Tag Archives: dr. seuss

Fashion Criminal

Your day as a supervillain has arrived. You’ve bewitched a suburban mother, seated 500 children around a giant piano, and are about to put your master plan into action. So how do you celebrate such a feat of large-scale iniquity? Well, if you’re Dr. T, the piano teacher played by Hans Conried in the Seuss-penned fantasy The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), you get dressed by way of an elaborate musical number.

It’s “The Dressing Song,” colloquially known as “Do-Mi-Do Duds,” Dr. T’s ode to his collection of absurdly haute couture outfits. Its lyrics, in the best Seussian tradition, are a euphonic inventory of esoteric fabrics and food products—from a “purple nylon girdle with the orange blossom buds” to the downright counterintuitive “liverwurst, and Camembert cheese!” Pair them with meticulous choreography, as performed by Dr. T’s five expressionless assistants, and you’ve got one of the campiest, queerest, most joyous things ever to come out of Hollywood.

Part of its splendor comes from the number’s productivity. It doesn’t just have momentum; it has a work ethic. Dr. T’s assistants are clearly on the clock, bustling around his bedroom, even if their jobs do involve geometrically precise dance routines. Their boss starts the number out in mauve t-shirt and green shorts but, by the end, he’s decked out in a dazzlingly complex uniform. This musical number gets something done! What say you to that, “Singin’ in the Rain”?

Beyond the drive that makes “Do-Mi-Do Duds” tick like manic clockwork, its greatness is all in the details. Like how Dr. T seems oblivious to the men around him because he’s so caught up in how goddamn decadent and amazing his clothes are. Or how magisterially, with renewed exuberance on every verse, he calls for every last piece of his wardrobe: “I want my organdy snood! And in addition to that…!” Or, perhaps best of all, how he doesn’t quite affix his colossal hat’s chinstrap correctly, but keeps marching anyway. Because he’s Dr. T.

Or, say, the way his assistants sprinkle him with flower petals as if he’s the world’s gaudiest, most demented bride. All I really know is that “Do-Mi-Do Duds” is pure, bottled pleasure. It’s all the joie de vivre and outrageous fashion sense in the world concentrated into two and a half minutes of song and dance. And really, who doesn’t want their cutie chamois booties with the leopard skin toes?

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Link Dump: #48

Boris Karloff’s grave-digging villain in The Body Snatcher needs to stop getting into fights. It’s pissing off his kitty! Look at how that cat’s snarling. It’s saying, “Hey Karloff, take your petty corpse-related squabbles elsewhere! I’ve got kitty stuff to do.” We hope you’ve been enjoying our feast of pre-Halloween delights this month, with plenty more to come. And now, here are links:

This isn’t that weird of a search term, but I found it too funny not to share: “snow white and the seven dwarfs get some pussy.” Yep.

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Link Dump: #15

It’s that time of year again! The “most wonderful time”! The time when you start feeling bad about how inadequate all the presents you’re giving are (and all the people you’re forgetting), when you feel guilty over not being able to spend enough time with family, when it’s cold as fuck outside and a new year is looming around the corner. Wonderful.

This week’s special Xmas kitty comes courtesy of Rankin/Bass’s stop-motion classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), because Ashley vetoed my selection from A Garfield Christmas (1987). And now I have an inadequate present for you, dear reader: links! Here’s the best of the Internet for the past week:

  • Andrew Pulver of The Guardian wrote this terrifically in-depth essay on Jules Dassin’s great noir Night and the City.
  • From the “What If?” Department: Victorian Star Trek, complete with sepia tone.
  • The verse may not be great, but Adam Watson’s “Dr. Seuss does Star Wars” drawings are hilarious. Especially Jabba.
  • Vulture has “2010’s 25 Best Performances That Won’t Win Oscars,” many of which are dead-on, and contain a few more end-of-year overlooked movie suggestions.
  • Slate Magazine has 17 overlooked Christmas movies, including All That Heaven Allows and Eyes Wide Shut. That’s my kind of list! Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club has three more, one of which features Jimmy Durante and a squirrel.
  • The San Diego Film Critics Society gets my admiration for 1) being one of the few critics’ groups to break with the Social Network solidarity and 2) actually making interesting, wide-ranging choices. Scott Pilgrim! Shutter Island! Never Let Me Go! Variety!
  • Here’s a hilarious top 10 movies list from Lisanti Quarterly. I seriously can’t wait to see The Super-Loony One.
  • But with all this year-end cinematic partying, we can’t forget the year’s worst movies: here are lists from The Film Doctor, The Telegraph, and The A.V. Club.
  • The ultimate holiday present: zombie-centric reinterpretations of beloved movies!
  • You know what’s really threatening America? Businesses that say “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Thankfully, some clever Who down in Whoville came up with GrinchAlert.com, where irate customers can put Baby Jesus-hating stores on the “Naughty list,” and presumably boycott them. (Go sarcasm!)

As your reward for receiving the above gift, here’s a bonus: the past week’s wacky search term action! I was greatly amused by the horny redundancy in “i like sex and pussy also” and the saccharine overkill of “animated smiling heart.” Someone accidentally created a porno spoof title with a dash of Latin by searching for “dr. jekyll et mr. hyde fuck.” (Let’s not dwell on the mechanics of that action, by the way.) Lastly, I’m kind of baffled by all the hits from “fogging cockroach.” Maybe they’re searching for an exterminator? FYI: Pussy Goes Grrr is not a bug extermination website. We also can’t recommend any good ones. Sorry, and have a happy winter!

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And what would you do if you met a Jibboo?

Do you ever have the feeling nobody’s out there? Like that one episode of The Twilight Zone? That everybody’s gone, somewhere, somehow, into oblivion and there you are, left by yourself: no more broadcast media left because there’s no one there to broadcast it. Except reruns. Or infinite infomercials. But no original content, ever. This is a fear I have sometimes – not necessarily of really being alone, but of feeling alone. Of becoming an island unto myself, cut off from the rest of mankind. Of being unable to reach out and find somebody there, like Robert Neville in every film version of I Am Legend, endlessly calling out via shortwave radio into the darkness, wondering if there’s anyone else left. Isolation is a fear that preys on us. Being left behind or left by ourselves, to fend for ourselves against the dangers of the world without the assistance of our friends or family. We make various attempts to neutralize these fears through one defense mechanism or another, but ultimately it’s still there, and we have to keep crying out to reassure ourselves: “Is there anybody there? Anybody?”

That said, classes are over. I start my only final in an hour. I figured I’d blog to pass the time. Last night, watching The Ghost and Mrs. Muir reminded me of someone I should blog about – I want to start an ongoing series about Actors/Actresses Who Are Awesome. Having already touched on Charles Laughton and Edith Massey, I now turn my attentions toward the great George Sanders.

George Sanders

The consummate English gentleman of leisure, Sanders was frequently smarmy, cultured, and sybaritic. Sometimes he played an out-and-out villain, other times he was something of a hero, but more often he was a high-class lowlife who couldn’t be counted on to commit a murder or save a life. More likely, he’d be reclining on a divan, reading poetry and possibly making witty insults. With all these resemblances to Oscar Wilde, it’s no surprise he would play the dissipated Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), or that this Spanish-language website would describe him as bisexual. Regardless of whether this rather dubious source is at all accurate, sexual adventure and extravagance were a part of the Sanders persona. Frequently he’d play the secondary character who’s not quite evil enough to be a villain, but is still pretty amoral, as in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir or Jean Renoir’s This Land Is Mine. Other times he’d be a tainted, womanizing, but basically honorable protagonist or ally: Rage in Heaven, The Lodger, Lured.

His best roles came in Hitchcock’s Rebecca as the title character’s slimy former lover Jack, who happily adds on layers of confusion to the heroine’s situation (I won’t comment on his other Hitchcock collaboration, Foreign Correspondent, which I haven’t seen in forever), and in All About Eve, where he’s the ultimate Sanders character, venomous theater critic Addison DeWitt. DeWitt looks at others with constant derision, scheming when he can, frequently tearing down egos and careers. Sanders’ performance is a masterpiece of amorality, and he even gets a chance to introduce Marilyn Monroe to film history as “a graduate of the Copacabana School of Dramatic Art.” Early in Sanders’ career, he starred in 2 film series – The Falcon and The Saint – though he eventually gave up both, handing the role of the Falcon over to his brother, Tom Conway, in the fittingly-titled The Falcon’s Brother. Beautiful how things work out. By the ’60s, Sanders, like many great actors, was reduced to supporting parts in cheap, bad movies (although he did play the menacing tiger Shere Khan in The Jungle Book). He overdosed on sleeping pills in 1972, leaving a suicide note only George Sanders could write:

Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.

Regardless of what problems he had or what sadness his actions reveal, that note contains a surprising amount of audacity and wit. You can imagine George Sanders in the afterlife, above or below, raising an amused eyebrow as we toil from day to day and cutting down all our efforts with a single snide remark.

"The moon was out / and we saw some sheep."

Yertle the Turtle – possibly the best book ever written on the subject of turtle stacking.” – Lisa Simpson

Switching gears slightly, I’ve been thinking about the imagery in Dr. Seuss books. Earlier, I read a profile of lesbian comics genius Alison Bechdel, who listed Seuss (or Theodor Seuss Geisel [1904-1991]) as one of her creative/artistic influences. When you browse the Internet, Seuss generally comes up in a context of “My kids love this book” or “This book is great for kids.” So my question: Is there any reason for adults to look at Seuss’s work? I read some of his books many, many times at a young age, including One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, which was the source of the rather chilling image pictured above. Why are the sheep going for a walk in their sleep? Seuss himself never provides any answers, but you can just guess they’re up to no good.

Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (1975)

Seuss’s books often teach a variety of fairly simple lessons, be they “Don’t let strangers ruin your house” (The Cat in the Hat), “Try new things” (Green Eggs and Ham), “Don’t fuck with the environment” (The Lorax), or “Don’t let the U.S. and the Soviet Union get into nuclear stalemate” (The Butter Battle Book); however, sometimes he just cuts loose and lets his imagination run with itself, as in One Fish, Two Fish or, as I recall, in Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, a book I was describing to Ashley recently as containing bizarre, unearthly architecture, with towers possibly modeled on the skeletons of dinosaurs and lands with multiple moons. I feel like, to some degree, Seuss must’ve been influenced by Escher – only he added a lysergic pastel rainbow, and creatures with wavy hair that were unrecognizable, but vaguely mammalian. He was decidedly multitalented, able to meld these visions from the boundary between dream and nightmare with bouncy, anaphoratic verse. Take for example this piece from One Fish, Two Fish; accompanied by a picture of two kids lugging what looks like a sinister walrus in a barely-large-enough tank, it’s haunted me for years.

Look what we found
in the park
in the dark.
We will take him home.
We will call him Clark.

He will live at our house.
He will grow and grow.
Will our mother like this?
We don’t know.

This is, mind you, all there is to that particular story – it’s a self-contained vignette, so we never get to see how large, exactly, Clark grows, or if their mother likes it. It reminds me of a similar incident in There’s a Wocket in My Pocket: the narrator mentions the vug under the rug, who is briefly shown as a formless lump; he then quickly moves on to the next creature. Here’s another picture from Wocket.

Beware the Jertain!

A pair of vaguely chicken-like legs with no real clues as to how the rest of the body looks. Seuss knew a thing or two about preserving ambiguity in the service of excitement and fear. So what’s my point here? For one thing: as Bechdel’s testimony shows, I think, Seuss can easily be an artistic influence, especially when his fantastic creations are some of the first books children are exposed to. Secondly, he seems to put forward an accepting worldview, observing in One Fish, Two Fish that “from there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere,” and priming children for their imminent bombardment with events both good and bad, ordinary and strange. Some of his bizarre imaginings are good, others are bad. “Why are they sad and glad and bad?” Seuss asks. “I do not know. Go ask your dad.” (Of course, no one’s dad could ever explain the reasons behind good and evil either, so he was just passing the buck.)

So ultimately, I recommend taking a critical glance at Seuss’s books. I think that beyond their simplistic language, they explore some pretty fertile territory of the mind. And after all, if children’s books aren’t good enough for adults, why should they ever be read to children? Why should we expose children to shit we can’t stand? Seuss is one of the many great 20th century multimedia artists. He deserves better.

Also, I suspect that if I met a Jibboo, especially in a stark and spectral landscape like that one, I’d run like hell away.

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