Great Balls of Fire!

Poe knew precisely what he was doing when he took a wife of tender years. A hundred years later, Eliot was still blushing at his works, and half-a-century on came Doctorow’s pronouncement, “fustian”. How long is an expectant author to wait?

McBride is under the sign of Russell, not a tinker’s damn. A million things in the subject are interesting, only one of which is the British critic unerringly performed by Peter Cook as unequivocally preferring the artistry of Liberace, and very censorious (Sir John Gielgud does this with respect to D.H. Lawrence in another film, Priest of Love).

Jerry Lee with a hit on the charts drives past the radio station where the DJ he’s listening to waves through the window to the subject of his remarks.

Scorsese may have noticed the resemblance to Dylan’s fall from grace on a British tour sometime later.

Chaplin... of course, whose Unamericanism throughout his later career as a director, not the Little Tramp, put him on a blacklist in all but name.

We are told that Don Juan’s greatest conquest of all was the little girl who sat upon the chair he’d sat upon and thought for all the world she was pregnant as a result.



The credits say half of this was filmed on Corfu, but it sure looks like Rapallo, and there’s a plaque on a house that says approximately this, “C’he visse Ezra Pound 1924-1945 / To Confess Wrong Without Losing Rightness”.

The rest takes place in Miami. The protagonist is a bookmaker, the Feds try to rope him in by putting the word out he’s a stoolie. He goes to Rapallo, a favorite haunt since his days as a GI when he met Pound, who was then in a cage.

A Deputy U.S. Marshal ferrets him out, a fellow who wears a Stetson and gradually acquires the cold aplomb of a Texas Ranger.

The bookie takes a stroll along Rapallo’s seafront, wearing a soft dark wide-brimmed hat and cape. “Politics aside,” he observes, “he was a great poet.”

Jimmy the Cap in Miami wants him dead, and the hit man or “zip” from Sicily wants his sports book. His girlfriend fancies the marshal, she used to strip, and thinks the hat and cape look like Fellini.

“You can see Sant’Ambrogio from here,” says the bookie in the villa he rents with the money he’s skimmed, “that’s where Ezra Pound lived with his wife and his mistress.” He meets an American on the seafront passing himself off as a Tunisian (with a Jamaican accent) selling umbrellas in the sunshine, and hires him as cook and bodyguard at the villa.

McBride’s direction gets to the point in the minimum time required. The acting is beyond reproach, the location cinematography is as well, and Elmore Leonard can scarcely have been better served.