Monday, August 15, 2011

Great Dane

This weekend, David and I watched Whiplash (1948) which came out on DVD recently from the Warner Archive. While it's not a great film, it's a very enjoyable little noir that stars some of my favorite people - Dane Clark, Zachary Scott, and Eve Arden - as well as someone I'm growing to like, Alexis Smith.

As usual, it's not the overt boy-girl love story that caught my attention, but the subtler male-male relationship - in this case, between Zachary Scott and Dane Clark.

Zachary plays a paralyzed boxing promoter - a former champion - who seeks to groom another man to take his place in the ring. The homoerotic overtones are strong, as Zachary studies Dane's body obsessively, especially his legs, to see what he is made of.

Zachary smolders with jealousy not only at Dane's powerful physique and its ability to win in the ring, but also because Dane is in love with Zachary's wife. We cannot help but assume that Dane is capable of performing powerfully in that arena as well, where Zachary cannot.

Masculinity by proxy is a fascinating dynamic - Zachary needs Dane to be the man that he himself cannot be. Coveting another's body and all it can do - is just one step away from desiring it sexually...

Dane Clark, star of Whiplash

Zachary Scott (left) needs Dane Clark to be the man that he himself cannot be.

Dane Clark in the ring: man enough for two.

Closeup on Dane
Born Bernard Zanville in 1912, Dane Clark graduated from Cornell University and earned a law degree from St. John's University School of Law. During the Depression, he worked as a boxer, baseball player, construction worker, and model. From modeling he moved on to Broadway and film. His big break in the movies came in 1943, in the Bogart film Action in the North Atlantic.