Saturday, April 25, 2009

Taxi, Please!!

Above: Tom D'Andrea driving a mysterious passenger in Dark Passage (1947).

Have you a favorite cab driver from classic movies?

Is he (or she) loud, pushy and aggressively seeking a faster route and big tip–maybe a Alan Hale, Sr. or Nat Pendleton type, quick with his mouth and his fists when needed? Or is the celluloid cabbie you cherish a comical “hail fellow well met” type, eager for conversation and filled with an inexplicable sense of bonhomie–perhaps played by a George Tobias, Red Skelton or Frank McHugh? Might another compelling favorite be those Charon-like figures behind the wheel, ferrying passengers across the dark city, musing philosophically about the pulse of the lifeblood of the city while guiding those in the back seat to a physical and spiritual destination–weightier characters captured by such diverse actors as Tom D’Andrea and Paul Lukas?

In mulling over the place of cabbies as characters in the studio era recently, it dawned on me that their contradictory presence served movies well during the “golden era” of Hollywood history. Back then, the dream factory cranked out a monthly gross of bright, richly textured, often candy-colored–and occasionally–realistic and sometimes threadbare snapshots of the working stiffs behind the wheel. As characters plying the sometimes “mean streets” of the city, they are representative of the uneasiness we all have with our society’s mobility. Taxi drivers in the movies are often walking clichés–usually parked in a niche somewhere between whatever society of the time deems a failure and a success–and often burdened with a host of issues and attitudes drawn from the real world...more on the TCM Movie Morlocks


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