Volume XVI, No. 20


Frank Fax Facts    `

And Reviews


Volume XVI, No. 20

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Father Gorman treated Joyce Burns (his attendant at Dauphin Island) and me to a

Delicious catfish and hush puppy lunch on Thursday afternoon. It was my second trip to Saraland’s Catfish Junction, and further confirmed my original assessment of the restaurant. The fish are perfectly cooked and by the time I finished with my two whole catfish (Fr. Gorman had the fillets, while Joyce and I opted for the whole fish: I love those crunchy fried tails!)  the cleaned bones looked exactly like two white combs on my otherwise clean plate!

Friday, I played bridge with Richard Berry, and we again were third from last (anything beats being last) But this time we had won first place in the C category!

Last night, Bubbie McClintock drove me to Mike Davis’s daughter’s house, where she was giving him a surprise 70th birthday party. The outdoor setting was as lovely as anything I have seen in some time, with a lake in the yard making for a cool breeze the tire time we were there. Mike did not come until about an hour after we had arrived, but we got to visit with him before Bubbie had to leave for a previous later appointment (he was unaware of the party until I called him). Marshal and Michelle (our host and hostess) had certainly gone to a lot of trouble and expense for the gala occasion, and I certainly am happy to have been included on the guest list.


 Cat Wisdom

“A dog is a dog, a bird is a bird, and a cat is a person.”

Mugsy Peabody

DVD Reviews

The Girl on the Train

 (French with s/t) We first see the girl of the title (Emile Dequenne) who plays Jean, the daughter of French screen legend, Catherine DeNeuve. The older actress is still gorgeous, though she is finally showing signs of aging. The two live together and seem more like sisters than mother and child. Louise (DeNeuve) earns her money running a day care center for working parents; children, while Jean is half-heartedly trying to find work as a secretary. Louise suggests that Jean apply for a position with one of her old admirers, Samuel Bleistein (Michael Leblanc), who has become a famous barrister. Unfortunately, she runs into the lawyer’s feisty secretary; who correctly appraises the girl’s work as superficial.

Jean meets an exciting young fellow, earlier in the film, with whom she falls in love. In order to have enough money to support her, he takes a job for both of them, as caretakers of a large warehouse. Little does she dream that the job involves dealing in drugs. When the boyfriend is almost killed, trying to keep a young addict from stealing drugs, he faces ten years in prison- after he gets out of the hospital. He tells Jean she is an airhead and he never wants to see her again.

Jean invents an incredible lie: a lie that grows into the biggest news and political story of the day, in her desperate attempt to be loved and get attention. She ends up having to admit that the entire plot was a lie.

The film’s plot is extremely convoluted, but I found it fascinating and exciting. There is also a sub-plot about the lawyer’s secretary’s 14-year-old son, who is dead-set against the Bar Mitzvah his parents (who are separated) are planning for him.

The acting is uniformly excellent, and the entire movie is visually stunning: especially scenes from inside the train as it travels through tunnels as well as scenes with the two young lovers: chatting on the Internet! ! (****)



Thrice-Told Tales

I decided to call any of my family’s history by this title, if I was not actually a part of the action, or more likely, was not present when it occurred. Thus, I heard it from some other family member, and now I am telling it to you. Since I have used the stories before, Twice Told Tales did not seem appropriate: particularly as a pretty good writer had already used that title.

The following short story was told in my presence so many times, and it always seemed so funny to me, that I chose it as my first Thrice Told Tale.


She had just finished her arithmetic test, checked to ascertain that all of her figures were accurate, and walked up to put it on her teacher’s desk. As usual, she was the first student in the class to finish. She really felt sorry for some of her classmates, those who had no understanding of figures. Having worked in the market, as we all did, adding columns of figures, multiplying numbers, division and any other normal arithmetic was a snap. Reciting the multiplication tables was done like an automaton: effortlessly and accurately.

Helen’s best friend at school was Ruth Pool. They always sat next to each other, and now she took out her tablet and was just about to write her a note, when the bell rang.

“Class,” the teacher said loudly over the din that always broke out whenever the bell rang, “Finish up before you leave the room. Be sure to put your names on your test papers and turn them in on your way out.”

“See you later,” she called out to Ruth, and began walking briskly towards home.

Ruth looked at her quizzically, but said nothing.

Helen had not realized how hungry she was until she got up and began moving around. She hoped Mama would have something really good for dinner. She moved so rapidly that the distance of just over a mile took much less time than usual.

She went through the market, where there was nobody at all. Both of her parents were outside, she imagined. Between the store and the house, she saw Papa, washing out some of his large meat pans at the hydrant just beyond the back screen door.

“What choo doin’home, Shorty?” he laughed as he asked.

“I came home for dinner!”

Papa looked confused. “Why?” she wondered.

Mama, walking out through the back door onto the sidewalk, said, ”You march straight back to school! Right this minute!”

“But I thought---“

“Helen, it’s only ten thirty!”

The little girl was so upset with herself. “Oh. my LORD! It’s recess!”

She ran every step of the way back and got there just as the bell was ringing. When she told Ruth what she had done, they both had a good laugh.’

But she was still hungry!

Remakes and More Sequels

In 1987, the current governor of California gave the world a thrill with “Predator”. Also in the almost-entirely male cast was another not-very-good actor who turned politician, Jessie Ventura. I blushingly admit that I enjoyed this nail-biter, too. It was one of those well-made big budget films like “Aliens” and “Planet of the Apes” that had no trouble catching just about everybody’s attention. The original film spawned only one sequel (“Predator 2”) three years later. A few weeks ago, as I watched the two movie critics’ reviews of the week’s new releases, I was less than thrilled to learn that there is a new “Predator”: supposedly a remake of the first picture. You know the routine: either they try to capture the first movie’s success and call it simply by the first title; or the make a sequel and choose to call it by the first title with a 2 after it.

Movies have been around a long time now: well over a century. “Talkies” are about as old as I am. So I grew up seeing lots of remakes, though I usually was not aware that they had been made in a silent version prior to the “All Sound” version I was seeing.

The first films I ever saw that I was aware were remakes were “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “The Phantom of the Opera”. Coincidentally, both of these originally had been produced over at Universal and starred one of their biggest stars of the silent screen, Lon Chaney. Both of these films are on my 50 top favorites of all time. When RKO released its version of Victor Hugo’s novel, they spared no expense and it paid off at the boxoffice: Charles Laughton made the perfect “Quasimodo”, who compares himself to one of the gargoyles on the Cathedral itself, and gorgeous newcomer Maureen O’Hara was the perfect Esmerelda. This was Edmund O’Brien’s debut role also. The film’s release date of 1939 worked to its disadvantage: “Gone with the Wind” (which so-far Hollywood has had the good sense to leave without a “remake”) took home the majority of the Oscars for that fantastic year.  Certainly Laughton deserved an award. There have been other remakes since ’39: Anthony Quinn had a shot as the bell ringer in 1957, although Gina Lollabridgida got the top billing; a slightly better version than Quinn’s was the made for TV Anthony Hopkins version that aired in ’82 (Leslie Ann Downs, Derek Jacobi, John Gielgud, and David Suchet) and, of course, the Walt Disney animated version, which was really not bad at all: but I resented it and feel that it might have created the current trend to do everything in animation and computer-generated special effects.

In 1940, MGM produced Ernst Lubitsch’s “The Shop Around the Corner”. The film starred Margaret Sullivan, James Stewart, and Frank Morgan; Nine years later, Metro released “In the Good Old Summertime” with Judy Garland, Van Johnson and S. Z. “Cuddles” Sazkall; “You’ve Got Mail”, much later starred Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. What had these three films in common? They were all based on basically the same plot: Boy and girl work in same book store, dislike each other, write anonymous letters to unknown people (who turn out to be the co-workers), and finally meet and are already in love. This was so successful that all three films were big commercial successes. Incidentally, Liza Minelli made her screen debut at three, in “The Good Old Summer Time”s final scene, where she is seen walking with her parents (Van and Judy) as he holds her in his arms. She later confessed that she had been wearing no under garments and that she remembers how cold she was at the time.

In the case of Love Affair”, which RKO released in 1939 (with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer, and a memorable cameo by Maria Ouspenskaya, as Boyer’s mother); remained basically unchanged in  1957’s “An Affair to Remember” (with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, and Cathleen Nesbit as Grant’s mother; directed by Leo McCarey for Fox) it had an unforgettable title song that became an instant hit. In  1994, returning to its original title, “Love Affair”, this latest version starred Warren Beatty and Annette Benning, with none other than Katherine Hepburn as the mother! In all versions, the lovers meet aboard a ship and visit the man’s mother in her native land. When they return to New York, they must part (both are engaged to marry someone else) but vow to meet again in one year. They choose the Empire State Building Roof for their reunion. She is hit by a car as she goes to keep their date, and he stands alone on the skyscraper’s roof. Of course it always has the happy Hollywood ending, as he takes her in his arm when he finds where she has been waiting for him,

This syrupy film serves as a major plot device for “Sleepless in Seattle”, whose stars (again, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks) plan their “initial” meeting at the same famous location.

Once in a blue moon, a movie will crop up with the same title as another film, book, or other source. The title is the only thing they have in common. One example of this is Jane Austen’s  famous novel, “Emma”. I checked on it and found an early “talkie” entitled “Emma”, which starred Marie Dressler, as a domestic (the sort of role she excelled in). Of course, Gweneth Paltrow was sensational in the screen version of the novel (1996). When I read that “Clueless” (Alicia Silverstone) was based loosely on the Austen novel! I certainly did not pick up on this, even after watching “Clueless” three times, and loving every minute. The only similarity I see is the fact that Cher (Alicia) always tries to advise her friends in matters of the heart, and is totally” Clueless” as far as telling anyone else should choose a lover. There has been at last two British television versions in the past decade, as Austen’s novels grow ever more popular. I find this incomprehensible! Especially in today’s “anything goes” society.

(To be continued)


Tuesday, November 2, 2010