new york times

Flick Friday: Captain Eddie 1945

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Captain Eddie IMDB Image One
Image Credit: IMDB & Amazon

Seventy-five years ago, today, the drama film Captain Eddie was released. Directed by Lloyd Bacon and produced by Winfield Sheehan, it starred Fred MacMurray, Lynn Bari, Charles Bickford, Thomas Mitchell and Lloyd Nolan. Based on Seven Came Through (by Eddie Rickenbacker) and We Thought We Heard The Angels Sing (by James Whittaker), John Tucker Battle wrote/adapted the screenplay. A biopic of Rickenbacker, it reflects his experiences as a flying ace during World War I to his later involvement as a pioneering figure in civil aviation.

Plot/Summary:

In World War II, while serving as a United States Army Air Forces officer, famed World War I pilot Eddie Rickenbacker (Fred MacMurray) is assigned to tour South Pacific bases. On October 21, 1942, his Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress has to ditch at sea, forcing Rickenbacker, pilot Lt. James Whittaker (Lloyd Nolan), co-pilot Capt. Bill Cherry (Richard Crane) and other crew members to survive for 19 days on a tiny rubber raft. While awaiting their rescue, Rickenbacker recalls his other adventures that have highlighted a remarkable life.

Full Synopsis (TCM)

Captain Eddie IMDB Image Two
Image Credit: IMDB & Amazon

Review:

It seems as though someone is kidding…kidding in more ways than one. For Captain Eddie, which came yesterday to the Roxy, is not the story it promises to be of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, ace of World War I and commercial airline executive who holds some rather rigid social views. Nor is it precisely the saga of the middle-aged flier who was lost at sea two years ago in the South Pacific and spent three harrowing weeks on a raft. It is just another sentimental comedy about a kid who jumped off the barn in his youthful passion for flying and courted his girl in a merry Oldsmobile. [This] is not the story of Rickenbacker…not the significant story, anyhow.

Bosley Crowther
The New York Times
August 9, 1945

Trivia Bits:
♦ Crash survivor Lt. James Whittaker was […] temporarily assigned to the production to serve as a technical advisor.
♦ The film’s premiere was held in Rickenbacker’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio. In attendance were politicians and celebrities, including Carole Landis, as well as family members.

Nomination:
Best Special Effects (Academy Awards 1946)

I can’t find a trailer to the movie on YouTube but, the entire movie appears to be uploaded in pieces. I did find this. ~Vic

Military Monday: The Burning of Gosport Navy Yard 1861

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Gosport Navy Yard Image One
Destruction of the Gosport Navy Yard by Union forces.
Image Credit: M. W. Robbins Collection &
The Virginian-Pilot
pilotonline.com

I haven’t done a Military Monday since 2018. One-hundred, fifty-nine years ago, today…~Vic

In 1861, Virginia joined the Confederate States of America. Fearing that the Confederacy would take control of the [Navy yard] facility, the shipyard commander Charles Stewart McCauley ordered the burning of the shipyard.

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[The USS Pawnee was] dispatched to Norfolk to secure the ships and stores of the Gosport Navy Yard. Arriving at Norfolk the night of [April 20], she found that all ships, save [the] USS Cumberland, had been scuttled […]. [So], an attempt was made to destroy the Naval stores and the dry dock. Their efforts were largely unsuccessful but, she took Cumberland in tow and saved the frigate.

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On Saturday evening, at 9 o’clock, the Pawnee arrived from Washington with 200 volunteers, and 100 marines, besides her own crew […]. [At] once, the officers and crew of the Pawnee and Cumberland went to the Navy yard and, spiked and disabled the guns, [plus], threw the shot and small arms into the river. At 10 o’clock, the marines, who had been quartered in the barracks, fired them and came on board the Pawnee. A party of officers, [in the] meantime, were going through the different buildings and ships, distributing waste and turpentine, and laying a train, so as to blow up the dry dock. At this time, the scene was indescribably magnificent, all the buildings being in a blaze, and explosions, here and there, scattering the cinders in all directions.

The Government vessels had been scuttled in the afternoon before the Pawnee arrived, to prevent their being seized by the Secessionists, who had been in arms in both Norfolk and Portsmouth.

The Merrimack/Virgina Image Two
The Merrimack Conversion
Image Credit: M. W. Robbins Collection &
The Virginian-Pilot
pilotonline.com

The Confederate forces did, in fact, take over the shipyard and did so without armed conflict through an elaborate ruse orchestrated by civilian railroad builder William Mahone (then President of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad and soon to become a famous Confederate officer). He bluffed the Federal troops into abandoning the shipyard in Portsmouth by running a single passenger train into Norfolk with great noise and whistle-blowing […]. [T]hen, much more quietly, [he sent] it back west […]. [He returned] the same train, again, creating the illusion of large numbers of arriving troops [with] the Federals listening in Portsmouth across the Elizabeth River (and just barely out of sight).

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[In] July, Confederate shipyard workers begin converting the unburned underbelly of the USS Merrimack into the ironclad CSS Virginia in Drydock 1.

Sources:
Burning of Gosport Navy Yard (The New York Times)
The History of Norfolk Naval Shipyard (The Virginian-Pilot Online)
This Day in Naval History (US Navy Website)
How Fear, Deception and Indecision Nearly Destroyed Norfolk Naval Shipyard (USN History)
Norfolk Naval Shipyard (Wikipedia)

Clip from Hearts in Bondage (1936)

Movie Monday: The Sporting Venus 1925

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The Sporting Venus Image One
Image Credit: Mike Cline’s Then Playing Blog

Ninety-five years ago, today, the silent, black & white romance film The Sporting Venus was released by MGM. Directed by Marshall Neilan, story by Gerald Beaumont and screenplay by Thomas J. Geraghty, it was filmed at Cortachy Castle in Angus, Scotland and, MGM Studios. It starred Blanche Sweet (Neilan’s wife), Ronald Coleman, Lew Cody, Josephine Crowell and Edward Martindel. This was the first of two movies paring Sweet with Coleman.

Synopsis:

Lady Gwen, the last of the sporting Grayles, falls in love with Donald MacAllan, a bright young medical student far below her station. Gwen’s father, who opposes the match, introduces her to Prince Carlos, who wishes to marry her in order to pay off his creditors.

The Sporting Venus Image One
Photo Credit: imdb.com & amazon.com

Donald enlists during the World War and Carlos continues his courtship. When Donald returns from the fighting, Carlos tells him that he is engaged to Gwen and Donald, therefore, makes no attempt to see her. Gwen mistakes Donald’s seeming indifference for contempt and seeks to forget him by living riotously in several European capitals. Having exhausted her fortune, and ruined her health, Gwen returns to Scotland and goes to live in the same cottage where Donald used to study. She becomes ill and, in delirium, calls for Donald. Her old nurse goes to fetch him at the Grayle estate, which, having become wealthy, he has just bought. Donald rescues Gwen, who has wandered out in a storm, and nurses her back to health.

The Screen Review:

A Hollywood conception of Scotsmen who wear the kilt but, whose complexions betray nary a sign of the ruddy ruggedness due to Highland rain and wind, is to be seen at the Capitol this week in a picture called “The Sporting Venus” […]. [There] is a question [of] whether the Wallaces, the Bruces, the Watts and the McTavishes will smile with any satisfaction upon it. Not that they are intentionally maligned in this story but, that the men from the land of the heather are portrayed with studio-blanched complexions and, in one or two instances, wearing brocaded silk dressing gowns.

Ronald Coleman Image Two
Photo Credit: Ronald Coleman Gallery

Marshall Neilan, the director of this celluloid effusion, in his desire to depict Lady Grayle (Blanche Sweet) as a plucky person at the eleventh hour of a fast life, shows her ladyship smoking a cigarette before she breathes her last. Ronald Colman is undoubtedly a bonnie actor but, you just know that he never was born to wear a kilt, [though], he does for a few scenes. He impersonates Donald McAllen, frequently alluded to as a commoner.

Donald and the capricious lassie, Lady Gwendolyn, are happy in Scotland until the coming of Prince Carlos […]. This Prince, played by Lew Cody, is a man of many debts and a faithful valet. His creditors see only one way to get back their money and that is to have the oily gentleman marry a wealthy wife. Donald goes to France to fight, and when he returns on leave, [believes] the Prince’s story […] that [he], more or less, is to wed Lady Gwendolyn.

Lady Gwendolyn […] becomes […] a flighty young woman who gambles in millions. The young hero goes back to France, and as a surgeon, makes a great name for himself. He purchases Grayloch, the great estate of the Grayles.

With the background of Scotland, Mr. Neilan ought to have been able to make a production far stronger than this effort, which, at best, is only a mediocre diversion. It is true that it has some beautiful scenery and the settings are quite pleasing.

Mordaunt Hall
The New York Times
May 11, 1925

This film survived but, I can’t find any clips of it. Silent Era states that a premiere took place on May 10, 1925, at the Capitol Theatre in New York City and was released May 17, 1925. AFI disagrees. ~Vic

Sources:
The Sporting Venus (American Film Institute)
The Sporting Venus (IMDB)
Gentleman of the Cinema (Ronald Coleman Website)
The Screen (The New York Times)
The Sporting Venus (Wikipedia)

Flashback Friday: Disco Demolition Death 1979

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Disco Demolition Image One
Photo Credit: dailyherald.com

Forty years ago, today, the Disco Demolition took place at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. What started out as a baseball promotion turned into a mêlée that damaged the field.

[..] disco didn’t quite die a natural death by collapsing under its own weight. Instead, it was killed by a public backlash that reached its peak on this day in 1979 […]. That incident, which led to at least nine injuries, 39 arrests and, the cancellation and forfeit of a Major League Baseball game, is widely credited […] or, blamed for […] dealing disco its death blow.

The event was the brainchild of Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, popular disk jockeys on Chicago’s WLUP “The Loop” FM. […] many […] rock DJs were displaced by disco [but], only Dahl was inspired to launch a semi-comic vendetta aimed at “the eradication and elimination of the dreaded musical disease.”

On May 2, the rainout of a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers led to the scheduling of a doubleheader on July 12. Dahl and Meier approached the White Sox with a rather unorthodox idea for an attendance-boosting promotion […]. […] allow Dahl to blow up a dumpster full of disco records between games of the doubleheader. White Sox executive Mike Veeck embraced the idea […].

[…] organizers […] grossly [underestimated] the appeal of the 98-cent discount tickets offered to anyone who brought a disco record to the park to add to the explosive-rigged dumpster. WLUP and the White Sox expected perhaps 5,000 more fans than the average draw of 15,000 or so […]. What they got, instead, was a raucous sellout crowd of 40,000+ and an even more raucous overflow crowd of as many as 40,000 more outside on Shields Avenue.

What followed was utter chaos, as fans by the thousands stormed the field, […] began to wreak havoc, shimmying up the foul poles, tearing up the grass and lighting vinyl bonfires on the diamond while the stadium scoreboard implored them to return to their seats. Conditions were judged too dangerous for the scheduled game to begin and the Detroit Tigers were awarded a win by forfeit.

[Source]

Disco Demolition Image Two
Photo Credit: wbbm780.radio.com

In the weeks before the event, Dahl invited his listeners to bring records they wanted to see destroyed to Comiskey Park. Owner Bill Veeck was concerned the promotion might become a disaster […]. His fears were substantiated when he saw the people walking towards the ballpark that afternoon. […] many carried signs that described disco in profane terms.

Some leapt turnstiles, climbed fences and entered through open windows. Attendees were supposed to deposit their records into a large box [but], once the box was overflowing, many people brought their discs to their seats. Many of the records were not collected by staff and were thrown like flying discs from the stands. Tigers designated hitter Rusty Staub remembered that the records would slice through the air and land sticking out of the ground. He urged teammates to wear batting helmets when playing their positions. “It wasn’t just one, it was many. Oh, God almighty, I’ve never seen anything so dangerous in my life.” Attendees also threw firecrackers, empty liquor bottles and lighters onto the field. The game was stopped several times because of the rain of foreign objects.

Dozens of hand-painted banners with such slogans as “Disco Sucks” were hung from the ballpark’s seating decks. Dahl set off the explosives, destroying the records and tearing a large hole in the outfield grass. […] the first of 5,000 to 7,000 attendees rushed onto the field […]. The batting cage was destroyed and, the bases were pulled up and stolen. Among those taking to the field was 21-year-old aspiring actor Michael Clarke Duncan […]. Duncan slid into third base, had a silver belt buckle stolen and went home with a bat from the dugout. Some attendees danced in circles around the burning vinyl shards.

Chicago police in full riot gear arrived (9:08pm) to the applause of the baseball fans remaining in the stands. Those on the field hastily dispersed upon seeing the police. Tigers manager Sparky Anderson refused to allow his players to take the field […] due to safety concerns. Anderson […] demanded that the game be forfeited to the Tigers. He argued that, under baseball’s rules, a game can only be postponed due to an Act of God, and that, as the home team, the White Sox were responsible for field conditions.

Disco Demolition Image Three
DJ Steve Dahl
Photo Credit: npr.org

Cultural Significance

NPR Article

Daily Herald Article

Chicago Sun-Times Article

New York Times Article

Movie Monday: Being Respectable 1924

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Being Respectable Image One
Lobby Card
Image Credits: wikipedia.org & Warner Brothers

Ninety-five years ago, today, the silent drama Being Respectable was released. Based on the novel of the same name written by Grace Flandrau, it was adapted by Dorothy Farnum. Directed by Phil Rosen, it starred Marie Prevost, Monte Blue, Louise Fazenda, Irene Rich, Theodore von Eltz, Frank Currier, Eulalie Jensen, Lila Leslie, Sidney Bracey and Charles French.

Being Respectable Image Two
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Synopses:

Wealthy young Charles Carpenter is pressured by his family to marry Suzanne, even though he is really in love with young “flapper” Valerie. He gives in to his family’s pressure, however and marries Suzanne, after which Valerie leaves town. Years later, after Charles and Suzanne have had a child, Valerie comes back to town and, Charles realizes he is still in love with her…and she with him. Complications ensue. [Source]

Through the scheming of his respectable, and wealthy family, Charles Carpenter is obliged to marry Suzanne, although he is in love with young flapper Valerie Winship. Years later, when Valerie is back in town, they renew the affair and, Carpenter plans to leave his wife and child for her. […] in the end, he yields to family duty and respectability. [Source]

New York Times Review [August 4, 1924]

I could not find any video clips of this movie. ~Vic

Throwback Thursday: Losing King 1968

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MLK Image One
Image Credit: searchmap.eu

Fifty-one years ago, today, a powerful voice & soul was extinguished. I wasn’t even two years old when he was killed. He was only 39. He wasn’t a perfect person (who is?) but, his message was.

From The History Channel:

Just after 6:00p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and, was on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. King was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital.

As word of the assassination spread, riots broke out in cities all across the United States and, National Guard troops were deployed in Memphis and Washington, D.C. On April 9, King was laid to rest in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets to pay tribute to King’s casket as it passed by in a wooden farm cart drawn by two mules.

MLK Image Two
Photo Credit: history.com

From Wikipedia:

The King family and others believe the assassination was the result of a conspiracy involving the U.S. government, Mafia and Memphis police, as alleged by Loyd Jowers in 1993. They believe that Ray was a scapegoat. In 1999, the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jowers for the sum of $10 million. During closing arguments, their attorney asked the jury to award damages of $100, to make the point that “it was not about the money.” During the trial, both sides presented evidence alleging a government conspiracy. The government agencies accused could not defend themselves or respond because they were not named as defendants. Based on the evidence, the jury concluded Jowers, and others, were “part of a conspiracy to kill King” and awarded the family $100. The allegations and the finding of the Memphis jury were later rejected by the United States Department of Justice in 2000 due to lack of evidence.

MLK Image Three
Photo Credit: nytimes.com

After the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, King told his wife, Coretta Scott King, “This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society.”

Senator Robert F. Kennedy was the first to tell his audience in Indianapolis that King had died. He stated:

“For those of you who are black, and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed but, he was killed by a white man.

His speech has been credited as preventing riots in Indianapolis when the rest of the country was not so lucky.

On March 10, 1969, James Earl Ray pleaded guilty (on his birthday) and was sentenced to 99 years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. He died in prison at the age of 70 on April 23, 1998, twenty-nine years and 19 days after King’s assassination.

Many documents regarding an FBI investigation remain classified and will stay secret until 2027.

I’ve seen the Promised Land.

Movie Monday: Shoulder Arms 1918

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Shoulder Arms Image
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Today, we are going waaaaaaay back…to 1918. On this date, Shoulder Arms, a Charlie Chaplin piece, was a very popular film. Was it a ‘number one’? Hard to tell. This film pre-dates the Academy Awards by 11 years. Starring Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Sydney Chaplin (Charlie’s elder, half-brother) and Tom Wilson, it is, primarily, a dream sequence set in France during World War I.

Plot from IMDB:

Charlie is in boot camp in the “awkward squad.” Once in France, he gets no letters from home. He finally gets a package containing limburger cheese, which requires a gas mask and which he throws over into the German trench. He goes “over the top” and captures thirteen Germans (“I surrounded them”) then, volunteers to wander through the German lines disguised as a tree trunk. With the help of a French girl, he captures the Kaiser and the Crown Prince and, is given a statue and victory parade in New York. Then…fellow soldiers wake him from his dream. [edited for grammar]

From an archived New York Times article:

“”The fool’s funny,” was the chuckling observation of one of those who saw Charlie Chaplin’s new film. “Shoulder Arms”, at the Strand, yesterday and, apparently, that’s the way everybody felt. There have been learned discussions as to whether Chaplin’s comedy is low or high, artistic or crude but, no one can deny that when he impersonates a screen fool, he is funny. Most of those who go to find fault with him remain to laugh. They may still find fault but, they will keep on laughing. In “Shoulder Arms”, Chaplin is as funny as ever.” [edited for grammar]

Trivia Bits:
♦ Many in Hollywood were nervous that one of their most famous peers was going to tackle the subject of WWI. It was released shortly before the Armistice so, it did not help boost national morale but, it did end up as one of Charles Chaplin’s most popular films and, it was particularly popular with returning doughboys.
♦ Released two weeks and one day before the end of World War I.