Vintage Pulp Feb 28 2017
Nothing is harder to wipe off than otherness.

If you're in the mood for a movie built around a martyr complex Tarnished is just the ticket. In this one a man from a shunned smalltown family returns to his home after seven years to find everyone has heard he's been in prison. He's mistreated by nearly every resident in this backwater burg, but the thing is, he was never in prison. He was actually in the marines, was wounded on Tarawa, and spent a long period in a military hospital. But he won't tell anyone this. Even though all sorts of trouble results, not only for him, but for anyone who dares to treat him kindly, he still maintains silence about his past. Was this character wounded in the brain? No—he's just infected by a 1950s morality that existed mainly in the movies.

American morals changed due to the human slaughterhouse of World One I, the degradation of the Great Depression, and a return to the slaughterhouse during World War II. These shocks weakened previous social strictures. For example, by 1950 most women were having sex before marriage, though less so in small towns. That's why Tarnished is such an interesting film. People watching in New York City or Chicago in 1950 were probably almost as annoyed by these Podunkville values as viewers are today. And that's really the point. The movie creates a retrograde, antagonistic community, adds to this a protagonist stained by otherness but who has true integrity, and pits town against hero to show how self-destructive small-mindedness can be.

If there's a serious flaw in Tarnished, it's is that the internal logic falters somewhat when the protagonist actually does, in fact, admit that he was in the marines to one of his antagonists by way of explaining why he's about to commit a heroic act. If he'd left the man with no explanation for the subsequent heroism, the movie's point would have been even sharper. The screenplay was adapted from a novel by a twenty-five year old author named Eleanor Mayo, and we have a suspicion she had more interesting things to say in her narrative. Maybe we'll try to track it down. Tarnished, with Arthur Franz as the strong but silent hero and Dorothy Patrick as his love interest, premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.


History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 21
1963—Alcatraz Closes
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
March 20
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
March 19
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
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