My Favorite Holiday Movies: 1: White Christmas

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This season is one of my favorite times of year, and I love doing this series on Christmas movies. Throughout the month of December, I will post on several of my favorite Christmas films.

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White Christmas, the 1954 film about two former soldiers who turn song and dance men and who help their former commander as he attempts to run a floundering ski resort, has special meaning to me. It stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney and was directed by Michael Curtiz. It features the songs of Irving Berlin.  As a major piece of American film history, that would be enough to be of interest to me, but it has a much more profound connection.

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My parents were both of “the greatest generation,” which is a description with which I agree. They were born and raised during the depression and were part of the multitudes of America who fought and supported World War II. My father was a Marine, and my mother worked in the Signal Corps.  This group of Americans had a toughness that was forged in the fire of great tumult, both national and international. They understood that the connection to country meant service and a willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal_Corps_%28United_States_Army%29)

My mother loved this movie, and it was a tradition in our family to watch it when it aired on television, which was, if I remember correctly, every Christmas Eve. If not that night, then it was always on a nearby night. Of course, as a child who was born a while after World War II, it was all ancient history to me then, but for my mother and father, it spoke directly to their lives and to their hopes and dreams.

Both of my parents have been gone for quite a while now, over 20 years–they were married for 48 years and died within 2 years of each other. As I have become older, I have learned to appreciate what my parents did for us, which, I have to admit, when I was young and stupid, I did not. To paraphrase Mark Twain, –it is amazing how smart my parents got as I got older. And I appreciate and try to continue some of the family traditions, including watching White Christmas, but now with my beloved wife. And now my granddaughter is old enough to begin to appreciate and enjoy these films. I still feel the connection to my Mom and Pop when I watch this movie.  This movie speaks to the connection of people, of hope, of joy, of happiness, and of the power of music.

And I wish we would have a white Christmas, and I hope it will happen this year.

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While The Bombs Fell by Robbie Cheadle & Elsie Hancy Eaton — A Review

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This is a small book, only in length, but please do not be misled by its relatively short size. It is a wonderful historical read, and it is full of interesting and captivating details of life during World War Two as seen through the eyes of a child.

Robbie Cheadle and Elsie Hancy Eaton do a marvelous job of pulling the reader into the child’s perspective, who finds wonder and joy, even in this terrible historical period. I loved reading about how the family survived with what they had and still managed to maintain the important aspects of life regardless of the hardships of the time.

The details are fascinating, and the added recipes are delightful. If you are interested in history or a captivating tale, then I recommend this book highly!

I was enthralled in the story from the very beginning through to the end. I have tended to read historical accounts as told through the perspective of adults, and this book, narrated by a very young child, is a refreshing approach.

I give this book a 5 star review, and I hope you buy a copy and read it!

Please visit Robbie Cheadle’s wonderful sites:

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Please Honor Veterans Day

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Today is Veterans Day, and I simply wanted to offer my thank you to all the men and women who have served or are serving our country in the Armed Forces.

This day began with Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, which ended the First World War. Congress formalized Armistice Day as a national holiday in 1938. After World War II and The Korean War, the day was renamed Veterans Day, and it serves as a time to honor all of those who have served or are serving.

Please let it be a day of honor and thanks, not one of special sales deals. It is a day to recognize the commitment, duty, sacrifice, and service of the men and women who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces.

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Happy Birthday To The United States Marine Corps!

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Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps, who are on this day 244 years old. This branch of the Armed Forces of the United States has a long and distinguished history.  They will always have a special place in my heart, because my father was a Marine in World War II.

The Marine Corps is a family, and I saw this clearly one day, when my father was dying of cancer. His body had become a tiny version of the man he had been. He had taken to wearing his Marine Corps cap, and two young men in their uniforms, clearly just out of boot camp, saw him. We had been out for a small meal in my home town of Easton, PA,  and they approached him and began a conversation with him about his experiences. Then one young man asked me with complete courtesy if it was okay if they borrowed him for a few hours, simply to talk with an older Marine. My father was delighted, and I knew he was in good hands. I came back later that afternoon to pick him up, and he was still there talking with the two youngsters.

When he stood to go, they saluted him. My heart was full, and I saw the great joy these two young men had given to a mortally ill, elderly man they had never known before. When he was leaving, they exchanged, “Semper Fi.”

Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps.

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Favorite Horror Films: Part 15 — Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein

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This film might seem like an unusual choice for my series on horror films, especially since it is primarily a comedy, but I do have a fond place for this movie in my heart for several reasons.

As a youngster, I loved the hosted horror films shows that often appeared on Saturday afternoon, and I saw most of the Universal Studios horror films on those shows.  Also, I heard several times from my parents that they saw this movie when they were on their honeymoon in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, it is an extremely funny movie.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

This film, made in 1948, was the completion of the Universal classic horror movie cycle, and it included the big three monsters of the Universal pantheon: The Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, and the Wolfman.  One of the signals of the end of a film genre cycle is when it reaches parody, and this film qualifies.  Horror very often is a reflection of the concerns of the larger world, and with World War Two completed, the fears of the world had changed and would be seen more in new science fiction films. (I examine some of these movies in my series on Science-Fiction films.)

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The premise is silly and features Dracula attempting to revive the Frankenstein Creature, and Larry Talbot, the wolfman, trying to find a cure for his lycanthropic infection. I should add that this is one of the finest performances by Lon Chaney Jr. despite the comedic tone of the movie.  Of course, Abbott and Costello are brilliant in their comedic routines. This movie never fails to make me laugh, no matter how many times I have seen it. Bela Lugosi plays Dracula for the last time, and Glenn Strange takes his turn as the Creature.

If you have not seen this movie and you enjoy the classic Universal Studios horror films and you love slapstick 1940s comedy, then you should watch it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Always Remember And Honor D-Day

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Today is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion by the Allied troops in which, on June 6, 1944, over 150,000 troops launched the largest sea, air, and land invasion in history against the Fascist powers led by Nazi Germany. The invasion itself saw these troops land in Nazi-occupied France, and it marked the beginning of the end of Nazi control of France and of the European war.

This landing was part of Operation Overlord, the code name for the overall plan to invade and retake France and move into Germany. During this battle, approximately 210,000 Allied casualties, including about 37,000 killed were suffered.

Most of the soldiers who attacked that beach and faced horrific gunfire from the occupying Nazi forces were around 18-20 years old, and they were among the most honorable and brave forces the Unites States ever produced. They were, indeed, among America’s Greatest Generation.

Please remember their courage and sacrifice.

Please remember that their actions helped to create the postwar American-European alliances that are currently at risk.

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Honor Veterans Day

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November 11 is Veterans Day, and I simply wanted to offer my thank you to all the men and women who have served or are serving our country in the Armed Forces.

This day began with Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, which ended the First World War. Congress formalized Armistice Day as a national holiday in 1938. After World War II and The Korean War, the day was renamed Veterans Day, and it serves as a time to honor all of those who have served or are serving.

Please let it be a day of honor and thanks, not one of special sales deals. It is a day to recognize the commitment, duty, sacrifice, and service of the men and women who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces.

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I Stand With The Jewish Community

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Today we have seen the commission of a horrible act of terrorism and murder committed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A shooter opened fire inside a synagogue and killed 11 and injured 6 others. I am not sure if those horrific numbers will increase–I hope they do not.

It must be said without any doubt that this was an anti-Semitic, racist, bigoted, and fascist act, that also is chillingly reminiscent of acts in Germany during the 1930s. In our current political climate, in which hatred is growing, and in which guns are easily available to anyone, including some people who have no business having them, such horrors occur far too frequently. This was an act of hatred by a racist, an extreme right winger.

People of all political views, at least those who are sane, must oppose these increases in hate. There are no excuses, no justifications, and no political spins that can reduce the culpability of a political culture that has lead to the massive increase of both shootings and attacks on places of worship, especially of people in the minority in the United States. These actions indicate a growing and disturbing trend towards fascism, and it must be opposed. My parents were of the generation that fought against totalitarianism by Japan and Germany and Italy. They did not sacrifice so much so that our country can slide into fascist attitudes. We must never forget the lessons of the horrors of the 20th Century, especially the Holocaust and World War Two.

Freedom and democracy demand that reasonable people, who can certainly disagree with how to fix problems in the United States of America, unite to oppose this disturbing trend.

Again, I am horrified by this shooting, and I feel great sadness for the Jewish people who suffered from this attack–the dead, the wounded, and their families and friends.

It is not enough to offer thoughts and prayers.

This must never happen again.

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Favorite Horror Films: The Horror of Dracula: Revisited

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I am returning to my series of examinations of horror movies through various decades.  After the great horror  cycle of movies from Universal Studios in the 1930s and 1940s culminating in the Abbott and Costello spoofs, serious horror movies vanished for a period. They were replaced by the spate of giant critter movies spawned by the fears of nuclear fallout post World War Two and the ominous threat of nuclear armageddon of the Cold War.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

In 1957, Hammer Studios, a British film company initiated a new cycle of horror films with the release of The Curse of Frankenstein. Following on the success of that film, Hammer then produced its new version of a filmic adaptation of Dracula by Bram Stoker: Horror of Dracula (the American title) or Dracula (the British title).  This film not only allowed this film studio to emerge as a major force in horror films, but also it, along with The Curse of Frankenstein, spawned a new cycle in horror that would span nearly two decades. The film starred Sir Christopher Lee as Dracula, Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, and Michael Gough as  Arthur Holmwood and was directed by Terence Fisher.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

This film dramatically changed the course of horror films.  Prior to Horror Of Dracula, most horror movies, especially  the classic Universal films were shot in black and white; this film was in vivid color. Also changed noticeably from the 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi was the pacing and the level of over sexuality and violence. This movie moved at a very rapid pace with condensed action and compression of characters from the book.  A very lively film score added to the tension and feeling of almost constant movement.

 

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(https://fr.wikipedia.org)

Christopher Lee brought an imposing physicality to the role and played the count with a noble British accent. He showed great strength and mobility in his performance. And this film introduced  the vampire with fangs and blood.  When he emerges in full fury after the vampire girl has attacked Jonathan Harker, he is a demonic image.  This was a representation of the vampire that was entirely new and very powerful.

In Britain, this movie received an X rating because of its, what was for the time, overt sexuality and violence. The women sometimes wore low cut gowns, and Dracula’s attacks carried a not too subtle sexuality, although by today’s standards, this shocking sensuality certainly would be tame or almost quaint.

Horror Of Dracula was a success both financially and critically. Hammer studios would make numerous sequels to this film and would also base the release of other movies, principally on Dr. Frankenstein , on their good fortune. If you enjoy horror films and have not seen this particular movie, I recommend it.

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Quotations on Patriotism

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It seems appropriate in these times of turmoil, in which terms like patriotism are thrown around easily, to put up some quotations about it. After reading Trump’s so-called joke about hoping for a President for life in the United States, I am compelled to point out that when he took the oath of office, among what he promised was, “. . . I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  (The emphasis is mine.) This is a sacred duty, and it must never been made a butt of jokes, nor must any President make claims to want to be “President for life.” Anyone who does that is not patriotic, and any American who is patriotic should be offended. My parents’ generation fought a horrific world war to protect freedom. We must not let it go by, and we should not ignore threats to our freedom.

I will let more eloquent than I speak to this:

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“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

                                                                     Theodore Roosevelt

 

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“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.”

                                                                      Mark Twain

 

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“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”

                                                                      George Washington