RARA-AVIS: American Masters show on Hammett

William Denton (buff@pobox.com)
Mon, 26 Jul 1999 23:32:30 -0400 (EDT)

My nearby (Buffalo, New York) PBS station ran this tonight. I thought it was pretty good. Nice biographical sketch of Hammett, some good pictures I hadn't seen, some short interviews with people he'd known (including his daughter, whom I've never seen before), and the obligatory shots of cigarette smoke curling up by typewriters and booze being poured into a glass. Joan Mellen was interviewed, and I'm sure I've seen her before; also Diane Johnson who looked very proper and had a pearl necklace.

Two things really caught my eye: one, that Hammett had regular drinking sessions with Hemingway and Faulkner. What nights those would have been. Also, there was a picture of him at a dinner with Paul Robeson. I'd have liked to hear them talk.

It's too bad there aren't more documentaries like this. They'd have period colour, booze, manual typewriters, those great old cars, guys in fedoras and gals in dresses, lots of old movie clips, people talking tough, and interviews with old, non-famous people who were involved in the scene back then when they were young. You could do a six- or eight-hour series on the Black Mask boys, an era that's gone forever.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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