Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A walk in the woods

I live in the middle of nowhere, next to several hundred acres of state forest owned by the State of New York on which anybody is welcome to hike or ride their mountain bikes. The state land also borders a right-of-way for a high-voltage electric line owned by the local utility, which is a convenient clear path for part of the walks that I like to take. However, when I took my walk yesterday before dark, I was saddened to see that the utility had gone through and not only cleared a lot of the brush that had been growing underneath the power line; they cut off all the limbs on the trees that grow at the edge of their right-of-way. I know that it's something they have to do every several years -- if they didn't, the encroaching forest would present a danger to the power line, but still, it's terribly ugly, and made worse that one of the trees they cut down forms an obstacle to getting on the trails leading back to the state forest.

What does this have to do with classic film? Truth be told, not much, but my walks are always a good time for some clear thinking on one or another of my hobbies, including what I'm going to post on this blog. Interestingly enough, however, there have been a couple of movies directly relating to electric utilities. I discussed other uses of electricity back in August, but didn't mention either the 1937 movie Slim, in which Henry Fonda stars as a lineman helping build electric lines. A very similar movie is Manpower, with George Raft and Edward G. Robinson as the electric company crewmen. Sadly, neither movie has yet been released on DVD.

Another topic that my walk could bring up would be movies about lumberjacks, which actually had a slight vogue in the late 1930s. Possibly the most famous of these would be God's Country and the Woman, which is a very early three-strip Technicolor movie. That's one of the things that makes it more prominent; the other is that Warner Brothers is said to have assigned this movie to Bette Davis, who found the idea of playing the love interest in a lumberjack movie so beneath her that she ran off to England and tried to get out of her contract with Warners. (The lawsuit was probably over several roles, not just God's Country and the Woman; ironically, despite the failure of the lawsuit, Davis started to get the best roles of her career after returning to the States.)

There's also the eminent domain issues of a poewr company needing land for its power line. I'm reminded here of the Paddy Chayefsky black comedy The Hospital. One of the many problems facing poor hospital administrator Geroge C. Scott is that residents of a neighborhood bordreing the hospital are protesting the fact that the hospital wants their land in order to expand the hospital. This is the only one of the movies I've recommended today that is available on DVD, and is worthy of a post all its own.

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