Archive for March, 2015

For the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon : The Fugitive “Corner of Hell”

The Fugitive aired on ABC for 4 seasons, 1963-1967.  I was a mere tot then, only 2 years old when the show ended.  I recalled my Dad remembering how a lot of America tuned in for the last episode of The Fugitive, and I don’t think that record number of tv viewers for one tv episode  was broken until America tuned in to see the last episode of MASH, in 1983.   When I found out that A Shroud of Thoughts was hosting a Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon this weekend, I had to join in on the fun.  Be sure to visit the site to read about other bloggers favourite tv show episodes.   Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon

I was curious about The Fugitive.  So many Americans made sure they tuned in  each week to view it.   Checking out Youtube one day last year I was pleasantly surprised to discover that two folks had put all of The Fugitive episodes there.  I began watching and now I’m on Season 3.

The Fugitive poster 1

Why do I enjoy this show so much?  Various reasons!  The writing for this episodic tv show was excellent, with interesting story lines, that were bookended with a retelling of the show’s main premise.  The narrator-William Conrad.  Long before Conrad had his own hit tv show on CBS, Cannon, he did a lot of radio work-he was Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke , the radio show, before that Western made it to tv.  Conrad’s voice is wonderful, low and knowing, as he intones to the viewers what alias the fugitive has adopted for that episode, possibly what part of the country he is in, and a hint at the trouble he’s going to get caught up in.   The actors and actresses-just superb!  David Janssen was the show’s protagonist, aka the fugitive of the title, Dr. Richard Kimble.  Janssen played Kimble as a very serious guy and wouldn’t one be if they were on the run from the law?  British actor  Barry Morse was the show’s antagonist, police Lt. Philip Gerard.  Morse also played his character with lots of no nonsense and an obsessive gleam in his eye.  I don’t think the guy ever smiled in any episode he appeared in!  The guest stars were top-notch and many were just starting out in their careers, so that’s always neat to see.

Each episode of Season 1 begins with  Dr. Kimble and Lt. Gerard riding on a train as it makes its way to the penitentiary where Kimble will receive the death penalty.  William Conrad’s voice informs us  that Dr. Richard Kimble is an innocent man, innocent of the murder of his wife, and that he saw a one-armed man running from his home the night of the murder.  However, fate is about to throw Dr. Richard Kimble a curve.  Then we see the train derail and Kimble is on the run.  Girard  is obsessed with finding Kimble, who escaped on Girard’s watch.  An innocent man on the run each week, the relentless law man scouring the country for him, if this plot sounds vaguely familiar to you, it’s none other than French writer Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables redone with a modern 1960s vibe.

The Fugitive, each week showing that fateful train ride to the death house

The Fugitive, each episode of Season 1 opened with Janssen and Morse, as Kimble and Girard, on the train to the death house.



Season 2, episode 21, “Corner of Hell” is the episode that I watched a few months back and it had an excellent plot twist:  Lt. Gerard  needing Dr. Kimble’s help in order to survive!

Guest stars for this episode were: R.G. Armstrong as Tully, the partriarch of a moonshine making family, a family that the local law officers avoid.  Lt. Girard is appalled when he finds that fact out!    Bruce Dern, playing a mean, sneaky, and slightly crazed young man, Cody, in with the moonshiners gang.  Sharon Farrell, as Elvie, Tully’s mischievious daughter-she likes to lift wallets and keep the cash.  Dabbs Greer as the hapless Sheriff Claypool who refuses to look for Dr. Kimble with Lt. Girard due to the fact that Kimble might have run off into the moonshiners’ woods.

R.G. Armstrong as Tully

R.G. Armstrong as Tully

Sharon Farrell as Elvie

Sharon Farrell as Elvie

Barry Morse, as Lt. Girard, and a crazed Bruce Dern, as Cody

Barry Morse, as Lt. Girard, and a crazed Bruce Dern, as Cody

Of course, Cody,(Bruce Dern) finds Dr. Kimble running through the woods and takes him prisoner, courtesy of his shotgun.  After Kimble and Cody wrestle/fight in front of Tully(R.G. Armstrong), Elvie(Sharon Farrell), and the rest of the moonshiners, Cody injures his arm cutting an artery on some glass in the melee.   Dr. Kimble impresses them  with his medical skills in stitching up Cody’s wound and dressing it.   As Elvie is making the good doctor a meal he can take with him, Tully is notified about a stranger’s car coming down their dirt road.  Kimble watches from behind the front window’s curtains and is shocked when he sees that the “stranger” is his nemesis, Lt. Girard!

Lt. Girard makes the mistake of telling the moonshiners that he is a police officer looking for a fugitive, wanted for murder.  When Evie finds Girard’s wallet, steals the cash from it, and Cody hits her over the head to take the cash for himself, the trouble kicks into high gear.   Cody runs off, Lt. Girard finds the unconscious girl and Tully accuses him of harming his daughter.  Kimble has to come forward to provide Elvie with medical care in her unconscious state.  He sees that the moonshiners tie up Lt. Girard, taunt him, refuse to listen to his claims of innocence, and in a key scene, the fugitive and the law man are left alone for a bit in the shack.  They have enough time for Kimble to get Girard to see what it’s like to be accused of a crime that one says one didn’t commit, and no witnesses to back up the accused’s alibi.

Hanging Lt. Girard is next on the agenda!

Hanging Lt. Girard is next on the agenda!

With Elvie finally gaining consciousness, Kimble finally able to cajole her into telling the truth of who hit her, the vigilante justice that was about to be carried out is tamped down.   Here is the entire episode, courtesy of Youtube.  This episode was directed by Robert Butler and the teleplay was written by Jo Heims and Francis Gwaltney.  Roy Huggins was the creator of The Fugitive.   This is a very enjoyable episode and you just might find yourself seeking out this series via dvd or via Youtube again!

A fun TV Guide cover with Morse and Janssen smiling!!

A fun TV Guide cover with Morse and Janssen smiling!!

Season 4 was shot in color,

Season 4 was shot in color,





My Classic Movie Pick: 1949’s Obsession aka The Hidden Room

I tuned into a classic movie this week that I had recorded on our trusty dvr and to my surprise, the film starred Long John Silver of Disney’s Treasure Island  and Uncle Owen, of Star Wars!  Of course the movie I watched, Obsession(British title) or The Hidden Room(US title) was made in 1949 when these two actors were a lot younger.  Robert Newton, best known to Americans as the loud and dangerous, but somewhat lovable  Long John Silver in Disney’s version of Treasure Island, was  a revelation as the somber, subdued Dr. Clive Riordan,  who becomes  obsessed with his plan of ultimate revenge on his cheating wife’s latest lover.

Obsession poster 1

American actor, Phil Brown, is great as Yank  Bill Kronin the wife-stealer.  He is a friendly tourist, quick witted and likes to use American slang, which proves to be a downfall for Dr. Riordan and provides a clue for Scotland Yard.   Physically, Brown, when compared to Newton, isn’t quite as tall and looks a lot thinner, giving off the impression of a weakling, but mentally Brown’s Bill has to stay on top of his game in order to outwit mad Dr. Riordan.

Robert Newton in his best known role to American audiences, Long John Silver in Disney's Treasure Island

Robert Newton in his best known role to American audiences, Long John Silver in Disney’s Treasure Island

Phil Brown in later years, as Uncle Owen in Star Wars!

Phil Brown in later years, as Uncle Owen in Star Wars!

Phil Brown's Bill being confronted by Robert Newton's Dr. Riordan

Phil Brown’s Bill being confronted by Robert Newton’s Dr. Riordan

The cheating wife, Storm Riordan( did British parents in the 1920s really name their daughters Storm???)played by Sally Gray,  is beautiful but calculating and definitely cold to her husband.  We don’t know why she has this penchant to cheat on him all the time nor why he hasn’t filed for divorce.

Sally Gray as Storm Riordan, the doctor's unfatithful wife

Sally Gray as Storm Riordan, the doctor’s unfatithful wife

Another key cast member  is a dog! Yes, a dog-“Monty”, a cute, white poodle.  Not the large standard size, perhaps a toy poodle? I’m not quite up on my different levels of poodle sizes but one can tell that in this movie’s plot, Monty is Storm’s  furry baby  and he plays an important part in the survival of Kronin.

In a way, the movie's hero, Monty the poodle, with Bill

In a way, the movie’s hero, Monty the poodle, with Bill Kronin

Scotland Yard inevitably gets called in on the case of the missing Bill Kronin and Naunton Wayne gives a great performance as Police Superintendent Finsbury.  One might be tricked into thinking he’s going to bungle the case of the missing American,  but his calm demeaner and perpetually good mood masks his brilliant mind in deducing just what the connection might be with the missing Kronin and Dr. Riordan.

Naunton Wayne as Police Superintendant Finsbury.

Naunton Wayne as Police Superintendant Finsbury.

Obsession was directed by Edward Dmytryk.  He had been a successful Hollywood director but fell into the US House of Reps UnAmerican Hearings, searching for communists in the entertainment industry.  Dmytryk was blacklisted so he moved his family to England and continued to direct movies there.  Obsession was based on the book A Man About a Dog, written by Alex Coppel who also wrote the movie’s screenplay.  Obsession is sometimes shown on TCM and it is available to buy on Amazon.   A very kind soul has put the movie on Youtube.

Obsession has a slow build-up to it’s climax but one can see the craftmanship throughtout  this well-developed movie.  For a good crime film with a good ending, seek out Obsession.

My St. Patrick’s Day Rant

We live in Rolla, MO, a smallish city of roughly 19,000 people.  The place is  dominated by a state university, Missouri University of Science and Technology, to be specific.   It is a mainstay of Rolla, a large employer for the area.   The university began in 1870 as the School of Mines and Metallurgy.  Now it’s known as the school in Missouri to enroll at if you want to be an engineer, work in the field of computers, or work in any field of science or mathematics.

For some unknown reason, back in the early 1900s, a group of students decided to have a party, and they decided to  pick a saint to give their party concept an air  of “honor”.   They chose St. Patrick, claiming he was the patron saint of engineers.  Who knew engineers had a patron saint?  I sure didn’t!  Supposedly good old St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and did do his level best to spread the gospel message to the natives of the Emerald Isle, but patron saint of engineers?

St. Patrick and his minions arrive at the Rolla St. Patrick's Day parade

St. Patrick and his minions arrive at the Rolla St. Patrick’s Day parade

Every year since that group of students began their traditional party,  the week in March leading up to St. Patrick’s Day has become  a time for the students to slack off, and for some, it’s time to just party the days away; beer, booze, and who knows what else.    Rolla gets in on the “fun”  by holding a St. Patrick’s Day parade.  It’s the typical small-town parade: high school marching bands, some honorary civic-minded citizens wearing various green outfits smiling and waving from convertibles as they are driven along the  parade route, boy and girl scout groups, people on horseback, dogs decorated in green costumes, some of the college students march in the parade, some groups build floats for the parade.   The parade lasts a little over an hour and   then the partying begins anew.

As I was listening to the local radio station on Monday morning, I heard that one of Rolla’s ministers went to the latest city council meeting to inform them as to  how the church’s property was mistreated by party-goers.  People with no intention of attending the church had filled the parking lot with their cars, and some folks decided to hold their  parties in the parking lot!  Of course, those happy folks didn’t clean up after themselves.   The church’s worshippers, on  Sunday morning, couldn’t find many parking spots due to the partiers leaving their cars in the church’s lot.  City council was then  informed about  some idiot or idiots  who went to Lion’s Club Park and drove their car(s) in the grass, in 360 degree circles, or “donuts”, tearing up areas of the park.  The other act of vandalism that irritated me when I found out about it was  that an Eagle Scout’s project had been destroyed.  There is a nice, new memorial to veterans near a nice walking trail in Rolla, on the southwest side of town.  Last year,  a boy scout wanting to earn his Eagle Scout badge,  built a proper burn pit  so that the park could host the proper ceremonies for retiring old American flags.  The burn pit was totally torn apart and destroyed.

I was told years ago, in the late 1970s and during the  1980s, the St. Patrick partiers  shenanigans were getting out of control; businesses and other personal  properties were being damaged.  The city council and mayor had a meeting with the University’s Chancellor and told him to  get the celebrations under control or St. Patrick’s wouldn’t be celebrated anymore.  The University complied and the damaging  shenanigans ceased.   I think it’s time for the Mayor and city council to visit the current Chancellor and let her know that destruction of property in Rolla isn’t going to be tolerated.

Granted, I don’t have proof that drunken college students partied in a church’s parking lot, destroyed park property, and destroyed a burn pit.  However, when parties are broadly advertised and people flock to them, it’s pretty much a guarantee that people behaving badly will be the result.

I do have to wonder why the University allows the students to start their partying days before St. Patrick’s Day even arrives.  I was at the Post Office on Tuesday, March 10th, and across the street, the fraternity house had 2 members standing on the front yard drinking beer and blasting music.  At least it was country music, but to some that musical choice would be a crime!

My question  to the University is if you want to have a parade, crown a St. Patrick and pick a Queen of Love and Beauty, then why not  do so on the morning of the parade?   Those events could happen at 10 am and then the parade could begin at 11:00.  Tell the professors that classes and assignments, tests and quizzes will still happen that week  so that the students will still have to work and not have a bunch of free time to while away with drinking.  If the beer bashes don’t begin days before the parade and only happen  Friday night and after the parade, perhaps some of the damage done by the partiers will be minimal.

To businesses and churches with parking lots within walking distance of the parade and the campus proper, my husband wondered why don’t they charge money to park in their lots?   That’s what lots in St. Louis do when people drive in for a sporting event.  Or block your lot off.  Yes, it’s a hassle as you might have to have employees or church volunteers man the lot to make sure the barriers aren ‘t moved but that would be another way to keep the idiots at bay.

My rant is over,  and this video clip about the real St. Patrick might be enlightening for the university community.

For the CinemaScope Blogathon: The Inn of the 6th Happiness

When I discovered that Becky of Classic Becky’s Brain Food  and Rich of Wide Screen World were co-hosting a blogathon all about movies filmed in Cinemascope, I decided to participate.  I chose The Inn of the 6th Happiness, which starred Ingrid Bergman and was made in 1958 by 20th Century Fox.  Before I get into the movie’s plot, what in the world was CinemaScope?     CinemaScope blogathon

CinemaScope was the process of filming a movie with a lens that made the images on the screen two and a half times as wide as they are high.  It was popular in Hollywood from 1953-1967.  From my research, Hollywood was a bit downhearted when televisions began to be purchased by the American consumers.  Attendance numbers at movie theaters nationwide started to drop.  The movie studios needed another tactic to entice the movie goers back into the theaters so advertising a new movie as eye-catching, with surround sound, was one marketing tool used to great effect.  CinemaScope, indeed, did help to pull Americans back into the theatres and away from their tiny television screens.  For more technical details about CinemaScope, read this link and this link.  Now, on to The Inn of 6th Happiness!       The Inn of the 6th Happiness

This movie is based on the real life adventures of English missionary Gladys Aylward and her life in China.  Gladys’s life had been successfully told in the  book,  The Small Woman, by Alan Burgess.  20th Century Fox bought the film rights and the movie was made, shot in Wales and alas, not in China.  To have a lot of Chinese orphans on hand, since the real Aylward helped orphans in China, the children from Liverpool’s China Town were hired to be in the film!  I had no idea Liverpool had a China Town, and from my readings, it is the oldest Chinese settlement in Europe.

Ingrid Bergman stars as Aylward, with her two main co-stars, Curt Jurgens as Colonel Lin Nan, Robert Donat as the Mandarin of Yang Cheng.   Athene Seyler plays  Jeannie Lawson, Ronald Squire as Sir Francis Jamison, Moutltrie Kelsall as Dr. Robinson, and Burt Kwok as Li.

Gladys Aylward has only had one desire in her life, to be a missionary, and specifically, in China.  Due to her family’s poverty, she had to drop out of school and became a house maid.  She worked hard, saved her earnings, and wrote to the China Inland Mission, an organization in England that began in 1865.(It is now known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship or OMF.)  Due to Gladys lack of a full education and her age, the mission turned her down.  Determined to get to China, Gladys saved enough money to purchase a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Railway.  It was a lower-priced fare because it was a more dangerous route to take of the two that existed in the late 1920s for travel to China from England.  Gladys arrives in China, gets to the town of Yang Cheng,  and obtains employment at The Inn of 6th Happiness, which is  owned and operated by English missionary Jeannie Lawson.  Pretty soon, Gladys has proved herself a valuable asset at the Inn, and when Lawson dies in an accident, Alyward goes on with running the Inn rather than closing its doors.

The Mandarin, Colonel Nan, and Gladys

The Mandarin, Colonel Nan, and Gladys

Yang Cheng is run by the Mandarin, sort of like the town mayor, but a mayor for life.  He calls on Gladys and asks her to undertake a project:go into Yang Cheng and the surrounding smaller villages and convince the citizens to stop binding their young daughters feet.  The binding of young girls feet began hundreds of years before the 1920s, and despite the crippling effect it had on  a foot’s development, the Chinese government had a difficult time in eradicating the practice.   Gladys succeeds at stopping the foot binding and even finds time to stop a prison uprising!  She greatly impresses the Mandarin who decides to look into this God that she believes in.  Gladys has also caught the eye of Colonel Lin Nan, a half-Chinese, half-European man.  He is worried for Gladys when news reaches them that Japan has now invaded China.  The colonel urges Gladys to flee Yang Cheng but she tells him she can’t due to the 50 orphans who have turned up at her Inn, needing help.

When Yang Cheng falls under attacks from the  Japanese Air Force, the citizens know that the army will soon follow, and the exodus begins.  Gladys doesn’t know what to do with the 50 orphans who have arrived at the Inn for help.  Colonel Lin finds out that in the neighboring province trucks will be there and they can take Gladys and the orphans  to a safer place in China.  However, Gladys only has 3 weeks to get the orphans to the trucks and they will have to climb a mountain region to get there!  With Li as her only other adult helper(he being the former prison revolt leader)they prepare to depart.  On the day of leaving the Inn, 50 more orphans arrive from a neighboring village!!  Gladys and Li have no choice but to also add those children to their original 50.   Gladys and Li move forward with their journey,  to get over the mountain with 100 orphans and get them to safety!!

Telling the Colonel good-bye

Telling the Colonel good-bye

The Inn of the 6th Happiness was a box office smash.  It was the second most popular movie in Britain in 1959.  Director Mark Robson was nominated for Best Director at the 1959 Academy Awards.  Sadly, it was the last movie Robert Donat would ever appear in.  He was plagued with horrible asthma most of his life and shortly after he began the movie, he discovered that he had a brain tumor.  He died shortly after all of his work was done in the film, his last line in the movie proving prophetic: “We shall not see each other again, I think,  Farewell.”

Gladys Aylward was still alive and working with orphans in Taiwan when the movie arrived at theatres.  While the book The Small Woman was a correct account of her life, the movie version horrified her!  First, she herself was a very petite woman and who did they cast to play her but 5’9″ Ingrid Bergman!  Second, Aylward was English and spoke with a Cockney accent, not a Swedish accent as Bergman did.  Third, there was no romantic notions between Aylward and the real Colonel Lin, who was 100% Chinese.  Aylward was very upset that they made Lin a mixed nationality person as she felt it demeaned his real heritage;she was also horrified at the hints that they had been in love with each other.  Aylward devoted her life to working in China, serving those in need, and had decided a long time ago to not have a husband or a family of her own.  Fourth, the movie hardly mentioned her difficulties in becoming a missionary and the difficulties she had in getting to China.  The train she took stopped in Siberia and wouldn’t continue on to China so Aylward had to walk the rest of the way!  In the film, Aylward just has to put up with some rude soldiers and the train takes her right to Tsientsin!  The real Inn was named The Inn of the 8th Happiness due to the number 8, in China, being considered special or auspicious.  Why Hollywood changed the number from 8 to 6 also perplexed Aylward.  Despite her frustrations with the movie, the book and the movie both gave her a bit of cause celeb and she was able to use her new found fame to shine the focus onto her work in Taiwan with the orphans.

Ingrid Bergman as Gladys Aylward

Ingrid Bergman as Gladys Aylward

The real Gladys Aylward

The real Gladys Aylward

The Inn of the 6th Happiness-where can you see it in it’s glorious CinemaScope?  From time to time it does air on Turner Classic Movies, a kind soul has put the film on Youtube, it’s available to buy or watch on instant rent through Amazon, and it’s also available to buy through TCM’s Shop, in a blu ray or a regular dvd format.

The Inn of the 6th Happiness poster 2

For a heartwarming and intelligently told film, despite the real Gladys Aylward’s reactions to it, seek out this film, one that the whole family can watch together.    Here is the trailer for the film.

Knight Without Armor: For the Russia in Classic Film Blogathon

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma.”   Due to the quite different political philosophies of the former Soviet Union and of  Western Europe and the United States, movies made about Russians by Western film studios often focused on the evils of communism and Russians trying to escape it’s grasp.  This blog today is part of Movies, Silently‘s tribute to Russia in Classic Films.  Be sure to visit that fabulous site to read more entries about films from Russia and about Russia.

Russian Banner

In 1933, novelist James Hilton wrote Knight Without Armor, telling such a tale: In 1917, a Russian countess is trying to escape the country as the communists and the anti-communists are battling each other  with much bloodshed.  To her aid arrives a British man, a spy who has infiltrated a radical Russian political group.  He is the Knight, without a suit of armor, and he will do his chivalrous best to aid this lady in her efforts to escape.

Knight without Armor poster 1

British film producer Alexander Korda, head of London Films,  bought the rights to Hilton’s novel in 1936.  Hollywood must have at one time thought of  making a movie version of the novel because one of the best female screenwriters who had ever worked in Hollywood, Francis Marion, had written an adapted screenplay a few years prior to Korda’s interest in the film and he hired  Lajos Biro to write a new screenplay, using Marion’s as source material.  Jacques Feyder was brought on to direct and Miklos Rozsa created the music for the film.  This was the first film Rozsa ever scored music for; some of the music was his own creation and the rest he borrowed from Tchaikovsky.

British actor Robert Donat plays Ainsley J. Fothergill(what a name!)  He is an expert in the Russian language, an ex-pat reporter who is now working as an Russian to English book translator.  Due to an earlier critical article he wrote about Russia and its politics, he is kicked out of the country by the Tsar’s government.  Back in England and feeling depressed, Fothergill is asked to aid his government: become a spy with Secret Service, take on a Russian name and become a member of a radical political group, report back to Britain periodically about this group.  Fothergill accepts immediately and becomes Peter Ouranoff.

German actress (and future American Citizen) Marlene Dietrich plays the beautiful heroine, Countess Alexandra Vladinoff.  She visits England in 1913 to attend the Ascot horse races, returns to Russia and happily marries Count Adraxine.  Life is fine for her and then WWI arrives.  Her husband is made a colonel in the Russian Army and is killed in a battle.  WWI, for Russia, also unleashes a civil war: the Tsar’s supporters-The White Army vs the newly-created Communist Party, The Red Army.  Poor Countess Alexandra is caught in the middle of this civil war.  Her estate is overrun by the Red Army supporters and she is arrested for being an aristocrat.  Fortunately for her, our hero, Peter(aka loyal Britain Fothergill) is assigned to be her personal guard and take her to Petrograd(St. Petersburg) to stand trial.  Once on the train, however, Peter(Fothergill) falls in love with Countess Alexandra, and she falls in love with him.  The decision for both of them to  escape the country is easily made.

Marlene in one of her gorgeous gowns

Marlene in one of her gorgeous gowns

Pre-Countess days, Alexandria at the Ascot

Pre-Countess days, Alexandra at the Ascot

The suspense in this film is the myriad of obstacles that keep popping up to hamper this noble couple’s  efforts to escape.   Will these two lovebirds avoid the evil clutches of two warring political factions?  If they are caught, it could mean the death penalty for both of them.  Peter(Fothergill) is supposedly a Red supporter and if he’s taken captive by the Whites, it spells his doom.  The Countess is supposedly a White supporter and if she’s taken captive by the Reds, it spells her doom!  This Russian political stuff is tricky stuff!

Peter and Alexandria hiding in the woods

Peter and Alexandra hiding in the woods

Showing their hands to try and prove that they're really just peasants

Showing their hands to try and prove that they’re really just peasants

To see this interesting, suspenseful, romance film, Turner Classic Movies will be airing it next week, on March 18th, at noon/Eastern time, 11:00 am Central.  I searched Amazon to see if this movie is available for purchase and I could only discover that the dvds of the movie are from Italy, and I am not sure if they’ve been translated into English.  Fortunately, for those of you who don’t have access to Turner Classic Movies cable channel, a very kind soul has put Knight Without Armor on Youtube!

The other actors and actresses in this film were unfamiliar to me and I haven’t listed them because the main focus of the film is Robert Donat and Marlene Dietrich, and that’s as it should be!  Donat is charming and debonair as the British spy/hero. Two years earlier he helmed  Alfred Hitchcock’s espionage thriller The 39 Steps.  Marlene Dietrich is sublime as the Countess.  She is gorgeous, her costumes are gorgeous, and she takes on the role with care and skill.

KWA title shot

Seek this film out for a look at Russia, it’s political infightings, but mostly for the love story.


My Classic Movie Pick: A Hard Day’s Night

In 1988 when I was teaching 7th graders  math lessons, a science teacher came into the teacher’s lounge with  a shocking fact that had stunned him that morning.  The fact he had discovered also stunned the rest of us  in the teachers lounge.  For a 5 point bonus question on that day’s science test,  he asked the students to tell him who John, Paul, George, and Ringo were.  There were quite a few of the 7th graders that day who admitted that they had no idea who the Fab Four were!  Shocking, utterly shocking!!

Fast forward to this past month of February and I noticed on Turner Classic’s schedule that they were going to air the hit Beatle’s movie, A Hard Day’s Night.  Since I have never watched that film before, I  set up the dvr to record it and watched it last Saturday.  Our part of Missouri was getting hit with snow that day and  it wasn’t a good idea to be out driving anywhere, so watching the film was the perfect way to while away my snowy Saturday afternoon.   A Hard Day's Night

A Hard Day’s Night, made in 1964, has a simple plot.  The Beatles, or the lads as they’re often referred to in the movie, have to board a train for London and appear on a television variety show.  In the film they are all the rage among teen girls and it’s funny and amazing to see them trying to outrun and outwit hordes of screaming teenage girls as they get to the train station and get on that train without having their clothes torn off!  Once on the train, we meet a spectacled older man, who is introduced as Paul’s grandpa.  Paul warns the lads that his grandpa is a “mixer”, in that he’s a sneaky guy who enjoys mixing it up with others, getting them into arguments, conning folks of their money, or their food, or their booze.  Wilfrid Brambell portrays Paul’s granddad.  At that time, Brambell was also the star of a popular British television comedy, Steptoe and Son. (Steptoe would be the idea 10 years later for the popular US television comedy, Sanford and Son.)  On Steptoe, Brambell’s character was often referred to as a “dirty, old man”.  In A Hard Day’s Night, after Paul introduces granddad to his pals, the running joke of the film is that granddad is such a “clean” looking old man.    The Beatles’s manager is introduced as well as a mild-mannered assistant, played by Norman Rossington and John Junkin.

Clowning around for the camera while on the train

Clowning around for the camera while on the train

With Paul's granddad

With Paul’s granddad

Once in London and settled at their hotel their fan mail is delivered and Grandpa is happy that Ringo received a personal invitation to a gambling casino with a buffet. He tsk tsks at the lads for even thinking about going to such a place, then sneaks the invitation from Ringo’s pile of fan mail, borrows the hotel bellman’s tux uniform, and off Grandpa goes to the casino.  The lads, instead of working on their fan mail replies, sneak off to a hip and happening London nightclub and there’s a fun montage of shots of Ringo and George dancing with girls, John and Paul seated at tables having lively discussions with other folks at the nightclub.  When their manager and his assistant arrive, the lads have to leave and go back to their hotel. Once there, it is discovered that Grandpa is missing and it’s off to find him and they do.

My favorite series of shots is after the lads get to the television studio.  They meet with the show’s director, played by Victor Spinetti,  who treats them with disdain, and when they get the chance, the lads sneak out of the building and in a series of overhead shots, they run around and have fun on a large park or green space in London.  The run a race, they perform square dance moves, they play an imaginary game of cricket(it looked like a baseball set-up at first), and then there are shots of each Beatle leaping up into the air in slow motion-reminding me a bit of those popular pictures taken nowadays of wedding parties all jumping up into the air.

One of the running scenes at that park

One of the running scenes at that park

John Lennon in one of the jump shots

John Lennon in one of the jump shots

Grandpa messes the television appearance up, of course, by convincing Ringo to go on a solo adventure instead of living his life doing always as he’s told.  Ringo goes off on his adventure but he isn’t paying attention to the time and the clock is ticking down to show time.  John, Paul, and George reassure the producer that they’ll find Ringo and be back in time for the show.  They do, with Grandpa’s help, and it’s on to the Beatles performing 3 hit songs to a studio audience of screaming teenage girls.

Performing on the television show

Performing on the television show

Granddad urging Ringo to go on a solo adventure

Granddad urging Ringo to go on a solo adventure

This film was fun and several times it had me laughing outloud.  Each of the Beatles was quite natural on film, no one gave a stilted performance.  I did mention to my  husband that it was weird to hear the Beatles speaking in their normal voices, with the native Liverpool accents.  I’m simply just used to hearing their voices blended together in songs.   Of course the songs couldn’t have been better: A Hard Day’s Night, Can’t Buy Me Love, I Should Have Known Better, I Wanna Be Your Man, All My Loving, She Loves You, and several more.  The full soundtrack list for the film  is here.

On April 11th, at 2:15 EST, Turner Classic Movies will be airing A Hard Day’s Night, so be sure to tune in or set that dvr!  The film and the soundtrack are available to purchase at Amazon.  Also, a very kind person has put the entire film on Youtube, in English with Italian subtitles.

A French movie poster, makes the film seem much more serious than it is!

A French movie poster, makes the film seem much more serious than it is!

A publicity still

A publicity still

A goof off shot with Brambell and Ringo

A goof off shot with Brambell and Ringo

Strong, Brave, Crocuses and the Lesson they Teach

I am ready for Spring to arrive.  While here in the Missouri Ozarks there hasn’t been as much snow as what Boston, Massachusetts has had to put up with, I am tired of the cold temperatures and ready for the warmer temps of spring and summer to arrive.    Crocuses in snow

About two weeks ago, I was enjoying a bit of a Winter weather reprieve.  Temps were actually rising into the high 50s and 60s and one afternoon I noticed that some crocuses had pushed themselves up from the dirt around the base of a maple tree that is in our front yard.  The crocuses were blooming!  Their bright yellow and glossy purple petals were shining in the sun and I called the neighbor boys over as well as my son, to look at these mighty floral marvels.

Doing a bit of research on Crocus Vernus, I found that they aren’t native to North America.  Crocuses are native to alpine regions of Europe and Asia.  Crocuses were brought  to North America by immigrants wanting plants from their homelands to decorate their new surroundings.  Crocuses are a bulb plant, a perennial which means that they will grow each year, without much effort from the gardener-my kind of plant!  The bulbs are planted in Autumn, and in late March in Missouri, that’s typically when the new flowers push up from the dirt, blooming for 3 weeks.  When Spring gives way to Summer, the crocuses have faded but their bulbs are still working hard underground storing up food for next year’s blooms.

As I looked at these flowers with my son and neighbor boys, I thought how they truly are illustrations to that old adage, “Bloom where you’re planted.”  No matter where you are in life, bloom where you’re planted…do what you can do with the talents and skills you were blessed with…serve others with those talents and skills, do your best the best you can and don’t worry about the work of the other folks around you.  If they’re not blooming where they’ve been planted, that is their situation to figure out, not yours to stew and worry about.

These simple flowers also made me think about their existence.  They are an intricately designed plant.  They live the same life-cycle over and over every year.  They live as they were created to live.  They bring smiles to our Winter weary selves when we see them emerging from the cold ground, confidently reminding us that Spring is coming!  Hang on!  Winter will soon be gone!  (As I type this, we are getting snow again in my part of Missouri-I see the fine flakes falling, covering our street and I have to wonder if an early release for school kids will be called as the rural roads in our area are very twisty, curvy, and many are dirt roads-combined with snow, not a fun drive for school buses or their drivers.)

All of my musings on the crocuses led me to further reflection that this time of year speaks of our Savior’s resurrection, also celebrated in the Spring each year.  Currently, it is the Lenten Season.  A time most famously known as a time to give up something.  As Lent is growing in popularity among Prostestant denominations, and not just a “Catholic Thing” anymore, I am sometimes asked by my Protestant friends what is Lent all about?  I answer it’s a time to focus more deeply on the great sacrifice Jesus made when he obeyed His Father’s will.  To focus on how Jesus endured the lies told about him, accepted the guilty verdict the crowd in Jerusalem demanded even though the Roman appointed Governor, Pontius Pilate, knew Jesus was innocent.  When Holy Week arrives, on that Thursday, focus on  the Last Supper, actually a Passover meal, that Jesus partook of with his 12 disciples, which is recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  On Good Friday, focus on the sufferings Jesus endured on the cross to which he was crucified.   Then on Sunday, Easter, focus and  rejoice in the resurrection: Jesus’ defeat of sin and death by coming back to life.  His sacrifice, His willingness to take upon Himself all of the sins of the world-the sins of those who were living at that time and the sins of those who haven’t even been yet born.  For those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, it means our sins are gone.   It means God can welcome us into eternal life in Heaven.  It means that there is much more than this earthly existance.  It means we need to serve others in Jesus’s name and not cause others to doubt Him by our inactions or wrongheaded doings.

A lot of philosphical thoughts in my post today, I  know, but that’s what can happen when one studies the beauty of  crocuses blooming despite patches of snow still looming on the ground.


crocuses 2

crocuses 3









crocuses and a cross