Short Ends and Leader

'Kentucky' (1938)

"Come on, Bluegrass!"


Director: David Butler
Cast: Loretta Young, Richard Greene
Distributor: Fox Cinema Archives
Year: 1938
USDVD release date: 2014-04-25

Kentucky follows two plotlines. In one, the beautiful daughter (Loretta Young) of one proud family is secretly courted by the son (Richard Greene) of a rival family without telling her his real identity. In the other arc, the son helps the daughter train a horse called Bluegrass that will run in the Kentucky Derby and restore glory to her family's declining fortunes. If that doesn't tell you how this picture turns out, perhaps you've never seen a movie before.

There's a third, symbolic plotline. The feud between the families dates back to the film's prologue in the Civil War, when a tragedy occurred over one family's sympathy for the Confederate cause and the other's commitment to the Union. It's the proud Confederate family that's fallen into decline while the other family thrived, so the romantic union between the third generation must signal the death (literal and/or metaphorical) of the memories of those who remember the era of 75 years before. This rapprochement between the legacies of North and South must occur, it so happens, just as most of America expects imminent war in Europe, although nobody mentions it. The bitter past is fiercely embodied by Walter Brennan doing his old coot act and winning an Oscar for it, and the movie implies that there may be no place for him in the modern world.

Both in the Civil War sequence and the modern era, the white families are surrounded by black servants presented in a more or less patronizing light. One standout character (George Reed) is a sly old reprobate who, though living 50 years on one farm, feels no spurious "loyalty" and is happy to play both families against the middle for his own benefit, even accusing those who fired him for stealing of being disloyal; he's a comic stereotype, but something interesting is going on with him as he "plays" the white folks and puts cash in his pocket. Maybe it's only that Reed is such a good actor, we're more interested when he's on screen than the bland romantic leads. Also worth noticing is the always fierce-looking Madame Sul-Te-Wan, who debuted in The Birth of a Nation, and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson is unmistakable in his brief bit.

Lamar Trotti and John Taintor Foote wrote the script based on a novel by the latter, who wrote lots of horse stories; the following year, he'd script The Great Dan Patch and The Story of Seabiscuit. Director David Butler specialized in light entertainment, and this effort makes a smooth, lean canter to the finish line. Fox Cinema Archives has issued this once popular hit on demand. The Technicolor photography on this print seems possibly faded in comparison to how it might look with an expensive restoration, but otherwise it looks very good.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.