Archive for October, 2017

To the Boy Scouts of America: If It Isn’t Broken, Don’t Fix It

I am a mom of a boy scout.  I have 4 sons, and the youngest one has participated in scouting and has stuck with the program.  Hopefully, in a couple more years, he’ll reach Eagle Scout, the highest level in the scouting program.  His troop is a part of the River Trails District in our part of Missouri, under the Ozark Trails Council, based in Springfield, MO.  In July, we received an email about an upcoming meeting happening in early August, to discuss the possiblity of adding girls to the Boy Scouts, and wanting parental opinions from the River Trails District.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be able to attend the meeting held in Rolla, or the other two meetings held in other areas of the state guided by  the Council,  but I hoped common sense would prevail at these 3 meetings.   

 

Fast forward to a week or so ago, and the BSA National HQ’s announced that girls would now be allowed to join Boy Scouts.  I was dismayed at this news.  From my understanding of the announcement, it will be left up to individual troops if they will let their existing troops become coed, or if they will also begin troops exclusively for girls.  My objections are that for 100 plus years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a group for boys.  Not only for boys to learn about outdoor activities, camping, fishing, hiking, respecting nature, canoeing, kayaking, etc. but for boys to learn leadership skills.  In the 1969, Venturers were added, and then there are the many  Explorer troops, which are all co-ed groups within Boy Scouts.  Since those co-ed programs already exist, I don’t see the need for adding girls to the regular cub scout packs and boy scout troops.

The Girl Scouts of America are also not pleased by this new announcement.  Their organization, a part of American life since 1912, doesn’t want this new option to pull girls away from their organization and I don’t blame them for their concerns.  Here is a link  to a report by NPR, aired on August 24th, 2017,  about the Girl Scouts negative opinion as to the Boy Scouts possibly letting girls join Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops.

I can’t agree more with the Girl Scouts opinion.  For over 100 years the two organizations have operated with similar goals, one for boys and one for girls.  In my opinion both organizations have worked well for the youth of this country for a long time.  Both of these organizations present unique opportunities for boys and girls and one group doesn’t need to possibly undercut the other by possibly taking away potential scouts.  I say, leave the two organizations as they are and drop this new plan before more damage is done to the two scouting organizations.  From what I have seen since the BSA announced this new policy, longtime adults in scouting are dropping out and no girls have been knocking on my son’s troop’s door to join.  Again, I say to the BSA, drop this new idea before more damage is done by it’s implementation.  It’s a new idea that’s not wanted or needed.

Advertisements

The Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon: 1952’s Ivanhoe

Sir Walter Scott wrote thrilling action-adventure novels with intricate plots, often about his country when it was in it’s early days; Scotland.  He also wrote his best known novel about that neighboring country, and sometime foe of Scotland, England, set during the rule of King Richard I.  In the 1950s, using rich technicolor, the major movie studios were on a “historical” film fix, and MGM was no exception.  Wanting to make money with such a film, producer Pandro S. Berman got the greenlight to make a lavish film version of Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe.  Curious to me, that the majority of the cast was British or had ties to the UK, but for the lead, American actor Robert Taylor was selected to play Ivanhoe.  Two beautiful actresses were chosen to play the two women that love Ivanhoe, Elizabeth Taylor as Rebecca, and Joan Fontaine as Rowena.

Today, October 22nd, would have been Joan Fontaine’s 100th birthday.  She happened to be the younger sister of another great actress, Olivia de Haviland, who is still alive and kicking, at 101!  To celebrate this great actress’s life and career, be sure to visit Crystal’s blog site at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Virginie’s at The Wonderful World of Cinema to read all of the great posts from other classic film fans.  

Joan, I felt, lived an exotic type of life.  She was born in Tokyo, Japan, to British parents.  Sadly, her parents’ marriage failed, and she and her sister Olivia were taken to CA by their mother, who had herself been on the stage as a young woman, and I think had an idea to have her daughters also pursue acting as a career.  Olivia had successes first, and then Joan did, also.  Joan’s first film role was in 1935’s No More Ladies playing a very minor role, but by 1940, better parts were coming her way and in 1941, she won the Best Actress Oscar for her part as the wife convinced her husband was out to kill her in Suspicion.

Ivanhoe, was an ensemble film, in that there were quite a few characters  all revolving around the hero, Ivanhoe.  For those not familiar with the novel or the film, I’ll explain the plot, but it will contain spoilers. Wilfrid of  Ivanhoe(Robert Taylor)  is the son of a proud Anglo-Saxon man, Sir Cedric of Ivanhoe(Finlay Currie).  Sir Cedric is also an angry man, angry that the dastardly Normans have conquered England, have brought their way of government and laws and taxes to crush the Anglo-Saxons with, and he is also mad that his son, Wilfrid, has decided to run off on a wild goose chase to find King Richard(Norman Wooland) who, while traveling to fight in the current crusade,has disappeared.  Wilfrid does find King Richard, he is a prisoner of King Leopold of Austria, who is holding King Richard for a huge ransom.  King Richard’s slimy little brother, Prince John(Guy Rolfe), knows all about this but is enjoying ruling for his absent brother.  Prince John decides to do nothing  to spring his brother out of King Leopold’s dungeon.

Super serious Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe returns to his father’s home to ask his father for help in procuring the ransom money, but his father, Sir Cedric, refuses to raise any money to rescue a Norman King! Ivanhoe also takes time during his visit to woo his love, the fair Lady Rowena(Joan Fontaine), who is his father’s ward.  Several wayward travelers arrive at Sir Cedric’s door, asking for food and a place to sleep for the night: two Norman knights, Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert(George Sanders) and Sir Hugh de Bracy(Robert Douglas) and Isaac of York, a Jewish money-lender(Felix Aylmer).  During the meal, the Normans insult the Anglo-Saxons, they ogle Lady Rowena, and as word has spread that there’s a money-lender at Sir Cedric’s, several men attack Isaac when he is checking on his  horse at the stable. The evil men’s plan to steal Isaac’s money fails when Ivanhoe rescues Isaac.  Sir Cedric has ordered his son out of his sight by this time, so Ivanhoe offers to escort Isaac to his home.  Wamba(Emlyn Williams), Sir Cedric’s jester, asks to be Ivanhoe’s squire, and accompanies Ivanhoe on the trip to Isaac’s home.  Once there, Isaac, so moved by Ivanhoe’s rescue of him, gives him the money to pay for King Richard’s ransom. Isaac also asks Ivanhoe to beseech the King that Jews in England won’t be persecuted anymore.  Isaac’s beautiful daughter, Rebecca(Elizabeth Taylor), quietly gives  Ivanhoe her late mother’s jewels to add to the ransom amount. This is  her way of thanking Ivanhoe for saving her father’s life.  Ivanhoe and Rebecca immediately are attracted to one another, but neither will act on their feelings due to the strict rules of the day forbidding Jews from  marrying Gentiles.

Isaac thanking Ivanhoe for saving his life

Joan Fontaine as Lady Rowena

I won’t go into too many more plot points, but there is a great jousting scene, a castle siege scene, Rebecca, Rowena, and Sir Cedric all get kidnapped by the evil Norman Knights, Sir Brian and Sir Hugh, as the two men are lusting after Rebecca and Rowena.  The two knights also know that holding these three hostage will bring Ivanhoe to them and they can kill him.  Prince John gets a whiff of a rumor that his big brother has been sprung from that dungeon in Austria, and he’s becoming a nervous wreck.   Of course, it will be Ivanhoe to the rescue, with some help from Robin Hood and his Merry Men(but they go by different names in this film.)

Evil, whiny, Prince John

Baddie Sir Brian trying to explain to Rebecca his love for her.

Lady Rowena thanks Rebecca for all she had done to save Ivanhoe’s life

Robert Taylor, plays his role well; very stoic throughout.  He doesn’t laugh much  because he has a lot of heroic things to do! George Sanders is great as nasty Norman Sir Brian, but then as the film progresses, we see his inner struggle with falling in love with a Jewish woman who doesn’t love him.  Elizabeth Taylor is gorgeous in the film, and plays her character with sincerity and warmth and a quiet strength.  Felix Aylmer, Finlay Currie, and Emlynn Williams are superb in their supporting roles, as is Guy Rolfe as Prince John.  Joan Fontaine, while not billed before Elizabeth Taylor on the movie poster, plays Rowena as a calm, and wise woman, who just wants peace for England, and for peace to exist between the man she loves, Ivanhoe, and his father.

To see this rousing epic, that was one of the top 4 films in England in 1952, and earned MGM big box office profits, seek out Ivanhoe.  As luck would have it, TCM will be airing Ivanhoe this week, on Oct. 25th, at 4:00 pm eastern/3:00 pm central.  The film is also available via Amazon’s instant rent.  Here is the link to Youtube to see the British version of the film trailer.

Lovely Joan Fontaine

 

 

 

 

The Great Breening Blogathon

A couple years ago, Turner Classic Movies aired on their “Silent Sunday Nights” the 1925 film Ben-Hur.  I had seen the 1959 version many times, and my husband decided to buy it when it first came out on dvd.  I decided to dvr this silent version and then settled in one afternoon to watch it.  For a silent film, it was fast-paced and told the story of a Jewish man providentially meeting Jesus during pivotal moments in his life quite well.  However, during one crowd scene, I was shocked when Roman soldiers were jostling the people in the crowd and some of the women’s toga tops fell to their waists! Here, in a silent film was nudity which led to my mind harboring comments and questions: Naked women in Ben-Hur! That didn’t happen in the Charleton Heston version! Why weren’t the women given costumes that would stay in their proper places? Were silent era films more risque?   

I decided to do a bit of research on this aspect of American film.  When did censorship in the movies begin and why did it begin?  One needs to look at the sport of baseball for the inspiration of starting up a wing of the motion picture industry who’s goal it was to make sure films shown to American audiences wouldn’t be offensive.  In 1919, The Black Sox Scandal rocked the sporting world in the US when it was revealed that 8 members of the Chicago White Sox purposely lost the World Series in order to gain money from a gambling ring.  To soothe away this awful stain on baseball, Major League Baseball hired Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis to be the new league commissioner to help restore the image of baseball to the American public.  In 1922, Hollywood was facing lower box office numbers due to some movies labeled too risque for the public’s taste and due to  various stars’  scandals  and others in the industry. The major movie studios hired their own “commissioner”, Will Hays, to enforce a production code.  The Hays Code, as it came to be known, didn’t become truly enforced until 1934, so there are movies made before 1934 known as Pre-Code, which contain plots that were shocking for the times in which they were made and shown to audiences.

The version with no nudity.

Helping Hays to enforce this code was Joseph Breen, hence the title of this blogathon.  When a request for a  film under production to make a change in the plot, script, etc., the request was usually made by Breen.  Breen successfully enforced the Production Code from 1934-1954, then he retired.  His assistant, Geoffrey Shurlock, took over for Breen but under Shurlock’s watch, the Code was phased away, and eventually replaced with the ratings system for films.

I still wondered as to why there was nudity allowed in the silent film version of Ben-Hur.  I did some research on that film’s director, Fred Niblo.  Born in Nebraska to immigrant parents who divorced, I really couldn’t find much about the director that would point to any controversies in his life.  For more on Niblo, here is a link to an interesting bio written about him by one of his sons.  Over at the blog, Movies Silently, a wonderful resource is there comparing and contrasting the two versions of Ben-Hur, plus more background about the novel the films were based upon as well as it’s history when Ben-Hur played on Broadway. I wonder how those chariot races were shown on stage??

For more blog posts about Joseph Breen and why or how a film got the Breening treatment, be sure to visit Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s site for the “Great Breening Blogathon”, and learn about American film-making history along the way!