Monthly Archives: July 2019

MY MOST MEMORABLE MOVIES – PART II

Here is the last half of the movies that I remember the most. Each touched a nerve and affected me emotionally in one way or another.

Surely there must have been others that were outstanding, but my memory has become a bit limited.

A few of these got an Oscar or two, but it was the impact on me that kept the memory alive, not the awards.

The Godfather – Part II (1974) – This continuation of the original parallels the young Vito Corleone’s rise with his son Michael’s spiritual fall. In the early 1900’s, young Vito flees his Sicilian village for America after the local mafia kill his family. Vito tires of trying to make a living while constantly paying off the local mafia boss. Finally, he plots and kills the boss, takes over, and becomes the godfather. The outstanding cast in this mesmerizing tale included: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton.

Rocky (1976) – A not-so-sharp amateur boxer from Philadelphia’s tough neighborhood gets a surprise shot at fighting for the heavyweight championship and at the same time finds love with the shy, reclusive girl in the pet shop. He gets the shot because no one thinks he has a chance. Stars Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young and Burgess Meredith. It’s a great underdog story moved along with terrific music.

Star Wars (1977) – George Lucas released this futuristic fable which became the biggest money maker of all time and changed the shape of the film industry. Harrison Ford led the outstanding cast. It was a great new innovation in technological film making and a true popcorn delight.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – Steven Spielberg brought us this epic science fiction adventure about a desperate group of people who attempt to contact alien intelligence. Richard Dreyfuss is an electric lineman who witnesses an unidentified flying object (UFO). His wife and family are skeptical when he refuses to accept a logical explanation for his sighting. He is determined to find out the truth about the UFO he saw. Thoughtful and intriguing.

The Grey Fox (1982) – Here’s an eclectic, low-key tale about real life bandit Bill Miner that became a classic of Canadian cinema. Released from prison in 1901, Bill (Richard Farnsworth) finds himself living in a totally changed world. No more stagecoaches to rob, he goes to live with his sister in Washington state. He soon gets restless and tries to rob trains with a bumbling partner. As you might expect, it doesn’t work out too well. Great story! Well done!

The Right Stuff (1983) – Covering the 15-year formation of America’s space program, the film portrays the interaction of the original Mercury astronauts. The film relates the dangers and frustration facing these young tigers, their various personal crises involving their families, and the schism between their squeaky-clean public images. It stars Sam Shepherd, Ed Harris and Dennis Quaid. It was a heartwarming, patriotic, feel-good flick.

Philadelphia (1993) – At the time of its release, this was the first big budget Hollywood film to tackle the medical, political and social issues of AIDS. Tom Hanks is the young, talented lawyer at a stodgy old law firm who has to confront these issues head one. He is assisted by Denzel Washington, who reluctantly takes on his defense. What a searing portrait of a real-life drama.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) – This is the applause-driven adaptation of Queen, their music, and their extraordinary lead singer, Freddie Mercury, who defied stereotypes and shattered conventions to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic music and revolutionary sound, their near implosion as Mercury’s lifestyle spirals out of control, and their triumphant reunion on the eve of Live Aid, where Mercury, facing a life-threatening illness, leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Rami Malek was outstanding as the outrageous Freddie Mercury. It was touching, entertaining and a soaring musical treat.

It’s interesting to note that I have a 15-year gap between 1993 and 2018 when there were no movies that touched me like the others. Wonder why?

Hope there are still more to come.

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MY MOST MEMORABLE MOVIES – PART I

One of the highlights of growing up in a suburb of NYC was to get to see a movie at the local Boulevard Theater. I got to see Disney animated features, of course, and on Saturday mornings there was the Lone Ranger and other serials.

The Boulevard was a local theater and often didn’t get first-run movies for a year or two after they opened in Times Square.

When I got a little older I remember the great comedy “The Man Who Came to Dinner” starring Monte Wooley, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and Jimmy Durante.

I now know that was in 1942 and I spread my wings to the bigger RKO theater on a bus ride to neighboring Flushing.

That was the first and one of the only movies I ever saw more than once.

So, here without further ado are the movies that had the most affect on me, not always the best but the ones that stirred my emotions for reasons I’m not sure I fully understood.

Maybe they’ll spark a few of your memories, too.

Lost Horizon (1937) – A thought-provoking drama that was stimulating and very entertaining. Ronald Coleman, Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton and Thomas Mitchell scrambling to board the last plane out of a chaotic Chinese airfield. As the plane flies, they realize they’re going in the wrong direction. They end up flying to a new ideal location, Shangri-La. It had action, drama, mystery, suspense and fantasy. It was a truly exciting experience for a young film viewer.

Gunga Din (1939) – A Rudyard Kipling poem, Gunga Din is a fitting framework for the story of a crude cockney soldier’s tribute to a naïve Indian water boy who remains at his job even after being mortally wounded. An inspiring story capably played by Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Sam Jaffe and Joan Fontaine. Really inspiring!

Casablanca (1942) – This is the captivating story of a war-time adventure, romance and intrigue. It’s Humphrey Bogart as a world-weary freedom fighter who runs a nightclub in intriguing Casablanca and Ingrid Bergman who make the decision to leave the city of mysteries at the start of WWII. It was intense and gripping!

Laura (1944) – The film starts with the discovery that Laura (Gene Tierney) has been murdered. Tough NYC detective (Dana Andrews) methodically questions the chief suspects. It was a haunting, intriguing experience with lots of surprises.

The Third Man (1949) – Another gem from Orson Welles who arrives in post-war Vienna to visit his old friend who he discovers was killed in a street accident and wanted by the police as black marketer. Also stars one of my early favorites, Joseph Cotten.

Shane (1953) – The Wyoming range war is the focus of this western classic. Alan Ladd is a mysterious drifter who rides into a tiny homestead community and accepts the hospitality of a farm family. The farmer (Van Heflin) is impressed by the way Shane handles himself when facing down the land baron although he has trouble placing his complete trust in the stranger. Wife Marion (Jean Arthur) is attracted to Shane in spite of herself and son, Joey, flat out idolizes Shane. Also stars Jack Palance.

On The Waterfront (1954) – This classic story of mob control on the NY/NJ docks. Mob boss (Lee J. Cobb) controls the waterfront, with an iron fist. The authorities know he’s been responsible for a number of murders, but no witnesses will come forward. Washed up boxer, a young Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy is willing to keep his mouth shut until he meets Eva Marie Saint and gets the courage to speak up. Also starred Rod Steiger as a crooked union lawyer. It was electrifying.

The Graduate (1967) – “Plastics” was the cultural touchstone of the 1960’s as it seeped into the California upper-middle class. Totally adrift in the summer after college graduation, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) would rather float in the family pool than follow any adult advice about his future. He drifts along until he accepts the invitation of Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) to have an affair. Summer fun goes fine until Ben meets Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross), and then his pursuit gets really rollicking. Super entertaining!

If my memory holds out, next week we’ll tackle the last part of my list.

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CELEBRATING THE FOURTH OF JULY

A Little History

A lot of people think we celebrate the Fourth of July because it is the day we received our independence from England. Not exactly.

Way back in the 18th century the United States was not the United States. In fact, what we now call states were called colonies. The United States was actually an extension of England. People traveled from England aboard ships to settle in America, but eventually differences in life, thought, and interests began to develop which caused a rift between Britain and America.

When the colonies were first settled they were allowed to pretty much develop freely without hardly any interface from Britain, but things abruptly changed in 1763. Britain decided they needed to take more control over the colonies. They decided the colonies needed to return revenue to the mother country and they needed to pay for the colonies defense, which was being provided by Britain. But the colonies did not agree with these new rules at all. They felt that since they were not represented in Parliament that they shouldn’t have to pay any kinds of taxes to the mother country, hence the saying “no taxation without representation.” When Britain continued to tax, the colonies formed the First Continental Congress to persuade the British government to recognize their rights.  When this didn’t work a war was declared, which became the American Revolution.

After the First Continental Congress failed to persuade Britain to recognize the colonies’ rights, and war was declared, things began to heat up. Many people who were both considered moderates and radicals had decided that enough was enough and that any kind of taxation without representation was considered tyranny. People such as John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Ben Franklin, as well as a group called the Sons of Liberty, decided that it was time to united all of the colonies and to stand together against Britain.

During the course of the American Revolution a second Continental Congress was formed. It is this group that adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was drafted by John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. After it was revised, it was sent to Congress for approval. All 13 colonies stood behind the Declaration of Independence and adopted it in full on July 4, 1776.

This is where the Fourth of July holiday comes in. The Fourth of July is known as Independence Day because that is the day the Second Continental Congress adopted the full and formal Declaration of Independence. Even though we had declared we were independent, the American Revolution was still being fought, which meant that we were still not independent. Regardless of the ongoing war the following year, people in Philadelphia celebrated a muted Fourth of July.

While celebrations on July 4th during the American Revolution were modest, after the war ended in 1783 the Fourth of July became a holiday in many places.  The celebrations included speeches, military events, parades, and fireworks. To this day the Fourth of July is the most patriotic holiday celebrated in the United States.

The Story of the Stars and Stripes

American flags have changed with the country. Each time a new state had been admitted to the union, the layout of the stars changed. During the first few years of the nation’s existence, it didn’t have one official flag. Rather a number of similar looking red, white and blue designs were used, including the circular star design attributed to Betsy Ross. Since 1818, July 4th has been used as the date on which the American flag, as we know it, was adopted.

Presidential Births and Deaths

Was it a coincidence? Three of USA’s early presidents died on the 4th of July. Founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding, July 4th, 1826. Jefferson and Adams were also the only two men to have signed the Declaration of Independence and later become presidents. Ironically enough, five years later, President James Monroe also died on the same day in 1831. Destiny ran a different course in 1872 when Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4th. To date, Coolidge is the only president to be born on Independence Day.

Two Days Late

While July 4th has been forever enshrined as the independence day of United States, American people are actually celebrating two days later. The Second Continental Congress met on July 2nd to formally approve the new nation’s independence. The Congress approved the Declaration of Independence two days later, on July 4th.

When Did Fireworks Start?

It isn’t the 4th of July without a grand fireworks show. Accounts from the Pennsylvania Evening Post in 1777 indicate that the city celebrated with gun salutes and fireworks. Philadelphia enjoyed bonfires and other events to commemorate our nation’s first official birthday. Cannon salutes were also popular, and the first Independence Day celebration included the firing of 13 cannons, reflective of our first 13 states.

Who Signed the Declaration on the 4th of July?

There is considerable debate among historians as to who, if anyone, signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. Some scholars believe the document was signed by Congress on August 2nd, as that was the day when a clean copy was finally acquired by Timothy Matlack, who was the assistant to the secretary of Congress. In the years following 1776, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson claimed that Congress did, in fact, sign it on the 4th of July—but, again, some of the signatures were from men who were not present on that particular date. One story claims that the most famous signature of all time, John Hancock’s, was the only one to be added to the Declaration on July 4th, 1776.

The Dog Days of Summer

The 4th of July is the biggest day of the year for hotdogs. More hotdogs are eaten on this day than any other day of the year. Estimates place the number of hotdogs eaten on this date at 155 million, or enough to stretch across the American nation more than five times over. We wonder what percentage of those 155 million hotdogs are consumed during the annual hotdog eating contest usually held over the 4th of July.

Uncle Sam Gives You the Day Off

For most American people, the 4th of July is a beautiful summer day off from work, but it wasn’t always that way. It wasn’t until 1785 that Congress made Independence Day an official unpaid holiday. In 1938 that was changed to a paid holiday.

All American – Not Quite

Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, eight were born in England. The liberty bell, which is a symbol of our independence, was cast in a British foundry.

Have a wonderful 4th of July!

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