Friday, August 12, 2022

"Hangmen Also Die"

"Hangmen Also Die!" is a 1943 film directed by the Austrian director Fritz Lang and written by John Wexley. It originated as a story by Bertolt Brecht (credited in the film as Bert Brecht) and director Fritz Lang. This is their only known collaboration.They were both German Refugees of the Holocaust.

The film, based on the real life story of The Hangman, stars Hans Heinrich von Twardowski in the title role of the real life German leader Reinhard Heydrich. He was a high-ranking German SS police official and a principal architect of the Holocaust. For his full, inhumane story just Google his name.

Walter Brennan, usually cast in character roles and more widely known to many as Grandpappy Amos on the TV sit com "The Real McCoys", is cast here as a well respected Professor and member of the Czech underground in Praque.

Not since the film "Swamp Water" had he played such a serious dramatic role. When compared to films such as "To Have and Have Not", the screen adaptation of Hemingway's novel of the same name, written for the screen  by William Faulkner, and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, had his true range of acting been so plainly revealed.

During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovokia, a well respected Surgeon named Franticek Svoboda (Brian Donlevy) assassinates the Hangman. Dr. Svoboda escapes with the aid of history professor Stephen Novotny (Walter Brennan). He, along with 400 other Czechoslovakians, are then betrayed by Nazi sympathizer Emil Czaka (Gene Lockhart). The Czech prisoners are told that if Svoboda does not surrender, they will all be executed.

Finely restored from the original silver nitrate film, this story is the story of the never ending struggle of Good and Evil, which still goes on in 2022. This was my first encounter with this gripping film.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

"A Book" by Desi Arnaz (1976)

This is one of the best autobiographies you will ever read. I first read it when it was published in 1976. It is now out of print and available only in e-book format. An old battered copy of the book, in poor condtion, fetches about $224 on e-bay, if there is one available. A copy in good condition goes for $400 or more, and a signed copy goes for thousands of dollars. Even a battered paperback will set you back $80, again, if you can find one. The e-book runs for $15 or so and is readily available, both new or used.

But here's the thing, this book must be read. To really appreciate the depth of his story you must hear it in your head as he would speak it. In 2010 I reviewed this book from my memory of reading it in 1976. I didn't do it justice. I seem to have concentrated on only his years in America and merely eluded to his wealthy and privileged past.

The book is titled "A Book" simply because so many people asked him when he was going to write a book,  it seemed only natural to title it in that way.

Desi Araz, born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III, was a man who, years later, arriving in Ventura, California found himself walking down streets bearing his family name. Even Ventura Blvd. was named for his family, who at one time owned a good chunk of Southern California by virtue of a land grant given to his family by Queen Isabella of Spain.

His paternal side was composed of Politicians, Police Chiefs etc. His maternal side were the Bacardi's, the ones who made the rum. His love of his grandparents, and their stories, is endearing. His description of growing up in Cuba, pre- Batista, is fascinating and educational. Unlike Lucille Ball's 3 books, which focused briefly on her childhood, meeting Desi and then "I Love Lucy", Desi's book is a history of a family and a way of life which simply doesn't exist anymore.

His stories of growing up in Santiago will lend you a new understanding of how Cuba went from Spanish ownership to an American protectorate, and finally into the puppet government of Batista, which is when his family lost all their power. He left Cuba 20 years before Castro ever came into view, arriving

Beginning with his life in Santiago, Cuba in 1917 where Mr. Arnaz was born, this book reaches back to the 1860's and introduces you to the roots of the life of privlege he led as a young man when he was heir to the Barcardi fortune. When Batista came to power all that changed. In the 1930's he went to Miami where he was spotted by Xavier Cugat. He became a singer in Mr. Cugats' band and carved out a small reputation for himself at the same time.

From there, he was the first to introduce the country to the "Conga" craze. This was the age of Xavier Cugat and Carmen Miranda with her fruited headpieces. After serving time in the Army, drafted as a foreign national in 1943, where he shortened his name to Desi Arnaz, he went on to Hollywood and some minor roles before being cast with Lucille Ball in some "B" movies. From there it's all, as they say, history.

Mr. Arnaz takes us through the years of "I Love Lucy", giving us a "cooks tour" of not only the show but the thought process which was behind it. This was the show that introduced us to the use of 3 camera angles, a process still in use today. He also chronicles the changes in his relationship with Lucy that finally led to their breakup in 1960. And he takes the full blame for that.

Though they both remarried, they remained close freinds the rest of their lives. There was just too much passion for their own marraige to endure. An honestly written, straight from the heart autobiography, in which he often paints himself in a bad light, this is one of those books that you really don't want to pass up.

If you want to read it you will mostly have to do an inter library loan. It is worth the small fee, and the wait. All well written books are.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Stone of Scone / Jacob's Pillow

For years I have been interested in the Stone of Jacob, and finally, I have taken the time to read about it and put it into some sort of order. I hope I have done the subject some justice. It is a long and somewhat confusing story, so if you spot any errors, please feel free to let me know... 

Although it may sound like a pastry, the Stone of Scone is an ancient symbol of Scottish sovereignty. According to legend, the sandstone slab was used by the biblical figure Jacob as a pillow when he dreamed of a ladder reaching to heaven and then brought to Scotland by way of Egypt, Spain and Ireland. In reality, geologists have determined that it really comes from Scotland. 

The Stone of Scone is also known as the Stone of Destiny, Jacob's Pillow, the Hebrews' Sacred Stone and the Lia Fáil. It is the great stone upon which the Kings of Scotland, including Constantine III in 995 and Macbeth in 1040, were  crowned. It has been used in every English Coronation since then.

The Stone of Scone was last used in 1953 for the coronation of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The red sandstone block was originally kept at the now-ruined Scone Abbey in Perthshire. The stone was brought back to Scotland in 1996 and is currently displayed at Edinburgh Castle. What the removal of the Stone back to Scotland will mean for Elizabeth's successor is unclear.

The Stone of Destiny is an ancient symbol of Scotland's monarchy, used for centuries in the Coronation of its kings. Revered as a sacred object, it's origins are really unknown. In 1296, King Edward I of England seized the stone from the Scots, and had it built into a new throne at Westminster and later placed under the Coronation Chair. 

This large panel, apparently intended for a ceiling, was done by the painter, architect, and author Giorgio Vasari in 1558. It is housed at the Walthers Art Gallery in Baltimore and tells the story of Jacob and the Stone.

In the Old Testament book of Genesis, on his way to Haran, Jacob lay down in the wilderness to sleep, resting his head on a stone. He dreamed of Angels ascending and descending a stairway, or ladder, to heaven. God then appeared and blessed Jacob and his descendants. 

Bethel, where Jacob had his dream, was an ancient city of Palestine, located just north of Jerusalem, in present day Turkey. Bethel was important in Old Testament times and was frequently associated with Abraham and Jacob.

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it." He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He renamed the city of Luz as present day Bethel.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."

— Genesis 28:16–22, NIV

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

"The Scarlet and the Black"

"The Scarlet and the Black" starring Christopher Plummer as  Col. Herbert Kappler, the Nazi in charge of Romee, and Gregory Peck, as Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, is an your seat true life story. John Gielgud is also brilliant as the Pope, who literally walked a political tightrope, just as O'Flaherty did on the white line painted around the entrance to the Vatican. He even ventured outside in Rome, at first in his Vatican clothes, and later in various disguises. He should be made a Saint for what he did in saving over 6,500 lives at the peril of losing his own.

How he won the battle of wits with Colonel Kappler, who tried to kill him, even personally wielding a sniper's rifle at one point, is nothing short of a miracle. Even the Colonel, as depraved as he was, could not bring himself to squeeze the trigger, while the Monseigneur smiled up at him in the crosshairs of the rifle's scope.

In total, of Rome's 9,700 Jews, most were saved, with only 1,007 shipped to Auschwitz. The rest were hidden, 5,000 of them by the official Church - 3,000 at the Pope’s Castel Gandolfo, 200 or 400 as "members" of the Palatine Guard, and some 1,500 in monasteries, convents and colleges.

The remaining 3,700 were hidden in private homes, including Msgr. O'Flaherty's network of apartments. After the war, O’Flaherty was honored by various Allied countries with awards and decorations for his heroic acts to save Jews and POWs alike. Inexplicably he has never been made a Saint.

Monseigneur O'Laherty's total includes the POW's, many of whom were RAF pilots, which is why his total is so high. It should also be remembered that as an Irishman he basically deplored the English and the Black and Tans of his youth for the 1916 Bloody Sunday and subsequent Irish War for Independence, which led to Ireland's being divided into two halves in 1921. Also, it should be bpnoted that Ireland was neutral against Germany in both World Wars.

"The Scarlet and the Black" has an even more amazing ending in real life. It is written on the screen at the close of the film. Sentenced to life in prison, the Colonel had no visitors save one. That was Msgr. O'Flaherty, who visited him each month until the colonel died. Additionally, the Colonel even converted to Catholicism at the hand of Msgr. O'Flaherty before he died. The Monsignor lived well past the Colonel, not passing away until Octobern of 1963, having converted the agnostic man who had, on many occassions, tried to have him killed.

This film will have you rooted tomykur seat as you watch 3 of the greatest stars play their craft telling the story that seems almost unreal.

Note: Scarlet and Black were the colors of both the Vatican and the Gestapo. Two forces, diametrically opposed yet both claiming the same colors, makes an interesting observation.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Bears

The bears danced in the moonlight
it was such a lovely sight.
All dressed up for the special occasion,
wanting everything to be just right.

The honeymoon was waiting
they'd chartered the perfect ship.
The crew were aboard salivating
to make this a memorable trip.

It isn't often you see the Bears
dressed up and plainly in sight.
Both of them were wearing their tails,
looking good for their special night

The moon was patiently waiting,
framed by a clear dark blue sky.
The stars were all out and were blazing,
with those who didn't know asking why.

Because bears don't often get dressed up,
it was easy for most folks to see.
That they only had eyes for each other,
and 'nary a thought was for you or for me.

Terry Spier (?) was the artist. It was on a movie night ad posted by Debbie Cawdrey.
July 30, 2022

Monday, July 11, 2022

Carolina Moon

The Carolina Moon,
I've been missing it of late.
But tonight it's full and bright,
And its kiss is like a date.

I've been missing it for weeks
its been hiding behind clouds.
But now the Carolina Moon
is back and does us proud.

The Carolina Moon
will be watching us all night.
Up while are sleeping,
a soft and lovely light.

In just a few more days
it will be leaving us again
Hiding behind clouds
while it leaves us soaked in rain.

The Carolina Moon
you need catch it while you can.
It's a long road it must travel
'til it kisses us again.

Note 1: Photo taken just now. 9:45 PM
It will go down just before I wake.
Sleep well. ❣

July 11, 2022

Note 2: Last year at this time i missed the Moon for 3 months. When I first saw it once more in September I cried. And vowed never to take it for granted again.

Moon rose at 7:45 PM. It will set at 4:44 AM

Sunday, July 3, 2022

The One Whom I Love Now

If it were not set
that I had met,
the one whom I love now.

I couldn't accept
that I wouldn't yet
contrive upon just how.

To go about
and make but mine
two hearts I know would surely pine.

Would be no doubt,
nor waste in time,
that I would act in haste for thine.

Two souls would shout,
our hearts would whine,
though moon and stars couldn't help shine.

Had fate not coined
my heart be joined,
I cannot see but how.

Were it not set
that I had met,
the one whom I love now. 

After watching "If I Were King" with Ronald Coleman as the poet/bandit Francois Villon earlier in the day, I awoke at 4 o'clock this morning and wrote the following, then went right back to sleep.

Villon is in love with Katherine, who is a Lady in Waiting. Though she is also in love with him, she is also bethored to another and her duty to the Crown separates them irrevocably. A lady-in-waiting is a female personal assistant, attending on a royal woman or a high-ranking noblewoman. Historically, a lady-in-waiting was often a noblewoman, too, but of lower rank than the woman to whom she attended.

So, their love is ill fated and never to be, because he is an outlaw, and she is part of the Aristoracy.

The poem is from her point of view, but in the style of Villon, so it really expresses both of their feelings towards one another.

Written in about as long as it takes to speak. Maybe a minute, tops. Then I went back to sleep.