Wednesday, January 31, 2007

CA Needs to Ban Dumb Bills

First we hear that a California legislator wants to criminalize spanking -- a bill columnist Steve Greenhut suggests has a real chance of passing -- and now a California legislator wants to...ban light bulbs?

So much for letting the free market work.

Some politicians won't be happy until they have decided every minute detail of our daily living. I guess we're just too dumb to be able to make responsible decisions ourselves...

Update on Saving the Union 76 Balls

Last May I reported on the efforts to save the iconic Union 76 balls which ConocoPhillips has been steadily removing from California gas stations.

My local station lost its orange ball last year. I miss it.

Jacob Soboroff of L.A. Observed's Native Intelligence reports that the "Save the 76 Ball" campaign appears to have had some influence. ConocoPhillips has agreed to help preserve up to 3 dozen of the balls by sending them to museums or elsewhere.

And now the company is considering replacing some of the orange balls with balls in the company's red color, rather than removing the spinning balls altogether.

Around the Blogosphere Today

Real Clear Politics, always a great site to visit, has an especially rich lineup of articles today. One of my favorites was by Victor Davis Hanson, writing on John Kerry, "The Ugly American" (linked above).

Captain's Quarters reports on a bill sponsored by Senators Obama and Schumer which would further restrict free political speech...individuals could file lawsuits against anyone they believe is making a "deceptive" public argument.

Captain Ed: "I'm certain that this law would have resulted in an avalanche of lawsuits against the Swift Boat veterans in 2004. They would have had to sink their funds into courtrooms and lawyers across the nation, defending their right to speak out by offering the considerable testimony and documentation they collected -- but that effort would have stopped them from participating in the election."

Michelle Malkin has an extensive roundup on the bizarre column by the Washington Post's National Security writer, in which he referred to U.S. soldiers as "mercenaries" who enjoy "obscene amenities"; he generally slammed them, saying they should be grateful they have any support from the American public. The author, William Arkin, seems to be more than a little unhinged (he also desperately needs the services of an editor)...yet he's employed by the Washington Post.

Betsy Newmark muses on Joe Biden's latest case of foot-in-mouth-itis, wondering among other things: "Will the Washington Post run as many stories on it as they did on George Allen saying macaca?"

An Interesting Idea

Quin Hillyer of The American Spectator, notes that "conservatives have been desperately searching for a champion who knows how to communicate, how to engage and inspire the public, ever since Reagan left the scene. What has been missing in the interim is not merely some acquired skill or a trick of communicating, but a communications talent that is married to a genuine, heartfelt, long-developed set of beliefs."

Hillyer suggests that perhaps that champion conservatives are looking for is...Tony Snow.

Read the whole piece.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More on Mrs. Clinton

A great column by Jan Moir of London's Daily Telegraph, "Whom Does Hillary Think She's Fooling?" about Mrs. Clinton's attempt to do a "soft-focus rebrand" of herself as she pursues the Presidency.

If you happened to miss last week's column by Gerard Baker of the Times of London, "The Vaulting Ambition of America's Lady Macbeth," be sure to catch that one too. These British columnists both have Mrs. Clinton pegged.

If you want to understand the real Hillary Clinton, I highly recommend Barbara Olson's THE FINAL DAYS: THE LAST, DESPERATE ABUSES OF POWER BY THE CLINTON WHITE HOUSE. Olson's earlier HELL TO PAY: THE UNFOLDING STORY OF HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON and Peggy Noonan's THE CASE AGAINST HILLARY CLINTON are also well-researched, worthwhile reads.

Unfortunately it looks like it's time for all of us to start remembering the Clinton White House we'd rather forget, in order to work to stop this woman from becoming President.

The Lady Resents

John Podhoretz suggests we got a glimpse of the real Hillary Clinton when she said "I really resent" the prospect of inheriting a war if she were elected President. "The real Hillary is the Really Resenting one..."

You'd think if Hillary thought she could handle foreign policy better than the current President, she'd be jumping at the chance to "clean up" what she perceives as President Bush's problem.

Podhoretz adds: "Imagine, for example, that President Bush had given a speech a few days after 9/11 declaring he really resented the fact that Bill Clinton didn't kill Osama bin Laden before Bush became president."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mitt Romney's Pro-Life "Conversion"

Jennifer Rubin in The Weekly Standard: "...a look at Romney's second campaign, the 2002 race for Massachusetts governor, reveals that his pro-choice stance and support for embryonic stem cell research were clear and ardent less than five years ago."

As I wrote yesterday, Romney's "evolution" from being a pro-abortion moderate to a conservative pro-lifer is hardly Reaganesque; it's political opportunism.

If Romney is truly now pro-life, I of course am happy about that; but would I trust him to stick to that position as President? Not if the wind starts blowing another direction.

50 Years Working at the Apple Pan

TJ Sullivan has a wonderful piece on the employees of the famed Los Angeles burger diner, The Apple Pan, at L.A. Observed's Native Intelligence. The Apple Pan celebrates its 60th anniversary this spring.

The Sandy Berger Mystery, Continued

John Fund of Opinion Journal explores two mysteries -- why Sandy Berger stole classified documents from the National Archives, and why the Justice Department let him do it with a mere slap on the wrist.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Half Angel (1951)

January seems to be Loretta Young Movie Month... Following our recent viewing of BEDTIME STORY and KEY TO THE CITY, tonight's movie was HALF ANGEL, a slight but amusing romantic comedy costarring Young and Joseph Cotten.

By day, Nora (Young) is a prim nurse who dislikes hospital benefactor John Raymond (Cotten) and is newly engaged to her boyfriend of five years. By night, Nora sleepwalks and tirelessly chases after Raymond, who was a childhood friend. She doesn't remember her evenings with Raymond during the day, which leaves the poor man very confused. Will Nora's day and night personalities be reconciled and true love win the day? One guess. :)

HALF ANGEL is by no means a great film, but compared to much of the dreck produced today, it's a pleasant way to pass an hour and 17 minutes.

The supporting cast includes Jim Backus, Cecil Kellaway, and Irene Ryan (Granny of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES). It was directed by Richard Sale. The lush Technicolor cinematography by the great Milton Krasner does full justice to Young's beautiful gowns by Travilla.

HALF ANGEL is not available on DVD or VHS. It can be viewed on cable as part of the Fox Movie Channel library.

December 2012 Update: HALF ANGEL has been released on DVD-R in the Fox Cinema Archives program.

Deborah Orin-Eilbeck of NY Post Dies at 59

I was saddened to learn tonight of the death of Deborah Orin-Eilbeck of the New York Post. I have enjoyed her work for many years.

Ms. Orin-Eilbeck passed away after a battle with cancer.

President and Mrs. Bush have issued a statement expressing their sorrow.

Romney Compares Political Evolution to Reagan

Mitt Romney has developed a line for his speeches acknowledging his "evolving" political views: "On abortion, I wasn't always a Ronald Reagan conservative. Neither was Ronald Reagan, by the way. But like him, I learned from experience."

This is one of the rare occasions when I disagree with Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters; Romney's Reagan reference did not provide "a nice touch." Just the opposite.

I frankly find Romney's attempt to liken himself to Reagan in this area to be a cheap shot which inadvertently attempts to make Reagan's views look as changeable as Romney's. It doesn't bring Romney up to Reagan's stature, it attempts to drag Reagan down to Romney's size, and it certainly doesn't make Romney look any better in my eyes.

As is well known, Reagan's political transition occurred over a period of decades. The evolution of his conservative philosophies was documented, in part, in the brand-new book THE EDUCATION OF RONALD REAGAN.

At the time Reagan ran for President, his views had been well known for a very considerable length of time; they did not change simply because he was running for the Presidency.

Romney, on the other hand, has fashioned his political "beliefs" -- including his position on abortion -- as dictated by political necessity.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Key to the City (1950)

KEY TO THE CITY is a cute romantic comedy starring Clark Gable and Loretta Young as mayors who meet at a convention in San Francisco. Proper Harvard Law graduate Young and former longshoreman Gable initially don't get along very well, but opposites attract, and after a series of misadventures -- including a couple of arrests -- they fall in love.

The excellent supporting cast includes James Gleason as a police sergeant on the night desk, Frank Morgan as a fire-prone fire chief, Lewis Stone as Loretta's uncle, and Raymond Burr as a political henchman. Marilyn Maxwell, Pamela Britton, and Clinton Sundberg also appear. Jack Elam, in one of his earliest film roles, has an uncredited part as a city councilman.

The prominent use of the song "San Francisco" as background music calls to mind Gable's classic film of the same name. Unfortunately, what little is seen of that beautiful city is stock footage. The view during a romantic scene on Telegraph Hill is cleverly obscured by fog.

By now it is well known that Gable and Young fell in love and conceived a child while making CALL OF THE WILD (1935). As Gable was married at the time, Young went to great lengths to keep the baby, while salvaging both her and Gable's careers, by pretending to be ill for a prolonged time and then "adopting" a child, Judy. That story can be read from two perspectives, by Judy herself in UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE and in the authorized Loretta Young biography FOREVER YOUNG by Joan Wester Anderson. A deeply religious woman, Loretta spent decades supporting a home for unwed mothers. She and Gable had seen little of each other in the years between CALL OF THE WILD and KEY TO THE CITY.

KEY TO THE CITY was filmed in black and white and runs 101 minutes. It was directed by George Sidney, perhaps best known as the director of beloved MGM musicals such as ANCHORS AWEIGH, THE HARVEY GIRLS, SHOW BOAT (1951), and KISS ME, KATE.

KEY TO THE CITY is available on VHS. It's also part of the Turner Classic Movies library.

The trailer can be seen here.

March 2013 Update: KEY TO THE CITY is now available in a remastered print from the Warner Archive.

July 2017 Update: My review of the Warner Archive DVD may be found here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Man With the Gun (1955)

MAN WITH THE GUN is a fairly entertaining Western starring Robert Mitchum as Clint Tollinger, a "town tamer" hired to clean up Sheridan City. It just so happens Tollinger's estranged wife (Jan Sterling) is also in Sheridan City, where she is a "businesswoman" who houses and supplies dance hall girls to the local saloon.

Mitchum is always compelling; it's enjoyable watching his strategies to clean up the town. The personal storyline, with Sterling as the cold, bitter woman from Mitchum's past, is less interesting, and even somewhat distasteful given her new career. The resolution to their relationship at the end of the film was a bit abrupt.

The movie has a good supporting cast, including Barbara Lawrence and Angie Dickinson as the dance hall girls and Claude Akins and Leo Gordon as bad guys.

It was filmed in black and white and runs 83 minutes. It was the first film directed by Richard Wilson, who had a fairly short career as a director. Wilson had a varied career including bit acting parts and serving as Orson Welles' assistant on CITIZEN KANE and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS.

MAN WITH THE GUN is available on VHS.

Brian Wilson FNC's New Washington Bureau Chief

Fox News Channel correspondent and weekend anchor Brian Wilson succeeds Kim Hume as the network's new Washington Bureau chief. He has also been named a vice president.

Wilson will continue to make appearances on Fox.

Sunday Update: Nice video of Brian Wilson's farewell on Weekend Live is available here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Obama: Universal Health Care by End of First Term

Senator Barack Obama says "I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next president, we should have universal health care in this country."

I got to wondering: if the U.S. adopts universal health care, where will all the Canadians and Brits who flee their dysfunctional universal health care systems for the U.S. go? :)

If this country simultaneously elects a Democrat President and Democrat Congress, it seems almost certain socialized medicine will arrive in the U.S.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Yes, Rudy Giuliani is a Conservative"

Steven Malanga of City Journal makes the case for Giuliani. It's a thought-provoking "must read" article.

An excerpt:

"In a GOP presidential field in which cultural and religious conservatives may find something to object to in every candidate who could really get nominated (and, more important, elected), Giuliani may be the most conservative candidate on a wide range of issues. Far from being a liberal, he ran New York with a conservative’s priorities: government exists above all to keep people safe in their homes and in the streets, he said, not to redistribute income, run a welfare state, or perform social engineering. The private economy, not government, creates opportunity, he argued; government should just deliver basic services well and then get out of the private sector’s way. He denied that cities and their citizens were victims of vast forces outside their control, and he urged New Yorkers to take personal responsibility for their lives."

More: "To those of us who observed Giuliani from the beginning, it was astonishing how fully he followed through on his conservative principles once elected, no matter how much he upset elite opinion, no matter how often radical advocates took to the streets in protest, no matter how many veiled (and not so veiled) threats that incendiary figures like Al Sharpton made against him, and no matter how often the New York Times fulminated against his policies. In particular, offended by the notion that people should be treated differently and demand privileges based on the color of their skin, Giuliani was fearless in confronting racial extortionists..."

"For Giuliani, the revival of New York started with securing public safety, because all other agendas were useless if citizens didn’t feel protected..."

Giuliani is also a proponent of school vouchers, saying: "“[T]he whole notion of choice is really about more freedom for people, rather than being subjugated by a government system that says you have no choice about the education of your child."

Malanga's account of Giuliani's battle against the entrenched liberal political culture in New York City is long and detailed, and worth reading every word.

I'm not sold, but at this point I'm open-minded given the current lack of a candidate to carry forward the tradition of Reagan conservatism... I'm particularly concerned about what Rudy's judicial picks would be like, but I'm not sure they'd be any worse, at least, than those that would be made by McCain or Romney.

(Hat tip: Real Clear Politics.)

Update: Captain Ed responds to the article and, noting that Giuliani has consistently spoken out against judicial activism, concludes: "Conservatives should reconsider Giuliani. Of all the candidates in the race thus far, he has the best track record of implementing conservative governance consistently and successfully."

Whites Need Not Apply

Can you imagine the reaction if there were a "Congressional White Caucus"?

It's time for this country to fully embrace Martin Luther King's dream and get past color-based politics and racial separatism.

New Book: Zamboni: The Coolest Machines on Ice

Years ago I worked for a law firm which represented the Zamboni family, so I've always been extra-interested in the machines. Thus I was intrigued to learn about ZAMBONI: THE COOLEST MACHINES ON ICE by Eric Dregni. Looks like a fun slice of pop culture history. (Hat tip: SoCal Sports Observed.)

I learned via Amazon that there is also a children's alphabet book titled Z IS FOR ZAMBONI. Looks like a must-have for any young hockey fans, in particular.

For more info, visit the official Zamboni website, which contains the company's history.

NC Bar Charges Nifong Withheld Evidence

It looks as though justice is finally on the way in the Duke "rape" hoax case.

Update: More analysis from KC Johnson at Durham-in-Wonderland.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Book: Supreme Conflict

ABC News reporter Jan Crawford Greenburg has written what sounds like a fascinating new book: SUPREME CONFLICT: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE STRUGGLE FOR CONTROL OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT.

Among other things, apparently the book ends the myth of Justice Clarence Thomas as a passive member of the court. According to the L.A. Times, "Greenburg traces how Thomas, from his first case, 'acted as a catalyst, spurring the other rethink their positions and realign themselves.'"

The book also details the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding Justice O'Connor's resignation.

More from The New York Times and ABC.

January 28th Update: More on this book from Patterico, who links to a Wall Street Journal article by the book's author.

79th Academy Award Nominations

I don't have a great deal of reaction to the Oscar nominations, other than to say I think it's a shame that the Academy omitted UNITED 93 from the Best Picture list. This is one of those strange situations where UNITED 93 director Paul Greengrass was nominated for Best Director, yet his film was not nominated for Best Picture. It deserved it.

I was glad to see Helen Mirren's recognition for THE QUEEN; I'm still looking forward to seeing that one. Meryl Streep's nomination for THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA was very deserved in my eyes.

And that's about the end of my interest in this year's Academy Awards...

Pelosi: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Despite an earlier pledge to raise the minimum wage equally in all U.S. territories, Nancy Pelosi is sticking to her plan to exempt American Samoa from an increase in the minimum wage. Starkist Tuna, whose parent company is headquarted in her district, has lobbied against the increase.

On the one hand this certainly illustrates the willingness of the Democratic leader to bend to the wishes of a deep pockets constituent -- so much for the "ethics reform" she has been touting.

But on the other hand, the sad thing is that the increase in the minimum wage should not be taking effect anywhere. As Paul Mirengoff writes at Power Line, voting for the increase is "low-hanging but bitter fruit...raising the minimum wage, while good politics, is a bad idea."

The minimum wage increase strikes me as akin to the (eventual) cuts in federal student loan rates: it's easier for politicians (i.e., Republicans) to go along and vote for something that gets positive media play than to attempt to cut through the chatter and explain to the public how this new policy can and will negatively affect countless Americans.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Thunder Bay (1953)

THUNDER BAY is one of the eight movies which teamed James Stewart with director Anthony Mann. It's sort of a modern-day take on an old Western theme: rather than depicting the clash of farmers and ranchers, THUNDER BAY is about the conflict between offshore oil drillers and shrimp fishermen.

While several films in the Stewart-Mann collaboration are considered classics -- and I found the previous year's BEND OF THE RIVER wonderful fun a few weeks ago -- the results here are only moderately entertaining. The film is sort of listless and plods along without any real sense of tension, despite the ongoing battle between the drillers and fishermen. And although it was shot on location in Louisiana, the film doesn't manage to project a real sense of "place," other than on the oil rig itself, which was an interesting setting.

Another part of the movie's problem, in my eyes, is the lack of believable development in the relationship between Stewart's character and a shrimp fisherman's daughter (Joanne Dru), which is shown in fits and starts amidst the drilling and town battles. As for the other characters, the shrimp fishermen are, well, boring...and Dan Duryea as Stewart's sidekick isn't especially interesting himself.

I thought the most interesting supporting character in the movie was Jay C. Flippen as the man bankrolling the drilling operation. An interesting note is that, by my count, Flippen appeared in five of the eight Stewart-Mann films, the others being WINCHESTER '73, BEND OF THE RIVER, THE FAR COUNTRY, and STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND. (The other three films, should you be wondering, were THE NAKED SPUR, THE GLENN MILLER STORY, and THE MAN FROM LARAMIE.) Harry Morgan, who plays Flippen's accountant in this film, also appeared in five Stewart-Mann films, most notably THE GLENN MILLER STORY.

In summary, there's a good movie in here somewhere, with Stewart's determined visionary, Flippen as his loyal supporter, and the striking shots on the oil rig, but for this viewer it never all quite comes together.

THUNDER BAY was filmed in Technicolor and runs 102 or 103 minutes. It's available on VHS. It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

The Turner Classic Movies site has the film's trailer.

Update: THUNDER BAY is available on DVD in the James Stewart Screen Legend Collection. It's also available as a single-title DVD release.)

May 2014 Update: A new look at THUNDER BAY.

July 2019 Update: THUNDER BAY is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. My review of the Blu-ray is here.

New Book: The Real Pepsi Challenge

I'm a Diet Coke fan all the way, but a new book reviewed today in USA TODAY sounds interesting: THE REAL PEPSI CHALLENGE: THE INSPIRATIONAL STORY OF BREAKING THE COLOR BARRIER IN AMERICAN BUSINESS by Stephanie Capparell.

The book details Pepsi's efforts to market their product to blacks in the 1940s, and the company's hiring of a dozen black men in their marketing department: "...the heroes of Capparell's book are the black sales reps who stepped across the threshold, breaking a 'color barrier' in the corporate world some seven years before Jackie Robinson did the same in baseball."

"...the Pepsi team was traveling a largely segregated country. They were forced to sit in the backs of buses, ride in separate train compartments, eat behind closed curtains in dining cars and stay with a network of families because many hotels didn't want their business."

This sounds like an interesting slice of American history.

However, I think I might disagree with the author's conclusion, per the review, in which she sees this as a problem: "Managers today aren't so much thinking about how to keep minorities out, she writes, as not thinking about minorities at all."

I'd say that should be regarded as a sign of progress...hopefully an indicator that six decades later, we are nearing the goal of a colorblind society.

USC Basketball Team Breaks Into Nat'l Rankings

The Trojans' resurgent basketball program has led to the team breaking into the national rankings for the first time in nearly 5 years.

With OJ Mayo arriving next year, hopefully the Trojans will continue onward and upward.

Has Arnold "Jumped the Shark"?

Er, yes.

John Fund of Opinion Journal follows up last week's column on California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's health plan with the latest on this topic.

The Governor is now terming the new taxes not just "fees," but "loans." The semantic games he's playing boggle the mind.

The only thing that may save Californians from the Governor and legislature forcing us into this new healthcare system may be the courts, inasmuch as they may rule that the Governor's "fees" (which would require a simple majority of the legislature) are actually "taxes" (which require a supermajority vote which will be much harder to obtain).

Unrelated trivia: It just so happens I attended the 1977 studio filming of the HAPPY DAYS episode which led to the origin of the phrase "jump the shark"...although the actual shark jumping was filmed outside without an audience...

Update: Michael Cannon of National Review writes that one of the things Schwarzenegger is trying to hide is the large percentage of this plan which will be paid for by non-Californians. In other words, this plan, if passed, would affect non-Californians immediately, not just when and if your state emulates the California plan.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Robert Novak: "Student Loan Scam"

Robert Novak's article on the Democrats' plan to lower interest rates for student loans illustrates once again that politics today is more about show and emotions than principles and reality.

For starters, the interest rate cuts will not be fully phased in until today's students are out of college, and according to Novak the low rates will be available to less than a third of students who take out loans. Other student loan programs will be cut to help "pay for" the rate cuts. The Democrats' "feel good" program is thus not quite what it seems to be on the surface.

Then there's the issue that a majority of House Republicans voted for the bill. California Republicans Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, who are usually reliable conservatives, voted in favor of the measure. I wonder if Rohrabacher and Royce considered that the impact of cheaper credit is likely to be that colleges will be encouraged to raise their tuition rates ever higher to scoop up more of that "cheap money." I suspect they voted for the bill because to do otherwise could lead to their being branded as heartless Scrooges in the media -- as I said above, it's all about "show and emotions" these days. They might have viewed it as too difficult to cut through mainstream media headlines and explain the possible negative ramifications of this "feel good" bill to their constituents.

Novak: "The once militant, united House Republicans are demoralized and on the run. They were battered in the last campaign for cutting school loans in the previous Congress and are willing to go along with a sham bill, hoping for Senate gridlock and a presidential veto."

I frankly think a Presidential veto would be highly unlikely. The President is not particularly conservative when it comes to education, and I suspect he would go along with a "bipartisan effort" to make higher education "more affordable."

The reality is that students may end up needing more money at those lower interest rates, and not be any better off, while universities will benefit further at the expense of students and taxpayers.

Tonight's Movie: Crossfire (1947)

CROSSFIRE is an engrossing murder mystery told in classic film noir style, with dark rooms, shadows on the walls, and damp night streets. Detective Finley (Robert Young) investigates the murder of a businessman in Washington, D.C. Among the suspects are a pair of soldiers, played by Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan.

Young is quite effective as the pipe-smoking detective, and frequent film noir stars Mitchum and Ryan do their usual fine work. CROSSFIRE was nominated for five Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Robert Ryan), and Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame, playing a floozy who is a possible alibi witness). The movie runs 86 minutes and was filmed in black and white.

Robert Ryan is someone whose work I've come to greatly appreciate over the last year or so. Although a look at his credits shows that he acted in a significant number of classics over his 30-year career, he never quite hit the top level of stardom -- perhaps because he wasn't particularly interested in publicity and being a "movie star." A Dartmouth graduate, he pursued a number of interests outside film including founding various theater groups. Perhaps most intriguingly, he and his wife, who were dissatisfied with L.A. public schools, cofounded a private school in their home. Oakwood School continues to operate today, over half a century after its founding.

ROBERT RYAN: A BIOGRAPHY AND CRITICAL FILMOGRAPHY by Franklin Jarlett is a book I look forward to reading in future.

CROSSFIRE is available on VHS. The tape also contains a short documentary about the making of the film, in which the director, Edward Dmytryk, explains how the film acquired its distinctive shadowy visual style. (According to Dmytryk, the film's dark look was the direct result of a small budget, not artistic design.)

CROSSFIRE is also available on DVD, either as a single-title release or as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2. (2017 Update: This film has also been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.)

The movie can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

The trailer can be viewed here.

2021 Update: CROSSFIRE is now available from the Warner Archive on Blu-ray. My review of the Blu-ray may be read here.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Two Mitt Romneys

George Conway of National Review links to some interesting articles about Mitt Romney's "evolving" positions.

For instance, did you know Romney refused to sign a "no new taxes" pledge while governor of Massachusetts? Yet, according to the Brockton Enterprise, he signed such a pledge immediately after leaving office, as part of his Presidential campaign.

I cannot fathom the unrestrained enthusiasm of conservatives like Hugh Hewitt for Romney. I suspect that, given the lack of viable truly conservative candidates on the horizon for 2008, folks like Hewitt are seeing what they want to see, rather than seeing what is -- Romney is a RINO. He does not have consistent conservative principles which he has lived by and articulated for many years; rather, he is changing some of his positions for convenience because he wants to be President.

Given Romney's recent past positions in areas such as abortion and gun rights, I would have absolutely no confidence in his judicial nominations, which are a key area of concern for me, along with terrorism and taxes. And considering his refusal to sign a "no new taxes" pledge when he was actually in a position to follow through on that concept as governor, I don't trust that he would maintain his recent "no new taxes" pledge as President. Romney bends with the wind and says what he thinks will get him elected, whether he's appealing to the more liberal voters of Massachusetts or to the national conservative base.

How ironic that of the "Big 3" Republican candidates, the only one I'd even consider voting for at this point is Rudy Giuliani, the most liberal of the three. A couple things in Rudy's favor: Unlike McCain, Giuliani does not disdain and belittle conservatives, even if he disagrees with them, and unlike Romney, Giuliani is at least honest about his political viewpoints.

I'm having visions of sitting home on election day while one of these candidates runs against a Hillary-Obama ticket...arggghh.

Ronald Reagan, where are you?

Look Out, Here She Comes

Isn't it interesting that Hillary Clinton chose to enter the Presidential race on a weekend, when there would be the least media coverage possible?

Methinks she was pushed into announcing now in order to keep pace with the other candidates, but she probably hopes to fly "under the radar" as long as possible while the other candidates duke it out.

It will certainly be interesting to see if the press is as easy on her in the Presidential race as they have been in her Senatorial campaigns.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tonight's Movie: June Bride (1948)

The Brinker family of Indiana is chosen by Home Life magazine for an early version of EXTREME HOME MAKEOVER in 1948's JUNE BRIDE. Bette Davis, as Home Life's editor, and Robert Montgomery, playing Home Life's writer -- and Davis's former love -- descend on the Brinker home with their staff. As the home is remodeled for a wedding photo shoot featuring the Brinkers' daughter, romantic complications abound.

Montgomery's mugging comedy style is occasionally over the top, but balances well with Bette Davis being, well, Bette Davis. The movie costars Fay Bainter and Mary Wickes as Davis's loyal employees, while Betty Lynn and Barbara Bates play the Brinker daughters. Trivia buffs may recall that Bainter won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress playing opposite Davis in JEZEBEL a decade earlier.

Trivia fans may also enjoy the first scene in the movie, in which Robert Montgomery -- the real-life father of BEWITCHED star Elizabeth Montgomery -- meets up with Sandra Gould, who years later memorably appeared on BEWITCHED as snoopy neighbor Gladys Kravitz.

Debbie Reynolds is credited with her screen debut, in a bit part as one of the bride's friends at the wedding finale, but I didn't recognize her in the brief seconds the girls were on the screen.

I found this movie quite entertaining, with a snappy script that included some good bits of dialogue. The movie was filmed in black and white and runs 96 minutes. It was directed by Bretaigne Windust, who otherwise had a short, fairly unremarkable career.

JUNE BRIDE is available on video. It's also part of the Turner Classic Movies library. (June 2015 Update: JUNE BRIDE is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive. My July 2015 review of the DVD is here.)

You can watch the trailer here.

TKS Is Now The Hillary Spot

Jim Geraghty's National Review blog, TKS (originally The Kerry Spot), is now morphing into The Hillary Spot... The new link is above and in the political links blogroll on the left.

John Fund on Arnold's Health Plan

Among John Fund's interesting points: "...the governor's plan piles on a new mandate that bars insurers from turning down anyone based on health status or age. When New Jersey instituted a similar rule in 1993, premiums jumped 500%."

After assessing Schwarzenegger's changing political philosophies and broken pledge against tax increases, Fund writes: "Arnold Schwarzenegger used to claim he admired Ronald Reagan most 'because he stuck by his principles when others wouldn't.' But with his Rube Goldberg health plan Mr. Schwarzenegger has demonstrated that at his core he prefers roles more suited to Tricky Dick than the Gipper. Should he succeed, the long-term dream of nationalized health care held by Ted Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton, will be closer to reality than ever."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Will Wonders Never Cease... snowed today in Malibu!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

NASCAR Great Benny Parsons Dies

NASCAR champion and TV analyst Benny Parsons, known as "BP," has passed away at age 65 from complications of lung cancer.

Last summer we met some lovely people at Disneyland who we discovered, after chatting a bit, were Benny's cousins. We expressed our good wishes for Benny's health, and they told us they were very hopeful that he would recover completely, as the cancer was caught early and he hadn't smoked in decades. Sadly, although he was declared cancer free, he developed a clot in his remaining lung.

Sincere condolences to the Parsons family and his NASCAR and NBC colleagues.

Obama: Why Now?

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line writes sobering words about political newcomer Barack Obama's Presidential aspirations: "A serious country would not take his candidacy seriously. This country will."

In this day and age so much with regard to American politics seems to be about emotions and "surface," not reality and substance.

As I wrote here in December, Obama is attractive and articulate, but he has almost zero legislative or executive experience. As we go forward in a world filled with new terror threats, is this really the man who should be leading our country?

That Obama himself doesn't recognize it would be wise to gain a few more years of experience and knowledge raises questions in my mind about his wisdom, or lack thereof; trying to grab the brass ring just because it's there may also possibly speak to a desire for power for power's sake, rather than the desire to do what's truly best for the country.

As Michael Barone wrote not long ago: "Obama has the ability to be a strong candidate. But it's not clear, perhaps not even to himself, whether he has the capacity to be a strong and effective president."

Renowned Mountaineer Bradford Washburn Dies at 96

Mount Everest and mountaineering are among my reading interests. I was thus saddened to learn today that legendary explorer, cartographer, and photographer Bradford Washburn, who founded the Boston Museum of Science, has passed away at age 96.

Washburn's life was filled with many remarkable accomplishments. As described by the Washington Post: "In a long and adventurous life, Bradford Washburn ascended mountain peaks, drew complex and complete maps, shot stunning aerial photographs and rebuilt a science museum. He tried to persuade aviator Amelia Earhart to take better radios on her final, fatal flight in 1937. He directed a 1999 effort that revised the official elevation of Mount Everest." Washburn was in his late 80s at the time of the Everest elevation project.

Washburn authored many books, including an autobiography, AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE, in 2005. Books such as BRADFORD WASHBURN: MOUNTAIN PHOTOGRAPHY contain his extraordinary photographs. If you're not familiar with Brad Washburn, I urge you to look for one of his photography books. He was surely the "Ansel Adams" of high elevations.

Washburn's wife, Barbara, wrote a charming memoir, THE ACCIDENTAL ADVENTURER. Her story reminded me rather of Anne Morrow Lindbergh: a quiet woman who falls in love with an explorer and finds the strength within herself to join in his adventures. Barbara Washburn was the first woman to summit Mount McKinley. The Washburns were married over 65 years.

The Boston Museum of Science has a tribute to Washburn posted on its site, including a video link to a documentary featuring Washburn.

More in The Boston Globe and at Everest News.

A long life, well lived.

Wednesday Update: A wonderful obituary from the Boston Globe, courtesy of a good friend. It includes a photo of Washburn climbing the Boston Museum of Science in the '60s.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Bedtime Story (1941)

BEDTIME STORY is a sprightly comedy in the classic screwball tradition, depicting a married couple who can't live with each other but can't live without each other. Fredric March is a playwright who organizes a number of clever schemes to win back his actress wife, Loretta Young.

The riotous hotel room climax rivals classic comedic moments such as the train scene in Preston Sturges' THE PALM BEACH STORY. This film deserves more attention than it has received over the years -- very little was written about it in any of several books on my shelves focusing on the screwball comedy genre. The movie was a treat which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The film's supporting cast includes Eve Arden, Robert Benchley, and Allyn Joslyn. It was directed by Alexander Hall, who the same year directed the classic HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (which, incidentally, arrives on DVD next month). It was filmed in black and white and runs 85 minutes.

BEDTIME STORY can sometimes be seen on TCM. It is not available on DVD or VHS.

The Mystery the Media Ignores...

..."What Did Sandy Berger Take and Why Did He Take It?"

This is one of those stories that clearly demonstrates the bias of the mainstream media...can you imagine the play this story would receive if it involved Republicans?

(Hat tip: Power Line.)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Second Chance (1953)

SECOND CHANCE (1953) is a chase thriller which finds Linda Darnell and Robert Mitchum on the run in Mexico from creepy Jack Palance. Darnell has run out on her mobster boyfriend, whose goon (Palance) wants to kill her -- or have her for himself. While trying to escape Palance, Darnell meets and quickly falls in love with Mitchum. Mitchum is also on the run, from memories of a bad experience in the boxing ring -- a theme which, as a side note, echoes a plot point in the previous year's THE QUIET MAN.

The movie is a bit slow out of the starting gate, but interest picks up considerably once Mitchum and Darnell meet. Mitchum and Darnell are great, as always, and Jack Palance is always scary in this type of role.

The tense climax of the movie takes place in an aerial cable car which malfunctions midway through its journey, threatening to send everyone smashing into the rocks below. Can Robert Mitchum save the day?

Much of the film was shot on location in Mexico, including Taxco, a lovely town I visited during my high school years. (In all honesty I didn't care for much else in Mexico, although I enjoyed seeing the Shrine of Guadalupe and Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City...) The film combines effective location shots with some pretty awful background projections.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is that it was shot in 3-D. The style of the opening credits hints at this, and there are other moments, such as a gun being fired straight at the camera, where the 3-D must have been quite effective. It would be interesting to see how the final cable car sequence looks in 3-D; there was one shot in particular that I suspect was quite startling.

Last September the movie was screened in its original 3-D at the World 3-D Festival at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles. I wish I'd been able to see it! More about the festival can be read in an article at TCM.

SECOND CHANCE runs 82 minutes and was filmed in Technicolor. It was directed by Rudolph Mate who also worked on many classic films as a cinematographer.

The movie is not yet available on DVD or video, but hopefully it will turn up in a Robert Mitchum DVD set at some point. In the meantime, it can be seen on cable on Turner Classic Movies.

The trailer is available at the TCM website.

September 2013 Update: I had a chance to see the movie in 3-D when the World 3-D Expo returned to the Egyptian Theatre this month! It was a great experience, and the film was even more enjoyable when seen in its original 3-D.

Mark Steyn on Pelosi, Boxer, and Motherhood

Steyn zeroes in on the Democrats' sudden embrace of motherhood. As usual, every word is a gem.

Incidentally, I think what I found most appalling about Barbara Boxer's recent rebuke of Condoleezza Rice's childless state is that Senator Boxer actually thinks foreign policy decisions should be made based on how one's immediate family would be impacted.

5 Things You May Not Know About Me

Anne of Just Muttering (linked above) invited me to participate in this "meme" and think of five things you may not know about me...

5 random things that come to mind:

1) I always -- ALWAYS -- read the last page of a novel first. I want to know if I'll like the ending or at least have a "road map" for where the book is going to take me. Needless to say I've never been much of a mysteries fan (grin).

2) I met my husband when we were both working at Disneyland during our college years. I worked at Casa Mexicana (aka Casa de Fritos), which is now part of Yesterland, and he worked on the janitorial crew out front. Our first date was, of course, at Disneyland. :)

3) Although Laura Ingalls Wilder's LITTLE HOUSE books are extremely important to me (I was named for Laura, as well as the song "Laura" from the film of the same name), my favorite books ever are Elswyth Thane's seven "Williamsburg Novels." I reread these on a regular basis. Sometimes I simply open one of the books to the middle and jump right in. It's almost like spending time with family.

4) I know the release years of hundreds of movies off the top of my head.

5) I'm a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

If anyone else would like to answer these questions, please do -- you can either answer in the comments or link to your own blog in the comments.

Thanks, Anne!

Steven Greenhut on Arnold's Health Plan

I've posted at length about California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's universal health care plan (here and here), but Steven Greenhut's column for today's Orange County Register deserves a read as well.

One of the craziest pieces of Arnold's plan is taxing doctors (via their income tax) and hospitals to help pay for the plan. Last week one columnist (which one unfortunately escapes me at the moment) asked if in future we should tax grocery stores to pay for food stamps, and one could carry that "logic" on and on.

Lest non-Californians be tempted to ignore this story, keep in mind that if this passes in California, the nightmare could be coming to your state next...

Southern California Cold Snap

It's been unusually cold here for a Southern California winter. I spent much of yesterday outside turning into an iceberg while watching my daughter's soccer team playoffs. (They won two games and advanced!) The high was around 50 degrees, and to compound things there was some wind making things even colder.

Last night my husband filled a rimmed cookie sheet with water and set it outside. This morning the cookie sheet had a half-inch layer of ice. Our children were impressed. :)

Obviously this is normal weather for many of you, but for us it's sure different!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tonight's Movie: My Reputation (1946)

MY REPUTATION is a highly engrossing "women's picture" (or, in modern parlance, "chick flick") about a lonely, somewhat repressed widow (Barbara Stanwyck) who finds second love with a dashing major (George Brent). Unfortunately, the local community is scandalized by the widow seeing someone "too soon" after her husband's death, but our heroine comes to terms with the fact that she must make her own choices independent of the expectations of others.

I've admitted in the past that I've never been a Stanwyck fan -- I particularly disliked her in THE BIG VALLEY and in some of her other TV performances -- but I have to admit her performance in this film impressed me. It's thoughtful and sensitive, as her character struggles to step out on her own, out from under the shadow of a domineering mother and the conventional behavior expected by shallow people who she comes to realize are not true friends. I'm glad I've given her another look as I really enjoyed both this film and REMEMBER THE NIGHT.

The excellent supporting cast includes Eve Arden as Stanwyck's best friend and Lucile Watson as her dragon of a mother. The production values are first class all the way, with black and white cinematography by James Wong Howe, score by Max Steiner, and gowns by Edith Head. The film was directed by Curtis Bernhardt. It runs 94 minutes.

MY REPUTATION was filmed midway during WWII but wasn't released until 1946. Sources vary on the reason for the delay; some state it was due to a product glut during the war years, while another source says the studio felt audiences would be more receptive to the story after the war. It was, however, screened for the troops during the years between its production and release.

MY REPUTATION is not available on DVD or video but can be seen on cable on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer can be viewed here.

July 2007 Update: This film will be out on DVD October 30, 2007.

Update: A more detailed review of this film was posted in December 2011.

Update: This film has been reissued on DVD in the TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Barbara Stanwyck and also by the Warner Archive.

Nifong Steps Down

Hopefully there will soon be an end to this sorry mess.

For excellent analysis see KC Johnson at Durham-in-Wonderland.

Incidentally, Johnson notes that Nifong has a habit of releasing bad news on a Friday: "The first DNA tests? Handed over to defense attorneys after 5pm on a Friday. The decision to drop the rape charges? The Friday before Christmas. This decision? The Friday before a three-day weekend."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

David Beckham Coming to L.A. Galaxy

My 11-year-old daughter is very involved in soccer and attends one or two Galaxy games each spring with her team. This is exciting news for the team and the sport in the U.S.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tearing Apart Arnold's Plan

Ross Kaminsky has posted an impassioned column at Real Clear Politics tearing apart California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to impose a Socialist health insurance program on the state.

Among other points, Kaminsky asks "Since when did it become OK for the government to hijack the employer-employee private contractual relationship for them to impose their view of how the world should be?"

Read the whole thing.

Debra Saunders calls the plan "a new license for illegal immigrants." She also wonders whether this plan will backfire by encouraging employers to stay under 10 employees (which triggers the health insurance requirement) by hiring more illegal immigrants!

Mary Katharine Ham has also posted reaction, noting that one blogger calls the plan a war on physicians.

Tonight's Movie: Seven Sweethearts (1942)

The MGM musical SEVEN SWEETHEARTS is notable as one of Kathryn Grayson's earliest roles. She was 20 when she starred as the youngest of seven daughters of an innkeeper (S.Z. Sakall) in Holland, Michigan.

The plot is somewhat reminiscent of the same year's YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER from Columbia, which starred Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth: a hotel owner who lives in an exotic location has a bevy of beautiful daughters and insists they marry in order of age. SEVEN SWEETHEARTS isn't a classic on the same level as the Astaire film (which among other things boasts an enduring Jerome Kern score), but like so many MGM films of its era, it provides well-crafted family entertainment.

Van Heflin is Grayson's reporter beau. Her sisters are played by Marsha Hunt (a comedic turn as the imperious, stagestruck eldest sister), Cecilia Parker, Peggy Moran, Dorothy Morris, Frances Rafferty, and Frances Raeburn.

Diana Lewis, who plays a starry-eyed newlywed staying in the hotel, had wed William Powell in 1940; despite a 27-year age difference, they were married for 44 years, until Powell died in 1984.

SEVEN SWEETHEARTS was filmed in black and white. I love B&W movies, but this is one film I think would have really benefited from Technicolor to show off the Dutch costumes and tulips!

A close friend's son attends college in Holland. It sounds like a wonderful place. The Tulip Time festival is immortalized in song in the movie. According to IMDb, the film was exhibited in some locations under the title TULIP TIME. Unfortunately, the movie appears to have been filmed entirely on the backlot, but it's a nice tribute to Holland nonetheless.

The movie runs 98 minutes and was directed by Frank Borzage. It's not available on either VHS or DVD but is part of the Turner Classic Movies library.

TCM has the film's trailer here.

Update: Today I dug out the November 2005 issue of Classic Images, which has a wonderful article on one of the title "Sweethearts," Frances Rafferty, including a number of stills from the film. The article includes the most interesting information that Frances Raeburn, who plays another of the sisters, is Kathryn Grayson's real-life sister, and Michael Butler, who plays one of the sisters' boyfriends, is Grayson's brother. Raeburn appeared in four other films in her brief career, while Butler appeared in just one other movie.

Update: This film is now available from the Warner Archive.

New Book: The Education of Ronald Reagan

John Fund of Opinion Journal reviews a new book on Ronald Reagan's years working as spokesman for General Electric. The book is subtitled "The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism" and traces how some of Reagan's experiences during that time directly impacted not only his political ideology but some of his decisions as President.

(Hat tip: Power Line.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938)

RICH MAN, POOR GIRL, like THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA, is a highly entertaining MGM programmer. This fun tale of a wealthy man (Robert Young) who wants to wed his secretary (Ruth Hussey), but must first overcome her reservations about their different financial backgrounds, does not pretend to be great art, but it is a great diversion.

Young is charming and Hussey was never more lovely than she was in this picture. Lana Turner plays Hussey's ebullient kid sister, and Lew Ayres comes close to reprising his role from the same year's HOLIDAY as Hussey's ne'er-do-well cousin. Guy Kibbee and Sarah Padden round out the cast as Hussey's parents, while Rita Johnson plays Young's sister.

RICH MAN, POOR GIRL was one of a small handful of English-language films directed by German-born Reinhold Schunzel. Schunzel was also an actor, most notably playing Dr. Anderson in Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS in 1946.

The movie was based on a 1929 film, THE IDLE RICH, which was in turn based on a play. It runs 70 or 72 minutes, depending on the reference source, and was filmed in black and white.

RICH MAN, POOR GIRL, like so many "B" movies of that era, is not available on DVD or VHS. It would be wonderful if at some point Warners would release DVD sets with several short MGM pictures such as this in a set. Fortunately, the movie can be seen on cable as it is part of the Turner Classic Movies library.

The original trailer can be seen on the TCM site.

Historic Googie Building Demolished

L.A. Observed reports that Harvey's (later Johnie's) Broiler in Downey, California, considered by many to be one of the finest examples of '50s Googie architecture, was illegally demolished this weekend.

More from the L.A. Times and the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

It's very sad to see such a wonderful piece of California architectural history ground to bits.

For more on Googie architecture, including a link to a fine book on the topic, see my post from October 2005.

More on Arnold Calling Taxes "Fees"

As the L.A. Times reports, there's more than salesmanship in Governor Schwarzenegger calling the taxes which are part of his universal healthcare proposal "fees."

Fees, you see, can be passed by the California state legislature with a simple majority. Taxes, on the other hand, require a two-thirds majority to pass, and that number of votes will be much harder for the governor to obtain.

I find the governor's attempted deception -- which isn't going to fool anyone -- in order to further his agenda disturbing. A "fee" which is mandatory and cannot be avoided is a tax, pure and simple. Components of the plan include new payroll taxes on employers who don't purchase health insurance for their employees, new taxes on doctors and hospitals, and the state withholding income tax refunds or garnishing wages of those citizens who don't obtain health insurance. These are all new forms of taxation.

As Captain Ed points out, the new tax on doctors -- which Arnold euphemistically calls a "coverage dividend" -- could discourage some from becoming doctors or from practicing medicine in this state. And that's just the tip of the iceberg for the unintended consequences that clearly would result from Arnold's grand plan.

The governor needs to stop playing semantic games and honestly acknowledge that this plan will require him to break his campaign pledge against new taxes.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Arnold Wants Universal Health Care in CA

As mentioned here last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is moving the state toward state-run health insurance. Initially it was reported that the governor wanted to insure every child -- including those here illegally -- in California.

However, as reported by Bloomberg News (subject link), the governor is actually seeking universal health care for California.

This kind of plan has already been decisively rejected by California voters. Not to mince words, but it's a socialist job killer.

Part of the plan emulates that supported by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, which interferes with the free market by requiring every citizen to have health insurance. (That plan is one reason I don't support Romney in his quest for the presidency -- his instincts have too often been liberal, but he is bending conservative in areas such as abortion in his quest for the Republican nomination.)

Not only would businesses and individual citizens face fines and fees if they don't comply with Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed plan, but doctors and hospitals would be charged what amounts to a "revenue tax" to help support the costs of the plan. Arnold masks this new tax by calling it a "coverage dividend."

The governor believes this will be less expensive than the state's current costs for covering the uninsured. But, given that he plans to cover those children here illegally, I suspect that he hasn't even considered addressing the related matter of illegal immigration, which has strained our state infrastructure, including health care, to the brink. Illegal aliens using hospitals as their primary care facilities is one reason the state's hospitals are overburdened and underpaid.

The governor says, since illegal aliens must legally be treated at hospitals, that the question isn't whether to treat them but how to pay for it. But what could he be doing to work with the federal government to reduce the original problem and in turn reduce the strain on the state budget?

He's also not addressing what this will do to the marketplace in general -- if you're a business, would you hire the tenth worker that would force you to comply with the insurance plan? And will businesses decide to pay the payroll tax instead of providing insurance, thereby forcing employees into state-run health plans? This is exactly what California voters rejected in 2004. Strangely enough, Arnold at that time also rejected the state plan and agreed with the voters.

Instead of Hillarycare, we're now looking at Arnoldcare.

After much inward debate, I voted for Arnold last November as the better of two unpleasant options, but I'm now regretting having given him my vote.

Tuesday Update: Captain Ed weighs in.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tonight's Movie: The Affairs of Martha (1942)

THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA is an MGM "B" movie which is great fun. Martha (Marsha Hunt) is a maid who is secretly writing a book about her employers (Spring Byington and Melville Cooper). She also has another secret concerning the family's son (Richard Carlson), an anthropologist who as the movie opens has spent the last year and a half in the Arctic. The son arrives home with a fiancee on the same day news of the book roils the local community, and chaos ensues.

The movie features an extensive cast of pros, including Marjorie Main, Virginia Weidler, Margaret Hamilton, Allyn Joslyn, Barry Nelson, Sara Haden, Grady Sutton, and Hedy Lamarr lookalike Inez Cooper.

This black and white film (also known as ONCE UPON A THURSDAY in Great Britain) was directed by Jules Dassin and runs a quick 66 minutes. The Writers Guild of America magazine ran a November profile on Dassin which is worth a read. Dassin is now 95 years old and has lived in Europe since he was blacklisted; he was married for nearly three decades to the late actress Melina Mercouri.

Actress Marsha Hunt, incidentally, is also still with us -- and acting! -- at age 89, and she is quoted briefly in the Dassin article.

THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA is not available on either video or DVD. It is part of the Turner Classic Movies library.

A trailer can be viewed at the TCM site. I'm pretty certain that's Ava Gardner in the trailer as one of three girls seen raving about the film after leaving a preview screening; if there's any doubt, she's the beautiful girl on the left in that brief scene. At the time MARTHA was released, Gardner was receiving her MGM training in uncredited bit parts...including, it appears, in this trailer!

A final note, my 11-year-old daughter recognized Richard Carlson from the wonderful Bell Science movies directed by Frank Capra, such as HEMO THE MAGNIFICENT. Carlson starred in three of the four films in the series with USC's Dr. Frank Baxter; Eddie Albert costarred with Baxter in the fourth. These educational films are still worth watching, half a century after they were produced.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

USC Tragedy

The week began on a high note for the USC Trojans, as they won the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

Tonight, however, comes the sad word that starting kicker Mario Danelo has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff in San Pedro. An investigation is ongoing.

Our sincere condolences to Mario's family, friends, and the team.

Tonight's Movie: Broadcast News (1987)

I hadn't seen BROADCAST NEWS since it first came out. It was fun to see it again, having forgotten most of it in the intervening years. The film tells the story of life in a Washington, D.C., TV newsroom, focusing on a smooth but dumb anchor (William Hurt), a tightly wound producer (Holly Hunter), and the reporter who's probably the sanest person in the newsroom (Albert Brooks).

On the whole it's an entertaining comedy, though I would have liked a more conventionally happy ending.

One of the stranger moments, given what has transpired since the film was made, was the producer and reporter joking about all the morning news shows carrying interviews with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the context of current history, Arnold would definitely be "news" to those characters, so that scene dated the film a bit -- as did those '80s hairstyles and shoulder pads!

The supporting cast includes Robert Prosky, Lois Chiles, Joan Cusack, and Jack Nicholson in a small but funny role as the network's star anchorman. The film runs 131 or 133 minutes, depending on the reference. It was directed by James L. Brooks.

It's available on both DVD and VHS. It's also part of the Fox Movie Channel library.

Restaurateur Vincent Sardi Dies at 91

Vincent Sardi was the owner and manager of the Broadway institution Sardi's for over half a century. The restaurant was founded by his father in 1921.

This New York Times obituary is a fascinating slice of theater history.

Chevy Chase Remembers President Ford

Although I've enjoyed Chevy Chase from time to time in his movies, I think it's safe to say we're polar opposites politically. It's thus especially nice to see that he wrote a very classy tribute to former President Ford, who was often the target of his humor.

(Hat tip: Power Line.)

The Senate Candy Desk

Thanks to Betsy's Page, I learned about a fun Capitol Hill tradition, the Senate Candy Desk.

The Candy Desk originated with former California Senator George Murphy, who kept a supply of sweets in his desk. In the decades since Senator Murphy left the Senate, Republican Senators have continued the tradition, most recently Senator Rick Santorum. Senator Santorum filled the desk with the help of the Hershey Company from his state of Pennsylvania.

Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming appears to be next in line to man the desk.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Harriet Miers Resigns

Byron York of National Review Online has analysis of Miers' performance as White House counsel, as well as some speculation on who might replace her.

Rose Parade Ratings Drop Without Stephanie

KTLA's Rose Parade ratings were off 14% this year. It appears a fairly significant number of viewers may have voted against KTLA's booting of longtime parade host Stephanie Edwards with their remotes.

Of course, it's also possible that more viewers were at home last year due to rainy weather, but I'm guessing there was also a "Stephanie effect" on the ratings.

Details at L.A. Observed (subject link) and from the Orange County Register's Frank Mickadeit.

Like L.A. Observed, this blog saw a remarkable surge in traffic due to interest in Stephanie. I think HGTV would be wise to hire her for next year's broadcast.

New Book: Talking With My Mouth Full

While browsing at Barnes & Noble after seeing THE HOLIDAY, I came across Bonny Wolf's TALKING WITH MY MOUTH FULL, which I had recently read about in USA TODAY and THE WASHINGTON TIMES.

Wolf, who works for NPR, has written a collection of essays on food, interspersed with recipes. It looks like an entertaining read -- I couldn't resist picking it up. (A side note, I love good graphic art -- the cover is wonderful.)

Eileen Goudge's SOMETHING WARM FROM THE OVEN also looked appealing; I may pick it up another time. I came home and immediately did an internet search for the recipe for Goudge's Chocolate Molasses Crinkles which I'd spotted in her book, and happily found it on her website. They sound wonderful.

Tonight's Movie: The Holiday (2006)

Watching THE HOLIDAY, a feel-good romantic comedy, was true bliss. I laughed, I cried, I left the theater with a happy glow. A grand start to the New Year, in terms of movie-going.

As you may know if you have read any of the recent reviews of the film, the plot concerns two lovelorn ladies who impulsively exchange houses for two weeks at Christmastime. Amanda (Cameron Diaz), an L.A. producer of movie trailers, trades places with Iris (Kate Winslet), a writer at London's Daily Telegraph. Amanda meets Iris's charming brother (Jude Law) within hours of her arrival, while Amanda makes friends with both an elderly screenwriter (Eli Wallach) and a kind musician (Jack Black).

I particularly enjoyed Wallach's character teaching Iris how to be "the leading lady in her own life" by having her view countless screwball comedies from the Golden Era. (There's a cameo in a scene at the video store that's a lot of fun.) I also liked that Law's apparent playboy-about-town isn't quite what he seems. To say more would spoil the surprise. And OK, I'll say it: The man is drop-dead gorgeous. Those eyes!

As with other Nancy Meyers films, such as BABY BOOM and SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE, THE HOLIDAY has fabulous sets. I want Jude Law's kitchen! And my jaw dropped with wonder when I got a look at Amanda's DVD library and screening facilities; as Iris gasped, "That's intense!" The L.A. Times recently ran an article on the set designs for Meyers' films in general and this film in specific.

Trailers can be found here. The last trailer on the list has at least 3 scenes I don't believe were in the movie, which was rather interesting.

A postscript, we saw a trailer for BECAUSE I SAID SO with Diane Keaton and Lauren Graham (GILMORE GIRLS). It looked a bit like a cinematic GILMORE GIRLS, concerning the relationships between three generations of women; Keaton plays the controlling grandmother. It may not be great, but I have enjoyed several of Keaton's "family" films and hope it's entertaining.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Coming This Summer: Ocean's Thirteen

I watched this trailer with a big smile on my face. I love this series. It's kind of a guilty pleasure, given that the heroes are crooks, but they're fun crooks. :)

But where are Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones?

OCEAN'S THIRTEEN opens June 8th.

Zeta-Jones actually has an interesting-looking movie called NO RESERVATIONS coming out this summer. She plays a chef who receives custody of her niece. It opens July 27th.

Why John McCain is a No-Go for Conservatives

The man simply drips with condescension toward those with whom he disagrees, and he has no core values. Indeed, when he says early on in a new Vanity Fair profile that "I'm willing to negotiate anything," it's unclear in context if he means with regard to illegal immigration specifically or is speaking in more general terms.

Either way, that position -- which is no position -- doesn't work for me.

Hugh Hewitt has analysis.

Update: Power Line points the way to a transcript of a conversation Hugh Hewitt had with Mark Steyn today regarding the McCain article.

Steyn on McCain: "Here is a guy who was in many ways a conventional, mainstream Republican conservative when he started out. Now, his only political bedrock belief seems to be in his own indispensibility. Everything other than that is negotiable."


The Best Education Blogs

A few weeks ago Jay Mathews of The Washington Post asked for nominations for the best education blogs. He and a retired teacher then reviewed the blogs and came up with a list of favorites.

Two of the blogs I submitted, Joanne Jacobs and edspresso, made the "Top 16."

A side note, one blog on their list, Susan Ohanian, I cannot recommend. She has written any number of angry posts about William Bennett and charter schooling. I disagree with both her tone and her content.

Otherwise, I'm looking forward to exploring a number of new-to-me education blogs in coming weeks.

Arnold Tacks Left on Health Insurance

Californians have in the past decisively rejected state-run health insurance.

Recently re-elected California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger now plans instead to take incremental steps moving our state to state-run health insurance, by offering health insurance to all of the state's children, including illegal aliens.

"All sectors of the healthcare industry, including hospitals, insurers, doctors, patients, businesses and government, would pay some of the costs under Schwarzenegger's plan. People familiar with the proposal say that it includes new requirements for businesses to cover employees, though the details were unclear."

It's particularly galling that in yet one more area our state's hard-working taxpayers would have their earnings transferred to illegal non-citizens.

I'm sure Arnold thinks this is "compassionate conservatism," but in my view this is another step on the road to socialism, which isn't at all compassionate.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Jeane Kirkpatrick, Cook

The Washington Post ran a delightful remembrance of the late U.N. Ambassador today, centering on her love of cooking.

(Hat tip: The Corner.)

Tonight's Movie: The Glass Key (1942)

THE GLASS KEY is a noirish tale of political corruption and murder, starring Brian Donlevy as a political boss, Alan Ladd as his partner, and Veronica Lake as the woman they both love.

While not quite as well-scripted as Ladd and Lake's THE BLUE DAHLIA, reviewed here last May, THE GLASS KEY is a very entertaining and stylish film. Trenchcoats and fedoras, slinky Edith Head gowns, rainy cemeteries...they're all in this one, shot in beautiful black and white. The plot is a bit muddled in places, but at those moments the film's highly polished execution carries the day. An extended sequence with William Bendix roughing up Ladd (and then some) was tiresome, but otherwise it was terrific viewing.

The movie is based on a book by Dashiell Hammett and was previously filmed in 1935 with George Raft. According to Leonard Maltin, THE GLASS KEY provided the inspiration for both Akira Kurosawa's YOJIMBO and Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS with Clint Eastwood.

The supporting cast includes Frances Gifford and Bonita Granville, two actresses with connections to my area. Gifford, who was born in nearby Long Beach, California, and attended that city's Wilson High School, appeared most notably in a string of MGM movies in the mid-'40s, before her career was cut short by an auto accident. One-time child actress Granville married producer Jack Wrather, who also owned the Disneyland Hotel. The hotel's Granville's Steakhouse (which was recently renamed Steakhouse 55) and Bonita Tower were both named for Granville. Wrather also at one time operated Long Beach's Queen Mary and Spruce Goose attractions.

THE GLASS KEY runs 85 minutes. It was directed by Stuart Heisler.

The film is available on VHS.

December 2012 Update: THE GLASS KEY is now available on DVD from the TCM Vault Collection.

January 2013 Update: A more detailed review of THE GLASS KEY has now been posted.

May 2019 Update: I was fortunate to see THE GLASS KEY on a big screen at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.

That Amazing Fiesta Bowl Game

If you're one of the last people around not to have seen the amazing finish to the Fiesta Bowl game between Boise and Oklahoma on New Year's Day, the Irish Trojan (linked above) has video links galore.

Statue of Liberty! Hook and ladder! And for an added bonus, marriage proposal!

Meanwhile, in other college football news, USC fans can relax a bit, inasmuch as Head Coach Pete Carroll says he's returning to USC next year. Rumors have been rumbling that Carroll might be tempted to take over the Arizona Cardinals and reunite with QB Matt Leinart.

Hopes are high that USC will start the next season ranked No. 1.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Middle Schools: Time to Shut Them Down

As I posted here in 2005, I've thought middle school was a terrible idea since the time I was old enough to attend one. I wondered at that time why it was supposed to be a good idea to move kids who were going through major developmental changes into a completely new, bigger environment with multiple teachers (including, at my school, mean P.E. jock teachers) and twice as many students. I don't think it's overdramatizing to say that 7th grade was the worst year of my life, though my grades were fine. I very badly wanted to be back at the elementary school where I'd been quite happy.

As I've talked to friends over the years, I've discovered most of them have the same bad memories of junior high school or middle school. Middle school is simply Not a Good Thing.

My oldest daughter attended my own old junior high school, and if anything, the experience had gotten worse by the time she was there. Our second-oldest child is avoiding the junior high experience entirely, schooling at home. Junior high is a concept that needs to be done away with.

Maggie Gallagher has more on this topic in her new column, including the pervasive junior high or middle school problem of "peer-generated torture" -- something our daughter experienced.

Fortunately there seems to be a growing trend in education away from junior high or middle school, toward K-8 schools. Keeping children who are going through big changes in other areas of their lives in a familiar environment, with a single teacher, seems to eradicate many of the problems students experience at middle schools. I'll be most interested to follow changes in this area of education.

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