Monday, October 25, 2021

Francine Everett

My Goodreads friend Damon Evans knows I love old movies and asked if I'd ever heard of the African American actress Francine Everett. I had not. So thank you, Damon, for bringing her to my attention. She was a knockout and refused to be cast in racially demeaning roles as domestics in Hollywood films of the 1930s and and '40s. Instead, she was a star of Race Films, films made by black studios that catered to black audiences. Here's more from Wikipedia:

She was born Franciene Williamson in Louisburg, North Carolina in 1915, and her father Noah was a tailor. She married Booker Everett in 1933 when she was 18. This marriage was dissolved, and she later married actor Rex Ingram. They divorced three years later in 1939. She studied and acted with the Federal Theater in Harlem, which was sponsored by the Works Progress Administration.

Among Everett's starring roles were the films Paradise in Harlem (1939), Keep Punching (1939) co-starring Canada Lee and Dooley Wilson, Big Timers (1945) co-starring Moms Mabley and Stepin Fetchit, Tall, Tan and Terrific (1946) with Mantan Moreland and Dots Johnson, and Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946), directed by Spencer Williams.

Everett appeared as a singer in more than 50 short musical films that were produced in the 1940s, notably Ebony Parade (1947), which co-starred Dorothy Dandridge, Cab Calloway and the Count Basie band. She also worked as a model in print advertisements for clothing and cosmetics.
Everett's association with Hollywood was brief and desultory. She first arrived in Hollywood in the mid-1930s with husband Rex Ingram, but refused to accept racially demeaning stereotypical roles. After starring in Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A., she had bit parts in two Hollywood films: Lost Boundaries (1949) and Sidney Poitier's first film, No Way Out (1950).

At the height of her career, Everett was dubbed "the most beautiful woman in Harlem" by columnist Billy Rowe in The Amsterdam News, a black-owned newspaper in New York City. Looking back at her career, filmmaker William Greaves commented: "She would have been a superstar in Hollywood were it not for the apartheid climate in America and the movie industry at the time."

To find out more about Francine Everett, click here. To see her perform, check out Dirty Gertie From Harlem USA and "If This Isn't Love."

Had you ever heard of Francine Everett? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Prosthetic Masks

Not long ago, I stumbled upon a topic that broke my heart.  Halloween is coming up and lots of kids will be wearing masks as a part of their costumes. I remember those days and loved disguising myself behind a mask.

But what if you actually needed a mask to be seen in public, or just by your family and friends?  That’s the dilemma several soldiers from WW I faced as they returned from the trenches.

WW I took the lives of more than 9 million soldiers, but many returned home blinded or with missing limbs.  Then there were those who suffered the only injury in the UK that provided a full pension, facial disfigurement.

Medicine had advanced by the time of the outbreak of WW I.  Lives could be saved, but saving faces destroyed by trench warfare was a difficult undertaking.

According to Olga Khazan in The Atlantic, "The iconic trenches of World War I were themselves an "unforeseen enemy.” The unceasing machine-gun fire led to a fate that was, at the time, almost as bad as death. Western front soldiers who popped their heads above their trenches would come back down with a nose, jaw, or even an entire face missing." 

The most advanced cosmetic surgery during this time was fixing a cleft lip. So doctors were faced with severe challenges.

There were some crude successes of facial reconstruction, but the task of repairing a broken face beyond repair was left the creation of a mask to cover the injuries.

There was a woman sculptor named Anna Coleman Ladd that made some of the best masks. She, along with artist Francis Derwent Wood, helped hundreds of disfigured veterans re-adjust to society.
Ladd would take plaster casts of a soldier's face and try to re-create an identical cheekbone or eye-socket on the opposite side. Then, using copper, she’d create a full or partial mask.  Then it would be painted to match the skin. The entire mask weighed only about half a pound, and was either hung from a set spectacles or tied with strings to the veteran’s head.

In France alone, 3000 soldiers would have required these masks, but Ladd only made 185.
The masks were not long lasting and would fall apart after only a few years.  But it’s assumed that the men who wore them, wore them to the grave, and none of those masks are in existence today.

There are some excellent articles on the prosthetic masks of WW I (such as this one from Smithsonian), but the photographs included on the subject are not for the faint of heart.  So if you should do some looking, just be prepared.

Is this something you'd ever heard of? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 11, 2021

Love is Color Blind But Our Families Weren't

I enjoy interracial love stories, so I thought I'd post this touching one from The UK Daily Mail :

Mary, 81, is married to Jake, 86, and lives in Solihull in the West Midlands. They have no children. Mary is a former deputy head teacher, and Jake worked for the post office before retiring. Mary is white and Jake is black, originally from Trinidad.

MARY SAYS: When I told my father I was going to marry Jake he said, ‘If you marry that man you will never set foot in this house again.’

He was horrified that I could contemplate marrying a black man, and I soon learned that most people felt the same way. The first years of our marriage living in Birmingham were hell — I cried every day, and barely ate. No one would speak to us, we couldn’t find anywhere to live because no one would rent to a black man, and we had no money.


Love against the odds: Mary's father threw her out when she decided to marry Jake in 1948, left. Decades on, they couldn't be happier together

People would point at us in the street. Then I gave birth to a stillborn son at eight months. It wasn’t related to the stress I was under but it broke my heart, and we never had any more children.

Now it’s very hard to comprehend the prejudice we encountered, but you have to remember that there were hardly any black people in Britain in the Forties. I met Jake when he came over during the war from Trinidad, as part of the American forces stationed at the Burtonwood base near my home in Lancashire. We were at the same technical college. I was having typing and shorthand lessons and he’d been sent there for training by the Air Force. He was with a group of black friends and they called my friend and me over to talk. We didn’t even know they spoke English, but Jake and I got chatting. He quoted Shakespeare to me, which I loved.

A few weeks later we went for a picnic, but were spotted by a lady cycling past — two English girls with a group of black men was very shocking — and she reported me to my father, who banned me from seeing him again.

Jake returned to Trinidad, but we carried on writing to each other, and a few years later he returned to the UK to get better paid work.

He asked me to marry him, quite out of the blue, when I was only 19. My father threw me out, and I left with only one small suitcase to my name. No family came to our register office wedding in 1948.

But gradually life became easier. I got teaching jobs, ending up as a deputy head teacher. First Jake worked in a factory, then for the Post Office.

Slowly we made friends together, but it was so hard. I used to say to new friends: ‘Look, I have to tell you this before I invite you to my home — my husband is black.’

My father died when I was 30 and although we were reconciled by then, he never did approve of Jake.

Today we have been married for 63 years, and are still very much in love. I do not regret marrying him for an instant, despite all the pain we have suffered.

JAKE SAYS: I feel so fortunate to have met and married Mary, but it saddens me that we could not be accepted by society. Nowadays I say to young black people: ‘You have no idea what it used to be like.’

When I arrived in the UK I was subjected to abuse every day. Once I was on a bus and a man rubbed his hands on my neck and said: ‘I wanted to see if the dirt would come off.’

And back then you couldn’t work in an office — because a black man in an office with all the white girls wasn’t thought to be safe.

Any thoughts? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 10/2/17

Monday, October 4, 2021

20 Writing Tips From Fiction Authors

 



For all the writers out there--published, aspiring and everything in between--here's a great article from iUniverse that I thought would be worth sharing!

Writing success boils down to hard work, imagination and passion—and then some more hard work. iUniverse Publishing fires up your creative spirit with 20 writing tips from 12 bestselling fiction authors.

Use these tips as an inspirational guide—or better yet, print a copy to put on your desk, home office, refrigerator door, or somewhere else noticeable so you can be constantly reminded not to let your story ideas wither away by putting off your writing.

Tip1: "My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt." — Michael Moorcock

Tip 2: "Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you." — Zadie Smith

Tip 3: "Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution." — Michael Moorcock

Tip 4: "In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it." — Rose Tremain

Tip 5: "Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever." — Will Self

Tip 6: "It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction." — Jonathan Franzen
"Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet." — Zadie Smith

Tip 7: "Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 8: "Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear)." — Diana Athill

Tip 9: "Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." – Anton Chekhov

Tip 10: "Listen to the criticisms and preferences of your trusted 'first readers.'" — Rose Tremain

Tip 11: "Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 12: "Don't panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends' embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there's prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too." — Sarah Waters

Tip 13: "The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can't deal with this you needn't apply." — Will Self

Tip 14: "Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!" — Joyce Carol Oates

Tip 15: "The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 16: "Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful." —Elmore Leonard

Tip 17: "Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong." — Neil Gaiman

Tip 18: "You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished." — Will Self

Tip 19: "The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter." — Neil Gaiman

Tip 20: "The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’" — Helen Simpson

Even famous authors sometimes have a tough time with writing; they also go through periods of self-doubt. Despite this, they always manage to come up with the goods. So take a lesson from them and stop putting off your writing plans and get started on your publishing journey today.

There has never been a better time than now to realize your dream of becoming a published author. Let your voice be heard and let your story be told. Never let your passion for writing wane. 

I think all of these tips are wonderful, but 4, 5 and 9 are my favorites. Which of these do you like best? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Real Ty Cobb

Baseball season is winding down. I'm not a big fan of the game, but I do enjoy learning about its history and the life stories of some of the greats.

So what comes to your mind when you hear the name Ty Cobb? I'm hardly an expert on baseball history or trivia, but when I hear that name, I think rotten guy/racist. Remember the reference made to him in Field of Dreams? Cobb wasn't invited to the ghostly cornfield reunion of old time ballplayers because, according to the Shoeless Joe Jackson character, "No one liked liked that son of a bitch."

Before I go on, if you've never heard of Ty Cobb, here's a snippet of who he was from Wikipedia:

Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb (December 18, 1886 – July 17, 1961), nicknamed "The Georgia Peach", was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) outfielder. He was born in rural Narrows, Georgia. Cobb spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, the last six as the team's player-manager, and finished his career with the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1936 Cobb received the most votes of any player on the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, receiving 222 out of a possible 226 votes (98.2%); no other player received a higher percentage of votes until 1992. In 1999,editors at The Sporting News ranked Ty Cobb 3rd on their list of "Baseball's 100 Greatest Players"

Rumors have abounded about Cobb being a murderer, racist and all around bad guy, but author Charles Leershen has finally set the record straight with his book, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. 


Cobb's memory was bastardized soon after his death by a sports writer named Al Stump, who wrote several sensationalized articles and books about Cobb. When Leershen dug beyond the writings of Stump, he discovered the truth about this extraordinary ballplayer.

I'll only address the issue of racism in today's post, and this quote is from a speech Leershen presented during a program at Hillsdale College on "Sports and Character":

How could someone born in Georgia in 1886 not be a racist? What I found...is that Cobb was descended from a long line of abolitionists. His great-grandfather was a minister who preached against slavery and was run out of town for it. His grandfather refused to fight in the Confederate army because of the slavery issue. And his father was an educator and state senator who spoke up for his black constituents and is known to have once broken up a lynch mob.


Cobb himself was never asked about segregation until 1952, when the Texas league was integrating, and Sporting News asked him what he thought. "The Negro should be accepted wholeheartedly and not grudgingly," he said. "The Negro has the right to play professional baseball and whose [sic] to say he has not?" By that time he had attended many Negro league games, sometimes throwing out the first ball and often sitting in the dugout with the players. He is quoted as saying that Willie Mays was the only modern-day player he'd pay to see and that Roy Campanella was the ballplayer that reminded him most of himself. 

I was quite surprised to read that! For more on the real Ty Cobb, check out Charles Leershen's Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. 

Is this news to you about Ty Cobb? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!