Monday, May 29, 2023

Famous Actors Who Served in the Military

On this Memorial Day, I want to extend many thanks to the brave men and women who have served and are currently serving our country. 

During World War II, many actors put their careers on hold to serve, and the most decorated American soldier of WWII returned home a hero and became an actor! Below are listed just a few celebrities who served from a list on
 Audie Murphy - Murphy was a true American hero and the only actor to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. In fact, Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of World War II who, besides receiving the CMOH, was also awarded 32 additional U.S. and foreign medals and citations, including five from France and one from Belgium. He later went on to appear in 44 films—mostly westerns and a few army films—before he died in a plane crash near Roanoke, Virginia three weeks shy of his 46th birthday. Not surprisingly, he was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
James Stewart - Stewart was an up and coming actor when he chose to give it all up and join the Army Air Corp in 1942. Considering how dangerous the skies over Europe were and the very high rate of attrition suffered by allied pilots, it’s a miracle he survived at all. Flying no fewer than 20 combat missions over Germany at the controls of the famous B-17 bomber, he received six battle stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal and even the famous French decoration, the Croix de Guerre with Palm. He even stayed active in the U.S. Air Force reserve after the war, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in 1968.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. - Few would have guessed the dashing actor and first husband to Joan Crawford would give up the sparkling lights of Hollywood to serve his country, but that’s exactly what he did. Commissioned an officer at the outbreak of World War Two, the actor served on Lord Louis Mountbatten’s staff in England where he observed the British make cross-channel raids on German positions designed to confuse and deceive the enemy. Taking that knowledge back to America, he was made part of a unit called the “Beach Jumpers” whose job it was to make bogus beach landings designed to confuse the enemy as to the location of the real landings. Serving in this capacity in North Africa, Sicily, and France, he was awarded several medals for bravery, chief among them the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the British Distinguished Service Cross, and even the French Croix de guerre. Fairbanks stayed in the Naval Reserve after the war and ultimately retired a captain in 1954.
For all 10 actors featured in the article click here. I knew that some of these actors had served, but I wasn't aware of all their accomplishments. What about you?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

10 Fascinating Facts About Gone with the Wind

I rebooted my podcast recently renaming it Untamed Pen, where I speak about writing and inspiration. I my latest episode, I mentioned Gone with the Wind. Of course that got me thinking more about one of my favorite novels and my favorite movie of all time. So today I posted this fascinating article from 
Mental Floss, "10 Fascining Facts About Gone with the Wind" Enjoy!


It was boredom that caused 25-year-old Margaret Mitchell to write 63 of the most beloved chapters in literary history. Mitchell was a journalist for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine when she took a leave to recover from “a series of injuries,” according to the Margaret Mitchell House, including a recurring ankle injury. When the ankle proved slow to heal this time, she decided to occupy herself by writing.


Though Mitchell spent the next decade working on characters and plot development, almost no one knew she was writing a book. She went to extreme lengths to hide her work from friends and family, including hurriedly throwing a rug over pages scattered on her living room floor once when company showed up unexpectedly.


Despite spending 10 years of her life working on the tome, Mitchell didn’t really have much intention of publishing it. When a “friend” heard that she was considering writing a book (though in fact, it had been written), she said something to the effect of, “Imagine, you writing a book!” Annoyed, Mitchell took her massive manuscript to a Macmillan editor the next day. She later regretted the act and sent the editor a telegram saying, “Have changed my mind. Send manuscript back.”


You know her as Scarlett now, but for years, the heroine of Gone with the Wind was named Pansy. It probably would have stayed that way had the publisher not requested a name change. “We could call her ‘Garbage O’Hara’ for all I care,” Mitchell wrote to her friend and the book’s associate editor. “I just want to finish this damn thing.”


Speaking of name changes, early drafts of Gone With the Wind referred to Tara as “Fountenoy Hall.” 


There was another Southern legend in Margaret Mitchell's family: Old West gunslinger (and dentist) Doc Holliday was Mitchell's cousin by marriage. Many people believe that Mitchell used her famous kin as the inspiration for Ashley Wilkes.


Add Mitchell to the list of people who don’t know what ultimately happened with Scarlett and Rhett. She left the ending ambiguous with no “real” ending even in her own head. “For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less—difficult,” she told Yank magazine in 1945.


That was also the tentative title. Mitchell also considered calling it Bugles Sang True or Not in Our Stars. The title she finally decided upon comes from a poem called Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson:

“I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind, Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng, Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind..."


Though Gone with the Wind is a classic now, not everyone was a fan of the epic novel when it was released—and that includes critics. Ralph Thompson, a book reviewer for The New York Times, was quite unimpressed. Among his criticisms:

“The historical background is the chief virtue of the book, and it is the story of the times rather than the unconvincing and somewhat absurd plot that gives Miss Mitchell's work whatever importance may be attached to it.”


When movie mogul David O. Selznick purchased the movie rights for $50,000 in 1936, it was the most ever paid for rights to a book. Mitchell declined to be involved with the production of the movie, though she was said to have loved it—save for a few details (she found Tara to be too opulent, for example).

Hope you enjoyed these fun facts! Some I knew, some I didn't. Any of this new to you?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Thirty Years a Slave

I ran across an interesting slave narrative recently and thought I'd share it today. Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave, And Four Years in the White House was written by Elizabeth Keckley.  She was best known as the personal seamstress and confidante of First Lady Mary Todd LincolnKeckley was born a slave in 1818, but purchased her freedom in 1860 and then moved to Washington. She created an independent business in the capital, and her clients included the wives of the government elite.

According to
Keckley not only became Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker, she was also the first lady's personal dresser and closest companion. She was a White House habitué during the pivotal years of the Abraham Lincoln presidency; the two ladies travelled together, with Keckley present for the Gettysburg address, and they raised money together for the Civil War effort.
Keckley son's died in the war in August 1861, but her mourning was cut short to comfort Mrs. Lincoln, who lost her own son to typhoid the following February. Keckley was also there to provide support following the president's assassination and Mrs. Lincoln's transition out of the White House.
Keckley decided to write her memoir in part to salvage the former first lady's reputation after the war. However, the publication of Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years as a Slave and Four Years in the White House in 1868 had the opposite effect; feeling betrayed by the revelations in the book, Mrs. Lincoln cut off contact with the woman she once called her closest friend.
Were you at all familiar with Elizabeth Keckley? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Fredi Washington: Didn't Live an Imitation of Life

Fredi Washington
Mother's Day is this Sunday and just I happened to think about a heartbreaking movie involving a mother. If you have ever seen Imitation of Life, you'll understand what I'm talking about, since it revolves around the theme of passing.

Most white people who have ever heard of the term "passing," and know what it means, and have most likely seen that film. 

Several years ago, my husband, who's white, watched the 1959 version with me.  He was fascinated by the subject matter and impressed that Imitation of Life had been made back in the 1950s.

I told him that this was the second version, and that the original had been produced in 1934.  In that movie, I informed him, a "real black girl" played the part of Peola, the light skinned daughter desperate to pass as white who rejects her black mother. (In the 1959 movie, the daughter's name is Sarah Jane and she's played by white actress Susan Kohner). If you're not familiar with Imitation of Life, based on the 1933 Fannie Hurst novel of the same name, click here.

The real black girl mentioned above was Fredi Washington, an accomplished African American dramatic actress during the 1920s and '30s.  Fair skinned with green eyes, she was often asked to "pass for white" in order to receive better opportunities in films.  However, Fredi refused.  "I'm honest," she said, "and you don't have to be white to be good."

She faced discrimination from whites and, because of her appearance, resentment within the black community, which had complex feelings about obvious mixed-race people. Washington expressed her opinions about race and color prejudice, and after retiring from acting in the 1930's, became an activist and journalist.

In 1937, Ms.Washington was a founding member of the Negro Actors Guild of America (NAG), which created better professional opportunities for blacks in show business. She also worked as Entertainment Editor of People's Voice, founded in 1942.

Never ashamed of who she was, Fredi Washington was no Peola! 

Have you seen either version of Imitation of Life? If you'd like to see the 1934 version , click here.

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Real Life Insight to Help Craft Your Tortured Hero

Dave Dravecky
 "My arm to me was what hands are to a concert pianist, what feet are to a marathon runner.  It's what made me valuable. What gave me worth in the eyes of the world. Then suddenly, my arm was gone." Dave Dravecky

In the June 2010 issue of Romance Writers Report, Romance Writers of America's Librarian of the year, Jennifer Lohmann, said her favorite romances involve a tortured hero. "...bring down that duke with stroke in his 30s, ruin a painter's painting arm and take away his eye...give him a stutter, have his mother abandon him, his father hate him..."

When the hero you've created is tortured, just the right woman--your heroine--can come along and pull him out of the lowly depths to which he has sunk. Regardless of the obstacles, and what your hero has suffered, your heroine can restore him to the man he once was, only better. Don't you just love happy endings?

After I read Ms. Lohmann's quote, I started thinking about some real life tortured heroes. Sometimes, the torture can be self inflicted, through lapses in judgement, such as alcohol abuse or drug use. But sometimes, unavoidable circumstances can bring about life altering change.

Take a look below at some real-life tortured heroes.

Lou Gherig
Michael Phelps is a star athlete and Olympic champion. We all know his story. With the world at his fingertips, Phelps made a rather pricey error in judgement. Once photos circulated of him indulging in an illegal substance, his multi-million dollar endorsements slipped right through his fingers and down the drain. Those Wheaties boxes featuring his picture were distributed to third world countries.

Ludwig van Beethoven, brilliant German composer and pianist, began to lose his hearing while still in his twenties. He ended up completely deaf, but despite this still continued to compose, conduct, and even perform. The cause of Beethoven's deafness is unknown, but it has been attributed to syphilis, lead poisoning, typhus, an auto-immune disorder, and even immersing his head in cold water to stay awake.
Michael Phelps

Lou Gherig, the great baseball player from the 1920's and '30s, is remembered for his prowess as a hitter, his consecutive games played record, and his farewell to baseball at age 36. Then he was stricken with with a fatal neurological disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, now known as "Lou Gherig's Disease." Motor function of the central nervous system is destroyed, but the mind stays in tact, and life is cut short. Gherig died at 38.

Dave Dravecky is a Christian motivational speaker. At one time, however, he was a major league baseball player. He's remembered for his battle against cancer, which ended his baseball career. After undergoing surgery to remove cancerous cells in his pitching arm, Dravecky began playing again. But the cancer returned. Eventually, his left arm and shoulder were amputated. After the first surgery Dravecky wrote a book entitled Comeback. He later wrote a follow-up, When You Can't Come Back.

While preparing this post I read Dravecky's encouraging and inspirational website.  I saw that he's written another book which examines how he coped with the amputation. As women, we don't understand that men see themselves defined by their careers. In The Worth of a Man, Dave says he felt stripped of his identity. He began to ponder many questions men ask themselves. Where does my worth come from? What creates my value and identity? Is there more to me than what was my career? After a long search, Dave discovered that his true worth could never be shaken by adversity or loss, and now he's inspiring others!

Sounds like The Worth of a Man is an awesome read that also offers insight into the soul of a real life tortured hero. A hero able to rise above adversity through faith, and his real life heroine wife, Jan.

What real-life tortured heroes can inspire your writing? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!