Archive for June, 2013

My Classic Movie Pick: The Palm Beach Story

Today, my blog  is for the Funny Lady Blogathon, hosted by Movies,Silently which is a wonderful blog that I enjoy reading and it’s helped me learn a lot about the  silent films era.  If you visit that site,  you will  find  links to other bloggers’ works featuring funny ladies in the movies.

I decided to focus my blog entry on actress Claudette Colbert and the  delightful turn that she gave  in the Preston Sturges written and directed screwball comedy, The Palm Beach Story.   The Palm Beach StoryFunny Lady Blogtathon

Sturges’s film opens with a prologue of sorts: we see a lot of fast action happening set to the tune of Giacomo Rossini’s The William Tell Overture(The Lone Ranger theme song)-Joel McCrea rushing around an apartment, taking off his suit and putting on a tux and being hustled out of the building to get into a waiting car that hurriedly drives him across NYC to a church.  This is all interspersed with Claudette Colbert locked in a closet, wrists  bound and mouth gagged, dressed in a slip and  high heels and then another Claudette dressed in a wedding gown!  A maid sees one Claudette, shrieks and faints! The Claudette in the closet manages to kick her way through the door and get out, and the other has run down the aisle of the church and is marrying Joel.  We next see the years go by, 1937, 1938, 1939 and on until the present year, 1942.

After a rush, making it to the altar!

After a rush, making it to the altar!

Joel McCrea is Tom Jeffers, an inventor who hasn’t managed to make it big with any of his inventions yet.  Claudette Colbert is his wife, Geraldine, called Gerry for short.  She is tired of the bills not being paid and one morning  we find her running around their apartment  in her bathrobe looking for a place to hide as the landlord is going to be kicking them out and has a new couple coming to see the place.  Gerry decides to hide in the tub of the master bathroom, pulling the tub’s curtain around herself but she is found by the prospective new renter, The Wienie King!  The Wienie King(Robert Dudley), a funny, little bespectacled  man with lots of riches due to his popular hot dog business,  is impressed by Gerry’s good looks.   He pries into her financial troubles, tells her his opinion of her no-good husband, and then gives her enough money to pay off their debts and their rent.   The generosity of a rich, older man gets Gerry to think of how she could help her husband.  She’ll get Tom to divorce her, then she’ll find a rich, old man and get him to fall for her, give her money, and then she can give some of that money to Tom so he can get his latest invention, a suspended airport,  up and running!

The Wienie King talking to Gerry.

The Wienie King talking to Gerry.

It's The Wienie King!

It’s The Wienie King!

Gerry delightedly tells Tom about The Wienie King and the money but the news does nothing but make Tom grumpy and he gets even grumpier when Gerry tells him of her plan.  Tom loves Gerry and he refuses to listen to any talk of a divorce.  After an evening on the town Gerry has trouble with the zipper on her dress and asks Tom to help her unzip it, which leads to a major kiss and the safety of the marriage is ensured, or so we think!  In the morning as Tom is sleeping, Gerry has packed her suitcase and is trying to pin a “Goodbye Tom” note to the comforter and she accidentally stabs Tom!  He awakens and realizes what she is about to do and hilarity ensues as Tom stumbles and trips and falls down the stairs in his attempt to stop Gerry at the elevator of their apartment building.  Tom kept tripping on his pajama bottoms so we see him kick them off in disgust with an appropriately placed comforter wrapped around his person and then his running attempt to get to Gerry, but alas, he forgets to cover his backside and now we have a fainting neighbor lady in the hall and laughing elevator patrons!

Cover up your backside, Tom!

Cover up your backside, Tom!

As Gerry tries to hail a cab in front of the apartment building, Tom has caught up to her, wearing a ridiculous get up of mis-matched clothes.  Gerry refuses to listen to his pleas of staying with him, and in a tug of war on the suitcase, it opens up and spills Gerry’s clothes and toiletries everywhere.  In exasperation, Gerry asks the taxi driver(Frank Faylen) where is a good place to get a quick divorce and he replies that Palm Beach is the place to go and he adds that it is full of rich people.  Gerry successfully gets to the train station and now has to find a way to get a ticket to Palm Beach.  She decides to plant herself next to the ticket agent for the Palm Beach-bound train and look sort of sad.  Presently, the Ale and Quail Club arrive with their tickets and as they check in with the ticket agent, this group of rich, older men all notice Gerry and soon take a vote to buy her a ticket to Palm Beach!  Watching this part of the film reminded me of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a group of backwards  men, helping out a pretty lady.  William Demarest(Uncle Charlie from My Three Sons fame) is  the “Grumpy” character in the club who doesn’t like the way his fellow club members are all going soft around Gerry, and when they  serenade her to sleep, he has an unusual way to break up that party!

William Demarest knows how to stop a serenade!

William Demarest knows how to stop a serenade!

Serenading Gerry to sleep!

Serenading Gerry to sleep!

Due to the Ale and Quail Club’s antics, Gerry decides to hide out in another part of the train and get some sleep.  She unknowingly meets John D. Hackensacker III( Rudy Vallee), one of the richest men in the world-this character was an obvious zing at John D. Rockefeller on writer/director Sturges’s part.   John D. helps Gerry attempt to get into an upper berth and each time the efforts are fraught with mishaps and broken eyewear, but John D. is ever the gentleman and Gerry does get some sleep.  While she’s asleep, the train’s porters have decided to unhitch the Ale and Quail Club’s private car because of their antics and as the train continues for Palm Beach, Gerry’s clothes and purse are left behind in the private train car.  For breakfast, Gerry comes up with an amusing outfit made from the train’s towel sets-the phrase Pullman across her rump catches the eye of traveling businessmen!  John D. gallantly takes her on a shopping spree and at the store Gerry realizes who this nice fellow train traveler really is.

Broken eyeglasses can happen when boosting a lady into an upper berth!

Broken eyeglasses can happen when boosting a lady into an upper berth!

Gerry's creative outfit made from pj's and Pullman towels!

Gerry’s creative outfit made from pj’s and Pullman towels!

John D. offers to take Gerry to his family’s Palm Beach estate via his yacht, The Erl King.  As the yacht pulls up to dock, we see Tom with a bunch of roses in his hand, waiting to meet Gerry.  Tom had also run into The Wienie King who had stopped by the apartment to tell Gerry that they were going to be neighbors and upon meeting Tom, The Wienie King scolds Tom for losing Gerry, and gives him money to get to Palm Beach and to get Gerry back.  En route by plane, Tom finds out upon landing that Gerry is with Tom D. and that they’re heading to the docks.  Also embarking is John D.’s man-hungry sister, Princess Centimilia(Mary Astor), and she speaks about 1000 words a minute!  She is  accompanied by her latest boyfriend, Toto(Sig Arno), who is a foreigner who’s accent no one understands except for Centimilia.  The Princess sees Tom and she dumps poor Toto on the spot, determined to win Tom for herself.  Gerry, not wanting John D. to know who Tom is, introduces him as her brother, Captain McGlue!

Princess Centimilia wants to snag Tom!

Princess Centimilia wants to snag Tom!

John D. falling for Gerry!

John D. falling for Gerry!

Off they go to the Hackensacker estate and out to dinner at a swanky restaurant.   With dancing as part of the evening, John D. realizes he loves Gerry and wants to marry her and Princess Centimilia has decided that Captain McGlue/Tom will be her newest husband.  Tom and Gerry do get to dance with each other but Gerry is still determined to go through with her crazy divorce plan to aid Tom’s invention.  Back at the estate, Gerry has zipper trouble with her dress again and asks Tom for help.  Once again, it leads to a major kiss and both decide that they love one another, neither wants a divorce, and that in the morning they’ll tell John D. and the Princess the truth about who they really are.

Stuck zippers can result in falling in love again!

Stuck zippers can result in falling in love again!

Tom helping Gerry with that darn zipper!

Tom helping Gerry with that darn zipper!

When the truth comes out, John D. is sad, but  he still wants to help Tom with his invention financially.  Another happy ending is going to happen, but I don’t want to reveal  it because it has Sturges’s trademark zany twist to get us there, and if you haven’t seen this funny movie, rush out and rent it or buy it or tivo it off of TCM the next time they air it!

The Palm Beach Story fits the definition of a Screwball Comedy to a T.  The dialogue is fast-paced, there is a lot of slapstick action, and the situations that the characters find themselves in happen at breakneck speed.  The two leads are at odds with each other, but do love each other immensely.  Claudette Colbert is a delight in this film.  With her expressive eyes she is adept at getting across to the audience her reactions to the ridiculous events that her character gets caught in.  She also has her own slapstick scenes, trying to run and hide on the train from the Ale and Quail Club with pajama pants tripping her up at every step, much like Joel McCrea’s earlier pajama tripping scenes.  The attempts to get into that upper berth are more slapstick moments that Colbert shines in.  She delivers her lines fast and doesn’t miss a beat when reacting to other characters lines when they are directed back at her.  In reading about Colbert’s long career, she could sing, she could dance, she could perform in comedies and dramas.  She once said,”I’m a very good comedienne, but I was always fighting that image, too.”  From that statement, I would assume that Colbert didn’t want to get pigeon-holed into only doing one kind of movie.  Looking at her body of work, it is evident that she was a very talented actress and she didn’t get pigeon-holed.  Please try and find The Palm Beach Story for a fast and funny romantic-comedy, done in the Screwball Style.  another TPBS

L. to R.: Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, Preston Sturgis, Claudette Colbert, Rudy Vallee.

L. to R.: Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, Preston Sturgis, Claudette Colbert, Rudy Vallee.

Zeroing in on Wasteful State Spending

Two news reports in the month of June have made me angry at State of Missouri government officials.   One report is about the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Social Services(DESE and SS for the remainder of my post) and the second report is about the new, shiny airplane that  Governor Nixon has benefited from, and that  the State Highway Patrol ordered it and we taxpayers paid for it.Dollar signs

First up under my microscope, the wasteful spending by DESE and SS jointly.  Missouri’s State Auditor, Tom Schweich, released a very critical report detailing how both departments spent $171,000 on 3 programs that ultimately failed and some of  the monies went down the drain.   DESE and SS  awarded money to 3 different enterprises that were going to provide childcare facilities.  $22,500 was awarded to a facility that was to provide in-home childcare but unfortunately, no children ever attended the facility.  Poof!  Where did that money go?   $89,000 went to another facility to create 24 new childcare openings.  At this facility, only 14 new children came and then the owner(s) sold the business.   Was that loan returned to DESE and SS?  $60,000 was spent on a childcare facility that wasn’t built! Poof!  Again, has the money been returned?  DESE and SS gave these monies out through their joint “Start Up and Expansion” program aimed at helping early childhood centers, aka daycare centers.   The recipients of the money awards signed a contract promising that they would  return the monetary award if for whatever reason they didn’t stay in the “Start Up” program.  From one news report about this that I read, only one of the 3 recipients cited in the Auditor’s report has been paying back the award money to DESE and SS;the other two have not, and good luck getting it back, I’d say!  Common sense would dictate that if a business enterprise fails, the enterprise will also not be reliable on repaying back a loan.

Second under my microscope is the $5.6  million new, private jet that the Governor is flying around in and that the State Highway Patrol ordered and authorized it’s purchase.  State Auditor Schweich released his report on this yesterday, June 25th, and his findings are a prime example of money being spent when it really didn’t need to be spent.  As of 2012, the state of Missouri already owned and used 5 private planes.  2 are owned by the State Highway Patrol and the other 3 are owned by the Conservation Department.  One of the State Highway Patrol’s planes has a pressurized cabin, and only one of the Conservation Department’s planes has that feature.  State Highway Patrol spokesman Captain Tim Hull essentially said that the state needed to have this new plane because it had a pressurized cabin, which gives a more comfortable ride, that often the two existing planes with the pressurized cabins were both signed up for and that meant if a third state agency needed a plane for travel it could’t use the nicer planes, and that they did purchase the new plane for a discount!  Auditor Scwheich, in his investigation, looked at the numbers for 2012 as to how many times any of the existing 5 planes were actually used.  58 days, the pressurized cabin planes were used.  159 days, the pressurized cabin planes weren’t used.  113 days, none of the 5 planes were used.  Auditor Schweich asked was this purchase actually needed at all?  I ask, who works at the state agencies that use the planes? Adults or 16 year olds who only want to travel around in Daddy’s fancy car?  Common sense would dictate that if you have to have a plane to travel in for state business and the 2 comfy planes are already signed out, then pull up your big boy pants and ride in the non-comfy plane!  Not spend $5.6 million on an other comfy plane!!  Another interesting bit of info I read about is that for the first 3 months of 2013, only Governor Nixon traveled in the new plane and if another state agency employee had to also travel with him then that state agency got the bill for the plane’s costs for that day, not the Governor’s office!  Fortunately, the Missouri State Legislature got wind of that bit about financing the plane’s travel costs and had a bill added to the budget that stops the Governor’s office from doing that.

A private jet-not the one that was recently bought by MSHP.

A private jet-not the one that was recently bought by MSHP.

I want to thank State Auditor Schweich for uncovering these wasteful expenditures.  I hope the DESE and SS truly relook at their “Start Up” program and make the lending of the monetary awards more stringent and that they will also have better ways of getting the money back if a recipient drops out of the program;they have said that they are doing this.   I also hope that the State Highway Patrol(an agency I loathe to criticize because of the important work that they do for the citizens of Missouri)will think a lot harder before they spend a large amount of money on a machine that may not really be a need but a desire.

I would also like to recognize and give credit to the following that aided in my research for my blog post today: Mr. Bob Watson, with News-Tribune.com, Missourinet Radio News, and KMOX Radio.

My Classic Movie Pick: To Be or Not To Be

Ernest Lubitch was a brilliant movie director, immigrant from Germany, who had a way with telling a comedic film.  To Be or Not To Be, which debuted in 1942, is a fine example of his work,  a movie that finds comedy gold in the errors made by the main characters.    The cast includes Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack, Lionel Atwill, and character actors Felix Bressart, Sig Ruman, Tom Dugan, and Stanley Ridges.First To Be poster Jack Benny plays Joseph Tura, the head of a Polish Acting Troupe.  He is a hammy actor, and  with his huge ego, he thinks he is as good an actor as Laurence Olivier.  Carole Lombard is his wife, Maria, also a member of the troupe.  She tolerates her husband and unbeknownst to him has recently begun seeing a dashing Polish pilot, Lieutenant Stanislov Sobinski, played by Robert Stack.   Whenever the troupe rehearses Hamlet and Joseph is about to begin the famous soliloquy, “To Be or Not to Be”, that is the signal when the Lt. Sobinski leaves the audience to visit Maria in her dressing room.  The troupe has been working on a play they wrote themselves, called “Gestapo” in order to not get on Hitler’s bad list( it’s 1939 when the movie begins).  The troupe member, Bronski, assigned the part of Hitler, decides to test his make-up and costume and goes out into the public square during a rehearsal and all is well until a child in the crowd recognizes him as Bronski and asks for his autograph!

Lt. Sobinski trying to impress Maria.

Lt. Sobinski trying to impress Maria.

Joseph's Hamlet talking with Maria's Ophelia.

Joseph’s Hamlet talking with Maria’s Ophelia.

Bronski trying out his Hitler costume on the public.

Bronski trying out his Hitler costume

Time jumps forward a year and Poland is under the control of the Nazi regime.  Lt. Sobinski, along with a group of Polish pilots, have joined the RAF(Britain’s Royal Air Force).  An official of the Polish government tells the troupe that they can’t perform their play “Gestapo” so they begin to rehearse Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, for the umpteenth time and of course, only Joseph can play Hamlet.  Maria is his Ophelia.   We meet the dashing Lt. Sobinski again, but this time he is in England with his fellow Polish pilots.  They are delighted that Professor Siletsky, a staunch Polish National,  is in England  and he visits the pilots.  He informs them that he’s about to return to Poland and they give him a list of their families’ names and addresses so he can contact them and let them know that their sons are safe in England.  Lt. Sobinski gives him a special message to send Maria, “To Be or Not to Be” .  The Professor says’s he’ll deliver it but doesn’t know who Maria Tura is.  This surprises Sobinski, because Maria is a famous Polish actress.  After the Professor leaves, Sobinski contacts British military intelligence and shares his concerns that the Professor might not be who he seems to be.  After some digging, they find out he is a Nazi spy!  The Brits send Lt. Sobinski secretly into Poland to find the Professor and stop him from giving his information to the Nazis.   From here on out, it’s a case of stopping the Professor, Joseph posing as the Professor, and as a Col. Erhardt who is to receive the Professor’s information, Maria trying to fool the Nazis into thinking she’ll be a spy for them, Bronski reprising his Hitler role, and the other actors in the troupe posing as Gestapo members.  It is all done with a lot of humor, wit, and of course, has a happy ending.

Bronski saves Maria by making Col. Erhardt think she is Hitler's girl!

Bronski saves Maria by making Col. Erhardt think she is Hitler’s girl!

The real Col. Erhardt.

The real Col. Erhardt.

Joseph disguised as Col. Erhardt.

Joseph disguised as Col. Erhardt.

Maria trying to convince the Professor that she'd be a good spy.

Maria trying to convince the Professor that she’d be a good spy.

Professor Siletsky greeting the Polish pilots.

Professor Siletsky greeting the Polish pilots.

Ernst Lubitsch produced and directed this movie, based upon a story by Melchior Lengyel, who also wrote the screenplay along with Edwin Justus Mayer.  Miriam Hopkins, who’s career was starting a downward slide in the early 1940s, was originally cast as Maria but didn’t like working with Jack Benny and she quit early in the production.  Carole Lombard got wind of this and requested the role and got it.  Sadly, this would be Lombard’s last film as she would die in a plane crash, traveling on a War Bonds Tour.  This film allowed Carole Lombard to shine and her comedic talents are evident throughout this movie.

To Be or Not to Be made the American Film Institute’s 100 Years of Laughs list.  It is available to buy through Amazon and is available to rent on Netflix.  This Sunday, June 23rd, at 4:15 a.m. it will air on Turner Classic Movies, so set that dvr machine.  You don’t want to miss this  gem!

English and German movie posters.

English and German movie posters.

Alls well that ends well!

Alls well that ends well!

Weeds and Thomas Jefferson

Returning from vacation I knew that the neglected flowerbeds would look atrocious.  They did and this past Saturday was a perfect day to attack the weeds that had grown and taken over.   Our front yard has 6 areas where the previous owners had flowerbeds, plus add the one I’ve been attempting to install along the driveway that parallels the white fence that runs along our backyard boundary.  Looking over these areas, I decided that the kids were going to have to help me.  I knew there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth, one of them might even try the old saying,”My hands won’t work!” which has gone down in family lore when our oldest tried that excuse at the age of 4 when he was told one evening that it was time to pick up his toys!

To my surprise, there wasn’t any wailing, no excuses of aching bodies or appendages that quit working, when I announced my Saturday plan while they ate their pancakes.   To ease them into their tasks, I let them work like a relay team, or a wrestling tag team, if you will.  One would come out and work with me for 15-20 minutes, then be retired for the next one to come out and do their shift.  While working with me, I had an opportunity to pass on little lessons: how to grab that weed and pull it up correctly, how dandelions have a tuber type of root that goes deep into the soil, not to touch the weed with the thorns on the stems-I’d already decided to make those my domain, and with my youngest, how the bulb plants were done blooming but their leaves were still making food with photosynthesis to keep the bulbs nourished until they bloomed again next Spring.  The kids worked well for me and we soon had a bed in tip-top shape once again.  It looks nice now with the petunias in planters and the new daylillies planted there, with the hostas,  planted by the previous owners, filling themselves out.weeds

As I worked on Saturday with my kids I thought about the job of parenting.  As a parent, you try to impart life lessons to your kids.  You hope that they listen, but some lessons they’ll learn the hard way.  One enterprising father, in 1825, wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson, who at this time in  his life, was a retired President, living quietly at his Virginia estate, Monticello.  The father informed the former President that he had named his infant son Thomas Jefferson Smith, and he wanted Mr. Jefferson to write his son a letter with advice in it as to living a good and successful life, a letter that his son could learn from and treasure when he grew older.  President Jefferson, to his credit, wrote a letter back to Mr. Smith, and also included in it a list of “Rules for Living” that the President tried to follow all of his life.  I found his rules interesting and wise and enjoyed reading them to my twin daughters last week during our History lesson-we homeschool our children, grades K-7th, and then allow them to attend 8th grade and then high school, so I am having  our twin daughters continue on with math and history lessons this summer before they venture off to 8th grade this Fall.

Here are some of President Jefferson’s Rules:  Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.  Never trouble another for what you can do yourself. Never spend your money before you have it.   Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.  Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.  When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

President Thomas Jefferson

President Thomas Jefferson

The evening after the history lesson on Lewis and Clark, the Louisiana Purchase, and President Jefferson’s rules for living,  one of my twin daughter’s asked her twin sister to please go upstairs  and get an item for her.  I quickly pounced on one of Jefferson’s rules, never to ask someone to do something for you that you can’t do yourself, and reminded our daughter of it.   I  informed her that there was no reason why she couldn’t run upstairs and get the item herself.  She quickly  got the message and retrieved the item without her twin doing it for her.  When I read historian David McCullough’s book, John Adams, I learned that Thomas Jefferson, while considered a great statesman and President, was horrible when it came to keeping any kind of financial budget!   He was always owing payments  to business owners, despite warning his two daughters about being wasteful with money and paying one’s bills on time!  This made me think  that as  parents, we have to stay on our toes when imparting wisdom to our kids, and we can talk their ears off with our words, but we must remember that actions do speak louder than words, and the kids are watching us.  Do we live by the words of wisdom that we want to impart to the next generation that God has  blessed us with?

My Classic Movie Pick: Robinson Crusoe

Having  just returned from a seaside vacation, I thought I might pick a “beach movie” to recommend for my classic movie pick.   I began racking my brain to recall one I enjoyed, one that is considered a true “classic”.   The alarm bells went off in my head when I remembered having watched about 1 year ago on Turner Classic Movies, Spanish/Mexican director Luis Bunuel’s Robinson Crusoe, made in 1952 but not released to English speaking audiences until 1954.Robinson Crusoe

Bunuel was an unfamiliar director to me, so I did  a bit of research into his life: Born in Spain on Feb. 22, 1900, made movies in France, Spain, left Spain for the US right before the Spanish Civil War ended, made movies in the US,  then moved to Mexico and ultimately made that country his home.   He received many nominations and won awards for his work:  best film, or director, or screenplays at Cannes, The Academy Awards, the  Venice Film Festival, and the Berlin Film Festival.   He died in Mexico on July 29, 1983.

When I began watching Bunuel’s version of Robinson Crusoe, the story captured me immediately.  I was vaguely familiar with the plot of Daniel Defoe’s book, but had never read it.  Bunuel’s screenplay was quite faithful to the book and he co-wrote it with Phillip Ansel Roll, beginning in 1950.   The producers of this film wanted Orson Welles to be cast as Crusoe, but director Bunuel told them no, that Welles was too loud for the part and too overweight.  300 actors were considered and Bunuel wanted Dan O’Herlihy for the lead, who had in fact, just finished co-starring in Orson Welles’s version of Macbeth, playing the role of Macduff.  With Bunuel’s direction and O’Herlihy’s skill as an actor, O’Herilihy won an Academy Award nomination for best actor in 1955.  The other pivotal part in the film is Friday, the native who Crusoe saves from cannibals, and who becomes Crusoe’s friend.  Jaime Fernandez was cast as Friday.  He was working as a grip on a film when Bunuel discovered him and he was also the younger brother of Emilio Fernandez, who at that time was a movie star in Mexico.  Jaime knew no English, so he learned to speak it on the set, in much the same way Friday learned to speak it in the movie!  The film was shot in technicolor, and two versions were shot: English and Spanish.  The English version was released in 1954 and the Spanish version in 1955.

Director Bunuel, crew, and actor O'Herlihy in an early production shot from Robinson Crusoe.

Director Bunuel, crew, and actor O’Herlihy in an early production shot from Robinson Crusoe.

The plot is all about one Robinson Crusoe who is from York, England.  He is the third son with not a lot of opportunities befalling him.  He decides to go to sea, against his father’s will.  At sea, Crusoe begins his job on a slave ship.  On a journey from Brazil to Africa, the ship runs afoul of a storm and Crusoe abandons the ship in order to save his own life.  He manages to swim to a deserted island and begins his life there, and he notes the date, September 30th, 1659.  Luckily for Crusoe, he finds the ship near the shore and manages to get a lot of supplies out of it before it sinks.  He finds no other human survivors, but he does find the ship’s cat, Sam, and dog, Rex.   Sam, the cat, turns out she should have been called Samantha,  is pregnant and soon has a litter of kittens.  Crusoe decides to let the cats fend for themselves and they do, running wild around the island.  Rex, however, being a loyal and faithful dog, is Crusoe’s main companion.  When Rex dies of old age, Crusoe almost loses his mind with loneliness.  After 18 years of this island life, Crusoe discovers that cannibals are coming to the island to kill their victims.  One day, Crusoe sees a group of cannibals arriving with their one victim, a young man.  Crusoe rescues the victim from the cannibals, killing one and the victim kills the other one.  Crusoe names the native he has rescued Friday, as it was a Friday when he first saw him.  Crusoe begins teaching Friday how to speak English, and teaches him customs and habits of an Englishman.  At first, Crusoe treats Friday as a servant, even putting him in leg shackles at night as he thinks Friday might also be a cannibal and might try to do him in.  However, Friday is able to prove he is not a cannibal and even saves Crusoe from another cannibal attack.  The leg irons are not used on Friday again, and Crusoe treats Friday more as an equal from this point on.   Another 10 years go by, when two men stumble upon the island: Captain Oberzo and his bosun are being dumped upon the island as the other sailors on the Captain’s ship have mutinied against him.  The sailors are going to gather more fresh water for their ship and then sail away, leaving the Captain and bosun behind.  Crusoe find the two men, and with Friday’s help, come up with a plan to save the ship and a way for Crusoe and Friday to get to England.

Friday and Crusoe discover Captain Oberzo and the bosun needing their help.

Friday and Crusoe discover Captain Oberzo and the bosun needing their help.

As I wrote earlier, this film caught my attention and held it for all of it’s 90 minutes.  O’Herlihy is great as the shipwreck survivor.   Without too much hamming it up(as I fear Welles might have done in the role), O’Herlihy manages to convey the emotions of a shipwreck victim, who has to go it alone for quite a while: gratitude at having survived and finding the supplies, sorrow at being alone without another human to talk to, continuing to live day after day on this island with only himself  to take care of, trying to hang on to his faith in God during this experience, wondering if he’ll ever get rescued and see civilization again.  O’Herlihy also displays Crusoe’s bit of arrogance around Friday when they first become friends, an attitude of “I Know More of Life Than You Do You Poor Savage”.  As Crusoe gets to really know Friday’s character, even saving  Crusoe’s life, the arrogance fades away to an  equality of treatment and thought, on Crusoe’s part.

For a great adventure tale, one a whole family can watch, seek out Luis Bunuel’s 1954, Robinson Crusoe.  It is available to purchase on dvd at Amazon, it appears on Turner Classic Movies from time to time, and if you know Spanish, the entire Spanish-language version has been put up on Youtube!Spanish RC

On Beach Houses, Homesickness, a Turtle, a Battle in a Parking Lot, and Books!

A writer  for National Review online who I like to read, Jay Nordlinger, often writes an article that is simply the  thoughts and observations that he has while he is away on a trip, either for vacation or for business.  I decided that since I just returned from a vacation,  I would try my hand at a post like Mr. Nordlinger’s.

While on vacation on one of North Carolina’s Outer Banks  we stayed in a beach house.  I have always jokingly told my husband that I want to live at the beach, in a beach house, but after some discussion with my thirteen year old twin daughters, we mutually agreed that it was a nice place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live there.  I noticed that the windows of the house were always getting sprayed with the ocean water and sand-especially when Tropical Storm Andrea blew through.  We weren’t as hard hit as Florida’s residents, but I thought that if one owns a beach house and lives there for a permanent residence, than cleaning the windows would be a daily task, or at the very least, a 3 times a week task.  Ugh!  No thanks!Kiwi Splash

A nice thing that occurred on the trip was that the youngest, our 10 year old son, confided one afternoon that he was homesick for  Rolla, Missouri!  This was a positive comment on his part.  He hasn’t been too happy about moving away from Florissant and the St. Louis, Missouri  area two years ago, so for him to admit that he was missing  Rolla was a huge step in the right direction.   He allowed that he missed the neighbor kids who he plays with a lot, and he missed our house, our routines-which tend to get changed when one is on vacation.  It was  with surprise and a smile when  I received this news from our son.

This same child took in a turtle, with the help of his older siblings, a week before we departed on our vacation.  It was a sunny Sunday afternoon.  We had just gotten home from church and the kids had let the dog out into the backyard.  As they were  bringing the dog back inside the house, they found a 3-Toed Box Turtle.  Our  youngest son had been wanting a turtle for ages( well, 2 years at least), so his father and I reluctantly said that he could make the turtle his pet.  Scanning his books on turtles, and on the Missouri Conservation Website, we reviewed what Box turtles eat, and so far, a month later, the turtle, “Amber”, is eating and going to the bathroom and thriving.  I have noticed that she doesn’t pull her head and legs and tail into her shell anymore when we, the humans of the house, walk by her in her domain-the back porch/sunroom.  I have seen her yawn(yes, turtles evidently yawn!) and once in a while she will wipe the side of her head with a front leg.  We did take Amber with us on our oceanic vacation, she traveled in the car in a bucket, and at rest stops she got to walk around in the grass.  We did have some curious travelers ask our son about the turtle;even made one trucker’s day who told me it was the first time he’d ever seen someone out walking their turtle!

3-Toed Box Turtle

3-Toed Box Turtle

On the drive back to Missouri, we stopped at a Wendy’s in West Virginia for supper.  I noticed two cars parked in the far corner of the restaurant’s parking lot.   One adult got out of each vehicle, a lady out of a minivan, and a gentleman out of a  car.  Two kids got out of the minivan.  The adults weren’t smiling, and tension was written all over the lady’s face.  As I saw the gentleman removing suitcases from the minivan and placing them into the trunk of his car, then laptops making the same change from minivan to the car, I figured out that the scene that I was viewing  was  divorced parents  exchanging the kids.  The kids were going to leave  Mom to spend some weeks or months with Dad.  The kids were be-bopping around the parking lot near the two vehicles, acting oblivious to their Mom’s stress.  She had a list to go over with Dad, but he didn’t look at her, as he chose that moment to hug his two kids, and seemed to think that ignoring Mom and her list was fine to do.  After the kids got into Dad’s car, then he and his ex-wife had a bit of a talk.  Then he got into his car and drove away.  I didn’t notice if the 2 kids hugged their Mom before they drove away with Dad or not.  Watching that “battle” in the parking lot made me feel sad for those two kids.  I thought of the love and promises their parents probably had for one another on their wedding day.  The arrival of two babies and the joy that brings with it.  To only have it all dissolved into two households, two parents who clearly don’t like one another anymore, and I shook my head, feeling  sorry for the innocent victims in  the brutality of a divorce, the children.

Driving across the country, from Missouri to North Carolina and back, was at times tedious, but we got to see the rolling hills of  Southern Indiana, the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, Virginia, and the marshes of North Carolina, and of course, viewing the Atlantic up close.   We had a wonderful time with our family.  The  oldest stationed now in North Carolina, was able to take some leave and stay with us at the beach house.  Our second oldest was able to fly in from her college job, having gained approval  to take 4 days off, to be with us.

Summing up, I read some excellent books while on my travels: Mary Anne by Daphne Du Maurier-a book about Du Maurier’s great, great grandmother, a mistress of the Duke of York-one of King George III’s sons, and an uncle to Queen Victoria; how Mary Anne brought down this member of the royal family.   The Beloved Invader, by Eugenia Price-another book based on a true story: Anson Green Phelps Dodge II, one of several heirs to his grandfather and great-grandfather’s mining company, while visiting the family’s lumber mill interests on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia in the late 1870s, was saddened by the conditions that the Yankee soldiers had left the Episcopal church in-they had almost destroyed it.  Mr.  Dodge vowed to rebuild the church with his own money, and went back to college, and then seminary to become the minister for that church.  Two different women would enter his life, he established churches on the island  and in other communities in Georgia for the former slaves to worship at, using his own inheritance to help his parishioners.  A very moving story.   Lastly, a murder mystery by Mary Jane Clark,-Lights Out Tonight-someone is up to no good in the charming town of Warrenstown, Massachusetts,  famous for its Summer Theatre Workshops and plays, many making it to Broadway and/or Pulitzer Prizes.  It’s up to KEY television’s Movie Critic Caroline Enright to discover if famous actress Belinda Winthrop is missing due to a personal crisis or due to someone wanting her to be permanently missing.  I highly recommend these books for great summer reading, wherever your summer travels take you, be it far from home or not.  Lights Out TonightBeloved InvaderMary Anne

I’m on Vacation!

Every other summer my husband’s family plans a vacation, where the clan gets together at one spot and we relax, read, watch movies, play board games, talk, sleep in, and sight-see at tourist spots.  Past vacations have included Disney World, a 3-day Disney cruise, Branson, Missouri,  cabins in Michigan and a day at Lake Michigan, and this week we’ve been relaxing at Indian Beach, Emerald Isle, NC.  We’ve been staying in a wonderful beach house right on the Atlantic.Map of NC

Some people love to head for the mountains for their vacations, and while I wouldn’t mind that, my preference is always to head for the beach.  I guess as a land-locked Midwesterner(sort of-there have always been rivers near the places I’ve lived at, including the Mighty Mississippi!), there is something magnetic to me, to sit and watch the waves roll in, to hear the roaring of the waves, to see ships way out against the horizon and trying to figure out what kind they are with the binoculars.  During an early morning stroll to see the sunrise, we got to see crabs scuttling on the shore and getting ready to hide themselves as the birds would soon be appearing on their daily hunt for food.  Sandpipers aren’t native to Missouri and it was interesting to view them as  they poked their long, stick-like beaks into the sand to get at the tiny crustaceans who’s only evidence that they were there were the tiny air holes they made in the beach’s surface. Before we head out to a local aquarium, and as we decide what to fix for dinner tonight, I thought I’d send out a hurried and much shorter blog; sharing my musings about the Atlantic Ocean, and how majestic it is, it’s power evident for all to see and to feel when  playing  in it.  To view it and know that it ultimately points to our Creator, magnifying His creation and might,  which is all around us.  I don’t believe that this body of water just happened by chance and pondering that fact not only refreshes me in my mind but also in my spirit.  Isn’t that a large part of what a vacation is supposed to do?Ocean sunset

Rougher tide rolling in.

Rougher tide rolling in.

A calm Atlantic Ocean.

A calm Atlantic Ocean.