Archive for August, 2015

“Hey, Mom! Who You Gonna Vote For??”

My oldest 6 kids know that their father and I pay attention to the news. US news, World news, and they’ve grown up with talk radio and Sunday news shows, and dvred episodes of the Fox  irreverant news show Red Eye,  airing in the backgrounds of their sundry growing up lives.  With all of that in our house, it’s become a popular question of the oldest 6(#7, the baby, and sorry, he’ll always be “the baby” even when he’s in his 70s!-he’s a bit oblivious to this news stuff)to ask me who I’m going to vote for  in the next U.S. Presidential election.

political symbols

I decided that for today’s blog, I’m not going to say who I’d vote for as I really don’t know yet.  Well, I take that back.  Since I do view things through a conservative lens, it’s a pretty safe bet that I won’t be voting Democrat, or Green, or Libertarian for example.  However, I’ll share a few of my opinions on the Democrats, too, since it’s my blog and I can opine if I want to!

Mr. Trump-who my kids love to tease me about.  Why is he polling so well amongst some of the voters?  As George Will so eloquently said a week ago on Fox News Sunday, Trump is representing a voters’  “primal scream”.   Conservative voters are so tired of being told, “Elect us Republicans and we’ll bring change to Washington”, or “We’ll put a stop to the President’s agenda” and then the elected Republicans get to D.C. and they DO NOTHING! (There, that’s my primal scream.)  It’s as if the Republicans have no spines, they just continue the status quo of staying in power and ignoring the folks who elected them to office.  If our family has to run on a budget, why can’t the US government?  Where are the grown-ups who can stand up and say, enough!?  Trump is loud, proud, and not afraid to spout off his thoughts.   To many who are frustrated with the US federal government, his persona is refreshing when compared to the status quo politicians also running for the Republican nomination.

Carly Fiorina-She handily won the jv debate(my husband’s nickname for it) that aired on Fox News prior to the main debate that aired a couple weeks ago.  (By the way, for the Fox News naysayers, that debate drew in 24 million viewers! Here’s CNN’s report on it.)  She was knowledgeable on the issues, she could answer the questions clearly, with facts to back herself up, no hmmms, or uhhhhs at all in  her answers.  She, like Trump, isn’t from the world of politics and for that I find her refreshing.  I think if she were the nominee she’d debate rings around Hillary Clinton.  The main negative that the Democrats have thrown at Fiorina is the lay-offs of employees when she headed up Hewlett-Packard, to which Fiorina has countered that that was during the tech bust, and when businesses fall on hard times, tough decisions need to be made.  Yes, people lost their jobs, and that hurt, but H-P was able to survive and recover and other tech boom businesses didn’t survive.  With all of the government regulations on businesses that now exist in our country, I like a candidate with a business-running background, one who has a good grasp on economics, to turn around and fix the U.S.’s economical woes.

Dr. Ben Carson-Smart man, has to be to have been a neurosurgeon!  Seems like a very patient person, grounded, quiet.  I don’t know if he has what it takes to deal with foreign powers, especially ones who are causing all of the havoc in the world.   If Dr. Carson really wants to get into the political arena, then why not run for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland that is now open due to the long-time Democrat’s retirement?  Dr. Carson has a lot of fans in that state and in Baltimore proper.  Be a U.S. Senator for 6 years, and then make a presidential run if that is still a desired goal.

U. S. Senator Marco Rubio: He’s young, eloquent, is an aim at garnering Hispanic votes, and I think could do well against Hillary Clinton. He needs to be careful on his next photo op though, if throwing any sports gear, i.e. footballs, make sure no youth are in the area.  It’s not his fault that the little kid got hit in the face from a Rubio thrown football, but that’s all the media payed attention to last week, is his throwing that football.

U. S. Senator Ted Cruz: Smart, Princeton grad,  Harvard grad, Harvard Law School grad, one of Harvard  law Professor Alan Dershowitz’s smartest students, according to the good professor.  However, my mother-in-law and I were discussing his persona when he speaks, and to us, he just comes off as too smooth.  Juan Williams, pundit often on Fox News’s various roundtables nailed it one time, in my opinion, when he likened Cruz to that used car salesman in his delivery.  I’m not ruling him out, but he does strike me that way, too smooth, a bit condescending in making his points, even if I agree with his points.

The rest of the Republicans: They aren’t standing out to me.  Some of them I like, some of them I don’t.  Our oldest who goes to college in Ohio has had a few opinions to share on Gov. John  Kasich, but I don’t think he’ll be the nominee.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s angling for a Vice Presidential spot or a cabinet post, though.

Now for my look at the Democrats.  Months ago, Hillary Clinton was the odds on favorite to be the party’s nominee for President.  It’s her turn, so to speak, since she didn’t receive “her turn” in 2008 due to a charismatic senator from IL, one Barak Obama, who jumped in and outright grabbed her turn from her.  Months ago, I even told my kids that she’s going to be the nominee but now I have some doubts.  The Clinton’s have a lot of money and pull in the Democrat party, but with all of this email scandal stuff that has happened, the U.S. Justice Department getting involved, the FBI, and just yesterday, President Obama’s Press Secretary Josh Earnest came out saying that the President said the  smartest political decision he has made was selecting Joe Biden to be his running mate-Wow!  What a slam at Hillary!  I think with that announcement, it was a way for the President to tell his fellow Democrats that it’s okay to not go with Hillary for the nomination.  How will the DNC deal with that?  Hillary has had some health issues during the past year and a half that have been quietly mentioned in the press, and not explored further.  If things get much worse for her, it won’t surprise me if the “bad health and I need care” card is pulled and her campaign is suspended.

Vice President Joe Biden-bits of  news have been leaked to test the waters , to see the reactions, if the Vice President chooses to run.  He had a weekend meeting with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a favorite among progressives in the Democrat Party.  Did he offer her a spot to be his Vice President if he runs?  Did he offer her a shot to run in 4 years if he decides to only serve 1 term?  Supposedly Biden’s dying son asked him to run for President.  Can Hillary run successfully against a dying son’s wish?  Who would be the best person to carry on President Obama’s agendas-Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden?  The DNC has a lot of soul-searching to do.

U. S. Senator Bernie Sanders-the 70 something Independent, former hippie of the 60s.  I do say that with fondness, as I have one child of the 6 who likes Bernie.  “Feel the Bern” has become an oft quoted phrase around our house, and I have also taken to saying to our Bernie fan such pithy phrases as, “I bet Bernie Sanders took out his family’s garbage cans without complaining!”  and “I bet Bernie Sanders always eats his vegetables!”  My husband has repeatedly told our Bernie fan that there is no way the DNC will let Sanders be the nominee, because it’s Hillary’s turn.  This morning at breakfast, our resident Bernie supporter didn’t know about Vice President Biden’s meeting with Senator Warren and that made our Bernie fan do a double-take.  I did tell our Sanders supporter that if a Democrat does win the election, I’d much rather it be Sanders than Hillary, but I too, doubt if Sanders can wrest the nomination from Hillary’s hands.

Former MD Govenor Martin O’Malley-I think he’s angling for the Vice Presidential spot at this point.

There you have it, in a nutsell, my various thoughts and answers that I have told my 6 kids who have asked who I would vote for in the next Presidential election.  One thing I wish were true, is that the election cycle-the campaigning and the election, were a much shorter time window.  I was listening to Mark Steyn yesterday on the radio, and he said Canada was preparing for their election and it was only an 11 week cycle!  Why can’t America have such short election cycles?  That would be wonderful, I think.



My Classic Movie Pick: The Night of the Hunter

Once in a great while I can get some of my kids to watch a classic movie with me. It helps that the movie earned 4 stars, and so it was, last Friday night, the 19 year old commuter college kid and the 12 year old 7th grader agreed to sit down with me, munch on popcorn, and watch The Night of the Hunter.  Children!!!!

The Night of the Hunter poster 1

I added that previous word with the many exclamation points because it is a phrase uttered a lot by the main baddie of the plot, Robert Mitchum.  Robert Mitchum, good looking, with a half-opened eye type of stare, he could play heroes with the best of them but when it came to playing a deviant, or in this film, a sociopath with no conscience-or only a slim one, he was one of the best. The man could sing,too!  Mitchum’s character claims to be a traveling preacher, and several times in the film he is singing hymns aloud and I was pleasantly surprised by Mitchum’s strong voice.

This movie was Oscar-winning actor Charles Laughton’s only directorial effort and it’s sad that when it came out in 1955 critics didn’t support it.  I found it a stylishly lit and shot film by cinematographer Stanley Cortez, an interesting and effective musical score by Walter Schumann and very well-acted by the adult and  child actors.   How hard it must have been for Mitchum, who was a dad in real life, making this movie where his character  acts nice one minute to the two main children in the movie, and then in the next minute, he snaps at them in a sociopathic rage??  I hope he and director Laughton bought the kids a lot of ice cream and candy to make up for the scary stuff they had to deal with for the cameras!

The plot is pretty simple, based on the novel by Davis Grubb and screenplay by James Agee.  It’s the early part of the Great Depression and Ben Harper(Peter Graves) is on the run. He’s robbed a bank and has a large stash of money that he needs to hide before he’s arrested by the state police who are hot on his heels.  A bank guard was killed during the robbery.  Harper sees his two kids playing in the yard of his home, John(stoically played by Billy Chapin) and Pearl(Sally Jane Bruce, who has an adorable speech impediment when trying to say her “R’s”).  Harper grabs Miss Jenny, Pearl’s doll, and stuffs the money into the doll’s body  and he makes the children swear that they won’t reveal to anyone where the money is hidden.  As Harper is pushed to the ground and arrested in front of his kids, it’s sad as John starts to groan and utter “No!”, over and over, louder and louder with each utterance, as the pain of realizing that his dad will go to prison hits the boy.

Ben Harper(Peter Graves)needs to hide the stolen money fast.

Ben Harper(Peter Graves)needs to hide the stolen money fast.

Ben’s wife, Willa(played as if in a mental fog and excellently done by Shelley Winters) has no idea about the hidden money.  As bad luck would have it, a sociopath who claims to be a preacher, Harry Powell(Robert Mitchum at his evil, crazy best) lands in the state prison for a stolen car and ends up being Ben’s cell mate.   Powell knows Ben will soon face his date with the noose, so he tries to get Ben to spill in his sleep where the bank robbery money is hidden.  Ben doesn’t spill and is hung for the murder of the bank guard.  When Powell is released from prison, he searches for and finds the town where Willa and her kids live.   Powell, turning on the charm, gets Willa’s bosses at the ice cream shop, Icey and Walt Spoon(Evelyn Varden and Don Beddoe) to think he’s a nice guy and then Powell turns on his charm at Willa.  Pearl likes Powell too, and it’s only John who is skeptical of this new man who soon has finagled his way into becoming Mom’s new husband.

Ben won't tell Powell where the money is hidden.

Ben won’t tell Powell where the money is hidden.

Powell charming the ladies at the church picnic.

Powell charming the ladies at the church picnic.

Willa falling for Powell

Willa falling for Powell


Powell turns his criminal mind to Willa, breaking down her spirit into thinking she has to be “pure” and “clean” before he’ll show her any love.  It’s a sad scene when she hears the real Powell lashing out verbally at Pearl, which Willa overhears as she’s walking home from work.  She is smiling as she leaves the ice cream shop but when she hears Powell scream and say horrible threats to her 4 year old daughter, Willa’s face falls into a stunned look, because now she knows that John hasn’t been lying to her; Powell has been trying to get the children to reveal where the bank money is hidden, ergo, the marriage to this man is a sham.

Spoiler Alert: Willa isn’t long for this world and the scene where she is lying in her bed, with her hands folded as if in prayer, and Powell stands over her, dramatically with a large knife raised up over her, the framing shot or outline around the characters looks like an outline of a church around them-this movie is full of imagery, strongly referring to good and evil.

John and Pearl are asleep when their mother is murdered and Powell hides Willa’s body.  He proceeds to turn on his charisma and tells sympathetic townsfolk that Willa ran away with another man, a traveling musician.  With the mother gone, Powell turns on the pressure to get the children to reveal where the money is hidden.  With a knife at John’s throat, Pearl finally buckles and tearfully shouts out that the money is in her doll.  As Powell starts to laugh, while sitting on the cellar floor, John cleverly causes a shelf of canning jars to fall on Powell’s head and he and Pearl manage to run away and grab a john boat and head down the Ohio River.  Powell can be heard groaning and screeching due to his head injury as he also tries to grab the children before they get to the boat.  It’s a tense few minutes but the children succeed in escaping their evil stepfather’s clutches.

John lies to Powell and tells him that the money is hidden in the cellar floor.

John lies to Powell and tells him that the money is hidden in the cellar floor.

Managing to escape Powell

Managing to escape Powell

Lillian Gish enters the film at this point, as Rachel Cooper.  We don’t know a lot about Rachel’s character.  There’s no mention of a deceased husband, but just one son who she doesn’t see much anymore.  She lives on a nice little farm and has taken upon herself to take in run away children and try to give them a good home and some spiritual sustenance too, with  her nightly telling of bible stories.  She takes in John and Pearl, and soon has a run-in with the pursuing Powell.  There’s a scene at night, as he’s warned Rachel that he’ll come in the night for those two kids, and he is in the vicinity of the farm singing a hymn and Rachel is ready for him, sitting in her rocking chair with a shotgun in her hands, and she also begins to sing the same hymn, loudly, to let Powell know that she’s alert and he’d better watch out!  It’s an intriguing scene, the dueling hymns, one sung by the embodiment of evil and one sung by the embodiment of good.

Offering to tell Rachel and the kids his story about L-o-v-e battling H-a-t-e.

Offering to tell Rachel and the kids his story about L-o-v-e battling H-a-t-e.

Rachel doesn't believe Powell's lie that he's the devoted dad of John and Pearl

Rachel doesn’t believe Powell’s lie that he’s the devoted dad of John and Pearl

Rachel ready for the lurking Powell

Rachel ready for the lurking Powell

I’ll not give away anymore of this film’s plot because I want you to seek this movie out and view it for yourself.   I would also be remiss for not mentioning 4 minor characters in the film: Evelyn Varden as Icey Spoon, Willa’s boss.  Varden makes Icey a loud, foolish busybody who pushes poor Willa to marry Powell.  Don Beddoe is very good as Icey’s long-suffering husband who wisely doesn’t think Powell is all that wonderful.  James Gleason as Uncle Birdy, a retired riverboat man, who is still grieving for his deceased wife and  who’s old boathouse is a haven at times for John. It is Uncle Birdy who sadly finds Willa’s dead body in the river.  Finally, Gloria Castillo as Ruby, the teen girl who Rachel has taken in.  In Ruby’s desperate search for love, she bumps into Powell and spills the beans as to where John and Pearl are living and she unfortunately keeps thinking Powell might be a good man to fall in love with!

The Night of the Hunter is available to rent or purchase via Amazon,  Turner Classic Movies will air it on November 11th at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT and it’s also available to buy at TCM’s Shop and it’s the Criterion Collection dvd that they’re selling.  If you visit Youtube there are several clips posted from the movie, a trailer or two, and quite a few sites saying to click on their link and you can view the movie.  My cynical side doesn’t trust those sites, so click on those links at your own discretion.

So grab some popcorn and favorite beverage, settle back, and let Robert Mitchum, as evil, crazy Harry Powell try to tell you the story of h-a-t-e and l-o-v-e, but be sure you have Lillian Gish and her shotgun on your side!

TNOTH lovea nd hate




The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon: Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie, in MGM’s Dr. Kildare Movies

Modern day film fans are probably familiar with Drew Barrymore but are they aware she is descended from a family of actors that began their stagecraft in the 1840’s?!  My post today is  for The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon, hosted this weekend by classic film fan Crystal.   Be sure to click here, to read more great pieces written by other classic film fans, about the three Barrymores that classic film fans know best: Lionel, Ethel, and John.

Lionel Ethel John

I decided to focus on Drew’s late, Great-Uncle, Lionel.  Specifically, his role as the grumpy Dr. Gillespie in MGM’s long running film series about a young doctor, Dr. Kildare.   Frederick Schiller Faust, under the pen name Max Brand, wrote for pulp fiction magazines.  He created a character, a young doctor, James Kildare, and wrote a story about the young doctor in a nationally read magazine.  That story caught Paramount Studio’s attention.  They bought the rights of the  story  to make the 1937 movie, Interns Can’t Take Money, which starred Joel McCrea.  Next came Metro Goldwyn Mayer and they bought the rights to the character concept of Dr. Kildare(the studio put Lew Ayres in the title role) and then made 9 successful films all about the young doctor.  To me, though,   topping all of these films off, like the cherry on the sundae, is Lionel Barrymore.

Dr. Gillespie


Barrymore began acting on the stage in 1899(!), and after a successful stage career, he began to appear in silent movies; 1911 he began to appear in some D.W. Griffith films.  By the time that the Dr. Kildare series began to be filmed in 1938, Barrymore was in his 60s and confined to a wheelchair due to arthritis and a broken hip(broken twice!) that never healed properly.   His character, Dr.  Leonard Gillespie, is the wisest doctor and the grumpiest,  at Blair General Hospital.  He rolls around the halls as fast as he can, has his own clinic in the building with a large contingent of loyal patients, and his own apartment to live in too!   There’s a  head nurse, Molly Byrd(Alma Kruger), who Dr. Gillespie likes to bark at but we can tell that  he has a fondness for this no-nonsense nurse.

Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie giving a chewing out to young Dr. Kildare, played by Lew Ayres

Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie giving a chewing out to young Dr. Kildare, played by Lew Ayres

The plots of the 9 Dr. Kildare films aren’t too difficult to follow, and they do present some clever medical mysteries that the young doctor has to resolve, often asking Dr. Gillespie for advice.  Turner Classic Movies began airing the Dr. Kildare films on Saturday mornings, and I began to record and watch them.  There’s something endearing about all of the films in this series.  Dr. James Kildare is young, smart, and has ideas as to how he wants to help patients.  Dr. Kildare’s parents(Samuel S. Hinds and Emma Dunn) are two loving parents who did a good job raising their only child. Of course, the senior Kildare is also a doctor in a small town and the parents hope that one day, Jimmy, will come back to it and practice medicine and give up the big city hospital.  There’s Nurse Lamont(Laraine Day), who falls in love with young Dr. Kildare, and he with her.  There’s Wayman(Nat Pendleton) as a big lug of an ambulance driver who wants to date Sally(Marie Blake) the wise-cracking dame who runs the hospital’s switchboard.  Dr. Carew, the hospital’s administrator(Walter Kingsford), has some clashes from time to time with Dr. Gillespie and Dr. Kildare, but he usually will give the A-OK to a new treatment  they want to try.   An orderly, Conover(Clinton Rosemond) who is Dr. Gillespie’s butler for all intents and purposes, and Nurse Parker(Nell Craig)-nicknamed Nosey by Dr. Gillespie, rounds out the rest of the cast.

Dr. Gillespie, Laraine Day as Nurse Lamont, and Dr. Kildare

Dr. Gillespie, Laraine Day as Nurse Lamont, and Dr. Kildare

Dr. Gillespie and Nurse Molly Bird

Dr. Gillespie and Nurse Molly Byrd

After the 9th Dr. Kildare was shown at the box office,  the 10th film was about to begin shooting when the American public learned that it’s lead star, Lew Ayres, had declared himself a conscientious objector to WWII, when he had recently been drafted.  (Ayers did serve as a non-combat medic and chaplain’s assistant during the war which toned down the public’s outcry against Ayers.)  MGM, not wanting bad publicity for this 10th film, decided to cut Dr. Kildare from the film completely and just focus the film on Dr. Gillespie.  The new story line worked and 6 Dr. Gillespie films were made.  There were four actors who played new,  young doctors needing  Dr. Gillespie’s mentoring: Philip Dorn played Dr. Gerniede, Van Johnson played Dr. Adams, Keye Luke played Dr. Wong Howe, and James Craig played Dr. Coalt.

Calling Dr. Kildare sees the young doctor get mixed up with Lana Turner! (Before she was a star)

Calling Dr. Kildare sees the young doctor get mixed up with Lana Turner! (Before she was a star)

Wayman and Sally- a date is about to be requested

Wayman and Sally- a date is about to be requested

Dr. Kildare with administrator Dr. Carew

Dr. Kildare with administrator Dr. Carew

TCM will be airing the first Dr. Kildare movie, Young Dr. Kildare, on Thursday, August 27th, 12:30 pm ET/11:30 am CT.  It’s also available to buy through TCM’s shop, as well as the Dr. Gillespie films.  There are also dvds to buy of the American tv show, Dr. Kildare, for sale on the same site, so don’t let that confuse you!   Amazon also has some of the Dr. Kildare films for sale, too.

Before I sign off, the names Dr. Kildare and Dr. Gillespie had become commonplace in American pop culture in the 1940s-1950s, and even Bugs Bunny had a chance to have a bit of fun.  In this cartoon, Hot Cross Bunny, watch for the waskily wabbit to impersonate Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie.



Book Review: The Weed Agency

The EPA messed up royally late last week when a crew they hired to dig in a closed gold mine in Colorado accidentally opened up a barrier that was holding back contaminated water.   That water flowed into the Animas River, polluting a needed water source for the city of Durango and for area ranchers and farmers,  and into neighboring New Mexico; it is now even a bigger threat I learned tonight, as it may also contaminate a river that flows from the Animas into Utah.

Reading about this horrible accident, the EPA’s response at a Duragno Town Hall meeting,  and also how some wag has suggested that the EPA’s name be changed to the Environmental Pollution Agency, has all refreshened in my mind the book I read earlier this summer, Jim Geraghty’s book, The Weed Agency: A Comic Tale of Federal Bureaucracy Without Limits.

The Weed Agency

Geraghty is a newsman by trade.  He is a contributing editor at National Review, is an online blogger and columnist for National Review online, is the author for their email newsletter, The Morning Jolt and for their Campaign Spot blog, and he also appears, from time to time, as a roundtable pundit for Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.   If you doubt his news reporting abilities, than take a look at his resume, found via Linked In.

In Geraghty’s book, there are two protagonists, if you will, who are really antagonists of each other.  There is the career bureaucrat, Jack Wilkins, who’s sole reason for his career is to keep his federal government agency from ever being shut down and to keep their budget rising no matter who the President is or what political party is in power.  The other protagonist is Nicholas Bader, a Reagan Whitehouse Budget hawk turned congressman from Pennsylvania who has an obsession with cutting the Weed Agency out of the government forever.

Each of these two main characters has his “minions”, so to speak, characters who work for them and believe in their boss’s cause.  There is also an elderly “statesman” congressman, who brings a lot of pork back to his home state.  When reading about this character, various elder statesmen came to my mind, as his character is an amalgamation of that type of politician.  The politician who brings  a lot of money back to his state, has many buildings and highways named after him, and who can wield a lot of helpful power to any bureaucrat who needs his help.

I found the book to be a fast read, to be a funny read, and in infuriating read.  Infuriating because it gives an unabashed look at one federal government agency, it’s monstrous growth through a 31 year period, and it show’s no signs of stopping, nor does it show that this agency has done a lot for American taxpayers.  How many of the other agencies in the US federal government fit this description??  Too many, is my humble opinion.

The Weed Agency is an actual agency: it’s part of the USDA, and it’s actual name is The Agency of Invasive Species.  It began during President Carter’s administration, due to his background of peanut farming and a fear of invasive weeds being brought in to the US that could decimate crops.

Geraghty’s use of actual facts from various administrations(Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama)and from various Congressional activities,  help illustrate how a bureacracy can control its outcome in a positive way, despite threats of a shutdown or a budget cut from  politicians.  I found his descriptions of Al Gore and Newt Gingrich particularly funny, as both men and their staffs hold hearings with The Weed Agency, when their Presidents (Clinton and Bush) have authorized wasteful government agencies be trimmed or shut down.  The masterful way that the agency director, Jack Wilkins, and his aides, completely get Gore and Gingrich off track and supporting the continuation of  The Weed Agency is hilarious!  Flattery will get you anywhere, should be one of the morals of this book.

There is a side bit about one of The Weed Agency’s employees, a computer whiz, getting tired of working for the government and her career move into Silicon Valley illustrates the stablity that exists in  a government job vs the instability when  working for a new venture.  There is also a final showdown between The Weed Agency’s director and retired Congressman Bader, the latter finding a way to shut down the construction of the new, fabulous, and ultra expensive building that  will house The Weed Agency.

For a funny look, and yes, at times, infuriating look, at the federal government, at how politicians try to enter Washington DC with good intentions but how bureaucracy often stops them in their tracks, get a copy of The Weed Agency.  I highly recommend it!

My Classic Movie Pick: Airplane!’s Inspiration, Zero Hour!

A friend posted on Facebook a meme featuring a scene from the 1980 comedic film Airplane!  I informed my friend that a film made in 1957, a serious drama, was the inspiration behind the comedic film.  My friend didn’t know this and I began to wonder, how many other Airplane! fans don’t know about Zero Hour!?  Thus, the inspiration behind my classic movie pick for this week.

Zero Hour! poster 1

Arthur Hailey,  the writer behind the best-selling novels Airport and Hotel, prior to being a writer, was  a Canadian businessman.  In the mid-1950’s, while flying home from a business trip, he began to imagine a story.  What if on a plane in mid-flight, the passengers and the pilots fall violently ill due to food poisoning, and only one passenger who isn’t ill, a former RAF(Royal Air Force) pilot, who is now afraid to pilot planes, is the only hope for a safe landing?  Hailey put his imaginative idea down on paper and successfully sold the story to the CBC-Canadian Broadcasting Company.


The CBC, in it’s beginnings, was simply broadcasting American and British televsion programs and movies to their fellow Canadians, but the fledgling corporation wanted to try and air original programs, set in Canada.  Hailey’s story fit the corporation’s new plan and it aired as a tv movie on April 3rd, 1956 and an estimated 2 million Canadians tuned in to watch Flight Into Danger, starring James Doohan, best known as Scottie from Star Trek.  The BBC took notice of the ratings hit this telefilm produced, aired it and drew in 10 million viewers.  That brought in the Yanks and Flight Into Danger was aired by the Alcoa Hour on NBC with MacDonald Carey as the heroic former pilot who has to land the plane.  After these three broadcasting corporations had aired Hailey’s original telefilm idea, he sold the film rights to an independent producer, Hall Bartlett who renamed the telefilm’s title to Zero Hour! and he, along with Arthur Hailey and John C. Champion wrote a new screenplay.  NBC


With Barlett set to also direct,  it was time to find the cast.  Dana Andrews was hired to play the former pilot, Ted Stryker.  Linda Darnell was selected to play his wife, Ellen and child actor Ray Ferrell played their son, Joey.  Geoffrey Toone played the good doctor, Peggy King played the stewardess, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch(an actual NFL star at the time) played the co-pilot, and Sterling Hayden was hired to play Capt. Treleaven, who has to guide the hapless plane to the ground.

The background of Ted Stryker’s character is a bit different from the character in Airplane!  In Zero Hour!, he’s a Canadian who served in the RAF as a pilot during WW II.  Near the end of the war, he was in charge of a mission, leading his group of flyers on a bombing raid of Wiesbaden, Germany.  The weather is bad, heavy with fog, but Ted doesn’t call off the mission and 6 of his pilots die when their planes crash into the German countryside.  Ever since that awful day, Ted has suffered from ptsd: loads of guilt for not calling off the mission and he’s had trouble holding down jobs.  He has flown back to his home in Eastern Canada to tell his wife Ellen that a war buddy has agreed to give him a job at the Mid-Canadian Aircraft Company, LTD. in Winnipeg.  Ted’s good news turns to bitterness as he finds a “Dear John” letter from Ellen saying she has had it with him and that she is taking their son, Joey and leaving Ted.  Ted rushes to the airport and locates Ellen’s flight to Vancouver and is able to get a ticket for the same flight.

In Zero Hour!, Stryker's son Joey, gets to meet the pilots.

In Zero Hour!, Stryker’s son Joey, gets to meet the pilots.

Psst! Don't order the fish!

Psst! Don’t order the fish!

If you have seen the movie Airplane!, you know the rest of the story.  The creators of Airplane!, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, saw Zero Hour! on tv late one night and they got the idea to make a spoof of this drama.  They were able to buy the film’s rights and the rest is comedic film history.  Some kind soul has posted to Youtube a selection of scenes from Zero Hour! and comparing them to the more famous scenes from Airplane!

Uh oh! Passengers aren't feeling well!

Uh oh! Passengers aren’t feeling well!

The doctor informing the pilots about the sick passengers

The doctor informing the pilots about the sick passengers

Zero Hour!, from time to time does air on Turner Classic Movies, so check their schedule for it.  The film is available at Amazon to buy, in a dvd format, but the price is high! Probably due to it’s elevated “cult” film status among movie fans.  It’s also available through TCM’s Shop, but in a dvd set with two other cult film classics, Hot Rods to Hell(which also stars Dana Andrews, ironically!)  and Skyjacked.  If you love the film Airplane!, seek out Zero Hour! to see where the inspiration for the latter film began!

Ellen has to help Ted communicate with the Control Tower...will this event save their marriage?

Ellen has to help Ted communicate with the Control Tower…will this event save their marriage?

Sterling Hayden, as Capt. Treleaven, losing his cool with Stryker!

Sterling Hayden, as Capt. Treleaven, losing his cool with Stryker!

ZH! poster 2



The Wicked Lady: For the 2nd Annual British Invaders Blogathon!

In 1945, writer Magdalen King-Hall had written her 7th novel, Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton.  It became a huge best-seller with book readers in Great Britian.    Gainsborough Studios came calling and they turned the book into the film, The Wicked Lady, which in turn, was the biggest box office hit of 1946 in Great Britain.  I happened to view the film a couple years ago when it was airing on Turner Classic Movies and I am so very glad that I tuned in to see it!  The film has romance, action, passion, good vs. evil, and Captain Nemo, err, James Mason in it when he was declared the biggest movie star in Great Britain.  Here’s a trailer that was used to advertise the film via Youtube.

The Wicked Lady poster 2

The Wicked Lady stars Margaret Lockwood as Barbara, who is the wicked lady of the title.   We first meet Barbara as she arrives at Sir Ralph Skelton’s(solemnly played by Griffiths Jones) estate.  Barbara is the guest of her childhood best friend, Caroline ( sweetly played by Patricia Roc).  Caroline and Sir Ralph have fallen in love and are planning to be married, but Barbara is jealous of Caroline and decides to  sneak behind her back, to seduce and steal her fiance!  Poor solemn Sir Ralph, he doesn’t know what’s hit him!  We soon see a wedding ceremony, except it’s Barbara wearing the wedding gown that Caroline was planning to wear!  Caroline is so sweet and good, and when she realizes Ralph loves Barbara, she willingly gives him up without a fight, and even agrees to be the Maid of Honor!  I would not have been so charitable!

Watch out Sir Ralph, she wants you!!!

Watch out Sir Ralph, she wants you!!!

During the wedding reception a handsome guest, Kit Locksby arrives(Michael Rennie) and as soon as he sees the bride, he falls in love with her!  Barbara, now Lady Barbara also locks eyes with the handsome Kit and we know she now has fallen out of love with her new husband and wants to be with Kit!

Lady Barbara and Kit

Lady Barbara and Kit

Since Kit is an honorable chap, he bows out of Lady Barbara’s life.  Meanwhile, the lady is bored out of her skull at the Skelton estate.  There’s 3 elderly, spinster aunts who also live in the house and they drive Lady Barbara nuts!  Especially the two who are twins.  (These three aunts are well acted by Martita Hunt, Beatrice Varley, and Amy Dalby-Varley and Dalby play the twins and they really do look alike so the casting office did a great work there!)  One evening, Sir Ralph’s sister, Lady Henrietta and her husband, Lord Highclere(played by Enid Stamp-Taylor and Francis Lister) arrive for a short visit.  The two ladies despise one another and their dialogue with each other is polite but mean-fun to see!  The Highclere’s share the tales they have heard about the daring highwayman, Capt. Jerry Jackson.  The rogue robs the coaches but not before giving passionate kisses to the ladies he robs!  These tales catch Lady Barbara’s imagination.   When Lady Barbara loses her mother’s brooch to Henrietta in a card game, Lady Barbara devises a plan to get the brooch back:she’ll disguise herself as a highwayman and stop Henrietta’s coach and get the brooch.  Since her bedroom has a secret passage to the grounds of the estate, Lady Barbara is able to sneak away, dressed as a highwayman, robs the coach, and gets her late mother’s brooch.

Henrietta has won Lady Barbara's brooch

Henrietta has won Lady Barbara’s brooch

Robbing that coach was such a thrilling activity that Lady Barbara decides to rob some more coaches!  On one of her nightly robberies she inadvertantly meets Capt. Jerry Jackson because she has invaded his designated robbery area.  He admiringly watches this new robber’s style, then invites this lady back to an inn for a shared supper.  Of course, when Capt. Jackson takes off Lady Barbara’s mask, it’s inevitable that they’re going to do a lot more than share a supper!

Lady Barbara turned highwayman!

Lady Barbara turned highwayman!

Lady Barbara, busy with her new hobby of robbery and her new love affair with Capt. Jackson, has no idea that her husband, Sir Ralph has fallen out of love with her and that he now loves, once again, Caroline!  Caroline(who had agreed to stay on at the estate to help run it because that duty was too boring for Lady Barbara), wise as well as sweet, moves back to London.  While there, she meets Kit and soon the two of them are fast friends, both confiding they have broken hearts due to being in love with people they cannot be with.

Lady Barbara and Capt. Jackson

Lady Barbara and Capt. Jackson, she can’t resist him!

A new conflict emerges to spoil all of Lady Barbara’s fun-the faithful servant Hogarth(wonderfully played by Felix Aylmer) is a Puritan, likes to quote scriptures, and he had become suspicious of Lady Barbara’s sleeping in so late each day so he takes it upon himself to stay up late one night and spy on her.  He confronts Lady Barbara: he knows of her disguise, of her using the secret passageway, of her robbing coaches with Capt. Jerry Jackson and that she is his lover, and that she may have murdered a young man who is a tenant on the estate, as the young man was a new guard for a coach company that hauls gold and silver, and the young man had recently died in a coach robbery.  Hogarth announces that he will be telling Sir Ralph all that he knows about Lady Barbara!  She is horrified and decides to convince Hogarth that she is ready to repent, that Capt. Jackson was trying to blackmail her and that she was forced to go along with him, that he was the murderer of the young tenant.  Lady Barbara is convincing and poor Hogarth is completely fooled.  However, when Hogarth is later ill, and Lady Barbara is nursing him back to health, she decides to make sure he will never recover!!

Lady Barbara promising Hogarth that she has truly repented

Lady Barbara promising Hogarth that she has truly repented

I can’t give away anymore of the plot as I want you to find this film and discover how it will all end for yourself!  Will Capt. Jackson ever be caught? Will Kit and Caroline marry?  Will Sir Ralph get a divorce from Lady Barbara and then marry Caroline?  Will Hogarth manage to tell Sir Ralph all he knows before he dies?  Will Lady Barbara continue to live a wicked life or will she get tired of it and try to really repent?

From time to time TCM does air this British film, so check their online site to see if it will be airing anytime in 2015.  It is available to view via Amazon‘s instant rent.   A kind soul has put the entire film up on Youtube, but the quality of the print isn’t that great.  Netflix may have it still on their roster.  Criterion Collection also has the film and a fun clip when Lady Barbara is at the Inn with Capt. Jackson.

The British Invaders Blogathon banner

My post today has been for the Second Annual British Invaders Blogathon, hosted by Terry at A Shroud of Thoughts.  Be sure to visit his blog site to read about other wonderful movies from across the pond that we Americans shouldn’t dismiss!