George Clooney’s The Ides of March.

Wit (2001)


An understated drama about genius and mortality. Emma Thompson, who co-scripted the teleplay with Nichols, played Vivian Bearing, a gifted scholar of metaphysical poetry who is diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. The film got a brief festival run before its airing on HBO. Despite the limited release window Roger Ebert named it one of his best films of 2001.

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
Nichols’ last film showed the director playing to his strengths. A satire, rammed with top quality cast (Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman) and subversive, but fun. Hanks took the lead in the biopic, based on the real-life tale of a hard-partying senator who made moves to increase support for Afghani fighters taking on the Soviet Union. Gave Philip Seymour Hoffman one of his career-defining moments with a raging monologue that makes most other actors look like, ahem, “fucking amateurs”.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2014/nov/20/mike-nichols-10-best-virginia-woolf-charlie-wilson

Jimmy Ruffin RIP

How Jimmy Ruffin made Motown's best-ever single
With its wracked yet stoical vocal and a melody like a tolling bell, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted connected Motown to the blues to devastating effect

Mark Hagen
theguardian.com
Thursday 20 November 2014

“As I walk this land with broken dreams
I have visions of many things
But happiness is just an illusion
Filled with sadness and confusion
What becomes of the brokenhearted?”

It should never have worked.

Written for the Spinners but hijacked by a no-hope singer on a Motown subsiduary label who’d been passed over for the vacant berth in the Temptations in favour of his little brother.

Cursed with a long (for 1966) intro created only because the original spoken word intro was deemed to be too irredeemably corny for top 40 radio, and with a doom-laden lyric that suggested nothing quite so much as the result of locking Smokey Robinson in the Detroit basement of Hitsville USA with only the works of TS Eliot for company, it was wildly at odds with the rest of the Sound Of Young America.

And yet, and yet ...

I first heard What Becomes of the Brokenhearted in 1974, then on its second go round in the UK charts; I was 16, in thrall to Alex Harvey and Mott the Hoople. Over the past 40 years nothing has happened to alter my initial impression that this was one of the greatest records I had ever heard, and certainly the best that Motown had ever produced.

I had never listened to Jimmy Ruffin – who has just died aged 78 – before, and I haven’t bothered to investigate any of his other records since because I knew they wouldn’t be, couldn’t be like this.

The Mississippi-born Ruffin delivers a staggering performance, lunging at the song and its tolling bell of a melody without ever losing control. It’s this inherent fatalism, this stoicism, this idea that he’s a cursed man in a blasted world who can’t do a damn thing about it, that harks back to the blues and gives the song one half of its astonishing power.

The other half, of course, comes from the music, which plays out in a taut counterpoint to that vocal, moving on up from its stately beginning with a glorious, swirling logic that says it doesn’t have to be like this, things can be better, things will be better.

That performance contains worlds: the North, the South, slavery and freedom; an America riven by the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights struggle; the small world of an English teenager living in the three day week and even, yes even, how rubbish you feel when you break up with your partner.

It’s as simple and as complicated as you want to make it - but it’s all there in the record. And that’s why Jimmy Ruffin will live forever.

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/nov/19/how-jimmy-ruffin-made-motowns-best-ever-single?CMP=share_btn_tw

Motown singer Jimmy Ruffin dies at 78
Jimmy Ruffin may have missed out on a dream gig in the 1960s, but he went on to have a long career with Motown Records.

Randy Lewis
19 September 2014

Any suspicions that soul singer Jimmy Ruffin might have harbored hard feelings after his younger brother, David, snatched one of the great gigs in 1960s pop music out of his hands would have been dispelled when the siblings came together in 1970 to collaborate on a harmonious update of Ben E. King's signature ode to solidarity, "Stand By Me."

Jimmy Ruffin, who died Monday in a Las Vegas hospital at age 78, had been in the running to join the lineup of Motown Records' great male vocal group the Temptations in 1964. But when the other members of the group heard David sing, they gave him the job for his slightly grittier sound.

That didn't sideline Jimmy for long: He heard a song that Motown writers William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser and James Dean had crafted with the Spinners in mind, and persuaded them to let him record it.

"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," a lament for the anguish a man feels in the face of love that has departed, gave Ruffin his first Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It ignited a solo career that comprised 10 other charted singles, the last of which, "Hold On to My Love," brought him back to the Top 10 in 1980 during a new round of popularity, the result of his move to England to further his career overseas.

"Jimmy Ruffin was a phenomenal singer," Motown founder Berry Gordy said in a statement Wednesday. "He was truly underrated because we were also fortunate to have his brother, David, as the lead singer of the Temptations, who got so much acclaim. Jimmy, as a solo artist, had 'What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,' one of the greatest songs put out by Motown and also one of my personal favorites."

Early on, Jimmy and David Ruffin sang gospel music in the Dixie Nightingales while growing up around rural Collinsville, Miss., where Jimmy was born on May 7, 1936.

Jimmy Ruffin worked his way north to Detroit, then joined the rapidly growing stable of artists at Motown Records in 1961 — signed to its Miracle subsidiary label. But his career was put on hold when he was drafted and spent two years in the Army.

Upon being discharged, Ruffin had his brush with the Temptations, as members Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin and Otis Williams were searching for a replacement for fifth member Elbridge Bryant. Shortly after adding David to the lineup in 1965, the Temps scored the first No. 1 hit for a male vocal group at Motown with "My Girl," which featured David's lead vocal.

The following year, Jimmy made his rise up the chart with "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," which he followed with "I've Passed This Way Before," which peaked at No. 17 in Billboard.

Not long after David left the Temptations in 1968, he and Jimmy recorded an album, "I Am My Brother's Keeper," as the Ruffin Brothers, including their version of "Stand By Me," which reached No. 61 in Billboard in 1970.

But Jimmy's solo career never sustained or surpassed that initial burst of success from "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted," so Ruffin decided to focus on the following that his recordings had established in Europe. He moved to London and spent much of the 1980s and '90s there.

English music fans' affinity for Ruffin's music paved the way for the Bee Gees' Robin Gibb to produce for Ruffin an album, "Sunrise," in 1980, which yielded "Hold On to My Love." His final chart hit, a duet with Maxine Nightingale on "Turn To Me," came in 1982.

On Wednesday, Ruffin's children Philicia Ruffin and Jimmy Lee Ruffin Jr. released a statement on their father. "Jimmy Ruffin was a rare type of man who left his mark on the music industry," the statement said. "My family in its entirety is extremely upset over his death. He will truly be missed. We will treasure the many fond and wonderful memories we all have of him."

No details on the cause of death were immediately available. David Ruffin died in 1991 at 50 of a drug overdose.

http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-jimmy-ruffin-20141120-story.html

Monday, 17 November 2014

Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression review

Genius of Modern Music Volume 1 by Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk – Genius of Modern Music
After the second world war, the edgy modernism of bebop began to guide Blue Note. Pianist Thelonious Monk’s leadership debut in 1952 introduced classic originals such as Straight No Chaser and Round Midnight. The cover was Paul Bacon’s, who would later create the iconic first-edition design for the novel Catch-22.

Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression review – a lavishly illustrated history of the great jazz label
Richard Havers’s book about Blue Note records, with its details of the inspirations and excesses of the label’s major talents, amounts to a history of jazz itself

Peter Conrad
The Observer
Sunday 16 November 2014

A blue note is a flattened or – in the terminology of jazz – a “worried” note, which dips below the major scale to vouch for the intensity of an emotion; Blue Note is a record label which, since its foundation 75 years ago, has recorded the bluest and most worried jazz performers. Shaded by nocturnal melancholy, blue is the preferred tonality of their music. A classic album by Miles Davis was called Kind of Blue, and Blue Note later recorded the guitarist Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue, attuned to the mood of a moonlit sky seen through the glare of urban streetlights.
Blue Note Jazz Classics Vol 1 Sidney Bechet

Sidney Bechet– Jazz Classics Vol 1
Blue Note’s first records were launched in New York in March 1939 by German-Jewish emigre Alfred Lion. Photographer Francis Wolff, an old Berlin friend who escaped the Nazis, joined Lion in October. Their first releases featured the earliest jazz stars, including New Orleans sax pioneer Sidney Bechet.


Uncompromising Expression, the phrase from Blue Note’s mission statement that Richard Havers applies to his lavishly illustrated history of the label, also serves as a definition of jazz. Duke Ellington actually proposed renaming the music played by his band, because “jazz” to him was a smutty synonym for having sex. He preferred to describe his repertoire as “the American Idiom, or the Music of the Freedom of Expression”.
Miles Davis Volume 1
Miles Davis – Vols 1 & 2
Miles Davis was trying to kick heroin and kickstart his career in 1952 when these sessions began. The trumpeter was tiptoeing closer towards how jazz after bebop might sound. John Hermansader created the cover with his assistant Reid Miles, who would later become Blue Note’s most celebrated designer.

Yet as Havers explains, that American idiom – used, like abstract expressionist painting, as propaganda for go-getting Yankee liberties during the cold war – owed its preservation on records to a Berliner. Blue Note was founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion, the son of a Jewish architect who settled in New York in 1933 after fleeing from the capital of the Third Reich. Lion slept rough at first in Central Park, and when he could afford to rent a room immediately installed a Victrola gramophone to play the jazz records he bought on excursions uptown to Harlem.

In Hitler’s Germany, jazz was reviled as Negermusik, a savage un-Teutonic din. Escaping to America, Lion heard in bop, boogie-woogie and honky-tonk a rowdy proof of his adopted country’s impromptu, endlessly self-renovating energy. That faith persisted at Blue Note even after he gave up control of the label, and it was proclaimed all over again in 1986 by Spontaneous Inventions, a collection of “vocal gymnastics” in which Bobby McFerrin teamed up with the manic Robin Williams, who scatted, rapped and wordlessly burbled through a track called Beverly Hills Blues. The result was not so much spontaneous invention as demented free association.
A Night at Birdland by Art Blakey
Art Blakey – A Night at Birdland
Blue Note hired gifted designers, but co-owner Francis Wolff’s subtle photographs of musicians on and off the bandstand also forged the label’s instantly recognisable style. This 1954 set by drummer Art Blakey introduces the urgent gospelly “hard bop” sound, which became a Blue Note speciality.

Lion became, as Havers says, an “evangelist” for America’s home-grown music, with jazz as his gospel. Among the bands he recorded was Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, who adapted the “funky church stuff” of black religion to preach on behalf of the blues. Another Blue Note pianist offered a mystical revelation: Lion regarded Thelonious Monk as “the holy grail of jazz”, and said he was proud to be “the first to put his radical and unorthodox ideas on wax”, which makes it sound as if recording was a way of trapping spirit in material form. Like the pianist Andrew Hill, Havers enrols Monk’s later followers in a holy order that Hill himself punningly entitled the New Monastery. Many Blue Note musicians played at a triangular den in downtown New York called the Village Vanguard; with the same sense of jazz as a sacred calling, the pianist Jason Moran has called it “the place where Mohammed and Moses and Jesus walked!”
Page One by Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson – Page One
Saxophonist Joe Henderson’s 1963 leadership debut revealed his sinewy Sonny Rollins-inspired phrasing and improv fertility – as well as the soulful, bluesy sound that even got him hired by Blood Sweat and Tears. A 23-year-old McCoy Tyner was on piano, and Henderson’s Recorda Mebecame a jazz standard.

Cecil Taylor - Unit Structures
Cecil Taylor – Unit Structures 
Blue Note advanced its commitment to the 60s avant garde, and Reid Miles’s cover nailed matters again in catching the scalding moment-to-moment intensity of pianist Cecil Taylor’s music. Taylor was steeped in modern classical music and jazz, and an implacable logic steered his most feverish flights.

Monk considered all musicians to be “subconsciously mathematicians”, and Lion was proud of Blue Note’s intellectualism. Cecil Taylor’s first album for Blue Note was entitled Unit Structures, and presented itself as an experiment in Einsteinian physics, with “time measurement as isolated matter abstracted from mind”: no matter how syncopated your steps are, it’s hard to dance or even tap your feet to a demonstration of the relativity theory. An album led by the percussionist Tony Williams drummed out a more metaphysical plaint. The liner notes claimed that Williams’s timpani, woodblocks, maracas and triangle made audible a cosmic uproar: “Everything which the universe has given life has a right to that life and a right to propel into that life all the values it can.” Remember that next time a neighbour turns up the volume of a boom box at three in the morning.
Midnight Blue by Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue
Blue Note was so confident, so good at doing the right thing, that the co-proprietor could see his famous photos shrunk to postage stamps – with designer Reid Miles popping some hip typographics in their place. Guitarist Kenny Burrell beautifully balanced soul power and elegance in this sensuous session.


The expressiveness of Lion’s musicians demanded lengthier recording sessions and longer-playing records: he favoured 12-inch, not 10-inch discs because, as he said, “these guys need more room to stretch out”. He may have been a little too indulgent towards his self-willed virtuosi. These evangelical messengers and monastic pianists came to rely on drugs as fuel for their instrumental fantasias, and Havers’s chronicle, despite its emphasis on the contribution of “musical searchers” like Wayne Shorter, can’t help noticing a succession of tormented lives and premature deaths.
At the Golden Circle by The Ornette Coleman Trio
Ornette Coleman Trio – Live at the Golden Circle
Blue Note took a chance with these live recordings from Stockholm. Saxist Coleman was a controversial figure who rejected the bebop tenets associated with the label, and the music was uncompromisingly wild. But Down Beat magazine voted it 1966 record of the year. This is free-jazz empathy at its best.

A sorry conclusion comes with the fate of the trumpeter Lee Morgan, who dispensed “soul jazz to the max” until in 1972 he was unsoulfully gunned down at the age of 33 by his commonlaw wife during a gig at Slug’s Saloon in the East Village. His wounds were superficial; Havers primly omits to mention that he bled to death on the floor because the ambulance was reluctant to venture into the lawless no-go area where Slug’s was located. Not all jazz clubs were as stylishly avant garde as the Village Vanguard.
The Sidewinder by Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
When acid jazz hit dancefloors in the 1990s, trumpeter Lee Morgan’s funky 1964 blues theme The Sidewinder made a comeback – but it was big from the start. Alfred Lion pressed fewer than 5,000 copies at first, but he soon upped the numbers and the tune made the single charts.

Despite Lion’s admiration for “American vitalism”, jazzmen like Morgan proved to be rather too freely expressive and uncompromising for their own good. Shaw called music the brandy of the damned, and it’s all the more addictive if combined with heroin and cocaine. Blue is the colour of lush, sensual midnight, and also of a bleary, bruised, hungover dawn.

Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression is published by Thames & Hudson.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/16/blue-note-uncompromising-expression-review-richard-havers


Blue Train by John Coltrane
John Coltrane – Blue Train
That Francis Wolff shot of John Coltrane – pensive, self-absorbed, maybe imagining an elusive sound yet to be made on a saxophone – showed how Blue Note artwork could bring a musician’s interior journey into view. Blue Train, from 1958, foresaw the breakthroughs Coltrane would make in the 1960s.


Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression review – classics in single measures
(Blue Note)

John Fordham
The Guardian
Thursday 13 November 2014

Jazz listeners expect their heroes to play the long game, so a box of 75 singles tracks from jazz’s most famous label might sound almost frivolous. But for all its memorable (and memorably designed) albums, Blue Note has always been in the singles business – heavyweights like Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and John Coltrane released them, and creative idiom-colliders like Robert Glasper and Derrick Hodge reach out to new audiences via downloads today. 
Black Radio by Robert Glasper Experiment
Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio
Pianist Glasper calls Blue Note a “unique and very special family”. The appeal of his deep jazz awareness to the cognoscenti, and his direct line to a 21st-century hip-hop audience, reflects Blue Note’s legacy and its enduring instinct for keeping a finger on the pulse. 

This five-CD set is a companion to Thames & Hudson’s glamorous book of the same title, and Glasper, Hodge, Jason Moran and others star in a Blue Note celebration at the London jazz festival on 22 November. This box isn’t aimed at old jazz hands, but offers newcomers a wealth of succinctly delivered diversity. 
Empyrean Isles by Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock – Empyrean Isles
Herbie Hancock was the biggest star Blue Note launched, his 1962 debut, Takin’ Off, showing he was a rare blend of improv genius and hitmaking songwriter. Empyrean Isles came two years later, with the 24-year-old boldly mingling hard bop, funk and free-jazz on just four long tracks.


Sidney Bechet’s shimmering, snarling 1939 version of Summertime, Monk’s stuttering, skidding, three-minute Thelonious, and Herbie Hancock’s ever-irresistible Watermelon Man are among 60 or so jazz classics, and if the final disc’s sweep across classic funk and contemporary pop has some lightweight moments, charismatic newer recruits such as Glasper, Bobby McFerrin, Cassandra Wilson and Gregory Porter make sure there aren’t that many.

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/nov/13/blue-note-uncompromising-expression-review

Mode For Joe by Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson – Mode for Joe
Current Blue Note president Don Was discovered jazz through this title tune as a teenager. He says the“conversational” call-and-response exchanges were what turned him on. Saxophonist Henderson, a key contributor to many Blue Note sessions, inimitably blended hot and cool.

Come Away With Me by Norah Jones
Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
Jazz sales slumped in the late 1960s, Alfred Lion sold up, Francis Wolff died, and Blue Note hibernated under various owners. But, as always, jazz came back. New boss Bruce Lundvall and producer Michael Cuscuna imaginatively revived the label for a new public in 1985, and Norah Jones’s 25m-selling album in 2001 secured the future.

Bop glasses ad featured in  Uncompromising Expression: Blue Note: 75 Years of The Finest in Jazz by Richard Havers
Bop glasses ad
The 1940s bebop movement was a hipster subculture and a musical revolution. Rejecting 1930s swing’s commercialism, beboppers sought tougher technical challenges, weirder chords, fusions with 20th-century classical music and intellectual respectability. Berets, goatee beards and specs became the uniform.

http://www.theguardian.com/music/gallery/2014/nov/14/blue-note-75-years-of-the-coolest-visuals-in-jazz-gallery



If only...

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Don Siegel - Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers: Don Siegel’s fatalistic masterpiece
Pessimistic and potent, this cold war chiller is still a touchstone for the sci-fi genre nearly 60 years after its release

John Patterson
The Guardian
Saturday 25 October 2014

It scared me to death when I was nine, and 40 years later it’s still a pretty hair-raising experience to watch Don Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. A poorly reviewed $380,000 sci-fi film shot in 23 days in 1956, then wantonly interfered with by its backers, who bookended it with sequences aiming to temper its extreme pessimism, it has since risen, quite rightly, to the first rank of unquestioned science fiction classics, spawning three remakes along the way.

The debate still rages as to whether the movie is an indictment of a creeping proto-communist mentality in America, a portrait of Eisenhower-era complacency or a look at the infectious hysteria attendant upon McCarthyism. I’d opt for the latter (Siegel confirmed those were his instincts but always maintained that he wasn’t a message man) since the blacklist was then still a recent, very personal and horribly invasive experience for the whole industry, but the metaphor is potent however you read it.

Context being everything, I’d place Invasion in several different career chronologies and sequences of movies. Firstly, it takes pride of place in a chain of 1950s sci-fi classics of the questioning, doubting, paranoid variety, including Christian Nyby’s The Thing From Another World, Them!, The Incredible Shrinking Man and I Married A Monster From Outer Space. Its noirish visuals – no effects, no process shots – make it a twin to Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (which, with an atom bomb as its MacGuffin, is already halfway to sci-fi) and its apocalyptic, end-of-the-world fatalism anticipates both The Birds and Night Of The Living Dead.

Its screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring also co-wrote the seminal noir film Out Of The Past (from his own novel), as well as The Big Steal, the caper that kickstarted Don Siegel’s career. Mainwaring was remembered by director Joseph Losey as an alcoholic blacklistee, but by his widow as an alcoholic “front” for other blacklisted screenwriters. Whichever it was, his screenplay for 1954 tabloid smash The Phenix City Story might be the most brutal indictment of American racism and political corruption ever made; it probably looked “Un-American” to its marrow.

And would you just look at the series of cockeyed B-movie masterpieces Siegel made in the same period? Their titles alone give you some idea of his worldview: Riot In Cell Block 11, Private Hell 36 (about corrupt cops), Crime In The Streets, Baby Face Nelson and The Lineup (Siegel’s on-set dialogue director in this period was one Sam Peckinpah). The man who made the greatest movie about the nightmarish erasure of personality had a directorial personality you could never erase. There were no pods in Don Siegel’s basement, count on it.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/27/invasion-of-the-bodysnatchers-1956



Invasion of the Body Snatchers
A TALE FOR OUR TIMES

By John W. Whitehead

Look! You fools! You’re in danger! Can’t you see? They’re after you! They’re after all of us! Our wives…our children…they’re here already! You’re next!—Dr. Miles Bennell

In Body Snatchers, the pod people, who, like McCarthy and the other red-baiters, look like typical, fine upstanding Americans, search out rebels like Miles who refuse to conform to what has been newly defined as the "American Way"—just as McCarthy and HUAC destroyed the lives of those who refused to knuckle under to their directives. The mob hysteria, the sense of paranoia, the fascist police, the witch hunt atmosphere of the picture certainly mirrors the ills of McCarthy’s America.

The changes brought about by World War II were swift, and they profoundly disturbed people’s understanding of life—especially now that humanity was living in the shadow of the atomic bomb.

Before the bomb and subsequent scientific advances, western humanity knew and accepted the inevitability of death. Seen and experienced by both men and women, young and old, death occupied the realm of the immediate. It was utterly real and visible.

The bomb’s dehumanizing influence, however, made death invisible, abstract and threatening. While the older generation may have viewed the atomic bomb as the pinnacle of human achievement and worldwide peace, the succeeding generation realized that it might possibly be an insurmountable barrier to the future. Suddenly, death was no longer a wispy, terrifying phantom that chose its victims at random but instead became a calculated, mechanical weapon that obliterated humanity en masse.

Amidst the threat of atomic death from on high, the western world was embroiled in the Cold War. Although both the American and Soviet governments were painting a horrendous picture of a possible hot war, the so-called Cold War was, for all intents and purposes, a political fabrication. In fact, mutual threats and brinkmanship supported a relatively stable international system, symbolized by the 1963 installation of the telephone "hot line" linking the White House to the Kremlin.

The Cold War scenario, of course, led to the "Red scare" and the American hysteria over the danger of Communist subversion in the United States. This hysteria culminated in the hearings before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, where hundreds were called to testify about their so-called Communist affiliations. The Committee was led by the then-junior Republican senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, who specialized in sensational, unsubstantiated accusations about Communist infiltration of the American government. As a result of the hearings, many lost their jobs and families and some even committed suicide.

Much like the mass hysteria that has spread over the United States since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, many McCarthy-era government officials were calling for and enacting extreme measures to combat a perceived threat. And the real question at the time—as it is for the present—was whether people would retain their basic freedoms and avoid the dredge of conformity that threatens our very humanity.

Various films attempted to covertly address the paranoia sweeping the country during the 1950s. One in particular, Don Siegel’s 1956 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, captured the ideology and politics of this time period perfectly.

Body Snatchers is set in the small California town of Santa Mira, which is infiltrated by pods from outer space that replicate and take the place of humans. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), the main character in the film, is a local doctor who resists the invaders and their attempts to erase humanity from the face of the earth. Body Snatchers—now available on DVD and digitally remastered—brought respectability to the science fiction genre that emerged in the post-war era, a genre that was exploding on screens around the country, partly due to the numerous post-Roswell UFO sightings. Filmed with only seven days of rehearsal and twenty-three days of actual shooting, Body Snatchers, as such, is still considered the greatest of all the horror and science fiction classics of the 1950s. It continues to fascinate modern filmmakers, having been remade twice (1978 and 1994), and has served as a model for a myriad of films and television shows. And Carmen Dragon’s film score has influenced filmmakers and television directors alike. In fact, Dragon’s haunting piano chords can be heard in such television shows as The X-Files and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

Perhaps the effectiveness of Body Snatchers can be explained by its fine ensemble cast—Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones, King Donovan and Sam Peckinpah (also the dialogue coach), among others (all essentially unknown actors at the time). Or perhaps it was the crafty manner in which director Siegel avoided the use of special effects. Or maybe it was the strong story provided by Jack Finney and Daniel Mainwaring’s screenplay. Whatever the reason, Body Snatchers—an 80-minute trip loaded with information—has become one of the most analyzed films of its kind. Film students today still attempt to untangle the film’s metaphors, claiming that the film can be seen as a symbol for AIDS and other contagious and venereal diseases or that its power stems from a lingering fear of the mysteriousness of nature. Despite extensive critical analysis and faulty proposed philosophies concerning the film’s meaning, reviewers still strive to understand Siegel, Finney and Mainwaring’s deeper message.

Body Snatchers invokes at least a double reading. It was both a mirror of a particular moment in history and a compass indicating the symptoms of a growing societal illness. Following World War II, the atomic bomb and the Korean War, Americans were confused and neurotically preoccupied with international political events—much like they are today. Siegel’s film addressed the dehumanization of individuals—a sensitive subject in an age filled with tales of political brainwashing of American soldiers by the Koreans—and the horrifying possibility which arose in the 1950s where humanity could become infused as part of the machine.

The film’s ideology is focused well to the left of center, despite the fact that Jack Finney’s story is centrist in nature. It was Daniel Mainwaring who followed out the pessimistic strain underlying Finney’s paranoid fantasy. As Al LaValley writes in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, "Mainwaring’s despair is the despair of a onetime strong leftist over the America of the fifties." Indeed, the House Un-American Activities Committee had decimated Hollywood and the Hollywood Ten had gone to jail. A blacklist was in force, and everyone was being asked to sign a pod-like loyalty oath to prove they were "good" Americans and not Commie subversives. A chilling pod-like uniformity reigned in Hollywood. LaValley notes, "Risk was no longer acceptable; perhaps serious social subjects could be approached only in disguised form through the crime and science fiction genres."

It was Mainwaring who added Miles’ important speech, central to the film and without antecedent in the book. While hiding from the aliens, Miles says to Becky (Dana Wynter), "In my practice I see how people have allowed their humanity to drain away…only it happens slowly instead of all at once. They didn’t seem to mind…. All of us, a little bit. We harden our hearts…grow callous…only when we have to fight to stay human do we realize how precious it is."

Thus, for Mainwaring there was no overt anti-Communist message in the film. To Mainwaring, we are the villains. And Communism was a scapegoat, an imaginary villain reflecting the fears and tensions of the Right. "If the pods in Invasion seem to incarnate the popular image of a communist totalitarian state," LaValley points out, "it is only because the government-dominated, bureaucratic, and conformist fifties was itself creating an America like this picture of Soviet Russia."

The only resistance to the perceived repression was an embattled individualism, something Siegel could identify with. He, too, saw hope in the defiant individual. However, unlike Mainwaring, Siegel saw the conflict between society and the individual as a perpetual one—more a metaphysical battle than a political one. And the villains were not so much on the other side of the world, as all around us. The real enemy was, therefore, totalitarian conformity. And resistance must be against all kinds of conformity, no matter the shape, size or color of the package it comes in. If not, the enemy lulls us into giving up our individuality, not merely taking up an alien cause.
Insidious illusion ... Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Siegel, however, understood the irrational fears of the day and manifested conspiratorial paranoia himself. In fact, he changed the ending of Finney’s novel to intensify the paranoiac aspect. Rather than follow Finney’s ending that depicted pods rising from a field and away from the earth, Siegel showed a lone, seemingly madman in a rage. Where Finney provided hope, Siegel presented conspiracy and destitution.

Why were viewers so attracted to Siegel’s pessimistic message? David J. Skal in The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horrornotes that the film, which pretended to scare viewers, actually comforted them. Audiences found an understandable world reassuring, even if such understanding was only a monstrous plot or cover-up. Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communist banter used the same rationale.

No matter the criteria of those who made the film, many saw Body Snatchers as presenting an overt Communist metaphor: the alien pod people perfectly fit McCarthy’s profile of Russians and, not coincidentally, American schoolteachers. The Soviets were considered ice cold, outwardly peaceful but very authoritarian and emotionless. Many Americans even considered Russians a different species who, because of their disbelief in God, were soulless and wanted to destroy Americans or turn them into Communist clones. The film’s villains and the public’s view of the Communists presented limitless parallels. As Danny Peary recognizes in Cult Movies:

The unraveling of the pod conspiracy has the flavor of an FBI exposĂ©. The pod people represent a completely regimented society. Metaphorically, they are all alike as "two peas in a pod" because they have been sapped of their emotional individuality. The vegetarian metaphor literalizes Red-scare rhetoric of the "growth" of Communism as well as the idea that revolutions are made by planting seeds. There is a scene in which the pod people are assembled in the town square, where a loud speaker reads off the day’s orders; it is the quintessential fifties image of socialism. And, of course, the simile that without freedom of thought people are…vegetables is a central theme of the narrative.

While Peary’s interpretation of the movie is the most widely held, an anti-McCarthian message also emerges that presents the fascistic pod people as the American majority: the central government, law enforcement agencies and communication regulators that dictate America’s political line, including Joe McCarthy. According to Peary, government officials, not the Communists, posed the true threat.

Body Snatchers may also be interpreted as anti-scientific, reflecting the fears of a particular decade. During America’s early space exploration, many Americans feared space would invade the earth and viewed the movie as a warning of the dangers of science and inventions like the hydrogen bomb. People realized scientific advances often negatively influenced the culture. Miles, at one point in the film, says, "So much has been discovered the past few years. They may be the result of atomic radiation or weird alien organisms."

In this general category of science, a fear of psychiatry should not be excluded. The psychiatrist-alien in the film pronounces the death of God by banishing the idea of the individual soul.

While these various interpretations may be compelling, they seldom mention the ideas of the book’s author, Jack Finney, who claimed that he did not read, write or even like science fiction. He was interested instead in the ability of technology, modernization and fragmentation to disenfranchise people and make them lose their ability to act human.

Finney was concerned that humans had ceased being the masters of their own inventions and that, even more fundamentally, they had lost the ability to master anything at all. He saw traditional morals and values as victims of a "rush to modernize, bureaucratize, streamline and cellophane-wrap." Finney’s traditionalism is easily mistaken for anti-Communist rhetoric since McCarthyites used conservatism to battle the evils they felt were destroying America (such as desegregation, Social Security, obscenity, progressive education and liberal Protestantism). Ironically, intellectuals ultimately rejected traditionalism because of its association with McCarthy. Finney attempted to answer the question of survival in a post-war world and believed that true humanness required one to "assert [his] individuality to the fullest, express [his] real feelings, and embrace the human values of pride, dignity, friendship, and love more strongly."

While Siegel admitted that his films showed the conflict between individuals and varied forms of mindless authority, he denied an anti-Communist motive. In defense of Body Snatchers, he stated, "I think the world is populated by pods and I wanted to show them." He also believed that humans had lost much of their sensitivity because of the advance in military weaponry and the atrocities of recent wars. Dr. Bassett, the film’s unsympathetic doctor, exemplifies an individual who acts like a pod. Siegel explained the pod’s representation:

People are pods. Many of my associates are certainly pods. They have no feelings. They exist, breathe, sleep. To be a pod means that you have no passion, no anger, the spark has left you…of course, there’s a very strong case for being a pod. These pods, who get rid of pain, ill-health and mental disturbances are, in a sense, doing good. It happens to leave you in a very dull world but that, by the way, is the world that most of us live in. It’s the same as people who welcome going into the army or prison. There’s regimentation, a lack of having to make up your mind, face decisions…. People are becoming vegetables. I don’t know what the answer is except an awareness of it. That’s what makes a picture like Invasion of the Body Snatchersimportant.

http://www.gadflyonline.com/11-26-01/film-snatchers.html