Monday, September 13, 2021

Warrior Writing: Strategic Change

"Act like a man of thought. Think like a man of action." Thomas Mann

Several years ago, I attended New York Times bestselling author Bob Mayer's "Warrior Writing" workshop and it left quite an impression.

I learned several valuable lessons, but the most important one for me focused on change.

What holds you back? YOU! And you can change you. According to Bob, if you aren't where you want to be, you must change. We've all come to a crossroads when we realize that in order to make something happen in our careers, some type of change must occur.

We may not like the change. We'll struggle with it, and perhaps deny that we have to change at all. Then we'll experience anger as we realize that the change is for the best. We'll bargain with ourselves about the best way to change, hoping there will be an easy way, then become depressed when reality says easy isn't best. If we're wise, we'll accept the change and work hard for it.

Change isn't just thinking differently, although this is the first step. And think about this: To make is externally motivated. To become is internally motivated. The successful become.

All of us can change. But we need to show change, not just talk about it. And change requires three things to happen:

  • A Moment of Enlightenment
  • Making a Decision
  • Implementing a Sustained Action
The five stages of change include:
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
Moment of Enlightenment (MOE): This happens when you experience something never experienced before. Or, when you experience something you have experienced, but it affects you differently than ever before. Think light bulb going on above head.
By itself, the MOE is not change, just a momentary awareness. Denial often blocks MOEs. Anger stops MOEs when it is actually an indicator of an MOE. And bargaining dilutes MOEs.
Decision: Because of the Moment of Enlightenment, a decision is made. But it may not be a good decision. So you're either stuck with the decision (externally imposed change) or you stick with the decision (internally motivated change). By itself, a decision isn't change, but just a fleeting commitment. Bargaining can dilute a decision, and depression can cause you to give up a decision all together.
Sustained Action: Because of the decision, behavior is changed. The changed behavior is sustained long enough to become a habit. In the military, this is called training. Sustained action leads to change. Sliding back on the five stages of change stops this. Acceptance isn't easy because your reality has changed!
Time to expand your comfort zone, by going into your courage zone. Courage is needed on the path to changing you and developing your self confidence!
As mentioned earlier, Bob's workshop was awesome! It was also inspiring and encouraging! Be sure to check out Bob's "Who Dares Wins" homepage at http://www.bobmayer.org/ so you can become a warrior writer!

Are you ready for change?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Best of Mae West

August is certainly a popular month for birthdays! My husband and I share August birthdays, and the special thing about August birthdays is that nothing happens during that month them.

January has New Year's, February has Valentine's, March has St. Patrick's Day and/or Easter, April has April Fool's Day and/or Easter, May has Mother's Day and Memorial Day, June has Father's Day, July has the 4th, September has Labor Day, October has Halloween, November has Thanksgiving, and December has Christmas. August has nothing but birthdays to celebrate!

Speaking of which, I'm sure actress Mae West celebrated each of her August birthday's in style. She was quite a character, and today I'm sharing some of her funniest lines!

In case you've never heard of Mae West, Wikipedia says:
Mary Jane "Mae" West (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980) was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades.
Known for her lighthearted bawdy double entendres, and breezy sexual independence, West made a name for herself in vaudeville and on the stage in New York City before moving to Hollywood to become a comedian, actress, and writer in the motion picture industry, as well as on radio and television. For her contributions to American cinema, thevAmerican Film Institute named West 15th among the greatest female stars of classic American cinema.
One of the more controversial movie stars of her day, West encountered many problems, especially censorship. She bucked the system, making comedy out of prudish conventional mores, and the Depression Era audience admired her for it. 

When her cinematic career ended, she wrote books, plays, and continued to perform in Las Vegas, in the United Kingdom, and on radio and television, and to record rock and roll albums. Asked about the various efforts to impede her career, West replied: "I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it."  


Most of Mae's quotes are rather provocative, but quite funny, nonetheless. For a more complete list, check out Quotilicious. Now, time for a good laugh!

"Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before."
"Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly."
"He’s the kind of man a woman would have to marry to get rid of."
"I believe that it’s better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked."
"One and one is two, and two and two is four, and five will get you ten if you know how to work it."
"Don’t keep a man guessing too long – he’s sure to find the answer somewhere else."
"Opportunity knocks for every man, but you have to give a woman a ring."
"A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up."
"Give a man a free hand and he’ll run it all over you."
"A woman in love can’t be reasonable – or she probably wouldn’t be in love."
"A man has one hundred dollars and you leave him with two dollars, that’s subtraction."
"When women go wrong, men go right after them."

Do you have a favorite Mae West quote that I didn't include? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, August 23, 2021

White Heat

My son told me there's some intense rivalry going on between two malicious gangs. They've challenged each other threatening, "You can either roll up or hole up!" That doesn't sound too scary. Turns out my son was pulling my leg. The gangs involved were cinnamon rolls and doughnuts. Right...

Well anyway, the mention of gangs made me think about those old gangster movies, and White Heat is my favorite! If you love old movies, I'm sure you've seen it. Even if you're not a fan of the gangster film genre, this one is worth watching! Here's the 1949 movie review from "The New York Times" written by Bosley Crowther below:


Warner Brothers weren't kidding when they put the title "White Heat" on the new James Cagney picture, which came to the Strand yesterday. They might have gone several points higher in the verbal caloric scale and still have understated the thermal intensity of this film. For the simple fact is that Mr. Cagney has made his return to a gangster role in one of the most explosive pictures that he or anyone has ever played.


If that is inviting information to the cohorts of thriller fans, whose eagerness this reviewer can readily understand, let us soberly warn that "White Heat" is also a cruelly vicious film and that its impact upon the emotions of the unstable or impressionable is incalculable. That is an observation which might fairly be borne in mind by those who would exercise caution in supporting such matter on the screen.

For there is no blinking the obvious: the Warners have pulled all the stops in making this picture the acme of the gangster-prison film. They have crammed it with criminal complications—some of them old, some of them glittering new—pictured to technical perfection in a crisp documentary style. And Mr. Cagney has played it in a brilliantly graphic way, matching the pictorial vigor of his famous "Public Enemy" job.

Indeed, as the ruthless gang-leader in this furious and frightening account of train-robbery, prison-break, gang war and gun fighting with the police, Mr. Cagney achieves the fascination of a brilliant bull-fighter at work, deftly engaged in the business of doing violence with economy and grace. His movements are supple and electric, his words are as swift and sharp as swords and his whole manner carries the conviction of confidence, courage and power.

If you think Mr. Cagney looked brutal when he punched Mae Clark in the face with a ripe grapefruit in "Public Enemy," you should see the sweet and loving things he does to handsome Virginia Mayo, who plays his low-grade wife in this film. Or you should scan the exquisite indifference with which he "lets a little air" into the trunk compartment of an auto in which is locked a treacherous "friend."

And Mr. Cagney's performance is not the only one in this film. Director Raoul Walsh has gathered vivid acting from his whole cast. Miss Mayo, in fact, is excellent as the gangster's disloyal spouse—brassy, voluptuous and stupid to just the right degree. And Edmund O'Brien does a slick job as a Treasury Department T-man who gets next to the gang-boss in prison and works into a place of favor in his mob. Steve Cochran is ugly as an outlaw, John Archer is stout as a Treasury sleuth and Margaret Wycherly is darkly invidious as the gangster's beloved old "ma."

Perhaps her inclusion in the story is its weakest and most suspected point, for the notion of Mr. Cagney being a "mama's boy" is slightly remote. And this motivation for his cruelty, as well as for his frequent howling fits, is convenient, perhaps, for novel action but not entirely convincing as truth.

However, impeccable veracity is not the first purpose of this film. It was made to excite and amuse people. And that it most certainly does.

I love this movie and reading that "NY Times" review makes me want to see it again soon! Have you ever seen White Heat? If you love a gritty crime drama, you'll really enjoy this one!

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Mildred Washington: A Life Cut Short

If you're like me, you've probably never heard of Mildred Washington. As I was looking for something to blog about this week, I stumbled upon her name. Check out the article below from IMBd.com:

The name Mildred Washington isn't remembered because she appeared in less than 15 films in only small parts. But her stage presence, finesse, beauty and vivacious personality weren't small. Mildred Washington was a popular Black actress and dancer in the 1920s and 1930s. She began on the stage appearing in musicals for many years and later conquered California nightclubs and theaters becoming a full-fledged entertainer who was called the sensation of the West. 


She was headliner and dance director for many years at the legendary Sebastian's Cotton Club. Mildred was a skilled dancer who knew how to wow a crowd by amazing them with her dancing ability and lively stage presence. On the side, she appeared in Hollywood films because it was her dream to be in movies. 

In Hollywood, Mildred played the role of maid in pre-code era films. This meant she wasn't forced to be demeaned or stereotyped. In the pre-code era there were no rules, so Blacks were actually a part of the film, not just the maid or servant. Mildred added a sense of humor, spark, and simply glowed. On screen, she educated her white employers on life, and lifted their spirits when they were feeling down. Beautiful, scintillating and engaging, Mildred often stole scenes from the leading white players. 


Hearts in Dixie was one of the first black films made in Hollywood in which Mildred starred.  She was said to have given an excellent performance, but sadly the film is lost. Her best role was in Torch Singer, starring Claudette Colbert. She played a maid/confidante to Colbert.  

Mildred was a well educated and cultured woman who graduated from Los Angeles High School as valedictorian. She attended the University of California at Los Angeles for two years and also studied at Columbia University. In addition, she was fluent in French and Spanish. Off screen she lived well and dabbled in real estate.


By 1933, Mildred was on her way to becoming a full-time actress as studio heads were satisfied with her previous work and beauty. But it was her untimely death that stalled her escalating career. During a major earthquake in the spring of 1933, Mildred developed appendicitis after she fell running for cover from Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Her death was caused by peritonitis following appendicitis. She died on a Thursday afternoon at the White Memorial Hospital during surgery. She was 28 years old. Her funeral was a star-studded affair with many black and white stage and screen stars in attendance.


She sounds like an amazing lady and I'd love to see some of her films! Sad she died so young. Had you ever heard of Mildred Washington? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Esther Williams: Fighter, Champion, Star


Reposting an article from a few years back. Yesterday was my birthday, and I happen to share it movie star Esther Williams! If you missed this article the first time around, hope you enjoy it now.

One of my favorite stars from Hollywood's Golden Era was the beautiful Esther Williams (August 8, 1921-June 6, 2013), a swimming star of several MGM movies known as Aqua Musicals.

Something you may not know is that Ms. Williams was a proponent of civil rights--keep reading to see how!

I love watching anything filmed underwater, and seeing Esther Williams swim in those pictures is amazing and a real treat.  If you've never heard of Esther Williams, check out this video to see what I mean!

Prior to becoming a movie star, Esther Williams set multiple national and regional swimming records while part of the Los  Angeles Athletic Club swim team during her teens.  She had wanted to compete in the 1940 Summer Olympics, but couldn't  because of the outbreak of World War II.  At that point, Ms.Williams joined Billy Rose's Aquacade, where she spent five months swimming alongside Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimmer and Tarzan star.

While performing at the Aquacade, Williams caught the eye of MGM talent scouts. After appearing in several small roles, Williams began making the Aqua Musicals, featuring elaborate numbers with synchronized swimming and diving.  From 1945 to 1949, Ms. Williams had at least one movie among the top 20 grossing films of the year.

Several years ago, I read her autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid.  If you do enjoy bios of the stars, don't pass this one up!  I was thoroughly impressed by her candor, zest for life and positive outlook.  She lived through experiences that might have been crushing to some of us, but made her a fighter, champion and star!

The most devastating time she endured was the repeated rape that began at age 13.  The older teen who abused  her had been charitably taken in by her family.  Orphaned and left on his own, this young man was an exceptional student and athlete.  Ms. Williams had lost an older brother years earlier who was the "golden child" of the family, and this orphaned youth filled the void in her parents' lives.

As a victim of abuse, Esther remained quiet for two years, fearing his threats.  Finally at age 15, she told her parents.  Their reaction was hurtful to her, and I almost cried when I read it.  They were in denial at first, but finally confronted him.  When he admitted the truth, her parents were more upset with him for not living up to their expectations of who'd they'd thought him to be, rather than the fact that he'd repeatedly raped their daughter for two years.

Esther listened from another room, completely demoralized.  Why hadn't her father been ready to kill the guy and kick him out?

The pool at the athletic club was her solace, and after hearing her parents' exchange with him, that's where she went.  But when she'd changed and was ready to swim, the rapist confronted her.  To his tearful apology she responded, "If you touch me again, I'll kick, I'll scream and I'll fight!" After this, he left her family's home and joined the armed services.

During Ms. Williams's days in  the Aquacade, she had fight off Johnny Weissmuller's aggressive advances and endure substandard treatment from bosses since she wouldn't "give in."

Prior to stardom, Ms. Williams survived an abusive marriage, and after stardom, the loss of her fortune through another husband's gambling.  She also lived through some near death experiences from swimming mishaps during filming.

But in addition to the painful times she shares, her story has some humorous ones as well.  Here's the civil rights anecdote I referenced earlier.  She was the mother of three children and employed the same African American babysitter for a number of years.

While performing in a live show, Ms.Williams wanted her babysitter and the sitter's husband to attend one of her performances.  However, the establishment where she'd be doing her show was segregated, but this didn't deter Ms.Williams, who thought the whole segregation system unfair.

She procured Middle Eastern garb for her guests and told the management that they were friends of hers from a royal family.  Needless to say, the sitter and her husband had the best seat in the house that night, and the last laugh!

Are you an Esther Williams fan?  Thanks for visiting!

Monday, August 2, 2021

Herb Jeffries: Just Who Did He Think He Was?

My friend Mary told me about Herb Jeffries not long ago, Hollywood's first black singing cowboy. I'd never heard of him, so I Googled him and found out some interesting facts. He was a fascinating character who took advantage of both sides of his ethnicity before that was in vogue, so to speak. Here's a bit about this singing cowboy from Wikipedia:
Herb Jeffries (September 24, 1913 – May 25, 2014) was an American actor of film and television and popular music and jazz singer-songwriter, known of his baritone voice, he was of African descent and was Hollywood's first singing black cowboy
Jeffries was born Umberto Alexander Valentino in Detroit to a white Irish mother who ran a rooming house. His father, whom he never knew, was of mixed Sicilian, French, Italian and Moorish roots. He also claimed that his paternal great-grandmother was an Ethiopian with the surname of Carey.
Firm evidence of Jeffries’s race and age is hard to come by, but census documents from 1920 described him as mulattoand listed his father as a black man named Howard Jeffrey. Jeffries himself, late in life, said that Howard Jeffrey was his stepfather. He said his biological father was Domenico Balentino, a Sicilian who died in World War I.
Jeffries once described himself in an interview as "three-eighths Negro", claiming pride in an African-American heritage during a period when many light-skinned black performers were attempting "to pass" as all-white in an effort to broaden their commercial appeal. In marked contrast, Jeffries used make-up to darken his skin in order to pursue a career in jazz and to be seen as employable by the leading all-black musical ensembles of the day.
Much later in his career, Jeffries identified as white for economic or highly personal reasons. Jet reported that Jeffries identified as White and stated his "real" name as "Herbert Jeffrey Ball" on an application in order to marry Tempest Storm in 1959. Jeffries told the reporter for Jet:
"... I'm not passing, I never have, I never will. For all these years I've been wavering about the color question on the blanks. Suddenly I decided to fill in the blank the way I look and feel.

Look at my blue eyes, look at my brown hair, look at my color. What color do you see?" he demand to know. "My mother was 100 per cent white," Jeffries said, his blue eyes glinting in the New York sun. "My father is Portuguese, Spanish, American Indian, and Negro. How in the hell can I identify myself as one race or another?"  

Have you ever heard of Herb Jeffries? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Originally posted 1/25/16 

Monday, July 26, 2021

She Did it For A Million Dollars

A few years ago I listened to an audio book that detailed the love affair of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. I learned quite a bit, but as I listened, I compared the facts with what I remembered about the 1963 film version starring Elizabeth Taylor. 

Cleopatra used to be shown on television periodically when I was a kid. I don't actually remember that much, but being into movie trivia, I do remember reading that Liz Taylor was paid one million dollars to play the role. That's nothing nowadays, but back then it was big deal. Liz cleaned up in more ways than one. Check out the facts below from Moviefone.com:

Joan Collins, Audrey Hepburn, and Susan Hayward were at first considered to play Cleopatra. After various issues, producer Walter Wanger called Taylor on the set of her latest film, "Suddenly, Last Summer" to offer her the role through her then husband Eddie Fisher. Joking, Taylor replied "Sure, tell him I'll do it for a million dollars." While such an offer was unheard of at the time, it was accepted, and in 1959 Taylor became the first Hollywood actor to receive $1 million for a single movie.

Taylor's contract stipulated that her $1 million salary be paid out as follows: $125,000 for 16 weeks work plus $50,000 a week afterwards plus 10 percent of the gross (with no break-even point). By the time production was restarted in Rome in 1961 she had earned over $2 million. After a lengthy $50 million lawsuit brought against Taylor and Burton by the studio in 1963 and a countersuit filed by Taylor, the studio finally settled with the actress in 1966. Her ultimate take for the film was $7 million.

Is any of this news to you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Maria, Maria

 

Carol Lawrence: the original Broadway Maria
Not long ago, hubby and I were watching a re-run of the TV series Kung Fu, 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 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!

Originally posted 5/22/17

Monday, July 12, 2021

Body Language: Louder Than Words

Olivia de Havilland had an exciting onscreen relationship with dashing Errol Flynn in the eight swashbuckling films they made together during the late 1930's and early 1940's.

Flynn and wife Lili Damita

Although they portrayed romantic couples onscreen, a real-life love story never blossomed between them.
Flynn with wife Lili Damita

Flynn was married to French actress Lili Damita while he and Miss de Havilland were making pictures together. However, if he hadn't been, things probably would have turned out differently between them.
Flynn and wife Lily Damita

Both actors admit that they did have feelings for each other and that the chemistry was there. In doing a little research, I found pictures of Flynn with his wife, and others with him and Miss de Havilland in candid shots.
Flynn and de Havilland (not acting)

Take a look at the body language and tell me who he looks happier with.
Flynn and de Havilland (not acting)

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!
Flynn and de Havilland (not acting)

Monday, July 5, 2021

An Olympic Friendship

Not long ago 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! 

Originally published 4/10/17.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Stagecoach Mary Fields

Talk about inspiration for a great character, look no further than Stagecoach Mary Fields! She has certainly inspired me to create a rather vibrant character in a future novel based on her extremely unconventional lifestyle. If you've never heard of her, take a look at what The National Postal Museum says:

Standing six feet tall and powerful, many bandits learned to stay clear of Stagecoach Mary in the American Old West. Stagecoach Mary Fields carried a gun, smoked, drank and had a wicked temper. Mary was the first African American woman to carry mail on a Star Route for the United States Post Office Department.

Mary Fields was born into slavery in either 1832 or 1833; her exact birthday is unknown. Mary's birthplace and other details about her early childhood are also unknown. What is known is that she worked for the Warner family in West Virginia in the years leading up to the Civil War. Mary was emancipated in 1863 or shortly after the Civil War; she then moved from West Virginia and went up the Mississippi River where she worked on steamboats.

Mary ended up in Ohio, specifically Toledo. There, Mary began working at Ursuline Convent of the Sacred Heart. There is debate over how and why Mary ended up working at the convent. Yet, what is known is that Mary’s gruff style was not something that fit into the serene calm that was the convent.

During her time at the convent, Mary washed laundry, bought supplies, managed the kitchen, and grew and maintained the garden and grounds. Mary was known to lose her temper and was quick to yell at anyone who stepped on the grass after she had cut it.


It is unclear why Mary left Toledo. Many sources think that she moved to take care of an ill friend. Mother Amadeus Dunne, who had been Mother Superior in Toledo before moving West, had fallen ill. Mary and Mother Amadeus were known friends. Some records date their friendship all the way back to the Warren family in West Virginia, though this claim is not substantiated.


Once she arrived West, Mary got to work. Mary mainly worked for Saint Peter's Mission near Cascade, Montana where she did many of the jobs she had done before in Toledo. This mission was run by Ursuline nuns and was where Mother Amadeus Dunne resided. Mary performed maintenance and repair work. She also gardened and did the laundry. One major thing that Mary was also in charge of was the locating and delivery of supplies needed for the mission. Yet Mary had no official contract with the mission and nuns; thus, she was free to come and go as she pleased, taking additional work outside the mission.

Mary was unfortunately dismissed from the mission. This was due in part to her crass behavior, unruly temper and penchant for drinking and smoking in saloons with men. The final straw appears to involve an argument in which Mary and another mission janitor, a male, got into a fight and were agitated to the point that both drew guns. While neither ever fired their gun, this incident was enough to make the Bishop of the area demand for the nuns to relieve her duties.


Mary moved to neighboring Cascade, Montana, where she tried but failed to open one or more eateries. They were said to have failed due to her giving nature of allowing folks who could not pay to eat for free. Mary also reportedly set up a laundry shop and did other odd jobs to make money. It is around this time that Mary’s drinking, gun toting, and smoking become well known to the townspeople of Cascade.

In 1895, in her early sixties, Mary obtained a contract by the United States Post Office Department to be a Star Route Carrier. A Star Route Carrier was an independent contractor who used a stagecoach to deliver the mail in the harsh weather of northern Montana. Mary was the first African American woman and the second woman to receive a Star Route contract from the United States Post Office Department. This contract was secured with the help of the Ursuline nuns. The nuns wished to look out for Mary as they felt connected with her. This was because they did not wish to see her go as the nuns heavily relied on Mary for work done around the mission.

Mary built a reputation of being fearless while working as a mail carrier. Mary’s job was not only to deliver the mail but to also protect the mail from bandits, thieves, wolves and the weather as well. Mary gained her nickname “Stagecoach Mary” due to her use of a stagecoach as a method of transportation to deliver the mail. Mary was also known for the guns she carried. During the time that Mary was delivering the mail, she was known to carry both a rifle and a revolver.
Mary spent eight years delivering the mail as a Star Route Carrier. During this time, Mary became beloved by the locals of Cascade, Montana for her fearlessness and generosity, as well as for her kindness to children. Mary retired from being a Star Route Carrier in the early 20th century. After her retirement, Mary settled into life in Cascade, Montana.

For the rest of the story, click here.

Had you ever heard of Stagecoach Mary Fields? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Who's Your Favorite, Kelly or Astaire?

 I love the old Hollywood musicals and I enjoy the dance numbers the best. I'm a big fan of both Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire! Although Astaire appears more graceful and Kelly more athletic, I don't think I could ever say I liked one more than the other because they were both great. For a real opinion on their dancing, check this out from dancer Cyd Charisse's autobiography The Two of Us:

Cyd Charisse
"As one of the handful of girls who worked with both of those dance geniuses, I think I can give an honest comparison. In my opinion, Kelly is the more inventive choreographer of the two. Astaire, with Hermes Pan's help, creates fabulous numbers – for himself and his partner. But Kelly can create an entire number for somebody else ... 
Gene Kelly
I think, however, that Astaire's coordination is better than Kelly's ... his sense of rhythm is uncanny. Kelly, on the other hand, is the stronger of the two. When he lifts you, he lifts you! ... To sum it up, I'd say they were the two greatest dancing personalities who were ever on screen. But it's like comparing apples and oranges. They're both delicious."
Fred Astaire
Delicious is a great way to put it! Who do you like best, Kelly or Astaire?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, June 7, 2021

Judy Holliday

With all the talk of sexual harassment in Hollywood (and everywhere) coming to light, it reminded me of a story I'd read about actress/comedian Judy Holliday and her run in with Columbia Pictures studio head Harry Cohn. When he grabbed her in a tight embrace, falsies popped out of dress, to which she remarked, "These are yours anyway, Mr. Cohn." I think that "dampened his enthusiasm" and she was able to get away.

For more about the talented Judy Holliday, check out the article below from Turner Classic Movies

This spirited, intelligent actress of stage and screen played variations of the squeaky-voiced 'dumb blonde' role in a number of breezy comedies of the 1940s and 50s. Under her own name, Judith Tuvim, she formed a comedy troupe called "The Revuers," with Betty Comden and Adolph Green. This led to bits in the films "Winged Victory" and "Greenwich Village" (both 1944) and "Something for the Boys" (1945). But it took two Broadway shows, "Kiss Them for Me" and, notably, as the intellectually ambitious moll in "Born Yesterday," to make the newly-renamed Judy Holliday a star.

She returned to films with a memorable supporting role in the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn comedy, "Adam's Rib" (1949), then vaulted to stardom the following year when she recreated her stage triumph of "Born Yesterday" in George Cukor's film adaptation. As the airheaded mistress of a shady and rather dull-witted tycoon who turns the tables on him once she's educated, Holliday won an Oscar as Best Actress of 1950 (beating out Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard" and Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in "All About Eve").

For the rest of the 50s, signed with Columbia, Holliday made a handful of films, delighting audiences as ditzy but surprisingly shrewd types in "The Marrying Kind" (1952), the delightful media satire "It Should Happen to You" and "Phfft!" (both 1953), "The Solid Gold Cadillac" and "Full of Life" (both 1956). Holliday's last film was recreating her stage role in the musical "Bells Are Ringing" (1960). She returned to the stage in the straight play "Laurette" (Taylor) and the musical "Hot Spot" (1952). A heavy smoker, Holliday died of throat cancer in 1965 at the age of 43.

I'm a movie buff, but I've never seen a Judy Holliday movie. Have you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, May 31, 2021

Happy Memorial Day


I'm taking the day of for the holiday. Enjoy your day and remember to take time to honor our fallen and currently serving heroes. Back next week! 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Nathan "Nearest" Green: Ex-Slave/Master Distiller

 

I found this interesting article that appeared in the Washington Times about Jack Daniel's master distiller. Thought I'd post it today.

Nathan “Nearest” Green was a slave whose services as a distiller were rented out to a Tennessee preacher, Dan Call, in the 1850s. It was Green, research by black author Fawn Weaver shows, who mentored Call’s protege, Jack Daniel, in the making of the famous spirit that would bear his name.

While he went on to serve as Jack Daniel’s first master distiller and, as a free man, became prosperous in his own right, Green’s contributions have largely been missing from the company’s success story, even as they remain common knowledge in Lynchburg, Tennessee, Ms. Weaver said.

“To this day I don’t know how Nearest ended up being hidden. I really don’t,” she told the Mail. “Because when Jack was alive he never hid him. When Jack’s descendants ran the distillery, they never hid who he was or what he did. The relationship between Jack’s descendants and Nearest’s descendants were one that was rare between blacks and whites. They would’ve stood out. In Lynchburg, they always knew.”

Ms. Weaver said that her research shows that Daniel and Green’s business relationship was remarkable for its mutual respect across racial barriers, particularly for the time. “His family was fully integrated after the Civil War. Jack and his family did not see a difference between Nearest and his family and their own,” she told the Mail.

Indeed, the closeness between the Green and Daniel families is recognized in the name of the new whiskey label, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey.

The name refers to a southern tradition of “referring to teachers, mentors or others close to a family as ‘uncle, aunt or cousin’ out of respect,” the Mail reported.

“If you are in Lynchburg, everyone calls each other uncle, aunt, cousin so and so, whether you’re black or white,” Ms. Weaver said.

For more information on Nathan "Nearest" Green, check out Wikipedia.

I'd never heard of Nathan "Nearest" Green, had you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 17, 2021

Where Love Has Gone

I must thank my Goodreads friend Damon Evans for inspiring this post!

It's said that truth is stranger than fiction. So perhaps that translates to a fictional work becoming a sensational bestseller, or a movie becoming a spectacular box office smash, when based on a true story. 

Last week, I posted the scandalous account of mobster Johnny Stompanato's death. He was the abusive boyfriend of Lana Turner, who ended up dying at the hands of her fourteen year old daughter, Cheryl Crane.

That murder transpired in 1958.  By 1962, Harold Robbins had penned the novel, Where Love Has Gone, loosely based on the Turner /Stompanato scandal. By 1964, a feature film was released under the same title, starring grand dame Bette Davis, tempestuous Susan Hayward and sultry Joey Heatherton.

The plot is a little more involved than the scandal it's actually based on, but you have to have something to fill up the pages of a book, or the time on the big screen! I haven't seen Where Love Has Gone, but it is now on my to watch list!

Courtesy of Wikipedia, here's the plot:

The film begins with headlines stating that 15-year-old Danielle Miller (Joey Heatherton) has murdered a man, Rick Lazich, who was the latest lover of her mother Valerie Hayden (Susan Hayward). Dani's father, Luke Miller (Mike Connors) describes the events that led to the tragedy.

Near the end of World War IIArmy Air Forces hero Miller is in San Francisco for a parade in his honor, and meets Valerie Hayden at an art show where one of her works is being exhibited. He is invited to dinner by Valerie's mother, Mrs. Gerald Hayden (Bette Davis), who offers him a job and dowry as an enticement for him to marry Valerie. He storms from the house but is followed by Valerie who says she is unable to go against her mother's wishes but that she admires him for having refused her. A relationship develops and the two marry, although a former suitor, Sam Corwin (DeForest Kelley) predicts that the marriage will fail.

As time passes, Luke Miller becomes a successful architect and refuses another offer of employment from his mother-in-law, however the influential and vindictive Mrs. Hayden uses her contacts in the banking industry to ensure that Miller is refused loans to help him build his business. He relents and accepts a position in Mrs. Hayden's company. 
Their daughter, Dani, is born but the relationship of the couple begins to deteriorate with Miller declining into alcoholism, and Valerie indulging in a promiscuous lifestyle. The marriage ends when Miller actually finds her having sex with another man and Mrs. Hayden insists she divorce him. Years pass and Dani eventually becomes her mother's rival for the same man.


Back in the present, Dani claims that she was defending Valerie against attack, and when the case is brought to court, a verdict of justifiable homicide is ruled. An investigation into where to place Dani begins, but neither investigator Marian Spicer (Jane Greer) nor psychiatrist Dr. Jennings (Anne Seymour) can persuade Dani to open up about her feelings. When Mrs. Hayden petitions for custody of Dani and she still refuses to reveal herself, Valerie reveals that Dani was trying to kill her, and that Rick was only killed when he tried to defend Valerie. Valerie returns home and commits suicide, and after her death Luke Miller tries to help Dani rebuild her life.

I'm looking forward to watching! Are you?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Lana Turner and the Death of a Thug

 I've been watching episodes of E's Mysteries and Scandals and the other day I saw the one involving actress Lana Turner. I'd heard about this scandal from my mom when I was a kid, but it happened a few years before I was born. True crime junkie that I am, I read Detour, written by Cheryl Crane, the assailant of the thug, and she was only fourteen at the time of the crime.

Lana Turner

Here's the gist of the story: Lana Turner, one of Hollywood's most glamorous stars of the Golden Age, began dating and then living with Johnny Stompanato, a small time gangster with mob connections. Turns out Lana was rather fickle when it came to men, and when she decided to break things off, Stompanato became violent. Apparently the mob had wanted Stompanato to eventually become Mr. Lana Turner so that the mob would have access to her money.
Lana with daughter Cheryl Crane

Stompanato became physically abusive to Lana on several occasions and refused to leave the home he shared with her. Ms. Turner began to fear for her life, as Stompanato had held a gun to her head more than once. Desperate, she told her 14 year-old daughter Cheryl that she was afraid and needed her help. Most likely she meant, call the police if things get out of hand with that monster.

On one particular evening while Stopananto was beating Ms. Turner, he threatened her by saying, "If you were a man I'd cut off your hands, but since you make a living with your face, I'll cut that up instead!" Cheryl woke up upon hearing the beating and her mother's screams. She went to the kitchen and got a butcher knife, then went upstairs terrified, holding the knife and stood outside her mother's bedroom.
Lana with Johnny Stompanato

When Stompanato had had enough of beating and threatening Ms. Turner, he left the bedroom, only to walk straight into Cheryl's knife, which plunged straight through his abdomen. Needless to say, he died. A heinous thug brought down unintentionally by a frightened 14 year-old girl.

Cheryl Crane says she doesn't even remember going to the kitchen for the knife. Then she stood frightened outside her mother's bedroom unsure of what to do, but she knew her mother needed her.

If you enjoy true crime check out Detour, and for more on the case of Johnny Stompanato's death, click here. Were you familiar with this story?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 3/19/18

Monday, May 3, 2021

Jane Russell: More Than Just a Sex Symbol

I saw a fascinating biography the other day entitled Jane Russell: Body and Soul. If I weren't an old movie buff, the only thing I'd know about Jane Russell was that she was the spokeswoman for the Playtex 18 hour bra back in the 1970s. Since I do know a thing or two about old movies, I knew that Jane was known as a sex symbol,discovered by Howard Hughes and featured in  a starring role in his movie The Outlaw, her bust line being the main attraction.  

However, the documentary I watched told me so much more about Jane Russell and what an amazing woman she really was! Below I have excerpts from an article featured in Lifesupernatural.com.  Be sure to click on the link for the entire article! 


“I love the Lord”  is a beautiful statement that summed up Jane Russell’s philosophy.  While she was  best known for musicals, Westerns, and adventure films, too little has been said about her strong belief in God and how she has practiced her faith.


Jane Russell was raised by a devoted Christian Bible teaching mother who had been a stage actress before she was married (so she wasn’t worried when her daughter later became an actress).  Her husband died at 47 years of age, leaving her with Jane and four younger brothers, an eight-acre ranch, four horses and a cow.

Jane gave her heart to the Lord at age 6, received her baptism at the age of 12, and in her late teens discovered the wiles of what she calls “the world, the flesh, and the devil”.  But the Lord was faithful, never left her side through thick and thin and opened many controversial doors that led to things He wanted her ultimately to accomplish, through the motion picture business, the stage, recordings, and night clubs.  (“All things work together for good…”)
Though Jane  was known for her tall beauty, she would never compromise her Christian moral standards to please  a  studio.   She  says,“   In  those  days  there was a decency code that kept us safe.”  She speaks fondly of her mother who was a “fabulous” bible teacher.  “Mom made the Word come alive,” remembers Jane.  “That stayed with me forever.”
It was when Jane was modeling, that an agent came by the photo studio and “swiped” a head shot of her.  It was shown to movie studios and Jane was called to test for an upcoming movie that needed a half Irish/half Mexican actress.  Soon she was contacted to be awarded the leading role in The Outlaw.  There was a three year publicity campaign that touted Jane Russell in particular and it was a  “smash in the box-office.”

Jane went  on to star in a string of popular movies working with Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Robert Mitchum, and others.  Two of her most famous films were Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Marilyn Monroe and Paleface with Bob Hope.
Jane Russell was  a strong believer in prayer and knew that more than once it saved her life including one night when she was attacked in her own home. One thing she especially prayed for was children.  She had no idea that God would answer that prayer thousands and thousands of times.
During the war years Jane married football star Robert Waterfield  and during that twenty three years she and her husband adopted three children. Her second husband, Roger Barrett, died three months after her marriage, and finally she married John Peoples, to whom she stayed married for twenty-five years until his death in 1999.  Between the two of them, Jane remarks with amazement, they had eight children, fifteen grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.
Jane created her own special organization called WAIF in 1955.  The name referred to children without homes.  This organization placed about 51,000 children with adoptive families.  She went all over the nation and overseas as a fundraiser and spokesperson putting her faith to work.   The chapters for the original program have closed with the exception of the one in Los Angeles now known as “Operation Children”.  This group holds four parties a year for four different groups of children and prospective children.  Adults and children intermingle, eat, play games, and get to know each other in a park.  This approach has helped new families to be formed.
Jane also championed the passage of the Federal Orphan Adoption Amendment of 1953, which allowed children of American  servicemen born overseas to be placed for adoption in the United States.
According to some critics, Jane devoted more energy to WAIF than to maintaining her movie stardom.   At various points of her career, she took years off of movies to attend to family and ministry matters.  Her priorities were clear and often very public.
There's much more to the article. I've only scratched the surface here. Had you ever heard of Jane Russell? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 
Originally published 4-2-18