Discuss: Tap the Heat, Bogdan

Title Discuss: Tap the Heat, Bogdan
Message Text I heartily agree with Zorka's observation, in the below thread, that this episode particularly showcases Ernest Chappell's versatility as an actor. Many of the scripts seem to call for a pretty casual, conversational voice for the man who speaks to you. Fewer, though a fair number, are more character driven. Bogdan we see straightaway is a drunk and an egoist, and shortly thereafter we can recognize him as a man who is jealously insecure about his prized masculinity.

Though all of that sounds decidedly negative, one thing that particularly struck me about this episode - a testament to both its writing and its acting - is how my sympathies shifted throughout the course of it. Bogdan is clearly portrayed as a seriously flawed character from his first lines, but at that point, the major events of the episode had already concluded, and Bogdan was growing increasingly drunk remembering and retelling them. In that retelling, I find that Wyllis Cooper builds much needed context around the initial impressions and the immediate foreshadowing.

We initially dislike Bogdan, and almost as a default reaction, we take sides with his nemesis, Magnus O'Dwyer. But before the halfway point of the episode we get a clearer picture of O'Dwyer as a man who is trying to move in on someone else's girl, while showing himself as violent, and stifling the ambitions of a dedicated junior coworker. Thereby, Cooper challenges our prejudices, both about the characters, and about the clarity of hero/villain roles. And perhaps, he also challenges a 1949 audience's personal prejudices, too.

Zorka wonders about the treatment of ethnic groups in this episode, and so do I. It's always remarkable to glean from Old Time Radio the clear indications that you are listening to something from a very different time, and sometimes a casual, accepted racism is one of those things. I find that some of Arch Oboler's Lights Out scripts, for all their brilliance, bely some rough prejudices, portraying Italians in particular as conniving, untrustworthy, and money-grubbing. I worried that Cooper and Chappell were guilty of the same era-appropriate sins with the introduction of this detestable Russian, but I had concluded otherwise while listening, particularly after the introduction of an Irish counterpart to the main character.

I believe that Cooper was distinctly aware of the unfair treatment of ethnic groups, and the painfully slow process of upward social mobility. Making Bogdan's enemy an Irishman was no doubt deliberate, and it demonstrates a balanced quality in the themes thereby addressed. The Irish had in the space of the preceding fifty years moved from being segregated, and excluded from much of mainstream society to holding positions of authority throughout major metropolitan areas. The vacuum left when a once derided ethnic group is accepted by the rest of society is quickly filled by another group, in this case recent Russian immigrants. Read this way, O'Dwyer's real sin, for which he is condemned to die, is not so much trying to take what another man considers his, but rather forgetting his roots. Even after catching O'Dwyer and Maria together, Bogdan humbly goes to O'Dwyer with a request that he help him better his lot, and have a better chance at providing a good life for Maria. The scene is very humanizing for Bogdan, and when Magnus indignantly refuses, our sympathies shift away from him.

Even so, we hardly accept that he deserves to die for any of his offenses, and the increasingly heavy foreshadowing provided by the announcer still has a disturbing impact. That sort of foreshadowing is a common feature of these Quiet, Pease scripts, and it is a literary device of which Cooper seems to have a certain mastery. The first description of the pouring of steel gives a pretty clear idea of what might happen, though we have no idea yet to whom or why. One has nearly forgotten the suspicion as the plot advances, until a further elaboration from announcer brings it back to mind with much increased clarity. And once it is resolved, it's left to Cooper in the final minutes to realize another expected element of his scripts - the twist or surprise ending.

That seems almost weak in this case, with us learning of a steel ingot killing Bogdan while he was not speaking to us, and the Ceasar Frank piece rising over the fading voice of the announcer. But it is probably a very appropriate ending, sounding slightly more open-ended than what we are used to. And what is its meaning? It is only right that O'Dwyer himself kill Bogdan, if only to manifest in the most direct fashion the cycle of hurt and hatred the characterizes the backdrop of this story. What's more, the ingot shows Bogdan to be guilty of some of the same flaws as was O'Dwyer, in that the latter had, in a sense, carried his own souvenirs from his social ascent - remembering the cruelty of those who had kept him down, but failing to identify with the one he had been in a position to torment.

Still, the ending is fundamentally positive, as those of most all Quiet, Please episodes seem to be. Tragic as it is, the short-sighted, covetous, competing elements of both immigrant groups, and both eras, destroy each other. And in the wake of the deaths of Magnus and Bogdan, Maria, with connections to both sides of the struggle, carries one man's name and another man's song into a society ready to accept both.
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Ownership Edward
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Submission Date Feb 07, 2009