Poor Dumb Tommy.

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

So, in 1995, just out of college, when I was still an actor, I was cast in a production of a play called Spiele ’36 about the two Jewish runners kicked off the 1936 United States Olympic team by American Bund members at the behest of Adolph Hitler (he, Hitler, didn’t want Aryan athletes to be seen bested by those damn Hebrews).

The Jewish runners were replaced at the last minute by African American runners, specifically Jessie Owens, which is how he, Owens, won his fourth gold medal.

But that’s all background to this tale.

The play was a co-production between George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago, and in the George Mason production one of the Caucasian members of the team was played by an actor who got the unfortunate but utterly appropriate nickname “Poor Dumb Joey”.

Joey was a tad pathetic, not overly bright, but was hopelessly looking, so I’m sure he’s done fine in life.

But Joey, too, is basically irrelevant to this saga.

The guy who gets the title of this diary was the actor who took Joey’s role in the Chicago production. His name was Tom and he got automatically saddled with “Poor Dumb Tommy”… well… because that’s sort of thing just happens in the theater. Wrong place, wrong time.

Now, Tom was not “poor” or “dumb”, but neither was he overly remarkable other than the fact that he was incredibly nice. But I didn’t think him particularly talented at the time.

I was dead wrong on that last account.


“Poor, dumb Tommy” is a guy named Tom McCarthy and he has turned out to the writer/director of both the Station Agent and the best movie I’ve seen so far on the domestic tension between Americans of European origin and Muslims… The Visitor.

If you haven’t seen the Visitor rent it tonight (and then go out and see Slumdog Millionaire, which is a very different form of brilliant and another diary altogether) because, first, it is splendid, subtle American film making at its very, very best, and second because it captures the rage of both the afflicted (in this case a Muslim couple from Syria/Senegal) and the overwhelmed (an American university professor who gets sucked into their lives).

It gives access to rage without every resorting to violence.

It gives access to sadness without ever dipping into maudlin tricks.

It brilliantly lays bare the hopelessness, confusion and destruction of a country lived under the subtle oppression of concepts like “homeland security”, “terror threat level” and just the world “terrorist” without even the slightest hint of a scenery-chewing villain.

I say all of this because a) the film affected me deeply and profoundly b) because I’m not a producer on the film and will not financially earn a cent from your rental or ticket purchase and c) because I’ve owed Tom McCarthy an apology for a 18 years and this seems like as good a time to make right by my misdeeds.

Tom, if you happen to read this… “Well done, sir. Well done.”


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  1. …in high school who I sort of gave the nickname “muffy” to.

  2. Ms. ds arrived home earlier this evening with two videos.  Said she, “I got two great videos.  Wanna watch them tonight?”  Said I, “I have to work a little, but I’d like to see them when I get done.”  I then worked a little.  Actually, less than I intended because I got disgusted with working.  And now, a special treat: I get to watch the Visitor.  Right now.  

    • Temmoku on December 5, 2008 at 5:36 am

    do something. I just got back….3 hours later and found your diary here. It was good and worth waiting for. Sorry if I didn’t read you on Kos…..but I bet a lot of other people did. Better late than never…..

  3. I’m not, however, in an area that might be likely to carry such videos, but I will see what I can see.

    Thank you for your recommendations and your expressions of “well, gee, I was wrong.”  😉

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