V: On Sleeping Through Movies (2)

by Shelley Salamensky

As Young Man with a Horn (1950) begins, a boy runs through an alleyway, the shadows dark and high. The Foley track is off-sync, and too loud: his steps clatter independent of his feet. The studio set is shoddy, and overlit.

I doze. When I open my eyes, the boy has grown, and turned into Kirk Douglas. He’s a Trumpet Man, trouble for love-sunk Doris Day. I’ve missed what his specific problem is, but every time I nod off, then come to, he’s packing a valise in some skid.

Douglas and Day belt it out for the crowds. Grand music halls. Ritzy clubs. Soulful “Negro” dives. The Trumpet Man’s packing, and Doris is pleading again, as if in an endless Möbius strip.

With startling infrequency, a voice-over narrates. Lauren Bacall appears on-screen, quotes Freud, and slinks back off again. This means she is a lesbian, I later learn. But I sleep through that part.

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Shelley Salamensky is a professor at UCLA. Her essay “Postcards from Birobidzhan: The Life and Death and Life of the Jewish Autonomous Republic” appeared in the most recent issue of Guilt & Pleasure.

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