Top Ten Favorite Movies Set in the 1870s

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Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1870s:

TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN THE 1870s

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1. “The Age of Innocence” (1993) – Martin Scorcese directed this exquisite adaptation of Edith Wharton’s award winning 1920 novel about a love triangle within New York’s high society during the Gilded Age. Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfieffer and Oscar nominee Winona Ryder starred.

 

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2. “The Big Country” (1958) – William Wyler directed this colorful adaptation of Donald Hamilton’s 1958 novel, “Ambush at Blanco Canyon”. The movie starred Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker and Charlton Heston.

 

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3. “True Grit” (2010) – Ethan and Joel Coen wrote and directed this excellent adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel about a fourteen year-old girl’s desire for retribution against her father’s killer. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hattie Steinfeld starred.

 

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4. “Far From the Madding Crowd” (2015) – Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge and Michael Sheen starred in this well done adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel about a young Victorian woman who attracts three different suitors. Thomas Vinterberg directed.

 

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5. “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956) – Mike Todd produced this Oscar winning adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel about a Victorian gentleman who makes a bet that he can travel around the world in 80 days. Directed by Michael Anderson and John Farrow, the movie starred David Niven, Cantiflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton.

 

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6. “Stardust” (2007) – Matthew Vaughn co-wrote and directed this adaptation of Neil Gaman’s 1996 fantasy novel. The movie starred Charlie Cox, Claire Danes and Michelle Pfieffer.

 

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7. “Fort Apache” (1948) – John Ford directed this loose adaptation of James Warner Bellah’s 1947 Western short story called “Massacre”. The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda, John Agar and Shirley Temple.

 

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8. “Zulu Dawn” (1979) – Burt Lancaster, Simon Ward and Peter O’Toole starred in this depiction of the historical Battle of Isandlwana between British and Zulu forces in 1879 South Africa. Douglas Hickox directed.

 

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9. “Young Guns” (1988) – Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips starred in this cinematic account of Billy the Kid’s experiences during the Lincoln County War. The movie was directed by Christopher Cain.

 

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10. “Cowboys & Aliens” (2011) – Jon Favreau directed this adaptation of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s 2006 graphic novel about an alien invasion in 1870s New Mexico Territory. The movie starred Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde.dom

“EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON” (1978) Review

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“EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON” (1978) Review

I have noticed in the past decade or so, there have been an increasing number of television and movie productions that either featured the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (aka King Edward VIII and Mrs. Wallis Simpson), either as supporting characters or lead characters. Actually, only one production – the 2011 movie, “W.E.” – featured them as leads. And yet . . . with the exception of the 2011 movie, the majority of them tend to portray the couple as solely negative caricatures.

There have been other productions that portrayed Edward and Wallis as complex human beings. Well . . . somewhat complex. Television movies like 1988’s “THE WOMAN HE LOVED” and 2005’s “WALLIS & EDWARD” seemed to provide viewers with a highly romanticized view of the couple. Perhaps a bit too romanticized. And there was Madonna’s 2011 movie, “W.E.”, which seemed to offer a bit more complex view of the couple. But I thought the movie was somewhat marred by an alternate storyline involving a modern woman who was obsessed over the couple. I have seen a good number of productions about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Yet, for my money, the best I have ever seen was the 1978 miniseries, “EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON”.

Adapted by Simon Raven from Frances Donaldson’s 1974 biography, “Edward VIII” and directed by him, the seven-part miniseries is basically an account of Edward VIII Abdication Crisis in 1936 and the pre-marital romance of the king and American socialite, Wallis Simpson, that led to it. The story began in 1928, when Edward Windsor was at the height of his popularity as Britain’s Prince of Wales. At the time, the prince was courting two women – both married – Mrs. Freda Dudley Ward and Thelma Furness, Viscountess Furness. Some two or three years later, Thelma introduced Edward to Ernest and Wallis Simpson, a pair of American expatriates living in London. The couple became a part of the Prince of Wales’ social set. But when Thelma left Britain in 1934 to deal with a family crisis regarding her sister Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, Edward and Wallis grew closer. By the time Thelma returned to Britain, Wallis had become the Prince of Wales’ official mistress. And both Thelma and Mrs. Dudley Ward found themselves unceremoniously dumped.

The miniseries eventually continued with the couple’s growing romance between 1934 and 1935, despite disapproving comments and observations from some of the Prince of Wales’ official staff and members of the Royal Family. But the death of King George V, Edward’s father, led to the prince’s ascension to Britain’s throne as King Edward VIII. By this time, Edward had fallen completely in love with Wallis. And despite the opinion of his family, certain members of his social set and the British government, he became determined to marry and maker her his queen in time for his coronation.

“EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON” is not perfect. I do have a few complaints about the production. I realize that screenwriter Simon Raven wanted to ensure a complex and balanced portrayal of both Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. But there were times when I found his characterization a bit too subtle. This was most apparent in his portrayal of Edward’s admiration of the fascist governments of Germany and Italy. It almost seemed as if Raven was trying to tiptoe around the topic and I found it rather frustrating. On the other hand, Raven’s portrayal of Wallis at the beginning of her romance with Edward struck me as a bit heavy-handed. Quite frankly, she came off as some kind of femme fatale, who had resorted to deceit to maneuver Edward’s attention away from his other two mistresses – Freda Dudley Ward and Lady Furness, especially when the latter was in the United States visiting her sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt. The production’s screenplay did indicate that Lady Furness may have conducted a flirtation with the Prince Aly Khan on the voyage back to Great Britain. Yet, Raven’s screenplay seemed to hint that Wallis’ machinations were the main reason Edward gave up both Mrs. Dudley Ward and Lady Furness.

Otherwise, I have no real complaints about “EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON”. Ten or perhaps, twenty years ago, I would have complained about the last three or four episodes that focused on Edward’s determination to marry Wallis and the series of political meetings and conferences that involved him, her, her attorneys, the Royal Family, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, the king’s equerries, politicians, lawyers and journalists. Now, I found it all rather interesting. What I found interesting about these scenes were the various reactions to Wallis Simpson. Many of them – especially the Royal Family, the equerries and Baldwin – seemed to regard her as some kind of “Jezebel” who had cast some kind of spell over Edward. In its worst form, their attitude came off as slut shaming. The majority of them tend to blame her for Edward’s occasional lapses of duty and ultimate decision to abdicate. As far as I can recall, only two were willing to dump equal blame on Edward himself – Royal Secretary Alexander Hardinge and Elizabeth, Duchess of York, later queen consort and “Queen Mother”.

Another reason why I found this hardened anti-Wallis attitude so fascinating is that the Establishment seemed very determined that Edward never marry Wallis. I understand the Royal Marriages Act 1772 made it possible for the British government to reject the idea of Wallis becoming Edward’s queen consort, due to being twice divorced. But they would not even consider a morganatic marriage between the couple, in which Wallis would not have a claim on Edward’s succession rights, titles, precedence, or entailed property. I am not saying that both Edward and Wallis were wonderful people with no flaws. But . . . this hostile attitude toward the latter, along with this hardened determination that the couple never marry struck me as excessive. Were the British Establishment and the Royal Family that against Edward marrying Wallis, let alone romancing her? It just all seem so unreal, considering that the pair seemed to share the same political beliefs as the majority of the British upper class. And considering that Wallis was descended from two old and respectable Baltimore families, I can only conclude that the British Establishment’s true objection was her American nationality.

Although the political atmosphere featured in “EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON” seemed very fascinating to me, the social atmosphere, especially the one that surrounded Edward, nearly dazzled me. “EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON” is one of the few productions on both sides of the Atlantic that did a superb job in conveying the look and style of the 1930s for the rich and famous. This was especially apparent in the miniseries’ first three episodes that heavily featured Edward’s social life between 1928 and 1936. First, one has to compliment Allan Cameron and Martyn Hebert’s production designs for re-capturing the elegant styles of the British upper classes during the miniseries’ setting. Their work was ably enhanced by Ron Grainer’s score, which he effectively mixed with the popular music of that period and Waris Hussein’s direction, which conveyed a series of elegant montages on Edward’s social life – including his royal visit to East Africa with Thelma Furness, the weekend parties held at his personal house, Fort Belevedere; and the infamous 1936 cruise around the Adriatic Sea, aboard a yacht called the Nahlin. But if there was one aspect of “EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON” that truly impressed me were Jennie Tate and Diane Thurley’s costume designs. When any costume designer has two leading characters known as major clothes horses, naturally one has to pull out all the stops. Tate and Thurley certainly did with their sumptious costume designs – especially for actress Cynthia Harris – that struck me as both beautiful and elegant, as shown in the images below:

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that I was I was not surprised to learn that they had won BAFTAs for their work. Come to think of it, Cameron and Herbert won BAFTAs for their production designs, as well. Which they all fully deserved.

“EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON” featured some solid and outstanding performances from the supporting cast. Cheri Lunghi and Kika Markham, who portrayed Edward’s two previous mistresses Thelma Furness and Freda Dudley Ward; along with Andrew Ray and Amanda Reiss as the Duke and Duchess of York; gave very charming performances. I could also say the same for Trevor Bowen, Patricia Hodge and Charles Keating as Duff Cooper, Lady Diana Cooper and Ernest Simpson. Veterans such as Peggy Ashcroft, Marius Goring, Maurice Denham and Jesse Matthews provided skillful gravitas to their roles as Queen Mary, King George V, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Aunt Bessie Merryman (Wallis’ aunt). And Nigel Hawthorne gave a warm and intelligent performance as Walter Monckton, who served as an adviser for both Edward and Wallis. And if you pay attention, you might spot Hugh Fraser portraying Anthony Eden in one particular scene.

But there were four performances that really impressed me. One came from John Shrapnel, who portrayed the King’s Private Secretary Alexander Hardinge. It seemed as if Shrapnel had the unenviable task of portraying a man who seemed bent upon raining on Edward’s parade . . . for the sake of the country and the Empire. There were times when I found his character annoying, yet at the same time, Shrapnel managed to capture my sympathy toward Hardinge’s situation. I was also impressed by David Waller, who portrayed Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Waller also portrayed the politician in the 1988 television movie, “THE WOMAN HE LOVED”. But I felt more impressed by Waller’s performance in this production. I came away not only with Baldwin’s dislike of Wallis and frustration with Edward; but Waller also made me realize how much of a politician Baldwin truly was . . . especially when the latter tried to convince Wallis to disavow Edward.

The true stars of “EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON” proved to be the two leads – Edward Fox and Cynthia Harris. Of all of the actresses I have seen portray Wallis Warfield Simpson aka the Duchess of Windsor, I would say that Harris is the best I have ever seen. Not once did the actress succumb to hammy or heavy-handed acting . . . even when Simon Raven’s screenplay seem bent upon portraying the American-born socialite as some kind of gold digger in the first episode, “The Little Prince”. The late Art Buchwald and his wife Ann had recalled meeting the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at one of the latter’s dinner parties in post-World War II Paris. Although their recollection of Edward was not that impressive, they seemed very impressed by Wallis, whom they described as a cool, yet charming and savy woman. And that is exactly how Harris had portrayed the future Duchess. More importantly, Harris revealed – especially in the last three episodes – that Wallis was more than a cool and witty woman. She was also a complex human being. Edward Fox won a BAFTA for his portrayal of King Edward VIII, the future Duke of Windsor. As far as I am concerned, he more than deserved that award. I was really impressed by how Fox portrayed Edward as a complex individual, instead of some one-note hedonist, as many productions were inclined to do in the past decade. Fox recaptured all of the warmth, charm and charisma of the future Duke of Windsor. And the same time, the actor revealed his character’s frustration with his emotionally distant parents, his occasional bouts of immaturity, insecurity, self-absorption and single-minded love for Wallis. On one hand, Fox managed to skillfully express dismay at the economic conditions of the country’s working-class and in other scenes revel in his character’s luxurious lifestyle with abandonment. The actor’s performance struck me as a great balancing act.

If I must be honest, the real reason why I managed to enjoy “EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON” to this day is that it is almost a balanced portrayal of the British monarch and his lady love. Simon Raven, director Waris Hussein and a talented cast led by Edward Fox and Cynthia Harris managed to convey both the good and bad about the infamous royal pair without resorting to the cliches that have been apparent in other past and recent productions.

Five Favorite Episodes of “ELEMENTARY” Season Two (2013-2014)

Below is a list of my favorite Season Two episodes from the CBS series, “ELEMENTARY”. Created by Robert Doherty, the series stars Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson:

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “ELEMENTARY” SEASON TWO (2013-2014)

1. (2.10) “Tremors” – During a court hearing to determine whether he and Joan Watson should be kept on as consultants to the NYPD, Sherlock Holmes recalls the events that led to the shooting of Detective Marcus Bell.

2. (2.22) “Paint It Black” – Following Joan’s kidnapping by terrorists, Sherlock and his brother Mycroft Holmes race to investigate the connection between her kidnappers and a Swiss bank executive in order to save her life.

3. (2.06) “An Unnatural Arrangement” – Sherlock and Joan investigate the attempted assault of Lieutenant Thomas “Tommy” Gregson’s estranged wife, when their home is invaded.

4. (2.01) “Step Nine” – Sherlock and Joan travel to London to help the former’s police partner, Inspector Lestrade, who has gone into hiding after threatening a murder suspect with a grenade. The pair also discovers that Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft is living at 221B Baker Street, Holmes’ former residence.

5. (2.17) “Ears to You” – Sherlock, Joan and the NYPD investigate when a former murder suspect receives a parcel with two severed ears in it, leaving the police to suspect that his “late” wife might still be alive and he might be innocent of murder.

“Crossroads of the Force” [PG-13] – Chapter Seven

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“CROSSROADS OF THE FORCE”

CHAPTER SEVEN

WORLPORT, ORD MANTELL

Han guided the Javian Hawk through Ord Mantell’s heavy atmosphere and toward the planet’s busy capital. Within minutes, he landed the starship on a landing platform at the Worlport Spaceport, before guiding it into a hangar already occupied by another starship. “Here we are,” he declared. “Ord Mantell.”

Both Anakin and Han left the cockpit and joined their passengers in another section of the ship. “We’re here,” Anakin announced to the two women. “I will have to report the Hawk’s arrival to the local port master. Han, Chewie and I can rendezvous with you two ladies at your hotel. Which brings me to my question – what is the name?”

Senator Dahlma stood up with her usual regal manner. “We’ll be staying at the Hotel Grand,” she announced. “And I had made reservations for us all, before leaving Maldare. Which means your room will be next to the suite that Igraine and I will occupy. As for Mr. Chewbacca,” she glanced at the Hawk’s newest crew member, “I do not know if the hotel . . .”

“They will allow him to stay,” Anakin reassured the senator. “This is Ord Mantell, Senator. Not Coruscant.”

“Well . . . I suppose the matter has been settled.” Senator Dahlma glanced pointedly at the two men and then at her luggage.

Anakin knew what she wanted – someone to carry her luggage. He directed his gaze at Han. Who sighed. “Great! I should have known I’d end up being some glorified baggage handler. Where’s a good droid when you need one? C’mon Chewie, time to carry the ladies’ luggage.”

Han and Chewbacca gathered the Maldarian women’s luggage and started down the ship’s boarding ramp. Senator Dahlma followed. Miss Colbert hesitated and turned to Anakin. “Please forgive the senator,” she said in that soft, husky voice that Anakin found appealing. “She is a decent woman and has a good heart. But she also comes from a wealthy and influential family. Sometimes, her background tends to reflect in a rather . . . well, haughty manner.”

With a smile, Anakin replied, “I understand. It hasn’t been that long since the old days of the Republic. I’ve met her kind on Coruscant, before. Good people, but . . . like you had said, a little haughty.”

“Is that where you are from?” Miss Colbert asked. “Coruscant?”

Anakin hesitated. Should he tell her the truth? He finally decided. “Actually, I’m from one of the Outer Rim territories. But I have spent some considerable time on Coruscant. Before the Empire.”

“You seem old enough to have witnessed the Clone Wars,” Miss Colbert added. “Were you a veteran?”

“More like a pilot.” The former Jedi Knight offered his arm to the senator’s aide. “May I escort you off the ship, Milady?”

Miss Colbert smiled and linked her arm with Anakin’s. “I would be honored. And you can call me Igraine.”

“I’m . . . Set.” Anakin exchanged another smile with the Maldarian woman and escorted her off the Javian Hawk.

——-

Three hours later, Zoebeida Dahlma sat back into her chair, feeling relaxed for the first time since she learned about this conference several days ago. As she sipped her Mandalorian wine, Bail Organa continued his opening address to those attending the conference.

“. . . many of you. But we are all here for one reason – namely freedom throughout this galaxy.”

While the Alderaanian continued his speech, Zoebeida observed those who sat inside the Hotel Grand’s Jewel Conference Room. Naturally, Mon Mothma sat on one side of Organa and the former senator from Corellia, Garm Bel Iblis, sat on Bail’s other side. All three were seen as the Great Triumvirate – the founders of this new Rebel Alliance. Zoebeida felt surprised that former senators Padme Amidala and Solipo Yeb had not also participated in the alliance’s formation, considering their opposition against Palpatine during the last days of the Republic.

Speaking of Solipo Yeb, Zoebedia spotted the former Andalian senator seated at a table just left of Bail’s. Despite being a fugitive from the Empire, Solipo had managed to develop connections to several rebellious cells in the Vivenda Sector. Next to him sat Jan Dodonna, the lanky and bearded former Imperial general who had joined the Alliance after the Emperor Palpatine had ordered his assassination. Apparently, the Emperor considered the retired general from Dodonna as a danger to the Empire.

“Organization is the key,” Organa continued. “As an organized force, we can eventually bring an end to the Empire’s grip upon this galaxy. And eventually, restore the Republic.”

Applause followed. Zoebeida noticed that some of the attendees looked skeptical at Organa’s last words. Including Padme Amidala. Zoebeida had last seen the former Nabooan senator at a brief meeting with Organa and Iblis on Averam, four years ago. Like the former Corellian senator, Amidala had faked her death in order to avoid being hunted down by the Empire. Only Zoebeida could not fathom why the Empire would be interested in the former Queen of Naboo. Or why the latter would resort to such drastic steps to ensure anonymity. Perhaps she will learn the reason sometime during the conference.

Returning her attention to her Alderaanian colleague, Zoebeida realized that he seemed to be near the end of his speech. “. . . realize that by attending this conference, we have pledged our lives to returning freedom to this galaxy. I thank you.” More applause followed. When it died down, Organa added, “Please feel free to mingle. Since we plan to work together for years to come, I feel that we might as well get to know one another a lot better.”

The moment the attendees began to mingle, Zoebeida stood up and slowly made her way toward Padme Amidala’s table. By the time she reached it, she discovered that the former senator had been joined by Garm Bel Iblis and Solipo Yeb. She smiled at the other three. “How are we enjoying this evening?”

Yeb replied, “Surprisingly, quite well. I had expected to encounter a lot of squabbling.”

“Wait until tomorrow,” Garm shot back. “When we begin discussing the possibility of organization. The worms will certainly be coming out of the woodwork.”

Zoebeida shook her head in mock despair. “You’re such a cynic, Garm. You need to have more faith in your fellow sentient beings.”

Rolling his eyes in contempt, the Corellian shot back, “I have faith. I’m part of this alliance, aren’t I?”

A sigh left Zoebeida’s mouth. Sometimes, she wondered if the loss of his family at the hands of Imperial troopers had mentally affected Garm’s personality. “If you say so,” Zoebeida wearily replied.

“I can understand Garm’s position,” Solipo Yeb added. “The past ten to fourteen years have been difficult for us all. The war, the loss of the Republic, the Empire and many of us losing our homes or being forced to find new homes. You’re lucky, Zoebeida. You have not experienced any true upheavals in your life. At least, not yet.”

The Maldarian senator frowned. “What do you mean . . . not yet?”

Solipo continued, “Well, you haven’t experienced any loss, have you? Garm, Padme and I can no longer serve the Senate because we’re all fugitives. Well, I’m a fugitive. Garm and Padme are believed to be dead. And none of us can no longer reside on our homeworlds.”

Zoebeida pressed her lips together. When she had made the decision to approach Amidala’s table, she had never considered that she would end up feeling like an outsider. But Solipo’s words also gave her an opportunity to satisfy her curiosity about the former Nabooan senator. “If you do not mind my asking, Senator Amidala,” Zoebeida began, “why are you avoiding the Imperials?”

The younger woman’s eyes blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“Garm had opposed many of Palpatine’s decisions and policies for years,” Zoebeida continued. “Which finally put him in danger when Palpatine finally became Emperor. Solipo had provided sanctuary to a Jedi Knight and now, his homeworld is under direct Imperial occupation. But Naboo is not under any such danger. So, why did you fake your death in order to avoid detection by the Empire?”

The Nabooan woman stiffened slightly. Zoebeida wondered if she had gone too far. “It’s . . .” A sigh left Amidala’s mouth. “The Petition of 2000,” she finally answered. “I had helped draft the Petition of 2000, which demanded Palpatine’s resignation once the Clone Wars ended. Unlike many other senators,” Amidala shot a pointed look at Zoebeida, “I had refused to withdraw my name from the petition. In fact, I was the one who had delivered the petition to him.”

A shaft of guilt struck Zoebeida. She perfectly understood Amidala’s comment about those senators who had withdrawn their signatures from the petition. Zoebeida had been one of them. And she did it to preserve her career in the Senate. Oh well. At least she now knew the reason behind Amidala’s fugitive status. She only hoped that she would never face a similar fate.

——-

“Well if I live and breath!” a female’s voice cut through the noise inside one of the Lady Fate Casino’s nightclubs. “Set Horus?”

With the Brin band’s music filling his ears, Anakin glanced away from the Twi’lek dancer on the stage and found himself staring into a pair of familiar green eyes. “Voranda Sen? I haven’t seen you in ages!”

The tall, red-haired woman smiled, as she settled in one of the empty chairs at Anakin’s table. “I suppose . . . if you consider two years as ages. What are you doing here on Ord Mantell?”

“Providing transportation for a client,” Anakin replied. “And you?”

Voranda shrugged. “The same.”

The two pilots had first met, while taking part of a convoy delivering equipment and supplies to a mining colony on Bespin, six years ago. From the moment they first met, Anakin found Voranda to be an attractive woman – despite her being at least over a decade older than him. But as with Vi’dal Mira, his relationship with Voranda had developed into nothing more than friendship.

“This is getting ridiculous,” Anakin continued. “Han and I had ran into Corsac Best and Lin Tsai at one of the Casino’s restaurants, earlier this evening. And now, I find you here. In fact, I’ve been seeing a good number of familiar faces at my hotel.”

Another shrug lifted Voranda’s elegant shoulders. “Well, this is a favorite spot for many smugglers and freighter pilots.”

“Yeah, but the pilots I’ve encountered usually hang out on Nar Shaada or Abregado-rae. Not Ord Mantell.” Anakin returned his gaze to the Twi’lek dancer. “Something is going on, here.”

A long pause followed. The Twi’lek dancer finally finished her routine amidst fervent applause. Then Vornada said, “She reminds you of Vi’dal, doesn’t she? She even has he same skin color. I’ve always wondered why you and she never became more than friends.”

“Because we’re not in love,” Anakin coolly replied. A waitress appeared at the table. He ordered a tall glass of Corellian ale.

Voranda shot back, “So what?” She dismissed the waitress with a wave of her hand. “We live in perilous times, Captain Horus. A person should grab a little happiness when the opportunity arises.”

“I’ll think about that.”

“On the other hand,” Voranda continued, “women like Vi’dal aren’t exactly your type. I suspect that you prefer those with a lot more class. A true lady.”

More class? Anakin automatically found himself thinking of Padme. Only briefly. What seemed the point of brooding over someone whom you could never see again? Who was gone . . . forever? A harsh laugh escaped his mouth. “Voranda, I come from a backwater planet in the Outer Rim Territories. From the lowest class in society. No . . . lady would be interested in me.”

“I don’t know about that.” Voranda’s remark drew a stare from Anakin. “I know a woman – a friend – who is here in Worlport. She strikes me as the type who might be interested in a good-looking and intelligent man like you. She’s a lady from the tips of her fingers to her toes. And privileged or not, she’s intelligent enough to probably view you as someone worthy.”

Anakin responded with a derisive snort. “Aside from your friend’s questionable taste in men, what’s the catch?”

“Huh?”

“What’s wrong with her? Something must be, if you think she might be interested in someone like me.”

Voranda glared at Anakin. “There is nothing wrong with her! She happens to be a charming and beautiful woman. And very intelligent.” Anakin regarded his fellow pilot through narrowed eyes, until she added quietly, “She’s also a widow with two young children.”

Two young children? Anakin stared at Voranda with disbelief.

——-

MALAG, MALDARE

A furious Darth Rasche glared at the quivering, dark-haired Imperial agent that faced him. “Say that again?” he growled.

The Imperial agent, a pale and intense young man named Bauer Suron, inhaled deeply. Then he repeated his message to the Sith Lord. “Senator Dahlma is missing. She is no where to be found. And her aide is missing, as well.”

“I thought you had her under observation for the past several days!”

Suron hesitated. “Well . . . yes.” Rasche’s eyes narrowed and the agent grew considerably nervous. “My Lord, I did request additional agents to assist me in observing . . .”

“I am not interested in your excuses, Agent Suron!” Rasche bellowed.

A deafening silence filled the small conference room located inside Malag’s Imperial Liaison Office. Suron gulped. Loudly. “Yes, my Lord,” he murmured.

Rasche continued, “What have you learned of the senator’s activities?”

The agent replied, “As you know, Senator Dahlma never did visit her family’s estate near Dalmar, as she had intended.”

“Yes, I know,” the Sith Lord added imperiously. “She was last seen at her private home, here in Malag.”

Suron paused. “Actually, she was last seen at the Lumati Hotel, last night. Both she and her aide had checked into a suite.”

Suspicion gnawed at the back of Rasche’s mind. “Why?”

“I have no idea, my Lord,” Suron answered. “But I believe that her manservant, Chattal Rahm, might be able to shed some light.” The agent cleared his throat nervously. “Rahm had been seen by various hotel employees escorting various people to the senator’s suite. One employee described them as spacers.”

Rasche contemplated the agent’s information. Why would a prominent senator check into a hotel suite, when she had her own private home in this city? And why would she need some disreputable pilot to fly her off of Maldare? Obviously, Senator Dahlma planned to visit some place special and for a very private reason. But what?

“I want you to gather descriptions of all the pilots who were seen approaching the senator’s suite,” Rasche instructed. “And find this Chattal Rahm. You shall have the local security and a platoon of stormtroopers to assist you.”

Suron nodded with deference. “Yes, my Lord.” He started to turn away.

“And Suron,” Rasche added in a threatening voice. The agent paused. “I only tolerate failure once. Fail me again . . .” He left the threat unfinished. Judging from the fear that flared in Suron’s eyes, Rasche realized that the other man had received the message.

END OF CHAPTER SEVEN

“BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” (2016) Review

“BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” (2016) Review

Following on the heels of the success of 2013’s “MAN OF STEEL”, I had expected the Warner Brothers Studios to follow up with another movie about Superman, starring Henry Cavill. To my surprise, the studio had announced another movie featuring Superman, only the comic book character would be sharing top billing with another from the pages of D.C. Comics.

Warner Brothers surprised me with the announcement that their next comic book movie would feature Superman aka Clark Kent co-starring with none other than Batman aka millionaire Bruce Wayne. And the latter would be portrayed by Ben Affleck. Needless to say, I was not pleased by this announcement. I saw it as a personal insult to Cavill, who had really impressed me as the Man of Steel. And I felt that Warner Brothers could have given Affleck his own stand-alone film about the Caped Crusader, before rushing into some attempt to rush into a “Justice League of America” situation, similar to the one featuring the Avengers for Marvel Films and the Disney Studios. About a week before “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” was due to be released in movie theaters, I read a series of reviews that literally bashed the film. Now, I have never been a major fan of director Zack Synder in the past. And I was pleased that he did not go overboard with the angst factor in “MAN OF STEEL” as he has done with his previous films. But after reading so many negative reviews . . . well, I did not expect to like this movie. However, I had to see it just to satisfy my curiousity.

“BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” began during the last events of “MAN OF STEEL”. It began with billionaire Bruce Wayne aka Batman arrival in Metropolis to assist Wayne Enterprises employees caught up with the city’s citizens in the destruction caused by Superman’s battle against fellow Kryptonian General Zod. Unfortunately for Bruce, one of his top executives is killed and the legs of another employee named Wallace Keefe are permanently damaged from falling debris. Due to these events, Bruce begins to view Superman as a destructive threat to Earth and desires to find a way to bring down the Man of Steel. Nearly two years later, Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane is visiting a North African country to interview a political figure believed to be a terrorist. However, her interview is cut short when the men who had accompanied her kill the terrorist’s men and many local villagers. Superman aka Clark Kent manages to rescue her from the terrorist, but Lois ends up feeling very disturbed by the event. But she is not the only one. Many people, including a Kentucky senator named June Finch blame Superman for the incident and like Bruce, begin to view him as a threat. Many are unaware that Metropolis’ top billionaire, Lex Luthor, was behind the incident in Northern Africa. Like Bruce, he began to view Superman as a threat . . . but to his own plans and his sense of worth. Unlike Bruce, he commences upon a plan to exploit the distrust of Senator Finch and others to bring down Superman and other meta-humans of whom he has become aware.

When I first learned that Warner Brothers had decided to follow up “MAN OF STEEL” with a movie in which Superman was to share top billing with Batman, I was not thrilled. In fact, I had hoped they would do a second Superman movie. And while the movie was being shot, I was more than determined not to like this film. Reading the movie’s negative reviews made me believe that disliking it would come very easy to me. And then . . . lo and behold! I ended up leaving the theater with a positive view about the film.

Mind you, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” was not perfect in my eyes. I had two problems with it – one major and the other minor. My minor problem with “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN” has a lot to do with my virulent dislike of Snyder’s 2009 movie, “THE WATCHMEN”. The director utilized a device that he had carried over from the 2009 movie – namely the use of graffiti in some scenes. I thought he had overused it in “THE WATCHMEN” and continued to do so in this film. And the graffiti only brought back unpleasant memories of the 2009 film.

My major complaint against “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” has to do with the relationship between Batman and Lex Luthor. In one scene during the film’s last half hour, Luthor revealed to Clark that he had created situations not only to slowly direct public opinion against the latter, but also Bruce Wayne, whom he knew to be Batman. Luthor figured that Batman would go after the Man of Steel and the latter would eventually kill the former. I must admit that I found this very confusing, considering that the movie never hinted that Luthor was interested in killing Bruce in the movie’s first half. In fact, the Luthor Corp. files that Bruce had uploaded and Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman had stolen did not even contain any information on Batman. I had assumed that Luthor only became interested in killing Batman . . . after the latter had stolen the Kryptonite his people had discovered in the Indian Ocean and destroyed a LexCorp lab. And the movie that I had seen in a theater seemed to verify my assumption. Like I said . . . confusing!

So . . . what did I like about “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”? Well, the story. Okay, I really enjoyed it. I liked the fact that the movie eventually promised what its title had hinted . . . a conflict between Superman and Batman that eventually led to the promise of the Justice League of America. And screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer presented this development with a very emotional and complex tale. What I found particularly interesting is that nearly everything in this tale is a direct result of the events from “MAN OF STEEL”. This was especially the case for both Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor’s hostility toward Superman. In fact, Luthor used the dead body of General Zod (courtesy of the U.S. government) to not only study Kryptonian physiology, but also create the monster Doomsday, which would prove to be a threat in the movie’s final action sequence.

The movie also featured some excellent emotional development for the main characters. Again, this seemed to be the case for Clark Kent’s growing despair from the public and the government’s reactions to the events in Northern Africa; his disapproval toward Batman’s more violent vigilante activities; the latter’s anger towards the events from “MAN OF STEEL” and the heady mixture of paranoia and ego that drove Lex Luthor to investigate other meta-humans and plot against Superman.

For a movie heavy on action, it featured some interesting dramatic moments. My favorites included Clark’s clashes with Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White over investigating Batman’s activities in Gotham City; the first meeting between Clark, Bruce and Diana Prince at a party held by Luthor in Metropolis; Bruce’s lingering anger over what happened in “MAN OF STEEL”; Luthor’s clashes with Senator Finch over his plans to deal with Superman; Clark’s conversations with his adoptive mother Martha Kent about his activities as Superman and with the ghost of his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent; Lois Lane confrontation with Luthor before the final action began; and also, Diana and Bruce’s comments on the public’s fickle attitude toward Superman. The movie also featured further development of the relationship between Clark and Lois, which culminated in a very charming and sexy moment in a bathtub. I thought Sndyer handled these scenes very well, which is not surprising. He has always managed to get great performances from his actors . . . even in his movies that I dislike.

However, first and foremost, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” is a comic book hero film . . . an action-adventure film. And Snyder was certainly in his element as a director. This especially seemed to be the case in those scenes that featured Lois and Superman’s adventures in northern Africa, Bruce’s dreams about leading a group of rebels against Superman, Batman’s attempt to steal the kryptonite from Luthor, his rescue of Martha from Luthor’s henchmen, and the attempt to rescue both Metropolis and Gotham from Luthor’s newly created monster, Doomsday.

However, one half of the movie’s title is called “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN”. Many movie fans and critics had dismissed the idea of an effective battle between the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader. So did I. After all, Batman was not really a meta-human – someone with super abilities – merely a highly trained costumed crime fighter. The movie made me realize that many of us had forgotten that Bruce Wayne also had brains. Through his investigation of a Russian weapon-trafficker named Anatoli Knyazev, he learned that Luthor was not only investigating meta-humans, but had found a possible weapon against Superman. Kryptonite. By creating weapons from the kryptonite he had stolen from Luthor Corp. and a powered exoskeleton suit, Batman was able to put up a good fight against the Man of Steel. And surprisingly, their battle proved to be very effective to me . . . even if many still believe otherwise.

The other half of the movie’s title was “DAWN OF JUSTICE”, which hinted the beginning of the Justice League of America aka the Super Friends. I found it interesting that Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor’s reactions to the events from “MAN OF STEEL” not only led to their fear of Superman and attempts to find a way to destroy the latter, but also to hints of the forthcoming creation of the Justice League of America. It all centered around Luthor’s investigation of other meta-humans and the files Bruce and Diana had found within Luthor Corp.’s computer mainframe. The file not only contained information and video clips on Diana’s past as Wonder Woman during World War I, but also on Barry Allen aka the Flash, Arthur Curry aka Aquaman and Victor Stone aka Cyborg. But it was that one scene in which Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman finally decided to form a team to battle the monster Doomsday . . .

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. . . that led to memories of the old ABC animated series, “SUPER FRIENDS” and its theme song going through my mind. It was a wonderful moment for me.

There was one aspect of “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” that left a heavy imprint on my mind was the fickleness of human nature. We humans are a fickle, controlling and very selfish specie. Snyder and screenwriters Terrio and Goyer really did an excellent job in portraying those aspects of our nature through the character of Superman. I found it interesting that many viewed Superman as a savior or angel. This was apparent in the statues raised in his honor and this almost selfish demand that he serve as their savior and nothing else. I can recall one moment in which victims of a flood had left the symbol on his costume painted on their roof to attract his attention. On the other hand, there were many others viewed him as a real threat against humanity . . . even after he had saved them from General Zod’s plans in “MAN OF STEEL”. Both Bruce and Senator Finch blamed Superman for the destruction that had occurred in Metropolis nearly two years ago, conveniently forgetting that it was Zod’s arrival on Earth that had led to that destruction. I came away with the feeling that people like Bruce, Senator Finch and Wayne Enterprises employee Wallace Keefe used Superman as a scapegoat, since the latter ended up being the last Kryptonian left standing. I do not find this surprising for using others as scapegoats is a very human thing to do. After the Congress bombing, even those who had seen Superman as a savior began to think otherwise. They did not come to this conclusion via any investigation on their parts. Superman was the last person standing and ergo, became “Suspect Number One” . . . just as he had become following Zod’s death. No wonder Clark had fallen into despair and walked away for a while. And no wonder Diana had such contempt toward the public’s renewed good opinion of Superman following the battle against Doomsday.

I have been talking about the plot so much that I forgot about other aspects of “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” – namely its technical and artistic effects. I might as well start with Patrick Tatopoulos’ production design. Tatopoulos did not have to create an alien world or a setting from the past. But I was impressed by his duel designs for not only the cities of Metropolis and Gotham, but also the northern African town at the movie’s beginning, Washington D.C. and the damage caused by Doomsday in the two fictional cities. He had ample support from the art direction and visual effects teams. I was surprised that Zack Snyder did not use Larry Fong as cinematographer for “MAN OF STEEL”. Because the latter had worked with Snyder on both “300” and “THE WATCHMEN”. In a way, Fong’s style, which struck me as sleek, rich in color and slightly dark, reminded me of Wally Pfister’s work for many of Christopher Nolan’s films. I have noticed that a good of Han Zimmer’s movie scores have seemed a little heavy-handed lately. And it certainly seemed to be the case for “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. But there were moments when that heavy-handedness seemed to mesh rather well with certain scenes, especially during those that hinted the future Justice League of America and the battle against Doomsday.

Ben Affleck became the eighth actor to portray Bruce Wayne aka Batman on screen (television or movie) and the public had not reacted well to the news of his casting. I found this astounding, considering that Affleck is a first-rate actor, who had previous experience portraying a costume hero when he played Matt Murdock aka Daredevil in the 2003 movie about the character. Affleck did an excellent job in portraying the paranoid aspects of Wayne’s nature in a very intense and at times, slightly scary manner. Henry Cavill was equally effective in his continuing portrayal of Clark Kent aka Superman. The loneliness that seemed to mark his performance in “MAN OF STEEL” seemed to have been replaced by satisfaction in Clark’s relationship with Lois Lane, intense determination to investigate Batman’s activities and frustration with Perry White’s unwillingness to allow him to embark on that investigation. My favorite scene with Cavill involved Clark’s quarrel with Perry about investigating Batman. And my favorite Cavill moment was the “What the fuck is wrong with you?” expression he gave Luthor when the latter introduced him to the Doomsday monster. But following the Congress bombing, that old despair and loneliness returned in full force. When I first heard about this movie, I thought Amy Adams’ role would be reduced from what it was in “MAN OF STEEL”. Thankfully, my fears were abated, for not only did Lois continue to play a major role in this DC Comics universe, she also played a major role in exposing Luthor’s plans and eliminating Batman’s anger toward Superman. Being the consummate actress that she is, Adams did a superb job in conveying not only Lois’ emotional vulnerability regarding Clark and what happened in northern Africa, but also her intelligence and determination to discover the truth.

The movie also featured an exceptional performance from Jesse Eisenberg as main villain, Lex Luthor. Not only was his movie exceptional, but also rather surprising. It was not that I thought him incapable of portraying a villain, but I just could not see him as Lex Luthor. I was wrong. He gave a fantastic performance. It seemed both subtle and overly dramatic at the same time . . . in a good way. He made Luthor seem very eccentric . . . again, in a good way. Diane Lane returned to portray Clark’s adoptive mother, Martha Kent. Her portrayal of Martha struck me as rather unusual. In other comic book hero movies, maternal types like Martha tend to give speeches to the main hero in order to motivate them in serving the public. What I liked about Lane’s Martha is that she was more concerned about Clark’s well being and happiness than him fulfilling some destiny as a hero or savior. It may seem selfish, but it also seemed very real to me.

Gal Gadot became the first actress to portray Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman in a very long time. Ever since Lynda Carter ended her run with the ABC/CBS series in 1979, Hollywood seemed reluctant to bring the Amazonian Princess back to the screen. Thankfully, Warner Brothers, Snyder and Nolan ended that dry run by hiring Gadot for the role. And she was perfect . . . spot on. I never thought another actress could do justice to the role – except for Marvel alumni Jamie Alexander from “THOR”. But Gadot was perfect and I look forward to seeing her solo movie. Jeremy Irons, to my utmost surprise, became DC Comics’ new Alfred Pennyworth. His portrayal seemed so different from past performances – a little less of a servant and more of a companion for Bruce. More importantly, I really enjoyed the sardonic wit that Irons had infused into the character. But he was not the only one. Laurence Fishburne returned as Clark and Lois’ boss, Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White. In “MAN OF STEEL”, Fishburne had infused a touch of dry wit into his portrayal. In this movie, that wit was in full force and even more sharper – especially in the actor’s scenes with Cavill. I really enjoyed his presence in this film. The movie also featured some excellent supporting performances from the likes of Holly Hunter, who gave a wonderfully sarcastic speech to Luthor in her portrayal of Senator June Finch; Harry Lennix, who returned as former General now Secretary Calvin Swanwick; Scoot McNairy, who portrayed Wallace Keefe, the Wayne Enterprises employee who had been crippled during Superman’s battle with General Zod; and Kevin Costner, who returned with a poignant performance as the ghostly figure of Clark’s adoptive father, Jonathan Kent.

To this day, I am flabbergasted by the media’s negative campaign against “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE”. I do not understand it . . . period. I could have understood if the movie had drawn some criticism. But this unrelenting criticism struck me as unreal . . . especially after I had seen the film. But you know what? I realize that I should not care. I saw the movie twice and I enjoyed what I had seen. Yes, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” (what a mouthful!) had some flaws. What movie does not? But overall, I was very pleased by this film. I like to think that I understood what director Zack Snyder, along with screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer were trying to say. And I enjoyed the performances of the cast led by Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill very much. More importantly, I am glad that the cinematic version of the Justice League of America has finally commenced. Regardless of the opinions of others, “BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” more than satisfied me. It has become one of my favorite movies of 2016.

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” (1931) Review

 

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” (1931) Review

Adultery is rarely treated with any kind of maturity in fiction – whether in novels, plays, movies and television. I am not saying that adultery has never been portrayed with any maturity. It is just that . . . well, to be honest . . . I have rarely come across a movie, television series, novel or play that dealt with adultery in a mature manner. Or perhaps I have rarely come across others willing to face fictional adultery between two decent people with some kind of maturity.

If one simply glanced at the title of the 1931 movie, “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN”, any person could assume that he or she will be facing one of those salacious tales from a Pre-Code filled with racy dialogue, scenes of women and men stripping to their underwear or morally bankrupt characters. Well, “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is a Pre-Code movie. But if you are expecting scenes and characters hinting sexy and outrageous sex, you are barking up the wrong tree.

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is about a young railroad engineer named Bill White, who seemed to have a drinking problem. When he gets kicked out of his boarding house, after falling back on his rent, Bill is invited by fellow engineer and friend Jack Kulper to stay with him and his wife Lily. All seemed to be going well. Bill managed to fit easily into the Kulper household. He stopped drinking. And he got along very well with both Jack and Lily. In reality, his relationship with Lily seemed to be a lot more obvious than with Jack. And this spilled out one afternoon, when in the middle of one of their horseplays while Jack was out of the house, Bill and Lily exchanged a passionate kiss. Realizing that he was in love with Lily, Bill moved out and left Jack wondering what had occurred. Matters grew worse and eventually tragic, when Jack finally realized that Bill and Lily had fallen in love with each other.

From the few articles I have read, there seemed to be a low regard for this film. Leading lady Mary Astor had dismissed it as “a piece of cheese” and praised only future stars James Cagney and Joan Blondell. Come to think of it, so did a good number of other movie fans. Back in 1931, the New York Times had described the film as “an unimportant little drama of the railroad yards”. Perhaps “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” was unimportant in compare to many other films that were released in 1931 or during that period. But I enjoyed it . . . more than I thought I would.

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is not perfect. First of all, this is an early talkie. Although released in 1931, the film was originally shot and released to a limited number of theaters in 1930. And anyone can pretty much tell this is an early talkie, due to the occasional fuzzy photography. Also, director William Wellman shot a few of the action scenes – namely the fight scene between Bill and Jack, along with Bill and another engineer named Eddie Bailey – in fast motion. Or he shot the scenes and someone sped up the action during the editing process. Why, I have no idea. There were a few times when members of the cast indulge in some theatrical acting. And I mean everyone. Finally, I found the resolution to the love triangle in this film a bit disappointing. Considering that divorce was not as verboten in the early 20th century, as many seemed to assume, I do not see why that the whole matter between Bill, Lily and Jack could have been resolved with divorce, instead of tragedy. In the case of this particular story, I found the tragic aspects a bit contrived.

Otherwise, I rather enjoyed “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN”, much to my surprise. Repeating my earlier statement, I was impressed by how screenwriter Maud Fulton, with the addition of William K. Wells’ dialogue; treated the adulterous aspects of the love triangle with taste and maturity. What I found even more impressive is that the three people involved were all likeable and sympathetic. I was rather surprised that this film only lasted 70 minutes. Because Wellman did an exceptional job with the movie’s pacing. He managed to infuse a good deal of energy into this story, even when it threatened to become a bit too maudlin.

Wellman’s energy seemed to manifest in the cast’s performance. Yes, I am well aware of my complaint about the performers’ occasional penchant for theatrical acting. But overall, I thought they did a very good job. Future stars James Cagney and Joan Blondell had small supporting roles as Bill’s other friend Eddie Bailey and his girlfriend, Marie. Both did a good job and both had the opportunities to express those traits that eventually made them stars within a year or two. I was especially entertained by Blondell’s performance, for she had the opportunity to convey one of the movie’s best lines:

Marie: [taking out her compact and powdering her face] Listen, baby, I’m A.P.O.

Railroad worker at Lunch Counter: [to the other railroad worker] What does she mean, A.P.O.?

Marie: Ain’t Puttin’ Out!

I noticed that due to Cagney and Blondell’s presence in this film, many tend to dismiss the leading actors’ performances. In fact, many seemed to forget that not only was Mary Astor a star already, she was a decade away from winning an Oscar. Well, star or not, I was impressed by her portrayal of the railroad wife who finds herself falling in love with a man other than her own husband. She gave a warm, charming and energetic performance. And she portrayed her character’s guilt with great skill. I could also say the same about leading man, Grant Withers. He is basically known as Loretta Young’s first husband. Which is a shame, because he seemed like a first-rate actor, capable of handling the many emotional aspects of his character. Whether Bill was drunk and careless, fun-loving, romantic or even wracked with guilt, Withers ably portrayed Bill’s emotional journey. I also enjoyed Regis Toomey’s performance as the emotionally cuckolded husband, Jack Kulper. I mainly remember Toomey from the 1955 musical, “GUYS AND DOLLS”. However, I was impressed by how he portrayed Jack’s torn psyche regarding his best friend and wife.

I am not going to pretend that “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is one of the best films from the Pre-Code era . . . or one of director William Wellman’s best films. Perhaps that New York Times critic had been right, when he described the film as “an unimportant little drama of the railroad yards”. But I cannot dismiss “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” as a mediocre or poor film. It is actually pretty decent. And more importantly, thanks to the screenplay, Wellman’s direction and the cast, I thought it portrayed a love triangle tainted by adultery with a great deal of maturity.

“Crossroads of the Force” [PG-13] – Chapter Six

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“CROSSROADS OF THE FORCE”

CHAPTER SIX

ANCHORHEAD, TATOOINE

The burly man strode casually along one of Anchorhead’s dusty streets, accompanied by two children. The golden protocol droid followed closely behind, filling their ears with incessant chatter.

“I really do not see why Miss Padme had left me behind and taken Artoo,” the droid complained. “As a protocol droid, I have knowledge of over six million forms of communication in my programming. Surely, I could have serve as interpreter for Miss Pad . . .”

“Not now, Threepio!” Luke barked. “Now is not the time for you to be complaining about being left behind. Mother has made her decision.”

The protocol droid sounded affronted by his young charge’s outburst. “Well really, Master Luke! I did not realize . . .”

“One other thing, Threepio,” Owen added, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be bandying Miss Padme’s name out loud. There might be Imperial ears listening.”

“Yes, Master Owen.”

The group finally reached a poundstone store that sold power converters at the street’s south end. Uncle Owen turned to Luke and Leia. “I want you two to wait here. Threepio and I will be right back.”

“You need me, Master Owen?” the droid asked.

With a sigh, the moisture farmer replied, “Yes, Threepio. I need you to translate the binary language for the moisture vaporators.” He nodded at Luke and Leia. “And you two, stay close.” Then he and Threepio entered the shop.

The twins settled on a small bench outside of the shop. Nearly ten minutes passed before Leia heaved a loud sigh. “I’m bored,” she muttered darkly. “I thought that Anchorhead would be more exciting than this.”

Luke rolled his eyes. His sister could be quite a grouch at times. “Then you should have stayed at the farm.”

“And spend hours in the company of two women barely able to conduct a conversation with each other?” Leia snorted. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Another three minutes passed. Leia opened her mouth for another complaint, but Luke spotted a familiar figure. “Hey! It’s Biggs!” Then he cried out, “Biggs!” A dark-haired boy around the twins’ ages stared at them. A smile lit up this thin face, before he waved. Luke waved back and stood up.

“Luke, where are you going?” Leia demanded. “Uncle Owen told us to stay here.” The fair-haired boy ignored his sister and rushed toward his best friend. “Luke!”

The two boys met in the middle of the street and slapped each other on the backs. “Hey Luke!” Biggs Darklighter greeted. “What are you doing here on Tatooine? Your family usually don’t visit until another two months from now.” Biggs happened to be the son of a wealthy land magnate . . . and Luke’s best friend for the past six years.

Luke shrugged. “Leia and I are staying with our uncle, while Mother is on a business trip. Are you with your father?”

Biggs pointed at the Weary Traveler Tavern. “He’s in there, getting a drink. I saw you and Leia. Where’s your uncle?”

“Buying a new moisture vaporator,” Luke answered.

Biggs nodded. “Maybe your uncle can allow you to visit our home before you leave. Dad just bought me a new skyhopper. A suborbital T-12 model.” A wide grin appeared on his face. “The wings’ span are this wide, and . . .” As he threw out his arms, his left hand knocked against a burlap sack held by a passing pedestrian. Bottles of liquor fell out of the sack and crashed upon the ground. Luke detected the strong odor of alcohol.

Tall, burly and grizzled, the pedestrian cast an intimidating glare at the Biggs. “Clumsy brat!” he growled. “Look at what you’ve done! I had paid a good amount of wupiupi for those bottles of ale.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” a slightly frightened Biggs pleaded. “It was an accident.”

The man retorted, “Sorry doesn’t mean anything! I’m out of 200 wupiupi and some good Spiced Ale!” He grabbed Biggs by the latter’s tunic. “It’s gonna take more than an apology to make up for my loss, boy!”

Luke decided to help Biggs escape the man’s grip. “Hey! Let go of my friend! He said that he was sorry!” Then Luke tried to pry the man’s fingers from Biggs’ tunic. His efforts ended in vain, when the man shoved Luke aside with a free hand. The eleven year-old’s rump landed on the ground.

“Luke!” Leia rushed forward and helped her brother to his feet. She then rounded furiously on the man. “You bully! I suppose you consider yourself brave for picking on boys half your age!”

Sensing the man’s growing ire, Luke grabbed his sister’s shoulders and drew her back. “No! Leia! Don’t!” he hissed.

But Leia’s temper had passed the point of no return. “Why don’t you let our friend go? What can you possibly achieve by bullying a twelve year-old boy?”

With Biggs still in his grip, the man leaned down and sneered at Leia. “Mighty fine words coming out of the mouth of a little girl. Your friend just cost me 200 wupiupi. One way or the other, I’m getting payback!”

“By bullying a child?”

“Is there a problem?” another masculine voice asked. The three children and the pedestrian stared at the robed figure that had materialized before them. Luke immediately recognized the mysterious man who had joined Mother, Uncle Bail and another man at Mos Eisley. “You seemed to have that young man in a rather tight grip, Mister . . .?”

The man snarled, “The name is Oswald Rankin and this matter is none of your concern!”

“What has the boy done to you?”

Looking slightly annoyed, Rankin retorted, “He had cost me two hundred wupiupi, when he broke my bottles of very expensive Corellian Spiced Ale!”

The robed stranger smiled. “Really? And did the boy break your bottles of ale on . . . purpose?”

“Look here, old man! I suggest that you leave now! Like I said, this is none of your concern.”

Luke glanced up at the robed man’s face and noticed that his blue eyes glittered mysteriously. “This boy has not harmed you in any way.”

Rankin stared hard at the robed stranger. It seemed to Luke as if the former had suddenly become mesmerized, as he released Biggs. “You’re right,” Rankin murmured. “The boy did not harm me.”

The robed stranger murmured, “He did not mean to break your bottles.”

With a nod, Rankin added, “Yes, you’re right. He did not mean to break them.”

“Perhaps it is best that the ale is gone,” the stranger added. “You do not need to consume all that alcohol.”

His eyes still glazed, Rankin said, “No . . . I don’t.”

“You will forget this incident and go home.”

Rankin frowned momentarily. Then he said to the stranger, “What incident?” He stared at the three children. “What’s going on?”

“It is nothing, sir,” the stranger answered with a smile. “You seemed a bit out of sorts. We were all trying to assist you.”

“Well, I’m fine.” Rankin regarded the others with confusion. “Um . . . thanks. Excuse me.” He nodded curtly and walked away.

Luke and his two companions stared at the robed stranger. “How did you do that?” he demanded. “How did you manipulate his thoughts like that?”

The robed man merely smiled in a mysterious fashion. “I’m afraid that your Mr. Rankin might be an easily suggestive person.” He regarded the three children with concern. “And you . . . are you three unharmed? Has he . . .?”

“I’m fine,” Biggs replied. “Other than he nearly scared me senseless.”

Luke added, “No harm . . . except for my pride and backside.” He thrust out his hand to the stranger. “Thanks for your help. I’m Luke Sk . . . uh, Organa, by the way. And this is my sister, Leia and my friend, Biggs Darklighter.”

The man shook Luke’s hand. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

“And exactly who are you?” Leia demanded. “You look familiar.”

The man’s smile widened. “My name is Ben. Ben Kenobi.”

————

WORLPORT, ORD MANTELL

Once the Alberforce penetrated Ord Mantell’s thick outer cometary cloud, it made its way toward the planet’s glittering capital, Worlport. A heavy sheet of rain greeted the starship’s passengers and crew as it finally settled upon one of the spaceport’s landing platforms.

The starship rolled into an empty hangar and came to a halt. Several minutes later, Padme and R2-D2 followed Bail, Captain Sen and their Jedi protector down the Alberforce’s boarding ramp. “I need to report my arrival to the portmaster,” Voranda declared. “I will meet all you at the hotel, later.” She hesitated. “What names will you be using to check in? In case I need to contact you.”

Bail replied, “I will be using the name, Tam Avner. As for Senator Amidala, she will . . .”

“My name will be Rhiannon,” Padme added. “Rhiannon Chir.”

Voranda nodded. “Good. I will check with you, later tonight.” She walked away from the others.

Bail led the others outside of the hangar. Then he hailed a shuttle taxi to convey them to the Hotel Grand. Dominated by skyscrapers and red-domed topped buildings, Worlport’s skyline reminded Padme of a heady mixture of Coruscant and Naboo’s capital, Theed. To her surprise, Master Olin expressed a similar opinion, out loud.

“I must say that this is a very lovely city,” he commented, while glancing out of a shuttle window. “I cannot tell whether it reminds me of Coruscant or Theed.”

Padme stared at the former Jedi. “You’ve been to Naboo?”

“Yes, Milady.” Unease briefly shadowed his eyes. “Nine years ago, to be exact.”

“Around the time of Queen Apaliana’s death,” Padme murmured quietly. “And the death of my grandmother.”

The former Jedi remained silent, while Bail continued, “It is hard to believe that this place is now a smuggler’s haven. Especially since it was originally settled by Corellian farmers.”

“A Jedi master named Pablo-Jill had managed to bring peace to this planet about fourteen or fifteen years ago. Just before the Clone Wars.”

“You must be very proud.” The words came out more sardonic than Padme had originally intended. Master Olin stiffened, while Bail focused his attention to the view beyond his window.

Padme glanced out of the window beside her and spotted the words – HOTEL GRAND – in bright lights that illuminated through the heavy rain and gray skies. The shuttle soon descended upon one of the hotel’s landing platforms. Upon reaching the hotel lobby, Bail and Padme checked into their rooms under their aliases. Bail managed to acquire a suite with adjoining bedrooms for himself and Master Olin. Padme acquired a room next door to theirs. The trio and R2-D2 then set out for the hotel’s turbolifts. Upon entering one, they encountered none other than the senator from Chandrila, Mon Mothma. She was a tall, slender woman woman with red hair and intense blue eyes.

“I see that you’ve all finally made it,” the Chadrilian senator greeted.

Bail asked, “Are we the last to arrive?”

“No. One other is still missing.” Mon shot an uneasy glance at Olin. “Who is your friend?”

Bail made the introductions. “This is our protector, Master Ferus Olin. He is a former Jedi.”

Mon continued to eye the younger man uneasily. “Really?” Then her gaze narrowed. “Have you ever been on Coruscant? In recent years, I mean.”

“I’m afraid that it has been quite a while, Milady,” Olin calmly answered.

The turbolift arrived on the hotel’s tenth floor. All of the occupants stepped out. “Your room is on this floor?” Padme asked.

The Chandrilian senator smiled. “I have ensured that all of us have rooms on this floor. The conference room is located here, as well.” After shooting another curious glance at Olin, Mon added, “Well, I should prepare for supper.”

“Who hasn’t arrived, yet?” Bail asked.

“Zoebeida,” Mon replied. “She has yet to arrive.” Padme realized that Mon had referred to Zoebeida Dalhma of Maldare.

They came upon Padme’s room. “Well, here we are,” she announced. “When will the first meeting . . .?”

“A dinner for us has been scheduled to begin in about five hours,” Mon replied. “Just down the corridor, in the Jewel Room. I will see you then.”

Padme nodded. “I only hope that Zoebeida arrives in time, as well.” She and R2 entered her room. As the door shut behind her, Padme heaved a sigh. Between the upcoming Alliance meetings, having a former Jedi in her midst and being separated from her children, the next two days might prove to be strenuous.

———–

ANCHORHEAD, TATOOINE

Owen and CP-30 stepped out of the junk shop and noticed something very alarming – Luke and Leia seemed to be missing. Contrary to his instructions, they had left the bench in front of the shop.

“Oh Master Owen!” Threepio wailed. “Something terrible must have happened to them!”

The moisture farmer rolled his eyes. Threepio could be ridiculously melodramatic at times. Like now. On the other hand, there was a possibility that the twins might be in danger.

“Uncle Owen!”

Owen glanced to his left and saw both Leia, Luke and Biggs Darklighter rush toward him. A man in a hooded robe accompanied them. Alarm bells rang in Owen’s mind, when the man threw back his hood. Obi-Wan Kenobi beamed at him. Owen realized that Padme would have his hide if she knew that her children had met the former Jedi Master.

Luke reached the moisture farmer first. “Uncle Owen, guess who we ran into? Mother and Uncle Bail’s friend from Mos Eisley, Mister Ken . . . uh . . .”

The former Jedi paused before the moisture farmer. “Kenobi. Ben Kenobi. Good day to you, Master Lars.” He held out his hand.

Owen reluctantly grabbed Kenobi’s hand and shook it. “Good day.” He frowned at the twins. “What did I tell you two about not wandering off?”

Leia calmly explained, “We saw Biggs and left the bench to say hello. Only we had trouble with this common . . . thug, who bullied Biggs for accidentally breaking his liquor bottles. Fortunately, Mister Kenobi,” she nodded at the former Jedi Master, “came to our rescue. I think we should repay Mister Kenobi’s assistance with an invitation to dinner. He does not live that far from the farm. In the Jundland Wasteland.”

The moisture farmer found himself unable to respond. If Kenobi had been someone else, he would have accepted Leia’s suggestion. But this was Anakin’s former Jedi master. Owen knew that Padme would disapprove of her children having any contact with the man. “Well, I . . .” he began.

Kenobi spoke up. “Thank you, Miss Organa. But I’m afraid that I might have to decline your kind invitation. I have . . . uh, pressing matters, tonight.”

“What about tomorrow night?” Leia demanded.

Both Owen and Kenobi stared at each other and blinked. How could they explain the truth to the twins without revealing the tumultuous history of their parents? Owen said, “I don’t think . . .”

“You have pressing matters tomorrow night, as well, Mr. Kenobi?” Luke asked. “You sure have a lot of business, lately.”

Kenobi heaved a sigh. At that moment, Owen knew that he and Beru would have a dinner guest, tomorrow evening. “I suppose I could join you for supper, tomorrow,” Kenobi finally said, much to Owen’s consternation. He turned to the farmer. “If that is fine with you?”

Owen realized that he had been trapped by Leia’s sense of courtesy and Kenobi’s eagerness to become acquainted with the twins. He sighed. “I’m sure that . . . Beru would not mind preparing for a guest tomorrow night.”

The children and Kenobi became all smiles and excited chatter. Owen hoped and prayed that Padme would never learn of this encounter with the former Jedi Master. But he suspected that his hopes would prove to be futile in the end.

END OF CHAPTER SIX