Woody & Bogey

February 12: Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam opened on Broadway on this day in 1969. It ran for thirteen months (with the hit movie following in 1972), and so enhanced Allen's reputation as a rising star that he made the cover of Time magazine five weeks after the Broadway opening. Play it Again, Sam also cemented Allen's most enduring persona, that of the stumbling intellectual lost in a Walter Mitty daydream. The excerpt below is a three-way in which Bogie tries to coach Allan through his evening with Linda, from the pre-dinner drinks to the shared cigarette:

Bogart: Now—tell 'er that she moves something in you that you can't control.

Allan: You're kidding!

Bogart: Go ahead.

Allan: From me it's corny…

Bogart: She'll love it…

Allan: I love the time we've spent together.

Linda: So've I.

Allan: Is that all right? I don't want to use your other line about moving something…

Bogart: You're doing fine, kid. Now—tell her she has the most irresistible eyes you've ever seen.

Allan: You have—the most eyes I've ever seen on any person…

Linda: …I guess I better fix the steaks.

Allan: Linda…

Linda: Huh?

Allan: Your eyes…are like…two thick steaks!

In an interview a quarter-century later, Allen indicated that he was still troubled by the gap between Screen and Sirloin:

It has been said that if I have any one big theme in my movies, it's got to do with the difference between reality and fantasy. It comes up very frequently in my films. I think what it boils down to, really, is that I hate reality. And, you know, unfortunately, it's the only place where we can get a really good steak dinner.

Part of the Time feature was a piece by Allen entitled, "How Bogart made me the superb lover I am today." This begins with Allen confiding his pre-Bogart persona:

The first Humphrey Bogart movie I saw was The Maltese Falcon. I was 10 years old and I identified immediately with Peter Lorre. The impulse to be a sniveling, effeminate, greasy little weasel appealed to me enormously and, setting my sights on a life of mealy-mouthed degradation and crime, I rapidly achieved a reputation that caused neighboring parents to appear at my doorstep carrying torches, a large rope and bags of quicklime. This idolization of Lorre lasted until puberty, my sex glands suddenly made their debut like a Boston socialite and my interests turning rapidly from the sinister to the romantic.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."