“TITANIC” (1953) Review

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“TITANIC” (1953) Review

As many moviegoers know, there have been numerous film and television productions about the maiden voyage and sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic on April 15, 1912. The most famous production happens to be James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar winning opus. However, I do wonder if there are any fans who are aware that another Titanic movie managed to strike Oscar gold.

Directed by Jean Negulesco, the 1953 movie “TITANIC” focused on the personal lives of a wealthy American family torn asunder by marital strife, a deep secret and the historic sinking of the Titanic. Family matriarch Mrs. Julia Sturges and her two children, 17 year-old Annette and 10 year-old Norman board the R.M.S. Titanic in Cherbourg, France. Julia hopes to remove her children from the influence of a privileged European lifestyle embraced by her husband Richard and raise them in her hometown of Mackinac, Michigan. Unfortunately, Richard gets wind of their departure and manages to board the Titanic at the last moment by purchasing a steerage ticket from a Basque immigrant and intercept his family. The Sturges family also meet other passengers aboard ship:

*20 year-old Purdue University tennis player Gifford Rogers, who falls for Annette
*the wealthy middle-aged Maude Young (based upon Molly Brown)
*a social-climbing snob named Earl Meeker
*a priest named George S. Healey, who has been defrocked for alcoholism
*American businessman John Jacob Astor IV and his second wife Madeleine

Julia and Richard clash over the future of their children during the voyage. Their conflict is reinforced by Annette’s budding romance with college student Gifford Rogers and a dark secret revealed by Julia. But the couple’s conflict eventually takes a back seat after the Titanic strikes an iceberg during the last hour of April 14, 1912.

There seemed to be a habit among moviegoers lately to judge historical dramas more on their historical accuracy than on the story. As a history buff, I can understand this penchant. But I am also a fan of fiction – especially historical fiction. And I learned a long time ago that when writing a historical drama, one has to consider the story and the character over historical accuracy. If the latter gets in the way of the story . . . toss it aside. It is apparent that screenwriters Charles Brackett (who also served as producer), Richard L. Breen and Walter Reisch did just that when they created the screenplay for “TITANIC”. Any history buff about the famous White Star liner’s sinking would be appalled at the amount of historical accuracy in this movie. However, I feel that many lovers of period drama would be more than satisfied with “TITANIC”, thanks to a well-written personal story and top-notch direction by Jean Negulesco.

Superficially, “TITANIC” is a melodrama about the disintegration of a late 19th century/early 20th century marriage. The marital discord between Julia and Richard Sturges is filled with personality clashes, class warfare, disappointment and betrayal. And actors Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb did their very best to make the clash of wills between husband and wife fascinating and in the end . . . poignant. One of the movie’s best scenes featured a confession from one spouse about a past discretion. I am not claiming that the scene was particularly original. But I cannot deny that thanks to the stellar performances from Stanwyck and Webb, I believe it was one of the best moments of melodrama I have ever seen on screen . . . period. But their final scene together, during the Titanic’s sinking, turned out to be one of the most poignant for me. And by the way, fans of the 1997 movie would not be hard pressed to recognize one of Webb’s lines in the film . . . a line that also ended up in Cameron’s movie.

“TITANIC” featured other subplots that allowed the supporting cast to shine. Audrey Dalton portrayed Julia and Richard’s oldest offspring, the beautiful 17 year-old Annette, who had become enamored of her father’s penchant for European high society. Dalton did an excellent job of slowly transforming Annette from the shallow socialite wannabe to the shy and naturally charming young woman who has become more interested in enjoying her youth. And the character’s transformation came about from her budding friendship and romance with the gregarious Gifford Rogers. Robert Wagner seemed a far cry from the sophisticated man that both moviegoers and television viewers have come to know. His Gifford is young, friendly and open-hearted. Wagner made it easier for moviegoers to see why Annette fell for him and Julia found him likeable. However, I was not that enthusiastic about his singing. Harper Carter did an excellent job of holding his own against the likes of Stanwyck, Webb and Dalton as the Sturges’ son Norman. In fact, I found him very believable as the 10 year-old boy eager to maintain his father’s interest without accepting the snobbery that marked Annette’s personality. Perhaps he was simply too young.

The movie’s screenplay also featured a subplot involving a young priest named George Healey, who dreaded his return to the U.S. and facing his family with the shameful news of his defrocking. Thanks to Richard Basehart’s subtle, yet sardonic performance, I found myself feeling sympathetic toward his plight, instead of disgusted by his alcoholism. Thelma Ritter gave her usual top-notch performance as the sarcastic noveau riche Maude Young. Allyn Joslyn was amusing as the social-climbing card shark, Earl Meeker. And Brian Aherne’s portrayal of the Titanic’s doomed captain, was not only subtle, but he also kept the character from wallowing into some kind of second-rate nobility that usually makes my teeth hurt.

For a movie that did not have James Cameron’s advantages of creating the technical effects of the 1997 movie, “TITANIC” proved to be an attractive looking movie. Production manager Joseph C. Behm and his team did a solid job of re-creating life aboard an ocean liner, circa 1912. Behm was also assisted by costume designer Dorothy Jeakins, Don B. Greenwood’s art department, Maurice Ransford and Oscar winner Lyle R. Wheeler’s art directions, and Stuart A. Reiss’ set decorations. Although the movie did not feature an accurate re-creation of the Titanic’s sinking, I have to admit that visually, the special effects created by a team team led by Ray Kellogg were very impressive, especially for 1953. They were ably assisted Joseph MacDonald’s black-and-white photography and Louis R. Loeffler’s editing.

Earlier in this review, I pointed out that James Cameron’s 1997 film was not the only one about the Titanic that struck Oscar gold. Although “TITANIC” did not win eleven Academy Awards, it was nominated for two Oscars and won a single one – namely a Best Original Screenplay award for Brackett, Breen and Reisch. But despite an award winning script, a superb cast led by Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb and a first-rate production team, “TITANIC” still could have ended in disaster. But it had the good luck to have an excellent director like Jean Negulesco at the helm.

“RED 2” (2013) Review

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“RED 2” (2013) Review

The 2010 adaptation of Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s comic book series proved to be very popular at the box office. Yet, I was surprised that it took another three years for the sequel, “RED 2” to be released in the movie theaters. Unless the movie in question is part of the STAR WARS franchise, it usually takes two years or less for a sequel to appear on the scene.

“RED 2” picks up a few years after “RED”, which finds ex-C.I.A. agent Frank Moses trying to lead a normal life with his girlfriend, Sarah Ross. The effort seems to be a strain for both, although Frank seems to be more successful in accepting a “normal life”. Frank’s former colleague Marvin Bogge interrupts this “idyllic life” by warning Frank that people might be following them. Frank dismisses Marvin’s fears before the latter drives off before his car is blown up. After Frank and Sarah attend Marvin’s funeral, the former is captured by government agents to a Yankee White Facility, where he is interrogated by a C.I.A. operative named Jack Horton. Frank manages to escape the facility with the help of a resurrected Marvin. And the latter reveals that he and Frank were being hunted for being part of a secret operation called Nightshade, which smuggled a nuclear weapon created by one Dr. Edward Bailey, piece by piece into Russia back in the late 1970s or early 80s. Horton is ordered to label Frank, Marvin and Sarah terrorists to other countries. Former MI-6 assassin, Victoria Winslow informs her friends that she has been recruited by her former agency to kill them. She also informs them that former South Korean agent-turned-top contract killer Han Cho-Bai has been hired by the C.I.A. to kill Frank and Marvin. With so many after them; Frank, Marvin and Sarah are forced to learn the truth about Nightshade in order to clear themselves of the terrorist charge.

I had enjoyed “RED” when the movie first came out, three years ago. But if I must be honest, I did not love it. My opinion of it grew over the years. But after seeing “RED 2”, I realize that my views of it will never be as high as “RED 2”. The summer of 2013 seemed to be plagued by box office flops and from what I have seen of the box office take for “RED 2” after it had been in the theaters for three weeks, it is clear that it is a flop. Once again, I am faced with a movie that I seemed to like a lot more than the majority of moviegoers and critics. If I had been younger, I would have taken the public’s rejection of the film personally. But when I think of the number of failed movies that I have enjoyed over the years, I have come to the conclusion that I no longer cared whether the rest of the public share my feelings for a particular movie. As far as I am concerned, I enjoyed “RED 2” very much and look forward to its DVD release.

As in the 2010 movie, “RED 2” featured a past operation that has come back to haunt two of its main heroes – Frank Moses and Marvin Bogges. But in “RED 2”, the circumstances and plot surrounding the Nightshade Operation struck me as more plausible and better written that the covert operation featured in “RED”. Even the villains’ objectives struck me as a lot more plausible. Realizing this has made me wonder why my opinion of “RED” has increased in the past three years. “RED 2” also delved more into Frank’s relationship with his Kansas City-born paramour, Sarah Ross. I found it rather amusing that the ever paranoid Marvin seemed to understand Sarah’s need for action a lot better than Frank, who seemed determined to treat her as a china doll. But as Marvin pointed out – Frank is blinded by his fear of losing Sarah. Their relationship is also tested by Frank’s reunion with a former paramour – a KGB colonel named Katya, and Sarah’s talent for using her feminine wiles to deal with terrorists such as “The Frog” and a Russian Army officer at the Kremlin. Best of all, “RED 2” featured some top-notch villains – including the proficiently murderous C.I.A. agent Jack Horton and one Han Cho-Bai, viewed as the best contract killer in the world. “RED 2” also possess one of the best plot twists I have seen in some time. It certainly proved to be better than any of the plot twists featured in the 2010 movie. Jon and Erich Hoeber did a great job with a complex script.

Did I have any problems with “RED 2”? I had a little problem with Marvin’s ability to fake death. Considering that he was presumably killed due to a car bomb, I was surprised that no one found the idea of a pristine body inside the coffin rather questionable . . . especially Sarah Ross. And who really had been responsible for Operation Nightshade? The C.I.A. or MI-6? Or was it a joint effort? The Hoebers’ script never really made the matter clear.

The performances in “RED 2” were marvelous. Beginning with the three leads – Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Mary-Louise Parker – and down to Titus Welliver, who more or less gave a cameo appearance; the movie rocked with some first-rate acting. For the second time, Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker created comic and romantic screen chemistry as the love-struck Frank Moses and Sarah Ross. Thanks to the actors’ comedic skills, both did a great job in conveying the pair’s relationship struggles of her boredom of being an “ordinary” couple and his penchant for being over protective. Once again, John Malkovich was marvelous as the deliciously paranoid Marvin Bogges, who in this film, also displays a talent for romantic counseling. Helen Mirren not only gave a deliciously witty performance as British assassin Victoria Winslow, she also proved that to be a bad-ass action star in some of the scenes in the movie’s second half. When I had learned that Lee Byung-hun from the “G.I. JOE” had been cast in the film, I assumed his character would be a great deal like the one he had portrayed in the Hasbro film franchise. I proved to be right . . . superficially. Thankfully, the actor’s portrayal of the assassin Han proved to be a great deal more emotional and rather funny, despite being deadly.

The movie also featured an excellent performance from Neal McDonough as the very dangerous and rather cold-blooded C.I.A. agent, Jack Horton. His character’s takedown of the agents at the Yankee White Facility struck me as somewhat creepy. Brian Cox reprised his role as Russian intelligence official, Ivan Simanov. He was funnier than ever – especially in one scene in which he was lovingly admiring Victoria’s form as she rescued Frank, Sarah and Marvin from a Russian firing squad. Catherine Zeta-Jones gave a sly and sexy performance as Frank’s former paramour, Russian agent Katya. David Thewlis made a brief appearance as a techno-terrorist named “The Frog”. Not only did the actor did a great job during a chase scene in Paris, he was absolutely hilarious in a scene in which “The Frog” finally surrendered to Sarah’s wooing during an interrogation. The one performance that really impressed me came from Anthony Hopkins, who portrayed the scientist who first created Nightshade, Dr. Edward Bailey. Hopkins’ performance struck me as strange . . . and I am being complimentary. The actor was superb in projecting Bailey’s eccentricity, which developed after years of being stuck in an assylum by MI-6 for nearly three decades. And it was quite a thrill to see him in his only scene with Brian Cox . . . especially since both actors had portrayed Hannibal Lector with great acclaim.

Box office flop or not, I cannot deny that I enjoyed “RED 2” very much. Not only did it struck me as better than the original 2010 movie, but also proved to be one of my favorite movies for the summer of 2013. And I have director Dean Parisot, a great script written by Jon and Erich Hoeber, and a fabulous cast led by Bruce Willis to thank.

“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 4/20

 

“THE POWER OF ONE”

PART IV

“Hey.” Jason popped into Phoebe’s private office.

Phoebe smiled at her paramour. “Hey yourself. What can I do for you?”

The publisher leaned over Phoebe’s desk, his face hovering inches away from hers. “How about lunch . . . with me?” he asked in a seductive voice.

Smiling, Phoebe automatically picked up a paper weight that had been an office-warming present from Piper. “Well . . . hmmmm. Let me think about that,” she whispered. “Now, where do you plan to take me?”

“Well, there’s the Compass Rose at the St. Francis Hotel.”

Phoebe wrinkled her nose playfully. “Too stuffy. How about . . .?” A gasp left her mouth, as images of a demon attacking her older sister filled her mind. Despite Piper’s best efforts, the demon kills the oldest Charmed One and kidnaps a sleeping Wyatt. The vision ended with the disappearance of the demon and her nephew.

Jason stared at Phoebe, frowning. “Something wrong, honey? You looked a . . . I don’t know. A bit spaced out.”

“Oh, uh . . .” Phoebe quickly tried to think of an excuse. “It’s nothing. Nothing big. I . . . uh, just remembered.”

“Remembered what?”

Think Phoebe, think! Finally an answer came to the Charmed One. “Uh . . . I just remembered that Piper wanted me to a favor for her. Pick up both her and the food she had prepared for some private luncheon at P3.”

Jason’s frown deepened. “A luncheon at a nightclub?”

“Actually . . . it’s a party. Office party.”

“Yeah, but at a night . . .”

Phoebe stood up and walked around her desk. “Oh baby, I’m sorry.” She planted a light kiss on Jason’s cheek. “I’m going to have to take a rain check on lunch, today.” Then she grabbed his arm and steered him toward the door. “We can have lunch, tomorrow.”

Reluctantly, Jason allowed himself to be dragged out of the office. “Okay, but you tell Piper that I’ve got you all booked for myself, tomorrow.”

“Okay baby. Bye.” Phoebe gave Jason one last kiss and slammed the door in his face. She leaned against the wall and sighed. Then she picked up the telephone receiver on her desk and dialed the number for Ostera’s.

After the third ring, a voice answered. “Ostera’s Herbal Shop. May I help you?”

“Hello? Who is this?” Phoebe demanded.

The voice continued, “This is Maddy. May I help you?”

“Maddy, this is Phoebe Halliwell. I need to speak with Paige. Is she there?”

Maddy replied, “Sorry, but she’s making a special delivery right now. I can take a message.”

Phoebe hesitated. Until she realized that she could reach Paige by the latter’s cell phone. “Never mind. I’ll call back, later.”

“Is this some kind of magical emergency?” Maddy’s question reminded Phoebe that the shop assistant happened to be a witch. “I could get hold of Barbara.”

“No, that’s okay. Thanks anyway. Bye.” Phoebe hung up the phone. Then she took a deep breath and cried out her whitelighter’s name. “Chris! Chris, I need you! Now!”

———

Around the same time of Jason’s visit to Phoebe’s office, Cecile sat inside the McNeill boardroom, as she provided the last figures for her presentation to the Board members. “Cresent, Incorporated now provides computer office software to over thirty companies and corporations in the Lower Mississippi Valley, and parts of the Southeast,” she concluded. “With McNeill Enterprises, I hope to expand distribution to the West Coast. I could provide the Board with a list of my clients and their contact numbers. I am sure they will confirm what I have just told you.”

Bursts of conversation broke out among the members inside the boardroom. Both Cole and Harry gave Cecile reassuring smiles. She smiled back, despite the fact that her heart was not really into the meeting at the moment. Cecile had managed to put aside her bleak mood regarding Andre during the meeting. But once she had completed her presentation, her mood immediately returned.

Perhaps she should consider ditching the idea of breaking up from Andre. To be honest, she did not really want to end their relationship. Hell, she was in love with him! Why on earth would she want to break up with the only true love she had ever had in her life?

Then Cecile thought of Piper Halliwell and Olivia’s former whitelighter. She recalled Olivia telling her about the couple’s difficult courtship and the problems they had encountered, getting married. Piper and Leo had viewed themselves as soulmates. Yet, less than three years after their wedding . . .

The vision hit Cecile’s mind without any warning. She saw Piper unsuccessfully fighting a demon. . . Piper dying . . . and the daemon stealing Wyatt from a basquinet before disappearing from the Halliwells’ Solarium. The vision ended and Cecile gasped out loud.

The others inside the boardroom stared at her. “Is there something wrong?” Cole asked.

“I . . .” Cecile began to rub her forehead. “I think I’m getting a slight headache. Uh, excuse me.” She stood up. Cole and the McNeills did the same.

Mr. McNeill gently took Cecile by the arm. “Why don’t you come inside my office, Cecile?” I’m sure that my assistant could find some aspirin or something for your headache. Cole?”

“Yeah.” The half-daemon and the witch escorted Cecile into the latter’s spacious office. Once they were alone, Cole demanded, “Are you really having a headache? Because if I didn’t know any better . . .”

Cecile sighed. “Yeah, I just had a vision. I saw some daemon killing Piper, before kidnapping Wyatt.”

Mr. McNeill frowned. “How is that possible? I thought that Wyatt had some kind of protective shield.”

“I only know what I saw,” Cecile insisted. She turned to Cole. “Maybe we should pop over there. Now.”

Cole nodded. “Yeah. Right.” He took hold of Cecile’s hand. “We’ll back,” he said to Mr. McNeill. Then the two friends teleported out of the office.

————

Twenty minutes before Phoebe and Cecile had simultaneously experienced their visions, Piper ended her interview with Warren Koslo and bid him good-bye. Then she turned to the Latina woman. “Mrs. Madrigal? Could you follow me, please?”

Mrs. Madrigal rose to her feet and followed Piper into the Solarium. The applicant shot a quick glance at the sleeping Wyatt, before she sat down in a nearby wicker chair.

“So,” Piper began, “I understand that you saw my announcement on the bulletin board at the Red Pyramid. Do you . . . go there a lot? Or was that just a one time visit?”

Mrs. Madrigal nodded. “I’m a regular customer. Are you?”

“I’ve been there a few times.” Piper hesitated, unsure of how to ask her next question. “Um . . . are you into . . . uh, the occult?”

The older woman frowned. “Aren’t you? I had assumed that you were also into it . . . considering where you had posted the ad.” She paused. “You are into it. Right?”

Piper replied sardonically, “More than you can imagine.” Mrs. Madrigal’s eyes grew wide. “I’m . . . uh, a witch. One of those Wiccans. I’ve been one for at least five years.”

“Oh.” The older woman’s shoulders sagged with relief. “Well, I’m glad that I wasn’t wrong. You see, I also practice magic.”

Relief flooded Piper’s veins. “Really? Are you some kind of witch?”

Mrs. Madrigal stood up. And right before Piper’s eyes, she transformed into a pale, stocky man with wintergreen eyes. “No,” he said in a deep voice. “I’m a daemon!” He tossed an energy ball at the Charmed One.

Piper let out a squeal, before she flung her hands at the energy ball and destroyed it in mid-air. “Oh crap!” Then she flung her hands at the demon. His body immediately exploded . . . and reassembled within seconds. “Oh crap! Chris! CHRIS!”

The demon flung another energy ball at Piper. She froze it in mid-air and ducked behind the chair. The demon waved one hand and the energy ball continued its course toward her, striking the wall and missing her head by inches. With her sisters at work and Chris failing to show up, Piper realized that she might be in serious danger. “You can’t hide from me forever, witch! And your sisters can’t help you!” The demon sent another energy ball toward Piper’s direction. Before she could destroy it with her combustion power, it blew up the chair in front of her. And led the Charmed One to rue the day she had thought about hiring a nanny, in the first place.

————–

Daley heard a woman’s voice cry out the name – Chris. She frowned. What in the hell was going on in the other room? Then she heard a man shout, “You can’t hide from me forever, witch!” At that moment, the sorceress realized that something was wrong. She had seen a middle-aged woman follow Piper Halliwell into the other room. Where did the man come from?

An explosive sound interrupted Daley’s musings. Without thinking, she rushed into the other room and found Ms. Halliwell cowering before a stocky man with pale skin. And no sign of Mrs. Madrigal. An energy ball formed in the intruder’s hand. Viewing him as a threat to her plans, Daley quickly reached for a dagger in her knit bag and threw it at the man. The dagger’s sharp point pierced his shoulder, forcing him to cry out in pain and dissipate the energy ball.

“You!” the man growled, as he glared at Daley. An energy ball materialized in his hand. As he hurled it at Daley’s direction, she cried out, “Deflect” in Yoruba. The energy ball zinged back toward the man. He ducked before it could strike his body.

Daley rushed toward Ms. Halliwell. “Are you okay?” she asked, breathlessly.

“I could be better,” the other woman shot back. “Do you . . . uh, recognize this demon?”

“He’s a daemon?”

Another energy ball zoomed toward them. Ms. Halliwell flung out her hands and the energy ball exploded in mid-air. “I guess that’s a no.” Desperation shone in the witch’s dark eyes. “Do you know any spell to get rid of this guy?”

“Uh . . .” At that moment, one immediately came to Daley’s mind. “Wait. Here’s one.” She began to chant, “Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won’t hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase.” The two women stared at the daemon. Nothing happened. “Damn! Maybe we should say the spell, together.”

Both women took a deep breath and repeated the spell. “Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won’t hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase!” Instead of the daemon’s death, they were faced with another energy ball that missed Ms. Halliwell’s head by inches. The pair quickly scurried on their knees, toward the sofa.

“Too bad my sisters aren’t here,” the witch commented. “I could use the Power of Three. And why does that spell sound familiar?”

Daley asked, “Why is he trying to kill you?”

“So that me and my sisters won’t come after him, if he steals my son.”

Ah! So the attack was about the child. Then Daley’s eyes narrowed, as she spotted a string holding an object around the daemon’s neck. “Look! There’s something around his neck! Let me . . .” Focusing her attention upon the object, Daley murmured a chant underneath her breath. The string broke, taking the daemon by surprise. Then the object – obviously an amulet – fell upon the floor. “The spell again!”

The two women chanted, “Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won’t hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase!” Cries of pain poured out of the daemon’s mouth, as flames engulfed his body. Within seconds, he exploded into a ball of fire and light.

Ms. Halliwell rushed over to the basquinet for a peek at her son. “He’s safe,” she said with relief. “Awake, but safe.” She turned to Daley. “Are you still interested in the job?”

Daley struggled not to flash a triumphant smile. “Sure.”

“You’re hired.”

END OF PART IV

Five Favorite Episodes of “TURN: WASHINGTON’S SPIES” Season One (2014)

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Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of AMC” “TURN: WASHINGTON’S SPIES”. Created by Craig Silverstein, the series stars Jamie Bell:

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “TURN: WASHINGTON’S SPIES” SEASON ONE (2014)

1 - 1.08 Challenge

1. (1.08) “Challenge” – Against the wishes of Abraham “Abe” Woodhull, one of the Culper Ring spies, fellow spy Anna Strong earches for enemy intelligence at an exclusive gentleman’s party hosted by British spymaster Major John Andre.

2 - 1.10 The Battle of Setauket

2. (1.10) “The Battle of Setauket” – Mary Woodhull discovers that Abe is a rebel spy. Other members of the spy ring, Major Benjamin Tallmadge and Lieutenant Caleb Brewster, lead a raid on the Long Island community, Setauket, to save the local Patriot families.

3 - 1.05 Epiphany

3. (1.05) “Epiphany” – During the 1776 Christmas holidays, Caleb and Ben follow mysterious orders, while General George Washington’s army crosses into enemy territory in New Jersey. Meanwhile, one of Anna’s recently freed slaves, Abigail, agrees to spy for the Rebels after she is assigned to work for Major Andre, if the former would agree to look after her son Cicero.

4 - 1.09 Against Thy Neighbor

4. (1.09) “Against Thy Neighbor” – British Army Captain John Graves Simcoe (at least the fictional version) ignites a political witch-hunt to weed out rebel conspirators in Setauket. General Washington assigns Ben to a secret mission.

5 - 1.06 Mr. Culpepper

5. (1.06) “Mr. Culpeper” – En route to New York, Abe is ambushed by a desperate patriot. Washington charges Ben with the task of creating America’s first official spy ring.

“LINCOLN” (1974-76) Review

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“LINCOLN” (1974-76) Review

During the first half of the Twentieth Century, poet and historian Carl Sandburg wrote a six-volume biography on the life of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Years passed before David Wolper (“ROOTS”, “THE THORN BIRDS”, and the “NORTH AND SOUTH” TRILOGY) produced a six-part miniseries on Lincoln’s life and career, based upon Sandburg’s work.

“LINCOLN” is not what I would your usual biography with a straight narrative. With the exception of one episode that centered on Lincoln acting as a defense attorney in the 1830s and another that focused on the period between his first election and inauguration, the majority of the episodes centered on his administration during the U.S. Civil War. And not in any particular order. Below is a list for those who prefer to watch the entire miniseries in chronological order:

(1.03) “Prairie Lawyer” – Lincoln goes against future political adversary Stephen A. Douglas when he defends physician Dr. Henry B. Truett against murder charges in 1838.

(2.02) “Crossing Fox River” – This episode covers Lincoln’s life between winning his first presidential election in November 1860 and attending his first inauguration in March 1861.

(1.01) “Mrs. Lincoln’s Husband” – In the wake of the death of the Lincolns’ second son William “Willie”, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln‘s erratic behavior embarrasses and endangers her husband politically when a cabal of Republican senators question her loyalty to the Union.

(1.02) “Sad Figure, Laughing” – Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and his daughter Kate attempt to undermine President Lincoln’s bid for re-election during the 1864 presidential campaign, when they become aware of how Lincoln’s jokes and stories seem to erode their fellow Republicans’ confidence in him.

(2.01) “The Unwilling Warrior” – Lincoln finds himself forced to learn the art of war, as he searches for the right general to lead the Union Army to victory between 1861 and 1865.

(2.03) “The Last Days” – Following the Army of Northern Virginia’s surrender at the Appomattox Court House, President Lincoln plans Reconstruction with his cabinet and discusses a post-presidential future with the First Lady.

“LINCOLN” managed to garner a great deal of critical acclaim back in the mid-1970s. Did it deserve it? Perhaps. I found myself somewhat impressed by the production. The miniseries, from a visual point-of-view, has managed to hold up rather well in the past forty years. Aside from the exterior shots, the photography struck me as somewhat sharp and colorful, thanks to cinematographer Howard Schwartz . More importantly, director George Schaefer managed to avoid that “filmed play” aspect that had tainted many British television productions and a few American productions. Somewhat. There were a few scenes that seemed to stretch a tad too long in “LINCOLN”, but not fortunately long enough to stretch my patience too thin.

A part of me wishes that “LINCOLN” had included more scenes of Lincoln’s life before the Civil War. The 1974-76 miniseries must be the first of three productions titled “LINCOLN” – the other two being the 1988 miniseries and the 2012 Steven Spielberg movie – that seemed to be about Lincoln’s years in the White House. Another aspect of this miniseries that I found a bit odd is that it did not feature any African-American characters, other than the occasional extra portraying a White House servant. I think. There is a chance that my memory might be playing tricks with me. I simply find it odd that a production about a U.S. president who had such a strong impact on the history of African-Americans . . . did not feature any black supporting characters. No Elizabeth Keckley, the Washington D.C. seamstress who became Mrs. Lincoln’s personal modiste and close companion, or Frederick Douglass, who had met Lincoln in 1863. Considering Lincoln’s overly cautious approach on the subjects of abolition and civil rights, there is a chance that producer David Wolper feared that Lincoln’s reputation as an emancipator would have slightly eroded. It was okay to discuss slavery, which the production did . . . but not with any real depth.

The miniseries certainly did not hesitate to display Lincoln’s ruthlessness and talent for political manipulation. Even when those traits were occasionally clouded by compassion, humor and verbosity, it was on display. This was especially apparent in two episodes – namely “Sad Figure, Laughing”, in which Lincoln had to deal with the political machinations of Salmon Chase for the Republican nomination for President in 1864; and in “The Unwilling Warrior”, in which he dealt with one general after another in his search for the one military leader who could deal with the Army of Northern Virginia and Robert E. Lee.

The best aspect of “LINCOLN” were the performances. Well . . . some of the performances. I hate to say this, but some of the minor performances struck me as a bit theatrical or amateurish. There were some performances that struck me as solid – including Norman Burton as General Ulysses S. Grant, Robert Foxworth as John T. Stuart, Lloyd Nolan as Secretary of State William H. Seward, Ed Flanders as General George B. McClellan, and Catherine Burns as Mary Owens. But there were those performances that I found impressive. This especially seemed to be the case for Roy Poole as Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase, Elizabeth Ashley as the latter’s older daughter Kate Chase Sprague, Beulah Bondi as Lincoln’s stepmother Sarah Bush Lincoln, John Randolph as the first Secretary of War Simon Cameron and James Carroll Jordan as the Lincolns’ oldest son Robert Todd Lincoln.

But the two performances that outshone the others came from Hal Holbrook and Sada Thompson as the presidential couple, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. This is not really surprising. Of the three productions I have seen about Lincoln, the actors and actresses who have portrayed this couple have all given superb performances. This was the case for both Holbrook and Thompson. Holbrook seemed to have some special connection to the 16th president. The 1974-76 miniseries marked the first time he portrayed the role. He also portrayed Lincoln in the 1985 miniseries, “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” and he appeared in the 2012 Steven Spielberg movie as an old political crony of the President’s, Francis P. Blair. Holbrook’s portrayal of Lincoln could have easily strayed into the realm of folksy idealism. The actor did not completely reveal the more negative aspects of Lincoln’s character, but he did a superb job in conveying not only the President’s style of humor, but also his political savvy and a temper that can be fearsome. In an odd way, Sada Thompson had the easier job portraying First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Hollywood productions are more inclined to explore the more negative aspects of her personality than Lincoln’s. What I enjoyed about Thompson’s performance is that she still managed to make Mrs. Lincoln a likable person, despite the character flaws. It is not surprising that Holbrook won an Emmy for his performance and Thompson earned a nomination. Both of them deserved the accolades.

There are aspects of “LINCOLN” that I found questionable. Well . . . my main problem is that the production did not focus enough on the question of slavery, which I found rather odd, considering the subject matter. I also wish that the miniseries had included more scenes of Abraham Lincoln’s life before the Civil War. Now some television viewers might find the scattered narrative somewhat disconcerting. I simply figured out the chronological order of the episodes and watched them in that manner. But overall, “LINCOLN” is a first-rate miniseries about the 16th President that holds up rather well, thanks to George Schaefer’s direction and a skillful cast led by the talented Hal Holbrook and Sada Thompson.

“JANE EYRE” (1943) Review

“JANE EYRE” (1943) Review

Many fans of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, “Jane Eyre”, are aware that numerous (probably over twenty) television and movie adaptations of it had been made over the past several decades. While perusing the Internet, I was surprised to discover that the opinion of the 1943 adaption seemed to be extremely divided. Fans either regard it as the best adaptation or the worst. There seemed to be no middle ground.

As many know, “JANE EYRE” told the story of young 19th century English orphan who is forced to live at the Yorkshire estate of her widowed aunt-by-marriage, Aunt Reed. After a recent altercation between niece and aunt, the latter sends Jane Eyre to be educated at an all-girls school operated by a tyrannical and religious zealot named Mr. Lowood. Jane spends eight years at the school as a student and two years as a teacher. She eventually leaves Lowood School after she is hired as a governess for Adèle Varens, the French-born ward of a mysterious landowner named Mr. Edward Rochester. Not long after her arrival at Thornfield Hall, the Rochester estate, Jane meets her enigmatic employer. It does not take long before Jane and Rochester’s relationship evolve from employee/employer to friends, before it eventually becomes romantic. However, a possible romantic rival for Jane and a secret in Thornfield’s attic prove to be major obstacles in the road to romance for the young governess and her employer.

So . . . how does “JANE EYRE” hold up after 71 to 72 years? Actually, I believe it holds up pretty well. I thought director Robert Stevenson and the screenplay he co-wrote with John Houseman, Aldous Huxley, and Henry Koster did a solid job in translating Brontë’s novel to the screen. Many critics and movie fans have noted that this adaptation seemed to have convey the novel’s Gothic atmosphere a lot stronger than other versions. I supposed one has cinematographer George Barnes, production designer William L. Pereira and set decorator Thomas Little to thank. However, I recently learned it was Orson Welles (who not only served as leading man, but also an uncredited producer) who had convinced Stevenson and his fellow co-producers William Goetz and Kenneth Macgowan to inject more Gothic visuals into the movie. I could not say that René Hubert’s costume designs contributed to the movie’s Gothic atmosphere. But I was impressed by how Hubert’s costumes reflected the movie’s early 1840s setting, as shown in the images below:

338848.1 Fontaine, Joan (Jane Eyre)_01

I certainly had no problems with how the movie handled Jane’s story through most of the film. From the opening scene in which the leading character found herself harassed by the Reed film to her disrupted wedding to Edward Rochester. I usually find it difficult to endure the Lowood School scenes in other adaptations of Brontë’s novels. But I cannot say the same about this adaptation. I really had no problem with it. It could be that I was so fascinated by the performances of Peggy Ann Garner, Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Daniell that I completely forgot that I was watching one of my least favorite sequences in the story. And of course, the best part of “JANE EYRE” remained the growing friendship and romance between the titled character and Rochester. This was especially apparent in two sequences – Rochester’s courtship of Blanche Ingram during his house party and Jane’s confession of her love for him.

Although I was impressed by how Stevenson and the film’s other screenwriters handled Brontë’s tale up to Jane and Rochester’s disastrous wedding ceremony, I could not say the same about the rest of the film. In fact, it suffered from the same narrative problem that plagued several other adaptations – a weak finale. First of all, this is the only adaptation in which Jane never meets the Rivers siblings – St. John, Diana and Mary. She does meet a Doctor Rivers, who first treated Jane when she was a Lowood student. Instead of seeking refuge with the trio, Jane returns to Gateshead Hall, the home of her dying Aunt Reed. Following her aunt’s death, Jane reunites with Rochester. That is it. And I hate to say this, but the entire sequence – between Jane’s departure from Thornfield Hall to her return – seemed very rushed and unsatisfying.

I also have another major problem with the movie – its Gothic elements. There were times when these elements served the mysterious aspects of the movie very well. However, a good deal of these “Gothic touches” struck me as heavy handed . . . to the point that they ended up annoying me. This was apparent in Jane’s first meeting with Rochester, with so much fog swirling around the pair that at times they seemed almost hidden. The worst aspect of these “Gothic touches” occurred in the scene in which Jane and Rochester confessed their love for one another. The moment the pair sealed their engagement with a kiss, a bolt of lightning came out of the sky and struck a nearby log. I mean . . . come on! Really?

A good number of critics and movie fans did not seem particularly impressed by Joan Fontaine’s portrayal of Jane Eyre. I never understood the complaints. I thought she did an excellent job. More importantly, her portrayal of the passionate, yet introverted Jane seemed spot on. What were these critics expecting? An over-the-top performance by Fontaine? Jane Eyre is not an overtly emotional character – at least as an adult. However, I am happy to note that Fontaine certainly had a strong screen chemistry with her leading man, Orson Welles. Many have stated that Welles pretty much dominated the movie. To me, that is like saying every actor who has portrayed Edward Rochester overshadowed the actresses who have portrayed Jane. Personally, I thought Welles’ enigmatic and quick-witted portrayal of Rochester complimented Fontaine’s more introspective performance rather well. I guess these fans and critics did not want balance . . . just two very theatrical performances.

The other performances in the movie struck me as first-rate. Agnes Moorehead, who was part of Welles’ Mercury Theater company before her arrival in Hollywood, portrayed Jane’s haughty Aunt Reed. And I must say that she did an excellent job in portraying the character with a not-too-shabby English accent. Henry Daniell was equally impressive as the tyrannical head of Jane’s school, Mr. Lowood. But I was really impressed by Margaret O’Brien, who did a remarkable job as Rochester’s French ward, Adèle Varens. I would not know an authentic French accent, if I was stuck in the middle of Paris. But I must say that O’Brien’s accent was just as good as the other young actresses who portrayed Adèle. And she gave such a charming performance . . . at the age of six.

But O’Brien was not the only child star who gave an excellent performance. Peggy Ann Garner was equally impressive as the young Jane Eyre, who had no qualms about butting heads with the haughty Reed family. Also in the film was a young Elizabeth Taylor, who gave a mesmerizing performance as Jane’s doomed young friend, Helen Burns. I was surprised to discover that Hillary Brooke, who portrayed Blanche Ingram, was an American actress. I thought she was very convincing as the charmingly bitchy and very English Blanche. The movie also featured solid performances from Sara Allgood, John Sutton, Edith Barrett and Barbara Everest.

So . . . do I feel that “JANE EYRE” is the best or worst adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s novel? Honestly? I would say neither. Yes, there were times I could barely deal with the movie’s over-the-top Gothic atmosphere. And yes, I found the last quarter of the film both weak and rushed. But overall, I would say that it is a pretty good film. And I believe that it still holds up rather well after 71 to 72 years.

“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 3/20

“THE POWER OF ONE”

PART III

Power transference. Daley heaved a sigh, inside her private office. She had checked her spell book for anything on the subject, but came up empty. Not surprising, since she has never dealt with the transfer of power during her fifteen years as a sorceress.

Another sigh left her mouth and she examined her spell book one more time. Again, nothing. She slammed the book shut. Perhaps she should forget about this insane idea and go ahead with the plans to expand her business. Then again . . . to hell with it! She had to find a way to access that child’s powers.

Out of desperation, Daley scanned her bookshelf for any information she might find on West African magic. She finally came upon a book titled “THE SUPERNATURAL WORLD OF THE IVORY COAST”. It had been written by an early 20th century anthropologist named Jonathan Close. Much to Daley’s surprise, the book contained detailed information on the region’s myths . . . and practices of various West African shamans. Including spells that she never knew had existed. It still eluded Daley that a British anthropologist would come upon such a discovery. And record them. Perhaps he had been so fervent in his desire to record West African culture, he failed to realize that he had exposed practices and spells that others would consider valuable . . . and dangerous.

After removing the book from the shelf, Daley examined it – page by page. She came across rituals that had been performed by now dead houngans, mambos and other magic practioners. Rituals for good health, prosperity, and protection against evil spirits. The latest chapters, however, included spells and ritual on a more sophisticated level. In one of the chapters, Daley finally found a ritual that transferred psychic abilities and magic from one being to another. A ritual, according to the book, that had first been created by a 12th century sorcerer. After reading the details of the ritual, Daley realized that she had found what she was looking for. The sorceress copied details and instructions of the ritual on a notebook. Once she was finished, she reached for her cordless telephone and dialed a number.

“Hello?” a voice finally answered. “This is the Halliwell residence. May I help you?”

Daley replied, “Is this P. Halliwell, who had placed an ad for a nanny?”

“Yes, this is Piper Halliwell. Who is this?”

Taking a deep breath, Daley continued, “Hi, my name is Donna Thompson. I saw your ad in THE LUNAR VOICE newspaper. And I was wondering if the nanny position had been filled.

Piper Halliwell informed Daley that she had not filled the position. “Right now, you’re the second person who has called about the job. Uh, why don’t you come by, tomorrow? Say around eleven in the morning? There might be a few more applicants. And after I finish with the interviews, I’ll . . . make my choice.”

“Okay. Sounds great to me. I’ll see you tomorrow, around eleven. Bye.” After the other woman said good-bye, Daley disconnected the line. And smiled.

———

Around five-thirty that evening, Piper bid good-bye to the third and final applicant for the position of Wyatt’s nanny and hung up the telephone. “Well, that’s three so far,” she said to her guest. “Two women and a man have answered the ad.”

Chris, who had dropped by to warn the sisters about a shape-shifting demon that steals the essence and powers of other beings, frowned. “What ad?”

Piper shot an annoyed glance at the young whitelighter. “The ad I had placed in newspapers and in some of the local occult stores for the position of nanny. For Wyatt.”

“A nanny for . . .” Disbelief poured out of Chris’ blue eyes. “Are you crazy? Getting a nanny for Wyatt?”

“Well, it’s either that or allow my club to sink into bankruptcy,” Piper retorted. “I need some time to get back my customers and attract new ones. Which means I’ll need a regular babysitter for Wyatt. A nanny.”

Chris demanded, “What about Paige and Phoebe? Or D. . .Leo?”

Piper sighed. “Both Phoebe and Paige have jobs . . . and a social life. As for Leo . . .” She rolled her eyes in contempt. “Forget it. He’s too busy being an Elder.”

“Still . . .”

“Don’t you have other charges to see?” she interrupted in a too-sweet voice that failed to match the hard gleam in her eyes.

The whitelighter’s face turned red. “There’s still the matter of that demonic shape shifter . . .”

“We’ll let you know when we find it. Bye.” Piper continued to stare at Chris, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he was no longer welcomed.

Fortunately, Chris got the hint. He gave Piper a sharp nod and immediately orbed out of the kitchen. Much to the Charmed One’s relief.

————

Dinner at the Golden Horn restaurant did not turn out as Cecile had hoped. Or expected. Although Olivia and Andre proved to be lively dinner companions – with Cole providing his usual caustic wit – Cecile remained mired in her present dark mood.

She stared at her boyfriend, while he related his findings at Olivia’s new store. Poor Andre, she thought. He seemed so happy. So energetic. Soon, she would have to pull the plug on his happiness, when she breaks the bad news. Cecile had considered telling him over a week ago. But when Olivia had asked him to accompany her to San Francisco and help appraise certain items in that new shop, the Vodoun priestess had decided to postpone her announcement. She realized that it could wait until their return to New Orleans.

“. . . and the next thing I knew,” Andre said, “I found myself holding a statute of Ammut.”

Olivia frowned. “Who?”

Cole explained, “Ammut. An ancient Egyptian daemon that devours the souls of those whose hearts proved to be too heavy to be sent to the Hall of Maat. Which is where judgment of the dead is performed.”

“Ewww!” Olivia said with a shiver. She said to the half-daemon, “You seemed to know a lot of this stuff.”

“Not as much as Andre,” Cole protested. “He had studied a lot on the mythologies of this world and other dimensions.”

Andre shook his head. “What I can’t understand is how this guy . . . what was his name?”

“Stefan Kostopulos.”

“How did he get his hands on such stuff?” Andre continued, “Including a medallion created by a dominion spirit.”

The red-haired witch replied, “I don’t know. According to his son, Kostopulos was a big collector of antiquities. He also studied the occult, but I got the feeling that he didn’t know the significance of some of the stuff he had collected.”

“I bet that Cecile’s mama would love to get her hands on some of that stuff. Right, cherie?” Andre addressed the question to Cecile.

The Vodoun priestess blinked, aware that she had been drawn into the conversation. “Huh? Oh . . . yeah, I guess.”

“You guess?” Andre shook his head. “Baby, I’ve seen some of the stuff inside your mama’s shop. A lot of those items are pretty freaky. I mean, there’s a reason why she keeps ‘certain items’ locked up in that storeroom in the back.”

Olivia frowned. “Is that what Mrs. Dubois does with her . . . uh, with the certain items in her shop? Lock them up in a back room? Maybe I should do the same. There’s an empty storeroom in the back.” She squirmed slightly in her chair. “Right now, I think I need a trip to the restroom.” She stood up.

Andre also stood from his chair. “Yeah. Same here. Excuse us, folks.” He and Olivia left the table.

The moment the pair exited from the private dining room, Cole turned to Cecile. “Is there something wrong?”

“Huh?” Cecile blinked. Was her bad mood that apparent?

Looking worried, the half-daemon said in a low voice, “You seemed to be on another planet, lately. I’m talking about what you had told me, earlier. About our lives being in a rut. What was that about?”

Oh shit! Cecile could have kicked herself for opening her big mouth. Realizing that Cole would not easily dismiss the matter, she heaved a large sigh. And decided to tell the truth. “It’s about . . .” Cecile hesitated. “I . . . I guess I want something new in my life. You know what I mean?”

A confused looking Cole shook his head. “No, I don’t. What . . .?”

“May I ask you something?” Cecile realized that she had caught the half-daemon off guard. To be honest, she did not really care. “You were the one who first brought up marriage to Phoebe, right? You were the one who asked her to marry you? And not the other way around?”

Cole’s expression became guarded. Almost mask like. “What are you getting at?”

Cecile’s mouth curved into a wry smile. “I guess that’s a big yes.”

“Yeah, I had asked Phoebe to marry me. So what?”

After a brief hesitation, Cecile continued, “Why? What I’m getting at . . . Hell! Look, all I want to know is why you were the one to ask Phoebe, before she could ask you.”

Cole hesitated. Then a slight smirk appeared on his mouth. “I don’t know, Cecile. Because it’s traditional for the man to ask, I guess.”

Cecile rolled her eyes in contempt. “Cole, get real! This is the 21st century. And I know you’re not a sexist. So, stop bullshitting me and please answer the answer the question.”

The half-daemon shot a quick glance at the dining room’s door. And sighed. “All right. If you must know . . . I guess I had wanted something different with Phoebe. Something more permanent. You know, build a life together. Only it didn’t . . .” Pain flashed in his blue eyes for a brief moment. “I guess it didn’t work out.”

Nodding, Cecile said, “Now, you know what I want.”

Surprise reflected in Cole’s eyes. “Wait a minute! Are you saying that you want to get married?”

After a brief hesitation, Cecile shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Maybe.” She paused again. “Yeah, I do. Why not? I’m tired of our old relation . . .” Spotting Andre and Olivia in the doorway, she broke off. “Don’t say anything to Andre or anyone else!” she hissed. “Please? Not until I’m ready.” Then she smiled at the newcomers, ignoring Cole’s stunned expression. “So, are you guys ready for dessert?”

———-

The doorbell rang. Piper glanced at the grandfather clock. It read 10:43 in the morning. It seemed that the first applicant for Wyatt’s nanny had finally arrived.

Doubts began to assail the Charmed One’s senses. Piper took a deep breath. Calm down, she told herself. But what if she was making a mistake? Chris seemed to think so. Along with Barbara McNeill and Cole. And their experiences with that elf nanny seemed to hint to Piper that perhaps a nanny might not be in the cards. After the last attack on Wyatt, the Elf Nanny decided she had enough with the Halliwell household.

Again, the doorbell rang. Piper sighed. Screw it, she decided. Might as well finish what she had started. She fixed a bright smile on her face and opened the door. “Good morning,” she greeted the slender man, standing in the doorway.

The newcomer held out his hand. “Hi! Warren Koslo. I uh, I saw your ad on the bulletin board at Ostera’s.” He referred to the herbal shop where Paige worked.

“Oh.” Piper shook his hand. “Um, why don’t you come inside?”

Mr. Koslo smiled. “Sure.” Piper stepped aside and ushered him inside the manor.

Less than five minutes after Warren Koslo’s arrival, the doorbell rang again. “Excuse me,” Piper said to her guest. Then she left him inside the Solarium with Wyatt and headed for the front door.

The next applicant turned out to be a middle-aged Latino woman with short hair and stoic features. “Good morning,” she greeted in a pleasant voice. “My name is Mrs. Rosa Madrigal. I’m here for the nanny position. I saw the ad on the bulletin board, at the Red Pyramid.”

“How nice.” The Charmed One smiled at the newcomer. She widened the door. “Why don’t you come in?” Then she held a hand to Mrs. Madrigal. “I’m Piper Halliwell, Wyatt’s mother. Uh . . .” She glanced toward the direction of the Solarium. “I’m interviewing another candidate right now.”

Mrs. Madrigal looked slightly disappointed. “You are?”

“Oh, don’t worry. He’s the first one to arrive. Um, why don’t you wait here, until I finish?”

A polite smile appeared on the older woman’s face. “Oh. Okay. Of course.” Then she sat down on the sofa. Piper flashed one quick smile at her, and returned to the Solarium and Warren Koslo.

The doorbell rang for the third time that morning. Piper bit back a frustrated oath, and smiled at Mr. Koslo. Once more, their interview had been interrupted. She sighed and shot a weary smile at the applicant. “Excuse me.” Then she glanced at Wyatt, who seemed fast asleep in his basquinet, and headed for the living room.

On her way to the front door, Piper smiled at Mrs. Madrigal. The doorbell rang one last time, before she finally opened it. Outside stood a slender black woman of medium height, curly long hair, along with wide brown eyes and narrow cheekbones on a narrow face. “Hi,” the woman greeted, “I’m Da . . . Donna Thompson. I saw your ad in THE LUNAR VOICE for the nanny position.”

Piper shook the woman’s hand. “Come on in. You’re the third person to show up.”

Brown eyes widened in surprise, as Ms. Thompson entered the manor. “Third person?” she said with a frown.

“Yeah, um why don’t you take a seat?” Piper indicated the living room, where Mrs. Madrigal sat. “I’ll get to you, as soon as I finish with Mrs. Madrigal, here, and my other applicant.”

Ms. Thompson eyed Mrs. Madrigal with wary eyes. She sat down in the chair, left of the sofa. The two female applicants exchanged polite smiles. Piper heaved a soft sigh and returned to her guest in the Solarium. At that moment, the Charmed One realized that she was in for a long morning and afternoon.

END OF PART III