Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

January 19, 1944: Patriotism and Prosmiscuity

A movie released for national distribution back on January 19, 1944, depicted the predicament of a young woman named Trudy Kockenlocker. It’s seen today as a rather tame screwball comedy — and a good one at that, listed by the American Film Institute as #54 on it’s list of all-time best comedies. Yet it’s a wonder it was ever released.

Miracle at Morgan’s Creek starred Betty Hutton and Eddie Bracken and was directed by Preston Sturges. It tells how Trudy wakes up one morning after a farewell party for a group of soldiers to discover that, while drunk, she married one of them whose name she can’t remember. A short time later, she discovers she is pregnant.

Well, didn’t the alarms go off at the Hays Office, that noble outfit charged with protecting Americans from perversion through diligent censorship. The script was sent to the office in 1942, and Paramount quickly received a seven-page catalog of complaints, starting with the fact that Trudy was drunk and working its way up to the possible comparison of Trudy’s dilemma with the virgin birth of Jesus. When the Hays Office had finished its snipping, only ten pages of the script remained in tact. The War Department weighed in about the conduct of the departing soldiers. A pastor in the film who delivers the moral warning against mixing patriotism with promiscuity got the hook as well.

The film was finally released, the Hays Office was bombarded with complaints, including one critic’s suggestion that the office had been “raped in its sleep” for allowing the film to be released, (evidently, Sturges had somehow forgotten to share the film’s ending with the Hays Office). and it became Paramount’s highest-grossing film of the year. It also won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.

A Tale of Two Babies

A lot of folks would spin the channel to CBS in 1953 to catch  another birth, this one a tad less controversial as Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky (Ricky Ricardo Jr.) – 71.7% of all television sets in the United States were tuned into the I Love Lucy program that January 19.  On the same day, Lucy gave birth to a nonfictional son, Desi Arnaz Jr.

 

Mama Eu Quero, Part 1: Cuba 1955

The flickering image on the T-V screen – strong eyes, the familiar beard, the damn fatigue cap – stole Delia’s attention from the book she had determined to finish this evening.  And his voice – still defiant, but the words he uttered were words of defeat, stepping down.  All these years, and your revolution will end with a whimper.  I’m afraid it’s getting old and wrinkled, Fidel.  Like us.

The face on the TV screen changed, metamorphosing into another image from the distant past that probably wasn’t really there.  It was a gentler face with a mischievous smile and a great big nose, a face that forced both a smile and a tear as he cooed:  “Good night Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.”  It was an odd association, these two faces, but for Delia, lasting and inevitable.  Jimmy Durante disappeared into the darkness and Fidel was back.

Delia didn’t hate Fidel the way so many of the others she knew who had had associations with Cuba did.  Of course her association with Cuba had been very short – but intense – a mere two months during that bittersweet summer of 1955, three and a half years before Castro took power.  She was a young woman – a girl – plucked from the American Midwest by a tornado and whisked into a wild and wicked Oz called Havana.  There to meet Jorge.  And Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha.

Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha was not born in Brazil as many think.  She emigrated from Portugal, arriving in Rio de Janeiro in 1910.  But once there, she so fully absorbed the culture of her new home that she would one day personify its people, its infectious rhythms.  On the world stage and in the many movies that, years later, Delia would watch on television, Carmen Miranda was Brazil.

By today’s reckoning, the revolution was already two years underway that summer Delia’s father got an assignment with an American sugar company in Havana. In a way, by working for a sugar company with vast interests in Cuba, her father and by extension his family, including Delia, were in their own small way partially responsible for the revolution.  Sugar (Delia still couldn’t put it in her coffee) was both Cuba’s lifeblood and its yoke.  A third of the country’s income depended on sugar, and American sugar companies controlled three-fourths of the land on which it could be grown.  And the entire blame, at least in Delia’s eyes, seemed to have fallen on one sixteen-year-old girl.

continued

“Mama Eu Quero” originally appeared in the literary magazine Dandelion.  It is included in Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean.

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Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

JANUARY 9, 1493: I HAVE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING

Do mermaids exist? These creatures – half woman, half fish – have found their way into the lore of seafaring cultures at least as far back as ancient Greek. You’ve seen them depicted; a woman’s head and torso and the tail of a fish instead of legs. They’re most often quite attractive, gazing upon their own countenance in a mirror and combing their long flowing tresses (like Darryl Hannah in the movie Splash, for example).

But believe in them? One might just as well believe in sirens, the half-woman, half-bird creatures who dwell on islands from where they sing seductive songs to lure sailors to their deaths. Yet there have been some notable sightings. No one less than Italian explorer Christopher Columbus has written of an encounter. On January 9, 1493, the intrepid New World traveler spotted not one but three mermaids frolicking somewhere near the Nina, Pinta or the Santa Maria (or maybe one entertaining each ship?)

He described the sighting in his ship’s journal: “They were not as beautiful as they are painted, although to some extent they have a human appearance in the face.” Columbus’ account would give ammunition to conspiracy theorists who claim that most mermaid sightings are actually manatees —  sea cows, although they’re said to share a common ancestor with elephants. Manatees are slow-moving aquatic beasts, weighing a good thousand pounds with bulbous faces but Bette Davis eyes. Most moviegoers would not mistake them for Darryl Hannah.

Would you mistake this . . .
. . . for this?

Henry Hudson, a British and therefore more reliable explorer, also sighted a mermaid “come close to the ship’s side, looking earnestly on the men. A little while after, a sea came and over-turned her. From the navel upward her back and breast were like a woman’s . . .her body as big as one of ours; her skin very white, and long hair hanging down behind . . . In her going down they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel.” Much better, except for the mackerel part.

A few years later, Captain John Smith, of Pocahontas fame, spotted a mermaid off the coast of Massachusetts. He wrote that the upper part of her body perfectly resembled that of a woman and that she swam about with style and grace. She had “large eyes,

rather too round, a finely shaped nose (a little too short), well-formed ears, rather too long. . .” And she probably thought Smith was a little too much of a jerk.

Naturally, there is a male counterpart for the mermaid: the merman.  Collectively we might call them merfolk.

The most famous of the mermen was the Greek god Triton, the messenger of the sea who played a conch shell as though it were a trumpet and he were Louis Armstrong.  He wasn’t.  Another notable was Ethel the Merman.

A Merman

Lights! Camera! Gesundheit!

A major motion picture debuted in 1894 and became the first copyrighted film in the United States on January 9. Filmed by the Thomas Edison Studio a few days earlier, it starred a gentleman named Fred Ott. This five-second epic was officially titled “Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze,” but became more familiar as “Fred Ott’s Sneeze.” Next day on Fred Ott’s dressing room, they did not hang a star.

An Ode to Snow

Warning: the following is quite lyrical.

O glorious snow surrounding me with immense drifty mounds!  What do thy mounds conceal?  How many cocker spaniels, small children, miniCoopers have you swallowed, not to be seen again until May.  I am quite conscious of those mounds surrounding me, looming, as I go to fetch the mail, keeping close to the shoveled path lest I too be lost in the mounds ‘til May.  But the path is icy (for that’s what winter is about – snow and ice, ice and snow) and my feet, which have been more accustomed to soft earth, grassy carpeting, fly out from neath me. I fall to the cruel ice.  And here I am in a place from which I never thought I’d be needing to shout:  “Help me.  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  But I’m not going to shout, for it seems my mouth is frozen to the icy path.  O glorious ice!  Ice that holds me close to its vast but damn cold bosom.  I wait, hoping that someone will come along – a girl scout  peddling cookies, a hot dog vendor, or the UPS man delivering a package of lip warmers.  Or have they too been swallowed by the shifting, whispering mounds of snow?  I tell myself it could be worse; I could be in Chicago.  It doesn’t help.  Now my life flashes before me, especially the part where I’m on a beach in the Caribbean.   But what’s this?  My face is stuck in the sand.  Children frolic nearby, pointing and laughing.  “Hey, mon, why’s your face in the sand?”  Tanned beauties stroll by at a safe distance whispering about senility and too many pina coladas.    A sand crab sidles up and pinches my nose, and I’m suddenly back in frozen Vermont.  But help seems to be at hand.

Two Jehovah’s Witnesses approach.   They look down at me and ask,  “Are you ready to be saved?”  “Doesn’t it look like I’m ready to be saved?” I shout, but no words come out.   They chip me free from the ice with their Watchtowers.  I thank them, accept an armload of their publications, and they ask me if I’m ready for the end of the world.  You betcha.

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JANUARY 3, 1929: CIAO, PILGRIM

Born in Rome on January 3, 1929, Sergio Leone is an Italian film director, producer, and writer whose name has become synonymous with thatfistful-of-dollars-1 peculiar sub-genre of movies known as Spaghetti Westerns. His trio of films released during the sixties, known as the Dollars Trilogy, were not the first of the type but certainly defined it: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are the top of the heap of the more than 600 Spaghetti Westerns and are consistently listed among the best rated Westerns in general.
The term Spaghetti Western was coined by critics, particularly in the U.S., unable to accept the fact that the Old West had been co-opted by a bunch of pesky Italians, even though Americans had grown bored with its depiction. Although directed by Italians, the films were actually rather international; the actors and technical staff came from throughout Europe and the U.S. Although originally released in Italian, everything was dubbed since the actors spoke in a variety of languages and the whole enterprise had the sound of a food fight at the United Nations. A Hollywood has-been usually headed the cast, or in the case of the Dollars Trilogy, a yet to be recognized upstart such as Clint Eastwood.
Some argue that the first Spaghetti Western appeared way back in 1910 — Giacomo Puccini’s 1910 opera La fanciulla del West; the first Italian Western movie was La Vampira Indiana in 1913, a Western vampire flick, directed by Sergio Leone’s father. Throughout the following years, several movies fit the category, but it was Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars that established the Spaghetti Western standard for cinematic style, acting and evocative music. In it, an unlikely hero (bounty hunter is the favored occupation) enters a town ruled by two outlaw gangs, where ordinary social norms are non-existent. He cleverly plays the gangs against one another to fleece them of that titular fistful of dollars. His treachery is eventually exposed and he is beaten severely about the head, but he wins out in the end through his cunning and wit.
During the following years, the genre evolved (as genres will), and the Spaghetti Western legacy was transformed almost beyond recognition, giving way to overwrought action and low-brow comedy, a genre that might more appropriately be called Spaghetti-o Western.

 

Oleo Oleo Oxen Free

In 1871 Henry Bradley received a patent for an amorphous concoction of cottonseed oil and animal fats that had the appearance, texture and perhaps the taste of silly putty. He called his creation oleomargarine (margarine to its close friends) to be used as a substitute for butter.
While Real Butter from Real Cows had a pleasant yellow color, Bradley’s faux butter was a stark, pasty white, more of a lard look alike that turned a lot of people off. No one spreading this white stuff on their toast would ever dream of exclaiming “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”
The answer, of course, was to color the stuff to make it look like Real Butter. But not so fast. It seems that discontented cows saw yellow margarine as a threat to the butter industry. (And this was long before a single crown appeared on a margarine muncher’s head.) They rose up and secured legislation prohibiting the sale of yellow margarine.
Margarine manufacturers used various tactics to bring color to their products. One of the oddest was a method devised by the W.E. Dennison Co. that used a capsule of yellow dye inside a plastic baggie of margarine The consumer would knead the package, breaking the capsule, allowing the dye to eventually spread throughout the margarine. Some consumers were still kneading their first lump of margarine when, in 1955, the ban on yellow margarine was lifted. Today margarine remains a glorious shade of yellow, and the naked eye cannot tell it from Real Butter. It does still taste like silly putty, however.

Stone Cold Dead in de Market, Part 1: Upton Swann’s Demise

stoneUpton Swann sat all alone on the ornate cast iron love seat that had been painted white sometime in the distant past, shaded by a spreading Poinciana, surrounded by chattering merchants with piles of bananas to the right, piles of coconuts to the left — fruits, vegetables, fish and tourists everywhere.  Activity swirled around him, but he didn’t seem to care.  It was noon.  He’d been sitting there since 7 a.m.

On a second floor terrace of the Hotel Vieux Habitant that overlooked the market square, five people sat in a row, leaning over the railing, staring down past the frenzied activity at Upton Swann.  They, too, had been sitting there since seven.

Upton Swann and his audience of five had all been together on the terrace the previous evening, enjoying the serenity of the market square, abandoned in the early evening hours by merchants and tourists alike.  And they enjoyed the soft warmth tempered by the steady breeze off the ocean – at least five of them did; Upton Swann did not.  He found the climate foul ­- too hot — and that was just the tip of his iceberg of complaints about this island in particular and the Caribbean in general.  Unlike the others he could not wait to get back to the sensible climate of New York in March, a desire he did not endeavor to keep to himself.  “What if I get sick here?” he lamented.  “My god, they’ve probably got chickens wandering through the hospital.”

By 8 p.m., he had enjoyed just about as much of the tropical night as he intended to enjoy.  With a harrumph, he marched inside, revved the air conditioner up to its maximum, and sat down on the couch with a tumbler of Scotch.  Within minutes, he would complain no more.

The beginning of Upton Swann’s journey to the great beyond went unnoticed.  In fact, he was about two hours along before the Dexters — Howard and Wilma — came in and thought it odd that the tumbler lay in his lap in the center of a large Scotch stain.  (Later, they would recall that his last words were:  “This is a wretched place; I need Scotch.” Not eloquent enough for his tombstone, but certainly better than Myrna Pomeroy’s first husband’s last words:  “Five minutes on the toilet and I’ll be just fine.”)

The Dexters sounded a general alarm, and Myrna, her current husband Phil Pomeroy, and Upton’s widow Adele all came running in — although Adele didn’t yet realize that she was a widow, not until Howard Dexter said:  “He’s deader than a doornail.”

Adele sobbed, and the others looked on with bewildered expressions.  Howard wasn’t a coroner or a doctor or anything, but he knew a lot of things, and the others accepted his diagnosis.

“Do you suppose he had a heart attack?” asked Myrna Pomeroy.

Howard Dexter picked up the bottle of scotch and ceremoniously sniffed at it.  He might have been selecting a wine for their dinner.  Then he poured a few drops into his palm, wetted a finger and touched it to his tongue.  The others watched in silence.

“Poison,” Howard proclaimed.  “Not a doubt of it.  This Scotch has really been laced with it.”   Howard wasn’t a pharmacologist or detective either, but he knew a lot of things.

Adele sobbed again, and Myrna Pomeroy said:  “How could it be?  We were all here.  How could someone have… no, you’re not suggesting…?”

continued

 

victor borgeI only know two pieces; one is ‘Claire de Lune’ and the other one isn’t.  –Danish comedian, pianist and conductor Victor Borge, born on January 3, 1909 (died in 2000):

 

 

 

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NOVEMBER 1, 1944: MAN’S BEST FRIEND IS HIS RABBIT

 MAN’S BEST FRIEND IS HIS RABBIT

Elwood P. Dowd first walked onto a Broadway stage at the 48th Street Theatre on November 1, 1944.

Elwood is a good-natured soul who has a friend no one can see – a six-foot, three-harveyand-one-half-inch tall rabbit named Harvey, the titular character in the play by Mary Chase. A film version in 1950 featured James Stewart as Elwood.

Elwood, being outgoing and a perfect gentleman, naturally introduces Harvey to everyone he meets. His sister, Veta, increasingly finds his eccentric behavior embarrassing to her and her daughter Myrtle Mae’s would-be social status. Six foot rabbits are not particularly welcome among the country club set (and since he’s invisible, no telling what color he is). Veta decides to send Elwood packing to a sanitarium to solve the giant rabbit problem, setting in motion a comedy of errors instead.

Actually, according to Elwood, Harvey is a pooka, a deft shapeshifter, able to assume a variety of forms – dog, horse, goat, goblin, and of course rabbit. These forms may be pleasing or terrifying. A good pooka is a benevolent creature with the power of human speech, able to give sound advice and steer you away from evil. The bad pooka, on the other hand, is a blood-thirsty, Donald Trump-like creature who’d just as soon eat you as look at you.  Harvey is presumably the former.

Doctors plan to give Elwood a serum that will stop him from “seeing the rabbit.” As they prepare for the injection, Veta is told by their cab driver about all the other people he has driven to the sanatorium to receive the same medicine, warning her that Elwood will become “just a normal human being.  And you know what bastards they are (stinkers, in the movie).” Veta has a change of heart and halts the procedure after which Veta and Myrtle Mae, Elwood and Harvey all ride off on the bunny trail into the sunset.

A Gallery of Other Notable Rabbits

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OCTOBER 15, 1954: I HAVE PEOPLE TO FETCH MY STICKS

I HAVE PEOPLE TO FETCH MY STICKS

Long before he debuted in his own television show on October 15, 1954, Rin Tin Tin had become an international celebrity. It was as good a rags-to-riches story as Hollywood could churn out. He was rescued rin-tin-tin_from a World War I battlefield by an American soldier who trained him to be an actor upon returning home. He starred in several silent films, becoming an overnight sensation and going on to appear in another two dozen films before his death in 1932.

Rinty (as he was known to his friends) was responsible for a great surge in German Shepherds as pets. The popularity of his films helped make Warner Brothers a major studio and pushed a guy named Darryl F. Zanuck to success as a producer.

During the following years Rin Tin Tin Jr. and Rin Tin Tin III kept the Rin Tin Tin legacy alive in film and on the radio. Rin Tin Tin IV was slated to take the franchise to television in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, but he flunked his screen test and was shamefully replaced by an upstart poseur named Flame.

The TV series featured an orphan named Rusty who was being raised by soldiers at a cavalry post known as Fort Apache.  Rin Tin Tin was the kid’s dog. It was a low budget affair, filmed on sets used for other productions with actors frequently called upon to play several soldiers, Apaches, and desperadoes in a single episode. Although it was children’s programming, you might not guess that by the lofty literary titles of many episodes: Rin Tin Tin Meets Shakespeare, Rin Tin Tin and the Barber of Seville, Rin Tin Tin and the Ancient Mariner, Rin Tin Tin and the Connecticut Yankee.

Meanwhile, IV stayed at home on his ranch, fooling visitors into believing he was actually a TV star (and perhaps contemplating a run for President).

Rated P. G.

“Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day’s work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city’s reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle wodehouseempty.” One line from someone who had a great knack for them, which he displayed in over 300 stories, 90 books, 30 plays and musicals, and 20 film scripts. Comic novelist P.G. Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves the butler, was born on this day in 1881 in Surrey, England.

 

He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom.

Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, “So, you’re back from Moscow, eh?”

I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.

She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when.’

The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.

Every author really wants to have letters printed in the papers. Unable to make the grade, he drops down a rung of the ladder and writes novels.

It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.

And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.

At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.

Cheap Halloween Thrills: And Then There Were 31

Like yesterday’s Night of the Hunter, these three films feature children in danger and perhaps the source of danger. Poltergeist (1982) explores the dangers of watching too much TV, especially when the TV set is possessed. “I see dead people.” Nine-year-old Cole sees and talks to ghosts in the 1999 supernatural horror film The Sixth Sense. In the 1961 psychological study The Innocents, Deborah Kerr is a governess whose two charges are outwardly little angels but whose sweet smiles may hide something quite sinister.

1 The Shining

2 The Exorcist

3 Beetlejuice

4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers

5 Ghost Story

6 Ghostbusters

7 Freaks

8 Ichabod and Mr. Toad

9 Hound of the Baskervilles

10 I Walked with a Zombie

11 Diabolique

12 Alien

13 Rosemarys Baby

14The Birds

15 Psycho

16 Phantom of the Opera

17 Nosferatu

18 Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

19 Get Out

20 Frankenstein

21 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

22 Young Frankenstein

23 Edward Scissorhands

24 The Invisible Man

25 Dracula

26 The Wolf Man

27 Cape Fear

28 Night of the Hunter

29 Poltergeist

30 The Sixth Sense

31 The Innocents

 

Posted in Wretched Richard's Almanac

OCTOBER 14, 1790: IT IT’S THURSDAY, THIS MUST BE PITCAIRN

 IT IT’S THURSDAY, THIS MUST BE PITCAIRN

When British ships arrived at Pitcairn Island in 1814, two men paddled out in canoes to meet them. Both spoke English well, impressing the officers and men of the ships with their refinement as they met on deck. Their civilized demeanor persuaded the ships’ captains that  the mutineers from the Bounty, had created a proper society (after alcoholism, murder and disease had killed most of them off), and did not merit prosecution for the takeover.

One of the two men was Thursday October Christian, son of Fletcher Christian and his Tahitian wife Mauatua. Fletcher, you will remember, was the ringleader of the mutiny that took place on the Bounty‘s voyage to Tahiti for breadfruit. Captain Philip Pipon, commander of one of the British ships, described Fletcher’s son Thursday as being “about twenty five years of age, a tall fine young man about six feet high, with dark black hair, and a countenance extremely open and interesting. He wore no clothes except a piece of cloth round his loins, a straw hat ornamented with black cock’s feathers, and occasionally a peacock’s, nearly similar to that worn by the Spaniards in South America, though smaller.”

Thursday October Christian, born on October 14, 1790, was the first child born on the Pitcairn Islands after the mutineers took refuge there. Born on a Thursday in October, he was given his name because his father wanted him to have “no name that will remind me of England,” forgetting perhaps that there are both Thursdays and Octobers in England. Captain Pipon referred to young Thursday as Friday October Christian,” because the Bounty had crossed the international date line going eastward, but the mutineers had somehow failed to adjust their calendars for this. The mutineers were living on a tropical island where everyone was running around naked. Is it any surprise that they didn’t know what day it was – or care?

As soon as Captain Pipon left, Thursday went back to his original name, not wanting to be confused with that other character from a story set on a tropical island.

 

Cheap Halloween Thrills

Robert Mitchum usually starred as a rugged, but romantic leading guy type who brought a seen-it-all disinterest to many film noir classics. In two films, however, he played men of pure evil. In Night of the Hunter (1955), he played a monstrous preacher in pursuit of two children. In Cape Fear (1962), he was the menacing rapist Max Cady (in a later remake, he played a police detective pursuing Robert De Niro’s Cady).

1 The Shining

2 The Exorcist

3 Beetlejuice

4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers

5 Ghost Story

6 Ghostbusters

7 Freaks

8 Ichabod and Mr. Toad

9 Hound of the Baskervilles

10 I Walked with a Zombie

11 Diabolique

12 Alien

13 Rosemarys Baby

14The Birds

15 Psycho

16 Phantom of the Opera

17 Nosferatu

18 Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

19 Get Out

20 Frankenstein

21 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

22Young Frankenstein

23 Edward Scissorhands

24 The Invisible Man

25 Dracula

26 The Wolf Man

27 Cape Fear

28 Night of the Hunter

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OCTOBER 13, 1917: GOD TO EARTH: SHAPE UP

GOD TO EARTH: SHAPE UP

It was an “aeroplane of light, an immense globe flying westward at moderate speed,” according to one of the many witnesses who were assembled that cloudy October 13. Many were certain they had seen amiracle-of-the-sun_cosmo-code figure within the globe — not some strange looking extraterrestrial creature, but rather a human form, a woman. Had this been the 1950s, this occurrence may have been commonplace; people were seeing flying saucers, flying doughnuts and other strange alien craft everywhere. But this was 1917, and UFOs were the stuff of speculative science fiction. Therefore, witnesses did not attribute this to an invasion from Mars or some far-off galaxy; they said it was a miracle.

The number of witnesses was rather phenomenal for a UFO sighting — some 30,000 or more descended on the little Portuguese village of Fatima. Nor had an alien invasion ever been scheduled in advance. It was three children who announced the visit of the lady. The kids had seen apparitions off and on for several months leading up to this day, apparitions bringing the message that folks upstairs were annoyed at all the war mongering that was going on and that if things didn’t change for the better, annihilation was next on the agenda. (This was not unlike the message Klaatu — as in “Klaatu barada niktu” — delivered to earthlings several decades later. It’s a message that never seems to not get through to us, however.)

Although the accounts of the appearance were wildly contradictory, leading some naysayers to suggest people saw what they wanted to see, the consensus was that it was raining when the clouds suddenly parted and the sun appeared. It was duller than usual and resembled a spinning globe as it careened toward the earth. Its lady passenger appeared to some but not all in the assembly and shot an admonishing glance before her chariot zigzagged away.

Many remained skeptical, having not seen anything themselves and suggesting that some of the others may have stared at the sun a bit too long. Nevertheless, some 13 years later the Roman Catholic Church declared that maybe it was a miracle after all. It’s official designation is now the Miracle of the Sun.

 

Cheap Halloween Thrills

Universal Pictures, knowing a good thing when they had it, cranked out horror pictures at a breakneck speed during the 30s and 40s. Along with the Frankenstein franchise and many others there were these three gems:Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi beginning his reign as the Count; The Invisible Man (1933) with Claude Rains as the man who wasn’t there, sort of;  and The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney Jr. as the hairy tortured soul.

1 The Shining

2 The Exorcist

3 Beetlejuice

4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers

5 Ghost Story

6 Ghostbusters

7 Freaks

8 Ichabod and Mr. Toad

9 Hound of the Baskervilles

10 I Walked with a Zombie

11 Diabolique

12 Alien

13 Rosemarys Baby

14The Birds

15 Psycho

16 Phantom of the Opera

17 Nosferatu

18 Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

19 Get Out

20 Frankenstein

21 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

22Young Frankenstein

23 Edward Scissorhands

24 Dracula

25 The Invisible Man

26 The Wolf Man