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snow_wavelength_700w544h.jpg

Above, in situ detail of Michael Snow’s Wavelength.
 

  1. Viña Delmar (1903-90) —
    Cynthia. Director: Robert Leonard. Released July 1947. Based on —
    The Rich, Full Life. Samuel French, 1946. Based on —
    Time of Her Life, in Woman’s Home Companion (September 1944), pp22-23.

    The film Cynthia originated from a play and earlier story, both by Viña Delmar, something of an it girl author in the late 1920s and early 1930s, who would write several novels (in two or even three chapters in her own life), some screenplays, and numerous stories.

    Cynthia depicts a hardware store, the play refers to it, the story has none.There’s more about the hardware store in the film than in the play, yet what’s in the play is wittier.

    A good summary of the film is found in the American Film Institute Catalog (Feature Films, 1941-1950), which can be found here (the AFI Catalog is an excellent resource, by the way).

    the film

    Louise and Larry are students at Wyandott College, ca 1928. Louise plays the piano well, Larry excels at baseball. Louise manages to attract his attention, and they go out for a romantic evening row on the lake. Louise tells Larry of her dream to continue her studies at the Vienna Conservatory; Larry responds with his own plan to do post-graduate work in medicine there. They’ll have all summer to think of each other. Louise returns to Michigan, Larry to his hometown Napoleon, Illinois, where he works at J. M. Dingle’s hardware store. They return to school in the Fall, and get married. In the winter (skiing on mountains), Louise tells Larry she’s scared: he gets it, she’s pregnant. He promises that a child won’t get in the way of their dreams. The young couple move to Napoleon, where Larry resumes his job at the hardware store.

    (A fictional Wyandotte (— with an e) College appears in several Kurt Vonnegut stories; see Susan Elizabeth Farrell, Critical Companion to Kurt Vonnegut (Infobase, 2008).)

    A daughter Cynthia is born frail. Medical bills mount, and it becomes clear to Louise and Larry that earlier dreams must be put aside.

    Fifteen years pass. Cynthia (played by Elizabeth Taylor) is still frail, under constant medical supervision of her uncle Fred, involving shots and medications and advice about what not to eat — no fruit, and especially apples. She misses school a lot, and every kind of social activity. She has a good singing voice, and Professor Rosenkrantz, who once taught her mother, encourages her to try out for a school operetta. (He speaks a lot about his life in Vienna and, indeed, Vienna becomes code for the dreams of youth in the film.) Illness prevents Cynthia from participating in the performance, but her singing has attracted the attention of Ricky Latham, a popular student (and Navy veteran, who has come back to complete his high school education).

    Meanwhile, we’ve learned that the owner of the house Larry and Louise rent will be selling; they need to decide what to do. Larry asks Dingle for a raise, doesn’t get it.

    Ricky Latham is a very nice — and oddly young (and uncoarsened!), for a veteran — fellow. Lots of subterfuges are launched by Cynthia’s cousin Fredonia, to prevent their getting together, but Larry invites Cynthia to the prom. Her mother allows Cynthia to go, even makes a dress; she deceives Larry about it. There’s a terrible storm out, that night, and she has to work hard to get Larry out of the house (to a meeting), so that Cynthia can be picked up and taken to the prom, despite the storm.

    Larry finds out, reacts angrily and chastizes his wife, exclaiming that she hates him for the sacrifices/compromises he’s had to make. (He has been embittered by the course of his life.) He is late rising the next day. He arrives at the store to learn that Dingle is back from a trip to Florida, and is furious about Larry’s tardiness. Reaching a boiling point, he kicks opens Dingle’s office door, launches into a tirade, and quits. He arrives home where Louise has just made a downpayment on the house (with her own savings). A comedy of errors ensues. Louise is delighted by Larry’s show of anger (and life); he says to begin packing, so they can go to Chicago. Cynthia refuses to leave, however, because she’s going steady now. All is resolved when Mr. Dingle is spied outside, hurrying to the house with hat in hand, to beg Larry to return to the store. The end.

    delmar_cynthia_1947_dingle1_700w520h.jpg

    ex WarnerArchive DVD of Cynthia (1947)

    Larry George Murphy) arrives, late for work.

    delmar_cynthia_1947_dingle2_700w542h.jpg

    ex WarnerArchive DVD of Cynthia (1947)

    Larry enters. Notional/suggestive interior: unlikely assemblage of boxes, door handle displays at left, and motley and poorly arranged display of tools at back wall; bookkeeper (Eula Guy) attends to plant on the pot-bellied stove.

    delmar_cynthia_1947_dingle3_700w524h.jpg

    ex WarnerArchive DVD of Cynthia (1947)

    Larry greeted by clerk (Erville Anderson?), who congratulates him (for being elected head of the Booster Committee (not for his daughter’s stunning appearance at the high school prom the night before). He learns that Dingle has just returned from Florida, and is furious at Larry’s tardiness.

    Looks more like a wholesale operation than a hardware store, but it’s all notional: nothing presented for close perusal.

    delmar_cynthia_1947_dingle4_700w520h.jpg

    ex WarnerArchive DVD of Cynthia (1947)

    Another clerk (William Tannen?) fills Larry in on Dingle’s rant, is pointing to one of several admonitory signs, this one reading A man who won’t be late, can’t be late.

    delmar_cynthia_1947_dingle5_700w530h.jpg

    ex WarnerArchive DVD of Cynthia (1947)

    Here, in an earlier scene, Larry approaches Dingle (Harlan Briggs) about a raise — $10 a month more would enable him to buy the house he’s currently renting, but that the owner wishes to sell. Dingle puts him off, refuses to sign a loan note and suggest that Larry ask his brother (a pompous physician who’s been caring for Cynthia). Dingle also mentions that he’ll be needing to head to Florida for a couple of months, to bake some winter-related back trouble out of him.

    I want to emphasize Dingle in his suit, at his desk with a couple of books (spine outward), Abe Lincoln bookends, desk lamp, ice water, plenty of medicines, prints of dogs and a large portrait (unidentifiable) of a military officer. Dingle is completely disengaged from the business that Larry manages on a day-to-day basis.

    A glance through hardware trade magazines of the time often shows a suited business owner, striking a fatherly or avuncular attitude with a younger man, sometimes in a vest. The idea of success is exemplified in that suit, sitting at a desk, making executive decisions about sink stoppers, spatulas, rope.

    daisy_line_detail_hardware_age_6apr1939_700w389h.jpg

    detail, Daisy Line (Schacht Rubber Mfg. Co., Huntington, Indiana), back cover of Hardware Age (April 6, 1939)

    Note too, that while the play may have been written prior to the war, no mention is made of the War in the film; perhaps Larry as sole breadearner would have had a deferrment?

    Here, the hardware store is ambiguous or at least ambivalent, meaning-wise. It is weight and a place of quashed ambitions, but also a source of stablity. It is strange — judging from the AFI description, to see Dingle’s invitation to return to the business, perhaps at a higher salary (?), as a positive outcome.

    I’m reminded of Harry Boswell in Parke Sellard’s The Boswell Gene (1982, 2000), who ends up in a boring hardware store job and loveless marriage. He gets a second (time-reversing) chance. I do not yet know if the hardware store is in the play script written by Delmar.

    the play

    Very different from the film; no hardware store scene (or any other scene, outside the living room of Larry and Lou Fenwick’s house). A new character is Mother Fenwick, Larry's mother. The writing — dialogue — is much snappier than in the film. The play was staged in New York in November 1945, produced by Gilbert Miller. A Lux Radio Theatre production was broadcast on June 23, 1947. The AFI description of the film discusses the business relationship between film and theatrical production (MGM acquired the rights to the play, by agreeing to pay a percentage of the play's gross, and also invested in that production).

    We learn from Mother Fenwick, responding to a question from Carrie, that Larry went to Chicago once when the reguar buyer at the store was sick. When he came back he had Lou with him and je just said, This is my wife. That's all any of us know about it. Carrie (and perhaps others) feel that Lou is an outsider, and not perfectly acceptable.

    Cynthia comes across as a bit more normal, and air-headed, than the Elizabeth Taylor figure — she's 15, after all.

    Lou gets some nice lines. She and her daughter are looking at a magazine for dress ideas. One interesting one is dismissed as too sophisticated... A person would have to be divorced at least twice to feel comfortable in it. (p25)

    When Larry returns from work, Cynthia shows him the magazine illustration of the dress her mother will make: Daddy, look at this. Isn't that gorgeous? He replies, I wouldn't know. I’m in the hardware business. (28)

    And this — Lou: Well, Lawrence, what’s doing at the store? Lawrence [reading]: Nothing. Lou: You people down there must be ready to tear out your hair by the handful. Lawrence: Why? Lou: For eighteen years now day after day nothing’s happened. Lawrence: What can happen? People come in and buy things and go out again. And today was a particularly dull day. (30)

    Lots of tension in this marriage. Larry is against Cynthia's going to the school dance. There are more important things, he's fond of saying. Toward the end of Act I Scene I, Lou says:

    Time after time you've told me that fun was of no importance. You said there was a rich, full life to be found in marriage, in keeping house, in raising children. True values, you said. Read things of lasting worth. Well, Ir’m not sure you were wrong. But you view laughter and light-heartedness with suspicion. That’s wrong, Lawrence. Laughter and and light-heartedness are swell things.. (33)

    Lou repeats the expression true values later, when trying to dissuade Cynthia from going to the dance; she hears herself say it, and Cynthia responding exactly like her father would... and she relents.

    delmar_prohaska_time_02616_700w451h.jpg

    opening spread, Viña Delmar, Time of Her Life, in Woman’s Home Companion (September 1944).
    Illustration by Ray Prohaska (1901-81)

    the story

    Time of Her Life appeared in Woman’s Home Companion in September 1944, pages 22-23, 82, 84-87.

    No hardware store here, no description of the husband’s business other than that it involves the office. Names differ from the play and film: Larry is Harry, Lou is Lucia. Cynthia remains Cynthia, and delicate, however. Ricky Latham is no longer a war veteran, but simply a student — the most popular in the school... handsome... got high marks... had a car... wonderful swimmer... wonderful dancer... witty... fun... everyone adored him.

    delmar_prohaska_time_detail_700w578h.jpg

    detail, Ray Prohaska illustration for Viña Delmar, Time of Her Life, in Woman’s Home Companion (September 1944)

    Lucia reflects back on her own youth. She’d had a life full of lovely dresses and flowers and candy arriving in magnificent boxes, as well as ambitions for the theater. And she’d permitted herself to be convinced by Harry that she was too nice a girl to throw yourself away on this kind of life, and that happiness lived back in his home town — a good solid town with solid people in it. The life she’d been living was futile. He’d give her a home and they’d have children and she’d know the rich full life that a girl was born to know.

    The disappointment is pretty thick.

    Will eventually discuss the story in terms of the advertising and other editorial content in this issue, which appeared during the war.

    comments

    There’s more detail in the play than in the story, and arguably more in the film than in the play. It may be that because a play runs on conversation, it needs detailing, opportunities for repartée and nuance. Harry/Larry hasn't much of a presence in the story, other than being unenlightened and working in the office. The focus is on the mother and daughter.

    The Prohaska illustration gets at something that is softened in the play and film: Lou/Lucia's anger about her compromised life. The expressions on mother and daughter's faces, looking back at the father (whose mien appears in the mirror), has an if looks could kill quality. The almost obsessive red decorations, as if smeared in blood, the pin cushion, the handle of the scissors, all speak of a repressed violence.

    delmar_prohaska_SW_detail_700w578h.jpg

    detail, Ray Prohaska illustration for Viña Delmar, Time of Her Life, in Woman’s Home Companion (September 1944)

    More on Viña Delmar (1903-90) here.

  2. Psycho. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. 1960

    from one description, this — Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is unhappy in her job at a Phoenix, Arizona real estate office and frustrated in her romance with hardware store manager Sam Loomis (John Gavin). One afternoon, Marion is given $40,000 in cash to be deposited in the bank... I’d forgotten this, but remember the rest.

  3. Samuel Beckett. Film. Director: Alan Schneider. 1965

    An argument on Berkeley’s proposition that Esse est percepti (to be is to be perceived). The nail had held an iconic picture of a large-eyed God, that E (the Keaton character) removes from the wall. What remains is the nail and the space where the picture was, both indexing the picture.

    Saw (today) 5 November 2010, at Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. Ubuweb shows it here, through which interview with director is also available.

    Keaton character eyes god eyes Keaton character.

    later...

  4. Wavelength. Director: Michael Snow. 1967

    snow_wavelength_537_700w530h.jpg

    Hardware Store out the window, at about 27:37. Thanks to victoreremita.

    Some more about the film (and its hardware store) in Brandon Harris’s Hammer to Nail essay One Day You’ll Get There (2008).

  5. Four Candles. 1976

    A sketch from the BBC comedy The Two Ronnies, first aired on 18 September 1976. The episode starts out with a fellow coming into the ironmonger's shop and asking for four handles, by which the shopkeeper (and us) eventually learn he meant fork handle, that is, a handle for a garden fork. It goes on through a series of homophone-based misunderstandings, that are quite hilarious.

    four-candles_1976_726w510h.jpg

    Clip posted at YouTube, courtesy Simon Nottm. Thanks to Jane for this lead. The apparently famous episode is explicated at wikipedia.

  6. Happy Days. 1974-1984

    happydays_216_no_business_580w404h.jpg

    episode 216 There’s no business like no business (December 7, 1982); part 1 at You Tube courtesy Stormievbva5; see episode list at wikipedia.

    Another one I missed entirely. Know it only because of obituaries for Tom Bosley, whose Howard Cunningham owned a hardware store, was often seen reading the newspaper in his easy chair and was perpetually befuddled by the behavior of young people. From NY Times (20 October 2010)

    Search hardware at the Happy Days episode guide at wikipedia.

  7. Mama and Eunice visit Ed at the hardware store. Carol Burnett Show. April 5, 1975 (?)

    I knew I just knew I should never have invaded this precious domain of yours. And I wouldn’t be here right now if Mama hadn’t started whining about... You just shut up or I’ll take that little rubber stopper out of your purse and ram it down your throat.

    Mickey (Tim Conway) is a dim-witted clerk at the store. Ed’s Acme Hardware appeared in other episodes too. A pretty sketchy set, saws, maybe cans of paint, some shovels. Here (as of 24 July 2010).

  8. Saturday Night Fever. Director: John Badham; written by Nik Cohn and Norman Wexler. 1977

    Have never seen, but know that Tony Manero (John Travolta) has a dead-end job in a hardware store.

    The film was derived from Nik Cohn his Inside the Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night, in New York Magazine (June 7, 1976), here. Housewares, not hardware, though : During the week Vincent sold paint in a housewares store. All day, every day he stood behind a counter and grinned. He climbed up and down ladders, he made the coffee, he obeyed. Then came the weekend and he was cut loose. People complain that Cohn made it all up, etc., but I don’t see that it matters.

  9. The Hardware Store. Wonder Years. Episode 72, 16 October 91)

    Below, Mr Harris (played by Al Ruscio) explains where toggle bolts belong.

    wonderyears_72_togglebolt_700w486.jpg

    Part I (of four, on You Tube courtesy mandreke6).

    Fed up with the low pay at his first regular job, Kevin decides to try for a job at the mall where he can meet girls. He demands a pay rise, not expecting to get it. When he does, he quits anyway. (ex The Wonder Years episode guide)

    From the retrospective introduction —
    It was the kind of place you don’t see much anymore, filled to the rafters with brackets and bolts and old screens, you know, stuff on the cutting edge of obsolescence. It started as a summer job, but once school began Mr. Harris cut back my hours so I could keep working. With the allowance Dad was paying me I had no choice... It wasn’t enough he should know everything there was to know about the business, he seemed to think I should too... There’s a lot of love and sadness in this story.

    I should add that the comments to the You Tube post are amazing: off-topic, racist, nativist, ill-informed and nuance-blind. My favorite: Harmin87, who writes: Most americans don't even know the difference between a flathead and philips [sic] screwdriver despite having invented the Philips head for it’s [sic] superiority. Correction, pal: Flathead compares with round/oval head; slotted compares with Phillips.

    I never saw this show; know of it mainly because much of it was shot in Temple City; don’t know if McVey Hardware ever appeared, if only as street background.

  10. East Asheville Hardware. A song written and performed by David Wilcox, first released in 1996.

    ...Go to East Asheville Hardware
    Before it disappears.

    Read lyrics and listen here. (The store did eventually close.)

  11. Deadwood. Created by David Milch. HBO, 2004-2007

    July, 1876 — Seth Bullock abandons his position as Marshall in the Montana Territory to begin a career as a hardware merchant in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, a burgeoning, lawless gold-rush town set in the heart of Native land. Joining Bullock in the endeavor is his friend Sol Star. Episode 1 described here.

  12. Boys of Summer. The Wire.

    Season four, episode 38, aired September 10, 2006.
    Teleplay by David Simon, story by David Simon and Ed Burns, directed by Joe Chappelle. More details at wikipedia.

    This episode opens (pre-credit) with scene in a Home Depot-like hardware store, Snoop walking in with a nail gun, evidently looking for a replacement. There ensues a lovely exchange between Snoop, played by Felicia Snoop Pearson, and the hardware store salesman played by Paul L. Nolan — two professionals in an informed and critical discussion of tools, albeit at two linguistic registers. Transcription below. We’ve come a long way from the sitcom portrayals of hardware stores in the 1970s and 80s, that’s for sure.

    SnoopGod damn!
    SalesmanAh, I see you got the Dewalt cordless. Your nail gun, Dewalt Four-ten.
    SnoopTrouble is, you leave it in the truck for a while, you need to step up and use the bitch, the battery don’t hold up, you know?
    SalesmanYeah, cordless’ll do that. You might want to consider the powder actuated tool. The Hilti DX 460 or Simpson PTP, these two are my Cadillacs, everything else on this board is second best, sorry to say. Are you contracting, or just doing some work around the house?
    SnoopNo we work all over.
    SalesmanFull time?
    SnoopNo, we had about five jobs last month.
    SalesmanAt that rate the cost of the powder actuated gun justifies itself.
    SnoopYou say power?
    SalesmanPowder.
    SnoopLike gun powder?
    SalesmanYeah. The DX 460’s fully automatic with a 27 caliber charge. Wood, concrete, steel-to-steel... she’ll throw a fastener into anything and for my money she handles recoil better than the Simpson or the P3500. Now, you understand what I mean by recoil?
    SnoopYeah, kickback. I’m with you.
    SalesmanThat’s right.
    Snoop27 caliber huh?
    SalesmanYeah, not large ballistically, but for driving nails it’s enough, any more than that you’d add to the recoil.
    SnoopNah shit, I see those tiny-ass 22 round-nose drop-a-nigga plenty of days man. Motherfuckas get up there and you’re like a pinball, rip yo ass up... Big joints though, big joints man, just break the bones and you say fuck it.
    Salesmanspeechless, eyes wide.
    Snoop(laughs) Heh heh heh, I’m gon go with this right here, man. How much I owe you? (indicating the nail gun)
    Salesman$669, plus tax.
     Snoop counts out eight one-hundred dollar bills, hands them to the salesman.
    SalesmanNah nah you just pay at the register.
    SnoopNah, you go ahead and handle that for me, man. And keep the rest for your time.
    SalesmanThis is eight hundred dollars.
    SnoopSo what man, you earned that bump like a mutha fucka, man, keep that shit.
     Out in the car
    ChrisYou good?
    SnoopMan says if you wanna shoot nails this here’s the Cadillac man. He meant Lexus, but he ain’t know it.
    ChrisHold a charge better?
    SnoopFuck the charge. This here’s a gunpowder activated, 27 caliber, full-auto, no kickback, nail-dom mayhem, man. Shit right here’s tight.
    ChrisLaughs.
    SnoopFuck this nail’n up boards. We can kill a couple of motherfuckas with this right here.
    SnoopYou laughing, I’m in school dog, trying to tell you... fo real.

    The transcription misses the nuances of the exchange, the fine timing. Oddly, Snoop leaves without buying a supply of nails.

  13. Transsiberian. Director: Brad Anderson. 2008

    this, from Silliman’s blog (of September 8, 2008), on this film — No one, not even the police, are quite what they seem. This is true even for Roy, whose knowledge of hardware stores & love of choo choo trains proves to be a lifesaver, and whose love of Jessie is unconditional enough to accept any secrets she might harbor.

    I’ve not seen this; more at imdb.

  14. Warehouse 13

    ...an American fantasy television series that premiered on July 7, 2009 on the Syfy network. (wikipedia)

    Why? Because, In season two, Claudia develops a romantic relationship with Todd, a recent arrival in Univille and an employee at the hardware store. In episode 9, she discovers he is in the witness protection program, and after a brief romance, Todd is forced by his handler to relocate, with Claudia claiming she’ll find him. (wikipedia). He’s a techie, she’s a techie... perfect.

    warehouse_13_todd_700w393h.jpg

    Various shots of Todd in hardware store can be found online, including the above (from this tumblr page.) The show — which I have not (yet) seen — involves government warehouses housing supernatural artifacts; there seems to be a certain steampunk (or DIY/maker’s faire) look to some of the devices built by the main characters; also, lots of wooden card catalogue drawers, archives.

    series home.

  15. Micachu.

    micachu_580w326h.jpg

    here (uploaded at You Tube 13 January 2010, courtesy coolhunting).

    British musician Micachu rambles through the aisles of a hardware store and along the streets of NYC in search of components for experimental instruments. You need a lot of spare time... if you have a job, or something like that, I wouldn’t recommend it... via coolhunting

  16. Simon Rumley, director. Red White & Blue. (2010)

    Synopsis, credits, etc., here. Characterized here (interview with Rumley) as a hipster slasher thriller but also a character study.

    from the synopsis —
    Erica (Amanda Fuller) lives rent-free in the local co-op, but spends her nights trawling the bars and beds of Austin. Damaged, emotionally withdrawn, never really connecting with anyone, and sleeping with multiple men is just what she does... until she meets the older and mysterious Nate (Noah Taylor), working in a hardware store, but with an honorable discharge from Iraq.

    Accessed 20 December 2010.

  17. Sam’s Romance.

    Play written by Paul Manuel Kane, performed in New York, June 2011.

    Have not seen; concerns a Jewish hardware store owner named Sam and his romance with Natalie, 20-year old black music student whom he hires as a clerk. The romance is foiled by Sam’s cousin Rose, who wants to hook Sam up with her friend Luba. Reviews weren’t glowing; I’ve bookmarked three at pinboard, here.

  18. The Last Hardware Store. The story of Nichols Hardware in Purcellville, Virginia.

    Nichols0014_700w469h.jpg

    credit : Sarah Huntington/The Lincoln Studios

    The Nichols Hardware Store Documentary To Have May 14, 2011 Premier

    The premier of The Last Hardware Store is scheduled for May 14, 2011 as part of Purcellville Virginia Heritage Day celebrations. The screening will be held in the historic Tabernacle located in the fireman’s field complex. All are welcome and admission is free of charge.

    The film is produced by The Lincoln Studios (Lincoln, Virginia). From website here, this description —

    Nichols Hardware, a mercantile establishment in the same family’s hands despite three devastating fires and the passage of more than eight decades, is the subject of a film just starting shooting in July in Western Loudoun County. // Tentatively called The Last Hardware Store, the documentary will feature footage of the store’s daily operations, interviews with owners and staff (average tenure in the 30 year range), memories of long-time customers and historical footage and photographs. // Nichols Hardware opened its doors as the E.E. Nichols & Company in 1915. After last year’s death of Ed Nichols, the store is now owned and managed by Ed’s brother Ken Nichols and his son Ted Nichols.

    accessed 10 January 2010, 27 April 2011.

    More —

    A history of the store, by Eugene Scheel, and Janann Mercker’s paean The World’s Most Poetic Hardware Store? at the LeesburgPatch (May 13, 2011).

 

  1. Cynthia (1947)
  2. Psycho (1960)
  3. Film (1965)
  4. Wavelength (1967)
  5. Four Candles (1976)
  6. Happy Days (1974-84)
  7. Carol Burnett Show (1975)
  8. Saturday Night Fever (1977)
  9. Wonder Years (1991)
  10. East Asheville Hardware (1996)
  11. Deadwood (2004-07)
  12. The Wire (2006)
  13. Transsiberian (2008)
  14. Warehouse 13 (2009)
  15. Micachu (2010)
  16. Red White and Blue (2010)
  17. Sam’s Romance (2011)
  18. The Last Hardware Store (2011)

Suggestions welcome.

John McVey
10 November 2013