Bob Dylan At The Movies: Sweetheart Like You (Part I)

by Larry Fyffe

“What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?” is the question asked over and over again when Bob Dylan sings ‘Sweetheart Like You’.

The question is taken from the Humphrey Bogart, somewhat humorous, film noir ‘All Through The Night’. In the movie, ‘Gloves’ Donahue (Bogart), a big shot Broadway gun-carrying gambler in New York City, is watched over by his motherly mother. Upon entering a dark warehouse with one of his two pistol-packing pals, he says to ‘Sunshine’:

‘What would a sweetheart like that Hamilton dame be doing in a dump like this?’

His mother has told Bogart that nightclub singer Leda Hamilton is somehow mixed up with the killing of his cheesecake maker. ‘Gloves’ is suspected of the murder, and starts following Leda around because she knew the baker. He discovers that she is working with a ring of Nazis operating out of the warehouse; she forced to do so because she thinks it’ll save her father’s life who is in a concentration camp overseas. When Bogart finds out that her father is dead, Leda helps ‘Gloves’. He convinces his shady associates to disrupt an important meeting being held by the Nazis in the warehouse.

Considering Bob Dylan as Bogart in the context of the movie, then as far as he is concerned, the Judaic Shepherd has abandoned His sheep, ‘gone North’, and left in charge complacent Jewish leaders on Earth who forsake them. Bogart realizes that he has to rely on his own resources:

Well the pressures down, the boss ain’t here
He’s gone North for a while
They say that vanity got the best of him
But he sure left here in style

The song envisions a scenario where the Jews have again been abandoned in the wilderness, and where the hoped-for Promised Land in America is at risk of being taken over by New Babylon. In Dylan’s song version, Leda has been taken in by a beautiful swan; underneath, she could well be an ugly duckling:

By the way, that’s a cute hat
And the smile’s so hard to resist
What’s a sweetheart like you doing
in a dump like this?

‘Gloves’ Dylan is a gambler, and he cheats – he’s conversing with that Hamilton dame while playing a hand of poker in the New York nightclub with the once nasty Judaic God and the dualistic God/Son of Christianity. But he’s more interested in the Queen of Spades:

You know, I once knew a woman who
looked like you
She wanted a whole man, not just a half
She used to call me ‘sweet daddy’ when
I was only a child
You kind of remind me of her when you laugh
In order to deal in this game, gotta make
the queen disappear
It’s done with the flick of the wrist
What’s a sweetheart like you doing
in a dump like this?

As ‘Gloves’, Dylan puts on his best Humphrey Bogart performance tie, and gives his lady friend fair warning that neither is he totally immune from Babylon’s influence:

You know a woman like you should be at home
That’s where you belong
Taking care of somebody who’s nice
Who don’t know how to do you wrong
Just how much abuse will you be able to take?
Well there’s no way to tell by the first kiss
What’s a sweetheart like you doing
in a dump like this?
(Bob Dylan: Sweetheart Like You)

Be sure to turn in next time for the exciting conclusion to the action-packed
thriller ‘Sweetheart Like You’!

BOB DYLAN AT THE MOVIES:  Earlier articles…


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