Taki Taki

High life | 18 October 2012

New York

It’s a black-and-white 1939 oldie starring Barbara Stanwyck and William Holden, in his first film. She is thin, ballsy, bawdy and beautiful, and talks with a Brooklyn accent. He’s tall, very good-looking, a professional boxer whose real love is playing the violin. His name is Joe Bonaparte. Joe and Babs are on the roof of one of those art deco high risers that gave New York the glamour of no other place on earth. Gershwin’s syncopation can be heard in the distance while the two look down on the people going about their business. It’s night and the stars are out. Babs wants Joe to keep boxing and forget about the fiddle. ‘The little people never make it in this town,’ she tells him. ‘What a girl wants is a man who can buy a car and give her what she wants.’

Those were the days. Apart from wearing a well-cut suit and dress, the lovers-to-be could actually go to the roof of a skyscraper and make whoopee to their heart’s content. Golden Boy is not a particularly good movie — he gives up the beak-busting business after he kills the Chocolate Drop Kid in the ring — but for the quaint notion of a boxer also being a violinist, and a woman leaving a rich older man for a poor younger one. Many years later, Bill Holden got up on stage and gave a wonderful speech thanking Barbara Stanwyck for giving him his break. (She had insisted he play the part of Joe.) She was a major, major star who always talked Brooklyn and went on acting until old age. But back to the art deco.

The New York skyline is the most photographed on earth. It began with the mine-is-bigger-than-yours quest for stature by architects hired by tycoons whose ego knew no bounds.

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