I called Shae, who had retrieved my Walking stick and has it inside for me. I will try to pick it up tomorrow. Meanwhile, I am using the walker Helen gave me over a year ago. It is infinitely better than the “Stick”, but awkward to get in and out of the car trunk. Why must there always be a “Down Side”?
“If there is one spot of sun spilling onto the floor. A cat will find it and soak it up.”
Jean Asper McIntosh
Old Time Movie Reviews
The Guns of Navorrone (1961)
Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Richard Harris, Anthony Quale, Irene Papas, James Darren and Gia Scala unite to bring this great WWII adventure film to the screen. I remembered the goose-flesh it had created back then, as I watched in the Ritz Theater, in Laurel. Just writing that last phrase caused a painful lump in my throat, as it brought back so many happy memories of that small theater and the multitude of great films I enjoyed there.
The Ritz had been open about a year, competing with the chain of three theaters owned by one of Laurel’s wealthiest families: the Taylors. The Arabian was the newest (circa 1936) and was really a gorgeous theater. From the start, it had the new air-conditioning system that was superior to all others, It was a part of the Pinehurst Hotel building, and belonged to the chain known as Paramount-Richards (which spawned Saenger Theaters all over the South. It showed its biggest films (all first-run) on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday; the Strand had a real stage and back-stage, as it had originally had silent films and stage shows. The big hits moved from the Arabian to this theater, and finally to the Jean; The Jean, was named for the proprietor’s youngest child, and was the smallest of the trio. It got the leftovers, westerns, and re-runs, from most of the major studios.
The Ritz had Universal, Monogram and movie rejects for the simple reason that the Paramount-Richards theater chains had some sort of parting of the ways Universal, and two years later: Metro Goldwyn Mayer; and all over the South, smaller and less elaborate movie houses sprang up: usually named Ritz , Crown or Royal, as is to defy their own plain-ness. The Ritz thrived on such films as Abbot and Costello’s Buck Privates and, the horror films for which Universal was the great grand-daddy (it is one of the oldest movie makers in Hollywood, along with Paramount).
Lona, the Belle
I walked across the lawn to the Oliver’s house, and up the steps to the front screen door. I could see inside the house, made dim by the time of day, and Lona Bellle saw me. “Come on in,’ she sounded tired.
By this time, they had been our next-door neighbors for over a year. In addition to her job at the WPA Library, she had also been put in charge of a recreation program for the children of Richton. I helped her in deciding what games we should play, and felt rather important. She had a way of making me feel that way most of the time. She had become like another member of our large family, and fit in as naturally as you please.
The day before they moved into the house, George and Lona Bella scrubbed the rough boards that formed the floors, and you would not believe the filth that had accumulated on the wood.
I stood on our side of the fence that separated the two lawns, and watched, spellbound, as the soot black water poured from the inside floor to the ground below. It actually looked as though it had never seen a mop, much less soap! I was so proud of George for volunteering to help our new neighbor.
When Mama met Lone’s parents, she fell in love with Jeanie, as we all did. She was one of the sweetest and cutest older woman I had ever seen. Mr. Oliver (I cannot remember a first name, though I am sure he had one) was rather stern, and certainly a man of few words.
Karl did not come for a visit until several months after the family had relocated. But I shall never forget his first visit to see his family’s new place of residence. He and his mother came over after supper, and Mama, George and I gathered in our living room where we sat and chatted for a few minutes. But I could see that most of Karl’s attention was focused on the grand piano that had been George’s high school graduation gift at the end of the school year. He finally got up and walked over to get a better look at it. Of course, it was brand new, and sparkled like a black diamond.
“Play us a tune,” Mama said.
“Oh. Miz Imbra-gool-yo, I don’t think I am ready to play anything at this time.”
“Oh, go on,” his mother urged him.
“Is it OK, George?” he was smart enough to know that George might not want just any-body playing on his new “Baby”.
“Heavens, yes!” I think George was glad, for a change, not to be the one being coaxed to perform!
Karl sat down on the piano bench, and stretched both hands by pulling all ten fingers back and forth, Then he played a scale (I noticed that he was doing something strange with his facial muscles, so it looked as if he were about to have a fit. Finally, he seemed to relax. He turned on the bench, and faced his “audience” and announced, “I am going to attempt to play the Fantasy Impromptu of Chopin.”
My musical education was at the point that I was aware that “Show-Pan” was a famous composer, but the way his name was actually spelled had caused me to ask George who Choppin’ was, on Miss Alline Hill’s piano students’ recital in May, on which we had both performed.
We did not have Community Concerts in Richton, with the results that I had never heard anything like Karl Oliver’s “Piece”. It was mind boggling. Of course, I was accustomed to George’s pyrotechnics and stunning performances, but at this stage of his life, I cannot remember his having studied anything by Chopin (or I would surely have been able to pronounce it!)
The work is technically very difficult, and has had a large number of imitations; one of which my brother and I both performed as high school students: An Impromptu by a composer named Reinhold.
There is a haunting melody that sings its way through the brilliance of the main theme, and I happened to glance across at Mama, who was sitting in the chair directly across from mine. She was smiling as if she had just seen a dear old friend I did not find this strange in the least. Mama often smiled when listening to music, but it was usually when the pianist was George.
Karl had gotten valiantly through most of the Impromptu, but the ending (as he apologized later) was still in the formative phase of his performance. I could hardly find any fault: I was quite literally, spellbound.
We all gave Karl an ovation, when he rose from the bench and looked rather apologetically at us. “That was gorgeous!” Mama was effusive in her praise. “Now I think I know where they got the old tune, ‘I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.” I had, at this time, never even heard of such a piece, and felt embarrassed that Mama had made a fool of herself.
“Yes, Miz Imbra-gool-yo; that is exactly where that old piece came from!”
George began asking Karl all sorts of questions about the man with whom he was studying at Mississippi Southern College (which had been State Teachers’ College” when Josephine got her degree from there a few years earlier.
“You should study with Mr. Marsh, George. He is a marvelous teacher!”
But it would be after two years of piano study at Jones County Junior College, in Ellisville, that George would finally be able to take lessons in Hattiesburg.
Later, as one of Marsh’s most brilliant students, my brother would play the Grieg Piano Concerto, with Karl Oliver playing the orchestral part on a second piano. I was as proud as I could be when this momentous occasion took place.
“I’m just gonna fix myself a little something for my supper,” Lona Belle was already walking towards the kitchen.
“Where’s your Mama?” I asked.
“She and Papa went to visit the Beards,” she said. Then she laughed mischievously. “Wonder what Miss Willy Mae’s been up to lately.”
I didn’t take the bait. In spite of all the criticism and slander, I always felt sorry for this unfortunate creature. It was her obnoxious brat that I simply could not stand.
“What’cha gonna fix?” I was always interested in food.
She was standing next to an open cabinet in the kitchen, moving cans of this, and bottles of that around, glancing at the labels, Her brow was furrowed with her attempt to make a decision. “You like brains?” she asked dully.
“I love em!” And I really did. When Mama would cook pork or beef brains, and scramble eggs all over them, I felt I could have eaten my weight in them.
Then I realized that the object that she was showing me was a tin can containing pork brains! My first reaction was to recoil in horror; but, of course, I didn’t. As if reading my mind (which she seemed to be getting better and better at doing) she laughed and said, “They really are pretty good.”
` I watched as she used the old fashioned can opener to cut the small can’s top. Then she carefully removed it. Her immaculately manicured nails were cut to a discreet length, and the polish was barely noticeable, so modest was it. She took good care of herself, and worried a lot about her weight. She was not fat; but there was a tendency towards plumpness. I was at the stage where I was beginning to feel overweight.
“Let me see those things,” I said.
She shoved the can over, where I was able to see what looked like dirty milk with hunks of nasty looking brains. “Satisfied?” She laughed.
“Yeah,” I said, sitting down to watch her preparations for her meal. She took an iron skillet from the cabinet with their pots and pans, scrutinized it critically, then took it to the sink and let the water run over her hand until it was hot enough to satisfy her; then she proceeded to scour the skillet. She would never use anything that had not been washed to within an inch of its life! “Finnicky,” I called her. Mama called her “Picayunish!” (Whatever that meant).
When she was finally satisfied that there wasn’t a speck of dirt, she took a clean dishcloth and wiped the insides dry. I couldn’t keep from smiling, as I mentally prepared how I would later exaggerate the whole scene, in order to get a big laugh out of George.
As the brains began sizzling in the iron skillet, they gave off a most tantalizing aroma. (Oh, I am well aware of most of my friends’ reaction to that particular statement: It is almost exactly the same as when I mention Oysters on the half-shell---or anchovies. Can I help it if you deny yourselves these wonderful treats?) Then, when she cracked the eggshells and added the eggs, which she delicately scrambled, to her meal, I thought I would surely have to beg her to let me taste the ambrosia (or was it “manna from heaven”?) I did not. Even before she took the first bite, she generously offered me that morsel of delight.
She had set a loaf of Colonial bread on the table, and now she held the opened end of the wrapper towards me and I took a slice. It was good and soft: just the way our families liked their bread.
“Lona Belle, this is delicious!”
“Aw, you’re just sayin’ that!”
“No. Honest! These are almost as good as the fresh ones!”
“I need to put on some lipstick, and wash my hands. Then we can go.”
There was no specific time for us to meet. We usually gathered at “Dark Thirty”; which meant any time you wanted to come: come on.
Now, the town bully (Billy Ray Carey) was almost always there. And he ruined the games we tried to play, by being so mean and hateful.
The short walk to the long deserted building that was provided for our Fun and Games was, well, would you believe “Deserted”. “Wonder where they all are?” Lona Belle mused aloud.
“I told you time you said we were having this WPA thing that I didn’t think it was going to work.”
“Well, maybe they’ll be in later.”
“And maybe they won’t. If Billy Ray Carey has given up on it, then I don’t look for anyone else to show up.”
I had barely finished this gloomy assessment, when she looked across the road and saw someone approaching. “Here comes somebody right now!”
It was hard to recognize anybody at this time of the day. “Whoever it is surely does look familiar.’
“My Lord, it’s Jackie Wilson!” Lone was ecstatic! I was simply happy that it was not my mortal enemy, which is what I considered Billy Ray,
Lone took the key out of her purse and opened the door. I walked in and found the cord that was dangling from the single light bulb that we had to work with.
Jackie walked in behind me, as Lone was saying, “If we had one more, we could play Rook!”
“But there are only three of us,” I said gloomily.
“Puney was right behind me. She oughta be here by now.”
Jackie had a baby sister named Joanne. Their father had always referred to her with this unflattering name. And no sooner had he said the words than she walked into the building.
“Joanne,” her brother called out to her, “Run back home and get that deck of Rook cards.”
“Go get-em yourself! I’m not your servant!”
Before anything was resolved, a brand new Chevrolet sedan drove up to the curb and Billy Ray Carey got out. His sister, Sibyl drove away and we were now five in number.
“Billy Ray," Jackie used his most wheedling tone of voice, “Stop Sibyl and ask her to run Joan home to get some Rook cards so we can play, please!”
”She’s awready gone!” he stated flatly.
“Listen, let’s think of something five of us can play,” I said, thinking our “Director” might like to join us.
“No, y’all don’t need me. Can you go and get the cards, Jackie?”
“I’ll go if Francis’ll go with me.”
I could have happily wrung his neck. But I could see we were probably seeing the last stages of this WPA program, and I wanted so very much for it to work out.
And so we trudged across the railroad tracks and to the Wilson home, where Jackie went in and by a minor miracle was able to find the cards without taking forever, as he usually did.
By the time we got back to the so-called Recreation Building, Joanne and Billy Ray had left, and only Lona Belle was there to tell us that our trouble had been for naught.
That marked the ending of one of the bitterest disappointments of my childhood.
Movie Trivia Quiz #26
All About the Oscars
1. What popular Paramount star hosted the most Academy Awards shows? (And never won an Oscar)
2. What black actress won the Gene Hersholt award last Sunday night?
3. Whish actress won the most Oscars?
4. How many Best Actress nominations has Meryl Streep had?
5. Who was the British actor who beat out Clark Gable in 1939, when GWTW took home the lion’s share of trophies?
6. Who composed the Award Winning musical score for GWTW?
7.Aunt Pittty Pat Hamilton was played by what actress?
8. He was Professor Henry Higgins in Pygmalion, in 1938, He never read the novel, yet he played Scarlett’s true love, Ashley Wilkes in the blockbuster film.
9. She portrayed Daphne DuMaueier’s 2nd Mrs. DeWinter in an Oscar winning role: what actress played the first Mrs. DeWinter?
10. Gaslight won this Ingrid Bergman her first Academy Award. Who was the husband who was trying to drive her insane?
Answers to Quiz No.
1. Romeo was played by Leslie Howard, in the 1936 version of Shakespeare’s play; Norma Shear played Juliet.
2. In The Nun’s Story, the title character was from Belgium.
3, Mighty Joe Young was a sequel to RKO’s original King Kong.
4. John Houston won two Oscars in the same year for directing his father (Walter) and his wife (Angelica) in the same film. Prizzi’s Honor.
5. The 3 MGM stars, who were all nominated from Mutiny on the Bounty. in 1935 were Clark Gable, Franchot Tone and Charles Laughton.
6. Trail of the Lonesome Pine starred Sylvia Sidney with Fred MacMurray, and a very young Henry Fonda.
7. Bonita Granville livened up These Three, was Nancy Drew and was also the star of RKO’s wartime drama Hitler’s Children.)
8. Jennifer Jones was married to Gone with the Wind producer, David O. Selznick, who He starred her in Love Letters; Duel in the Sun; and Since You Went Away.
9. The House of the Seven Gables was made into a movie in 1940, with George Sanders, Margaret Lindsey, and Vincent Price, of Dragonwyck.
10. Susannah Foster starred in The Phantom of the Opera, with Claude Rains.