Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Mr. Blabbermouth!


The DVD of Mrs. Miniver (one of the best movies about World War II) contains three contemporary shorts from MGM. They cover different aspects of the morale-building efforts at home while our boys in uniform fought the Japs and Krauts. I use those terms deliberately, as they (and worse) were routinely used to describe our enemies.

In this one a portly actor named Ralph Peters plays multiple roles, including in drag, all of them loudmouths who spout discouraging “facts” they have heard, passing on silly rumors. It’s like the famous motto of Loose Lips Sink Ships! These stories make people worry where they shouldn’t. At least, that’s what the narrator says. He spouts stats such as … Japan makes 700,000 tons of aluminum per year, while the USA and her allies make more like 70,000,000 tons. I learned a lot of things like that, and I think they were probably true (though I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the government was lying to us) though the narrator never speculates on more complex questions such as “what does it all mean?” As well he shouldn’t. Films like this were intended to bolster morale in the dark days following Pearl Harbor, when a Nip attack on Malibu and Hollywood and Beverly Hills seemed imminent. (See Spielberg’s 1941.)

This was all based on a newspaper editorial by one Manchester Boddy, the publisher of the Los Angeles Daily News. (Not the current birdcage liner, but a rag that went out of business in 1954.) With a name like that, it was inevitable that we would look him up. So we found out that he was the millionaire who donated the fabulous Descanso Gardens in La Cañada (also home to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which we visited) to Los Angeles County. It is one of our favorites SoCal destinations.