RARA-AVIS: Re: Dashiell Hammett. Detective. Writer.

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Thu, 1 Jul 1999 07:48:30 -0400

>Just watched "Dashiell Hammett. Detective. Writer." on PBS. It was an
>okay surface bio of Hammett, but I'd be surprised if it had much new for
>anyone on this list.

I agree. Surface is about right, and about as much of a compliment as I'd give it. It was rather pallid and skimpy, and sometimes downright grating, especially in comparison to the classy and polished Lillian Hellman profile that aired right before it, which actually seemed to go more deeply into Hammett than his own profile. And who was that annoying, semi-starstruck woman listed as both Hellman and Hammett's biographer, in the Hammett piece? And if they wanted a San Francisco P.I. to interview, why not former eyes turned writers like Joe Gores or Jerry Kennealy, both of who would probably have had a bit more insight and resonance than that doofus with the beard? Hammett's writing was pretty glossed over, as well, and his influence on the entire mystery and crime genre was relegated to a sentence or two. Probably needed room for more clips of Beaumont being punched around in THE GLASS KEY. But the producers do get extra points (eggs?) for using Kathleen Turner to narrate.

Then again, like Mark, I knew most of the Hammett stuff, so maybe I'm overly critical because I learned nothing new. Hellman's stuff, though, was mostly new to me, and a real blast. Judging from the show, this was one hardboiled, cranky, cynical, funny, stand-up broad. Hell, lotsa folks woulda prob'ly t'rowed da bum out long ago....

Kevin Burton Smith

"You have the right to free speech, As long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it."
(from KNOW YOUR RIGHTS by The Clash)

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