Four score and seven years ago (less seventy-six years) I started this blog. That makes this Once Upon a Screen’s eleventh anniversary. Who’d ‘a thunk it?
While an anniversary is cause for celebration, I admit to feeling a bit guilty this year given I have barely blogged. It has been a tough one, but I am happy Once Upon a Screen is still here for me to movie vent.
As is tradition on this blog, I celebrate anniversaries with tributes to the number. Let’s look at the somewhat complicated eleven.
The number eleven is interesting. It does not lend itself to as nice a symbology as the numbers near it. For instance, ten symbolizes a complete cycle and is a mathematical base. Ten is a pillar in the universe. When you add one to ten all numerical hell breaks loose and people are talking exaggeration, extravagance and (sometimes) human sin. Rarely do people say, “Tell me how much you like this on a scale of one to eleven.” It just doesn’t work. And if you leave things until the eleventh hour, you are usually up the creak without a paddle.
There is one highly enjoyable idiom involving eleven, “Up to eleven“, also phrased as “these go to eleven,” coined in Rob Reiner’s brilliant This Is Spinal Tap (1984) where guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) demonstrates an amplifier whose volume knobs are marked from zero to eleven, instead of the usual zero to ten. I take it to mean beyond or exceeding the usual top, which is ten.
Eleven’s troubles continue…not only is it not as pretty a number as ten, but it is also not as grand as twelve. The number eleven does not lend itself to simple packing solutions. Commercial products are very seldom sold in groups of 11 because the number is one less than an even dozen. Eleven can’t catch a break. Unless it’s in this Schoolhouse Rock outing dedicated to The Good Eleven, a prime number.
There is a lot of positive associated with eleven though. For instance, the First World War ended on the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. That’s good. I remember a friend who chose to marry on the eleventh day of the eleventh month because of its positive connotation. Although that marriage did not last it was a pretty wedding day.
In Numerology the number eleven represents the Spiritual Messenger and in the Tarot, eleven is the card of Strength or Justice. Although, who ever heard of eleven angry men? You would have to excuse Juror number 12, the advertising executive.
New York became the eleventh state of the United States on July 26, 1788. The base of the Statue of Liberty is a hen decagram, a star polygon that has eleven vertices. That eleven-sided shape was used for the inside border of the rim of the Susan B. Anthony United States Dollar.
Now that you’ve learned something we get to a bit of fun. If I can find some on my way to eleven.
Steel is traditional gift for an 11th anniversary and therefore the symbol for this anniversary celebration is the “Man of Steel,” Superman’s most famous nickname. Man of Steel debuted early in Superman’s life, in Action Comics #7 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) in 1938 to be exact. The nickname signifies how strong Superman is, as strong as steel. In case you were wondering.
As for movies and eleven, well there are a few. Eiichi Kudo’s Eleven Samurai (1967), William Wellman’s Eleven Men and a Girl (1930), and of course Ocean’s Eleven (1960) directed by Lewis Milestone and starring the Rat Pack. The final movie with eleven I’ll mention is Mickey’s Eleven from 1927 starring Mickey Rooney as tough kid Mickey McGuire. The Mickey McGuire series of shorts launched Rooney’s screen career. Rooney played Mickey McGuire in seventy-eight of the shorts which ran from 1927 to 1934 and gained decent popularity making a successful transition to talkies, like the Our Gang series did. The series was based on the comic strip, Toonerville Trolley aka Toonerville Folks.
There are a few movie series with eleven picture releases. The Aldrich Family movies, born from the popular radio program, were made at Paramount between 1939 and 1944. The movie series began with Theodore Reed’s What a Life in 1939 starring Jackie Cooper and Betty Field. Like most movie series those in the Aldrich Family series were B pictures, but the first was written by the brilliant writing team of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder.
John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) spawned ten sequels ending with (we think) Halloween Ends released this year.
I was recently watching an episode of Rockford Files from where Rockford confronts his sidekick Angel Martin at an outdoor restaurant, asking the leather jacket-clad Angel, “What are you, a clone of Lash LaRue?” Hmmm. “I gotta look that up,” I told myself and lo and behold The Lash LaRue film series boasts eleven titles.
Lash LaRue is a cowboy hero who dresses all in black and in aces with a lash, which is how he got his name. Lash was born when the played a character named “Marshall Lash LaRue.” The eleven Lash LaRue pictures started with Dead Man’s Gold (1948) and ended with The Frontier Phantom in 1952, the final film of comedy pioneer Al St. John who played LaRue’s sidekick in the series.
I’d be remiss to ignore an eleven that played a big part in my life, so here’s a hearty eleven-style shout out of gratitude to WPIX, channel 11 (or PIX 11 as it is known now) in the New York City tri-state area, “New York’s Very Own.” Before TCM this is where many of us watched classic movies and where I became hooked. This article by historian Robert Grippo from years back tells you all you need to know about how lucky we were to have the network as part of our daily repertoire. Ah, to be a kid again and experience that magic for the first time.
Since this celebration is taking place so close to Christmas, I leave you with 11 pipers piping to wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday and 2023. Thank you for visiting. It means a lot.