Monday, June 26, 2017

Ten Great Writing Tips from Jeff Goins

If I could just get over my perfectionist tendencies!
I'm always on the lookout for great writing tips. Here are some wonderful ones from bestselling author Jeff Goins
Jeff Goins

Have any advice you'd like to share? 

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Band of Angels

I happened to read about this movie while doing a little research and thought it sounded interesting. I love historical interracial love stories, and this one is based on a novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren. This is TMC's synopsis of Band of Angels, produced in 1957 and starring Clak Gable, Yvonne De Carlo and Sidney Poitier.

In antebellum Kentucky, the beautiful Amantha "Manty" Starr arrives home from finishing school in Cincinnati just after the death of her father, kindly plantation owner Aaron Starr. During the funeral, it is revealed that Manty's mother, who had died years before, was one of Starr's slaves and that Manty, now considered chattel of the estate, is to be sold by a slave trader to whom Starr had been deeply in debt.

At a slave auction in New Orleans, a wealthy gentleman named Hamish Bond pays a huge sum for Manty, intending to treat her as a lady in his household. Because she assumes she is to be a kept woman, however, she rebuffs his offer of friendship. Michele, the head housekeeper, who is herself in love with Hamish, secretly gives Manty a ticket to Cincinnati, but Rau-Ru, an educated slave who helps Hamish manage his business affairs, prevents Manty from boarding the boat. 

Later Hamish confesses that he is tormented by his past, and Manty, who now sees another side of Hamish, kisses him. The next morning,
Hamish takes Manty to his largest plantation and offers to free her. She hesitates but decides to remain with Hamish. Soon afterward, Hamish learns that war has been declared. While he visits another of his plantations, Manty accepts the attentions of his wealthy white neighbor, Charles de Marigny, which leads Rau-Ru to accuse her of betraying her people by attempting to live as a white woman. When de Marigny attacks Manty, however, Rau-Ru strikes him, and subsequently is forced to run away to the North. There he becomes a Union soldier under the command of Seth Parton, a self-righteous minister who had courted Manty when she was at finishing school. 

Hamish returns to the plantation and, in defiance of Union general Benjamin Butler's order, sets his own crops ablaze in order to keep them out of Yankee hands. As his fields burn, Hamish confesses to Manty that in his younger days, he had been a ruthless slave trader. With some reluctance, Manty leaves Hamish to begin a new life in New Orleans, and there she encounters Parton, who threatens to tell her new sweetheart, Ethan Sears, that she is black unless she makes love to him. Horrified, Manty returns to Hamish's New Orleans home, where she learns that he is on the run for burning his crops. 

Rau-Ru, who despises Hamish for having treated him with kindness, which he calls, "the worst kind of bondage," discovers where his old master is hiding and holds him at gunpoint. When Hamish tells Rau-Ru that he rescued him from a slave trader's bullet when he was an infant, however, Rau-Ru decides to let Hamish go. At that moment, Union troops arrive and Rau-Ru, while loudly proclaiming that he has captured Hamish, quietly slips his former owner the handcuff keys. Hamish escapes from the Union soldiers as Rau-Ru leads Manty to the cove where Hamish plans to rendezvous with an old seafaring friend. Bidding farewell to Rau-Ru, Hamish and Manty embrace and then board the boat that will take them to safety.

Ever seen it? I haven't, but I will soon!

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Taking a Summer Break


I'm a day late, but I hope everyone is having a wonderful week. I'm taking a summer break but will be back next Monday, June 19!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Slow Cooker Barbecued Meatloaf

Too busy to blog today, so here's a republished post with a great recipe!

There’s more than one version of barbecued meatloaf, and I believe this one is from a very old version of a Betty Crocker Slow Cooker Cookbook. A few years ago when we visited North Carolina, my mother-in-law served it for supper and shared the recipe with me.  Everybody loved it, even my picky kids! I have since made it at home, but the kids swear Grandma’s is better—go figure! Anyway, this is very easy to throw together, it tastes great, and it’ll remind you of one of your mother’s home cooked meals. Enjoy!

Barbecued Meatloaf

2 lb. ground chuck or lean ground beef
½ cup uncooked oats (quick or old fashioned)
½ cup dry bread crumbs
2 T nonfat dry milk
½ cup water
½ cup smoky barbecue sauce
2 eggs
1 t salt
¼ t pepper
1 small onion chopped
6 potatoes, cut up

In large bowl, mix all ingredients except potatoes. Shape meat mixture into a loaf. Place potatoes in bottom of Crock-Pot. Top potatoes with meatloaf. Cover and cook on LOW 8-10 hours. Makes six servings.

I never liked meatloaf as a kid, but now I love it! How about you, are you a meatloaf fan?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 4/28/14

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Best Years of Our Lives

It's Memorial Day and I'd like to send a huge thank you to all of the brave men and women who have served and are currently serving our country in the military.

Reflecting on this day last night, an old movie came to mind that I haven't seen in years. The Best Years of Our Lives is one of my favorite movies, perfect for Memorial Day or any day. I've posted the original November 22, 1946 New York Times movie review by Bosley Crowther below:

It is seldom that there comes a motion picture which can be wholly and enthusiastically endorsed not only as superlative entertainment but as food for quiet and humanizing thought. Yet such a one opened at the Astor last evening. It is "The Best Years of Our Lives." Having to do with a subject of large moment—the veteran home from war—and cut, as it were, from the heart-wood of contemporary American life, this film from the Samuel Goldwyn studio does a great deal more, even, than the above. It gives off a warm glow of affection for everyday, down-to-earth folks.

Virginia Mayo's character is such a tart!

These are some fancy recommendations to be tossing boldly forth about a film which runs close to three hours and covers a lot of humanity in that time. Films of such bulky proportions usually turn out the other way. But this one is plainly a labor not only of understanding but of love from three men who put their hearts into it—and from several others who gave it their best work. William Wyler, who directed, was surely drawing upon the wells of his richest talent and experience with men of the Air Forces during the war. And Robert E. Sherwood, who wrote the screen play from a story by MacKinlay Kantor, called "Glory for Me," was certainly giving genuine reflection to his observations as a public pulse-feeler these past six years. Likewise, Mr. Goldwyn, who produced, must have seen this film to be the fulfillment of a high responsibility. All their efforts are rewarded eminently.

For "The Best Years of Our Lives" catches the drama of veterans returning home from war as no film—or play or novel that we've yet heard of—has managed to do. In telling the stories of three veterans who come back to the same home town—one a midde-aged sergeant, one an air officer and one a sailor who has lost both hands—it fully reflects the delicate tensions, the deep anxieties and the gnawing despairs that surely have been experienced by most such fellows who have been through the same routine. It visions the overflowing humors and the curious pathos of such returns, and it honestly and sensitively images the terrible loneliness of the man who has been hurt—hurt not only physically but in the recesses of his self-esteem.
This scene always makes me teary.

Not alone in such accurate little touches as the first words of the sergeant's joyful wife when he arrives home unexpectedly, "I look terrible!" or the uncontrollable sob of the sailor's mother when she first sees her son's mechanical "hands" is this picture irresistibly affecting and eloquent of truth. It is in its broader and deeper understanding of the mutual embarrassment between the veteran and his well-intentioned loved ones that the film throws its real dramatic power.Especially in the readjustments of the sailor who uses prosthetic "hooks" and of the airman who faces deflation from bombardier to soda-jerker is the drama intense. The middle-aged sergeant finds adjustment fairly simple, with a wife, two grown-up kids and a good job, but the younger and more disrupted fellows are the ones who really get it in the teeth. In working out their solutions Mr. Sherwood and Mr. Wyler have achieved some of the most beautiful and inspiring demonstrations of human fortitude that we have had in films.
Myrna Loy and Frederic March are great together!

And by demonstrating frankly and openly the psychological blocks and the physical realities that go with prosthetic devices they have done a noble public service of great need. It is wholly impossible—and unnecessary—to single out any one of the performers for special mention. Fredric March is magnificent as the sergeant who breaks the ice with his family by taking his wife and daughter on a titanic binge. His humor is sweeping yet subtle, his irony is as keen as a knife and he is altogether genuine. This is the best acting job he has ever done. Dana Andrews is likewise incisive as the Air Forces captain who goes through a gruelling mill, and a newcomer, Harold Russell, is incredibly fine as the sailor who has lost his hands. Mr. Russell, who actually did lose his hands in the service and does use "hooks," has responded to the tactful and restrained direction of Mr. Wyler in a most sensitive style.

As the wife of the sergeant, Myrna Loy is charmingly reticent and Teresa Wright gives a lovely, quiet performance as their daughter who falls in love with the airman. Virginia Mayo is brassy and brutal as the latter's two-timing wife and Cathy O'Donnell, a new, young actress, plays the sailor's fiancée tenderly. Hoagy Carmichael, Roman Bohnen and Ray Collins will have to do with a warm nod. For everyone gives a "best" performance in this best film this year from Hollywood.

One great movie! Have you ever seen it? 

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Maria, Maria

Carol Lawrence: the original Broadway Maria
Hubby and I were watching a re-run of the TV series Kung Fu over the weekend, and Carol Lawrence was a featured guest star. Hubby didn't know who she was. I told him that she'd played Maria in the Broadway version of West Side Story.  He said, "she played Maria?" "Yes, I told him, "on Broadway, not in the movie version."  Well, I've always wondered why Natalie Wood starred in the film rather than Carol Lawrence. So here's why, from TMC:

The first order of business in bringing West Side Story to the screen was casting. This was left largely to Robert Wise,who had been chosen as co-director primarily for his work with film actors (stage choreographer-director Jerome Robbins would handle the musical sequences). The Broadway leads, Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence, were deemed too old by 1961, a curious decision considering the "teenagers" in the film were eventually played by people ranging from their early 20s to 30s. 

For the role of Tony, everyone from Marlon Brando to Elvis Presley was mentioned. Brando, who made his musical debut in Guys and Dolls (1955), was reported by The New York Times as being "very anxious" to do the picture, "however, he wants to play the young lead and is worried at 34 whether this will be plausible on screen." The question turned out to be moot. The producers decided early on not to seek major stars since the project was considered to have enough advance appeal to attract large audiences on its own. 


Natalie Wood: the movie Maria
Dozens of actors were tested before the male lead was given to Richard Beymer, who had made his mark in George Stevens' film version of The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). Several of the original dancers from the stage musical of West Side Story were brought to play members of the Jets and the Sharks, although the show's Anita, Chita Rivera, was bypassed in favor of Rita Moreno, a Puerto Rican actress known to movie audiences from The King and I (1956). George Chakiris, who played Riff in the London production, was cast as Bernardo. The role of Riff was assigned to gymnastic champ/dancer dancer Russ Tamblyn, even though Arthur Laurents thought the all-American actor "didn't belong" in the picture.

Natalie Wood was Ernest Lehman's choice for Maria, but when it was decided to go with unknowns, she was eliminated, and the long testing process began. Ina Balin was an early favorite, but her deep voice contrasted too much with the soprano requirements of the songs. Barbara Luna was the tentative choice after all the tests, but suddenly Lehman's suggestion was reconsidered. Former child star Wood was just coming off the success of her first adult role in Splendor in the Grass (1961) when she was offered the script for West Side Story and one for Parrish(1961), a melodrama being produced by her studio, Warner Brothers. 


She thought the latter script was "crap," but knew if she refused it, Jack Warner would make it impossible for her to go to United Artists for West Side Story. So she faked a case of tonsillitis and checked into the hospital to have them removed, effectively ending her obligation to star in Parrish. Her plan almost backfired when she contracted an infection that developed into pneumonia. She was in critical condition for three days, but recovered in time to report to work on West Side Story in April 1961.

There's your trivia for the day! Is it new to you?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Barbara Bilingsley: Real Mom vs. TV Mom

Mother's Day was yesterday, so today I thought I'd share a little something about Barbara Billingsley. If you're not familiar with that name, she's the actress best known as June Cleaver, one of the world's greatest TV moms from the sitcom Leave it to Beaver.

While playing a mom on TV, she was also a mom of two boys in real life, so here's some interesting trivia about that, courtesy of Wikipedia.:


"She was the ideal mother", Billingsley said of her character in 1997 in TV Guide. "Some people think she was weakish, but I don't. She was the love in that family. She set a good example for what a wife could be. I had two boys at home when I did the show. I think the character became kind of like me and vice versa. I've never known where one started and where one stopped." As for the idealized TV family onLeave It to Beaver, which continues in reruns on cable more than half a century after its debut, Billingsley had her own explanation for the Cleavers' enduring appeal. "Good grief," she told TV Guide, "I think everybody would like a family like that. Wouldn't it be nice if you came home from school and there was Mom standing there with her little apron and cookies waiting?"
Billingsley, however, questioned her character's reactions to the Cleaver children's misbehavior, basing her concern on personal experience as the mother of two sons. As the co-producer Joseph Connelly explained, "In scenes where she's mad at the boys, she's always coming over to us with the script and objecting. 'I don't see why June is so mad over what Beaver's done. I certainly wouldn't be.' As a result, many of Beaver's crimes have been rewritten into something really heinous like lying about them, in order to give his mother a strong motive for blowing her lady-like stack."

I watched reruns of Leave it to Beaver while growing up and thought she was a great mom. My mom was and is still a great mom, but she never wore pearls and heels while doing housework! Did yours?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Good Southerner

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to meet one of the descendants of Henry A. Wise of Virginia. I was not familiar with this gentleman's famous ancestor, but learned an interesting fact that probably isn't documented in any history book.

According to WikipediaHenry Alexander Wise (December 3, 1806 – September 12, 1876) was an American lawyer and politician from Virginia. He was a U.S. Representative and Governor of Virginia, and US Minister to Brazil. During the American Civil War, he was a general in the Confederate States Army. He was the father of U.S. Representatives Richard Alsop Wise and John Sergeant Wise.

There's even a book about Henry A. Wise available on Amazon called A Good Southerner. The book blurb says, "Wise (1806-76) was extremely active on the Virginia and national political scene from the early 1830s to the mid-1860s, drawing popular support because of his projection of hopefulness and energy. Regarded as eccentric, Wise is given, in this study, an interpretation that finds consistency in his life-long controversial and impulsive behavior. Simpson stresses Wise's ambivalent attitude toward slaves and slave-holding, authority and authority figures, and Virginia and the United States."

I am currently writing an interracial historical romance, so talking to Mr. Wise's descendant helped me a lot! The gentleman I spoke to is an African American, descended from Wise's son, William Henry Gray, who was born to Elizabeth Gray, Wise's slave. I learned about the loving relationship between Wise and Gray and that provided some great insight for developing my story. 

 Ever heard of Henry A. Wise? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Double-Take!

I got a kick out of this story when I first heard about it, and when I told my kids, they had a hard time believing it. Fun story! Here it is reprinted from The New York Post.
There’s a set of biracial twins in the UK who are turning heads because one is black and the other is white.
Born in 1997 to a white father and a half-Jamaican mother, the sisters have grown accustomed to getting mistaken for being just friends — and they have even had to produce their birth certificates in order to prove they are in fact related, Barcroft Media reports.

Modal Trigger
Lucy and Maira Aylmer pose with their mother, Donna, father, Vince, and siblings George, Chynna and Jordan. 

“No one ever believes we are twins because I am white and Maria is black,” Lucy explained. “Even when we dress alike, we still don’t even look like sisters, let alone twins.”
After giving birth naturally, the twins’ mother, Donna Douglas, did a double-take as she looked at her daughters for the very first time.
“It was such a shock for her because obviously things like skin color don’t show up on scans before birth,” Lucy said. “So she had no idea that we were so different. When the midwife handed us both to her, she was just speechless.”
And when it comes to the girls’ personalities, they are nearly as different as their looks.
Lucy, who has red hair and a very fair complexion, studies art and design at Gloucester College, according to Barcroft.

Modal Trigger
“No one ever believes we are twins because I am white and Maria is black,” says Lucy. 

Maria, who has brown hair with a caramel complexion, studies law and psychology at Cheltenham College. They have three siblings, who all have mixed skin color.
“All our older brothers and sisters have a skin color which is in between Maria and I,” Lucy said. “We are at opposite ends of the spectrum and they are all somewhere in between.”
Lucy says one of the great things about having a twin who looks completely different is that people don’t mistake them for one another.
“We were in the same class at infant school, but no one ever had a problem telling us apart,” she explained. “Most twins look like two peas in a pod — but Maria and I couldn’t look more different if we tried. We don’t even look like we have the same parents, let alone having been born at the same time."
Were you familiar with this story? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Escape Now on Audio

Instead of a regular blog post today, I'm doing a little shameless self-promotion! My novel Escape: Book One of the Unchained Trilogy is now available as an audio book, produced by Tantor Media, a division of Recorded Books, and narrated by the velvety-voiced Madison Vaughn.

The Kindle version of Escape is .99 for the next week, and the audio version can be purchased for 2.99.

If you like historical fiction, please consider giving it a try! The synopsis is below:

Daniel and Lori love each other, yet to live as one in 1856, they must escape from the unyielding society that imprisons them. Lori was born a slave in North Carolina, yet by chance was raised alongside Daniel in a wealthy abolitionist household. 

The sudden death of Daniel's mother catapults Lori back into bondage. Relegated to chattel on a rice plantation, Lori lives in constant fear under the tormenting scrutiny of Daniel's wretched aunt.

After Daniel fails to convince his relatives to free Lori, he is compelled to devise a daring escape. Although a life threatening endeavor for both of them, Lori's freedom is priceless to Daniel, and he's willing to pay such a price for her love.


Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Herbed Chicken and Stuffing Supper

Hope everyone had a very happy Easter! I did Easter dinner this year for the first time since my mom, an extraordinary cook, has been having some back trouble. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold a few days before the holiday. Fortunately, however, my crock pot came to the rescue! This is an easy dish that's great for a Sunday dinner, or any time.  It's in Betty Crocker's Slow Cooker Cookbook. Enjoy!

Herbed Chicken and Stuffing Supper

3 lbs. bone in chicken pieces, skin removed
1  (10 3/4 oz.) can condensed cream of chicken soup
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 (6 oz.) package stuffing mix for chicken
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup frozen green beans, thawed

Place chicke in slow cooker. Spoon soup over chicken. Top with sweet potatoes. Mix stuffing mix with butter and water. Spoon over sweet potatoes.

Cover and cook on LOW 4-6 hours or until potatoes are tender, and juice from chicken is no longer pink.

Sprinkle green beans over stuffing. Cover and cook on LOW 15-20 minutes until beans are tender.

Makes 6 servings.

What did you have for Easter dinner?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 10, 2017

An Olympic Friendship

Last night I watched the movie Race, a biographical sports drama about African American athlete Jesse Owens, who won a record-breaking four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Great movie, by the way, and afterwards, I wanted to learn more about the friendship between Luz Long and Jesse Owens. Below is what I found in Wikipedia:
Carl Ludwig "Lu(t)z" Long was a German Olympic long-jumper, notable for winning Silver in the event at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin and for giving advice to his competitor, Jesse Owens, who went on to win the gold medal for the broad jump.
By the summer of 1936, Long held the European record in the long jump and was eager to compete for the first time against Jesse Owens, the American world-record holder. The long jump on August 4 was Long's first event against Owens, and Long met his expectations by setting an Olympic record during the preliminary round. In contrast, Owens fouled on his first two jumps. Knowing that he needed to reach at least 7.15 m (about 23 feet 3 inches) on his third jump in order to advance to the finals in the afternoon, Owens sat on the field, dejected.

Speaking to Long's son, Owens said in 1964 that Long went to him and told him to try to jump from a spot several inches behind the take-off board. Since Owens routinely made distances far greater than the minimum of 7.15 m required to advance, Long surmised that Owens would be able to advance safely to the next round without risking a foul trying to push for a greater distance. On his third qualifying jump, Owens was calm and jumped with at least four inches (10 centimeters) to spare, easily qualifying for the finals.
In the finals competition later that day, the jumpers exceeded the old Olympic record five times. Owens went on to win the gold medal in the long jump with 8.06 m while besting Long's own record of 7.87 m. Long won the silver medal for second place and was the first to congratulate Owens: they posed together for photos and walked arm-in-arm to the dressing room. Owens said, "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler... You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment".

Long served in the Wehrmacht during World War II, having the rank of Obergefreiter. During the Allied invasion of Sicily, Long was killed in action on 14 July 1943. He was survived by two sons, Kai-Heinrich and Wolfgang. Kai was born on 13 November 1941 and Wolfgang was born on 30 May 1943, but died on 6 March 1944.
Long and Owens corresponded after 1936. In his last letter, Long wrote to Owens and asked him to contact his son after the war and tell him about his father and "what times were like when we were not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth". After the war, Owens traveled to Germany to meet Kai Long, who is seen with Owens in the 1966 documentary Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin, where he is in conversation with Owens in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. Owens later served as Kai Long's best man at his wedding.
Touching story! Were you familiar with it?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Famous Pseudonyms and Stage Names

Norma Jean Baker/Marilyn Monroe
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." William Shakespeare

Are you thinking about choosing a pen name? Perhaps you want something a little more sultry or adventurous sounding. If you already have something in mind, Google it to make sure no one else is using it. A friend from a writers group had the perfect name picked out, until after doing a search realized it belonged to a porn star! Back to the drawing board.

For years, authors have been using pseudonyms for various reasons. Mary Ann Evans, aka George Eliot, used a male pen name to make sure her works were taken seriously. Eleanor Hibbert's complex literary novels produced little interest among publishers. She was told the easiest way to break in to publishing would be with romantic fiction. She chose to write contemporary romances under her maiden name Eleanor Burford, and found success. Talented and prolific, she went on to write historicals as Jean Plaidy, and Gothic romance as Victoria Holt.

Tula Finklea/Cyd Charisse
Nora Roberts, the most popular and prolific author of contemporary romance, shortened her real name from Eleanor Robertson, because she thought all writers used pseudonyms. Ms. Roberts writes her romantic suspense series, "In Death," under the pen name J.D. Robb.

Jayne Castle (birth name) writes futuristic paranormals. Under her married name, Jayne Ann Krentz, she writes contemporary romantic suspense, and as Amanda Quick, pens historicals.

As writers choose pen names, so actors choose stage names. Sometimes these names are used to evoke a certain image, or perhaps disassociate a sibling connection. Years ago, names deemed too ethnic were changed to more all American sounding monikers. And of course, names must be changed if already in use by someone famous. Read on for a fun list of stage names vs. real names.

  • So So to Star: Norma Jean Baker aka Marilyn Monroe, Frances Gumm aka Judy Garland, Tula Finklea aka Cyd Charisse, Archibald Leach aka Cary Grant
  • Sibling Disassociation: Peter Graves (Aurness, Mission Impossible)) and James A(u)rness (Gunsmoke), Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine (Beatty), Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (de Havilland), Donna DeVerona and Joanna (DeVarona) Kerns
  • Ethnic to White Bread: Rita Cansino aka Rita Hayworth, David Kaminski aka Danny Kaye, Issur Danielovitch aka Kirk Douglas, Bernard Schwartz aka Tony Curtis, Dino Crocetti aka Dean Martin
  • Already Taken: Marilyn Novak aka Kim Novak (not enough room for two Marilyns during the '50s, thanks to Marilyn Monroe), Mike Douglas talk show host, Mike Douglas actor aka Michael Douglas, Michael Douglas actor aka Michael Keaton
Do you have a pen name? If not, do you plan to use one?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally published 7/21/14

Monday, March 27, 2017

Spring Break

I believe spring has finally sprung! The weather in my neck of the woods is finally starting to feel like spring time. My kids are off for spring break this week, so I'm taking a break from blogging. Will be back next week. Happy spring!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Theda Bara: First Sex Symbol of the Silver Screen

My hometown of Cincinnati is the hometown of some very famous screen legends including mega-director Steven Spielberg, actress/singer Doris Day and actress/dancer Vera-Ellen. Another famous legend who hailed from these parts is Theda Bara, the silver screen's first sex symbol.

As a sex symbol, Theda's real life didn't exactly fit that mold. She experienced no scandals, had no substance abuse problems, and she was only married once, and happily at that. And although she retired from the screen while still in her prime before the advent of talking pictures, when she passed away decades later in 1955 at the age of sixty-nine, she died wealthy.

Here's more about this unconventional sex symbol from Wikipedia:

Bara was one of the most popular actresses of the silent era, and her femme fatale roles earned her the nickname The Vamp (short for vampire). Bara made more than 40 films between 1914 and 1926, but most were lost in the 1937 Fox vault fire. After her marriage to Charles Brabin in 1921, she made two more feature films and retired from acting in 1926.


She was born Theodosia Burr Goodman in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father was Bernard Goodman (1853–1936), a prosperous Jewish tailor born in Poland. Her mother, Pauline Louise Françoise (née de Coppett; 1861–1957), was born in Switzerland.

The origin of Bara's stage name is disputed; The Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats says it came from director Frank Powell, who learned Theda had a relative named Barranger, and that "Theda" was a childhood nickname. In promoting the 1917 film Cleopatra, Fox Studio publicists noted that the name was an anagram of Arab death, and her press agents claimed inaccurately that she was "the daughter of an Arab sheik and a French woman, born in the Sahara."

At the height of her fame, Bara earned $4,000 per week. She was one of the most popular movie stars, ranking behind only Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Bara's best-known roles were as the "vamp", although she attempted to avoid typecasting by playing wholesome heroines in films such as Under Two Flags and Her Double Life. She also appeared as Juliet in a version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Although Bara took her craft seriously, she was too successful as an exotic "wanton woman" to develop a more versatile career.

To read more about Theda Bara, click here.

Are you familiar with Theda Bara? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Charles Thomas: Inspiration to Integrating Pro-Ball

Baseball season is just around the corner, so today I'm republishing a post about Charles Thomas, the man who inspired Branch Rickey to integrate professional baseball.

Below is information compiled from the American Dental Association News. Not only was Thomas an extraordinary athlete, he went on to become a dentist.

Charles Thomas was born in West Virginia in 1881, but his family moved to Zanesville, Ohio, when he was 3 years old. In high school, Thomas was a star athlete in baseball, football and track.  In 1903 he began college at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio where he played fullback on the football team. 

While at Ohio Wesleyan, he met Branch Rickey, the future Brooklyn Dodgers' executive, who was also a two-sport college athlete. When Rickey's playing days ended, he became Ohio Wesleyan's baseball coach and recruited Thomas to replace him as the team's catcher.

At the time, Thomas was Ohio Wesleyan University's only black ballplayer. Several times, Thomas-led teams were refused admission onto their opponents' field because of his skin color.

It's said that Branch Rickey's vision of integrating America's pastime stemmed from his time at Ohio Wesleyan in the early 1900s, and several accounts reveal that Thomas had a lasting impact on him.

During a 1903 road trip, the Ohio Wesleyan baseball team traveled to South Bend, Indiana. When Thomas was refused lodging at a hotel, Rickey asked that Thomas be allowed to sleep on a cot in his room.

Later that evening, Rickey found Thomas upset and crying. According to Rickey, Thomas said, "It's my skin. If I could just tear it off, I'd be like everybody else. It's my skin..."

Years later, Rickey told the Brooklyn Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber about Thomas. Barber recounted this story in "Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns."

"For 41 years, I have heard that young man crying," Mr. Rickey told Mr. Barber. "Now, I am going to do something about it." 

To read more about Charles Thomas and Branch Rickey, check out Black Pioneers of College Baseball.

Had you ever heard of Charles Thomas? And by the way, are you looking forward to baseball season? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally published 3/3/14.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Good 'n Easy Beef 'n Gravy


There's nothing like a hearty plate of comfort food, and when it's easy to prepare, that's icing on the cake! With that said, a recipe can't get more simple than this one from one of my favorite crock pot cookbooks, Fix-It and Forget-It. Enjoy!

Good 'n Easy Beef 'n Gravy

3 lbs. beef roast, cubed
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1/2 cup beef broth
10 3/4-oz. can cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup
4-oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 10-12 hours.

What's your favorite comfort food?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pinky

Racial passing is a subject matter that interests me and Pinky, a film from 1949, deals with this issue. I have never seen it, but plan to watch it this week for research purposes. Pinky is a race drama about a light-skinned black woman passing as white. For more about the film and the plot, click here

One of the controversies regarding the film was the casting of white actress Jeanne Crane to play the title role. Black actress Lena Horne had wanted the part, but having a white actress as Pinky with audience appeal and monetary pull led to the casting of Miss Crane. (In my opinion, since the actress had to be white, I would have chosen Jennifer Jones. She could have more realistically passed for black, again, just my opinion.)

Anyway, here's another interesting fact about the movie from Turner Classic Movies:

[A] major change in the production of Pinky was the director. [Director] John Ford left the film after only a week of shooting that was so traumatic [black co-star] Ethel Waters described it as a "shock treatment", with Ford's abrasive personality making her "almost have a stroke". [Producer] Zanuck was unhappy with the rushes he saw. 
Jeanne Crane
"Ford's Negroes were like Aunt Jemima caricatures. I thought we're going to get into trouble. Jack said, 'I think you'd better put someone else on it." Ford was replaced with Elia Kazan, who had made Gentleman's Agreement (1947), another racially-themed film for the studio, and earning it an Academy Award in the process. The official reason for John Ford's departure was listed as a bad case of the shingles, which Kazan later admitted was a lie. 
Lena Horne
"He pretended to have shingles. Some years later I said to Zanuck, 'Jack Ford never had shingles, did he?' And he said, 'Oh, hell, no. He just wanted to get out of it; he hated Ethel Waters and she sure as hell hated him.' Jack scared her to death and he knew she didn't want to work with him. I also think maybe he didn't like the whole project. Anyway, Zanuck wired me and asked if I'd come out. I wired back, 'I'll do it as a favor.' Firstly, I threw away whatever Ford had shot. It was poor. It showed a lack of interest and involvement. So, all the footage was mine. The only things that were not mine, which are a hell of a lot, were the script and the cast. It was the last time I ever allowed that. Jeanne Crain was a sweet girl, but she was like a Sunday school teacher. I did my best with her but she didn't have any fire. The only good thing about her face was that it went so far in the direction of no temperament that you felt Pinky was floating through all of her experiences without reacting to them, which is part of what 'passing' is." 
Jennifer Jones
Have you ever seen Pinky? If so, what did you think?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!