Probably no Carlsberg with the Duke
I enjoy reading Counterpunch, the US online version of the magazine. Its editor, Jeffrey St. Clair writes a weekly column ‘Roaming Charges,’ a witty and more often than not acid take on American politics, with Democrats equally in the line of fire with Republicans. The last edition however has a link to a 1955 broadcast by Orson Welles, from his series called Orson Welles Sketchbook (episode three, ‘The Police,’ easily found on YouTube). This turns out to be very topical, not least in the matter of Black Lives Matter. But the bulk of the broadcast deals with Welles’ attitude to the police, who he portrays largely as a force of bureaucrats intent on limiting our freedom, not least in the business of travel, where he tells of a world of pettifogging interference. As a globetrotter himself, he will have witnessed plenty of this, and he recounts one experience where it was the fact of his habit of writing the US president’s name in the passport section asking for the details of the person who should be contacted in an emergency that got him out of one tight situation. I wonder now if we wrote ‘Boris Johnson, No. 10 Downing Street, London SW1 whether it would carry any weight. Anyway, he proposed the establishment of some sort of international union of free citizens, who could carry their elaborate ‘union’ card and show it to any jobsworth who sought to impede one’s innocent progress. A good idea, and he of course hoped that somebody would take it up.
That was 1955. Two years later he made Touch of Evil, in which he played a notoriously corrupt cop, against the righteous Mexican cop played by Charlton Heston. (I wonder if Donald Trump knows that the late President of the National Rifle Association ever played a Mexican?) Touch of Evil may not have worked if Welles and Heston had played opposite roles. In 1962, Welles directed The Trial, his film of the Kafka story. These films illustrate Welles’ take on authority, its policing, corruption and bureaucracy (and to be clear the notion that bureaucracy can in itself be a form of corruption). Welles was apparently listed by the FBI as maybe a communist fellow traveller into the mid-fifties, and only seemed to have carried on working by leaving the US. By way of contrast, in one of those ways that YouTube can now refresh one’s memory, you can find a clip of an ageing John Wayne talking of minorities and diversity in the States. His thoughts on the fate of blacks (or native Americans) in America can be summed up pretty much in the phrase ‘Aw shucks.’ I know who I would rather have a pint with.
Leave a Reply.