Depression Lessons #14

A classic face of classical Hollywood—but not that of Garbo or Cary Grant or any such star. An ode to character actor Frankie Darro.
Daniel Riccuito
The Mayor of Hell
I’ve always wondered where the film canon resides—what are the visiting hours?  Then I fancy it as a columbarium: Haunted perhaps but no soul in the walls.  
Among floating images of time-honored bronze urns in well-appointed niches, I can easily picture "classic" faces like Garbo’s and Cary Grant’s.  Astaire and Rogers gliding down some endless gallery where time, politics and choreographic imperfection have all been banished, a case of deeply inoffensive ars gratia artis.
However, there's no place within the rhapsodized canonical order to ensconce a Frankie Darro, leading his own junior army of unemployed masses in William A. Wellman's Wild Boys of the Road (1933).  As a countervailing force to American optimism and the Crash, Darro’s physiognomy says, essentially, that 1933 is a banner year for breadlines.  Scowling mastiff.  Lipless malevolence tapering from a massive square cranium to an angular jaw framing a surly, petulant mouth.  Eyes like suspicious ink spots.  In The Mayor of Hell (minted the same nadir year as Wild Boys), Darro bumps-off a reform school warden; and, naturally, no citizen with moral conscience fails to give an ovation (!). Yet so far the canon remains mute—unimpressed.
Special thanks to David Cairns
Part of our on-going series Depression Lessons.


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