Archive for October, 2015

Oh, the Irony!

Williams College, a private, liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts devised a series in 2014 known as “The Uncomfortable Learning Speaker Series”.  Three students in 2013 noticed that much of the discussions and/or debates at Williams College leaned heavily in favor of left-thinking philosophies, and conservative thought was not being uttered very much.  The students decided that they wanted speakers to come to Williams who would deliver speeches from diverse points of view, and open up the debates and dialogues on campus.  The series was met with enthusiasm and
praise.WilliamsCollege

Fast forward to last week, when the ironic and  illogical happened.  A speaker for the upcoming Uncomfortable Learning Series was uninvited!  Was the speaker a supporter of terrorism?  A supporter of anarchy?  A person who doesn’t think the President is a U.S. citizen??  Not at all!  The scheduled speaker, Suzanne Venker, was going to discuss the failings of Feminism “because it denies the existence of biology and teaches that equality means sameness, which is a losing proposition when it comes to planning a life-particularly if that life includes marriage and family.”1

The folks at Williams College who plan the Uncomfortable Learning Series began to hear complaints about having Venker speak.  Why didn’t the planners stand their ground?  Isn’t the point of this series to encourage students to at least hear another person’s viewpoint?  From my readings about this speaker series, students aren’t forced to attend, so if a speaker is going to discuss something that really, really, really makes a student uncomfortable, that student can stay in their dorm room and nap! Or surf the internet!  Or do their homework!!

This refusal to allow one speaker to speak at Uncomfortable Learning made me also think about an article one of my cousins shared on Facebook.  My cousin found an article interviewing two gentlemen, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt.  Their article which they wrote for The Atlantic,  The Coddling of the American Mind,  is about a disturbing trend, growing on college campuses, of students wanting words and discussions stopped if those words and discussions make them feel uncomfortable.  They cited in their article one anonymous professor, who wrote a piece for Vox, stating that he’s a liberal professor and he has to be careful of how he teaches as his liberal students terrify him!  Lukianoff and Haidt go on in their article how this coddling of students’ minds can also lead to mental health problems.

I know that when I was a college student, back in the dark ages of 1983-87, political correctness was beginning to raise it’s misguided head.  I think that this new trend is a direct offspring of the campus pc police, meaning that the loudest students and/or faculty that don’t like an idea or philosophy try to get it shut down, making it forbidden to discuss those ideas or philosophies on campus.

I really hope those at Williams College, running that speaker series, will realize that they caved in to the pc police and re-invite Suzanne Venker to give her speech.  Don’t become wimps, Williams College!  Enlighten your students’ outlooks on life!  Don’t let one vocal group of opposition shut down your scheduled speakers!

Sources used for this blog:  1Williams College’s ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ speaker series dropped me. Why? by Suzanne Venker, Oct. 20th, 2015, FoxNews.com

‘Uncomfortable Learning’-How 3 Students Changed Their Elite College For The Better,  Jennifer Kabbany,  Sept. 5, 2014, The College Fix

Where Did Colleges Go Wrong? Hara Estroff Marano, Oct. 14, 2015, Psychology Today

The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt, Sept. 2015 issue, The Atlantic

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For the Silent Cinema Blogathon: 1928’s The Wind

I don’t seek out silent films as a rule but I do watch them if the plot sounds interesting to me.  On Sunday nights, Turner Classic Movies presents “Silent Sundays” featuring  one silent film with before and after anecdotes about the production.   It is from this program a year or two ago that I watched 1928’s, The Wind, and  I have since watched it twice more.

Movie poster 1 The Wind

Why do I enjoy this film as much as I do?  The acting, of course, is very good: Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, Montagu Love, William Orlamond, Dorothy Cumming, Edward Earle.  The director: Sweden’s Victor Sjostrom(who in later years starred in Ingmar Bergman’s film, Wild Strawberries.) knew how to pace this story and to get the proper emotions from his actors.   The technical effects, for 1928 standards are very good, too: there’s the wind, an almost supernatural  character in this tale, the Native American legend about a ghost horse and its images, and the cyclone that interrupts a town dance.  The plot: 1 female who meets 3 males who have romance on their minds as there aren’t a lot of women in their area of Texas, circa 1880..  These meetings will lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, outright lying, broken hearts, lust,murder, and finally, forgiveness and love ruling at the film’s end.

Lillian Gish, the star of this film, had a lot of control by the mid-twenties and had a lot of say as to what kinds of movies she would act in.  She often said who would direct, co-star, write the screenplays, etc.  I don’t think many women actresses in today’s Hollywood have that much control, ironically.  Gish had bought the rights to the popular novel, The Wind, written by Dorothy Scarborough.  She got the greenlight to make the film, from Irving Thalberg, MGM’s Head of Production.  Gish hired Frances Marion-one of the best screenwriters at that time in Hollywood, to write the script.  Gish hired Swedish director Victor Sjostrom to direct her, as he had done in their excellent collaboration for The Scarlet Letter, and she also got for her main leading man, the handsome Swedish actor, Lars Hanson, who had also co-starred with Gish in The Scarlet Letter(this 1926 film version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book is still considered to be the best film version in existance!)

Lovely Lillian Gish, the star of The Wind, as Letty

Lovely Lillian Gish, the star of The Wind, as Letty

 

The handsome Swedish actor, Lars Hanson as Lige, the film's hero

The handsome Swedish actor, Lars Hanson as Lige, the film’s hero

I don’t know if Gish or Sjostrom lobbied to make the film in West Texas, but the Bakersfield, California and Mojave Desert locations fit the setting and mood of the film just fine.  Sjostrom, in order to show the wind and it’s power, and it’s constant tenacity, lined up 8 plane engines with attached propellers to constantly blow  and sulphur pots were kept burning to represent the effects of sandstorms.  Cast and crew had to wear goggles to keep their eyes protected, and lots of scarves and/or handkerchiefs wrapped around their mouths to keep the sand out!

Gish is excellent as Letty, traveling alone by train in the film’s opening scenes.  She is a Virginian, having been invited by her cousin, who’s family raised her, to come to West Texas to live with him and his wife and 3 children.  On the train, Letty meets fellow traveler, Wirt Roddy(Montagu Love), a cattle buyer/seller from Fort Worth.  He is a gentleman towards Letty, and keeps her company on the trip.  He also ominously warns her about the wind in this part of the country, as it can drive people, especially women, out of their minds.

Letty meets Wirt Roddy, Cattle Salesman, on the train

Letty meets Wirt Roddy, Cattle Salesman, on the train

At the train depot, Letty’s cousin, Beverly(I know, weird name for a man!) has sent two friends to fetch Letty and drive her to the ranch.  These friends are Lige(Lars Hanson) and Sourdough(William Orlamond), well-meaning but awkward cowboys.  The two men see Letty and decide to see who can shoot out a distant kerosene lamp, the winner getting to sit next to Letty in the wagon.  Letty is not amused by these two, and is disappointed that Mr. Roddy can’t take her to the ranch.  Roddy promises her that he’ll be in town for a while due to business, and not to worry, he’ll probably see her again before he has to leave.

LIge and Sourdough taking Letty to her cousin's ranch

Lige and Sourdough taking Letty to her cousin’s ranch

Cousin Beverly is delighted to greet Letty, his 3 children are at first quite shy around her.  Beverly’s wife, Cora, however, hates Letty from the start.  She dislikes Letty’s “prissy” ways, how her own children warm up to Letty and want to sit with her and hear stories and look at her pictures with a stereoscope(Victorian version of a Viewmaster.)  Cora even gets it into her head that Letty wants to steal away Beverly!!( This I can’t wrap my head around…Letty and Beverly are cousins!!!!)

Cora is bitter and hates Letty

Cora is bitter and hates Letty

At a town dance, Lige and Sourdough both announce to one another that they are going to propose to Letty!  They decide to toss a coin to see which one gets to propose, and Lige wins-thank goodness! Sourdough, old enough to be Letty’s grandfather, takes his loss in a good-natured way, and gives  Lige permission to propose.  Cora has overheard about this proposal, and gladly tells Beverly that Letty will be leaving their ranch.  Also at the dance, Roddy, while dancing with Letty, has told her he has fallen in love with her and is thinking about marrying her!   A cyclone suddenly appears, and interrupts all of these marriage proposal ideas for a bit.  After the cyclone has passed, Lige proposes to Letty, and is turned down.  Roddy leaves the dance and leaves a smile on Letty’s face.  Cora is not pleased as she finds out Letty has turned Lige down.

At the dance, proposal #1, from Lige

At the dance, proposal #1, from Lige

Proposal #2, or rather, a hint from Roddy

Proposal #2, or rather, a hint from Roddy

Letty and Cora have a showdown, well sort of:  Cora tells Letty what she really thinks of her and orders her off the ranch! (Beverly, who suffers from a bad cough-probably TB-is sick in bed and can’t stop his wife’s plan.) Letty pleads with Cora since she doesn’t have anywhere else to go and no money for a train ticket back to Virginia.  Cora refuses to relent, so Letty asks her to drive her to town and she’ll ask Roddy if he wants to marry her.  Cora gladly puts Letty’s belongings in the back of the buggy and off the two ladies travel to town.

Once in town, Letty finds Roddy at the hotel, and asks him about his marriage plan.  Roddy admits to Letty that he is already married!  Roddy turns out to be a slimy guy, one of those salesmen with a different “wife” in several parts of the state, and he wanted to add Letty to his collection.  Letty is horrified and terribly hurt by this information and returns to Cora with the news.  Cora insists Letty can’t return to the ranch, so Letty finds Lige and agrees to accept his proposal.

Alone as man and wife for the first time

Alone as man and wife for the first time

The marriage ceremony happens immediately and back at Lige’s place, he is over the moon with happiness because he believes Letty really loves him and wants to be his wife until death they do part.  He is nervous, excited, and shyly asks if he can kiss Letty.  Moments later, he accidentally enters the one bedroom where Letty has gone to wash her face and brush out her hair, and he is enthralled with her beauty.  He shyly offers her a cup of coffee and they sit together on the bed drinking the brew.  When Lige isn’t looking, Letty dumps his offering into a water pitcher.  A bit of foreshadowing, as whatever Lige offers Letty with the best of intentions, it’s not good enough for her.

Lige has brought Letty coffee

Lige has brought Letty coffee

Letty leaves the bedroom for the main room of the house, and Lige follows her.  He wants to get this honeymoon underway and makes a harsh grab for Letty, kissing her passionately.  That act only causes Letty to break away and harshly tell Lige off, that she doesn’t love him, and that she married him as she’d been kicked off her cousin’s ranch.  The look on Lige’s face is heart-breaking.  His eyes convey the depth of his pain and then the coldness in them grows.  He turns away from Letty and finds the coffee she had dumped in the pitcher, the coffee he had made for her.  He turns back to her and icily announces that he will work for the money for the train fare so she can return to Virginia, and that she needn’t worry, he won’t touch her, ever again.

Lige is hurt by Letty's harsh, unloving words

Lige is hurt by Letty’s harsh, unloving words

Time marches on, and Letty grows softer in her feelings for Lige.  He still acts distant towards her, keeping his heart and mind protected, no doubt.  Lige is notified by the area cattlemen that there is to be a meeting to discuss what to do to avoid imminent starvation that may soon affect the community.  Letty begs to go too, and he agrees, but as she has trouble riding her horse in the wind, and then falls off of Lige’s horse after he allows her to sit behind him on his saddle, he asks for Sourdough to take her back home.  Soon, Lige returns with an injured and unconscious Roddy-the cattlemen found him lying on the ground.  Lige tells Letty that she needs to care for Roddy as he recovers.  Letty doesn’t want to be near Roddy at all, but has no choice.  After Roddy recovers, he agrees to go with Lige and the other cattlemen to help round up some wild horses that they can then sell and then use the money to buy food.  Roddy sneaks back to the house to be alone with Letty, thinking he can seduce her and convince her to run away with him.  It’s to his surprise and doom when Letty finds a gun.

Roddy is delighted that Letty will have to take care of him

Roddy is delighted that Letty will have to take care of him

Insisting Letty run away with him

Insisting Letty run away with him

 

Turning the gun on Roddy

Turning the gun on Roddy

Lillian Gish is in her element in this film.  Her wide, large eyes reveal the depths of her character’s emotions.  Especially affecting are the scenes where the relentless wind blows and messes with her mind; she keeps seeing the legendary ghost horse in her mind, from a Native American legend Lige told her about.  There’s also the famous scene where she looks out the window of the house, looking to see if the wind will reveal the body she has had to bury.

One of several images of the ghost horse that appears in the film

One of several images of the ghost horse that appears in the film

 

What will the blowing wind reveal??!!

What will the blowing wind reveal??!!

Lars Hanson is so winning as Lige.  He is awkward yet smiling, in the beginning of the film.  It’s obvious he is quite charmed by Letty, and so happy when she agrees to marry him after her earlier rejection of his proposal.  You really feel the hurt in his expressive eyes when he hears Letty’s rejection of him as her husband.

Montagu Love is also good as the film’s villain.  He is kind and courtly when Letty first meets him, she not knowing his ulterior motives towards her.  As he recovers in the sickbed at Lige and Letty’s home, he slyly leers at Letty with his eyes when all think he is still unconscious.  In the novel, Roddy does sneak back to Lige and Letty’s home and rapes Letty.  In the film, it’s not as clear that that has happened, but the punishment Letty dishes out is the same.

Lige returns to the home after the wild horses have been rounded up.  Letty is ecstatic to see him and greets him with a kiss!  Will this action on her part lead to a turn around in their marriage of convenience?  What about the wind?  Can Letty stand to live in that West Texas environment any longer?  To find out the final answers to those questions, you’re going to have to hunt down this film, which won’t be easy to do.  Sadly, a lot of silent movies have been neglected, or lost, and not transferred to dvd.  For The Wind, I could only find two dvds at Amazon, but neither has a U.S. format, both being for Spain!  It does air from time to time on TCM, so watch for it by checking their online monthly schedule.

This has been my contribution for the Silent Cinema Blogathon, hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Lauren Champkin.  Be sure to visit both sites to read about other fantastic Silent Films!

For the Silent Cinema Blogathon

 

My Classic Movie Pick: 1942’s Cat People

It’s the month of October which means stores are chock a block full of decorations and candy for the upcoming Halloween celebration on October 31st.  This month also causes many classic film fans to remember great classic movies from the horror and/or sci fi genres.  I decided to pick a classic film which is eerie and haunting, and fitting for this time of the year, 1942’s Cat People.

1942-lobby-card-cat-people

If you’ve only seen the later remake, the 1982 version, you really need to see the original film.  It’s  a good film, tight plot, the scares aren’t in the open but hidden in the shadows which make them even scarier as it allows the viewer’s imagination to add to the terror hinted at on the screen.

The film is about Serbian immigrant to the U.S., Irena Dubrovna.  She’s a talented fashion designer, living in NYC, and for fun likes to sketch the animals at the Central Park Zoo.  One day while she’s sketching, she  meets engineer Oliver Reed.  There’s an instant attraction and before long, the two are engaged, much to the disappointment of Oliver’s co-worker, Alice.

Oliver meets Irena for the first time

Oliver meets Irena for the first time

Telling Oliver about the statue that shows King John killing a cat

Telling Oliver about the statue that shows King John killing a cat

At a local restaurant where Oliver’s friends have gathered to celebrate his marriage to Irena, a strange woman, with a cat-like look about the eyes, stops at Irena’s table and utters something to her in Serbian.  As the woman slinks away, Irena shudders and asks for Oliver to take her home.  Once home, Irena explains to Oliver her great fear, that the woman at the restaurant raised in her.  She called Irena “sister” insinuating that Irena is under the curse of the Cat People.  From an earlier moment in the film, Irena tells Oliver how King John of Serbia drove the witches out which resulted in a curse: that when any of the female descendants of these witches feels passion, they will turn into a deadly panther and go on a killing spree!  Oliver doesn’t believe in this curse, but Irena does and begs him to be patient with her as she’s not ready to be a wife to him just yet.

The strange woman who speaks to Irena in Serbian at the restaurant

The strange woman who speaks to Irena in Serbian at the restaurant

Oliver confides his marriage woes to Alice, and also gets Irena to agree to begin seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Judd.  As Alice draws closer to Oliver, she will be put into danger.  As Dr. Judd draws closer to Irena, he will be put into danger.   Danger and mystery swirl around all of the characters in this film.

Cat People was the creative project of producer Val Lewton.  A former journalist, writer and story editor for Selznick Studios, Lewton wanted to make his own movies and RKO gave him that chance, hiring him to  make horror films on low-budgets.   Lewton hired Jacques Tourneur to direct and the outstanding cinematography was by Nicholas Musuraca.  The film was shot in about a month, for $140,000, which was just under the budget RKO gave Lewton.  The film was a huge hit for RKO, bringing in $4,ooo,ooo.

French actress Simone Simon, who’s career in Hollywood began in 1936 and was floundering, had gone back to France to continue acting there, when WWII broke out. Simon returned to Hollywood and Cat People, was her second successful American film.  She is great as Irena: mysterious, pensive, and showing a streak of jealousy when it comes to her husband, Oliver, and Alice. Kent Smith is fine as the strong, silent-type, very logical engineer, Oliver.   Jane Randolph as Alice is also very good, a very logical thinking woman, who knows she shouldn’t be falling in love with her married co-worker, but she just can’t help it, especially when he confides in her about his marital problems.  Tom Conway is also very good as the elite, intellectual Dr. Judd, who wants to help Irena, but his one method isn’t at all wise.

Some famous scenes to expect: when Oliver takes Irena to a local pet shop to buy her a bird, all of the animals behave strangely when Irena enters the shop, the fellow Serbian woman(Elizabeth Russell)who startles Ireana at the restaurant, Alice walking home alone in the dark and convinced she is being followed by some creature, bloody animal prints that evolve into human footprints, Oliver and Alice threatened by some creature late at night at their office, Alice at her apartment’s basement indoor pool hearing growls and seeing what may be a large cat ready to pounce on her, Dr. Judd’s attempt to kiss Irena.  Lots of shadows, flickers of firelight, all of these images add to the eerie feelings this movie evokes.

Something sinister is following Oliver and Alice at the office

Something sinister is following Oliver and Alice at the office

Was that a growl? At my apartment's indoor pool?

Was that a growl? At my apartment’s indoor pool?

Um, Dr. Judd, kissing Irena isn't a good idea!

Um, Dr. Judd, kissing Irena isn’t a good idea!

Turner Classic will be airing Cat People on Friday, October 30th, at 8:00 pm Eastern time/7:00 pm Central time.  Don’t miss it!!

 

Beware of Aunts that Sue and Noisy Toddlers

I was cleaning up in the kitchen yesterday morning after the family had departed for work and school.  The radio was on and ABC News was giving the top of the hour national news report when this story caught my ear: A woman who lives in Manhattan had filed a lawsuit in Connecticut, against her nephew for injuries she sustained to her wrist when she fell from a hug he gave her at his 8th birthday party!!

Jennifer Connell went to her nephew, Sean Tarala’s birthday party.  When she arrived, the nephew was riding his brand new bicycle.  When he saw his aunt, he got off the bike and ran to her and gave her a hug, which knocked them both to the ground, breaking the aunt’s wrist.  She didn’t complain at the time as she hadn’t wanted to upset the boy.  However, she claims life has been difficult for her since the broken wrist occurred, and she decided to sue the boy in civil court for $127,000!!

Life has been hard for her? Did she not seek medical attention for the wrist?  Did she receive poor care for the wrist? Did it not heal properly?  One of her complaints was that it’s been hard to hold an hors d’oeuvres plate!  Upon further reading about this lawsuit, the nephew, now 12, had his father accompany him to the jury trial as his mom died last year!!!  I think the death of a parent is a lot harder to live with than the difficulties one might have in holding a plate of food!!

Fortunately, the jury only deliberated for 20 minutes and came back with a verdict rejecting the civil lawsuit.  If one really thinks about this, an aunt suing her nephew, the consequences of this action have probably irreparably damaged this lady’s relationship with her nephew, and possibly with other relatives, too.  What a sad situation.  Thank goodness for a jury with common sense!   Noisy toddler

My last paragraph is about concert etiquette.  My husband and I attended last week’s Rolla Choral Arts Society and Rolla High School, Rolla Jr. High, and Rolla Middle Schools’ Fall Concert.  The choirs all did very well, and it would have been a very enjoyable evening if the family sitting near us had had some common sense and left their toddler at home.  The family had a baby with them, who slept throughout most of the concert.  However, their toddler kept up a constant chatter, sometimes emitting a high-pitched screech.  His parents constant “Shhhhhh’s” meant nothing to their child.  The concerned look from the senior citizen ladies in front of our seats didn’t phase the parents of the noisy toddler.  My husband glanced at them and gave me a look of “don’t these dolts know their loud child is ruining this experience for the audience??”  Finally, after the concert was 3/4ths of the way over, this family left.  My advice to parents of very young children, wanted or not, is do not take toddlers to a musical concert of any kind! They don’t have the maturity to sit quietly, the concert is probably going to overlap on the youngster’s  bedtime or nap time(if it’s a daytime presentation) and sleep for a toddler is more important than seeing some friend or relative perform.  If you can’t hire a babysitter for the evening, then just stay home, please!

 

* credit to the CT Post, Daniel Tepfer,”Jury Rules Against Aunt Who Sued Boy Over Hug”, Tues., Oct. 13th, 2015.

*credit to Baby Blues comic strip, by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott