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CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME (Buddy DeSylva, Joseph Meyer, and Al Jolson, Oct. 6, 1921)
I had read somewhere, years before starting Eye Scream (if I recall correctly), that someone had listened to Jack’s closing groans, and had slowed them down to decipher if there were discernible words. The headline was something like, “Superfan Slows Down Dying Jack’s Voice and Finds a Message”, but I didn’t end up clicking through at the time. When I tried to track it down, I couldn’t hit the right words, or something, but if it’s still online, Google wouldn’t reproduce it.
But how people think they know what’s Jack’s saying is because apparently it’s true: at least, in a certain version of the film’s subtitles, this is what appears:
A helpful YouTube commenter brought this to my attention a few days ago (Dec. 2020), and this time Google brought me exactly what I was looking for. Now, is it possible that this is some kind of bizarrely-motivated photoshop? Sure. Is it possible this was some in-joke a certain subtitle transcriber inserted to see if anyone would notice, and no one did? I guess so. The blogger didn’t specify which edition of the film he was watching. But the blog is pre-Room 237, so I strongly doubt this observation, and his ensuing analysis, were motivated by anything more than an innocent discovery of a naturally-occurring oddity.
What’s more, the lyrics don’t match with the original song. Jack should be saying “California, here I come” not “San Francisco, here I come”. So even if this blogger was whistlin’ Dixie, it would be quite a strange leap to get the words wrong. That said, the song does seem to allude to San Francisco in the second last lyric “Open up (open up! open up!) that golden gate“.
Now, if you listen to the sounds Jack’s making during this part of the film (138:15-138:29), they don’t sound much like the accompanying subtitles – though the syllables are about the same. Jack seems to be saying, “Rah rah. Ree roo rah rah.” And stuff like that. So if he’s truly “saying” these words, it’s a bit like a dog howling along to a record player (another reference to The Queen’s Dog?). For the sake of the remainder of this analysis, let’s just assume that this reference is what Kubrick intended, and see what we get.
First of all, we should consider the song. It’s a show tune from the 1921 Al Jolson musical Bombo, which required Jolson to perform entirely in blackface, as he portrayed Gus, a “servant” of Christopher Columbus who becomes his “slave” as Columbus sets sail to discover the Americas. I can’t find any more information (online) about the show than that, and the song list is presented alphabetically, so I have no idea if this song appears near the beginning or the end or in the middle (it does sound like it would make a rousing closer (or opener!) to any of the three acts). Apparently, no one cared much about the content of the show, and so multiple composers packed the revue with their own works, until the original composer, Sigmund Romberg, was outnumbered by the new songs. Romberg’s songs included Any Place Will Do With You, In Old Granada, In the Way Off There, Jazzadadadoo, The Very Next Girl I See, Wetona, and Oh, Oh, Columbus. So clearly the Columbus angle was the original intent. But what’s this “Bombo”? I have no idea. Since the play features a handful of songs that sound rife with racist potential (Barefoot Days, Coo-Coo Song, Dirty Hands Dirty Face, Koo-Kee-Koo, Last Night on the Back Porch, and Don’t Send Your Wife to the Country) I wonder if it isn’t the non-slave-name for the so-called “Gus”. It also has the ring of what an early 20th century writer might think sounded like an exotic country south of the equator. It does happen to be the Spanish word for “drum”, and the two songs In Old Granada and The Barber in Seville are referencing the southern part of Spain, on opposite sides of the Pillars of Hercules (and fun fact: bomboclaat is the Jamaican word for menstrual pads and carries the same power as calling someone a “douchebag”). Along with the song Arcady (possibly referencing the Spanish town of Arcade), these locales, perhaps by pure luck, form an arrow pointing at the spot where Columbus set sail from, Palos de la Frontera, so it’s possible there’s a good deal of time spent in the “old world” before Columbus and Gus set sail, with our heroes banging on bombos.
If that’s the case, or something like that, I’m wondering if there isn’t a time travel element (like, maybe a leap forward into modern day America), since a lot of the song names suggest that America has already been discovered and colonized (Tallahassee, Wetona, California Here I Come). Oh, actually, I just found this playbill, which shows that the cast play characters in “1922” (the year that the playbill is from, so it was probably “1921” in 1921 – yes, I’ve confirmed this now) and in “1492”. And this all takes place in “ACT I”, so perhaps the bulk of the story is in the modern day (another line on the bill says that the play is “In Two Acts”). You might notice that the show went on at the Apollo Theatre, but you might almost overlook the fact that one of Jolson’s co-stars (playing an “Indian Chief”) was named Walter White (Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, openly admits to being influenced by The Shining).
The song Wetona, by the way, is likely a reference to a silent film that came out a few years earlier called The Heart of Wetona, which concerned a Comanche woman (Wetona) falling in love with a forest ranger by the look of the poster. So maybe Gus magically lives to see the full span of America’s development (1492-1924 (when the play ended)).
And speaking of “Gus”, this was Jolson’s “signature blackface character“, who he performed as (almost exclusively) from 1912 to 1927 in the shows The Whirl of Society (1912), The Honeymoon Express (1913), Dancing Around (1914-1915), Robinson Crusoe, Jr. (1916-1917), Sinbad (1918-1919), Bombo (1921-1924), Big Boy (1925-1927), and then for perhaps the last time in 1930’s film version of Big Boy – strange they wouldn’t have adapted the more successful Bombo (I’m guessing the simpler concept for Big Boy (about an intergenerational line of black farmhands to a rich, southern white family) made it much cheaper to produce). But I thought it was worth writing all that out to underscore just how long this character endured with audiences (the only feature film Jolson made in this period, The Jazz Singer (1927), also featured him in blackface). Perhaps “Gus” was one of the first James Bond-type characters, one who rebounded through a lengthy series of connected films (or in this case plays), thanks as much to the interconnected mythology as the love of audiences for the character.
Jolson toured Bombo longer than any of his others, starting in 1921, finishing in 1924, concurrent with the release of an album version. He gave more performances of it than any other (213), and then took the show on a cross-country tour from Apr. ’22 – May ’24. Only his prior show, Sinbad, toured for longer (by 2 months – Mar. ’19 – Jun. ’21). I mean, he’s already known as “the king of blackface”, but I thought it was important to really spell out how true that is. Jolson lived to be 64, so he spent at least a quarter of his existence popularizing the trend. And it was during that time that he was dubbed “The World’s Greatest Entertainer”. But before I oversimplify the matter, consider how in that time doing blackface was considered a kind of radical rebuke of conventional racism, and how the success Jolson had as an entertainer is considered to have done a lot to leaven the fears the dominant white culture at the time felt toward the scary black population (scary because of white guilt, to be sure). I don’t mean to apologize whatsoever for the horrors of ancient hatreds, or to insist that anyone shouldn’t be upset at such offensive practices…but I’ve been looking at history, and studying history, long enough to know that what seems cutting edge today often looks insultingly paltry a scant few generations later. As revolutionary as Black Lives Matter seems now, perhaps by 2120 it’ll seem like a drop in the bucket compared to what needed to happen. When you confront how true (I think) this is, you realize that for every view you hold, there’s a spectrum with points on it that (way) fail to meet your level of conviction, and points that go (way) beyond. So to crucify every last generation for failing to be even more heroic or visionary than they were seems to me a good way to get yourself crucified in increasingly rapid succession.
But the question might remain for some of you reading this: did Kubrick mean for the blackface reference to be taken offensively? My guess is yes, at least in the sense that it’s meant to make Jack seem even more knuckle-dragging than he already seemed. What’s more, the blackface aspect could be an appeal to the hotel’s love of masks. That’s a much more prominent/overt theme in the novel, but I think Kubrick saw the ghosts as something like whole-body masks, existing at the ends of tendrils spreading out from the hotel’s dark heart. Jack’s bid to become the hotel’s slave is a bid to become one of these masks. But did the hotel let Jack know he could become one?
Well, that brings me to a doll that appears in two scenes that I’m pretty sure is a golliwog. I’ve written about the cultural significance of these dolls here, and don’t want to repeat it all, but some repetition might be unavoidable. Like how the particular doll that most resembles the one in the film was named Louis Large (that’s why I highlighted the Louisville slugger on the lobby sofa). The doll first appears behind Wendy in Boulder, and we’ll get into its two appearances later (for now, let me just note that they appear 1684 seconds apart (11:13-39:17), and that was when the first slaves arrived in Philadelphia aboard the Isabella – though I’m actually not sure if that’s especially important to this moment in any other way (slaves were arriving in larger America long before that), I only point it out because there’s other moments in the film that sync up with significant year numbers – like how Jack starts telling the Donner Party story at the exact second (18:46) that describes the year the Donners got snowbound (1846), and which just so happens to be a jumble of 1684!). For now, I want to stay on this “Louis” phenomenon.
One of the women who says goodbye to Ullman at the start of the tour wears a French-Canadian hockey jersey for the player Claude St. Louis…
…who played for a team whose home turf (Trois-Rivières, Quebec) is the subject of a nearby painting, named for one of the only African saints in the Christian canon (St. Maurice). Also, the Kubrick Archive says that there’s some photos of Billy Wilder’s 1957 film, The Spirit of St. Louis mixed in with the wall photos props. If those photos were indeed used for some of the wall photos, then that would mean there’s at least four different Louis’s in the lobby. Also, Scatman Crothers played a Louis (Lewis, technically) in the first film he made with Jack Nicholson, The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). Actually, holy crow, that film takes place partly in Philadelphia, but the location of Scatman’s (Lewis’s) apartment in that film was on the corner of Jarvis and Isabella in Toronto, Canada (how strange that Wikipedia would point that out). So that’s a Lewis, a (fake) Philly, and an Isabella. Coincidence? Maybe… Note how one of the reviewers of the film points out that it seems like there might be a “key” to unlocking that film’s puzzle-like mysteries. Perhaps it’s secretly about slavery?
Anyway, in the novel, Danny sings Skip to My Lou as a way to calm his nerves, it seems, first when he’s waiting for Jack to get back from the interview (pg. 26), and then during his break in to room 217 (pg. 215-216). He recalls learning it at the Jack & Jill Nursery School, and he sings it with a verse that I can’t find in an official version: “Skip to m Lou, n I don’t care…skip to m Lou, n I don’t care…my master’s gone away…Lou, Lou, skip to m Lou…” (pg. 26). This “master” line seems like an odd word for a nursery school teacher to invent. But isn’t that just like Jack substituting “San Francisco” for “California” in California Here I Come? And doesn’t “master” bring to mind a certain slave-era term of address?
It’s thought that the “Lou” in Skip to My Lou comes from the Scottish word “loo” as in “love”, since the song is part of a “partner-swap dance”, where singers rotate and switch/steal partners as they go. There’s a strong subtext in The Shining about Jack’s fears that Danny comes between he and Wendy, a fear that the hotel transfers onto Hallorann, with a little help from the n-word. The first thing Danny is seen doing in the film is transfixedly watching The Road Runner Show…
…who happens to be part of the cuckoo bird family, a kind of bird associated to fathers who unwittingly raise children who are not their own. And the Al Jolson play features the song Koo-Kee-Koo, which is about two such cuckoo lady birds singing to each other, apparently. Before we depart from the Road Runner bit, consider that the first instance of that show mirrors moments away from Jack singing “San Francisco here I come” and the second instance of Danny and Wendy watching the same episode at the Overlook comes right after the sequence of Hallorann working out the snowcat business with Larry Durkin, which mirrors over Wendy showing Danny the heart of the maze. So, in both instances, Danny is in the place where he’ll defeat his monstrous father and escape.
Actually, this reminds of one of my favourite Redrum Road moments: during the line “Didn’t anybody see?” in the song She Came In Through the Bathroom Window Danny is, in Round 3, jumping backwards out of his backward steps in the heart of the maze, effectively sealing Jack’s fate, and in Round 1 Wendy is walking him past the exact spot where future Danny will make that jump. For the record, Round 2 is the moment where forward Jack is telling Grady he knows that Grady is an impossible ghost man who killed his family (the closest Jack gets to “escaping” the hotel’s wiles) while backward Jack is grabbing Danny, to lift him onto his knee for the MONDAY talk, which is the only time Jack ever touches Danny in the film, and is the closest Danny ever is to getting “caught”.
But the meaning of “Lou” isn’t limited to its historic origins. The song also appeared in the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis, where I’m guessing it plays off the name of the town. And personally, I’d long thought it was a reference to the slang term for bathrooms, “loo”, since that’s what everyone told me throughout my own childhood. And in the novel, Danny sings it while skipping to the worst loo in his universe.
And speaking of room 237, there’s a painting just around the corner from there in the film by French-Canadian painter Louise-Amelie Panet-Berczy, called Battle of Sisters Creek. It’s possible I’ll find other “Louis” names in the other unidentified artworks, but it’s neat to think one hangs outside room 231, which, in one of my other theories, is the room that the hotel absorbs Jack into. And isn’t it in the 237 loo that Jack thinks he’s found his own new love, his own partner-swap for Wendy? And doesn’t 237, in the F21 sense, equal the work of killing Dick Hallorann, a thing that happens in the heart of the Lou-ridden lobby? And what’s Jack’s reward for completing that work? Isn’t it to be absorbed by the hotel’s heaven forever and anon? In fact, now’s probably a good time to consider the lyrics to California, Here I Come, since they speak to exactly this.
First off: as far as I know from our blogger friend, these are the only lines from the song Jack sings, but Jack does a fair bit more howling during his downfall, so perhaps we’re meant to think his Jolson impersonation goes on. I don’t know. For now, let’s assume what we know is all there is. This means Jack only sings the first two lines of the second or third stanza (line 9/10 or 19/20, of 28 lines). If it’s the third stanza (which is virtually identical to the second), I like how that makes it line 19 and 20. The play started in 1921, the year of ghost Jack’s seeming transportation. And I’ve seen various sources cite that the real photo Kubrick spliced Jack into is really from 1923, 1924, and 1921. If it’s really from 1924, then this could play into Bombo having performed its full run across those four calendar years.
But anyway, Jack has skipped over the song’s intro, it seems, which seems to be describing his predicament: “When the wintry winds start blowing/And the snow is starting to fall/Then my eyes went westward knowing/That’s the place that I love best of all”. There’s a good deal of attention drawn to the Overlook’s “westward-looking windows” (pg. 64) in the novel. They’re the ones that provide the majestic, breath-taking view from the blood-spattered Presidential Suite (pg. 93-96). Here, maze Jack would probably rather put thoughts of wintry winds out of mind, but they do seem to have turned his mind to westward thoughts.
As for California becoming San Francisco: The novel opens with a page of quotations including one from Goya, whose first name was Francisco. So King’s novel “starts” with an unnamed Francisco. A reference to that quotation seems to come on page 143 (just before the novel’s one-third mark, page 149), when, instead of The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, Danny keeps hearing “This inhuman place makes inhuman monsters” over and over, after a doctor asks him to try to commune with Tony in a dream state.
It’s also worth noting that there’s many references to California. He doesn’t appear directly in the film, but there’s a major ghost character in the book, Horace Derwent, one of the hotel’s past owners, who got rich and powerful thanks to designing a better mechanism for WWII bomber jets to drop their bombs, among other war machinery (pg. 157). Derwent hails from California (where he built up his fortune producing movies at Top Mark Studios (Jack’s father’s name is Mark Torrance)), and it was through his California connections that he got investors interested in helping him build the Overlook back up from a state of abandoned dilapidation. He opens the hotel exactly 3 weeks and 2 days (23 days) after the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (pg. 157), something Jack recalls wistfully later on page 237 as he strolls through the lounge to meet Lloyd for the first time – that might actually be the most powerful expression of Jack’s nostalgia, and desire to go back to an exact moment in time, in the novel. He imagines the dawn of the postwar era as a “future stretching ahead so various and new, like a land of dreams.” Incidentally, Derwent sells the Overlook in January of ’52, so he only owns the hotel for 78 months (6.5 years), before selling it to another group of California investors, lead by one Charles Grondin. Grondin sells it to some others in 1957, and then (after some deliberately confusing timeline) another newspaper clipping wonders if the new owners (in 1963) might be Grondin and Derwent again (bringing along a mafia element, responsible for some of the worst murders to take place there). If so, this would mean that Ullman lies to him in the beginning about Derwent getting out of the game in ’52. There’s no other hint given that Grondin and Derwent aren’t (secretly) the owners that Jack’s friend Al Shockley (along with friends of his own) buys the Overlook off of in 1970. In any case, I don’t have a reference yet in the film for a “Grondin”, but that’s the French name for the Red Gurnard fish. And very similar-looking fish are worked into the design of Hallorann’s lamps in Miami, so perhaps I’m on the verge of a discovery here.
I also noticed that Watson makes a derogatory reference to “people from California” being idiots who like everything too hot (pg. 19), and Watson is the descendant of the man who built the hotel, so maybe he hates the idea of Californians being more associated with the place than his own flesh and blood.
All this makes it look like Jack’s sing-song was a plea to Horace Derwent himself.
As for the San Fran part: it’s funny that the bigoted Jack Torrance would supplant the wide-net of everything California stands for with the relatively progressive attitudes of Jimmy Carter-era San Fran. A city first settled by Spanish colonists exactly 6 days before the day photo Jack is celebrating (June 29, 1776), perhaps it’s fitting that Jack should want to go to a place the American empire took away not just from the indigenous Ohlone/Yelanu people, but from Spanish colonists to boot. Also, the city is named for Saint Francis of Assisi, who died while in a similar circumstance, singing out the 142nd psalm (also known as the 141st psalm), which contains the verses: “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.” (If you’ve read about Danny’s Lessons and Escapes, you know that Jack has good reason to feel like his path has become a snare.) But this isn’t the only apparent connection between Francis and the film. The movie opens on the song Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), which is thought to have been written by Thomas of Celano, who lived (1185-1265) at the same time as Francis (1181-1226), and became a member of the future saint’s Order of Friars Minor. Celano also wrote three biographies of his friend’s life. So, what’s really cool there is that Dies Irae ends in the forward action (3:02) at the exact moment that Jack’s Jolson singing ends (as far as I know – he might keep singing) on the opposite side of the film. So these singular Francis of Assisi and Thomas of Celano references butt right up against each other.
And while Francis was known for the way he travelled around to spread his gospel, he died in his birth town of Assisi. Jack sings, “San Francisco, here I come/Right back where I started from”, and as he does this, note what happens in the 14 seconds of mirrorform (3:01-3:15): he crosses from the hotel’s entrance to the front desk and says, “Hi. My name’s Jack Torrance.” And it’s as he’s saying “Jack Torrance” that opposite side Jack is howling “San Francisco”. (Also, it’s during this walk that he passes The Tower of Babel and a painting of the St. Maurice. Also, the most visible painting he’s passing is 1921’s The Solemn Land. And of course he’s passing the spot where the 1921 photo will hang, as well.)
So this would almost seem like a signature for the mirrorform, right? Intro Jack is being seen for the first time, at his “starting point” while death Jack sings about being back in the place he “started from”. But I think it goes even deeper than that.
In my analysis of what I call the Tower of Fable, where I (partly) consider that the Overlook is something like a giant labyrinth, I realized that Jack is the only character to ever be seen passing through the hotel’s main entrance. Every other character uses what I call the “2nd entrance” to reach the outside, as seen in this moment, which mirrors over Ullman standing where the golliwog will later be seen (while the golliwog is presently behind Wendy’s back):
So my calling this the “2nd entrance” might be a bit of a misnomer; dramatically, it’s the entrance/exit everyone uses, and so I began to wonder if the reason only Jack passes through the “front door” is because, symbolically, the lobby is the true “heart” of the Overlook labyrinth. Jack was “always” the “minotaur” that the Overlook would hire to do its bidding, so only he could enter the building through its own heart. My reasons for thinking this are too complex to get into briefly, so for the sake of brevity: how perfect is it that Jack would be singing out “right back where I started from” from the heart of the labyrinth, while forward Jack was walking through that very entrance. And I feel I must mention that there’s a very cryptic painting hanging in the lobby foyer that I still(!) haven’t identified, which I think will help shed a lot of light on this theory.
Alright, next up: bombs. The Shining has a lot to say about “bombs“. So, despite the fact that I’m only getting to it now, this was the first thing that struck me when I started looking into this. The show is called Bombo. And Jack starts singing it in his dying moments as opposite-side Jack is walking through the lobby’s front doors, which is where…Ullman later appears to Jack wearing a “bomber jacket”, which just so happens to give him the same colour palette as Louis Large the golliwog (just as Watson looks like Bugs Bunny with his white-belly/grey-body, and Jack wears the tan of a Pooh bear).
Also, in the mirrorform, this moment occurs at the same time as Wendy is escaping Jack’s first chops, which means that Ullman’s bomber jacket overlays with a copy of Philip Ardery’s Bomber Pilot.
Also, if you’ve read my analysis of the Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are connection, you’ll recall that the actor in the foreground of the first shot here is likely the actor John Carson, who appeared in that TV movie. Jack famously impersonates Johnny Carson of Tonight Show fame, and that Johnny Carson had a way of smoothing over his lesser jokes by exclaiming “Bomb-o!” to draw the audience’s attention to the way the joke “bombed” as we like to say in English. I suspect this play’s name is pronounced like “Bomb bow”, but people spell Carson’s phrase the same way. Bombo. And, again, backward Jack here is singing from Bombo in this moment, passing John Carson.
Moving on from more symbolic/metaphoric analyses: in the reality of the movie…why would Jack be hollering out a show tune? Like, if you’ve read this far, I hope you’ve found these symbolic/metaphoric interpretations interesting. But imagine we had been able to make out Jack singing an old show tune clearly, and getting the words wrong. What would that have seemed like to us in this moment?
Well, it probably would’ve seemed like a continuation of the four TV references Jack makes while storming through Suite 3: “Wendy, I’m home” (I Love Lucy), “Come out, come out, wherever you are” (we’ve covered that), “Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in” (Merry Melodies), and “Here’s Johnny!” (The Tonight Show). But Bombo never survived the cross to screen media, so I suppose it would’ve seemed like a reference to the theatre, and isn’t Jack at the hotel to write the play that will make him famous? I’m wondering if the hotel heard Jack singing this, and that this is why it sends him back to 1921 specifically, as if granting him his seeming wish. Maybe Jack knew that Bombo was Jolson’s biggest hit, and thought of Jolson the way the 1910s-1920s crowds thought of Jolson, as one of the greatest entertainers in the world. If so, his plea to the Overlook would seem to be to grant him the ability to go back and be part of the magic of that show (perhaps inspired by all the 1930s jazz he was hearing at the ghost ball – music that was largely by Al Bowlly, who was killed by one of Hitler’s parachute bombs, remember). But all the hotel could do was to (in my view, fakely) take him back to that year.
Actually, that reminds me: we don’t know if the “Gus” in 1492 is the same as the “Gus” in 1924, right? But if he is meant to be that, if Jolson does play some kind of magic, time-traveling slave, it’s interesting to think of him singing about being “right back where” he started from. Unlike Francis of Assisi, Gus probably doesn’t actually resolve his story in the place of his origin. And even for a 1920s crowd, you’d have to be pretty stupid to think a European or African slave saw California as their homeland. So I wonder if the play was attempting some kind of revisionist history, or even some kind of Team America-style joke on imperialist attitudes. If we assume that the lyric was written in some kind of ignorance of the reality of American slavery, it’s interesting that Jack would assume the role of the joyful slave, coming home to glorious California. That would make another nice comment on the reality of what he has to look forward to, haunting room 231 for all time.
Finally, an anonymous commenter on YouTube pointed out that the San Francisco switcheroo might be a reference to how the Beatles gave their last official concert at Candlestick Park in August of 1966. (You’ll note, if you follow that last link, that there was an attempt to make San Francisco “America’s Liverpool”, so perhaps part of Jack’s desire to go there specifically is to be an “American Beatle”, as it were.)
In Redrum Road, during the Bombo moment (in Round 1 – 3:01-3:15), we’re hearing Come Together, which was written to be the anthem for Timothy Leary’s political career, as he ran against Ronald Reagan for governorship of California. Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana, which ended all that, and Lennon repurposed the song for Abbey Road. The lyrics that play atop the Bombo reference are “Got to be good lookin’ cuz he’s so hard to see/Come together, right now, over me”. So, I don’t know if that’s a reference to how hard it is to “see” the subtitles that give away the reference, and how “good” at “looking” one needs to be in order to make such a discovery. I’ve often thought it might be a reference to how hard it is to ID the Come Out, Come Out cast sitting in the lobby, or how hard it is to ID that damn shadow monster painting in the foyer, which appears in this moment, reflecting in a mirror behind Jack.
In Round 3 when he’s singing it over the end of track 15, Carry That Weight (138:15-138:29), it happens at the exact moment (and for the same length) as that song reproduces a melody from track 9, You Never Give Me Your Money. The lyrics here are, “I never give you my pillow/I only send you my invitations/And in the middle of the celebrations/I break down”. It’s pretty metaphorical, but I like to read that as a reference to the Overlook’s shabby promise to Jack. He won’t get to “sleep” at the Overlook, but it did invite him to become a part of it forever and ever. And though it seems like it put him in the eternal 4th of July celebration, his essence/soul/whatever is actually going to go exist in room 231, just another dumb ghost among many. The Overlook will “break” its promise. In that context, it’s interesting to think of Jack screaming out his Bombo lyrics, as if trying to invalidate the Abbey Road lyrics.
Also, the music for these lyrics is reproducing the same sound that happens right at the start of You Never Give Me Your Money. So this closing “medley”, as they call it (track 9-16) features that riff at the beginning, and again very near the end. So it has a kind of elliptical nature itself. And here Jack is saying “right back where I started from”, seemingly describing both the mirrorform and Abbey Road, or at least its closing medley.
Also, the meaning of Carry That Weight is thought by some to be a reflection on how the Beatles would never top as individual artists what they achieved as a group. And it just so happens that Al Jolson’s theatre success was largely dependent on some jerks (by the sound of it) named the Shuberts, a creative relationship that helped elevate Jolson’s star rapidly, but eventually led to Jolson breaking away from them, and into film. As I said, Bombo was the peak of Jolson’s theatre career, but film was kind to him. The Jazz Singer (his first big feature) is widely considered the first “talkie” (a film with synchronized sound), which made audiences crazy for more, effectively destroying the silent film era. This, and his blackface tradition, and his wild Bombo success, are all heavy weights to carry. In fact, that’s exactly how music critic Ted Gioia described his blackface tradition.
Okay! That’s about all I can think of for this phenomenon. I think it’s fair to say that if by some incredible set of circumstances Kubrick did not intend for all this interconnection, it certainly makes for a fascinating illumination of a plethora of the film’s subtextual chains.
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