Never What?

2 Nov

Occasionally a friend or acquaintance tells me that facebook is annoying. Their complaint is that they do not want to know, for instance, when someone else is eating a meal or where. I receive e-mail messages through a yahoo account that an acquaintance has posted at facebook his indecision about beginning an action; far better he is not calling me with that information. I have felt alone, though, in my decision to stop using facebook following the report last year that Eduardo Saverin had renounced his United States citizenship in order to increase profit from the public sale of company shares. I already did not like Mark Zuckerberg, and it finally galled me that I had been providing both of these company founders free labor so that they amass incredible wealth.

Housewife, hunter, or celebrity, it is fashionable and lucrative now to reveal oneself to the public. When I was watching television broadcasting, Jerry Springer coaxed confessions from lowlifes who suddenly punched or ripped out hair to make a point. Alas, I-am-the-focus is no longer confined to the glamorous world created by advertising photography. But there was a time in American culture when it was better to keep a secret, which in turn made good story.

The 1953 film Blowing Wild, directed by Hugo Fregonese, is one of those stories. Not great drama, but certainly good story. Barbara Stanwyck portrays Marina Conway and Gary Cooper portrays Jeff Dawson. Conway and Dawson have a secret, which they keep from Ward “Paco” Conway, played by Anthony Quinn. Dawson and Paco are veteran wildcatters finding their fortune somewhere in Latin America. The viewer is not allowed to know, probably because the production and distribution companies at the time did not want to cut off foreign markets and more than likely because an American audience would have expected any location in the Americas to be the same. It’s all generic when you have characters by the name of Paco.

The wildcatters, along with Dutch Peterson, played by Ward Bond, have been to many places in the world seeking their fortune in oil. This was, as my mother tells me, an era when it was still glamorous to drill for oil. They have known and liked each other a long time. At some point during their rambling quest Marina entered. She had a fling with Dawson and then things went sour. Not able to have what she wanted, she settled for a marriage with Paco.

The film opens with Dawson and Peterson stranded after “banditos” have blown up their derrick and robbed them of their cash. These outlaws are the hostile environment personified, extorting payment from wildcatters the region over. Planning to return to America by boat, the two men must spend the night in town, bunking down in the park. While Dawson is stoic about their deprivation, Peterson cannot contain himself. Hungry and unable to sleep, he attempts the bandito on a white linen-suited gentleman along a dark, narrow street. The would-be victim fights back with pure brawn, which produces cries from Peterson and brings Dawson quickly to the rescue. And, what d’ya know, the man in the suit is none other than Paco!

Friends reunited, Dawson and Peterson learn that Paco has set up home at a ranch with several derricks in operation. Another day, inside a cantina, as Paco attempts to convince Dawson to work for him, Marina appears. It is one of the arresting moments of the film. Stanwyck could bring to mind cold steel. In this scene, she is dressed in equestrian gear with short cropped hair. She is mannish and when she looks at Dawson it is with the eyes of a man staking claim to a woman. Her intention to control the outcome of this story is written into her stance.

As much as this story explores the romance of men prospecting for oil in exotic corners of the world, it is also about a woman who demands too much. Stanwyck was playing a female type, the acquisitive woman, vilified during this period, in books such as Philip Wylie’s Generation of Vipers and Marshall McLuhan’s The Mechanical Bride, and in film portrayals, as with Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce and Harriet Craig. Marina’s desire to control sends the story to its out-of-control ending.

But, wait! We are more enlightened now about gender relationships. Look at this advertisement for a product that exhorts, NEVER HIDE. We see a couple embracing with a kiss in the middle of a brawl between citizens and police. This page appeared in the June/July 2012 issue of Nylon, the magazine’s special focus tangentially “devoted” to current music, but mainly decorated with lavish spreads for women’s consumer items (feature articles include facebook url addresses). The cover contains a photograph of Shirley Manson, “Rock Goddess,” who appears more like Medusa wearing pubescent clothing.

never_hide

Is there something to hide here? The couple is oblivious to the pandemonium surrounding them. They are elevated above it, as if the fashion photographer had directed them to stand on an unseen dais. The staging of this clash comes on the heels of the Occupy Movement’s recent public notoriety. It is fashionable to advertise your product in the milieu of public protest with a backdrop of tear gas cloud.

Are the couple fortifying themselves for a clash with the police? Doubtful. They could be injured, as we see with a man holding his arm to the left. Are they leading the world to a better, elevated place? Perhaps. As the hip say, make love, not war. Are they showing us how to be hip? More than likely, because as the young consume, they cannot possibly be burdened by the truths that emanate from movements like Occupy. In fact, we might conjecture that the truly important topics of the day are being completely derailed by this advertisement. But, then, who is the acquisitive consumer-spoiler? Would that person using the advertised product be the man or woman or both?

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