Frank’s Fax Facts and Reviews
Vol. XVIII, No. 53
Sunday, March 17, 2013
I made my first Communion on a Holy Day of Obligation: The Virgin Mother’s Ascension into Heaven. Father Donahue said it had been a pleasure to teach me my Catechism, and that he was very glad that I had cared so much about seeing it was not neglected any longer. After that day, I managed to get to mass on Sundays at the Immaculate Conception Church in Laurel. The rest of the family seemed happy that I had succeeded in becoming a better Catholic; and I was determined to stay on track from that day on. Sadly, like most teenaged boys, my resolve was often forgotten for a while (once for five years) because of my gardening habits: Sowing a few untamed oats.
Yesterday, I had Charles Smoke over for a bowl of my Infamous “Sicilian chili” (without beans). It was so good to see this old friend, after several months of wondering how he was doing. He seemed to enjoy my “secret recipe” (which you can see in “The Chef’s Corner”) I have sent Fax Facts to him without fail, but he had not gotten anything from me in most of a year: I had not added an AL to crsmoke@gmail,com, mainly because I had never seen it. Sorry about that, Charley. With the chili, I had a vegetable salad that had a lot of variety in it: Romaine Lettuce, celery, artichoke hearts, beets, capers, tomato, green pepper, onion, cucumber; all seasoned with Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic vinegar. For dessert, I relaxed and served vanilla ice cream, with fresh strawberries. Incidentally, I first met Charlie when he was a young lad who sang (at the time) in the choir at the Cathedral downtown. Father Gorman, who was there at this time, wanted to show his appreciation for the excellent choir’s beautiful music, and asked me to make them authentic Italian Meatballs and Spaghetti. That was a long time ago! We didn’t really know each other, however, until Eugene Walter returned to Mobile after spending his post WW2 years in Italy. Then, Eugene was introduced to me by Mary Jane Scruggs, and I told him about my three chamber operas. Eugene, like Frank Liszt, tried to help any composer to get his works before the public, and he asked to hear the recordings of all three works. He said he was thrilled to death by my compositions, and paid me the most beautiful compliment I have ever received: “My dear, you have the Italianate gift of melody: they are all utterly charming!”
Eugene was a really gifted human being, and as such, was buried in the exclusive graveyard next to Mobile’s Main Library. I have set over fifty of his poems to music. I would call him whenever I started a different song, to show him what I planned to do with it. He always said that I had hit the nail right on the head, as he always loved them.
“He seems the incarnation of everything that is soft and silky and velvety without a sharp edge in his composition; a dreamer whose philosophy is Sleep and let sleep.”
Saki (H. H. Munro)
The Sicilian Chef’s Corner
Sicilian Chili with Fennel Seed
Take two pounds of ground beef and sauté it in vegetable oil which has had 6-7 large cloves of garlic, (chopped) in a large pot with a cover. Cook slowly until all of the meat is sizzling, Then add a generous amount of chili powder, and a regular sized can (6 oz.) of tomato paste, with enough water to fill the pot, almost to its top. Unless it gets too low, do not add more water. Turn the heat down between medium and low (the longer it cooks, the more the flavor lasts) so think SLOW. Add two tablespoons of Fennel Seeds any time after you have used the chili powder. Stir often. Serve with Saltine crackers (the Captain’s Wafers are easy to keep fresh: and this makes a lot of difference.)
Old Movie Review
That Hamilton Woman (United Artists: 1941)
Vivien Leigh was still the most gorgeous woman on the planet. As far as I was concerned: Recently, however, I saw Hedy Lamarr in an RKO film, and wrote that she was even more beautiful than Scarlett O’Hara. Now, I am convinced (although it is extremely difficult to choose between these two lovely actresses.) Easy to see, the world does not produce this type of perfection very often.
Having written all of that, I will merely say that I saw a film I had been waiting to see ever since the day it was released. Gone with the Wind had taken the civilized world by storm in 1946. MGM could barely wait to remake a film they had produced in 1931 called Waterloo Bridge, with Robert Taylor: Caesar and Cleopatra, with Claude Rains (1946)
` Between these new films, the public was urging the studios of the world to re-release almost anything that had been made by Vivien Leigh. MGM brought back A Yank at Oxford; a film they had made with Robert Taylor being the big star; Leigh had a minor role. But the public still went in throngs to see a younger Scarlett O' Hara.
(Continued next week)
Draft Dodgers Anonymous:
I was lucky enough (both going and coming back from Germany) to escape even moderately stormy weather: as a matter of fact, it seemed (both times) to be picture perfect weather-wise. However, there did seem to be a small bit of little wind the day I had to perform my Ocean Waves Etude for my shipmates.
When it was my turn to “go on stage”] this literally meant playing on the open deck with no walls around us. I had no idea how this was to affect my performance. I took my bow, then sat on the chair and began shadow boxing with the piano. The composition is made up of a series of arpeggios that build up to a climax about half way through the piece, and then there is a gradual dénouement, then the final chords. The performance was “touch and go” all the way. Fortunately for me, I knew the piece so well that I was able to “fake it” to get through it without totally disgracing myself or Chopin.
There was (ironically enough) another “Talent Show” when I was making my return trip, and I again played the same Chopin Etude, and this time, I didn’t have a bit of trouble. But that was the last time I ever played the Etude, or the Revolutionary Etude in public.
My very first day in Karlsruhe was a Saturday. I was set up in my new Kassern (Smiley Barracks). I had met all of the other soldiers in my little elite group, but had not yet learned their names very well. One of the older men there was going back to the States within a month, so I never got to know him very well. But he was a musician (I forget what he did musically) and I played my (then) latest Piano Sonata, which I had begun under Dohnanyi’s guidance at FSU. He was very impressed, or at least, seemed to be. I was really sorry that he was not around longer. I asked him (on that first day) what sort of classical music could I look forward to hearing there in Karlsruhe. He told me there was not one, but two opera houses there: The first was the Grand Opera Haus, and the Kleine Oper Haus, was for comic operas (the difference: “Grand” means there are no spoken words in them; while Opera Comique (or in this case) Das Kleines Haus, like operettas, had speaking roles as well as Lieder, or Songs.
I asked how I could get there, short of going by taxi, and he told me where to catch a bus (after drawing a map for the shortest distance to the best place for taking a bus). “Now, you have to tell the man standing at the door of the bus, that you want to go to the Opera. He will see that you get the right bus, and if you have to transfer to another bus, he will tell you when to get off.” I had serious doubts that I was going to see an opera my very first day in Karlsruhe, Germany. But it would have to be fun to try it! I was more than ready for some serious music, after months of being starved for it.
After our evening meal, I took the army bus to the center of downtown and found the Germans to be most helpful when they learn that a person is trying to get to a musical performance. A lady I asked “Wo ist de Opera-Haus?” pointed to the bus, calling its name, and then told me it would take me directly there. I still dreaded the fact that I might have to transfer, but again, my good luck was still with me. After less than fifteen minutes, the bus stopped, and the doorman flung the door open, as he smiled and motioned to me to get off. “Are we at the Opera House?” I asked stupidly.
“Doch!” he said in a gravelly voice.
“Oh!” I said, thinking (or not thinking, that he was answering my English question with an American answer: Nope!]\
He then repeated, “Doch” and at the same time pointed to what I could not possible miss: the more than excellent Bavarian Opera House of Karlsruhe. (If only Robert Pope could have been with me! He was my friend from Richton, who had almost single handedly had made an opera fan of me.)
I walked briskly to the ticket window and asked for a ticket. I had no idea what was playing that particular spring night, but almost fainted when I got a ticket for a mark! Remember, that was only about twenty-five cents!
As I entered the house, there were programs being handed to each entrant. I looked down at mine as soon as I had it in hand, and so (to my absolute joy, that there was to be a Verdi Opera that very evening. Not only that, but it was one I had never even heard of before! It was a one-word title which was the male lead’s name in the piece, but I have forgotten what it was, and am too lazy to try to find that program. Oh. Yes, I still have every program for every thing (except movies) I was able to attend for the next year and a half.
I had really seen very few live performances of Operas, prior to that mythical evening, and was literally amazed by the high standards of a city the size of Karlsruhe! First of all, the Orchestra was far from being just adequate; it was as fine as that which Robert and I had heard in New Orleans, when he, his mother and Betty, this sister, had taken me with them for a performance of Tristan und Isolde of Richard Wagner. And that was about as good as it gets, we had all felt! The singers were all costumed perfectly for the play, and the staging, itself, almost blew my whistle when a storm, in the climax of the plot, looked so realistic that I was thunderstruck! Later, as I reported on the evening to the musician back in the barracks, he said, “Yes, They do that by using a special screen, on which the storm (from the balcony) is projected, Wasn’t it unbelievable?”
I thanked him for helping me to break the ice, and predicted that I would see every opera in the repertoire as long as I was in this wonderful land!
(Continued next week)
Old Movie Trivia Quiz #73
1. Which popular movie star played Stella Dallas in the original version of this film?
2. What singing star reprised the role last? (there are only 2 versions)
3. In Tootsie, why does Dustin Hoffman choose to work in drag?
4. Who played Young Abe Lincoln?
5. ` What was the title of RKO’s 1939 film about “Honest Abe”? This time he was played by Raymond Massey.
6. Which Daniel Day-Lewis film was based on a James Fennimore Cooper novel?
7. What Oscar nominated star’s first movie was The Color Purple?
8. Who played her husband in the same film?
9. How many “Oscars” did this Spielberg film win?
10. What “Richest woman in America” TV star was also introduced
with The Color Purple?
Answers to TRIVIA QUIZ #72
1. In Lassie, Come Home, Elizabeth Taylor played the daughter of the man who bought Lassie for his own kennels.
2. Roddy McDowell was the boy that Lassie ran to meet each afternoon at the school house.
3. Elsa Lanchester was the boy’s devoted mother.
4. Lassie had to walk all the way from Scotland to get back home.
5. The Yearling starred Gregory Peck as the father whose son has a pet deer.
6. Jane Wyman (Ronald Reagan’s first wife) played the boy’s embittered mother.
7. The teen aged boy (Claude Jarman, Jr.) was outstanding as their son.
8. The “Baby” that is Brought Up was a Leopard.
9. Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant were the couple with this pet.
10. Zoology was the Grant’s special talent. He is making a skeleton statue of a dinosaur, using the actual bones!