Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cut a Little Swath

Of all the hundreds of roles character actor Charles Durning played during his career, it's probably telling that one of his two Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations came for his role as the Governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Durning died Monday at the age of 89.

The fittingness of the nomination comes not from any association between Durning and brothels, but because of his role in the 1982 movie musical, mostly a performance of "The Sidestep," a song in which the Governor details his strategy for staying out of trouble with the press and the voters: "Dance a little sidestep...cut a little swath, and lead the people on." Durning's three minutes and forty-three seconds of song and dance are by far the best of the movie and provide more energy than the other 111 minutes of running time.

It's interesting -- movie co-star Dolly Parton's "Hard Candy Christmas" probably gets more airplay than most songs from that soundtrack, unless you count the Whitney Houston version of "I Will Always Love You" released 12 years later. "Hard Candy" gets spun quite a bit by country stations during the Christmas season, maybe because the title -- a phrase poor families used to describe Christmases during hard times when the only gifts children might receive would be hard candies bought from the store -- makes it seem appropriate to the time. But since it's really Parton as the brothel madam and her employees singing about how hard it's going to be now that they won't be sleeping with strange men for money, that propriety seems tenuous at best.

Far more on target to the daily and weekly blather of elected officials about this or that issue or crisis is Durning's ode to political doubletalk. But I guess if radio stations played "Sidestep" every time it was appropriate, we'd get sick of it. There's only so many times a day you want to hear the same song.

See ya round, Governor.

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