Archive for March, 2013

My Classic Movie Pick: I Know Where I’m Going!

Decisions, decisions, decisions.  We all have to make them and they can be tricky, especially when a decision needs to be made and your head tells you one way you should go and your heart tells you another way.  Such a dilemma!  That is exactly the dilemma our heroine faces in the lovely romance film from Britain, 1945’s I Know Where I’m Going!I Know Where I'm Going

The movie opens with a montage of a little toddler girl, Joan Webster,  propelling herself around a living room in her family home.   Then we see Joan at age a 5, writing a bossy letter to Father Christmas informing him she wants silk stockings for Christmas!  Next,  we see  12 year old Joan with her stockings on and rushing across the street to get a ride home from the milkman instead of milling around the schoolyard with  her classmates.   Then we see Joan at 18, leaving work and getting her date to take her to a fancy restaurant instead of the movies.  At the end of this montage we see  Joan’s legs, stylishly dressed in silk stockings and heels, entering  a hotel lobby/restaurant.  Joan Webster(played by Wendy Hiller)  is the main focus of the movie’s plot.  Joan is a determined personality, she always “knows where she is going” and she so far has lived her life by that motto.  She graduated from school and has become an independent career woman.   The career has taken her into the stratosphere of business and before long she finds herself engaged to the owner of Consolidated Chemical Industries, Sir Robert Bellinger, one of the wealthiest men in England.  At the hotel Joan meets with her dad and over dinner informs him that she will be marrying Sir Robert the next day on the Isle of Kiloran, one of the Hebrides islands off the coast of Scotland.  Joan’s father is surprised and does comment that Sir Robert is the same age as himself, but that doesn’t seem to bother Joan.  Before she departs for the train station and her train to Scotland, she reminds her dad not to worry because she knows where she is going!

Joan telling her dad her plans to marry Sir Robert.

Joan telling her dad her plans to marry Sir Robert.

Next is a montage of dreams Joan has about her marriage to Consolidated Chemical Industries, interspersed with strange scenes of traveling to Scotland by train.  After Joan has traveled as far as she can travel in Scotland by train, she transfers to a bus and on that crowded bus she notices a handsome Naval Officer, Torquil MacNeil(Roger Livesey).   Joan and Officer MacNeil both exit the bus near the dock area of the village of Mull.  Joan asks a nearby boat captain if she can get a ride to Kiloran which one can see out in the distance from Mull’s docks.  The captain, Ruairidh Mhor(played by Finlay Curie), tells Joan that the weather is too fierce and no boats will be traveling to Kiloran until the next day, if the weather is better.  Joan is disappointed at this hindrance in her journey to the altar, and she reluctantly agrees to Officer MacNeil’s plan: that they stay overnight at his good friend Catriona’s(played by Pamela Brown) home.  At Catriona’s home, Joan is introduced to Colonel Barnstaple(C.W.R. Knight) a friend of Catriona’s, who is also staying at her home.  As Catriona and the Colonel fix dinner, Joan is delighted to notice a map of Kiloran on the wall and Officer MacNeil is able to tell Joan a lot of information about the island.  Later that night, as Joan is turning in, she has a short encounter with Officer MacNeil, who congratulates her on her upcoming wedding when she tells him about it, and he reminds Joan to count the beams on her ceiling and then pray a prayer so her wish can come true.  Joan prays for good weather so she can sail to Kiloran in the morning.  In the morning, as fast as she can, Joan readies herself for a trip to the docks and finds out that despite a sunny day, the gales are too strong for any boats to go out.  With Officer MacNeil’s help, they make arrangements to stay at a local hotel and decide to walk to the nearest coastal radio station  so Joan can place a call to Kiloran and talk to Sir Robert.  On the walk to the radio site, Joan and Officer MacNeil pass Moy Castle.  Joan has been reading up on the Hebrides and the area around them and knows that there is a curse on Moy Castle, a curse for the Lairds of Kiloran.  (Laird is Scottish for Lord and bestowed on the landowners of the Isle of Kiloran.)  Joan is eager to explore the castle, but Officer MacNeil refuses to go inside.  After Joan has explored Moy Castle, she emerges and begins to tease Officer MacNeil for being “chicken” and not wanting to explore and it is then that Officer MacNeil reveals that he is the current Laird of Kiloran and that despite what Joan may think, he has a healthy respect for this curse and he won’t step foot into that castle!

Joan praying for good weather.

Joan praying for good weather.

Studying the map of Kiloran.

Studying the map of Kiloran.

As the weather continues to misbehave, Joan and Officer MacNeil keep getting thrown together: she is invited to a tea held by some distant friends in the area and guess who is also a guest?  Officer MacNeil.  The Laird  is  invited to attend the 60th Wedding Anniversary of a local couple, Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, and he invites Joan to attend with him.  We can tell that Officer MacNeil is growing fond of Joan, but being that she is engaged to another man, he doesn’t want to do anything to disrupt that part of Joan’s life.  At the anniversary party, a certain song is played, “The Nut-Brown Maid “.  Officer MacNeil explains the song to Joan, as it is one of his favorites, and when he gets to the lyric that the Nut-Brown Maid is the maid for him, he gives Joan such an intense look that she realizes that the Laird has fallen in love with her.  It is at this point that a son of the Campbell’s(John Laurie) thanks the Laird for coming and encourages him and his guest to dance, which Joan reluctantly agrees to.  After the party is over, Joan practically runs to her hotel room to not to  have to be near Officer MacNeil.  Joan realizes that she has a growing attraction and interest in Officer MacNeil, but this will destroy her plan of marrying Sir Robert.  What  a dilemma she finds herself in!

Love has struck!

Love has struck!

In her desperation to be on Kiloran and get her marriage to wealthy Sir Robert over with, Joan sneakily asks a younger sailor, Kenny(Murdo Morrison) to take her  and that she will pay him handsomely and then he will have the funds to marry his sweetheart, Bridie(Margot Fitzsimmons).    Kenny agrees but right before he and Joan can take off in the motorboat, Officer MacNeil jumps aboard.  He has found out Joan’s hairbrained plan, as the weather is really bad, and he scolds her for using her access to money to bribe Kenny into taking her.  Joan informs him quite angrily that she doesn’t care, she has to get to Kiloran and that causes Officer MacNeil to insist on motoring the boat.  The trip proves treacherous, the waves are high, a storm is upon them, and the engine gets flooded.  Added to this danger is the fact that they are being drawn ever closer to the Corryvreckan whirlpool which could mean death for all three of them.  Officer MacNeil manages to get the motorboat engine repaired in the nick of time and they sail back to the docks of Mull.  Joan stomps off to her hotel room, refusing to speak to Officer MacNeil.

The dangerous boat trip to Kiloran.

The dangerous boat trip to Kiloran.

The next day dawns with sunny skies, low breezes, and the bay very calm.  This is it, the day to sail to Kiloran and finally marry Sir Robert.  Joan is preparing to walk to the docks, her luggage has already been put onto the boat.  She meets Officer MacNeil one last time outdoors, on the path that leads to the docks.  He graciously wishes her well in her future life, and she thanks him.  Then Joan asks Officer MacNeil for one favor before she departs.  He asks what is it and she asks him to kiss her.  He gives her quite a kiss, and then she tells him good-bye.  Officer MacNeil is off on his walk and happens to pass by Moy Castle.  He decides that to be afraid of a centuries old curse is silly and he decides to explore the castle.  As we see him in the castle, a voice of a woman intones the curse of the Lairds of Kiloran.  Due to a long ago Laird catching his wife in an adulterous affair with another man, he had the wife and her lover bound together with chains and placed in the water-filled dungeon of the castle with only a stone for them to stand upon when the tide would rise.  Eventually, their strength waning, the lovers fell into the water and drowned.  The Laird and all of the male Laird descendants were cursed by the wife right before her death, that if a Laird walked into Moy Castle, he would be chained to a woman for the rest of his days.   When Officer MacNeil gets to the battlements of the castle, he hears bagpipers in the distance and then sees them approaching.  They are playing his favorite song, ” The Nut-Brown Maid” and marching right behind them is Joan!  She waves to him and runs to the castle and he rushes down to the entrance to greet her with an embrace.  Such a happy ending!

Various scenes from the movie.

Various scenes from the movie.

The Laird exploring the castle and ignoring the curse.

The Laird exploring the castle and ignoring the curse.

I happened to stumble upon this film 5 years ago when it aired on Turner Classic Movies.  It left me in awe, not only the beautiful cinematographer’s shots of Scotland, but the strong plot, the  wonderful acting, it all  left me wondering why can’t Hollywood make as many good movies like this one anymore?  Even famed American director Martin Scorsese has  declared this film one of his favorites!   I Know Where I’m Going! was written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the creative British movie magic makers at The Archers, their production company.  The movie was a large box office hit in Great Britain.   It is available to rent via Netflix, via Amazon’s instant rent it section or for purchase, and it does appear on Turner Classic Movies from time to time, and someone has put parts of it up on Youtube.  Don’t miss this wonderful romance film!  It is a movie that I don’t mind watching over and over again.  Cover for IKWIG

Why the acclaim for Jesse James?

Having lived in Missouri for now 20 years,  I have always been puzzled as to why  the state would be proud of an outlaw.  Missouri rightly shows pride for author Samuel Clemens, who wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn under his pen name of Mark Twain.  President Harry S. Truman is also a famous, native son.  Why  Jesse James made it onto this list of renown when what he did was rob banks, trains, and kill people, I just don’t understand.    With some of my spare time this weekend, I decided to read up on Mr. James and see if I could glean any insight into him, his life,  and possibly any reasons as to why he was so revered by some Missourians.

Jesse’s parents, Rev. Robert S. James and Zerelda Cole James, were natives of Kentucky and moved to Missouri.  Rev. James was a successful farmer near Kearney, Missouri and even helped found William Jewell College, which is still a college in Liberty, Missouri.  Jesse had an older brother, Alexander Frank James, and a younger sister, Susan Lavenia James.  When Jesse was 3 years old, his father had gone to California to minister to the gold rush miners, caught cholera and died.  Zerelda, remarried a year later to a Mr. Benjamin Simms,  and by all accounts, this second marriage wasn’t a good one, as the stepfather treated Frank and Jesse cruelly.  It got to the point that Zerelda packed up herself and her three children and left this second husband.  Before she could file for a legal separation or even a divorce, Mr. Simms was killed in a freak accident with a horse.  A few more years went by and Zerelda again married, this time to a Dr. Reuben Samuel.  This third marriage was successful, and 4 more children were added to the family, half-siblings to Jesse.  As I read about this tumultous family life, I couldn’t help but wonder if losing his real father at such an early age, and not having him for guidance in those formative years probably had a negative impact on the development of Jesse’s person.  Suffering from a cruel stepfather couldn’t have helped a child’s development.   It seems that  some peace must have come to the family at last with Dr. Reuben Samuel entering  their lives.

The Civil War erupted and Missouri, being a border state, had both pro-slavery and anti-slavery citizens, pro-union and pro-states rights citizens.  The James family were slave owners, and Frank, being old enough, joined the Confederate Army.  Jesse was too young to serve as a soldier, so he stayed on the farm, helping his parents with the farming tasks.   After Frank was taken ill after the battle of Wilson’s Creek, near present day Springfield, Missouri, Frank returned to the family farm.  Frank then  joined up with a guerilla group, known as bushwhackers, who would attack union soldiers and farmers supporting the Union’s cause.  One day, a Union milita company came to the James-Samuel  farm, and demanded to know of Frank’s whereabouts.  As the family either didn’t know or refused to answer, Dr. Samuel was hung, Zerelda was beaten, and so was Jesse.  When the militia company left, Dr. Samuel was cut down and revived, but the starving of oxygen to his brain left him in bad health.  This hostile action led Jesse to join another guerilla group at the age of 15.  The group he joined was very violent and in September of 1864, they stopped a train traveling through Centralia, Missouri and ordered the 22 unarmed Union soldiers off of it, lined them up, and shot them all dead.  The other passengers on the train were robbed.  One can only imagine the hatred Jesse  felt towards the Union army and the revenge he wanted to drive down upon them.  Seeing violent acts done to other human beings must have only further deadened Jesse’s soul to these bloodthirsty acts.

After the war, Frank and Jesse teamed up to rob banks,  and trains in various states with a gang of other outlaws helping them.  Eventually, a life of being on the run( by this time Jesse had a wife and two children), was getting to Jesse.  Many of the original gang members were either dead or serving time in state prisons.  Only Frank, and Jesse were left and two other, newer members, Charlie and Bob Ford.  The governor of Missouri, Thomas Crittenden had offered a reward of $5000 for the capture of Frank and Jesse James, dead or alive.  With this information, Bob Ford went to see the governor and offered to be the one able to bring down Jesse James.  On the morning of April 3, 1882 as the gang of 4 was getting ready for another bank robbery, Jesse noticed a picture hanging on the wall of his house that  he thought  was dusty and decided to climb up on a chair and clean it.  Bob Ford took this moment to shoot Jesse in the back of the head, and killed him.  Ford eventually received a full pardon from the governor and the reward money.  He was eventually shot dead  himself in Colorado in 1892.

Near the end of his life, Jesse had grown increasingly edgy, nervous, always worried about being caught, turned in, or murdered.  His death made me think of the phrase, “there is no honor among thieves”.  Yet why was his image turned into that of almost a hero?  In my weekend readings, I stumbled upon a website called “Stray Leaves”, a site for James family relatives.  The James family, many of them from Kentucky, can all trace a similar lineage back to their Scotch-Irish roots.  On the site are  articles by a historian, Mr. Phil Steele, and his research on Jesse James.  Many myths abound, including one that the James gang hid out in many of the state’s caves.  Frank James, who lived until 1915, told a St. Louis newspaper reporter in a 1902 interview that  the gang never hid out in caves as they didn’t want to get trapped where there wasn’t a back door!  Take note of that Meramac Caverns, as they claim the James gang hid out in their cave!   After Jesse’s death, dime novels began to be written exploiting the James gang, especially putting Jesse on a pedestal, making him out to be an American version of Robin Hood.   As time has gone on, Hollywood has done it’s part, making many  Jesse James movies.  One I haven’t seen was made in 1939 and  it  starred Tyrone Power as Jesse and Henry Fonda as Frank.  It must have done well as the next year there was a sequel, all about Frank, again played by Henry Fonda.  For a movie that is probably a truer picture of Jesse, Frank, and their gang, one should watch the film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.  It has a long title, but a strong cast, headed by Brad Pitt(who looked more like Jesse James than Tyrone Power ever could!),  Casey Affleck as Bob Ford, and Sam Shephard as Frank.

After all of my reading this weekend on Jesse James, I found myself feeling sort of sorry for him; the sorrows in his childhood, the horrors of Civil War and guerilla warfare, and it made me also think about choices one makes.  Choices can be good or bad, but the bad ones always  have nasty consequences, and ultimately, Jesse James paid the price for his string of bad choices.  Fortunately, from the Stray Leaves website, I did learn that Jesse’s son, Jesse E. James Jr., did become a lawyer, and  even had Governor Crittenden, who had  put forth the reward  on Jesse James, took Jesse Jr. under his wing for guidance and encouragement in  getting that law degree.  Jesse Jr. did marry and raise 4 daughters, some who married and had children and some who didn’t.  I couldn’t find as much  information on Jesse James’s daughter, Mary, but she did marry and her last name changed to Barr, and she did have at least one child, a son.   I do think that despite the dreadful choices of their father, Jesse’s two children did go on to lead productive lives and tried to instill that in their own children.   For an interesting page on Jesse James, Frank James, and the gang, visit the Stray Leaves website, and read the articles written by Mr. Phil Steele.

Jesse James

Jesse James

Brad Pitt as Jesse James

Brad Pitt as Jesse James

Tyrone Power as Jesse James

Tyrone Power as Jesse James

My Classic Movie Pick: Mr. Lucky

I was discussing classic films with a friend this week and we both agreed, any movie that stars Cary Grant is an automatic favorite film and a  must-see.  That bit of discussion set my brain to thinking about Cary Grant films  and I  decided that  I should write about  one of his more obscure films, but one  that is still a good movie to view.  Plus it features  the hobby of knitting!  Yes, Cary has to learn to knit in this film!  It is 1943’s Mr. Lucky, produced by RKO studios and directed by H.C. Potter.  It was bought by RKO from Milton Holmes’s story, “Bundles for Freedom” and he,  along with Adrian Scott, wrote the screenplay.  Grant’s co-stars in the film are Laraine Day, Charles Bickford, Gladys Cooper, Alan Carney, Paul Stewart, Kay Johnson, and Florence Bates.Mr. Lucky

This comedy-romance-drama, is set in New York City as World War II is raging.    Grant plays Joe “The Greek” Adams, a gambler with a couple of problems.  He and his gambling partner, Zepp(Paul Stewart),  have received draft notices and neither of them wants to serve.  They have to come up with a plan to get out of the draft.  One of their gambling employees, Joe Bascopolous, has died and his draft  status was 4F.  Either Joe or Zepp can use Bascopolous’s identity so they decide to gamble for it.  Zepp cheats but Joe wins and decides to now go by the name of Joe Bascopolous.  The second problem for Joe is the lack of money to pay for his gambling ship.  He wants to raise enough dough to take his ship down to Cuba.  How will Joe find that bankroll of dough?

Joe(Grant) and Zepp(Paul Stewart) discussing their two problems.

Joe(Grant) and Zepp(Paul Stewart) discussing their two problems.

He finds it through a local War Relief organization, run by society ladies, and the head lady is Veronica Steadman, played by Gladys Cooper.   Joe has to gain Mrs. Steadman’s trust, the trust of the other ladies at the organization, and the trust of wealthy society lady Dorothy Bryant, played by Laraine Day.  Miss Bryant is beautiful, single, rich, and second-in-command at the War Relief organization, and Joe knows he has to have a positive influence on her if he is to gain Mrs. Steadman’s approval and money.  To prove his trustworthiness, after he has pledged that he wants to join the group of ladies, he agrees to learn to knit!  One of the daily tasks for the ladies  is to knit socks and scarves for the soldiers overseas, and it is a very comical scene as Mrs. Van Every(Florence Bates) takes on the task with joy and energy of teaching Joe how to knit one and purl two!  Seeing a handsome man in their midst is also quite an event for the ladies of the organization!

It's a delight to find out that Cary Grant has joined your group!

It’s a delight to find out that Cary Grant has joined your group!

Mrs. Van Every(Florence Bates) who gets to teach Cary Grant how to knit!

Mrs. Van Every(Florence Bates) who gets to teach Cary Grant how to knit!

Learning to knit can be frustrating!

Learning to knit can be frustrating!

Mrs. Veronica Steadman(Gladys Cooper), head of the War Relief organization

Mrs. Veronica Steadman(Gladys Cooper), head of the War Relief organization

With all of the knitting going on, and Joe’s punctuality and  his well-dressed and polite persona, he  wins  Mrs. Steadman and Miss Bryant over and soon they agree to a fundraising idea he has for the organization: a charity gambling night.  Joe promises the ladies that they’ll raise enough money to outfit a relief ship.  What Joe is really planning to do is supply the charity gambling event with cashboxes with false bottoms in them so Joe and his gambling outfit can steal the winnings and with that money, he can take his gang and his ship south to Cuba.  However, a letter Joe receives that morning changes everything.  Joe  receives a letter from the real Joe Bascopolous’s mother in Greece.  The letter is written in Greek and Joe is curious about it’s contents so he visits a nearby Greek Orthodox Church and asks the priest there to translate it for him.  The letter informs Joe that the Nazis overran their village and how all of the Greek men died trying to protect their village.  Joe thanks the priest for translating the letter and then heads to the nearest park bench, to sit and think about his life, in comparison to the brave Greek men’s lives.

When Joe arrives at the War Relief organization for the start of the Charity Casino Night, he tells his co-hort, Crunk,(Alan Carney), that he has decided to put all of the winnings towards the ladies’ goal for  war relief.  Zepp overhears this change in plans and decides to stop this from happening.  At the end of the evening, Zepp pulls a gun on Joe and forces him to gather up the winnings.  Dorothy accidentally enters the room and sees Joe collecting the money and assumes the worst about Joe, that he is really just a no-good gambler and crook.  To protect Dorothy so she can’t be one of Zepp’s victims, Joe knocks her out,and  then Joe manages to attack Zepp and kills him in self-defense, but also gets shot in the altarcation.  Joe then  escapes from the War Relief organization’s building.

Some days go by and  Dorothy is feeling very low and stupid for having fallen for Joe and his offer to help the War Relief organization.   One day a man arrives at the War Relief’s building.  He introduces himself as Mr. Hard Swede, that he is a friend of Joe’s, and that Joe wanted him to give the ladies a packet.  In the packet is the money that the ladies rightly earned through their Charity Casino night!  Some more days go by and Dorothy is informed that Joe Bascopolous is dead.  She asks to see a picture of Joe and it isn’t the Joe that she fell in love with.  She learns that Bascopolous worked on a ship called the “Briny Marlin” and remembering some Australian slang phrases Joe had taught her one evening, she rushes to the docks, knowing that the ship and her Joe are probably there.   Dorothy reaches the dock and sees the ship and Joe and begs him to take her with him.  Joe has loaded his ship with war relief supplies and informs Dorothy that he is sailing to Europe and it will be too dangerous to take her with him.  He treats her rudely, as he doesn’t want her to know his real feelings for her.  A few weeks later, Dorothy finds out that the Briny Marlin was torpedoed on its return to New York City and sunk.  Despite this awful news, Dorothy is confident that Joe somehow survived  and she visits the dock each night waiting for his return.

The movie has a happy ending and I don’t want to reveal more to ruin it for the viewer.  Suffice it to say that the movie was a huge hit with the audiences of 1943 and it earned a profit of $1, 603,000 at the box office.  If you are a Cary Grant fan, or if you love knitting, if you want a film that has a bit of a deeper message than a typical romance-comedy, than seek out Mr. Lucky.  The movie is available through Amazon.com, clips of it are on Youtube, and Turner Classic Movies will be airing it this weekend, on March 30th, at 10:30 p.m. CST.

Cary and Laraine

Trying to work his charm on Miss Bryant(Laraine Day).

Trying to work his charm on Miss Bryant(Laraine Day).

Books that I Remember

I have always loved to read.  I can recall sunny, summery days when my brother wanted me to come outside with him and play but I didn’t want to because I had my nose in a book.  Oh how mad he would get at me, complaining loudly that I had already read that book!  Sometimes that was true, I would re-read a book, especially if it had made an impression on me.  With my own seven children, ranging in age now  from 21 down to 10, whether they were under my homeschooling tutelage or at public high school, I have read to them and  encouraged  them to read on their own.  Visiting the library was, and often still is,  a weekly family outing.  Some of my children do read, some only if they have to, but I have tried to share with them the books that meant a lot to me when I always had my nose in a book.    I decided to take a trip down memory lane  and recall some of those books that  I enjoyed in my younger days, and perhaps they will form a reading list for an enterprising parent or grandparent.

The first book I remember reading all by myself was Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  I adored the pictures that the talented Miss Potter had drawn for the book.  I remember stumbling over MacGregor and sieve, but eventually figuring them out.  That was a proud moment for me.

A second book that I remember enjoying was The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne.  The bedtime tales invented by Mr. Milne for his only child, Christopher Robin, were funny and full of interesting animal characters.  I really enjoyed getting to know the different personality quirks of Owl, Eeyore, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Piglet, and of course, Winnie the Pooh.

The third book, and one I was guilty of re-reading was Charlotte’s Web.  I don’t like spiders at all, I realize they do a great service to mankind, and this book helped to illustrate what a true friendship could really be like.  Once, after reading E.B. White’s classic, I went on an anti-pork project and didn’t eat bacon or ham for a bit.

The Little House books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I have read and re-read these also.  I remember receiving the boxed set one Christmas from my Uncle and Aunt, who live in that metropolis of Chicago.  I was unfamiliar with the books, but my Aunt, who loves books, had enjoyed these when she was a girl and so the choice was made to give me a set as a gift.  What a wonderful gift too!  I really immersed myself in the saga of the Ingalls and Wilder families, in their journeys as pioneers across the Great Plains until they ultimately settled in De Smet, South Dakota.  The television show based upon the books soon hit the airwaves after I received my book set, and I was a regular watcher of the show, but it often bugged me how the tv episodes didn’t exactly follow what happened in the books.   I made it a point 9 summers ago that since we lived in Missouri,  our family would travel from St. Louis to Mansfield, where Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband Almanzo farmed, grew apples, and where the Little House books were written.  There is a very nice museum there, and one can see belongings and pictures of the Ingalls and Wilder families.  One can also walk through Laura and Almanzo’s home.   In fact, since our 10 year old was only a baby when we went, I think it is time  to re-visit!

Nancy Drew mysteries were also read voraciously by me.   I think I was in 5th grade when I noticed other girls at school reading those books, an entire set had been either donated or purchased by our school’s  library.  I tried to read them in order, but that was impossible as they were constantly being checked out so I had to read them as I could grab one!  My Chicago relatives came through again with a nice set of the books for me that Christmas, too.  I enjoyed Nancy’s smarts, the fact that she was always so fashionably dressed, had a blue convertible, loyal friends, and always helped capture the evil doers at the end of each book, foiling their plans to steal jewels or swindle some elderly person of their money.

Other books that I delighted in were: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson, Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright, The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, both by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Little Women and Little Men and Jo’s Boys, all by Louisa May Alcott, Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight, and many of Beverly Cleary’s books: Ramona and Beezus and Ellen Tebbits.

Reading is such a wonderful hobby to have.  Books can take one to far away places, to  past times in history, to  allow one to walk around in someone else’s shoes and experience their life with them.   As our pediatrician told my 19 year old daughter when she was 5, “Reading makes your brain smart!”   So by all means, grab a book, a favorite spot to sit, and read to your children, your grandchildren,  and read for your own betterment!

The Tale of Peter RabbitThe House at Pooh CornerCharlotte's WebNancy Drew

My Classic Movie Pick: The Quiet Man

Since it will soon be St. Patrick’s Day, I thought my classic film should in some way highlight Ireland, and my pick does just that, 1952’s Republic Pictures  technicolor classic, The Quiet Man.   The first time I saw  The Quiet Man  was when  my late father-in-law rented it.   I was in high school at the time and it was a Saturday afternoon which I was spending  at my future husband’s family home.  His dad loved movies and knew a lot about actors, actresses, good plots, good directors, and he assured me and his son that this was a wonderful movie.  The Quiet Man stars John Wayne, but it isn’t Wayne in a  Western or a War picture.  The Quiet Man is really  a simple tale, about an ex-boxer from Pittsburgh, PA wanting to go back to the land of his ancestors and put down some roots in order to live a more quiet existence.

A gorgeous view of Ireland!

A gorgeous scene  of Ireland.

Wayne's character, Sean Thornton, arriving at the depot nearest his parents' birthplace.

Wayne’s character, Sean Thornton, arriving at the depot nearest his parents’ birthplace.

Michaeleen (Barry Fitzgerald) giving Thornton a ride to Innisfree.

Michaeleen (Barry Fitzgerald) giving Thornton a ride to Innisfree.

Sean Thornton( John Wayne) arrives at the nearest train depot just a few miles away from the town of Innisfree, birthplace of his parents, grandparents, and various other ancestors.  He wants to buy the family’s ancestral home, a quaint cottage on a good piece of land, known as “White-o-Morn”.  After some confusing directions given to him by the  locals, Michaeleen Oge Flynn ( Barry Fitzgerald) pulls up in his cart, hops on over to Thornton, and tells him that he can drive him to Innisfree.  Thornton gladly accepts and soon he and Flynn have become fast friends, and Flynn remembers Thornton’s family before his parents sailed away to America.  As soon as Flynn gets Thornton to Innisfree, Thornton wants to get out of the cart and stretch his legs and to have a smoke.   As he is gazing around at the countryside, he sees a flock of sheep with the most beautiful shepherdess attending  them.  It is love at first sight for Thornton.

Mary Kate Danagher, love interest for Sean Thornton, played by Maureen O'Hara.

Mary Kate Danagher, love interest for Sean Thornton, played by Maureen O’Hara.

Thornton soon has a couple of problems on his hands in this new community.  One, he has outbid the Squire “Red” Will Danagher in buying the family homestead.  The Squire,( played by Victor McLaglen), is a bully and has a bad temper, especially at a “Yank” who would dare to buy land that is adjacent to his spread of property.  Second, Thornton has unknowingly fallen in love with Mary Kate Danagher, the Squire’s sister.  The Squire is outraged that the “Yank” wants to marry his sister and forbids the courtship to begin.   It is at this point that some minor characters in the film come up with a trick to play on the Squire, in hopes of convincing him to let Thornton court his sister.  The minor characters are the priest, Father Lonergan(Ward Bond), Rev. Playfair(Arthur Shields), and Mrs. Playfair(Eileen Crowe).  The trio knows that the Squire is actually in love with the widow Tillane(Mildred Natwick), so they play on his fear of never marrying the kind widow.   They tell the Squire that what woman would want to be his wife when a woman already lives in his home cooking and cleaning and overseeing things, that woman being his sister Mary Kate.  At the annual horse race, they further trick the Squire into thinking that since he forbid Thornton from courting his sister that the “Yank” was now interested in courting the widow!  Soon the Squire gives his permission for the “Yank” to court his sister.

The Squire (Victor McLaglen) letting the courting of his sister begin.

The Squire (Victor McLaglen) letting the courting of his sister begin.

Squire "Red" Will Danagher (Victor MacLaglen)

Squire “Red” Will Danagher (Victor McLaglen)

Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick)

Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick)

Reverend Playfair(Arthur Shields).

Reverend Playfair(Arthur Shields)

Father Lonargen (Ward Bond)

Father Lonergan (Ward Bond)

The wedding happens and at the reception, the Squire decides to propose to the Widow Tillane in front of all the gathered guests.  The widow is embarrassed and shocked that the Squire would do such a thing and she turns him down.   That sets the Squire’s temper blazing.  He finds out that he was tricked into letting his sister be courted by Father Lonergen and Reverand and Mrs. Playfair.   In his anger he denies Mary Kate her dowry, which includes lovely furnishings, fine china, a piano, and money; items  which she was planning on bringing with her into the marriage.  Thornton tries to explain to Mary Kate that he loves her and doesn’t care about that other stuff, but she does, so much so, that she gets into a fierce argument at the couple’s new home and explains that she’ll cook and clean but not be a real wife for Thornton until she has all her things about her in her own home.  She also accuses her new husband of being a coward for not getting into a physical fight with her brother over her dowry.   Thornton doesn’t want to fight anyone physically anymore, and the Reverend Playfair, a boxing fan, knows the reason why Thornton is so reluctant to fight, and it is also the reason why Thornton has left America.  In his last match under his fight name, “Trooper Thorn”, he accidentally killed his opponent.  From that moment on, Thornton retired from boxing and vowed to not fight anymore.

Soon after the sad wedding reception has passed, folks in Innisfree who like the “Yank” convince the Squire to let Mary Kate have her things about her, and all but the money is brought to the newlyweds’ cottage.  Mary Kate is happy, and after confessing  to Father Lonargen how she has been treating her husband, Mary Kate allows herself to truly be Thornton’s wife, but soon she  is nagging her husband again to confront her brother about the money he has withheld from her.  Thornton refuses, and the next morning before Thornton has risen, Mary Kate has packed a bag and run off to the train station, as she is too embarrassed by his inaction to get her money for her from her brother.  Thornton awakes, realizes where she has probably gone to, and makes his way to the train depot.  The townsfolk of Innisfree see the “Yank” storming off to the depot and decide to follow him.  He finds his wife,  drags her off the train, and forces her to walk the 5 miles back to Innisfree and to her brother’s home.  Thornton then confronts the Squire and demands that he give them Mary Kate’s money.  The Squire refuses and Thornton then tells him to take back his sister.  The Squire relents and hands over Mary Kate’s money and together she and Thornton throw it into the fire.  Mary Kate really didn’t care about the money.  She wanted  to know that  her husband would stand up for her, that he truly loved her.   As the townsfolk watch, the Squire and the “Yank” have a brawl,  punching each other all over the countryside and town.  They manage to visit a pub, have a drink, and then brawl some more.  The end result is that all negative feelings the Squire had for the “Yank” are now gone and they call a truce, to try and be friends.    The film ends with the Squire and the widow beginning their courtship, and Mary Kate and Thornton happy in their love for one another.

The Quiet Man is a fun film to watch.  It  contains elements of drama, comedy, and romance.  The viewer really cares about what is going to happen to the characters.  The movie is beautiful to look at and most of the outdoor scenes were shot  on location in Ireland.  The technicolor shows the countryside to it’s full advantage.  The acting  is excellent, from the stars to the supporting character actors.  The Quiet Man was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor-Victor McLaglen, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It did win the Academy Award for Best Director-John Ford, and Best Cinematography-Winton C. Hotch, and Archie Stout.

The Quiet Man is available at Amazon, it can be requested through Netflix, and on Sunday, March 17th at 8:30 p.m., CST, it will air on Turner Classic Movies.  TQMJohn Wayne and Maureen O'Hara

              Movie poster 1                   

A movie poster for The Quiet Man in Spanish.

A movie poster for The Quiet Man in Spanish.

          

I’ve been Summoned!

Last Friday afternoon I went to the mailbox to retrieve the day’s mail.  There was a large envelope with my name on it, sent by a Phelps County official.  I was curious about this piece of mail so I opened it immediately.  When I saw the word “juror” printed  on the letter, I was surprised and also felt a bit of trepidation.  I had been summoned to appear for jury duty.

I have never been summoned for jury duty before.  The letter had an accompanying question and answer form which I filled out later that evening.  One question asked if I was related to a law enforcement agent.  I am, but he is retired, and doesn’t live in Missouri.  I wondered if the answer I gave to that one question would strike me off of a lawyer’s juror list?  The letter stated that I would be considered for  serving on a petit jury.  I didn’t know what that term meant so I did some research.  Petit juries are the ones we think of thanks to many television shows and movies.  It’s the jury made up of 12 citizens having to reach an unaimous decision as  to someone’s innocence or guilt. The letter also reminded me to dress appropriately for my day at the courthouse: no jeans, no t-shirts with any words on them.  That reminder sort of made me chuckle, but then I recalled  what some Americans wear when out in public and  I decided that that reminder was needed in the letter.

If I am picked to serve, it is for a several month span of time, and one of those weeks has already been set and planned for a family vacation.  The condo is already reserved!  I really hope that I won’t be summoned for that week.  I don’t have any medical conditions that would keep me from serving.  I do home school our three youngest children and I don’t know if that would excuse me from serving  or not.  Since I am a stay at home mom, there is no job that I would need to be excused for.

Visions of courtroom dramas from  the entertainment world keep filling my imagination.  Will it be a case that leads to a jury arguing with one another like in 12 Angry Men?

12-angry-men-1

Will it be a case with an outstanding attorney summing up the case, like Atticus Finch did in To Kill a Mockingbird? Atticus Finch

Will there be an angry outburst from one of the witnesses on the stand mirroring Jack Nicholson’s famous rant, “You can’t handle the truth!”, from A Few Good Men?You Can't Handle the Truth!

Actually, I am hoping that if I do get selected for a petit jury, that it will be a simple traffic case and not a disturbing criminal case.  Some well meaning friends have shared with me court cases where they almost were selected or a loved one was on the jury and the weight of the responsibility sat heavily on the juror they knew.  One friend was selected for a jury case that would have been devastating to sit through and fortunately the perpetrator decided to plead guilty and the trial was dismissed, my friend not needed to be on that jury at all.

I have decided that the day that I spend at the courthouse should be looked at as an educational experience.  It will be interesting to me, to see how the wheels of justice work, to be able to be a part of that process, to fulfill my civic duty.  I also plan on visiting the library and having a good book to read.  That should help immensely!   Lady reading a book

         

My Classic Movie Pick: A Letter to Three Wives

Cover of "A Letter to Three Wives"

Cover of A Letter to Three Wives

Want to view a  great romance-drama  that keeps one guessing at what the outcome will be  until the end?    20th Century Fox’s 1949  film A Letter to Three Wives is that movie!  It was based upon a novel, A Letter to Five Wives, that appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1946, written by John Klempner.    Fox bought the rights to that novel  and Joseph Mankiewicz  wrote the screenplay and cut down the number of wives facing a dilemma in the movie from 5 to 3.   Mankiewicz also directed the film, for which he won Best Director at the Academy Awards.  The movie also won  Best Writing, Screenplay, and it was a nominee for Best Picture.

The three wives are Deborah Bishop(Jeanne Crain-the reddish-haired actress on the film poster), Rita Phipps(Ann Sothern-the blonde), and Lora Mae Hollingsway(Linda Darnell-the brunette.)  The movie opens as the three friends have arrived at a local boating launch by the river as the charity group these three ladies volunteer  for is taking a group of poor children on a river boat ride and picnic.  The three ladies are friends and are awaiting their fourth friend, Addie Ross, to appear as she  also volunteered  for the outing.  Addie doesn’t appear( and in the film she never does, but her voice is in the film and it is supplied by Celeste Holm, doing an excellent job of taunting her three friends with her words.)   A letter is delivered to the three friends at the river’s edge and the letter is from Addie.  She has written  to inform her friends  that she has run off with one of their husbands!  Her letter doesn’t reveal who’s husband she has managed to snag and it is at this point that the movie goes into a flashback, explaining how the three marriages became troubled.

First we see  Deborah’s marriage.  Deborah grew up on a farm.  Her first real contact with the outside world was through her experience as a WAVE in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  There she met her husband Brad,(played by Jeffrey Lynn.)  Brad is from an upper-middle class family and after their wedding, Deborah is uneasy trying to adapt to her husband’s upper crust social circle of friends.  Adding to Deborah’s unease is the fact that all of Brad’s friends expected him to marry Addie Ross!Jeanne and Jeffrey Lynn

Second in line of troubled marriages is Rita’s.  She is not only a wife and mother, but  she has a career,  writing stories for radio soap operas.  Her husband, George,(a young Kirk Douglas in an early movie role), is a school teacher and it doesn’t sit well with him that his wife earns more money than he does.  He is also frustrated with Rita as she has a very demanding boss who Rita can’t seem to ever say no to.   Rita also remembers that she forgot her husband’s birthday due to a dinner party she had to throw for her boss, and the only reminder for Rita came in the form of a lovely present for George from, guess who?  Addie Ross!Ann and Kirk Douglas

The third marriage in peril belongs to Lora Mae.  She grew  up poor, right next to the proverbial railroad tracks.  She manages to get a job as a secretary working for  one of the wealthiest men in town who owns a statewide  chain of department stores.  He is older than Lora Mae, and is divorced.   Mr. Porter,(played by Paul Douglas), falls for Lora Mae and she does become wife #2 for him.   Lora Mae remembers that after one of her and Porter’s dates, she saw a picture of Addie Ross on his piano and she demanded it be removed, that she wanted her picture on Porter’s piano.Linda and Paul Douglas

There is a dance at the Country Club  later in the evening where all three couples are scheduled to meet for  dinner,  and it is there that the reveal is made.  I won’t make that reveal, of course, as I want my readers to seek out this film.   A Letter to Three Wives is shown on Turner Classic Movies from time to time and it is also available to rent through Netflix and Amazon’s  instant rent feature.  There is also a trailer for the movie on Youtube and a couple of scenes from the movie, too.  If you do watch the trailer, it is depicted as a comedy but as I have seen the movie, it is much more of a drama, leading the audience to wonder just who’s husband has Addie run away with?

A Letter to Three Wives is a great classic film, with gorgeous cinematography, an intelligent plot, excellent acting all throughout not only by the leads but also by the supporting actors and actresses, too.  Seek this movie out!

                                                                                                                     alettertothreewives_1949_lc_01_1200_072620110505 Lobby Card