Thursday, September 29, 2016

SEPTEMBER 29 = Film Director Stanley Kramer is Born.



On today's date, September 29 in 1913, the celebrated Stanley Kramer, the director and producer was born in New York City. Throughout his career, Kramer had his share of flops, but his great films tackled previously taboo subjects as racism, nuclear war,
antisemitism - always putting the problem right there in the audiences face where it couldn't ignored.  Many thought that his films lacked subtlety in this respect - and he became known as the maker of "message pictures".  And while his best work was often nominated for Academy Award's,  Kramer never won the Oscar Statue himself.

Kramer Arrives in Hollywood

Kramer arrived in Hollywood aspiring to be a writer and signed up to MGM, working various jobs such as carpenter, scenery mover, and then wound up as an Editor for three years.  He worked also for Columbia pictures, and on radio as well.  But in the early 1940's he formed his own production company.  His first picture there bombed at the box office, but his next one, "The Champion",
an exciting and intense anti-boxing picture was a hit, which propelled its star, Kirk Douglas to
star status. Next came a string of hits, all of them hitting some nerve in American life. There was racial bigotry in "Home of the Brave" (1949). Then came the issue of disabled veterans in "The Men" (1950), and then the superb film "High Noon" (1952) which starred Gary Cooper (right) as a Marshal who finds that the town which had loved him was leaving him to face an old enemy on his own.

Kramer's Best Period = 1954 - 1961 

Kramer then signed on with Columbia Pictures to make a string of films, all of them excellent. In 1954 he made "The Caine Mutiny" with Humphrey Bogart as the captain of a ship, who appears to go to pieces in a typhoon.  The Court Room scene where Bogie  breaks down, along with the party afterward where the attorney played by Jose' Ferrer reads them all the riot act about who really was guilty is a classic. "The Defiant Ones" (1958), dealt with racism when Tony Curtis and Sydney
Portier play a pair of escaped convicts who were chained together. There was the drama "On the Beach" (1959) which dealt with nuclear war. Then came a pair of magnificent courtroom dramas;
"Inherit the Wind" (1960) dealing with freedom of speech and my own favorite: "Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961) which laid the question of responsibility for the Holocaust right there in the open.
Spencer Tracy was in both off those last two, as were Gene Kelly in the first, and a whole raft of stars in the latter; Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, and Montgomery Clift to name just a few.

Kramer's Later Years

Stanley Kramer took a wild comedy turn in "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (1963, below) about a group of strangers run across an old man (Jimmy Durante) who with his dying breaths gives them the directions to a cache of gold.  This launches them on a wild cross country race to beat each other to the gold. This cast was simply too large to list them all here; let if suffice to say that the main roles are played by Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, and a completely hilarious Jonathan
Winters.  In 1967 Kramer directed "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" which dealt with, albeit in a rather sugary-sweet Hollywood fashion, the subject of inter-racial marriage. As said it was a rather sugary handling, but look nevertheless of an extremely taboo subject as late as 1967. And the screenplay by William Rose contained some excellent dialogue on the subject. Stanley Kramer died at the age of 87 in Woodland Hills, California, on February 19, 2001. His autobiography was titled  "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World - A Life in Hollywood."




Sources =

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/message-filmmaker-stanley-kramer-is-born

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/person/105309%7C141975/Stanley-Kramer/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Mad,_Mad,_Mad,_Mad_World

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgment_at_Nuremberg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Caine_Mutiny_(film)













Tuesday, September 6, 2016

SEPTEMBER 6 = The Marquis de Lafayette is Born



Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, more commonly known as simply the Marquis de Lafayette was born on today's date, September 6 in 1757, in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France, This man (left) deserves a place of honor among America's Founding Fathers for the role he played in not only securing French assistance during our Revolutionary War, but also for taking an actual combat role -- even though he presented himself to George Washington at the young age of 19.

"My heart was enlisted..."

Young Gilbert came from one of France's oldest fighting families, with ancestry dating back to the crusades and even to Joan of Arc.  When his mother died by the boy's eleventh birthday, Lafayette inherited one of the largest fortunes in France.  Yet this very rich young man had little taste for the life of an aristocrat; he sought military action. In 1763, he obtained a Captain's Commission in the Army.  In 1775 he was having
dinner in the city of Metz with the Duke of Gloucester who spent much of the time complaining about the American Colonists and their uprising against British rule. The Duke mocked the American's nonsense about the equality of man, and people ruling themselves. And especially of their having made this George Washington their leader. This made a very ill impression on the young Lafayette: "My heart was enlisted," he later recorded in his memoirs, "and I thought only of joining my colors to those of the revolutionaries."

Lafayette Sneaks to America and Meets George Washington

But it wasn't such an easy matter just to go over to America.  First of all, King Louis XVI denied him permission to go. But the defiant young officer simply ignored the King's order and left for America in early 1777. James Lovell, a Congressman  saw in the 19 years old was a man 
of substance and recommended him for the rank of Major General. Lafayette met Washington on Aug. 5 (right), and the two men immediately formed a strong bond.  Washington had no natural son of his own so naturally he was warmed by Lafayette's enthusiasm and positive attitude for the American cause. Lafayette stood in awe of Washington: "Although he was surrounded by officers and citizens, it was impossible to mistake for a moment his majestic figure and deportment; nor was he less distinguished by the noble affability of his manner." he wrote later in his memoirs. Indeed, the two men would develop a father and son relationship during the war.

Lafayette Serves in Combat 

Washington assigned Lafayette to join in a tough battle to turn the American flank at the Battle of Brandywine Creek, where he served under the command of Gen. John Sullivan's forces. Sullivan was being surrounded, and was obliged to retreat, but Lafayette distinguished himself in this action, sustaining a wounded leg. Washington sent his  
own surgeons to tend to the wound telling them: "Treat him as if he were my son." Lafayette gradually became a trusted member of Washington's inner circle. He also shared in the misery of the brutal winter of 1777 at Valley Forge. The Marquis also took part in the Battle of Monmouth (June 28, 1778). After this he returned to France to take part in the organizing of troops to go to America as a part of the new Alliance between France and the new United States.  Overall command of these troops was given to the Comte de Rochambeau (above).
Lafayette is There at the End

By the summer of 1781, Lafayette had returned to the U.S. and was assigned to lead troops in Virginia along with other generals such as "Mad" Anthony Wayne to attack the British foraging parties as well as their rearguard. These various raids kept the British under Gen. Lord Cornwallis from bringing the Americans to full battle until he finally withdrew to the Peninsula at Yorktown, Virginia. There Cornwallis 
found himself being encircled with his back to the sea, and the combined armies of the Americans and the French. On Sept. 5, 1781 in the Battle of Virginia Capes the British fleet was decisively defeated by the French. By now the land vice was tightening.  In fact, Washington's own forces linked up with those of Lafayette on Sept. 14. With his sea escape cut off, and thee French and the Americans barking at the door, Cornwallis gave up the ghost and surrendered his army on Oct. 18, 1781 at a ceremony (above) in which Lafayette gladly took part.

"Hero of Two Worlds"

Upon his return to France in January of 1782 Lafayette was hailed as a national hero, in fact "A Hero of Two Worlds" for his service to France and to America. But revolution was in the air in France of a much bloodier kind than it had been in America. With help from Thomas Jefferson - the U.S. Ambassador - He was part writer of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. When the Bastille was stormed
in July of 1789 and a revolutionary government was formed, Lafayette sent the key to the old prison (left) to George Washington as a symbol of French freedom from tyranny. This "Hero of Two Worlds" attempted to steer a middle course between the extremes of the men who unleashed wholesale executions via the Guillotine during the Terror.  His arrest was ordered by radicals in Aug. of 1792.  He attempted to escape but was captured by the Austrians spending 5 years in jail. But the government of Napoleon Bonaparte restored his French citizenship on March 1, 1800. He made a grand tour of America in 1824 to an adoring reception.  He died on May 20 1834 at the age of 76.