Pumpkin Pie

homemade-pumpkin-pie

Below is an article the popular Thanksgiving dessert, Pumpkin Pie

PUMPKIN PIE

As many Americans know, Pumpkin Pie is a sweet dessert, traditionally eaten during the fall and early winter seasons. They are especially popular during the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the United States and Canada. Many view the pumpkin as a symbol of harvest time. The pie consists of a custard made from an actual pumpkin, canned custard or packaged pie filling made from the plant. The pie’s color usually range from orange to brown and is baked in a single pie shell, rarely with a top crust. Pumpkin pie is generally flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.

The pumpkin is a native of the North American continent. The oldest evidence of its existence were pumpkin-related seeds that dated between 7000 and 5500 BCE, has been found in Mexico. Despite the discovery of its seeds in Mexico, the pumpkin was first exported to France in the 16th century. From there, it was introduced to Tudor England. The English quickly accepted the flesh of the “pompion” as a pie filler. Following its introduction to England, pumpkin pie recipes could be found in 17th century English cookbooks such as Hannah Woolley’s 1675 book, “The Gentlewoman’s Companion”.

English immigrants such as the Pilgrims eventually introduced the pumpkin pie to the New England region. Recipes for the pie did not appear in American cookbooks until the early 19th century. During this same period, the dessert finally became a common addition to the Thanksgiving dinner. Meanwhile, the English method of cooking the pumpkin took a different course. The English pumpkin pie was prepared by stuffing the actual pumpkin with apples, spices and sugar, before baking it whole. The dessert, which more or less remained traditional in the United States, inspired songs and poems. Nineteenth century activist Lydia Maria Child referenced the pumpkin pie in her 1844 song, “Over the River and Through the Wood”. And in 1850, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem called “The Pumpkin”.

Below is a recipe for a fresh pumpkin pie from the Full Circle website (which was adapted from a recipe found on http://www.rwood.com:

Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

Your favorite pie crust dough, enough for one 9-inch shell.
1 pie pumpkin
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups organic cream
1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds, place the pumpkin halves in a pan, shell side up, and bake for 1 hour or until the pumpkin is tender, exudes liquid and the shell starts to sag.

Pour off accumulated liquid, scrape the pulp from the shell and purée it with a potato masher or in a blender. Measure 2 cups of the purée and set it aside. Reserve any additional pumpkin for another use.

Place your pie dough on a lightly floured surface and, starting from the center out, roll the dough to about 2 inches larger than the size of the pan. Loosen the pastry, fold it in half, lift it and unfold it into the pan. Press it into place, trim off the excess dough and crimp the edges.

Increase the temperature of the oven to 425°F. In a large mixing bowl lightly beat the eggs. Add the purée and the remaining ingredients and stir to blend. Pour the mixture into the dough-lined pan.

Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake an additional 45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.11) “Witchstock”

Charmed-Caps611_288

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.11) “Witchstock”

During its eight season run, the fantasy-drama “CHARMED” has occasionally featured an episode dealing with the topic of time travel. These time travel episodes usually prove to be well-written or exceptional. However, there comes a time when the series produced a time travel episode that end up being a dud. The series’ Season Six episode, (6.11) “Witchstock” proved to be the latter. 

Directed by James A. Contner and written by Daniel Cerone, “Witchstock” begins at least a month or two following the first-rate (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”. At the end of the previous episode, oldest sister Piper Halliwell had suggested that younger sister Phoebe and even younger half-sister Paige Matthews leave the family’s manor to pursue their romantic desires. Phoebe left San Francisco to live with her boyfriend, the very wealthy Jason Dean, in Hong Kong. And Paige left the manor to live with her own wealthy boyfriend, a male witch named Richard Montana. However, the sisters’ separation proves to be a little problematic, since they have to deal with a magic-sucking slime found inside a local warehouse. Their new whitelighter from the future Chris Perry (in reality Halliwell) manages to bring Phoebe back from Hong Kong to vanquish the slime, but was not able to find Paige. Piper and Phoebe achieve their mission . . . somewhat. A piece of the slime manages to attach itself to Chris, and the latter inadvertently transport it back to the Manor.

When Paige shows up, she explains that she tried to leave Richard’s manor without teleporting, due to his addiction to magic. During this conversation, Piper finds a pair of red go-go boots that once belonged to their grandmother, Penelope Johnson Halliwell. She gives them to Paige, who tries them on. Seconds later, Paige finds herself transported back to January 1967, due to the spell her grandmother had put on the boots. She also discovers that both her grandmother and grandfather (Jack or Allen Halliwell) were peace-loving hippies on a crusade to rid the world of evil through the magical power of love. They had also transformed the manor into a “magical be-in”, unaware that one of their guests is a warlock. Meanwhile, Piper and Phoebe summon the ghost of their now dead grandmother to explain what happened. Grams informs them about her past as a hippie and the tragic circumstances that led to her first husband’s death at the hands of a warlock. Piper and Phoebe realize they have to travel back to 1967 and prevent Paige from inadvertently changing the past. Meanwhile, Grams helps Chris and Piper’s ex, former whitelighter-turned-Elder Leo Wyatt deal with the demonic slime that threatens to take over the manor.

Sounds exciting, right? I wish I could say that “Witchstock” was exciting. In the end, the episode proved to be a piece of crap. First of all, screenwriter Daniel Cerone failed to make any real connection between the demonic slime first introduced in the pre-titled sequence and Paige’s initial trip back to the Age of Aquarius. The main villains of the episode – two warlocks portrayed by Jake Busey and Kam Heskin – proved to be rather lame. The demonic sponge featured in the early 21st century scenes proved to be even more lame. In fact, the demonic sponge reminded me of the lame electrical demon that the sisters had vanquished in Season Four’s (4.07) “A Knight to Remember”. Talk about lack of originality.

Cerone also failed to create any real emotional connection between the sisters – especially newbie Paige – and their grandparents. The sisters seemed flabbergasted by Penny Halliwell’s hippie persona, which was a far cry from the militant demon hunter who raised Piper, Phoebe and the now dead Prue. The episode had a chance for Paige to really get to know her grandparents – especially her grandmother – and it failed on all counts. Piper turned out to be the only sister who witnessed their grandfather’s death. Yet, she reacted with very little or hardly any emotion. I realize that she had never met her grandfather during her lifetime. But the man was blood. The family carried his surname. Holly Marie Combs could have expressed some emotion . . . some sadness over the passing of her character’s flesh-and-blood. Unfortunately, that never happened. Cerone’s script was too busy treating the hippie personas of Penny, husband Allen (or Jack), and whitelighter Leo as jokes. Watching 1967 Leo act high and hit on Paige was embarrassing to watch. I felt sorry for Brian Krause in these scenes. I also felt sorry for Dorian Gregory, who was forced to portray Black Panther Luther Morris, who not only found himself in the same jail cell as Piper and Phoebe in a very cringe worthy scene; but also turned out to be the father of the Halliwells’ police detective friend, Darryl Morris.

The worst aspect of “Witchstock” proved to be the mistakes that heavily tainted this episode. In one early scene; Phoebe, who had become fascinated with Chinese astrology, informed younger sister Paige that the latter was born in the year of the Ox. WRONG! Paige was born in early August 1977, which meant she was born in the year of the Snake. The screenwriter could have easily looked this up . . . or else he failed to remember that Paige was born in 1977, not 1973. Also, Grams should have been portrayed by an actress old enough to pass for a woman in her mid-30s. This episode was set in January 1967. Which meant that Grams should have been 35 or 36 at the time. After all, her daughter Patty was born in 1950. And the episode was set three to four years before the birth of the latter’s oldest daughter, Prue. Actress Kara Zediker, who portrayed the younger Grams, barely looked 30 years old. And I find the idea of a mid-30s Grams and her slightly older husband as hippies. Perhaps there were hippies from their generation. But their fellow witches all seemed to be five to fifteen years younger. Worse, you can hear Rare Earth’s version of “Get Ready” being played in the background in one of the earlier 1967 scenes. This should be difficult, considering that Rare Earth’s version of the song was released in 1969 . . . over two years after the setting of this episode. The latter should have featured the Temptations’ 1966 version . . . or another song from 1966/67.

Was there anything about “Witchstock” that I liked? Well . . . thanks to Rose McGowan, I found Paige’s initial reaction to the “Manor of Love” rather amusing and managed to chuckle at her handling of a womanizing Leo. Despite my dislike of the Penelope Halliwell character, Jennifer Rhodes injected a breath of fresh air into the episode. She also managed to create a nice chemistry with both Brian Krause and Drew Fuller; as Grams, Leo and Chris dealt with the demonic sponge. Although saddled with a lame character like the warlock Nicholas, I have to give credit to Jake Busey for attempting to infuse as much energy as possible into his performance. And Holly Marie Combs had a nice moment of personal angst for Piper, who silently lamented over her sisters’ departure and her new-founded loneliness.

But despite these positive little moments, “Witchstock” was a disaster to me. Was it the worse “CHARMED” episode I have ever seen? Fortunately for director James A. Contner and screenwriter Daniel Cerone, my answer is no. I have seen worse from earlier seasons. And all I have to do is watch the series’ Season Eight. There were plenty of horrors from that season to form a list of the series’ worst episodes. But “Witchstock” was not a pleasure to watch. Not by a long shot.

TIME MACHINE: Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

ST-C420-13-63

TIME MACHINE: ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY (1917-1963)

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, in Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was fatally shot by a sniper, while traveling with his wife First Lady Jacqueline KennedyTexas Governor John Connally, and wife Nellie Connally, in a presidential motorcade. 

With the 1964 Presidential Election looming in the following, President John F. Kennedy wanted to travel to Texas for the following reasons:

*the Kennedy-Johnson ticket barely won the state in 1960 and Kennedy wanted to help mend political fences among the leading Texas Democratic party members
*Kennedy wanted to begin his quest for reelection in November 1964; and
*Kennedy wanted to help raise more campaign fund contributions for the Democratic Party

President Kennedy, along with Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson (formerly a senator from Texas) and Governor Connnally met in El Paso, Texas on June 5, 1963; to agreed upon the details for a presidential visit in Texas. President Kennedy’s trip to Texas was first announced to the public in September 1963. And the exact motorcade route for Dallas was finalized on November 18 and announced to the public a few days before November 22. U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson visited Dallas on October 24, 1963 to mark United Nations Day. He was jeered, jostled, hit by a sign and spat upon during the visit. Stevenson, along with several other people, advised Kennedy to avoid Dallas during his Texas visit, but the President refused their advice.

The President and the First Lady arrived in San Antonio, Texas on November 21, 1963. There, they visited the Brooks Air Force Base. Later, they attended a Testimonial dinner at the Rice Hotel in Houston, honoring Congressman Albert Thomas, before finally arriving at Fort Worth, where they stayed at the Hotel Texas.

The following day on November 22, the presidential couple attended a Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the hotel in Fort Worth. Later, they boarded Air Force One, which conveyed them and the rest of the presidential entourage to the Love Field airport in Dallas, at 11:40 p.m. (CT). President Kennedy was scheduled to give a speech at a steak luncheon held at the the Dallas Business and Trade Mart. They proceeded to Dealey Plaza in a motorcade that conveyed them from the airport. Kennedy, the First Lady, Connally and his wife were in the second convertible with driver Secret Service Agent William Greer and Advance Agent and SAIC Roy Kellerman (also Secret Service). At 12:29 p.m., the President’s motorcade entered Dealey Plaza after a right turn from Main Street onto Houston Street. Over two dozen known and unknown amateur and professional still and motion-picture photographers captured the last living images of President Kennedy. As the motorcade slowly approached the Texas School Book Depository, shots were fired at President Kennedy’s limousine after it made the turn from Houston onto Elm Street, around 12:30 p.m. (CT). Most witnesses heard three shots.

As seen in the film clip shot by private citizen Abraham Zapruder, the third shot struck President Kennedy in the head. Governor Connally was also seriously wounded. During the shots a witness named James Tague was also wounded, when he received a minor wound on his right cheek. After the President had been shot in the head, Mrs. Kennedy began to climb out onto the back of the limousine, though she later had no recollection of doing so. Secret Service Agent Clint Hill believed she was reaching for something. Hill jumped onto the back of the limousine, while at the same time, Mrs. Kennedy returned to her seat. He clung to the car as it left Dealey Plaza and rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Dallas Police Office Marion Baker confronted Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine veteran and employee at the Texas Book Depository, inside the building’s second floor lunchroom, over a minute after the last shot was fired. Baker claimed that he had heard the first shot, as he approached the book depository and the Dallas Textile Building. When building superintendent Roy Truly identified Oswald as an employee, the latter was released. Meanwhile, President Kennedy was declared dead at Parkland Hospital around 1:00 p.m. His body was given the last rites by a Catholic priest. The doctors had to operate on Governor Connally at least two times that day. Fifteen minutes after the President was declared dead, Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit was shot dead, not far from Oswald’s rooming house. At least thirteen people saw a man shoot Tippit. Five of the witnesses identified Oswald in police lineups, and a sixth identified him the following day. Four others identified Oswald from a photograph. Vice-President Johnson, his wife Lady Bird Johnson and other members of the presidential entourage returned to Air Force One at Love Field. Mrs. Kennedy, and several Secret Service agents escorting the President’s body, eventually joined them. Before Air Force One departed for Washington D.C., Federal judge Sarah T. Hughes swore Vice-President Johnson in as the country’s 36th President.

Oswald was arrested by the Dallas police at the Texas Theater (movie theater) that afternoon. And around 7:10 p.m. that evening, he was charged with the murder of Officer Tippit. Shortly after 1:30 a.m., on November 23, Oswald was formally charged with the murder of President Kennedy. He declared that he was innocent and had been framed for the murders. Oswald was interrogated during his two days at the Dallas Police Headquarters. On November 24, 1963; Oswald was being led through the building’s basement for his transfer to the county jail, when he was murdered by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. Oswald was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, but died at 1:07 p.m. (CT). Ruby was charged and convicted with his murder. The state funeral for President John F. Kennedy was held on the following day, November 25, 1963. Following at service at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

President Johnson initiated the Warren Commission, chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren of the Supreme Court to investigate the assassination. The investigation lasted for ten months, between November 1963 to September 1964. It concluded that President Kennedy had been assassinated by lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald. It also concluded that Jack Ruby also acted alone, when he killed Oswald before the latter could stand trial. Despite the findings of the Warren Commission, many believe to this day that President Kennedy was killed, due to a government conspiracy and that Oswald had been framed. In contrast to the Warren Commission’s conclusions, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded in 1978 that Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. But they do believe that Oswald was a part of the conspiracy.

The following books can provide more information and speculations on the John F. Kennedy Assassination:

*“Who Really Killed Kennedy?: 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations About the JFK Assassination” (2013) by
Jerome Corsi

*“LIFE The Day Kennedy Died Remembers” (2013) by the Editors of LIFE Magazine

*“Five Days in November”(2013) by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin

JFK2

“BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” (2013) Review

Beautiful-Creatures_2

“BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” (2013) Review

In the tradition of the HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT franchises, Hollywood has embarked upon another adaptation of a fantasy tale for children and young adults. The latest adolescent fantasy is an adaptation of an adolescent fantasy called“Beautiful Creatures”

The novel, written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, was published in 2009 and is considered the first in what should prove to be a literary series called Caster Chronicles. After Summit Entertainment’s success with the TWILIGHT movie franchise and Warner Brothers’ success with the HARRY POTTER films, the latter studio released BEAUTIFUL CREATURES to the movie theaters. Both the movie and the novel told the story about a teenager named Ethan Wate, who longs to escape the boredom of his South Carolina hometown, Gatlin. However, Ethan’s boredom disappears when he meets a mysterious new girl named Lena Duchannes. Not only do Ethan and Lena uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their town and especially their history that stretches back to the Civil War; Ethan discoves that Lena and members of her family are magic practitioners – who are known in their world as “casters”.

Lena’s talent as a “caster” also serves as an obstacle to her romance with Ethan. Her Uncle Macon Ravenwood disapproves of their growing romance and conspires with Ethan’s family friend, Amma; to keep the two separated. Ethan learns that on Lena’s 16th birthday, her true nature will steer her towards a light or dark path. And Lena fears of being consumed by evil and hurting those she loves. Even worse, the arrival of two powerful dark casters from the family hope to push Lena towards evil – her provocative cousin Ridley and her mother Sarafine, who forsees Lena becoming an even more powerful caster. Only Ethan believes that that Lena can determine her moral fate, due to her own choices.

I must admit that I really had no interest in seeing “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES”. When I saw its trailer, the movie struck me as another one of those adolescent fantasies along the lines of the TWILIGHT franchise. But with nothing to do that particular weekend, I felt bored and realized that I had not experienced a first viewing of a movie since the holiday season. So, I went to see it. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. I cannot say that “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” is one of the best fantasy romances I have ever seen. And it did not strike me as particularly original. But I did enjoyed it.

As I had stated earlier, “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” does not strike me as an original film. It reminded me of numerous movie and television productions in which one half of a teen romance has magical or supernatural abilities. Two, I was a little disappointed that of all the “casters” in the film, audiences never saw Ethan’s friend, Amma, display her magical abilities. The script made a big deal in building up Amma’s abilities. But in the end, it never really delivered. And three, the whole idea of a “caster” being steered to one particular moral path after a certain period of time unpleasantly reminded me of that infantile 48 Hours Window of Opportunity rule from the television series, “CHARMED”. Fortunately, “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” rose above such simple-minded nonsense by the end of the movie. Speaking of the movie’s finale, I must admit that I was not that impressed by Lena’s final confrontation with her mother, Sarafine. It almost struck me as anti-climatic and its ending left a sour taste in my mouth.

However, there were many aspects of “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” that I enjoyed very much or I found admirable. First of all, I have to compliment Philippe Rousselot’s photography of the Louisiana countryside that served as South Carolina. I found it lush, colorful and sharp. I especially enjoyed those scenes that featured the Ravenwood estate. Despite my disappointment over the movie’s ending, I still enjoyed the movie’s plot. And as I had stated earlier, I am very relieved that Garcia and Stohl’s story rose above the usual black-and-white photography by the end. There was one particular scene that really blew my mind. It centered around Lena’s attack upon her cousin Ridley at a family dinner and it involved a spinning dinner table. I really wish I could describe this scene in more details, but I suspect one would have to see it in order to understand my appreciation of it.

The cast of “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” proved to be first rate. I wish I could say something about Eileen Atkins and Margo Martindale’s performances as Lena’s grandmother and aunt. But the script did no really give them the opportunities to display their acting skills. Emmy Rossum was luckier. She really strut her stuff as the sexy and somewhat sardonic Ridley, who seemed willing to assist Sarafine’s efforts to corrupt Lena. Thomas Mann gave a rather humorous performance as Ethan’s laconic, yet witty friend, “Link”. Although her character was never given the opportunity to display any magical abilities, I must say that I really enjoyed Viola Davis’ excellent performance as Ethan’s tart-tongued and practical friend, Amma. Emma Thompson’s ability to utilize an American accent has improved in the past twenty years, especially in her duel performance as Lena’s mother Sarafine and Link’s mother, the sanctimonious Mrs. Lincoln. More importantly, she was superb as the manipulative and cold-blooded Sarafine – especially in one scene that revealed Sarafine’s possession of Mrs. Lincoln’s body. Jeremy Irons’ American accent struck me as somewhat shaky, but I certainly cannot say that about his performance as Lena’s concerned, yet controlling and slightly arrogant uncle, Macon Ravenwood. However, the movie more or less belonged to Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert as the two young lovers, Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes. One, the pair not only made a convincing pair of lovers, they had excellent screen chemistry. In fact, they complimented each other very well, thanks to Ehrenreich’s energetic performance as Ethan and Englert’s more subdued and moody portrayal of the introverted Lena.

I noticed that “BEAUTIFUL CREATURES” did not turn out to be the hit that Warner Brothers had hoped it would be. I could make an attempt on analyzing the movie’s box office performance, but I find it would be irrelevant. To be honest, I really do not care one way or the other about its box office performance. Despite some flaws in the movie’s last hour, I really enjoyed“BEAUTIFUL CREATURES”. It was a surprising treat in the midst of the dismal 2013 winter movie season.

“The Many Loves of Rafe McCawley” [PG-13] – 2/7

 

“THE MANY LOVES OF RAFE McCAWLEY”

PART 2 – The Shelby Belle

LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK; DECEMBER 1940 . . . The two officers walked away from the station, desperately trying to resist the urge to rub their painful backsides. “Why in the hell do they have to stick those damn needles there?” Rafe grumbled. “Haven’t they ever heard of the arm?” 

Danny glanced warily at this friend. He recognized that disgruntled voice anywhere. It was a sign of Rafe’s bad mood. And Danny suspected that the older man’s present mood had nothing to do with the shots they had just received.

“Okay Rafe, what’s your beef?” Danny demanded. “And don’t tell me that it’s the shots. You were already pissed before you received yours.”

Rafe responded with a glare. “Oh really? And what exactly am I pissed about?”

“Mary Ann.”

“Her name was Mary Jo, Danny!” Rafe retorted. “Not Mary Ann! Godalmighty! Did you dislike her so much that you can’t even remember her name?”

Danny took a deep breath. Amazing. Nearly fourteen years had passed and Rafe still bore a grudge. “Dammit Rafe! I was almost ten years old at the time! I didn’t know any better and I was feeling insecure about the whole thing. Besides, you didn’t have to dump her.”

A heavy sigh left Rafe’s mouth. “I guess you’re right.” Both he and Danny stepped into the line for the next station. Ahead, a youthful-looking nurse with blonde hair, wrapped a black blood pressure band around a soldier’s arm. Rafe continued, “I guess I shouldn’t have abandoned Mary Jo like that. But I wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t turned on me, like that.” Brief hostility flared in his dark brown eyes.

“I know.” Danny hung his head low. “I’m sorry I did it, Rafe. It’s just that . . .”

“What?”

Danny shrugged. “I don’t know. I reckon I was jealous.”

Rafe took a step forward in line. So did Danny. The former heaved another sigh. “It sure took you a hell of a long time to admit it. Oh well. I guess Mary Jo and I weren’t meant to be, after all. Especially, after her family moved, later that summer.”

Danny remained silent. He decided that the less said about Mary Jo Burnett, the better.

“Besides, Mary Jo ain’t the only one you stopped me from seeing,” Rafe continued. “Remember Lila Hopkins?”

Memories of lilac perfume, a bedroom, decorated in canary yellow, and a voluptuous chestnut-haired woman in a creamy yellow silk robe, flooded Danny’s thoughts. Oh yes. Lila Deakins. He doubt there was a young man around his age in all of Shelby County, who would not be able to remember the Shelby Belle.

“Yeah, I remember Lila,” Danny replied. “And if you expect me to feel guilty for what I did, you might as well hold your breath. Because I don’t. You were out of control, Rafe. Remember?”

* * * *

SHELBY, TENNESSEE; JULY-SEPTEMBER 1931 . . . Strains of “I’m Through With Love” poured from the two-story frame house, situated in a hollow, off Shelby Road. Two adolescent boys, one fifteen years-old and the other, fourteen, stared at the house from behind an Oldsmobile, parked several yards away.

“That’s it,” Rafe said with breathless anticipation. “The Shelby House. C’mon.” He stepped from behind the Oldsmobile and started toward the house. Seconds passed before he realized that Danny had not moved an inch. “Hey Danny! C’mon!”

Anxiety flared in his best friend’s brown eyes. “I don’t know, Rafe. I’m not sure about this.”

Rafe heaved an exasperated sigh and grabbed Danny’s arm. “C’mon scairdey-cat! She ain’t gonna bite you.”

“How do you know?” Danny demanded. “You haven’t been here, before.”

Which was the truth. Rafe had first heard about the Shelby House, two months ago – when he had spotted a woman leaving the local bank in town. It took one glance at her heart-shaped face – just once glance – for the fifteen year-old to fall in love. Well, perhaps fascination would be the best word . . .

Rafe heard his mother’s disdainful sniff at the young woman. “So, that’s the Shelby Belle,” Brewton McCawley declared in a disapproving tone. “Looks more like trash to me.” Her eyes brimmed with hellfire and righteousness. A look Rafe had never seen in his mother’s eyes. “Rafe, I hope you never have anything to do with women like that. They’re nothing but trouble.”

The wrong words for anyone to say to a curious and lovesick fifteen year-old. Mrs. McCawley’s warning had only increased Rafe’s interest in the beautiful woman. And his determination to meet her. To learn the true identity of the “Shelby Belle”, he asked several men around the county. Men who would never say a word to his parents. Or hesitate to answer. He received his answer from a local mechanic named Farley Bates.

“Ah, the Shelby Belle!” the stocky man had declared in a wistful tone. “You must be talking about Lila Deakins.”

An impatient Rafe demanded, “Who is she?”

Farley gave the fifteen year-old boy a knowing look. “Probably the most infamous whore in this here parts. The most beautiful . . . and the most expensive. ‘Course, after one gander at your pretty face, Lila just might give you a discount. Or let you stick your carrot in for free.”

“You think so?” Rafe bit back his tongue, when he realized how hopeful he sounded.

A smile creased Farley’s grimy face. “Boy, you are really smitten over that gal. Tell you what.” He dug into the pockets of his overalls and retrieved a handful of bills. “Here. Why don’t you use this money for a visit to the Shelby House. There’s enough for your friend, Danny. You two are practically brothers.” After Jake Walker’s fatal heart attack, three years ago, Danny had moved in with the McCawley family.

“Hey, thanks Farley! I really appreciate it!” Rafe had beamed at the mechanic, before stuffing the bills into his pockets . . .

Danny said, “You mean it was Farley who gave you the money for this? What if your daddy finds out? After all, Farley does fix his airplane.”

“C’mon Danny! What do you think Farley is gonna do? Confess? Not if he wants Daddy to continue hiring him.” Rafe grabbed his friend’s arm. “Now, c’mon! You act like we’re going to a hanging.”

The two boys slowly approached the house. A tall, black woman, holding a broom, stepped onto the porch and peered at the new arrivals. “What are you two boys doing here?” she demanded.

Feeling more nervous than he looked, Rafe cleared his throat. “We’re here to see the Shelby Belle,” he declared. Did his voice crack?

The woman scrutinized the two boys with world-weary eyes. “Uh huh. Ain’t you boys a little young to be coming to a place like this?” Before Rafe or Danny could respond, she added, “Never mind. Miz Lila likes ’em young, anyway. C’mon in.” She stepped aside, while the pair entered the house.

Nice place, Rafe thought. His eyes drank in the old-fashioned furnishings and well-stocked bar at the other end of the parlor. Aside from the bar, the interior of the Shelby House reminded him of the McCawley residence.

The housekeeper set aside the broom and started toward the staircase. “Have a seat. And I’ll let Miz Lila know that she has company.” As she started upstairs, Rafe and Danny nervously sat down on the nearest sofa.

A minute later, two scantily clad young women entered the parlor. Both Rafe and Danny stared at the abundance of flesh that stood before them. Giggling, they approached the two boys. “And who might you be?” asked a leggy blonde with bright blue eyes and heavy make-up. Still staring, neither boy seemed able to respond.

A throaty voice said, “They . . . are my customers.” All eyes riveted upon a shapely woman, whose heart-shaped face not only possessed delicate features and hazel-green eyes, but was also framed by wavy auburn hair that bobbed near her chin. She wore a yellow Oriental gown over a pale-green full slip and stockings held up by green garters. Yet, none could hide the curves that made the other two women resemble schoolgirls.

“If you two girls don’t mind,” the Shelby Belle continued, “I suggest you scram! I assume you have other things to do.” The two women scowled at their colleague and left the parlor. Hazel-green eyes focused on Rafe and Danny. “Now, who’s first?”

Rafe shot up from the sofa like a bullet. “Me!” he crowed.

The Shelby Belle gave him a sultry smile and indicated the staircase.

* * * *

“First time, young man?”

“Huh?” Inside the yellow-and-white bedroom, Rafe sat on a large bed and gawked at the prostitute. Who was in the process of removing her robe.

The Shelby Belle smiled and stepped forward. Grabbing one arm, she gently forced Rafe to his feet and began to unfasten his shirt buttons. “I said, is this your first time?”

Rafe nodded, “Yes ma’am.”

“Oh honey, you don’t have to call me that. Makes me feel like an old spinster. My name is Lila. What’s yours?” She slowly removed his shirt, following his undershirt.

Trembling, Rafe remained rooted to the floor. “My name is Rafe. Rafe . . .”

“That’s okay, honey. No need for last names.” Lila slid the green slip off her body. The fifteen year-old Rafe found himself staring at the prostitute in all her naked glory. His entire body grew immediately hard.

Rafe gulped. Aloud. “Did you say something, honey?” Lila asked.

“No ma . . .” Rafe paused and took a deep breath. “I mean, no. No, I didn’t.”

Lila slowly walked toward Rafe and gently shoved him on the bed. “Well Rafe. Let’s see about getting you out of those pants. Shall we?” Slender hands reached for the fastener to Rafe’s trousers.

* * * *

Rafe knew that for as long as he lived, he would never forget those first thirty minutes with Lila Deakins. She had introduced him to a world of sensuality and passion he had never thought possible. He almost had to fight a surge of jealousy when time for Danny’s minutes with the Shelby Belle arrived.

Twenty minutes had passed when Danny finally returned downstairs to the parlor. Only a blind man would not have noticed the dazed expression on the fourteen year-old boy’s face.

“Well?” Rafe demanded. “How was it?”

Danny took a deep breath. “It was . . . I, uh . . . Gee! I’ve never been through anything like that before,” he finally declared.

Rafe grinned and threw an arm around his friend’s shoulders. “Thought you might feel that way. Hell, I feel as if I just had the best day of my life! I’m gonna come back here, if it takes me a year.”

* * * *

It took Rafe, exactly two weeks to pay a second visit to the Shelby House. Reluctant to ask Farley for extra funds, he saved enough from the money he had earned from his paper route.

Much to his delight, Lila greeted him like an old friend and proceeded to teach him more on the joys of sex. “Oh honey, you seemed to be real good at this!” Lila declared breathlessly, after their bout between the sheets. “For a youngster, you sure do put many of my other customers to shame.” She drew a long fingernail along the middle of Rafe’s bare chest. “I’d like to see you again.”

Rafe let out a heartfelt sigh. “I wish I could, Lila, but . . .”

“But what?”

“I, uh . . . I probably won’t be able to see you for a while.”

Lila’s voice oozed with disappointment. “And why not?”

Rafe replied in a low voice, “Money. I . . . I won’t be able to afford to see you for at least a month or two.”

“Hmmm.” Lila pressed her soft, warm body against Rafe’s. “Tell you what. I usually don’t start work until two o’clock in the afternoon. If you can make it over here before then, maybe we can spend some time together – free. How do you like that?” She gave his left thigh a squeeze.

It took all of Rafe’s self-control not to throw himself on Lila’s body and plant it with a thousand kisses. Instead, he cried out in delight, “Hey, that’s swell of you, Lila! Thanks!” He kissed one of her cheeks.

A pink flush crept up the prostitute’s face. “My pleasure, honey,” she warmly replied.

* * * *

Rafe could not wait to tell Danny, after leaving the Shelby House. He had meant to convince his friend to join him for his second visit, but the latter had a doctor’s appointment in nearby Memphis. Rafe had to wait until after his mother and Danny’s return, to reveal Lila’s delightful proposal.

“You think that’s wise, Rafe?” Danny’s voice expressed concern. The two friends sat on their beds, inside the bedroom they shared. “I mean . . . I reckon it’s okay for that one visit. But every day?”

Rafe could not believe his friend’s attitude. “It won’t be everyday,” he protested. Just once in a while. Hell, how many fellas can claim they’ve been with the Shelby Belle that many times?”

“Anyone with enough money,” Danny calmly replied. “Like Carl Jordan’s daddy.”

A snort escaped Rafe’s mouth. “Lance Jordan couldn’t buy six minutes with Lila! At least, not anymore. Especially since he lost all his money after the stock market crash, nearly two years ago.”

“Well, there are other men with . . .”

Exasperated by what Rafe saw was his friend’s stubbornness, he cried out, “Good Lord, Danny! What are you getting at?”

Danny sighed. “What I’m trying to say is that Lila Deakins isn’t the type of gal you should waste your time with. Dammit Rafe, it ain’t healthy being involved with a whore like that!”

“She ain’t no whore!” Fearful that his parents may have overheard his outburst, Rafe added in a lower voice, “Lila happens to be a lady.”

Danny shrugged. “Maybe she is to you. But she ain’t to other men. And if you keep seeing her, maybe you’ll catch something. Like the crabs.”

“Lila makes sure that both of us are clean before we . . . well, you know.”

To Rafe’s surprise, Danny’s face turned red. Even after a trip to a whorehouse, his friend managed to remain shy about sex. “Okay, what about this?” Danny continued. “What if someone who knows your folks, sees you there? I reckon there are a few of your daddy’s friends who drop by the Shelby House, every once in a while.”

Rafe barely heard Danny’s words. “Maybe,” he murmured. “Then again, maybe not. Lila wants me to visit before she starts work around two. I reckon no one would see me, if I do that.”

“Rafe . . .”

Mrs. McCawley’s voice rang from the hallway. “Rafe! Danny! Time for supper!”

“Yes ma’am!” Rafe shouted back. He shot his friend a reassuring grin. “Don’t worry, Danny. Everything will turn out fine. You’ll see.”

* * * *

Rafe and Lila only had another six weeks together. Whenever the opportunity arose, Rafe usually found himself at the Shelby House, anywhere between eleven and two o’clock. The housekeeper, Velma, would allow Rafe to enter the house through the back door and from there, he would make his way to Lila’s bedroom. The back door was the only impediment to Rafe’s otherwise perfect month. Lila had insisted that he use it – in case of a close call with an unexpected visitor.

That close call eventually happened, one afternoon in early September. After Velma allowed Rafe through the back door of the Shelby House, he immediately sprinted upstairs. He made his way along the second floor hallway, when the door to Lila’s bedroom swung open. Rafe immediately assumed it was the love of his life. He started toward the open door, when the sight of a familiar figure stopped him in his tracks. The figure turned out to be one of his father’s poker friends – Mr. Bateman. Rafe quickly darted into an empty room nearby and waited for the man to head downstairs. Later that evening, Rafe told Danny about his close call. Two days later, his relationship with Lila screeched to a halt.

* * * *

He stared at the auburn-haired woman with disbelieving eyes. “Say that again?” he demanded.

Inside her bedroom, a scantily clad Lila heaved an impatient sigh. She retrieved a cigarette from a tin box on her dresser and stuck it between her teeth. “You heard me, Rafe. It’s over. I don’t want you here, anymore.”

“Why?”

Hands on hips, Lila glared at him. “Because it’s over. Dammit boy! Are you deaf? It was fun for a while, but not anymore. I need to be with someone new.” She struck a match and lit her cigarette.

“Like that fella who was here, two days ago?” Rafe demanded.

Hazel-green eyes rolled upward in disgust. “Good Lord! He was right! You really are too young for me.”

“He?” Rafe’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Who’s ‘he’?”

Lila took a puff on her cigarette. “No one in particular. Just forget it.”

“Does that mean I can . . .?”

“No!” Lila’s harsh response came as a slap across the face. Rafe blinked. “No, that doesn’t mean you can come back. I don’t want you here, anymore! Period! How many damn times do I have to tell you?”

“Why?”

Lila retorted, “Because you’re too young for me! And I don’t want to go to jail for messing around with fifteen year-old boys!”

Rafe’s eyes widened in shock. “I never told you I was fifteen years old,” he murmured. “How did you . . .?”

“Never mind on how I found out,” Lila shot back. She paced back and forth across the room like an angry tigress, puffing on her cigarette. “All that matters is that you stay the hell away from this place, until you’re old enough. Maybe you can come back in another two or three years from now. I suggest you stick to girls around your own age. Miz Enid and the rest of us don’t need a spell behind bars for statutory rape. Now get out of here!” Lila pointed an angry finger at the door.

His head hung low, a defeated Rafe dragged his feet toward the door. All sorts of thoughts and emotions whirled within him. How could Lila throw him out like that? And who exactly was this ‘he’? Certainly not his daddy’s friend. Mr. Lammers had not even seen him. And who told Lila that he was fifte . . .

An ugly suspicion immediately formed in Rafe’s mind. A suspicion that projected in the image of his best friend. “Danny!” Rafe paused and confronted Lila. “It was Danny who told you I was fifteen! When did he talk to you?”

A guilty expression flitted across Lila’s face, before the latter hardened. “It doesn’t matter who I talked with!” she snarled. “Just get the hell out! You’re bad for business!”

“And you’re bad for me, lady!” Rafe retorted. “If a fella can call you one!” Filled with anger, he marched out of Lila’s room, slamming the door shut. It would be his last visit to the Shelby House.

END OF PART 2

The Major Problems of “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I” (1985)

Wallpaper-north-and-south-1985-32121753-1280-720

The Major Problems of “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I” (1985)

For many fans of the television adaptations of John Jakes’ NORTH AND SOUTH trilogy, the first miniseries, a 1985 television adaptation of the 1982 novel, is considered the best. If I must be honest, I share that opinion. However . . .“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I” is not perfect. Below are some of the reasons why: 

*Journey to West Point – After their initial meeting during a brawl with workers at a New York City stage station, future West Point cadets George Hazard and Orry Main traveled to the U.S. Military Academy via the railroad. This mode of transportation for this particular route was impossible. There was no rail service between New York City and the West Point Academy in 1842. Anyone traveling to the Military Academy would have to do so by a river steamer up the Hudson River. In fact, no rail service between New York City and West Point exists today.

*Orry Main’s Swordsmanship – Cadets Orry Main and Elkhannah Bent engaged in a duel, during the latter’s swordsmanship class for the platoon under his command at West Point. Needless to say, Cadet Main emerged the victor. As a poor scholar, Orry lacked the brains to be a good swordsman. And two, Bent was at the beginning of his second year as a West Point cadet. He was not an instructor. Why was he holding lessons in swordsmanship to the plebes in his platoon?

*Ashton Main’s Knowledge of Salem Jones’ Sex Life – Orry returned to Mont Royal, his family’s South Carolina rice plantation during the summer of 1844 for a three month furlough. Upon his arrival, he learned about overseer Salem Jones’ sexual exploitation of a young female house slave named Semiramis from his eight-to-ten year-old sister, Ashton. Instead of being appalled by his young sister’s knowledge of Jones’ sex life, Orry casually acknowledged the information. This scene made no sense, whatsoever. No adult male of Orry’s class would regard his 8-to-10 year-old sister’s knowledge of the overseer’s sex life without being horrified. Never. Whoever wrote this scene seemed to have forgotten that this miniseries was set during the mid-19th century.

*Timeline in Episode Three – Part of the timeline featured in Episode Three is in error. The episode began during the late winter/early spring of 1848. In fact, most of the events in the episode’s first half – George’s second visit to Mont Royal, Priam’s escape, George’s wedding to Constance Flynn, the Philadelphia abolitionist meeting, the consummation of Orry’s affair with Madeline LaMotte and the accident at Hazard Iron – all took place in 1848.

The miniseries then jumped five years later, marking the death of Orry’s father, Tillet Main, in 1853. Eighteen fifty-three? The timeline should have jumped at least three-to-four years to the early months of 1852. Episode Four marked 1856 as the year Billy Hazard and Charles Main graduated from West Point. There were no three-year programs at the Military Academy. And contrary to George and Orry’s conversation about their younger relatives’ arrival at West Point, cadets were not in the habit of beginning their four years in the fall. They usually arrive at the Point in early June.

*Summer Visit to Mont Royal – According to the miniseries, newly commissioned Army officer George Hazard paid a visit to Mont Royal in 1846, before he and Orry set out for Texas and Mexico. Considering that the visit probably took place in September – the end of their three-month furlough after graduation – I have no problem with this.

However, the entire Hazard family visited Mont Royal during the summer of 1854 – during Billy and Charles’ three-month furlough between their second and third years at West Point. Wealthy 18th and 19th century low country South Carolinians were not in the habit of hanging around their low country plantations during the summer heat and pestilence. During this time of the year, the Mains would probably be at a Northern resort, in Charleston (by the sea) or at the Summerton resort in South Carolina’s upcountry.

*Grady’s Reading Ability – During the Hazards’ 1854 visit to Mont Royal, abolitionist Virgilia Hazard met Grady, the slave of Ashton Main’s fiance, James Huntoon. The pair eventually became lovers and began making plans for Grady’s escape to the North. During their meeting in the Mains’ cotton dock, Grady informed Virgilia that he had taught himself to read . . . and therefore, would be able to read her instructions. Taught himself to read? I could only scratch my head at that remark. It would be a neat trick for anyone to be able to teach him/herself to read.

*West Point Graduation – I noticed a few curious mistakes regarding Billy Hazard and Charles Main’s graduation from West Point in June 1856. A graduation ball was held in honor of the graduates, following their final parade. The miniseries did not imply where. This actually did not happen in the novel or real life during the 19th century. During this century, West Points graduates usually packed their belongings after the final parade, and traveled down the Hudson River to New York City. Upon their arrival in the city, they usually attend a graduation luncheon or supper in their new Army uniforms. And then they went home for a three-month furlough before reporting for duty. Sorry, no graduation ball.

*Madeline LaMotte’s Drugged Period – During the late summer of 1856, Ashton Main informed neighbor Madeline LaMotte that she was pregnant with the child of a cadet she met during Billy and Charles’ graduation. Madeline agreed to help her get a secret abortion. However, Madeline lied about her whereabouts to her venal husband, who eventually disclosed her lie. To deal with his problematic wife, Justin LaMotte had Madeline locked in her bedroom and slightly starved. He called their family physician, Dr. Lorenzo Sapp, who suggested that he keep her drugged with laudanum, until she left him for good in February 1861. But once again, the miniseries proved its inability to maintain a consistent timeline and claimed in the latter half of Episode Five and in Episode Six that Justin had kept Madeline drugged for months. Actually, he kept her drugged for nearly four-and-a-half years.

I realized that “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I” was not perfect. But looking over the above mistakes, I had no idea that its flaws were that extensive. Despite its flaws, it is still the best of the three miniseries in the trilogy. And it is still one of my favorite television miniseries of all time.

“JANE EYRE” (1996) Review

kinopoisk.ru-Jane-Eyre-1303436

“JANE EYRE” (1996) Review

According to the Wikipedia website, there have been sixteen film adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, “Jane Eyre”. And there have been ten television adaptations of the novel. That is a hell of a lot of adaptations for one novel. A lot. And judging by the numbers, I have no immediate plan to see every movie or television adaptation. But I have seen at least five or six adaptations. And one of them is Franco Zeffirelli’s 1996 movie adaptation. 

Adapted by Zeffirelli and Hugh Whitemore, “JANE EYRE” told the story of a 19th century English orphan named Jane Eyre, who is rejected by her aunt and sent to a strict girls school. After eight years as a student and two years as an instructor, Jane is hired as governess to the French ward of Edward Rochester, the brooding owner of an estate in Yorkshire called Thornfield Hall. Although Jane possesses a mild, unprepossing manner, she also possesses strong internal passions and strength in character that her employer finds attractive. Eventually, Jane and her Mr. Rochester fall in love. But a deep secret that exists at Thornfield Hall threatens their future relationship and forces Jane to mature in a way she did not expect.

I could have delved more into the movie’s plot, but why bother? The story of Jane Eyre is so familiar and has been recounted so many times that I believe it would be best to describe how I feel about this adaptation. And how do I feel about it? Honestly, it is not one of my favorite adaptations. Mind you, it is not terrible. In fact, I find it pretty solid. The movie’s production values seemed to be first rate. I was impressed by Roger Hall’s production designs, which did a very good job of re-creating Northern England of the 1830s and 1840s. Jenny Beavan, whom I am beginning to believe is one of the best costume designers on both sides of the Atlantic, did an excellent job in re-creating the fashions for both decades. And I also liked how David Watkin’s photography captured the beauty of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, which served as the Rochester estate, Thornfield Hall.

I would probably rate Zeffirelli and Whitemore’s adaptation of Brontë’s novel as slightly below above average, but not quite average. I feel they did a first-rate job of re-creating at least three quarters of Brontë’s tale. However, their adaptation fell apart, following Jane’s departure from Thornfield Hall. They allowed Bertha Rochester’s death and the burning of Thornfield to occur not long after Jane’s departure. At first, I found that odd. But now, I realize that Zeffirelli and Whitemore wanted to rush the story as fast as they possibly could. Matters did not improve when Jane met St. John and Mary Rivers. Jane’s inheritance of her uncle’s fortune and St. John’s loveless marriage proposal happened so fast that my head nearly spinned when she finally returned to Thornfield. The movie’s weakest writing proved to be in the last twenty to thirty minutes.

The biggest criticism that “JANE EYRE” received from critics proved to be Zeffirelli’s casting of William Hurt as Edward Rochester. Mind you, I found Hurt’s English accent a little shaky. But I really enjoyed the cynical and world weary air he projected into the character . . . especially in scenes featuring Rochester’s meeting with his brother-in-law, Richard Mason. And he also managed to achieve some kind of screen chemistry with leading lady Charlotte Gainsbourg. I find this quite miraculous, considering my belief that Gainsbourg’s portrayal of Jane Eyre proved to be the movie’s weakest link. I realize that this is not a popular view. But aside from one scene, I found Gainsbourg’s performance to be completelyBORING. All she had to do was open her mouth and her flat tones nearly put me to sleep. The only time she really managed to effectively convey Jane’s deep emotions was in the famous scene in which the character revealed her love for Rochester. Only in this scene did Gainsbourg gave a hint of the acting talent she would eventually develop.

Other members of the cast gave solid performances. I noticed that the movie featured three cast members from 1995’s“PERSUASION” – Fiona Shaw, Amanda Root and Samuel West. Shaw was very emotional, yet vicious as Jane’s cold Aunt Reed. Root gave a warm performance as Miss Temple, Jane’s favorite teacher at Lowood. And West was very effective in his portrayal of Jane’s religious cousin and savior, St. John Rivers. It seemed a pity that the movie’s script did not allow for a further look into his character. John Wood was perfectly hypocrtical and cold as Jane’s religious headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst. Joan Plowright gave a delightful performance as the outgoing housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. And I was surprised by Elle Macpherson’s effective portrayal of the charming and self-involved Blanche Ingram. Edward de Souza gave a solid performance as Rochester’s emotionally delicate brother-in-law, Richard Mason. But like West, he was barely in the movie long enough to make any kind of an impression. Julian Fellowes made an appearance as one of Rochester’s friends, a Colonel Dent; but aside from a few witty lines, he was not that impressive. But the one supporting performance that really impressed me came from Anna Paquin’s portryal of the young and passionate Jane. It seemed a pity that Paquin was only 13 to 14 years old at the time. Because I believe that her performance as Jane seemed ten times better than Gainsbourg.

Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation of Brontë’s novel is not bad. Despite a shaky English accent, Hurt proved to be an effective Edward Rochester. And the movie also featured fine performances from many supporting performances. The director did a solid job of re-creating Brontë’s tale for at least three-quarters of the movie. However, the adaptation fell apart in the last quarter, when Jane flet Thornfield Hall following her aborted wedding. And Charlotte Gainsbourg’s flat performance as the titled character did not help matters. Like I said, “JANE EYRE” did not strike me as above average, but it seemed a little better than average.

TIME MACHINE: Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

martin-luther-king-jr

 

TIME MACHINE: ASSASSINATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. (1929-1968)

Last April marked the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Civil Rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was a clergyman, a prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who became known for his advancement of civil rights by using civil disobedience.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929; Dr. King was the son of Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. Both he and his father’s legal birth names was Michael King. However, his father changed their names after a 1934 trip to Gernamny to attend the Fifth Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin. During this trip, King Sr. decided that he and his son would be called Martin Luther in honor of the German reformer, Martin Luther. Dr. King Jr. graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 with a B.A. degree in sociology. He then enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, earning a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951. He married Coretta Scot in 1953 and both became the parents of four children. In 1954, King became the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Dr. King’s reputation as a Civil Rights activist came to the fore in 1955 over the case involving Rosa Parks’ arrest for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger aboard a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Dr. King led a 385 days boycott of the city’s transportation system in protest against Parks’ arrest and the Jim Crow Laws that demanded she sit in the back of the bus. The Montgomery Bus Boycott brought national attention to King and his civil rights activities. Over the next twelve-to-thirteen years, he led other movements that protested against U.S. society’s treatment of African-Americans and other oppressed groups. He led the March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom in August 1963 and gave the famous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and openly opposed the Vietnam War from 1965 to his death.

In early 1968, King traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to support the city’s African-American sanitation workers who had staged a walkout in protest against lower wages than white workers and longer hours. On April 3, 1968, King returned to Memphis On April 3, King returned to Memphis to address a gathering at the Mason Temple (World Headquarters of the Church of God in Christ). His airline flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat against his plane. King and his entourage, which included the Reverend Jesse Jackson, booked into Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel. On that day, King delivered the last speech of his life, while a thunderstorm raged outside the Mason Temple. The address is now known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Address. Here are some of the words of his last speech:

“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats… or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. [applause] And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! [applause] And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

On Thursday, April 4, 1968; King was standing on the Lorraine Motel’s second floor balcony, when a single .30 bullet fired from a Remington 760 Gamemaster struck King. He fell violently backwards onto the balcony unconscious. Shortly after the shot was fired, witnesses saw James Earl Ray fleeing from a rooming house across the street from the Lorraine Motel where he was renting a room. King was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where doctors opened his chest and performed manual heart massage. He never regained consciousness and they pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. He was 39 years old.

Authorities found a package that included a rifle and binoculars with Ray’s fingerprints on them. A worldwide manhunt began for Ray and British authorities arrested him two months later at London’s Heathrow Airport. Ray was quickly extradited back to Tennessee and charged with King’s murder. He confessed to the assassination on March 10, 1969. However, he later recanted this confession three days later. He was sentenced to a 99-year sentence. After an attempt to break from prison in 1977, Ray spent the rest of his life trying to withdraw his guilty plea. He died in prison on April 23, 1998, at the age of 70.

Despite pleas from other civil rights activists, King’s assassination led to a series of riots in more than 100 U.S. cities. The city of Memphis quickly settled the strike on favorable terms to the sanitation workers. A crowd of 300,000 attended King’s funeral in Atlanta, Georgia. The King family and others believe that the assassination was carried out by a conspiracy involving the US government, and that James Earl Ray was a scapegoat. This conclusion was affirmed by a jury in a 1999 civil trial.

Martin Luther King Memphis Hotel

“The Many Loves of Rafe McCawley” [PG-13] – 1/7

 

“THE MANY LOVES OF RAFE McCAWLEY”

RATING: PG-13
FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Just before meeting Evelyn for the first time, Rafe and Danny recall the former’s past love life.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, “Pearl Harbor”, belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.


—————–

PART 1 – First Love

MITCHELL FIELD, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK; DECEMBER 1940 . . . Lieutenant Daniel Walker stood in line behind his best friend and fellow Army pilot, Lieutenant Rafe McCawley. He noticed how the older man shifted from one foot to another, almost like a jackrabbit in flight. 

“Godalmighty, Rafe! Simmer down!” Danny hissed into his friend’s ear. “You act like a man trying to run from his own hanging.”

Fearful brown eyes bored into those that belonged to the twenty-three year-old pilot. “You can call it that,” Rafe shot back. “Jiminy cricket! A physical! Dammit Danny! Why didn’t you tell me there was gonna be one?”

“I just found out about it, yesterday,” Danny explained. “And you didn’t return to the base until lights out. What took you so long in getting back?”

Rafe sighed. Both he and Danny moved a step forward toward the nurse. She was about to stick a needle into Anthony Fusco’s bare bottom. The two friends squirmed at the sight of their fellow pilot’s plight.

“Claudia,” Rafe finally answered. “We broke up.”

Danny tried not to express any jubilation over the news. He loved Rafe. Both had grown up together in Shelby County, Tennessee. They started out as best friends. And when Danny moved in with the McCawleys following his daddy’s death, they virtually became brothers. The pair had gone through a lot together – childhood, love of flying, high school, college and now, the Army Air Corps. There was a lot about Rafe that Danny admired. However, the former’s love life did not happen to be one of them.

“Oh, hey Rafe! I’m sorry to hear about you and Claudia.” Danny tried to sound mournful over his friend’s romantic mishap. Apparently, he had failed, judging by Rafe’s scornful expression. “What?”

Rafe’s scorn deepened. “Did you know that you were a lousy liar, Danny?”

“You never fail to tell me, if you must know.”

“Well, I was right,” Rafe shot back. Anthony cried out in pain and moved on, rubbing his behind. The two friends took another step forward and watched another man bend over before the nurse. Rafe continued, “I’ll bet that you’re jumping for joy over what happened between me and Claudia.”

Danny tried to sound innocent. “Of course not!” he protested. Rafe gave him a hard stare. As usual, Danny wilted. “All right, maybe I am. I never liked her anyway. Big deal!”

“You’ve never liked any of my girlfriends,” Rafe accused.

“What are you talking about? What about Fenton Marsh? Or Julie Fisher? I liked them!”

The soldier at the head of the line walked away, rubbing his rear end. Everyone else took a step forward. Only Billy from the two friends’ squadron, stood between Rafe and a shot in the behind. Which Danny felt temporarily grateful.

Rafe whirled on the younger man, his eyes shining with suspicion. “Oh yeah?” he countered. “What about Mary Jo Burnett? From grade school? Did you like her?”

* * * *

SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE; OCTOBER 1926 TO APRIL 1927 . . . The final bell at Shelbyville Elementary School in Shelby, Tennessee, announced the end of another day. Scores of children poured out of their classrooms and rushed toward the exits. Among them were ten year-old Rafe McCawley and his best friend, nine year-old Danny Walker.

The pair paused in front of a large oak tree in the schoolyard. The older boy dug into his pockets. “Look what I got!” He triumphantly produced two shiny blue marbles and showed them to Danny.

The younger boy’s eyes grew wide with excitement. “Hey! Don’t those marbles belong to Carl Jordan? How did you get ’em?”

“A bet.” Rafe flashed his usual cocky smile. “I bet Carl that I could beat him in a bike race on Shelby Road. I won, of course.”

Danny declared breathlessly, “I reckon Carl must be pretty sore. Those marbles must have cost him a fortune.”

Rafe sniffed. He had never harbored a high opinion of Carl Jordan, the younger son of a local merchant. “Fifteen cents. Course, I would have never bet anything this valuable. Carl, on the other hand, never had much sense. Much like his daddy.”

Admiration shone in the younger boy’s eyes. “Yeah, that’s Carl alright. Did you know that he once . . .?”

A scream from the other side of the schoolyard interrupted Danny. Rafe’s eyes immediately shifted to the sight of two boys around his age, trying to wrestle a paper bag from the clutches of a girl. The other kids in the yard seemed determined to ignore them. Not Rafe.

The moment the ten year-old became aware of the situation, he became a knight in shining armor. The Southern gentleman who always saved the honor of a fair damsel. With a roar reminiscent of the Rebel yell, he charged at the girl’s tormentors. Rafe knocked one to the ground and punched the latter a few times to ensure that the boy remained down.

The other boy, whom Rafe recognized as Carl Jordan, stared at him with baffled eyes. Before Carl could react, Rafe snatched the paper bag from the former’s clutches. A snarl left Carl’s mouth and he tried to rush Rafe. Fortunately, the latter proved to be quick. Rafe avoided Carl’s fist with a duck and responded with a better aimed blow to the other boy’s face. Carl fell to the ground with blood gushing from his nose.

“Rafe!” Danny rushed forward, obviously prepared to come to his friend’s defense. “Rafe, are you okay?”

The older boy shot back, grinning, “Just fine and dandy!” Rafe glanced at the paper bag in his hand and remembered the girl standing nearby. When he turned to face her, Rafe found himself staring into a pair of dark brown eyes. He forgot about Danny, Carl Jordan and just about everyone else. “Uh,” he began nervously, “I reckon this uh . . . this belong . . .”

The girl smiled. “Thank you,” she said in a soft voice that could melt butter. “Thank you for returning my bag to me.” She held out her hand.

Rafe blinked. “Huh? Oh.” He handed the bag to her.

“May I know the name of my rescuer?”

He gave a slight cough. “Rafe. My name is Rafe McCawley.”

“And mine is Mary Jo Burnett.” A smile curved her generous mouth. Groans from the ground interrupted the conversation and Mary Jo’s smile transformed into a frown. Carl Jordan and his friend slowly scrambled to their feet.

A groggy Carl began, “Wha . . .?”

Rafe grabbed the boy’s arm. “You get out of here, Carl Jordan. Both you and Orwin. And if either of you ever bother . . . uh, Mary Jo again, both me and Danny’ll whup you good. Or I just might do it myself. You hear?”

The two boys gulped nervously and raced away. Rafe turned to Mary Jo with a smile. “May I see you home, Miss Burnett?”

Her smile dazzled Rafe. “Of course.” Mary Jo nodded at Danny. “Both of you can.”

“Huh?” Rafe turned and saw his friend standing next to a tree stump, squirming with discomfort. He had forgotten about Danny. “Oh! Danny. Well, yeah. Sure.”

Still looking uncomfortable, the nine year-old murmured, “That’s okay. You two can go ahead. I gotta get home, anyway.”

Rafe knew that Danny had lied. For the latter, home meant a broken down two-room shack off Horton Road, with a drunken brute of a father still recovering from the war. Danny usually delayed going home after school, as long as he possibly could.

“What are you talking about, Danny?” Rafe protested. “You usually . . .”

But the younger boy quickly bid Rafe and Mary Jo good-bye and ran off, leaving behind a bewildered Rafe. A soft hand touched the latter’s arm. “Rafe? You ready?” Ah yes, Mary Jo.

Danny quickly forgotten, Rafe offered Mary Jo his arm. She accepted it and the pair strolled away from the schoolyard.

* * * *

Mary Jo Burnett. From the moment Rafe first laid eyes upon the nine year-old girl, he could not get enough of her. In fact, it did not take long for the pair to become a romantic twosome.

Rafe developed a habit of escorting Mary Jo home, after school. In doing so, he missed the school bus that usually conveyed him to his farm. But he did not care. Especially since either Mr. Burnett or his dad would give him a ride home.

During his growing romance with Mary Jo, Rafe learned that the Burnetts originally came from Arkansas. Little Rock, Arkansas. Mary Jo’s daddy happened to be one of those men who helped local farmers with their crops. Mr. Burnett was one of those what Daddy called an agriculturist, who worked for the Federal government.

Despite his new relationship with Mary Jo, Rafe made sure that he spent some time with Danny. He had hoped that his best friend and his best girl would become close friends. Mary Jo seemed willing. Whenever she invited Rafe over to her house, she always included Danny in the invitation. The latter usually had an excuse not to join them. Only when Mary Jo became unavailable, did Rafe spend time with Danny.

Rafe enjoyed those increasingly rare times with Danny. However, any time spent with his best friend could not deter his feelings toward the lovely Mary Jo. He realized that he had found the love of his life. Okay, he was only ten year-old and would turn eleven in April. But Rafe recalled that his mama once told him that she and Daddy had once been childhood sweethearts. If his parents could end up married, he decided, so could he and Mary Jo.

———

One Saturday afternoon in late March, Rafe expressed his desires to Danny. “I’m gonna marry Mary Jo, one day,” he announced. The two friends stood in the middle of a field behind the McCawley barn, tossing a baseball back and forth.

Danny’s arm paused in mid-air, after catching one of Rafe’s tosses. He stared at the older boy with an expression Rafe could not fathom. “Marry?” A frown darkened Danny’s countenance. “You’re in love with that girl, or something?”

“Her name is Mary Jo. And yeah, I’m in love with her. I plan to make her my wife.” Rafe spoke with his usual self-assurance.

Disbelief now shone in Danny’s eyes. “What you talking about, Rafe? You’re almost eleven. You’re too young to get married!”

“Not now, dummy!” Unbeknownst to Rafe, Danny winced. “Later. When we’re grown up. I plan to marry Mary Jo, just like Daddy married Mama. They also used to be childhood sweethearts.”

Danny’s eyes focused on the large, red barn, beyond. “Oh.

Rafe noticed his friend’s lackluster response and frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t you want me to get married?”

Danny shrugged his shoulders. “Sure. I reckon. Only . . .” He sighed.

“Only what?” Rafe demanded.

“What about flying? I thought we were gonna join the Army, together. Become pilots, like your daddy did during the war.”

Rafe retorted, “Of course we are! That don’t mean I can’t get married. Army officers get married too, you know!”

“Yeah.” Danny tossed the baseball at Rafe. Who neatly caught it.

At that moment, Rafe decided that he had enough of Danny’s tepid attitude. Every since he met Mary Jo, his friend seemed to be in a snit. Which led Rafe to wonder what Danny had against her. “You don’t like Mary Jo, do you?” he said, as he rushed forward to confront the younger boy. “Well?”

Danny’s face turned red. He mumbled, “Course I like her.”

Rafe could usually tell when his friend was lying. Like now. “Oh yeah?” he continued, “Then why do you always have something else to do when Mary Jo invites you to her house?”

A resentful tone resonated in Danny’s voice. “Hey, she’s your girl, not mine!”

“What’s that suppose to mean?” Rafe thrust his face just inches away from Danny’s.

The other boy scowled. “Back off, Rafe! I don’t feeling like arguing with you!”

“That’s too bad! You should have thought of that before you made those scurrilous remarks about Mary Jo!”

“What are you talking about? You don’t even know what ‘scurrilous’ mean!” Danny shouted back.

Rage gripped Rafe. If there was one thing he hated, were insults about his reading and spelling inabilities. He dropped his mitt and the baseball and tackled the younger boy. The two friends wrestled for a few seconds, before Rafe managed to pin Danny to the ground. “Now what was that you said about Mary Jo?”

“I didn’t say nothing!” Danny shot back. He squirmed to free himself from Rafe’s grip, but to no avail. “But if you must know, I don’t like her! Not one bit! I hate that she gets to spend more time with you, than I do!”

Danny’s frank confession shocked Rafe. Dazed, the older boy released his friend. “What are you saying, Danny?” he asked quietly.

“What do you think? You spend every chance you can get with Mary Jo! I hardly get to see you anymore! How do you think that makes me feel?”

Rafe calmly replied, “Mary Jo has asked you over, a couple of times. You always turn her down.”

“Because it’s obvious that you wanna be with her and not me! You’ve made that quite clear, ever since you met her! You always walk her home! And you two always spend time together, either during lunch or any other time. I want it to be the way it used to be, Rafe! Before Mary Jo, we used to be like brothers! But now . . .” Danny struggled to his feet and glared accusingly at Rafe. “Now, I don’t know what we are, anymore!” He quickly raced away.

Rafe called after his friend. “Danny? Hey Danny!” Unfortunately, the other boy did not hear. Or simply ignored him, leaving behind a stunned and bewildered ten year-old.

———-

His argument with Danny plagued Rafe’s thoughts over the next several days. To the point that it created a schism in his relationship with Mary Jo. The day following the argument, Rafe did not bother to escort her home. He excused himself on the grounds of an emergency at home. After that first day, he did not bother to make any more excuses. Rafe simply boarded the school bus without saying a word. For a while, Rafe wondered why he even bothered. Especially since Danny usually subjected him to the silent treatment during those bus rides home.

One blustery Friday, Mary Jo finally confronted Rafe during the lunch period, in the schoolyard. She demanded to know why he avoided her for nearly a week. When Rafe failed to give her an adequate explanation, Mary Jo accused him of growing weary of her. Their subsequent argument spelled the end of the romance.

Later that afternoon, Rafe boarded the school bus for home. Just seconds after he sat down, a second figure filled the empty seat next to him. It was Danny.

END OF PART 1

“THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE” (1986) Review

murderatthevicarage1

 

“THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE” (1986) Review

The year 1920 witnessed the beginning of Agatha Christie’s career as a mystery novel with the release of her first novel,“The Mysterious Affairs at Styles”. The novel also introduced a new sleuth to the literary world, Belgian-born Hercule Poirot. Another seven years passed before Christie introduced her second most famous character, Miss Jane Marple, in a few short stories. But in 1930, Miss Marple appeared in her first full-length novel called “The Murder at the Vicarage”

Fifty-six years later saw the first adaptation of the 1930 novel – a 102 minutes television movie that starred Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. “THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE” featured the elderly sleuth’s investigation of the murder of a wealthy magistrate and former Army colonel in Miss Marple’s town of St. Mary Mead. The magistrate, Colonel Protheroe is so disliked by most of the citizens of St. Mary Mead that even the local vicar, the Reverend Leonard Clement believes his death would be a great service to the village. Reverend Clements ends up eating his words when Colonel Protheroe’s murdered body is found inside the vicar’s study. While investigating Colonel Protheroe’s murder, Miss Marple and Detective Inspector Slack unearth a good number of suspects; including the Colonel’s new widow Anne Protheroe, her lover Lawrence Redding, the Colonel’s only child Lettice Protheroe, the high-strung curate Christopher Hawes, St. Mary Mead’s mysterious new citizen Mrs. Lestrange, small time poacher Bill Archer and even the good Reverend Clement himself. Anne Protheroe and Lawrence Redding each confess to the crime, convinced that the other was guilty. However, both Miss Marple and Detective Inspector Slack realize that both are innocent and continue their investigation of the murder.

When I first read Christie’s 1930 novel, I must admit that it did not particularly move me. The plot seemed like a typical murder mystery set in a small village. There was nothing extraordinary about it, aside from Miss Marple’s continuous relationship with Inspector Slack. Mind you, I have seen mediocre or bad adaptation of some first-rate Christie novels. And I have seen some excellent adaptations of her mediocre novels. The 1986 adaptation of “THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE” proved to be one of those productions in which my opinion of it matches the original novel. How can I say this? I found it a bore.

The best I can say about “THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE” is that it is a close – but not completely accurate – adaptation of Christie’s novel. Unfortunately, T.R. Bowen did nothing with the screenplay to improve on the story. And Julian Amyes’ direction of the movie nearly put me to sleep. It was so boring and slow. Amyes tried hard to make the killer’s revelation interesting. But not even that worked. Between John Walker’s dim lighting of the scene and Amyes’ snail like direction, I fell asleep and had to rewind back to the scene in order to learn the killer’s identity. When a person falls asleep during a scene featuring the killer’s revelation, it is time to go back to the drawing board – so to speak.

Also, the movie was not served well by most of the bland characters that populated the story. Most of them – aside from a few – struck me as dull and one-dimensional. Some of the best characters in a murder mystery tend to be the original victim. Unfortunately, Colonel Protheroe turned out to be one of those rare cases in which the main victim proved to be uninteresting. I found his character so one-dimensional. Not even Robert Lang’s energetic performance could make it work. The character of Reverend Clement had been down-sized by the story’s translation from the novel to the screen. Apparently, Bowen could not find a way to make his character a major part of the investigation . . . which occurred in Christie’s novel. Only a handful of characters seemed interesting to me. And I have the performers to thank. Cheryl Campbell managed to inject some real energy into her portrayal of the vicar’s younger and sexy wife, Griselda Clement. David Horovitch was at his sardonic best as the police inspector who tries his best to dismiss Miss Marple’s sleuthing skills. Joan Hickson earned a BAFTA nomination for her performance as Jane Marple in this movie. I do not know if she truly deserved that nomination. But I must admit that I enjoyed her subtle, yet sly performance as the brilliant, amateur sleuth. I especially enjoyed her scenes with Horovitch’s Slack.

I guess there is nothing else I can say about “THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE”. It is not one of my favorite Miss Marple productions. Actually, I feel it is one of my least favorites featuring the elderly sleuth. The original story simply did not strike me as interesting and screenwriter T.R. Bowen did very little to enliven it. Also Julian Amyes’ slow-paced direction did not help matters. The only pleasures I managed to derive from this movie were the first-rate performances of Joan Hickson, David Horovitch and Cheryl Campbell.