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Saturday, April 03, 2004

Veronica Lake: "I flipped a coin. Heads, I go to Malibu -- tails, I go to Laguna."
Alan Ladd: "What happens if the coin rolls under the davenport?"
Vernoica Lake: "Then you go to Long Beach."

(from Raymond Chandler's screenplay for The Blue Dalhia (1946).)

Around the same time, also in Malibu, Theodor Adorno and Charlie Chaplin are at a party:

"While Chaplin stood next to me, one of the guests was taking his early leave. Unlike Chaplin, I extended my hand to him a bit absent-mindedly, and, almost instantly, started violently back. The man was one of the lead actors from The Best Years of Our Lives, a film famous, shortly after the war; he lost a hand during the war and in its place bore practicable claws made of iron. When I shook his right hand and I felt it return the pressure, I was extremely startled, but sensed immediately that I could not reveal my shock to the injured man at any price. In a split second I transformed my frightened expression into an obliging grimace that must have been far ghastlier. The actor had hardly moved away when Chaplin was already playing the scene back. All the laughter he brings about is so near to cruelty; solely in such proximit to cruelty does it find its legitimation and its element of the salvational."

(Quoted in Witkin, Adorno on Popular Culture; the source is Adorno's brief tribute on Chaplin's 75th birthday. The unnamed actor/veteran is Harold Russell; Wyler's film (also 1946) was his only role until one movie apiece in the '80s and '90s. Cf. the steel plate in downed flyer Willam Bendix's head in The Blue Dalhia; because of his injury, he can't bear 'that monkey music' -- that is, jazz.)

Much earlier (1896), Adorno's eventual fellow emigre Thomas Mann writes a story called "Disillusionment": "So this is what it is like for your house to be on fire." Much later (c. 1986), this directly inspires Leiber & Stoller to write "Is That All There Is?"

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