Saturday, August 7, 2010

Marc Connelly, Mr. Popular

We’ve met Marc Connelly, or at least an inspiration of his, before.

Connelly, inspired by Roark Bradford’s “Green Pastures,” basically re-wrote the story – a re-telling of Bible stories “as they might have been rendered by illiterate but highly imaginative colored preachers,” as Louis Untermeyer puts it.

Connelly’s play was brought to Warner Brothers film in 1936:

Here I insert the common disclaimer: Consider the time this was written in, et cetera, et cetera. But the film, nor the play, didn’t play well in “colored” circles in 1936. So.

We move on, this time to Connelly’s short sketch “The Guest,” which, though it predates “The Jetsons” by about thirty years, kind of prophesies some of the push-button fingeritis Jane Jetson laments.

In this piece which surely would have ended up on if it had existed in the 1920s as an example of corporate culture gone mad, our main character wrestles with the boffo technology that is the hotel telephone service, the hotel Food-a-rack-a-cycle, the hotel concierge that’s supposed to bring him his suit but brings him someone else’s suit and insists on waking him up at 8:30 even though it’s after ten. Believe me, just to read a Consumerist thread, and you’ll get the picture. Here’s a sample:

Mr. Mercer: Come in. (A bellboy enters with a plate of dog meat.) Well?

Bellboy: For the dog, sir.

Mr. Mercer: For the dog?

Bellboy: Yes, sir.

Mr. Mercer: Do they give you a dog here too? (The bellboy laughs pleasantly.)

Bellboy: It’s just the way you ordered it, sir.

Mr. Mercer: I ordered a cup of coffee.

Bellboy: One should never give coffee to a dog.

Mr. Mercer: The coffee is for me.

Bellboy: Well, this is for the dog. (The bellboy puts the plate on the floor and looks around for the dog. Mr. Mercer wishes ha had an old-fashioned instead of a safety razor.)

And so on. Technology going amuck when the newest-fangled things were talkies and that infant invention, television. From there we went on to the flat-screen, 3-D televisions envisioned in The Jetsons to the gratuitous and superfluous use of 3-D in today’s movies.

I’m off to the Food-a-rack-a-cycle. I need a beer.

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