Director: Charles Vidor
Producer: Virginia Van Upp
Screenwriters: Jo Eisinger and Marion Parsonnet
Cinematographer: Rudolph Mate
Music: Hugo Friedhofer
Studio: Columbia 1946
Main Acting: Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford
As a young boy of 12, I accompanied my father on an overnight fishing trip that set out from Sheepshead Bay Harbor. Located in Brooklyn on an inlet in Rockaway, it boasts a 40-boat shipping fleet (along with a slew of restaurants) that allows eager customers the opportunity to charter the surrounding waters and take in as much marine life as possible. And for us, it was about trying to catch fluke and flounder which happens to be in abundance in the coastal areas of the east coast. But that night, I spent much of my time fighting the elements, unable to shake a severe case of sea sickness. Still at one point, I forced myself to leave the cabin area after a long spell glued to one of the seats withering in discomfort, and headed for the ship’s rail so that I wouldn’t waste my fathers hard earned money. I struggled to just barely cast a line for less than half of the 6-to-8 hour trip. As luck would have it, I ended up catching the biggest fluke on the ship and collected a hundred dollar prize for my troubles. (My parents still have that photo of me holding the fish somewhere). I thanked the sea captain for my bounty and never again bothered to set foot on another fishing vessel.
I quickly used this reward money to buy a cheap Cort electric guitar and my generous father threw in extra cash so I could purchase an amplifier. Being young and stupid, I got the most obnoxious, heavy metal-looking instrument you will ever see anywhere (it was star shaped with four points). Three friends and I were all in love with Guns n’ Roses, and, of course, desperate to start a band. I had become the nominal guitar player, while one of them had acquired a bass two months earlier and his brother a drumkit. The fourth friend also wanted to be a drummer. Hence, we had the unorthodox lineup of two percussionists on one set of drums and no vocalist. The problem was that none of us knew how to play and we were all pretty lazy. Band practice consisted of playing for about ten minutes before stopping to conceptualize what our group was all about. We even had homework assignments which included writing song lyrics on paper and reciting it to the rest of the members. I actively partook in this endeavor and concocted all sorts of paens to things I was too young to know or understand. One of my literary masterpieces went by the title, “My Pistol.”
In hindsight, the song’s lyrics (which I wouldn’t print here even if I could remember them) would seem to suggest that I was talking about my “rod, or johnson” as Maude Lebowski once so eloquently said. The truth is that at 12, I was a very innocent naive kid that knew nothing about sex. My parents were Southern Italian immigrants who would never dream of telling me about the birds and the bees. While sexual discourse was completely taboo in my house, my father never felt similarly inclined to shield me from violent 80s action movies starring his favorites: Stallone, Norris, and Schwarzenegger. I was quite used to seeing a retired army operative gunning down a whole combat force (with the same extras dying every few frames) in pursuit of either his daughter or American POW’s. When I sat down to think of topics for songs, my young impressionable mind quickly found inspiration in these excessive Hollywood pictures. I skipped excitedly to the group’s basement hangout the next day and showed my fellow bandmates what I had written. They all loved it and wanted to practice right away. After about nine minutes, we stopped and continued to further deliberate on our inevitable rise to fame and untold riches.
The twist in this embarrassing anecdote is that later that afternoon we took my song lyrics to the “cool mom” of one of my friends. Unlike my parents, who listened to Neapolitan singer Mario Merola and soft rockers Bread, she enjoyed heavy metal music, and was even once acquainted with local metal group White Lion. Very supportive of our musical ambitions, she was eager to see our progress and offer support to the “art” we were creating. However when she read the words to “My Pistol,” she chuckled with amusement and said something along the lines of…”Maurizio, you’re such a little perv. Do you know what this song is about?” My cool facade quickly starting to unravel, I said nervously, “Yeah, it’s about guns and being tough like Marion Cobretti.” “Really?” said cool mom. “It seems like you’re talking about your penis.” My shame lasts until this day. I vividly remember ripping those looseleaf papers up into a million tiny pieces. How could I unknowingly write something so perverse and mortifying? As you can see, I didn’t become famous and the band never really went anywhere after that. Those ten-minute jam sessions got shorter and shorter until they ceased to exist. “My Pistol” was never spoken of again.
Charles Vidor made one excellent film in his seemingly average career. It happened to be Gilda, featuring the second most beautiful actress ever after the incomparable Gene Tierney: Rita Hayworth. The movie straddles the line between film noir and “women’s picture” melodrama. Some say that there is a homoerotic subtext present throughout the movie between Glenn Ford’s Johnny Farrell and George Macready’s Ballin Mundson. After all, the latter character constantly carries around a phallic-looking walking stick that doubles as a knife and both male characters seem more concerned with each other than the strikingly beautiful woman crying out for their attention. Yet I wonder if Mr. Vidor really intended such a reading into his 1946 film noir. I have always felt we were kindred spirits and that his “Gilda” was my “My Pistol.” Both misunderstood. Me, by an older, wiser parent. Him, by a modern, more “sophisticated and cynical” viewing public.