Tuesday, March 16, 2010

i steal with a cool hand. look

The Warner Bros. financed "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" - adapted from Robert Elliott Burns' autobiographical account, as serialized in pulp magazine, True Detective - provoked public disquiet and brought the failings of the US penal system into focus.

Nominated for three Acadamy Awards in 1932, while Burns continued to serve out his sentence in New Jersey state, the film's commercial and critical success fueled debate, if not fundamental reforms. As a consequence of civic pressure - fanned by press reports of similar miscarriages of justice on a seemingly grand scale - a significant increase in appeals capitalized on this climate change; a record number of 'chain gang' inmates were granted parole and early release, interstate.

That is not to suggest that pardons were forthcoming. Jurisprudence is not so easily bent on confessing to error.

i am a fugitive from a chaing gang. then and now.

While Burns himself walked in 1933, it should also be observed that Georgia warden, J. Harold Hardy - his character lambasted in the film - successfully sued the studio for "
vicious, brutal and false attacks".

Like Muni disappearing into the dark in the final reel, the words "I steal..." trailing on a leash, the prison system publicly exonerated itself and retreated from flashbulb and spotlight. Stepping back into the long shadow behind bullhorn and pump action shotgun.

The rows concealed behind razor wire and fence.

The following overblown 'confessional' was originally culled from a post carried on Record Robot. Seemingly a vanity project - recorded in San Diego, CA and owing more of a debt, perhaps, to "Cool Hand Luke" - it nonetheless shambles, chained, in the footprints of Robert Elliott Burns. And, by tenuous extention, in the brusque foreword or afterword of Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson; themselves some time contributors to Bernaar Macfadden's True Detective.

"Pulp", of course, was the title - fittingly - of Charles Bukowski's last 'novel'. Published in 1994, just ahead of his death. In it, the role of narrator's voice passes from the familiar - Henry Chinaski - to private investigator, Nicky Berlane. "Pulp" punctuates the end of an era. And similarly 'celebrates' what Bukowski defines as "bad writing".

Bukowski may or may not have been justified in digging out an axe to grind. Genre writing, so far as I am concerned, is no better or worse merely for its author's pursuit of the rent; alimony; necessities or vices. It is what it is.

Me. I think he was just poking fun. Kicking back with the dicks for laughs.

I have no clear idea whether Floyd, here, is genuine or not. I suspect the latter.

He most definitely feels he has an axe to grind.

Ignore the window dressing. The pomp and chorus of pickaxe and shovel. The library music. Acquaint your ears, instead, with the private disinterment of a man falling in and out of his cups.

And the tarnished legacy of Robert Elliott Burns.

Raise a glass to the spurious or simply ill considered.

A sequel of sorts, it appeared first on SibLINGSHOT ON THE BLEACHERS in July, 2008. Nothing much changes when all's said and done.
FLOYD McCLELLAN: I AM AN EX-CONVICT FROM A FLORIDA CHAIN GANG from "I Am An Ex-Convict From a Florida Chain Gang" LP (Sagitario) 1978 (US)


Nazz Nomad said...

check this out:

ib said...

Well off topic, Nazz - unless I'm missing something right under my nose - but interesting. Thanks for da link.