Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVII, No. 53
Sunday, March 25, 2012
It came as quite a shock to my poor old brain, Tuesday, when I heard that it was the first day of spring! You could have blown me down with a mere heat-wave! My air-conditioner had been running night and day for over a month! I was all set for AUTUMN! Mother Nature, I warned you!
Tuesday, making it 3 of the last 4 weeks, I ended up with the high score at bridge (3 tables). This is totally out of my league: I plan to check the record this week, to see just how long it was before I began my come-back. Needless to say, it has done wonders for my bridge ego!
“There is more in life than increasing its speed.”
The Sicilian Chef’s Corner
Here are two recipes I am often asked for, after serving these two typical Sicilian hors d’ouvres:
Baked Artichoke Hearts
Drain juice from a can of artichoke hearts and place them face-up in baking dish. Melt butter to which you have added garlic (pressed) or either garlic juice or powder. Drizzle this onto the artichokes. Season to taste (salt and/or pepper). This can easily be too salty, so use care. Cover tops with bleu-cheese crumbles.
Cook just long enough to serve hot.
And my personal favorite:
Use 1 can anchovies (which usually cover 6 of those soft rolls at Wal Mart-or any similar soft rolls-- split into two halves.)
Open the can, and holding the lid over the contents, drizzle the oil onto the roll-halves, which you have lined up on a cookie sheet (or pan). If there is not enough to dampen all 12 of these, use a little from a bottle of Virgin Olive Oil. Then, using a knife, make about 6 small indentations in each half roll. Now, take the relatively dry anchovies, place them (wadded together in a loose bundle) on a dry cutting board. Using a sharp knife (electric is best) cut the bundled fish into small bits which you will now put into each slit.
Shake black pepper and dried oregano leaves lightly over the rolls.
Heat oven to 350. Insert tray of anchovy-bread into the oven; then watch like a hawk. You do NOT want the bread to burn! How crisp you prefer the finished product is a matter of taste: from barely tan, to darker brown; or somewhere in between.
Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the rolls after they are done, and serve the little darlings piping hot.
Eat till you (and your guests) drop!
New Movie Reviews (for a change)
Universal (Focus) 2011
The overall tone of this depressing drama, is gloom and doom right from the start Mix this with a considerable amount of plot confusion and you’ll get some idea of my impression.
Basically, it’s the story of Oliver, a graphic artist (Ewan McGregor)l whose father (Christopher Plummer) has just come out of the “closet” and admits to having a boy friend, discovers that he has, also, incurable cancer. Oliver has one of the strangest relationships with Melanie Laurent; who spends much of her screen time, writing on a note pad, her conversations with Oliver- but there is nothing wrong with her voice. You figure this one out. I couldn’t. The gloom and doom abates with Daddy’s demise. Too late for my taste, (*)
Fox Searchlight (2011)
This was the second “new” film I had seen in well over a year! This is especially meaningful when you consider that my usual movie going (and I do not miss the theaters—or, what they have degenerated into) averaged five or six flicks a week, for decades!.
Both this film and Beginners, brought me rudely back to the reality of today’s films: and while the foul language was not as bad as in a comedy, there were still enough of the “F word|” (disgustingly spoken mostly by the children in the latter) to make me wince and ask why film-makers insist on using such language. God knows it all began with directors (Martin Scorsese is one of the almost constant offenders) wanting to be more realistic! And for a few of us, it works the wrong way. I never had a problem with the old-styled substitutes for cursing and “dirty talk”.
I found the first third of this film terribly depressing, much as Beginners entirety made me feel. The idea of the story line is so bizarre and dreadful (plus the fact that Clooney’s wife, who is in an endless coma, brought about by a boating accident: is shown too many times-looking really awful!) But the last 2/3 are full of great acting (Clooney has never been a favorite of mine, except for the film O. Brother, Where art Thou. I was blown away by this great southern classic!) and, in spite of the fact that the language became a problem (I find it even harder to take when the younger actors use it all the while, even if the parent is using it himself!) I tolerated, and even enjoyed the rest of the movie. I found the ending surprising and at the same time, immensely satisfying; and I was almost able to forgive the script writers their bad taste---but not quite! (***)
Mozart’s Sister (French, with s/t)
I couldn’t resist this unusual foreign film, which was excellent; but again, depressing. Is it simply me that causes this? I do not know how authentic it was (but then, I was no more confused than I had been with Amadeus) I had so much trouble reading the sub-titles, that I am sure I cannot do it justice.
My personal opinion was that the family, itself, got along too well together. The story covers only one period of their lives: a stop over in France, fresh from their home in Salzburg; where they are the guests of the Royal Family (and Nanurl forms a lifelong friendship with one of the Royal Family’s daughters.)
Beautiful photography: black and white, and there is an excellent cast. Wolfgang is a ten-year old throughout the entire film. (**)
Old Time Movie Reviews
Penrod and Sam-(Warner Bros. 1937)
Based on Booth Tarkington’s book for children (Penrod) that was so popular, he went on to write several sequels; this was bought by Warners, to provide a vehicle for Billy Mauch (one of the identical twins who starred with Errol Flynn in The Prince and the Pauper). Since both were still under contract, Warner was looking for screen stories to make use of the pair. There followed several sequels using both twins, as in the original Twain film.)
The plot itself, is so predictable that it was boring, and yet there were overtones of Max Sennet’s Our Gang comedies, that I found it enjoyable. Ok, so I’m old—and it shows in every way! Also in the cast were Frank Craven and Spring Byington (of TV’s December Bride, and Andy Griffith’s Show. (** for nostalgia)
*The adult twins stayed at Warner Bros., after they were grown, as technical specialists.
Lone’s presence in Ellisville did not last very long. Leslie could not seem to get a handle on running what amounted to a snack bar on a college campus. Lone was unhappy waiting on the students, many of whom she found rude and crude. The living quarters were proving to be far too crowded, and one thing led to another. Her brother-in-law finally decided to call it quits, and moved the three of them to Laurel, He was fortunate enough to find a nice enough home, with more than enough room for three people, plus the fact that there was a wonderful screened-in front porch. In those days before central air-conditioning became common, this was literally a life-saver. How many times, throughout the next decades, did one or several of us drive from Ellisville to visit Lone and Ruby. Leslie passed quietly away at some time that I fail to remember, Then, the two sisters became almost miserly with their money. I was always afraid they were about to be turned out into the streets, because they were paupers (to hear them tell it)!
George would drive up, after I had moved to Mobile, to take them shopping and to get lunch at a store called Roses, which was short-lived in Laurel. He said Lone was partial to their fried chicken and potato salad. She did like to eat! But, since most of our family loved their “vittles” I could hardly “fault her” for that.
I have already written about some of our trips to New Orleans, that included Lona Belle, during their brief residence at the Jack and Jill. Once they were in Laurel, she would always manage to get a ride to our house, where she always spent the nights before and after our “Diamond Hunting”.
Now, this is bound to sound made-up: but sometimes truth is really stranger than fiction:
The Rich’s home was on the corner of 5th Avenue, in Laurel. Directly across the street was the Lutheran Church. The pastor was a very nice man, who just happened to be the father of Mary Brown.* Her mother was a saintly women; one of the sweetest in my entire acquaintance. Mary and I had become acquainted through our both being piano teachers. We became close friends, along with Mary Ann Carmichel, affectionately known as “Andy”. I would drive up for visits with Mary and Andy (whose houses were next to each others’), and then began getting invitations to Lutheran church suppers If you have never been to one of these wonderful evenings, I can only express the pity I feel for you! I have never had such wonderful and diverse meals in my life!
Andy and her mother (another “saintly” woman, whose every wish seems to have been making me, and later, Larry Williamson, feel at home any time we might happen to be in Laurel, and had not had supper) This was a particularly wonderful time for all of us!
On the corner of 8th Avenue, and across from the church, was another old acquaintance: a girl with whom I had gone to school in Ellisville.
*Mr. Brown was an exceptional gardener, also. His specialty was the amaryllis bulb, with which he had made some phenomenal advances. Their yard, each year, was like a page out of a horticulture magazine: every imaginable color, or colors on the same specimen) size and shape. The one thing that he did, and which I found unreasonable and totally unfair, was when he threw a minor fit, objecting to the fact that I had taken his daughter to a movie on Sunday. I wanted to point out (after he had said his reason was that we were causing the people at the theater, to work on the Lord’s day) that his sitting in front of the television set, watching a movie, was no less sinful: at least we were giving the people who provided our entertainment payment in return: he seemed to think television did not have to have a projectionist, too, because he got it free!
Old Movies Trivia Quiz #29
I never had a course in European History. Like the subjects that all of my siblings had taken, Latin and Algebra: the Ellisville (and Richton) school systems saw fit to cut these from their agenda during my freshman and sophomore high school years! Similarly, from day one of my school experience, I was never fortunate enough to have any course in handwriting: There was never to be the “Palmer System” or any other for me. I therefore had two (one would have been too much) years of Mississippi History and three of American History. And my writing never had that “Refined” quality of the rest of the family’s.
The next-to-last of these courses in American History, was taught by a funny little man, who rode his bicycle to school every day, with his pants’ cuffs protected by corset-like bands around his ankles. He had a perfectly nice wife, and two fairly normal (albeit overly studious) children: a girl and a younger boy. He used strange and archaic-sounding expressions, like “perchance”; and we were never late for his class: we were “tardy”. His name was Mr. Lord, and one got the feeling that he considered himself to be exactly that! I had the misfortune to have his class immediately after physical education every day.
Coach Reed, our wartime Phys-Ed teacher, had the infuriating habit of making us jog (hence his nickname “Jogging John Reed) till the bell rang for the next class. His daily chant, as the bell continued to clang, was “Take two laps around the track and then hit the showers!” Naturally, I was “tardy” almost every day! I was warned, repeatedly, that I was getting a demerit each time that I came into his classroom long after the bell had rung. I assured him that it was certainly through no fault of my own, and that I would greatly appreciate his having a little talk with Jogging John to ask him to let me go in time to avoid the wrath of the Lord. He very much regretted that he could not do that. Why are some teachers such wretched bastards? So, after having had that year of American History back in Richton (in which I had made an A) I got a C on the second year. His answer was short, to the point, and totally unfair: he was forced (he explained) to deduct two letters from my grade because of my tardiness.
To call Mr. Lord’s classes “Boring” would be, “Gilding the Lily”, He read (in a lifeless monotone), his lesson for each day, neatly typed on the backs of advertisements for Chase and Sanborns’ coffee (I recognized them the first day he pulled the all-too-familiar pages carefully from his moldy-with-age, dark brown brief-case). George and I used the same things as typing paper. It saved Daddy money that he had to spend when we took a fresh package of typing paper from the market. As Daddy always said, a penny saved was a penny earned; and my freaky history teacher had to save every copper cent he could from his meager salary (as I was to find when I became a faculty member there, decades later). His tone quality when reading these tedious history-with-a-vengeance items of sheer ennui, never varied, it seemed, until he reminded me (every single day) that he was forced to enter “Demerit” beside my name in his attendance report.
Imagine, if you can, my surprise and joy when I entered the classroom (tardy) to find him telling one of the prettiest girls in the class, to “See” him after class. We all liked her. She was one of the most popular females in high school, and not a bit conceited. So, all of us were literally dying with curiosity as we filed out into the hallway when the bell rang at noon Normally, I made a bee-line for the stairs and the front door, in order to be on time for “Dinner” (as our noon meals were always known in our family). I did get tired of waiting (as always, I was usually “starving” for dinner) but most of my classmates were as determined as I was, to find out what our friend had done (or not done) to incur the wrath of “The Lord”.
When the door was opened soundlessly, seventeen minutes later, and our classmate emerged, I looked at her with surprise. I had never seen her angry in all of the years I had known her; but she was literally foaming at the mouth with fury!
“What did he say?” Several of us asked at the same time.
She walked with determination to the stairs, with us forming an entourage behind her, and once she reached the downstairs, she turned and told us the following story: He had, first of all, told her to bow her head as he prayed for her. Then, she said, it was what he prayed for that had made her so furious: he had literally called her a “fallen woman” and did a lot more than hint at the fact that she had (according to him) carnal knowledge of most of the male members of her junior class! He told her he was going to try to “Save her Soul”, and had kept her all that time, pleasing with God to get her to mend her ways!
I had heard enough to sicken me, thoroughly, but I knew if I didn’t run every step of the way home and back, I would be “Tardy” for my piano lesson at one o’clock with Miss Gay.
I decided it best if I didn’t mention to Mama, why I had been detained. She would no doubt have advised me, to be careful to avoid our “Scarlet Classmate”.
As it turned out, the girl in question, left school, and relocated to Laurel, where she had been living when Lona Belle and the Riches, moved across the street from the Browns. During this time, she had married a Baptist preacher, and (according to Lone) the two of them fought constantly, “Like cats and dogs,” she had said somberly; then (in typical Belle fashion) had given a hearty guffaw!
So, here I was: visiting my old friends from Richton, who had just moved into the same neighborhood, with a Lutheran minister, whose daughter I was dating, and next to them was the Carmichaels (one of George’s best friends from his JCJC days just happened to have been Susan Carmichael -Andy’s older sister) and now I had just discovered the “Girl from my American History class- with Mr. Lord!” next door to Lona Belle!
Yea, verily, the Lord moveth in a mysterious fashion!
Movie Trivia Quiz #30
1,Charles Boyer was cast as Napoleon, with what famous star as Marie Walewska, in Conquest? MGM 1937.
2.Grand Hotel was based on a novel by Vicky Baum. It has an all-star cast. Can you name the female star who decades later, won an Oscar?
3Rio Rita starred what duo who achieved fame as comedians in numerous comedies (not always good). Who was on first?
4,Another famous pair had one of them remarking (often), “Well, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into”. Who were they?
5.And then there was RKO’s twosome: Bert Wheeler and------ who was the other half?
6. She was often the maiden aunt; the jovial grandmother; and? even a detective (shades of Jane Marple). She is best remembered for her role in 1939’s Drums Along the Mohawk.
7. She was the glamorous star of MGM’s answer to Sonja Henie, in The Ice Follies of 1939, which even had a Technicolor production number at the end. James Stewart and Lew Ayres are ice skating partner.
8. Barbara Bel Geddes portrays author Katherine Forbes, in the film of her best seller I Remember Mama. Who was “Mama”. Hint: she was also Wm. Powell’s wife in Life with Father,
9.Who played Queen Victoria in The Mudlark?
10. She was Heathcliff’s unhappy wife, in Wuthering Heights; and also Bette Davis’ best friend in Dark Victory (for which she won that year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar. George Brent was the doctor whom she married. Extra credit if you name the two “supporting actors” who became two of Warner Bros. all-time top stars? One became an Academy Award winner; the other achieved something much grander!
Answers to Old Movie Trivia Quiz, #28
1. Deborrah Kerr played a nun in two different movies: Black Narcissus was one (with Robert Mitchum as her co-star for the fourth time) Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison was Kerr’s 2nd Nun movie.
2. Shirley MacClain was a nun in Two Mules for Sister Sarah in 1970. Extra credit if you remembered that Robert Mitchum was her macho co-star.
3. Helen Hayes also was cast as a nun (with Clark Gable as co-star) in 1933’s The White Sister
4. Whoopie Goldberg made two highly successful musical comedies for Disney as a gangster’s moll, hiding out disguised as a nun in Sister Act & Sister Act 2.
5. One of the greatest performances as a nun was given by Jennifer Jones as a canonized saint in The Song of Bernadette. Her first Oscar role.
6. Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Tish, had Aline MacMahowan and Zasu Pitts with Marjorie Main, star of The Egg and I?
7. Till We Meet Again, starring Merle Oberon and George Brent, was a remake of One Way Passage, which starred William Powell and Kay Francis, star of RKO’s In Name Only.
8. Zasu Pitts, noted for her comedy roles of the 1930’s. was the dramatic star of D. W: Griffith’s 6-hour epic: Greed
9. The Ku-Klux-Klan was pictured as heroes in Griffith’s Civil War masterpiece: Lillian Gish (not Dorothy) had a starring role: along with Mae Marsh in The Birth of a Nation
10.Two for the Seesaw starred Shirley MacClain, Oscar winner (again) with Robert Mitchum