If I had two hours to live, I would spend most of it watching Dark Passage. The 1946 film features Humphrey Bogart who as Vincnt Parry was wrongfully convicted of killing his wife. Parry escapes from San Quentin Prison and is met on a road near the prison by a wealthy artist, Irene Jansen, played by Lauren Bacall.
Unknown to Parry, Jansen had followed his trial and believed in his innocence.
Jansen's father had been wrongfully convicted of killing his second wife. He had died in prison. After getting a face-change from an underground plastic surgeon, Parry tracks down the real killer of his wife, Madge Rapf, who falls out of a window in the course of their confrontation. Parry escapes San Francisco on a bus. Jansen meets him in Peru.
Photo: Lauren Bacall, David Goodis, Humphrey Bogart
The movie was based on the novel by David Goodis, a native of Philadelphia. A 1938 journalism graduate from Temple University, Goodis began his career in advertising in New York. His biographer, Philippe Garnier in Goodis La Vie en Noir et Blanc (Editions de Seul, Paris, 1984) reported that Goodis was classified 4F (medically unfit to serve) by his draft board and did not serve in World War II. During the War, he spent some time in California. He wrote cheap fiction, getting his break with his novel Dark Passage. he was hired by Warner Brothers as a screen writer, adapting Dark Passage to film.
After a short career as a writer for movies and radio in Hollywood, he crashed. Goodis moved back to Philadelphia and lived with his parents and his mentally disabled brother Herb. Goodis curned out more than a dozen cheap paperback mysteries and even more short stories for pulp magazines. He wrong about the seamy side of life in working class Philadelphia. His books ooze with cynicism and gloom. He writes about men who are loser and the cheap women they chase.
Goodis wrote for an audience of working class white males. However inteest in his work was greater in Europe than in America, particularly in the 1950's and 1960's. In Europe, David Goodis was read by the intellectuals. Goodis reflected the negative view of the United States held by Europeans, rather than the bright view of the United States shared by Americans. This negative view of America explains why David Goodis has been a nonperson here, particularly since his death on January 7, 1967 at the age of 49.
Professor David Schmid of the University at Buffalo explains that Goodis parallels crime fiction writers such as Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett and Chester Himes who enjoyed greater reputations in Europe than in the United States. They were regarded as serious literary artists rathern than as pulpsters by European audiences and critics (especially the French). Dr. Schmid notes that in Himes' case, of course, he did not start publishing crime fiction until after he had become an expatriate living in France.
Photo: Harold "Dutch" Silver (left) at Superior Billiards, 1960's.
Literary critics and internet writers portray Goodis as reclusive and shadowy. I wonder if they ever met him. Hooked on Dark Passage and impressed by two of his reissued novels, The Blonde on the Street Corner and the Moon in the Gutter, I wanted to meet someone who knew David Goodis. I asked several people of his generation hoping that they had grown up with him. None had.
In December 2005, I was discussing Dark Passage at work, when my co-worker Harold "Dutch" Silver started talking about the movie. Harold said that he taught David Goodis how to shoot pool. Voila! I had looked all over Philadelphia, but the answer to my quest was at my hidden work-place on the seedy fifth floor of City Hall.
"He was a nice fellow," said Dutch. "He was quiet, police, a good person."
Dutch related how he meet Goodis.
"I was shooting pool. Every night I always played with somebody. I shot on-handed and I was one of the best one-handed shooters in the country. David was watching. He cam up to me and said he was amazed that I could shoot better one-handed than most people shot two-handed," Dutch said.
Goodis asked Dutch for lessons.
"He asked me to teach him how to hold the stick and how to shoot the balls and how to play positions. He said that he could not do any of that, because he did bnot know how to hold the cue (stick). For fiv e years, after supper time, David and Herbie (Goodis' brother) would come to Superior Billiards, two or three evenings a week. Dave and Herbie would play together," Dutch said.
"If I did not have a game, I would go over to him. He would ask me questions and I would try to help him. He asked me how to hold the bridge (a stick with grooves in it on which you would place the cue, to help you reach a ball at the far end of the table). Sometimes he would miscue. When he was first learning, he would miscue, so I would tell him that he had to put chalk on the tip of the cue. I know it hops prevent miscuing," Dutch said.
"David was a real novice, but he wanted to learn," Dutch said. " He was fascinated by pool rooms. David was thrilled, happy when I showed him how to play pool. So was Herbie."
According to Dutch, Goodis never talked about his private life. He was very soft spoken. He talked about what happened in the pool hall. He did not snoke in Dutch's presence. "I do not remember him telling any jokes," Dutch said.
Once on New Year's Eve, with had a dozen pool players, Dutch, Label (Irving Fagelson) and "The Breeze" went to Goodis' house for a visit.
Goodis served a clear liquor. He also had sodas. Dutch does not remember if there was any food but says that Goodis proabably served munchies. Goodis only drank Coka Cola at the party.
"I never saw him take a drink other than soda," Dutch said. "His demeanor was not as a heavy drinker's would be."
"David always came to the pool hall with Herbie. I never saw him by himiself," Dutch said. Goodis always wore sweaters or sport jackets, but never suits. He had dark hair. He was about five foot six inches or five foot seven inches tall. David ws thin. Herbie was over six feet tall and thin. Goodis did not gamble at the pool hall He never talked about music," Dutch said.
Photo: After the death of David's mother, David sent this note to Dutch Silver.
"David did not talk about a job," Dutch said. However, income tax returns in the Goodis collection at the Temple University Library show that Goodis supported himself through his writings and royalties
"He spoke about Robert Rossen, the director of the 1961 movie The Hustler, which was set in a pool room," Dutch said.
He talked to me about seeing Robert Rossen so I could get a job in the moves. At the time of The Hustler, pool became more popular, and people began to wait in line so people could get numbers to play just like a bakery," Dutch said.
Photo: Reverse of envelop containing thank you note.
When Dutch knew him, Goodis was living with his mother and brother. Dutch did not know if his father was alive. Goodis' mother died in September 1966. Dutch sent a basket of fruit to the family. Goodis sent a thank you note, which Dutch still has.
"Nobody told me that Goodis had died," Dutch said. Several weeks after he died, Dutch leared about it from a friend. "I assume his family took care of it. I do not know if it was in the paper. I heafrd that Herbie had run away from some kind of home and died," Dutch said.