Thursday, April 15, 2010

Here's to Toots and a haunting harmonica

        I am embarrassed to admit this but I saw Midnight Cowboy (1969) only last year. Of course I have seen bits and pieces of it.  I knew it put Jon Voight on the map. I knew Dustin Hoffman's character was Ratso Rizzo. The role showcased his remarkable talents, coming off of his clean-cut innocence in The Graduate

        But I never watched Midnight Cowboy from beginning to end. What a great flick. The ending really hit me. I don't recall a movie that gave me such a feeling of sadness at the end. Not teary hanky sad. Just sad like a void. A loss.

      Without the gifted harmonica playing it would not have had the impact. Even as true to form as it was to James Leo Herlihy's brilliant book.  The glorious playing was done by Jean Toots Theilemans. I'll tell you some instruments need gifted musicians to show you their capabilities. The harmonica is one of them.

     Music sets the tone.  The youthful exuberance the opening of Across the Universe with the Beatles song "It's you," so energized and sparkling. Or the creepy feeling the Doors music brought to Apocalypse Now.  The best is the jazz score set to a low-budget 1958 science fiction thriller called 4D Man. Great jazz music by itself, but it really made the action bounce along.

    That's why if I love a book, I hesitate to see the movie. Who wants your imagery ruined if you heard raggae and they do rock? I sometimes get the book, though, if the movie is good.Sometimes I avoid the movie after reading an exceptional book. You see some movies not even close to the book. Like LA Confidental. Both a great book and flick. The book starts out with a conversation between two LA cops, one of whom is a major player in the book. But in the movie he's just a bit character and on top it of he's killed off fast. I have read most of Elroy's books. The master of novel noir.

  Here's a my badly edited liberty with Midnight Cowboy to showcase Toots' haunting harmonica:

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