Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Little Known Episode in Literature

In episode 5, season 1 of Bonanza--that old favorite among 60's westerns--Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, comes to Virginia City in advance of his later fame, and not withstanding the contrary record of history, accompanied by the ill fortune of being played by B movie legend Howard Duff.

Whenever I think of Howard Duff, I must save a moment aside to mention my old friend Mike and the stories he used to tell me about his ex-wife's hatred of Howard Duff. This was a hatred so extreme that it had actually become an obsession, such that she would make a particular point of watching any film in which Duff appeared (and watching it any number of times) so that she could hate him all the more intimately and in person, after a fashion.

'I hate that man', she would hiss at the television set. 'I hate him with all my heart!'

'Well then, why the hell are you watching the show?' Mike would retort. 'Just turn it off!'

'I can't," she would answer. 'I can't!'

Mike never did understand what was behind the abhorrence that Duff inspired in his wife. It was just something buried deep in the soul of the woman.

In any case, Clemens arrives in Virginia City, speaking, curiously enough, with a western twang rather than a southern drawl, gets beat up by Adam Cartwright, entangled with a saloon girl and runs afoul of a corrupt judge who means to make a land grab on the Cartwright ranch.

Whilst being shot at by a gang of the judge's henchmen, held off by the Cartwright's and their own trusty six-shooters, while he shelters behind a desk in the newspaper office, Clemens thinks to himself, 'Gee ... maybe I should become a serious writer. But I need a different name.'

So was born, in a hail of zinging bullets, the American legend, Mark Twain, the American legend, Mark Twain, an icon in American literature, and forever enshrined in the portrayal of the hated Howard Duff.

No comments: