Tuesday, November 1, 2022 5.35 p.m.
The year 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of The Three Stooges in show business.
The Stooges began in 1922 as part of a vaudeville act called “Ted Healy and his Stooges.” It started with two stooges originally – brothers Moe and Shemp Howard. Larry Fine joined the act in 1925 or shortly thereafter. Their first Hollywood feature (with Ted Healy) was called Soup to Nuts in 1930. The Stooges worked with Healy until 1934. In that time Shemp broke off on his own to work for Warner Bros. Vitaphone and Jerry Howard, Moe’s younger brother, joined the act as Curley.
Between 1934 and 1958 The Three Stooges made over 90 two-reel shorts featuring their ribald comedy. Starting in 1934 and until the end of the 1950s, The Three Stooges had 26 different opening credits.
Moe and Larry appeared in all of them. Curley appeared in 19; Shemp, 6; and Joe, one.
In 1934 there were 4 updates; 6 in 1935; 1 each in 1936, 1937, and 1939; 2 in 1940; 1 in 1943; and 2 in 1945. The 9th (1935), 12th (1937), and 13th (1939) versions were significant brand updates for the Stooges’ opening credits.
In 1946 there were 2 updates – Curley’s last and Shemp’s first. In the postwar years there were less updates – one each in 1947, 1950, 1952, and 1953.
Moe’s brother, Curley, died in 1952 after a long illness. Shemp died suddenly from a heart attack in 1955. Though Curley and Shemp’s comedy styles are very different from one another, they are both equally very funny. Though similar in body type to Curley, Joe Besser brought his own unique comic personality to the act from 1956 to 1958.
In 1959 Columbia Pictures released Three Stooges shorts for the first time on television. TV broadcasts in the 1960’s brought a new generation of fans to the Stooges. In 1970 the Stooges were scheduled for a new TV sitcom series but Larry Fine had a paralyzing stroke.
Both Larry and Moe died in 1975. Eight years later, in 1983, The Three Stooges were inducted onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
List of opening credits (with major brand updates in bold):
1934 1 2 3 4
1935 5 6 7 8 9 10
1940 14 15
1945 17 18
1946 19 (last Curley) 20 (Shemp)
1953 24 25
1958 26 (Joe Besser)
Sunday, October 23, 2022 12.30 p.m.
In I Confess, a 1953 film noir by Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980), a Catholic priest, Fr. Logan (played by Montgomery Clift) hears the confession of a man who works in the rectory and just killed another man. That the killer had been dressed as a priest, among other circumstances, Fr. Logan becomes the primary suspect for the police Inspector (Karl Malden) and prosecutor (Brian Aherne) for the murder of Villette, a prominent lawyer. However, because of the seal of confession, Fr. Logan does not and cannot under any circumstances divulge the identity of the confessed killer though he knows it and, after Fr. Logan himself is arrested for the crime and tried for it, the priest protests solely for his own innocence.
Hitchcock’s black-and-white film was shot by cinematographer Robert Burks (1909-1968) who would later shoot Hitchcock’s The Birds in 1964 and edited by German-born Rudi Fehr (1911-1999) who in 1954 edited Hitchcock’s triumphant color feature, Dial M For Murder. The story in I Confess was based on a 1902 play by Paul Anthelme Bourde (1851-1914), a French journalist who coined the term “decadent” for avant-garde and often indecipherable poets such as Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898). The play and film is about a killer who confesses to a priest knowing he cannot be betrayed. To complicate matters further, the killer is blackmailing the priest for a long-ago love affair he had with Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter), the wife of a leading citizen, and who still loves him.
Clearly, for Hitchcock in I Confess, the priest in this situation is a highly curious figure. By the end of the film, it becomes clear that the seal of confession is a cross for the priest because of his priesthood – and though sins do not always deal with high crime – demonstrates the personified sacramental nature of self-sacrifice that is involved for the priest with each confession he hears. Throughout the film, Fr. Logan is a tragi-comic figure as he simply does not state the obvious of who the murderer is on behalf of social justice and his own innocence, but equally personifying the religious nature of living with and taking on another’s sin particularly when a person refuses their own responsibility and makes amends for it. In I Confess, the murderer has no intention of turning himself in and is content to let the priest under seal of confession take the rap in the courtroom of the law and public opinion.
Never does Fr. Logan impede law enforcement’s investigation and continually states his own innocence for which a jury of his peers is brought in to decide what to believe. The sin of omission – and in I Confess it is for the gravity of murder – remains with the impenitent Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse) though his wife, Alma (Dolly Hass) to whom Keller confessed the crime outside confession’s seal has no such plans. If, despite the seal of confession, sins can be revealed to investigators then the sanctuary of the law of the cross is torn down to get at the devil – which is neither contradiction nor improvement to the confessional box but merely its replacement. There is no transparency and plenty of state secrets in and around various government agencies that are no less problematical than breaking down the Catholic (and Lutheran) church’s confessional door.
Although found “not guilty” for lack of evidence to convict, the presiding judge expresses his disbelief in Fr. Logan’s innocence. When Fr. Logan exits the court building, he is followed and faced by a hostile crowd – “Preach us a sermon, Logan!” The prosecutor, as he watches the ugly scene from his office above, is forced to lament his actions: ”Do you think I enjoyed it?” he says, washing his hands. After Fr. Logan is crashed into a car window in the crowd, Alma, Keller’s wife, (her name means “soul”) rushes in towards the priest to tell what she knows – and which an accompanying police guard relates to the Inspector – “She said he was innocent.”
Considered Hitchcock’s most Catholic of films, I Confess is a tight drama with a truly despicable villain, whose murderous rampages continue. The film is ahead of its time in terms of direction – presaging some of the camera angles, editing, pacing and themes of international crime and psychological dramas that would not come to fruition for another 10 to 20 years.
Tuesday, September 13, 2022 7.10 p.m.
Franco-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard died today at 91 years old. Godard was the last great figure of the New Wave and leaves behind a dense, iconoclastic filmography. The New Wave movement began with Godard’s 1959 feature film Breathless (with story by François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol) that starred Jean-Paul Belmondo and American Jean Seberg.
All the famous French directors of the New Wave are now gone – Godard today, Jacques Rivette in 2016, Claude Chabrol and Éric Rohmer in 2010, and François Truffaut in 1984 (from brain cancer at the age of 52 years).
No cinema dramatizes as a near constant inclusion in individual films the scene (or aspect of one) that involves a presentation and consuming of food and in its social context by its characters more than French movies. Such is here in this café scene from Jean-Luc Godard’s black-and-white 1966 New Wave film, Masculin Féminin.
A gustatory scene is not merely for movies about France or made in France- but actual French movies made by French filmmakers and French actors.
At table in Masculin Féminin (“Masculine Feminine”) is Jean-Pierre Léaud as young romantic idealist Paul, Chantal Goya as budding pop star Madeleine and Marlène Jobert as Elisabeth, one of Madeleine’s roomates. Léaud plays Paul who chases Madeleine and they become romantically involved to start. In Masculin Féminin, Paul displays some of director Godard’s intellectual interest and qualities as Godard satirizes and criticizes the women’s characters in the film.
An “at table” scene appears de rigueur in a French film – though usually of varying interest. The viewer waits and there is a scene where a meal is taking place and within its social convention, even if sometimes the character is alone. It would probably be useless to compare another nation’s cinema about this because its civilization’s natural ease with the table arts simply does not exist as in France. How it is that American-type fast food appears and sustains some popular presence in France seems antithetical to 2,000 years of history.
In the 1960s, Godard made Une femme est une femme (1961) with his companion Anna Karina (who died in 2019) which was followed by Le Petit Soldat, a film about the Algerian war, and Le Mépris with Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli (both 1963). Other notable Godard New Wave films included Band of Outsiders (1964), Pierrot Le Fou (1965) starring Jean-Paul Belmondo who died in 2021 and Masculin Féminin (1966).
By the end of the 1960s Godard was considered a great filmmaker. When his oeuvre took an overtly political turn after 1968 – “I stopped doing lots of things” Godard said of the time – his audience shrank. In the 1980’s Godard returned to popularity with films using more traditional fiction, such as Sauve qui peut (la vie) in 1980.
Godard was well-feted in his career with awards including at international film festivals, and honorary Oscars and Césars.
In French films dining is hardly ever a three-Michelin-starred affair (that is for American films set in France to want to do) but the meal itself, particularly within déjeuner’s two-hour sacred realm, which is the nation’s daily expression of its fecundity, beauty, society, creativity and flavorful flare – in other words, some of the best things known to humankind.
Thursday, September 8, 2020 8.46 p.m.
Queen Elizabeth II was British monarch from February 6, 1952 until her death today on September 8, 2022. Queen Elizabeth II reigned almost 71 years – by far the longest of any of her predecessors on the throne. She surpassed Victoria’s reign by nearly 7 years. R.I.P.
The lively piece, Rejoice in the Lord Alway [sic] was played at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on June 2, 1953. It was part of the rich fabric of music played before, during, and following the service. Rejoice in the Lord Alway[s] is ordered approximately not only in the center of the service but the entire coronation ceremony.
Once attributed to English composer John Redford (d. 1547), Rejoice in the Lord Always typified the concise, syllabic style of those first English anthems used in Church of England services. The piece utilized text from the Great Bible of 1539 which was the first authorized royal edition of the Bible in English approved by King Henry VIII of England.
Born in London in 1926, Elizabeth Windsor was heir presumptive before she was 10 years old. In that sense, Elizabeth was raised to be Queen.
From childhood Elizabeth loved the countryside with its many horses and dogs.
Only by World War II’s end in early 1945 was 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth allowed to join the Auxiliary Transport Service as a mechanic and driver – occupational pursuits that might benefit a budding national and religious leader. Elizabeth emerged out of the palace’s shadow to become a popular second lieutenant.
As early as 1946 Elizabeth Windsor wanted to marry Philip Mountbatten – but her father, King George VI, wanted her to wait a bit. Just months after her 21st birthday, the couple were betrothed and, in November 1947, married. It remains one of Britain’s weddings of the century.
Prince Charles was born the following November in 1948—he is today King. He was followed by Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.
From the beginning of their married and family life, Elizabeth and her husband, now Duke of Edinburgh, frequently escaped to Scotland. It had been in 1952 in Kenya, while performing one of her many public duties and foreign visits, that 25-year-old Elizabeth learned that her father, the King, had died. Long Live Queen Elizabeth II.
Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice.
Let your softness be known unto all men: the Lord is e’en at hand.
Be careful for nothing: but in all prayer and supplication, let your petitions be manifest unto God with giving of thanks.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesu. Amen.
Philippians 4: 4–7
Friday, September 2, 2022 4.40 p.m.
Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995, Buena Vista Pictures) is a thorough-going sentimental experience that can join It’s A Wonderful Life (1947) or Good Morning, Miss Dove! (1955) in terms of having the audience watch various situations in the central character’s life that can cause a range of tears.
Part nostalgic, part didactic, this mid1990s film directed by Stephen Herek is about the mixed results of one teacher’s dedication and duty to the classroom as well as the arts told by way of a compacted life story of an initially reluctant public high school teacher named Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss). From the start, all Holland really wants to do is be a full-time composer. He has to settle for it in bite-sized pieces as he accepts a teaching job that pays the bills and leads to his 30-year career. In that time span Holland teaches from just after the Kennedy assassination through the Vietnam War, tumultuous 60’s, energy shortages of the ’70s, John Lennon’s murder that touched off the 1980’s and into the mid-1990s marked by punk rockers in the student body.
Though Mr. Holland had to surrender most of his personal dream to be a composer, he touched the countless lives of music students at the soon-renamed John F. Kennedy High School. In no small measure Holland helps his students to learn and love music through changing times by his pursuit of new-fangled teaching methods such as linking J.S. Bach to rock ‘n roll and tossing out music to be played on the page for music to be played from the heart.
Among the school’s adults and students as well as at home with his wife and son, Mr. Holland is a popular though controversial figure who admires Bobby Kennedy and the Beatles. In contrast, uptight administrators have their days filled with their own shrinking budgets, somewhat battered community image, and the need to call on teachers to do more than they already do on a modest salary. Mr. Holland is told that teaching music by way of rock’n roll is like enlisting “a message sent from the devil” himself. But Holland defends his tactics: “I will use anything, from Beethoven to Billie Holiday to rock’n roll…if I think it’ll help me teach a student to love music.” He wins over Principal Helen Jacobs (Olympia Dukakis) who hired him: “That’s… a reasonable answer, Mr. Holland.”
In the end – of his career and the film – the school district cuts funding to the school and one longtime administrator now in charge decides to scrap the entire music, arts, and drama programs – along with its teachers. For administrators, their bottom line is met – though for Mr. Holland, these drastic school cuts mean something different. Deciding to speak at an upcoming School District Board meeting, Mr. Holland fights the decision to cut the budget and programs:
“No, no, do not misunderstand me. I am not talking about my job. I am talking about the education that students once got at Kennedy High versus the education that you are willing to give these kids today. That was a different time?- I don’t think so. I think that more was expected of us. The big difference is how little you people care. And how lazy you’ve become. The big problem here is that you are willing to create a generation of children who will not have the ability to think, create, listen. You’ve done the best that you can? Your best is not good enough!”
On behalf of his teaching career, Mr. Holland had to make other sacrifices. The film which follows him over 30 years doesn’t show his taking a vacation or driving a new truck or car. The Holland family had to watch their pennies which includes their son, Cole, who was born profoundly hearing impaired. Glenn Holland and his wife, Iris (Glenne Headley), decided to have Cole go to a school for the deaf at especial expense. Now, Mr. Holland, who is 60 years old, is dumped by his employers. He is leaving Kennedy High not because he retired – “I’m not retiring,” Holland flatly says – but that a bean counter successfully shaved 10% off the current year’s books.
Following his dismissal, where Mr. Holland will go and what he and his family will do for a living is anyone’s guess. A longtime faculty friend, the football coach, asks a deflated Holland just that question but Glenn doesn’t yet know outside of “hanging a shingle” to give piano lessons.
Administrators say they care, but their responsibilities appear to include laying down an ultimatum to faculty and staff to conform or be cut as a sort of line item for the job description. In the film, with a screenplay by Patrick Sheane Duncan, the highlights of every teaching career are summed up in a few short scenes. Interesting problems that come up in the school’s classroom or halls are dispatched in seconds, often cut off by a school bell. If teaching could be made up of such 15 minutes of fame as the rest of the time is ignored, the attraction to the pedagogical profession might almost be better understood.
Mr. Holland is cut. Though he is not retiring, there is no cavalry to save his job for him or his students, or the film’s audience for that matter who, looking for a happy ending, get a bittersweet one instead. The finale of Mr. Holland’s Opus is as much swan song as loveable schmaltz. With his dismissal, Richard Dreyfuss’s scenes grow starker for himself than before. Mr. Holland, who admired the musical ideal of John Lennon, sees his dismissal as a personal vendetta by longtime thin-tie crew cut administrator, Principal Gene Wolters (William H. Macy). Yet both are concerned for the kids, if coming at it from diametrically opposed poles. While Wolters will choose “reading and writing and long division” over “Mozart,” Mr. Holland begs to differ. At the principal’s desk, across the divide of management and labor, Mr. Holland who has definitely labored for many years, sardonically observes:
“Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later these kids aren’t gonna have anything to read or write about.”
Wolters would write Mr. Holland a job recommendation, but it isn’t the administration who have the best capacity to do so. That witness is better reserved to Mr. Holland’s students.
At his farewell assembly, a former student, now that state’s Governor, returns and speaks for the rest about their beloved and hastily fired Mr. Holland. Before she invites Mr. Holland to the stage to conduct his last official concert at Kennedy High – which turns out to be his own music, a Lennon-esque, Emerson, Lake & Palmer-inspired symphony – she plainly states:
“I get the feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on his symphony and this was gonna make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous. At least, not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. And he would be wrong. Because I think he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched. And each one of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus, and we are the music of your life.”
Thursday, August 11, 2022, 4.27 p.m.
British-Australian singer Olivia Newton-John died of cancer on Monday, August 8, 2022. In a recording career that spanned over five decades, the singer, actress, environmentalist and animal rights activist, won 4 Grammy Awards, had 5 no.1 hit singles and several Platinum-selling singles and albums. Newton-John was 73 years old.
A Little More Love is a song recorded and released as a single in October 1978 by Olivia Newton-John. It was her follow-up to her latest hit single Summer Nights, released in August 1978, which reached no.5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single A Little More Love anticipated the release of Newton-John’s 10th studio album, Totally Hot, on November 21, 1978 where the song appeared as the lead track on side 2. .
A Little More Love became a worldwide top-ten hit single in 1979. Both the new album and single were another wildly successful collaboration for Olivia Newton-John and John Farrar, her record producer and songwriter, in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
A Little More Love peaked at no.4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1979 and Totally Hot became Newton-John’s first top-ten album (no.7) on the Billboard 200 chart since Have You Never Been Mellow in 1975.
In the course of 1979, when My Sharona by The Knack, Y.M.C.A. by Village People, Ring My Bell by Anita Wood, Too Much Heaven by the Bee Gees, and Heart Of Glass by Blondie were some of Billboard’s year-end top 20 singles, Olivia Newton-John’s A Little More Love ranked no. 17.
Sunday, July 24, 2022 11.20 a.m.
On May 30, 2022, Pope Francis’s Vatican pronounced a new plenary indulgence that is targeted to the faithful who in loving service of “grandparents and the elderly” visit them in person or in some way “virtually” on Sunday, July 24, 2022.
In the 1981 Universal Pictures’ film On Golden Pond, 69-year-old Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) proclaimed to her husband, 79-year-old Norman (Henry Fonda) that she had met “a nice middle-aged couple, just like us.” Her comment prompts the following exchange:
Norman: If they’re just like us, they’re not middle-aged.
Ethel: Of course, they are.
Norman: Middle-aged means the middle, Ethel. Middle of life. People don’t live to be 150!
Ethel: Well, we’re at the far edge of middle age. That’s all.
Norman: We’re not, you know. We’re not middle-aged. You’re old, and I’m ancient.
Norman’s take might or might not be a good barometer for who constitutes “the elderly.” Yet the viewpoint of the new Catholic plenary indulgence – as well as the Academy-Award- winning film directed by Mark Rydell – is larger than a precise demographic and more about relationships that bring a renewal of life, what is often called grace, that occurs in both of them.
Sunday, July 24, 2022, marks the celebration by the Catholic Church of its “World Day for Grandparents and The Elderly.” By visiting or simply contacting the elderly on that single day, Catholics would be eligible to receive a plenary indulgence.
The Vatican stated that the indulgence is available “to the faithful who devote adequate time to visit, in presence or virtually, through the media, their elderly brothers and sisters in need or in difficulty.” In addition to this action, there are certain other rules and conditions to fulfill. These include sacramental confession and the reception of Holy Communion within the octave of July 24 whose last day is July 31, the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556, Basque), so to receive the lifetime remission of one’s sins.
Ethel and Norman Thayer have a grown daughter, Chelsea (Jane Fonda) who, with her new fiancé Bill Ray and his 13-year-old son, Billy Ray, Jr., are arriving to Golden Pond for Norman’s 80th birthday party. It is already past dark and they are late which prompts this exchange between Norman and Ethel:
Norman: Where the hell are they? I’m getting older by the minute.
Ethel: They said they’d be here when they get here.
Norman: That’s a hell of an attitude. No wonder we don’t have any grandchildren.
In On Golden Pond, Norman and Ethel make their way by boat to a grocery and filling station on the lake. As Ethel goes in to shop, Norman sees that the boat’s tank gets filled. The two teenage boys working the pumps indirectly make fun of Norman’s age. This leads to the old man’s reaction:
Norman: What are ya, a couple of nitwits? Think it’s funny being old?
My whole goddamn body’s fallin’ apart! Sometimes I can’t even go to the bathroom when I want to but I’m still a man and can take on you punks.
While Chelsea and Bill spend the summer in Europe, Ethel and Norman agree to host 13-year-old Billy for a month on Golden Pond. On their first day, Ethel and Norman propose a fishing outing. This leads to the following exchange with Billy:
Billy: Listen. I mean, I know I’m just being dumped here. Which is like my middle name. You turkeys don’t want me.
Norman: Bullshit. I’m 67 years older than you. How do you know what I want? We’re going fishing now. We want you to go along. If you want to come with us, I suggest you get your ass down to the dock in two minutes. Okay, Mrs. Turkey, let’s go.
It soon becomes evident that 13-year-old Billy and this elderly couple still without grandchildren are enjoying being together on Golden Pond and grow close doing so. In pursuit of Walter, the largest trout in Golden Pond, Norman and Billy find themselves on a dark and rainy afternoon in Purgatory Cove hunting down the elusive prize fish. It leads to this exchange:
Norman: Gettin’ dark, Chelsea.
Billy: Who are you calling Chelsea? I’m Billy, remember? Hey, come on, man. Hey, are you okay?
Norman: Of course, I’m okay!
Billy: Okay. Hey, we better hurry up and catch Walter, huh? I mean, I’m not gonna be here much longer.
Norman: Yeah. Neither am I.
Billy: I’ll miss you, Norman.
Billy: Norman! Hey, Norman, look! Shit! I got the mother! I got ‘im!
The theme for 2022’s “World Day for The Grandparents and Elderly” is that “in old age they will still bear fruit” (Psalm 92:15).
Chelsea and Bill return from Europe having gotten married in Brussels. Norman and Chelsea look to improve their relationship. It leads to the following exchange:
Chelsea: Norman, I want to talk to you.
Norman: What seems to be the problem?
Chelsea: There’s no problem. I just…want to talk to you. I think that… maybe you and I should have the kind of relationship that we’re supposed to have.
Norman: What kind of relationship is that?
Chelsea: Well, you know…like a father and a daughter.
Norman: Worried about the will, are you?
Chelsea: Just stop it. I don’t want anything. It seems that you and me have been mad at each other for so long.
Norman: I didn’t know we were mad. I thought we just didn’t like each other.
Chelsea: I want to be your friend.
While Chelsea and her two Bills leave Golden Pond for their home in California, all have found a new happiness in each of their lives. The relationship of Norman and Ethel, too, is affected by these simple visits. At the start of the film, at their first arrival to the house on Golden Pond, Ethel points out the loons to her husband.
Ethel: Norman! Come here. Come here. Norman! Hurry up! The loons. The loons. They’re welcoming us back.
Norman: I don’t hear a thing.
By way of their loving relationships that dramatically unfold, Norman and Ethel have grown, paradoxically perhaps, to accept each other’s mortality – Norman who worried about it and Ethel who denied it. At the film’s end, it is Norman who draws Ethel’s attention to the loons, birds that mate for life.
Norman: Ethel, listen. The loons… they’ve come around to say good-bye. Just the two of them now. Their baby’s all grown up and moved to Los Angeles or somewhere.
Wednesday, July 20, 2022 7.50 p.m.
Interesting discussion between two Civil War experts – Gary W. Gallagher (Nau professor emeritus at the University of Virginia) and Garry Adelman (Chief historian at American Battlefield Trust) – on Civil War movies, the Civil War on film, and the Civil War and film. They look at about 10 films spanning from Gone With the Wind (1939) directed by Victor Fleming and The Red Badge of Courage (1951) directed by John Huston to Lincoln (2012) directed by Steven Spielberg and The Free State of Jones (2016) directed by Gary Ross.
Citing examples, the experts ask the question: “What’s better? To make a great movie with (historical) mistakes that might inspire people or to make a (historically) perfect movie that may or may not?” They agreed no movie made so far has done both.
I find the Civil War period one of the most fascinating in US history. It was a major upheaval in the country’s politics, society, and military stance both nationally and internationally. At “four score and seven years“ of age or thereabouts, the nation clearly experienced the seminal watershed event for itself and the world.
Yet, as these experts’ survey of available Civil War films suggests, there is close to a dearth of major Civil War films – and certainly fewer that are good or great. Even compared to films set during or about other U.S. wartime periods – like World War II or the Vietnam War – the 4-year-long U.S. Civil War between 1861 and 1865 along with its lead-up and aftermath has produced perhaps just one or two, maybe three, truly great films. These experts cite Glory directed by Edward Zwick from 1989 as the very best of the best of the Civil War films. Since it is the only film to receive their top rating (“5 cannonballs”), it leaves the impression that perhaps there is even more that can be desired from the Civil War film inventory in the future.
It hopefully points to the fact that the Civil War – which has a proven track record for successful popular cinema – is ripe for major new cinematic projects to be produced with its challenges for engaging storytelling, topical exploration of ideas, people, and events, and any other further compelling cinematic qualities. In this way new films about the U.S. Civil War for its subject and setting can look to represent anew this momentous event and turning point in American history with irrepressible power. To the degree such new films, like some older ones, strive for high entertainment value and a keen historic appreciation they will enter a canon of films having achieved what is so far rare in its cinematic history.
Thursday, July 15, 2022, 4.04 p.m.
If it rains on St. Swithun’s day (July 15), according to tradition, it will keep raining for 40 days. In Chicagoland it has been pouring rain today.
St. Swithun (the name means “Strong Bear Cub”) was a late 9th century bishop of Winchester, the royal city, in England. Not much is known about Swithun except that he became the 18th bishop of Winchester in 852. Before that he was a secular clerk who had a reputation for virtue and learning.
Attached to the West Saxon Court, Swithun educated the king’s son, Æthelwulf, who later was the father of Alfred the Great (c. 848-899). King Alfred had a reputation for learning and being a gracious king who was level-headed. History credits Swithun for some of the royal court’s civilized culture that encouraged education, improved the legal system, reformed the military structure, and added overall to the ordinary people’s quality of life.
Wessex under Alfred’s leadership was the only one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to survive the Danish attacks (the Vikings) of the 9th century. England in the 10th century was unified under Æthelwulf’s and Alfred’s line.
Bishop Swithun was a builder and one of the original contributors to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of Old English annals. Humble miracles were attributed to Swithun in his lifetime and after his death.
When Swithun died in 863, the charismatic personality was buried per his request in the cathedral churchyard. Swithun wanted passers-by to be able to walk over his grave and for the rain to fall upon it. It is not known how Swithun became directly associated with the weather – “If on St. Swithun’s day it really pours, You’re better off to stay indoors” was one English ditty – except that a few earlier saints in France had similar meteorological tales told about them.
Released in late 1966, Winchester Cathedral (2.20 minutes) was a no.1 song in the U.S. and Canada. Performed by the British pop group, The New Vaudeville Band, it was composed by Geoff Stephens, the group’s founder. In 1967 Winchester Cathedral won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording winning over the Beatles (Eleanor Rigby), the Beach Boys (Good Vibrations), the Mamas & the Papas (Monday, Monday), the Monkees (The Last Train to Clarksville) and the Association (Cherish).
Wednesday, July 14, 2022, 4.07 p.m.
July 14, 2022 – Happy Bastille Day!
I visited Paris for the second time as a teenager in 1979 when I went there with two friends from Ireland for a short break to the City of Light. I had been in Dublin that summer studying Irish History at Trinity College. It was Bastille Day, July 14, 1979, and I was photographed standing at the Trocadéro with the Eiffel Tower behind me.