Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Digs the Jive/The Future Is A Flake

Cover Star-John Drew Barrymore-1932-2004

John Drew Barrymore, son of John, father of Drew and nephew of Lionel and Esther, had a hell of a lot going for him, including a great head of hair-check his quiff in the picture above. Unfortunately his temperament, family demons/addiction and harsh initial criticisms led to him blowing some good opportunities, missing out on others and consequently not really blooming into the actor he might have been. Many of the films he did appear in aren't readily available for viewing today, but one of my favorites, High School Confidential, luckily is on DVD. 

In the clip from the film below Barrymore's character, J.I. Coleridge, takes over class while the teacher is out and delivers a Lord Buckley inspired rap to the hip (and square) kiddies about Columbus (the hippest!) and Queen Isabella (the swingin'est chick in the whole mutha kingdom)!! You know the whole "new world" bit!  Man, wish I'd had classmates like him, school could have been so much more fun! 
It's a shame that Barrymore wasn't able to do more acting before his demise as he had an undeniable presence, looked great and showed potential both in this and other films I've seen him in like Never Love A Stranger, The Fritz Lang noir While The City Sleeps and Rome Against Rome (not a good film by any measure, but fun, an Italian zombie flick set in the Roman Empire in which Barrymore really grabs your attention), as well as one of his last appearances in an episode of the TV show Kung Fu called "A Dream Within A Dream".  Reportedly Carradine had to fight the producers of the show to get approval to have Barrymore appear due to his reputation by that point.

Another memorable scene from High School Confidential is cult actress Phillipa Fallon performing her beatnik poem "High School Drag". "Tomorrow.... drag!" "The future is a flake!" It's a classic. And dig old Uncle Fester (Jackie Coogan) rocking on the piano behind her! Jesus, what a movie! Coogan plays a heavy in it too.

Hell, the whole movie is classic, it opens with Jerry Lee Lewis performing the title song on the back bed of a truck, has a completely ludicrous pot "addiction" leads to heroin addiction plot, features tons of interesting actors/cult figures like Russ Tamblyn (a real life Beat, Semina contributor, future West Side Story star, not to mention brother of a Standell), Mamie Van Doren (va va boom!), Charles Chaplin Jr. and Michael Landon. Best of all is how the film recklessly conflates Juvenile Delinquents and Beatniks in a gleefully ridiculous and frankly irresistible fashion. This film and Blackboard Jungle are definitely J.D. 101.

Oh Columbus, how were you and Bella to know how things would turn out?! You were just trying to make it East by swinging West. Y'all probably never turned your eyes inside and dug the vacuum- then again, what is truth?  Happy Columbus Day!!!

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