It wasn’t nice to watch Borders UK failing, rivets popping and superstructure groaning from the stress just like that ship in that film about the ship that sank. Can’t remember the title.
I might, at one stage, have had negative personal feelings about the Inverness branch. They crashed from outer space into the local retail park while I was an assistant manager at the Waterstone’s in the city’s High Street, and it felt for a long time very much as if the out-of-town businesses were getting massive concessions from the council whilst the city centre was left to rot like Miss Havisham had been left in charge of it. Inverness city centre? Over there by the decaying wedding cake. Turn right at the rat.
Any resentments or rancour are long gone though. I became a semi-regular customer at Borders after my Waterstone’s employment ended and I know a fair few of the Borders staff. It must have been grim for them winding down the shop in the run up to Christmas, but they made a dignified and heroic job of it.
Borders was a shiny, attractive retail model when it started in Britain in the early nineties, and it had all those short shelf-life noun phrases sprinkled over it: lifestyle shopping, browser units, refreshment hub. One short decade later though and it was looking glumly old-fashioned. An actual building full of actual stuff? Wow. That’s going to cost you. “Change,” to misquote Douglas Adams, “Hate it or ignore it, you can’t love it.” I quite like internet shopping, which is inexorably the way retail is going, but it’s not what I was brought up with and I have passed the age of being influential.
Just click on: sticks_to_wave_at_newfangled_things.com and twenty-four hours later your stick is on the doormat.
The only reason I mention Borders is that I bought a pile of odd movies on DVD really cheap as the chain went berserk trying to capitalise anything they had. I wanted to develop a lofty condescension towards the bargain-crazed carnivores rampaging through the store, but that was difficult to do whilst I was the most flesh-stripping one among them. Nobody likes to stand revealed as a carrion creature I suppose. John the jackal.
So in between the crossword-constructing that’s what I’m working on today. Old school movies.
Monkey Business. How was this not on my radar before? A 1952 Howard Hawks’ screwball comedy with Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. Written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, who both also wrote the sublime His Girl Friday, together with I.A.L. Diamond who would go on to write the Apartment which is also noticeably brilliant.
So, is Monkey Business a classic? Not really, despite the desperate marketing by Twentieth Century Fox – this is number 110 in their “Studio Classics” range. The banal, cheap and short-but-not-short-enough Curse Of The Fly is number 90 in the same series – that must mean something.
Monkey Business is no bona fide classic then but it has enough to recommend it, and they aren’t making any more of these, so best to enjoy what we’ve got. The plot about a laboratory chimp accidentally concocting a rejuvenating serum which is then spilled into the lab’s water supply would have disgraced an early eighties episode of Rentaghost. But it does afford Grant and Rogers (who are both brilliant) a bountiful comic opportunity to oscillate between fusty middle age and gadding, irresponsible youth. Revelation of the movie for me though is Marilyn Monroe who takes her dim secretary role a surprising distance given the small amount of comedy petrol she has to work with.
And she looks terrific. This is another area where I am, it appears, laughably behind the times. Marilyn’s curves to me look entrancing, like some beautiful illustration in orbital mechanics. I understand though that the young people of today (damn their eyes) are shocked when they see how “fat” she was.
I looked up the contestants for this year’s Celebrity Big Brother (don’t worry, I don’t sense this being a recurring theme) and sure enough there was a handful of women, not previously known to me, who each have the colour of a tangerine and the physique of a dismantled deckchair. I guess if that’s what they want then it’s cool. None of my business really. I’m just saying that I think they look weird, like Roswell saucer crash survivors or something.
As well as the babes, Celebrity Big Brother this year also contains the bitchy one from Dynasty, Vinnie Jones (the punching footballer) and two men, one of them a cage fighter, who have both squired Jordan in the past. It’s the last series and I would suggest that the producers could not be asking for a fight more clearly if they took all of their money out of the Building Society, took it to the 24 Hour Fight Shop and said “Please can we have a fight. And make it a big one.” Sheesh.
If Monkey Business is going for your funny bone then Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943) is making a lunge straight for your pancreas with its sweetly romantic overload.
After his death elderly playboy Henry Van Cleve reports to hell for eternal damnation but “His Excellency” (Laird Cregar having a ball) doubts Henry’s wickedness and listens to his life story before giving his final judgement.
Gene Tierney is luminously beautiful. Don Ameche talks very, very fast. The Technicolor is lurid and the whole thing, although not quite to my taste, still made me well up a bit. Possibly the film is slightly too eager to be liked, but if you are prepared to go along with it you will be charmed. Bizarrely it has nothing to do with the 1978 kissy-kissy Warren Beatty movie of the same name which is a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
Heaven Can Wait is number 79 in the Twentieth Century Fox Studio Classics range, if you were wondering.
Now then, what about that weather? Snowy enough for ya?