Saturday, June 8, 2019

Versatile Blogger Award

The wonderful Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews recently nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. I want to thank her for this honour, and I am glad that she included me in the 15 blogs she nominated.

As Gill pointed out in her post on the Versatile Blogger Award, it is a bit like a chain letter. Quite simply, it comes with its own checklist of things one has to do. They are as follows.

1. Thank the person who nominated you.

2. Provide a link to his or her blog.

3. Share seven facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 15 bloggers of your choosing.

I have already done the first two, so I will go onto the seven facts about myself. I don't know if I have mentioned any of these on the blog before.

1. I have been on television twice in my lifetime. The first time I don't remember very well, as I was only three or four years old at the time. My family was in Columbia at Parkade Plaza (the first mall in the city) where KRCG's long running children's show Showtime was doing a remote broadcast. I really don't remember much more, but my parents did tell me about it when I was older.

Of course, the second time was when I got to introduce A Hard Day's Night (1964) with Ben Makiewicz as part of Turner Classic Movies' Fan Favourites series. I have already written about it quite a bit on this blog and elsewhere, so I won't say any more about it here!

2. I grew up on a farm with horses and cattle. I learned to ride a horse even before I attended kindergarten and learned how to saddle one when I was a little older. And, for those of you who are wondering, yes, I did herd cattle from horseback. That having been said, I don't think that qualifies me as a cowboy, although I do know how to fire a sixgun.

3. I have not only met Tom Brokaw, but I got to direct him. It was when I was at college and we shot an on-the-fly promo for the college television station. It's not as impressive as it sounds, as it is the only time I have directed anyone! Mr. Brokaw was very nice, though.

4. I have written five novels, each of then in less than a month as part of National Novel Writing Month. None of them have been published as it would require extensive work to get them in shape for publication. Keep in mind they were written in less than a month!

5. I am multiracial. On my mother's side I am English and German with a touch of Scottish thrown in for good measure. On my father's side I am German (Hessian, to be exact), English, and Cherokee. My great grandmother on my father's side, Dixie, was Cherokee, and both my paternal grandmother Lucy and my father looked more Cherokee than anything else.

6. Speaking of my heritage, both my mother's family and my father's family were in North America before the United States was founded. My mother's family came here in the 17th Century, fleeing the Cromwellian tyranny in England. My father's family came here in the 18th Century. We aren't sure why, but in the 1740s there were rumours in Germany that there were riches to be had in North America. I have to wonder if that isn't why they migrated here.

7. The first movie I ever remember watching all the way through was Jason and the Argonauts (1967). It aired on The CBS Thursday Night Movie on Thanksgiving in 1966. I was only three years old at the time. Of course, the second movie I ever remember watching all the way through was The Wizard of Oz (1939), which was also the first classic movie I ever saw (this isn't unusual for people of my generation).

And now here are the 15 bloggers I am nominating. As I always say with these sorts of things, participate if you want to. :

KC of A Classic Movie Blog

Lara of Backlots

Paddy of Caftan Woman

Jessica of Comet Over Hollywood

Lê  of Crítica Retrô

Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings

Debra of Moon in Gemini

Fritzi of Movies Silently

Aurora of Once Upon a Screen

Raquel of Out of the Past

Kellee of Outspoken and Freckled

Paula of Paula's Cinema Club

Kristina of Speakeasy

Dan of The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog

Andrew of The Stop Button

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The 75th Anniversary of D-Day

It was 75 years ago today that over 160,000 troops from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States landed on the beaches of Normandy to do battle with Nazi Germany. They faced heavy German fortifications and were under constant gunfire as they landed. The causalities were great, with more than 9000 Allied soldiers either wounded or killed. Despite this, in the end the Allies won the day, allowing more than 190,000 Allied soldiers to make it through to take Europe back from the Nazis. It was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.

D-Day was a truly heroic effort, the largest seaborne invasion in history. It was also one of the biggest turning points in history. Quite naturally, D-Day has then figured prominently in motion pictures and television shows since the end of World War II. In fact, so many movies and TV shows have referenced D-Day that it would be impossible to list them all. Indeed, the first movies to touch upon D-Day were made only a few years after the war.

Among the earliest films to deal with D-Day was Breakthrough (1950). The film starred David Brian and John Agar and followed a company of infantrymen from the 1st Infantry Division from basic training to D-Day through to the Normandy Campaign. A good part of Breakthrough is comprised of stock footage, and it is not as highly regarded as many of the films that succeeded it. That having been said, it was one of the earliest movies to depict the events of D-Day.

D-Day the Sixth of June (1956) is less a war film than it is a romance film, depicting as it does a love triangle between an American paratrooper, a British Commando, and a Women's Royal Army Corps officer. It is notable primarily because it depicts not only American troops, but British and Canadian troops as well. While it does not show very much of Omaha Beach, in that particular respect it is more accurate than many films about D-Day.

Of course, one cannot discuss movies about D-Day without mentioning The Longest Day (1962). The all-star film utilised several Allied and Axis military consultants. Several of the film's stars had served in World War II and one even took part in D-Day. Richard Todd was part of the British Airborne invasion and was among the men who took part in the battle for Pegasus Bridge.

The Longest Day was based on Cornelius Ryan's 1959 book of the same name about the Normandy Invasion. The movie follows the events on both sides of the English Channel in the days before D-Day. The movie proved to be a hit, eventually making a total of $50.1 million. The film is still well respected to this day.

While The Longest Day was an epic with a large cast, Overlord (1975) was a much more personal story which followed a young British man through being called up, his training, and his eventual death on D-Day. In making the film director Stuart Cooper not only consulted footage from the war, but the diaries of World War II soldiers as well.

The Big Red One (1980) centred on an Army sergeant as he led his men through to D-Day, the liberation of France, and the invasion of Nazi Germany. Director Samuel Fuller had the benefit of experience, having served in the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division and seeing action in Africa, Sicily, and Normandy.

What may be one of the most realistic portrayals of D-Day appears in Saving Private Ryan (1998). Not only did the film portray the heavy casualties the Allies suffered upon landing on Omaha Beach, but even the sea sickness many soldiers experienced while the landing craft grew close to the store. While Saving Private Ryan was praised for its realistic depiction of the Normandy landings, the film was criticised for ignoring the contributions of countries other than the United States. Namely, in Saving Private Ryan, the 2nd Rangers are portrayed as being aboard an American ship and making it to the beach in United States Coast Guard-crewed landing craft. In truth, the 2nd Rangers were aboard the British ships and made it to Omaha Beach on Royal Navy landing craft. Despite the occasional inaccuracies, Saving Private Ryan is still highly regarded today, to the point that it is counted among the greatest war movies of all time.

Television has dealt with D-Day less than motion pictures have, perhaps because portraying the Normandy Invasion would be difficult on the budget of most television shows and even TV movies. It should come as no surprise that the pilot of the legendary World War II drama Combat! dealt with the events of D-Day. The pilot as it was originally shot would not air, but it formed the bulk of the show's 11th episode, "A Day in June," in which Sgt. Saunders (played by Vic Morrow) remembers his experiences during the Normandy Invasion. "A Day in June" aired on December 18 1962.

D-Day would also figure in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers, based on Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 book of the same name. Band of Brothers depicted E Company,2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division, from their jump training to the airborne invasion of Normandy to the war's end. At the time, Band of Brothers was the most expensive mini-series ever made.

There have been many, many more movies and TV shows that have touched upon D-Day in some way. To even deal with documentaries about D-Day would fill a very large book. It seems quite likely that D-Day was the most pivotal event in the 20th Century and one of the most pivotal events in human history. Had the Allies lost the various battles that comprised the Normandy Invasion, history would be very different. D-Day was one of the most monumental undertakings of all time, and it was made possible by the many men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, parachuted into Normandy, or served aboard the many ships that were part of the invasion. Although if you ask any man who served in the Normandy Invasion, he will tell you that he is not a hero, all of them were indeed heroes.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Paul Darrow Passes On

Paul Darrow, best known for playing Kerr Avon on the cult science fiction show Blake's 7, died on June 3 2019 at the age of 78. His health had been on the decline for several years.

Paul Darrow was born Paul Valentine Birkby in Chessington, Surrey. He attended Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School. He studied acting at the Royal Academy for Dramatic Art (RADA). His flatmates while he was at RADA were none other than Sir John Hurt and Ian McShane. It was his father who suggested his stage name, taking the surname of Darrow from American attorney Clarence Darrow.

Paul Darrow spent quite a few years in repertory theatre before making his television debut in a guest appearance on the TV show The Odd Man. In 1965 he was cast in the regular role of Mr. Verity on the TV show Emergency-Ward 10. In the Sixties he would also appear in the Doctor Who serial "Doctor Who and the Silurians," and he guest starred on the shows The Saint, Virgin of the Secret Service, Frontier, The Newcomers, Special Branch, Coronation Street, and Manhunt.

In the Seventies Paul Darrow began playing Kerr Avon on Blake's 7 in 1978. He remained with the show for its entire run, appearing in every single episode except the very first. He was a regular on the TV shows Couples and The Poisoning of Charles Bravo. He appeared in the mini-series Murder Must Advertise, Prometheus: The Life of Balzac, and The Legend of Robin Hood. He guest starred on the TV shows The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes; The Flaxton Boys; Z Cars; Churchill's People; Dixon of Dock Green; Killers; When the Boat Comes In, Rooms; Yes, Honestly; Whodunnit?; ITV Playhouse; Turning Year Tales; Penmarric; and Hammer House of Horror. He appeared in the motion picture The Raging Moon (1971).

In the Eighties Mr. Darrow was a regular on the TV show Making News. He appeared in the Doctor Who serial "Timelash." He appeared in the mini-series Dombey & Son and Maelstrom. He guest starred on the shows Storyboard and Cluedo. In the Nineties Paul Darrow guest starred on Dark Justice, Emmerdale, Haggard, Science Fiction, and Pie in the Sky. He was a regular on The Strangerers. 

In the Naughts Paul Darrow appeared in the movie Die Another Day (2002). He was a regular on the TV show Emmerdale and had a recurring role on Law & Order: UK. He guest starred on Hollyoaks,. Little Britain, and Twisted Tales. He made his last appearance on screen in Toast of London in 2014.

The past many years Mr. Darrow had been the voice of Jack for the independent British radio stations JackFM and Union Jack.

Paul Darrow will probably always be remembered best as Kerr Avon, the genius computer expert with a gift for sardonic comments. Avon would become the most popular character on Blake's 7 and, after the departure of Gareth Thomas as Blake, he would be the leader of Blake's 7. As memorable as Mr. Darrow was as Avon, he also played a number of other great roles. He may be best known for the numerous villains and other shady characters he played throughout this career. He was the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Legend of Robin Hood and Mr. Tallboy in the television adaptation of Dorothy L. Sayers's Murder Must Advertise. From time to time he played historical figures, including Anthony Eden and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Paul Darrow was a talented actor who could play a wide variety of roles.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The 15th Anniversary of A Shroud of Thoughts

Today it has been 15 years since I began A Shroud of Thoughts. At the time I had no idea that the blog would last this long. I also had no idea that in some ways A Shroud of Thoughts would become my life's work. I have been writing A Shroud of Thoughts longer than every job I have ever had.

For those of you who may have forgotten, weren't online in the years 2002 to 2005, or simply were not born yet, blogs were something of a fad at the time. While blogs had actually been around since the Nineties (indeed, Jorn Barger coined the term weblog in December 1997 and Peter Merholz shortened weblog to blog in the spring of 1999), it was from the years 2002 to 2005 that the mainstream media started taking notice of blogging. For a time during the early and mid-Naughts, it seemed as if everyone and his or her brother had a blog.

In fact, a lady friend of mine was one of those people who had a blog at the time. It looked like fun to me and so I decided to start my own blog. In the mid-Naughts it was fashionable to give blogs titles with some variation of the word "thought" in them. That is the reason I took the title for this blog, A Shroud of Thoughts, from a line in Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage canto iii stanza 113 (I won't quote here, as over the years I think I have quoted it enough). Here I have to say that if I had it to do all over again I would probably have chosen a name more befitting a blog devoted to popular culture and nostalgia. If I had known of the word retrophilia at the time (which Collins Dictionary defines as "a strong liking for things from the past"), I probably would have named it that. While I would eventually consider changing the blog's name, by that time A Shroud of Thoughts had something of a readership and I worried it would confuse people if I changed the name.

While A Shroud of Thoughts has always been dedicated to pop culture and nostalgia, it has changed over the years. In the early days I would sometimes write things of a more personal nature, but eventually I decided to stop writing anything overly personal with a few exceptions. Aside from being a very private individual, I figured that most people did not find my personal life that interesting. Another change to A Shroud of Thoughts is that for many years I would address more recent movies and television shows on the blog. This is something that would eventually fall by the wayside. It is not that I made a conscious decision to stop writing about more recent movies and television shows, but rather the case that I enjoyed writing about classic films and television shows more.  Sadly, I also have found myself writing many more eulogies than I did when I started (especially this year). It is an unfortunate fact of life that celebrities from the Golden Ages of Hollywood and Television started dying off at an accelerated rate from the late Naughts throughout the Teens.

Of course, my own life has changed since I began A Shroud of Thoughts. When I started writing the blog I had one job, only to pick up another job early in the blog's history. I would eventually quit the first job as I found juggling two jobs a bit too much. Unfortunately, several years later I would be laid off from that other job due to the economy. Sadly, since I began A Shroud of Thoughts there have been several deaths in my life. My remaining aunts and uncles would die during those years, as well as some of my older cousins. I lost one close friend to suicide. My best friend, Brian, died at an exceedingly young age in 2011. What was the biggest change in my life since I started A Shroud of Thoughts would be becoming friends with actress Vanessa Marquez, growing very close to her, and falling in love with her. When Vanessa was killed last year it was the most catastrophic death in my life. I am still mourning her to this day, and this is a very bittersweet anniversary for me given she did not live to see it.  For many Vanessa will always be Ana Delgado in the classic movie Stand & Deliver (2008) or Nurse Wendy Goldman on the hit TV show ER. For me she will always be my best friend, the girl of my dreams, and the love my life. I am still very much in love with her and I always will be.

Not only my own life has changed a good deal since 2004, but so too has society and popular culture. While smartphones had been around since the Nineties, they were still rare in 2004. At that time the average person was still using an ordinary mobile phone or, at best, a feature phone. Of course, today I am guessing the average person owns a smart phone if he or she owns a mobile phone at all. Tablets were also relatively rare in 2004, whereas now they are downright common. In 2004 social media services were still very much in their infancy. MySpace was less than a year old when this blog started and Friendster was a little older. Since then several other social media services have arisen, most notably Facebook and Twitter. Streaming media has existed since the Nineties, but in 2004 it was still very much in its infancy. Indeed, Netflix would not introduce its own streaming media service until 2007. Now, in addition to Netflix, there are several streaming services, including Hulu, Amazon Prime, Acorn TV, and many, many others. The first patent for a smart TV was filed in 1994 in Japan, but it would not be until 2008 that Samsung would introduce its first smart TV. Other manufacturers would follow suit, until in 2018 eMarketer estimated that 37.2% of all homes in the United States have a smart TV. Many more probably own online media players, such as Roku or Google Chromecast.

As to what June 4 2004 was like, well, it was not a terribly eventful day. Probably the biggest event to occur that day with regards to popular culture was the wide release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the United States. It was the third film in the wildly successful "Harry Potter" series and went onto make $796,688,549 at the box office. As far as music goes, June 4 2004 saw the release of the Ritchie Havens compilation album Dreaming as One: The A&M Years. The album was released on Mr. Havens' own Stormy Forest label and included the two albums he had recorded while at A&M Records, The End of the Beginning (1976) and Mirage (1977), along with some other material. The only television show to debut that day was Impact!, a professional wrestling programme. It debuted on Fox Sports Net, and would later move to Urban America Television and still later to Spike TV and even later Pop. It was earlier this year that it moved from Pop to the Pursuit Channel.

As to what the broadcast networks aired that night, well, the answer is not a whole lot of interest. In fact, I am guessing many of the shows that aired on the night of June 4 2004 have long since been forgotten. ABC showed George Lopez, Married to the Kellys, Hope & Faith, and 20/20. CBS aired Joan of Arcadia, JAG, and 48 Hours. On Fox was the movie Cats and Dogs (2001), which aired on their movie anthology series Fox Night at the Movies. NBC showed Dateline NBC and Las Vegas, while UPN aired the movie American Outlaws (2001) on their movie anthology series UPN's Night at the Movies. The WB aired Reba, What I Like About You, and Grounded for Life. Of the broadcast networks that existed in 2004, two are no longer with us. It would be in 2006 that UPN and The WB merged to form The CW. As to the various shows that aired that night, only three are still on the air and all of them are news magazines: Dateline, 48 Hours, and 20/20.

As I said earlier, June 4 2004 was not a terribly eventful day. What had to be the strangest news item of the day happened in Granby, Colorado. Quite simply, a welder and an automobile muffler repair shop owner went on a rampage on a specially modified bulldozer. The man had modified the bulldozer so that it was bulletproof and then proceeded to demolish Granby's City Hall, Granby's former mayor's house, and several other buildings. Fortunately, no one was killed during the rampage, although sadly the culprit killed himself with a handgun at its end.

Before I congratulate myself too much for A Shroud of Thoughts turning 15 years old, I have to point out that it is not the only old blog around by a long shot.  Immortal Ephemera is even older than this blog, dating to 2002. Inner Toob is about a month and a half older, launching in April 2004. Both The Stop Button and Laura's Miscellaneous Musings date to 2005. The Rap Sheet dates to 2006. My friend Raquel started Out of the Past in 2007.  Blogs older than a decade are hardly common, but they are not as uncommon as some people might believe!  By the way, I strongly recommend that you visit all of these fine blogs (they've lasted so long for a reason).

When A Shroud of Thoughts turned 10 in 2014, there were those in the media who claimed that blogs had diminished in their importance and that conversation had largely moved to social media. I didn't believe that was true then, and I certainly don't believe it is true now. I have not noticed an enormous decrease in the number of blogs, and, if  A Shroud of Thoughts is any indication, people are still reading blogs. In fact, I get more hits on this blog than I ever have. This seems true of every blog I read. If discussion has largely moved from the comments sections of blogs to social media sites, it is probably because most bloggers I know post links to their blog posts on social media sites where discussion about the blog posts then ensues. I rather suspect blogs will be around as long as the World Wide Web. I know I intend to continue writing A Shroud of Thoughts until I am no longer able to.

Anyhow, I want to thank anyone and everyone who has ever read this blog over the years, as well as my fellow bloggers who have supported me in this endeavour. I really don't know if A Shroud of Thoughts would have survived the past fifteen years without them. I encourage you to visit my fellow bloggers' blogs listed on the right sidebar. You won't regret it!

Every year I publish what I feel to be my best posts of the past year (for this year I did that yesterday). It then seems fitting that since A Shroud of Thoughts has now lasted  fifteen years to post a list of what I think are the best posts of the past fifteen years. I have chosen two posts for each year, counting series of posts as "one" post. Here I have to point out that some posts are missing images. Quite a few years ago every single image was wiped from the blog and I haven't gotten around to replacing  all of them!

 "The Vanguard of Mars Part One" September 3 
 "The Vanguard of Mars Part Two" September 4

"The Rise and Fall of the Independent Television Station" June 13
"Les Belles Dames Sans Merci: Elf Maidens and Men" June 30

"Mary Ann Versus Ginger" February 25 
"Dick Tracy Turns 75" October 4

"Cinema Killed the Radio Star: How Elvis Presley's Movies Nearly Ended His Career" August 22 
"Superman's Pal, the Smut Monger" August 29 

"Aurora: the Company That Monsters Built...And Destroyed Part One" January 13 
"Aurora: the Company That Monsters Built...And Destroyed Part Two" January 14
"Quality Comics" July 5 

 "Ida Lupino as Director" May 19
"The Devil's Business: The Murder of Sharon Tate" August 9

"Mama Told Me Not to Come: The Sixties Party Scene on Film" February 2
"All of Your Toys: The Monkees vs. Don Kirshner" April 17

"Everybody Loves Lucy: Lucille Ball's 100th Birthday" August 6   
"The Gothic Horror Boom of the Sixties" October 30

 "The Psychology of Betty Draper Francis" April 3
"Naming Names: The Rise & Fall of Confidential Magazine Part One" August 19
"Naming Names: The Rise & Fall of Confidential Magazine Part Two" August 20

"Perry Mason: The Case of the Disappearing Defence Attorney" January 11
"The JFK Assassination's Impact on American TV & Film" November 22

"The Birth of Beatlemania in America Part One" February 8 
"The Birth of Beatlemania in Amerca Part Two" February 9 
"Rock & Rule: Canada's Animated Masterpiece" October 4 

"Rita Moreno: Puerto Rican Superstar" October 12
"Shock! How Television Revived the Universal Monsters"  October 17

"The 75th Anniversary of M&Ms" March 5
"The Maltese Falcon: From Book to Screen" April 9

 "The 75th Anniversary of Archie" January 13
"Animated Christmas Television Specials of the Seventies" December 23

"The Planet of the Apes Craze Remembered" February 8
"The 50th Birthday of My Dearest Vanessa Marquez" December 21

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Best Posts from June 4 2018 to June 3 2019

Every year on the anniversary of A Shroud of Thoughts I post what I consider to be my best posts from the past year. That having been said, tomorrow is a bit of a milestone for A Shroud of Thoughts. Quite simply, tomorrow it will be 15 years since I launched this blog. For that reason tomorrow I plan to post my favourite posts from the past 15 years. I then decided to post my favourite posts from the past year today.

Those of you who know me and even those who don't know me, but regularly read this blog, know that the past several months have been very hard on me. In fact, they have been the hardest months of my entire life. It was on August 30 2018 that actress Vanessa Marquez was killed. It would be the beginning of a prolonged period of mourning that I am still going through. Not only were Vanessa and I very close, not only did I consider her my best friend, but I was and still am hopelessly, desperately in love with her. I have no doubt that I made fewer posts between last June and this June than I have any other time in the history of A Shroud of Thoughts. In fact, last year was the first time ever that I wrote fewer than three blog posts a week. Quite simply, the past nine months there have been times when I did not feel like writing in the blog at all.

Of course, this year would not make blogging any easier for me. I am convinced that 2019 may be the year when more celebrities important to me have died than any other year since I started blogging. In fact, there have been only two weeks this year that I wrote absolutely no eulogies: the week of February 10 and the week of May 19. Between mourning Vanessa and having to eulogise such people as Julie Adams, Stanley Donen, Peter Tork, Doris Day, and Tim Conway, I haven't had the time to write the blog posts I would like to write!

Anyway, without further ado, then, here are the best posts from June 4 2018 to June 3 2019.

"When Anime Was a Dirty Word," June 14 2018

"The 50th Anniversary of Yellow Submarine," July 17 2018

"The 25th Anniversary of The X-Files," September 10 2018

"Stand and Deliver Turned 30," October 5 2018

"West Side Story (1961)," October 13 2018

"Stop Complaining About Turner Classic Movies," October 18 2018

"The 50th Anniversary of The Monkees' Movie Head," November 6 2018

"The 50th Birthday of My Dearest Vanessa Marquez," December 21 2018

"50 Years Ago the TV Show Turn-On Got Turned Off," February 5 2019

"The 100th Birthday of Nat King Cole," March 17 2019

"ER 'Night Shift'," March 23 2019

"The Original Captain Marvel," April 11 2019

"The 25th Anniversary of Turner Classic Movies," April 14 2019

"The Good Humor Man (1950)," April 26 2019

"Lux Radio Theatre," May 2 2019

"The Power of the Dark Side: Darth Vader," May 25 2019