Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVI, No. 46
Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011
SOS: Last week I gave one of you a copy of a children’s short story titled, “The Saga of Oliver Jones” and asked you to read it and let me know what you thought of it. Since then, I have found three pages that are obviously lacking in the manuscript I loaned you. Also, I cannot find the original anywhere. Please contact me if you have the little story (all I remember is that it was a lady who reads Fax Facts. I believe I gave it to her at the Bridge Center).
Since leaving St. Edmund’s, I have tried three different churches, trying to find the one that best suits my so-called schedule: This morning, I tried
”Our Savior” which has an 8:30 mass on Sundays (enabling me to hear my Word Puzzles on PBS (7:40 each Sunday, for about 15 minutes), but found the service too long (with more of the priest’s part being sung: even the consecration of the Host!) and every verse of every hymn being sung. In short, the mass there isn’t: we began a little before 8:30 and were finished at 9:45. I would not object if the homily had been longer, but there is just too much singing, in my opinion. The Cathedral is ideal, but for having to drive about ten miles each way, and not being able to understand one of the priests at all. I’ll probably return to St. Catherine’s because it is so convenient and both priests are excellent. But I will window shop a bit more: I plan to get to St. Dominic’s 9:00 AM mass next week. That was where I used to go with Jack Morgan, and I also played Bridge there on Mondays for eons.
“Even overweight, cats instinctively know the cardinal rule: When fat, arrange yourself in slim poses.”
City Island (Anchor Bay)
The DVD box carried the following assessment of this film: “**** A very funny film!” and a picture of 6 of its cast, including: Andy Garcia (center of first row) Juliana Morgulies and new-to-me, Steven Strait. On the back of the cover is a second blurb and a picture of the entire family seated around a picnic table: “A warmly hilarious movie: Garcia is comic gold!’
What am I missing here?
I’ll tell you what I am missing: the years that make up the difference in what teenagers today deem “Hilarious” (which in my vocabulary is “atrociously disgusting”) and what I call “mildly amusing’ and they---well, what terms do they use to describe what I smile wistfully at? “Corny?” “Tacky?” “Dumb?” No, I am sure they would find all of these adjectives (my GOD! What in the hell is an ADJECTIVE?”) lacking in the colorful language that makes nonstop use of the F word. And here is one of the positive things I can say about “City Island”: there is not one single (and I listened very carefully, as well as keeping the subtitles on) F word in the entire movie. But it just goes to show you how far films have lowered their standards, so now they throw the act, itself, at us, as casually as they used to show a girl blowing a kiss at her beau.
Having vented my spleen somewhat, I will add that (strange as it may sound) there is a rather interesting told here: but I did not find it funny. Actually, the best thing in the film is not mentioned, nor is she pictured on the cover: beautiful Emily Mortimer walks off with the movie (Garcia is his usual competent self) as the schoolmate of Garcia; in an acting class they are both taking. He tells his wife he is playing poker, rather than admitting to doing something wonderful and worthwhile, and all the while, she assumes he is having an affair with another woman.
But it is the two legitimate children that I objected to: a teen aged son, and a slightly older daughter represent (for me) all the very worse elements that make up such a large percentage to today’s really lost generation. (**)
John Malkovitch is a consummate actor, but he always tends to give me the creeps! I first saw him in Sally Field’s award winning “Places in the Heart”, and was struck with the same uneasy feeling even back then. His career has given us some mighty fine performances, and this is no exception. He portrays a university professor (sounded like English Lit to me, but we are never told why he is talking to his class about English poets so much) and becomes attracted to one of his pupils. He courts her and finally seduces her. He becomes hopelessly smitten with her, and forces himself on her long after she tries to break the relationship off. She finally reports him to the staffers of the school, and he is questioned, admits that all of her charges against him are true and that he is guilty. He refuses to make any excuses or apologies. We next see him in Post Apartheid South Africa, where he has a daughter who is single. He moves in with her, and with the help of an aboriginal male, grows exotic flowers, which make plenty of money for her. Her co-worker leaves overnight, and in his absence a band of looters and rapists break in, lock Malkovitch in a cellar and rape his daughter. They steal his car, and leave the entire place in shambles. Later, the father finds out the co-worker is a friend of the looters. Then, the daughter discovers that she is pregnant, and tells her father she intends to have the child! He is thunderstruck, tries to reason with her, and then and prepares to return to Australia. He does so, but stays only a short while, then returns to the disaster that is their life.
The plot is very complex, and I cannot begin to give you any clearer idea of the situations. I found it too compelling to turn off, so I just sat and absorbed it-rather like a sponge. (***)
The Long Hot Summer
I mourned poor Smutty Joe most of that day, but when George came home from the junior college, I more or less snapped out of the blahs. We went out in the back yard and I took two or three pictures of him with the little Brownie camera Josephine had given me. There was a tall wooden fence that Daddy had built between our market and another building that we owned. At this time, a Mrs. Jenkins, who had a restaurant there, rented it. George and I had eaten some of her hamburgers when we had ridden with Daddy to Ellisville from Richton, and had to waste the entire day until Mrs, Bishop’s Varsity Theater opened for its 4:00 matinee.
There was, still at this time, a lovely apple tree that Josephine is supposed to have planted. This seems unlikely, as she never could stand the taste of apples. It made a lovely backdrop for my close-ups of my brother, and ultimately created a picture of him with what looked just like gray hair (it was at the height of its blackness).
A few days after we moved in, a very pretty young girl rang the doorbell, and when I went to answer it, she said, “Hi, I’m Carolyn Steinwinder from across the street.”
“I’m Francis,” I said shyly.
“Is George at home?”
“He just came in. Come in and I’ll go and get him.”
George seldom took kindly to unannounced visitors, and when I told him the girl wanted to see him, he demanded, “What does she want to see me about?” He was sprawled out on the bedspread.
“How would I know?” I gave him question for question. I watched him. He was obviously not interested in finding the answer to his own question, so I said, “She’s mighty pretty.”
He made a clicking noise with his tongue.
“Well—are you coming or not?”
He did not answer, but slowly rose from the bed and began walking even more slowly towards the hallway. I trailed along behind him. I was very curious to find out what Carolyn wanted with him. She looked about my own age- maybe a year older.
I had ushered her into the living room, and she was seated on the couch. She stood up as he entered the room. “George, Mother and I have certainly enjoyed hearing you playing the piano!”
He smiled broadly. “Why, thank you! Carolyn, is it?”
“Oh, I forgot to give you my name. Anyway, we were wondering if you might take me on as a student.”
If he were as surprised as I was, he certainly did not show it. You’d have thought he had been teaching all of his life.
“Well, they keep me mighty busy with school work and my practicing,” he paused as if trying to make a momentous decision. For him. I imagine, it was just that.
I glanced at Carolyn. My Lord, she was beautiful. Much prettier than anyone I had ever seen except in the movies.
“Of course, Mother said to ask you how much you would charge for a half hour lesson.”
“Actually, you would be my very first student,” I was shocked at his admitting this. “Could you play something to let me see how where we would need to start?”
She frowned. She was even pretty doing that!
“I didn’t take last year. Before that I had taken four years from Mrs. Gridley, in Laurel, I’m pretty rusty, but I could sight read something for you.”
I could tell by the way he was glaring at me, that it was time for me to excuse myself. “See you later, Carolyn,” I said, half-heartedly, already halfway out the door.
My brain began working on the price I felt George should ask for a half hour lesson. In Richton, Miss Alline Hill charged three dollars a month for two 30-minute lessons a week, but because there were two of us from the same family, she charged Daddy only four dollars. This came to a dollar a week for the two of us, only a quarter, when all was said and done. Twenty-five cents per lesson seemed exorbitant for someone who had never given a piano lesson in his life. So, what did I feel he could ask, with a good clear conscience? Daddy promised Helen a dollar a week for working all day in the market, six days out of the week. But he figured with the room and board, he was being more than generous.
My busy little mind simply had no experience with money matters, other than the fact that each Sunday (for almost as long as I could remember) Daddy gave me a quarter. He had cut a slot in one end of a cigar box, which he nailed to the inside of one of our closet doors. As soon as I got the coin, I made a beeline for that “Bank” and deposited it. There was no question of my spending it. What could I possible need that we did not sell in our market? Well, maybe clothes- but I didn’t have to worry about those: Mama made sure I was decently (if not very stylishly) clad.
My musings were interrupted by the sounds of someone (Carolyn?) playing Beethoven’s “Menuet, in G”. I smiled smugly. This had been one of my solos when I gave me first recital last year. My smugness turned to icy jealousy as she attacked the middle section (which I never came to terns with) and seemed to be playing it effortlessly! When the piece was completed, I could hear George’s voice, sounding downright excited as he was probably telling her how great she was. I determined, then and there, to work harder on my own practicing.
The next day, I saw Carolyn sitting on Mrs. Collins’ front porch. I had no idea that she lived so near our house, even though she had said that she lived across the street. I pulled the curtains in the living room back a little farther to have a fuller view of her. It looked like she was reading a book, and I had to subdue the greatest urge to walk over to ask her what sort of books she enjoyed. But I didn’t dare. An older woman came out and sat in the other rocking chair on the porch. I guessed that must be her mother.
After watching them a few minutes more, I decided to go over on the pretense of visiting “Aunt Rhea”, which is what everyone called their Landlady. She and I had renewed our acquaintance on one of my several trips to Ellisville in the past year and a half as Daddy got everything ready for our return.
“Bye, Mama,” I called out as I opened the front screen door.
“Where you goin’?” She asked, without much interest.
“Just across the street to visit Aunt Rhea.”
This was a habit I had formed while still a little boy. Mama liked to know were we all were, at any given time. Not all of my siblings took kindly to this, but I never had the slightest objection, because I knew I would have wanted to know where I was if I were she.
It was a glorious spring afternoon, and as I stepped off the blacktop of the street, and began walking on the soft green grass that made no sound as I walked upon it, Carolyn called out, “Come on in, Francis, and meet my mother.”
This was too easy. I had my speech all planned, about how I was coming to see Mrs. Collins. Now, I was suddenly speechless.
“Hello, Francis. Carolyn is so glad to have you and George so close.”
I loved Maggie Steinwinder immediately! She was so cute and petite. When I got to know her better, I realized that she loved her two children just as ferociously as Mama did all of hers. There was a son, Jack, who was even then away from home, in the Navy. Mr. Steinwinder was also away. I never got to know him very well, but he, too, seemed very nice.
Carolyn had risen and was clearing some newspapers from the porch swing. “Would you rather sit in a rocking chair, or the swing?”
“It doesn’t really matter.” Why did I feel tongue-tied each time I tried to talk to her?
“Well, then you take the swing. I get sort of dizzy when I sit in it.” She had the book she had been reading in her hand, and I was craning my neck trying to make out what sort of book it was.
She saw what I was trying to do, and turned the book so I would be able to see it.
“Oh! Mignon G. Eberhart is one of my favorite authors!” I was so glad that I was familiar with the author whose book she was reading. “Is that a mystery, too?”
“Yeah, and it’s a good one, too!”
The Chiffon Scarf became my favorite novel for the next several days, as I waited for her to finish reading it, and then borrowed her book to read for myself.
At this time, Mama would allow me to buy Triangle books, which were hard covered works of respectable authors, and sold for fifty cents at Woolworth and Kress. I began making a collection of these books, and Daddy me a really pretty bookcase (which he painted Baby blue) and had room enough to house quite a collection.
Aunt Rhea, hearing all the conversation that she was missing, opened the screen door to her half of the house, and said, “Oh, you don’t have to get up.”
I knew that Mama would not like it if I sat while Mrs. Collins stood.
Carolyn jumped up and went inside to get another chair.
I know that most teenaged boys would have felt uncomfortable in my situation, but having grown up with four sisters, I did not find it at all intimidating.
As I look back on that wonderful summer, I am filled with warmth and happiness. I never had any close male friends after I left Richton, and often, my close friendships with much older women, were far more gratifying than most other friendships. Carolyn was certainly more an adult than I had first thought; although she was only one grade ahead of me in school. I knew instinctively that she considered me a child, even though she never called me that,
Her piano lessons with George turned out wonderfully for both of them, She continued to take from him, choosing not to take at the Junior College as he and I both did. When he graduated the next year, he had to go immediately into the Army, so Carolyn was forced to take from Miss Bernice Gay, who was one of the most thorough teachers I would ever have.
(To be continued)
Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVI, No. 45
Sunday, Jan. 25, 2011
Monday, I finally was able to visit Janet Morris. Recuperating from a broken (right) shoulder in Springhill Memorial Hospital’s Senior Residence. She looks fantastic and says she has no pain from her therapy (which includes having her right arm moved slowly up and down, by machinery.). She has this procedure four hours each day. But even though it is torturously slow and monotonous, she declares there is no pain. I had taken her a card, a dozen red and white roses, two cannoli and some giant cookies from Fresh Market. Her daughter, Judy, came by on her lunch break (she works a short distance from Springhill Memorial) and it was so good to see her again, also.
It was an uneventful week, but colder than usual (which suits me just fine). Bridge Tuesday, Friday and Saturday (the pits Friday) and there will be a tournament next week (I no longer go to these) so the church game, Tuesday will be my sole losing battle with the game.
This morning, I took advantage of my opportunity to attend mass anywhere and any time I wished, so decided to attend 8:00 mass at the magnificent Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception downtown, There was a time when I went regularly to mass there, when friends Father Oberkirch, Gorman and Sullivan were there, but I had not attended mass there since the extensive renovation of over a decade ago. It was beyond my wildest expectations. I have visited a large number of famous cathedrals in Europe and America, but can honestly say that in my opinion, Mobile’s is as impressive as I have ever seen. Sadly, it is farther than I like to drive anymore, and there was difficulty with understanding one of the priests, so I will not be going back any time soon.
Another reason I chose the Cathedral today, was that on the return drive home, I had to go right past the building where Janet is having her therapy at present, so I stopped and we had a wonderful second visit. This time, I took her a large can of cheese straws. I know she loves those. She looks wonderful, is in good spirits, and hopes to go home in another week.
“ In ancient Egypt, killing a cat was a capital crime, punishable by death.” Sue Hanlein
August Rush (Warner Bros)
I had started as part of my History of Hollywood, a segment on Fairy Tales. But I never finished it. Hollywood, itself, is perhaps the biggest Fairy Tale of all. I admit to being more than a little taken aback after the first few minutes of this movie, and yet something kept saying, “Just you wait!” and I certainly am glad that I waited! The beginning was just too inane for my taste.
Last week, I had seen Keri Russel for the first time (as Brendan Fraser’s wife in “Extraordinary Measures”) and was very impressed with her acting as well as her beauty. Here, she is a talented New York Philharmonic Symphony cellist who meets young Irish Folk singer, Jonathan Rhys Myers. They fall in love, spend the night together, and create a Mozart-genius type boy. The film is all about him and his long journey to meet his parents. Keri’s father makes her give the child up. It is a glorified Fairy tale, with more than simply a nodding acquaintance to Dickens’ Oliver Twist. But the entire film belongs body and soul to Freddie Highmore. This film was made in 2007, but apparently was just released on DVD a short time ago. If the studio system were still in place (who can ever forgive our meddling congress which saw fit to destroy what they deemed a monopoly, and opened the flood gates to film stars’ being able to demand more and more money, and as a result we now have tickets costing ten dollars instead of the original nickel) this young star would have been cast in a dozen movies by now, and I very strongly feel, would have become a sort of male Shirley Temple. He is a real treasure, much as this long ago child star was. But he can act circles around Shirley! MGM would offer Fox (or whichever studio owned his contract) to lend him for the lead in something like a cinematic zillion dollar “Jack and the Beanstalk” (or perhaps yet another remake of “David Copperfield”).
So, if you missed this one when it was new, you might want to check out the DVD. Totally unrealistic, but I highly recommend this it. The music is a tasteful blend of the classics and today’s less offensive genres. (***)
Dead Gorgeous (PBS “Mystery”)\
Set in war-torn London, just after WW2, this little “Gem” is a little like a
preview to “Thelma and Louise” in that the two women are best friends, both trapped in miserable marriages, seeking a permanent solution to their problems. Helen McCrory is delicious as Rose Bell. For both women, divorce is out of the question. Antonia Ashley (Fay Ripley) devises a scheme: why not assist each other in murder? Unfortunately, problems arise; including a fishy alibi; a suspicious insurance policy; a nosy detective; an uncooperative funeral home; and a raft of unforeseen regulations from the coroner’s office, Fortunately, there is Hector’s (Antonia’s wealthy inventor husband) giant refrigerator, built by Hector (the largest in London) which comes in handy during the launching of Plan B. There is also a Plan C, which multiplies the number of victims while greatly simplifying the getaway- that is, for one of the desperate heroines. (**1/2)
THE SUMMER OF 1942
Daddy had redone the old house in Ellisville completely for the move back to where I was born. Helen, Mama and I made the trip from Richton the morning after I graduated from the 8th grade. I was not happy about leaving the town we had all grown to love the last ten years.
There were several last minute items crowding me on the back end of the tired old Chevrolet pickup, where I had to ride. I sat on the floor, and thoroughly enjoyed the wind rushing up and down my body. “Smutty Joe”, my solid black kitten, rode inside the cab with Mama holding him on her lap.
The trip took just over an hour. The first thing Mama did, once we were inside, was to open a window, saying, “This paint odor is awful!” I rather liked it. I noticed that when she opened a window, she did not have to use a stick to hold it up. Hurray! We now had windows that stayed open and closed with weights! We were definitely getting more modern!
I was very pleasantly surprise to see the improvements to the old house since my last visit, and decided it might not be as bad as I had dreaded.
The familiar Hotpoint range and water heater looked natural in our freshly painted kitchen. There was a brand new sink, and I loved the way cabinets (with glass doors) were built into the walls.
I was especially happy with the way the carpenters and paperhangers had outfitted my room. I kept savoring that phrase: “MY room!” Neither Helen nor I had ever had a room of our own, but had to take “pot luck” with our nights divided between Anna’s and Josephine’s beds. The wallpaper of my bedroom was yellow (at my insistence) with dainty little bouquets of flowers. I had selected this from a huge book of samples Daddy had brought home several weeks ago. I selected flooring that matched. Mama said we would go to Sears in Laurel that afternoon to select a bed and all the trimmings for me. I was getting more and more excited, and I could see that this pleased Daddy immensely. Helen was to have the room next to mine. Her corner of the house room opened into the bathroom. And, the most wonderful thing of all, every room had its own gas heater! Even the bathroom had one! No more baths using zinc wash tub in front of a fireplace! In Richton, there were fireplaces in only two bedrooms (Josephine’s shared the same chimney with Sammy and George’s, which was back to back with the one in Josephine’s room. Mama would never allow Butane gas because of the odor; and that was all Richton had to offer. Ellisville not only had natural gas, but its water was light years ahead of the miserable rust-colored undrinkable stuff we had put up with for nearly a decade.
The little black kitten was sniffing around as he followed me from one room to another. The living room had swinging doors with small glass panes, and the door from the dining room into the long hall, was also a glass-paned swinging door. I felt as proud as a peacock over what I considered a very elegant house! Daddy had done a fine job,
At noon, when George walked into the house, I realized that I had forgotten all about the fact that he had been living with “Papa” as every one of my siblings called him, while attending freshman college classes at JCJC about a half mile from the house.
Later, Daddy went into the market (which was closed for the day) and sliced some boiled ham. Helen had made a trip into the market to get the ham and a loaf of Colonial bread and a large ripe tomato; a head of lettuce; and, much as she and both of our parents hated it, a jar of Kraft’s mayonnaise to put on George’s and my sandwiches. George seemed really thrilled that we were together again, though there were some big gaps without Anna and Sammy. We had more or less gotten used to Josephine’s absence, since her marriage, and Rosie was with Jimmy in Terry, Mississippi, where his WPA job had taken him.
I sat between Mama and Daddy as he drove us to Laurel as soon as we had eaten our improvised lunch. Mama asked if I would rather have a single bed (since my bedroom was not as large as the other three) and I said that sounded fine. As soon as I saw the little Jenny Lind bed (as they told me it was called) I felt as if it had been made for me! It was so pretty, the woodwork was beautiful, and the color was perfect. Daddy got a mattress for my new bed, and Mama promised to make me a bedspread (since all of ours were for double beds) tomorrow. She said the double sheets would have to do until she could make me some single ones. She made all of our sheets from flour and sugar sacks
I could hardly wait to go to bed, after we got back to the house. But Helen insisted on cooking a real meal for us that first night back in Ellisville. Daddy cut some veal cutlets, which Helen dipped in a mixture of eggs and milk, the turned them over in a mixture of cracker crumbs (made with a rolling pen) with grated Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper and parsley. This was one of my all-time favorite meals. I would have it often, much later, in Germany, where it is known as Wiener Schnitzel (or Viennese cutlets). We almost always had potatoes fried in the same grease, which gave them a special deliciousness, as well as the usual lettuce, tomato and celery salad.
We were all weary after what had proved to be a tiring day. George said he had some reading to do for the next day’s history class, so he retired to his room. Helen had my bed all made up for me, and I could hardly wait to try it out.
The mattress was so soft and wonderful that I had no trouble falling asleep. Nor did the blackness of the night bother me a bit. Daddy had said Smutty Joe could stay in the house that night (he never allowed any animal except Mama’s canary, “Lanny”- for Lanny Ross, one of Mama’s favorite singers of that time- to stay in the house over night,)
The next morning Mama came into my room, walked slowly over to the bed and sat down, taking me in her arms. She was crying. I knew something dreadful had happened, but was too afraid to ask.
“Honey, Smutty Joe is dead.”
At first I thought (hoped and prayed) that she was joking. But one look at those sad eyes and I knew it was true. I began crying, too.
“I should have known that paint odor was too strong for him, and that has to be what killed him.”
Helen gave me a shoebox that she had her one extra pair of shoes in, and even placed my kitty’s little body in it. Daddy dug a grave next to the fence that separated his garden from our neighbor’s yard, and I went sadly into the living room where George’s grand piano stood and sat down and improvised a dirge for my beloved pet. Of course, I did not know how to set the notes down, nor had I ever owned a sheet of music paper: so I simply wrote the letter names of the notes that made up my doleful little song of sorrow on a piece of wrapping paper from the market. I even composed an Elegy. And until I got my next kitten, I would play and sing this simple little tune, and weep salty bitter tears,
Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVI, No. 44
Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
Cold weather has been the order of the day for most of this week in Mobile. The natives complain a lot (and make my life miserable by insisting the temperature for our bridge game remain around 80 degrees! Do they always want to wear short sleeves as well as shorts? I enjoy getting to wear a few of my nice long sleeved shirts (thanks to my nieces) and long pants. So, bring on the cooler temps for me, please!
I resigned from my job at St. Edmund’s this week. My vision grows weaker and weaker, and it is increasingly difficult to tell if the notes of the music I play are on lines or spaces. I’ve had some embarrassing moments when I was so far off the mark that it was disastrous.
But I am now looking forward to doing lots of things I have been unable to do for the last five (and more) years. I will again be home on Sundays except for going to mass. And I will no longer have to rise and shine at 3:30-4:00! I plan to give a lot more time to my writing now.
A tabby named Dusty gave birth to 420 kittens in her lifetime.
The largest kitten litter on record was produced by a Burmese/Siamese cat in 1970. There were 19 kittens, however 4 of them were stillborn.
(“Strange but True Cats”; Cliff Road Books)
Extraordinary Measures (CBS-Sony)
If Depression is your bag, you do not want to miss this true story. It is obvious from ‘Scene I’ that all will be resolved and the happy ending lies just around the corner (after almost two solid hours of Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser, giving two of the most frustrating performances of their careers). In my opinion, Fraser had one of the most promising dramatic actor’s careers in Hollywood, but somewhere along the way, he deserted drama for comedy (if any of you thought any of the Mummy films were funny-or even a tenth as spooky as the original Universal series starring Lon Chaney, Jr.) and then there was that obscenity “Something of the Mounties”! But finally, someone offered him the role as the father of two children with an incurable disease called "Pompe" (pronounced like city destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius). The complicated disease affects the child’s breathing, and causes the heart to grow too large too soon (something about the wrong chromosomes—all too complex for my poor brain to digest) but the maximum life expectancy was 8 years. John Crowley (Fraser), who works for a medical research firm, and his long-suffering wife (Keri Russell) have three children; Megan (the eldest) celebrates her eighth birthday early in the film.
Crowley has followed the research of Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford) who has been working on creating a new enzyme that would cure the disease so Crowley travels to Nebraska where he confronts the scientist and offers to start a foundation to finance Stonehill’s research.
Now, this is when the acting gets out of hand (for me, anyway). Harrison Ford is still playing Indiana Jones (in effect) and treats the rest of the immediate world as if they were all peasants. Poor Fraser has to try to keep him from alienating the rest of the research world and turning allies and business partners into adversaries. Really, I got awfully uncomfortable watching some of this, and when the “Cure” finally is produced, it is all too predictable and “Pat”. (*)
The City of Your Final Destination (Screen Media Films)
These films are as different as Day and Night! For me, Merchant and Ivory productions were the highlights of the 1980’s and ‘90s’ but lost most of their luster after that. Now, James Ivory (I rather infer that his partner is no longer with us, even though his name is still listed first). Who could ever forget those enchanting British period gems: “Room with a View”, “Maurice”, Howard’s End”, etc.
For this film, however, Ivory chose Uruguay as its setting (or rather, Peter Cameron, the book’s author did). The complicated story is about a brilliant young academic (Omar Merwally) travels to South America in hopes of convincing a trio of literary heirs to grant him permission to write an authorized biography of famous deceased author Jules Gund. When Omar (whose name actually is Omar) arrives unannounced in the lush and exotic landscape of modern Uruguay, to woo Guld’s family, he finds the late author’s brother, Adam (Anthony Hopkins) proud and unrelenting widow, Caroline (Laura Linney) and shy, sweet and lovely Arden, who had been the author’s mistress (Charlotte Gainsborough) living together on Gund’s family estate Ocho Rios, cut off from the world and guarding a secret history.
Urged on by girlfriend, Deidre* (Alexandra Maria Lara) Omar begins to unravel the web of romance, betrayals, and heartbreak that lies over the lush setting. As he struggles to gain the trust of the heirs, Omar becomes seduced by the world of Ocho Rios and its inhabitants.
For me, this was the highlight of the past six months, at least. Hopkins has long been a special actor for me. Linney has been on my “favorites” list, too. She is always believable, as well as having classic beauty. I love stories with beautiful locales that I have never seen before; and for many other reasons, this is simply a magnificent movie experience. (****)
*I have never liked any character in any story I have read or seen in films. I remember how much I disliked Diedre in “All Creatures Great and Small”, and the obnoxious young vet who had just joined Herriot and Siegfred (or was it Tristan?) This particular control freak (which they always seem to be) really got my goat!
Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVI, No. 43
Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
It was a stressful week for me: Tuesday, there was Mike Davis’ funeral to attend; Janet Morris, who suffered a fall over a week ago, had to undergo surgery on her shoulder, which was broken when she fell; Meanwhile the doctors are trying to decide what to do with her, or where, so that she can begin therapy tomorrow. As if this were not bad enough, Saturday morning, Dale Hudson called from Hattiesburg to tell me that our mutual friend of many years, Ed Kohler had died Friday night. Dale had called me on Friday, telling me that Ed had suffered a stroke that afternoon. He was 62.
I first met Ed when I began teaching at USA in the fall of 1965. He was a sophomore, and I had the pleasure of teaching him for three years. During this time, we both seemed to be equally happy in each other’s company; plus the fact that he had one of the sharpest minds I have ever encountered. His knowledge and capacity for learning were absolutely phenomenal. He was good at anything he tried to do (including building me a patio from the bricks left over when this house was built in 1969! He is irreplaceable.
But, sadly, life does go on.
MacDonald’s Best-Kept Secret
Several years ago, when she was visiting here from Baton Rouge, my niece, Muriel, asked if I had ever tasted a McRib Sandwich. (We were just passing a McDonald’s at the time) I had to admit I had never even heard of it. She then assured me it is a delicious, boneless spare-rib that has been barbecued and served on a bun. She bought us each one of them, and it was love at first bite! She warned me that they do not have it available except sometimes during the winter months.
Recently, while riding with Father Gorman, I saw a sign advertising the
McRib Sandwich and told him how much I had enjoyed them in the past.
The next thing I knew, he had pulled into the drive-in lane of one of the chain’s many local restaurants and ordered one. I naturally assumed he was ordering it for himself or his sister, Sandra. Imagine my surprise when he handed the package to me! I told him I could not possibly eat it after the huge brunch we had just consumed at his favorite Waffle House. “Have it for your supper, then,” he said. Heated in my microwave later that evening, I was surprised at just how wonderful tasting, as well as tender and juicy it was.
Tuesday, after Mike Davis’ funeral, I was extremely hungry, having had only a slice of cheese toast for breakfast and nothing else since then. It was almost 2:30, so I stopped at the McDonald’s nearest my house and walked in. My eyes were scanning the various menus and advertisements that always cover the walls, and my heart sank when I saw no mention of the McRib. A clerk finally ambled over to where I was standing and asked what I would have. ”
“I bet you don’t still have the McRib sandwich.” I tried to sound glib.
“What?” he sounded even more stupid than he looked, so I rearranged my question: “Do you still have any McRib sandwiches?”
“How many do you want?” was his rather startling reply.
I smiled happily. “Just one.”
“Anything else?” he didn’t even sound concerned.
”That will he three fifty nine,” or some such figure. I was so sure it had to cost more than five bucks, even though this was McDonald’s, that I was taken aback. My eyes, when they focused again, rested on a neat row of French Fires on the grill. “Lemme have a small fries,” I said magnanimously.
Back in the privacy of my kitchen, I could enjoy “Pigging Out” with a Diet Dr. Pepper and that which I now consider the World’s Largest Hamburger Chain’s finest creation. I wondered why the store that had sold it to me did not see fit to hang even a tiny sign advertising it. After all, there were so many signs advertising many “Starbuck Imitations” in both hot and cold drinks, as well as some tremendous number of chicken fingers for five dollars, that I had almost walked out without bothering to ask if it were still available!
The Ragdoll and the Maine Coon are the two biggest cat breeds, weighing 20 pounds or more.
The Singapura is the smallest breed of cat.
The most recently documented smallest cat is Mr. Peeblies, a domestic short hair that resides in Pekin, Illinois. He is only 6.1 inches tall, 19.2 inches long, and weighs 3 pounds.
The world’s fattest cat was a neutered male tabby named Hammy, owned by Thomas Vyse of Queensland, Australia. When Hammy died of respiratory failure, he weighed a whopping 46 pounds.
(“Strange but True Cats”; Cliff Road Books)
Reviews of Some Antique Films
With the present feeling so hopeless and depressing; and the future absolutely dreadful, I am retreating (as my brother before me) into the past more and more.
Turner Classic Movies had a series of older (but not silent ones) films recently that I recorded and enjoyed with varying degrees of entertainment. Here’s the list and a few words about each one.
Crime and Punishment (Columbia) 1935
Peter Lorre’s US film debut is a true “Classic” in every way. The book, which gave us the story is one of literature’s most famous works. It is frequently, even now, on many “Required Reading” lists. I had read it when younger, not because I had to, but just because I was going through a phase of trying to read all of the whole world’s best books. I had plowed through “The Brothers Karamazov”, “The Idiot” but then I kept making excuses for not reading this one. What I discovered was that it was fully as depressing and dark as any book I had read up to that time. But it was powerful and got to me.
This is a low budget film even for the depression; but there is still a great deal to admire about it. Directed by Joseph von Steinberg, it has many inventive ideas. The thing I found most interesting was the very real feeling of the murderer’s guilt, which ultimately causes him to confess his crime to Edward Arnold (in one of his earliest roles as the smiling criminal lawyer you love to hate.) (**)
Morocco (Paramount) 1930
Von Steinberg’s introduction of Marlene Dietrich to the American Screen created quite a sensation in its day. The star and her favorite director had made a series of films together, on the continent, so he knew just how to light her most effectively, as well as how to get the finest performance from her. Here she plays a cabaret singer, stuck in the desert, with nothing more cheerful than Gary Cooper (who was Paramount’s reigning “King” and demanded top billing over the real star of the film.) This did not affect their friendship, which began with this film and lasted throughout most of their careers.
This is the film that played a very big role in the creation of the Breen Office, which had taken it upon itself to censor all movies for the next several decades. (Personally, in retrospect, I’m not so sure this was not an excellent idea!) It seems that Marlene’s appearance “in drag” shook up a lot of powerful people; this, and the obvious sexual-innuendoes of the entire movie. It isn’t really much of a film, but it is worth it, just to see how utterly gorgeous she is in men’s clothes! By the way, Cooper is equally fetching as a Foreign-Leggionaire. (**)
The Safecracker (British) 1958
I found this one very painful to watch: Ray Milland had been one of my favorite actors since “Beau Geste”, “Her Jungle Love” and a whole string of highly successful roles. By the time Hitchcock used him in the film version of “Dial M for Murder”, he was a master craftsman of acting. His “The Lost Weekend: earned him the Oscar for Best Actor of 1945. The award was well deserved.
But as he aged, and his good looks began to fade, he was forced to accept roles that musr have hated to play. For me, his semi-hit “The Frogs” in 1972 had to have been his nadir. But this contrived mess wasn’t far behind. (1/2 *)
Road to Morocco (Paramount) 1942
How well I remember seeing this when I was very young and still living in Richton!
Josephine waited until she thought it safe for her to leave projectionist “Bub” Shannon to close the theater after the last customer had left, and then she joined Sammy (our designated driver) Helen, George and me in the family’s 1938 Chevrolet to drive to Laurel’s swankiest theater, “The Arabian” for their Saturday night Midnight Show. The same feature would then play Sunday through Tuesday. There were usually two more first-run films that were shown Wednesday and Thursday; then Friday and Saturday.
Sammy has been the first person I knew who was a “Road Show|” devotee, right from the start (“Road to Singapore” had been one of Paramount’s biggest successes in years; but for Sammy, it was the old “Patty Cake” routine played by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope that he had enjoyed the most.)
Now, we were all such fans of the genre* that we could hardly wait to get to Laurel!
For me, this has always been the top of all the famous trio’s Road films (Dorothy Lamour was in all of them, including ‘Road to Hong Kong” in 1962- but a younger Joan Collins replaced her as the “Love Interest”. (***)
*Road movies, like “Thelma and Louise” and even “Easy Rider” are said to be off shoots of this long-lived and highly successful series of nusicals, The songs in “Morocco” were all first rate. Take a look at this one that Bing sings to Lamour:
“Moonlight be comes you- It goes with your hair-
You certainly know the right things to wear.
Moonlight becomes you- I’m thrilled at the sight-
And I could get so romantic- Tonight.
You’re all dressed up to do dreaming-
Now don’t tell me I’m wrong.
And what a night to go dreaming-
Mind if I tag along?
If I say, “I love you,”, I want you to know-
It’s not just because there’s moonlight- although-
Moonlight becomes you so.”
Compare this to any rap”Song”!
These are the words to a truly beautiful and typical Bing Crosby song of the era, How I miss it all!
Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVI, No. 41
Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
Tuesday evening, I played host to Ken Williams and Gerald Kutzman as we watched USM lose by a field goal in our Bowl Game with Louisville. I served Chili and toasted cheese sandwiches (feeling the chili had brought us luck three other times---sadly this did not work) even though I had served Chili at my bridge party for the Decks last week. But the Eagles looked great and really should have won. The entire office with only one loss, will return for next year (including the number one kicker in the nation, and Austin Davis, who has now surpassed Bret Favre’s and Lee Robert‘s TD records, and is the only Quarterback at USM who also CAUGHT a TD pass!
Steve Moore had our mutual friend, Glenn Nobles, of Hattiesburg drive down here to get me and transport me to his home, where I spent a delightful Christmas Eve and until 2 PM yesterday. Then, Glenn and his friend drove me back home so I could prepare for this morning’s mass at St. Edmund’s by the Sea.
Steve had a festive Christmas Eve party (I had prepared Italian meat balls and sausages in “pasta sauce”) and it joined freshly made hot tamales; lump crab meat (with artichoke heats and lemon juice)” shrimp; a very tasty sausage and cheese roll, prepared by Stephanie Beverly; all sorts of drinks and desserts.
Yesterday, after mass at Sacred Heart (it seemed eons ago that I last attended that church) we enjoyed Christmas dinner at Steve’s sister’s (Joanne Beverly) home, with her own children and two grandchildren present. Gina had done most of the cooking, and it was all excellent. There was turkey and ham, of course; lots of luscious dressing; squash casserole; sweet potato casserole; a delicious grape salad (worth getting the recipe) and again, all manner of desserts. My personal favorite was an Italian Cream cake, made locally. How I regret that I did not accept Joanne’s offer to bring a “chunk” of it home with me. But, as I was already bringing two different types of pound cakes (a lemon and another a chocolate and chocolate-chip one) I declined. It had been a wonderful Christmas, and over too soon!
Letters to Santa:
My sister, “Dixie Cup””, and I are absolutely appalled this year that Mommy has a "fake" tree!!! We always enjoyed sitting under the live Christmas tree, enjoying the lovely smell. We didn't even have fights while we sat there. What's a girl to do with a fake tree? I mean, the lights are pretty, but the ambience...it's just not the same. As you know, we felines are so sensitive and refined.
P.S. be sure to bring the right brand of treats this year. If you can just get it right this time, we'll forgive you for past mistakes. Best regards, Elvira
This Santa letter was submitted by Patricia Gragg, and I felt everyone (cat lover or not) would enjoy her kitty’s clever epistle. FI
In the Good Old Summer Time
We walked to about the midway point in Ellisville’s Varsity Theater and sat on the three end seats. Helen sat between Mama and me. It was Wednesday afternoon, five till four, and the movie would start any time after 4:00, depending on the arrival of the projectionist. All the stores in our little town had agreed to close at noon on Fridays during the three and a half months the schools were out for summer vacation. Even Daddy was relieved to have a good excuse to go out to the surrounding neighborhoods, visiting wit friends and customers who might have a cow or calf for sale: or, at least, know of somebody who did.
The war was now in its third year, and our greatly reduced-in-size family had grown accustomed to staying as close to each other as possible. Daddy, and the three of us clung to each other jealously. He, however, did not accompany us on our daily late-afternoon walks, nor did he consent to join us at the picture-show very often. George was now stationed in India, where he was a chaplain’s assistant; Sammy had stayed in the States and was now stationed in Sioux City, Iowa He had recently married a beautiful young girl there. Herr name was Lorraine. Anna was running Josephine’s theater in Richton, while she and her husband, Bill Sibley, moved all over the state of Louisiana as he worked as a Drag-Line operator. Jimmy, Rosie’s husband, had been sent to Attu, in the Aleutians, in what would prove to be his undoing as frostbite caused him to have his left leg amputated. He was in a veteran’s hospital, at this time and Rosie was with him. As soon as I was seated, I knew there was something different about the tacky old theater. Mrs. Bishop, a widow, and the mother of my Civics teacher (Mary Eleanor) had been having a long string of bad luck recently: Rats had began walking boldly amongst the customers during the movies at night, and would eat the popcorn that fell out of the bags and lay there on the floor. Finally, when one of the town’s most prominent citizens took off her shoes and drew her legs up under her on the seat, she let out a blood-curdling scream when she stuck her foot into one of the shoes, only to feel a huge rat had taken up residence there! Mrs. Bishop bought lots of rat poison, and it really did work: the only trouble was the odor of dead rats was so pronounced that even I had to stop going to the movies for two or three weeks until the air cleared a little.
I gazed at the screen and was amazed to see it changing colors like a Chameleon! Yellow, to green; then red; then blue and then the cycle would begin again. I turned my head and looked up and back at a small projector attached to the lower part of the balcony. The light emitted by this projector was given off as a circle of the different colored cellophane produced the colors on the screen. “How d’you like that?” I asked Helen.
“It’s right tacky,” was her matter-of-fact assessment.
Mama looked at it and smiled. “I sort of like it.” She said.
“I do, too, Mama!” Of course if it had yellow it was a lead pipe cinch that I would automatically love it.
“Francis, what’s that man’s name?” Helen asked now, as someone walked briskly down the aisle across from our seats.
I looked up and could hardly believe my eyes: “Why, that’s Garland Ross May!” I knew him instantly. He had been the manager of the theater in Richton before Josephine bought it. At that time, it had been owned by Mr. DeValle, who lived here in Ellisville.
“I thought he looked mighty familiar.”
I remembered we had him out for supper once, after he had told Josephine that George and I could have free passes any time, from then on.
“I’ll bet he’s Miz Bishop’s manager now,” I mused aloud.
Just then, the house lights went off and the projectors could be heard humming. I always felt a little bit of excitement at that familiar sound. As usual, there were the previews of coming attractions, but the projectionist had failed to turn off the colored disks, and it seemed so strange to see black and white movies advertised in colors!
Warner Brothers’ logo proclaimed that they were presenting Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan in “Shine On, Harvest Moon”. It turned out to be a fairly entertaining musical loosely based on the life of Nora Bays (a nightclub entertainer of the 1890’s.)
“I’ll bet the finale is in Technicolor,” Helen whispered to me about halfway through the film.
“I’ll bet it isn’t! I loved Technicolor and would suffer through almost any amount of boredom so long as it was colorful. I remember how disappointed I was when “How Green was my Valley” turned out not to be in color. I truly felt I had been deceived!
As usual, Helen was right. But I always felt that she had been told that little item by somebody who had seen it before we did.
We walked about a mile around our small hometown before going home.
“What do y’all want for supper?” Helen posed the eternal question.
“Girl, it’s too hot to cook,” Mama said.
“Let’s have sandwiches!” I said. I usually preferred these to hot meals in the summer months, too.
“Want me to make some pimento-cheese?” she asked.
“Oh, Boy! YES!”
Mama laughed. “That’s too much trouble, Helen,” she said.
“Not really! The only thing hard about it is cleaning the little grinder after we eat.”
”I can do that,” I would gladly do that small chore to get a pimento-cheese sandwich- or two!
Of course, before I could get around to keeping my promise, Mama had washed everything while Helen dried and put everything away. Daddy had returned just before we got home and had cooked a steak for his own supper. For once, I preferred that pimento cheese to a steak!
It’s a sweet memory from my childhood.
Frank Imbragulio’s School Days
Grade 8 (1949`-42)
Rosemary stood in the middle of the kitchen as I walked behind her, carrying the half-gallon pickle jug that Mrs. Cleveland had handed me as we left the classroom a few minutes earlier. I sniffed again and the unmistakable odor of pickle vinegar and secretly hope that would make the water undrinkable, I expressed this thought to my ”partner in crime” (I hoped). It was a roasting hot day, even though it was not yet 10:00, and our fat ugly teacher had a mustache of perspiration on her ever-snarling upper lip as she asked Rosemary if she would mind going home and “fixing” her a jug of ice water.
“Can Francis go with me to hep me bring it back?”
She pondered this, raising her faded gray eyes to make sure it was me Rosemary was asking for. “Well----I reckin’ so. But you two better hurry back: I’m about to pass out, I’m so parched!”
We got out as quickly as possible, and once we were out of her hearing. Rosemary said, “We gotta do some-thin’ to this jug-a water!”
“Like what? Put rat poison in it?”
She guffawed at this. “That’s not such a bad idea!”
But we both knew we did not have the guts to try adding even an innocuous substance to the Dragon Lady’s water.
Everyone in that classroom hated the new teacher. Where Rosemary’s father had found her, nobody knew. She was as ignorant as any person I ever saw anywhere attempting to teach school. Let me give you just one example of her stupidity: last week, when we were studying about Pompeii, she had actually called Mt. Vesuvius, “Mount Visus Vasus”! And I am not kidding!
On another occasion, she had managed to say, Versa Vice” rather than vice-versa.
Well, my personal grievances against her went back almost to day one. She was canny enough to figure out that I was a far better reader than she was, so I became the ex-officio reader. I had been standing in front of the class, doing what she should have been doing for at least half an hour, when she suddenly interrupted me by saying to the class, “Now, I don’t want the rest of you kids goin’ home and telling your parents I got this little eye-talian boy as my pet!”
Every nerve in my body jerked at this.
Rosemary, who sat on the front row, got up and walked to Mrs. Cleveland’s desk and whispered something in her ear. “Why, I ditn’t mean no insult,” she said lamely.
I really wanted to scream at her, “Why didn’t you just go ahead and call me a ‘dago’ like all the other ignoramuses do!” But of course, I was too well bred for that.
”Oh, DITH!” Rosemary’s voice was sharp as a butcher knife.
“Whats-a matter?" She had been so proud of herself when she had invented this little “cuss word”. It certainly sounded harmless enough, but the four letters stood for, “Damn it to Hell!” How we had laughed when she explained this to Jackie and me!
“We cannot just make that old she devil a jug of ice water and take it back and watch while she enjoys it!”
“OK, so what can we do?”
She walked around the kitchen, opening cabinet doors, looking in the icebox, which was almost as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. Suddenly she spun around and went back to the cabinet. She opened the door again, and pulled forth a box of Arm and Hammer baking soda from the shelf.
“What good would that do?” I asked.
“Have you ever had to drink this mess in water?”
“No, but it can’t be as bad as Epsom Salts” (which I had never had to take, but my sister, Anna, took it quite often- and she hated it!)
“Well, I don’t think we can trick her into drinkin’ Salts, but I just betcha she’ll swallow this and not even know the difference!”
Her enthusiasm was contagious, and suddenly I felt a thrill of impending revenge!
“Well, we better get back quick,” I said, “Or she’s gonna know we’re up to something.”
We had already filled the pickle jug with water- and Richton’s water was horrible! It was so full of rust that Mama had been making Sammy drive the truck all the way to Coulter’s Spring for years, where he filled several garbage cans with spring water, as well as every wine jug we owned for our drinking water!
Rosemary took a tablespoon out of a drawer, and filled it with soda. She shook the jug and saw that it had dissolved. “You can’t even see it!” she laughed, and added a second big spoonful! She ended up virtually emptying the entire box of Bicarbonate of Soda into Mrs. Cleveland’s pickle jug of ice-cold Richton water.
We ran like two mad things to the door of our classroom, and then we both took a deep breath and walked in. I strolled as nonchalantly as possible, and set the jug down on her desk. Her eyes narrowed as she took it all in. The she poured a tall glass that she kept on her desk at all times, to the brim with that soda water. We watched with racing hearts as she drained that entire glass. She leaned back in her chair, wiped drops of water from her mustache, and said, “I know that has to be the best water I ever tasted!”
(To be continued)