An Immigrant Recites the Gettysburg Address

What Really Made America Great
by Ron Steelman
6-26-18

I recently saw an old film from 1935, “Ruggles of Red Gap.” I remember seeing it on TV years ago. and I loved it then. But now I love it for a different reason. It has a powerful, patriotic scene that illustrates why immigrants have always been important to our country, not only for their patriotic spirit, but for how they have always been a big part of what “Made America Great” in the first place!

Ruggles_of_Red_Gap

Zasu Pitts, Charles Laughton, Charles Ruggles, Maude Eburne – in “The Ruggles of Red Gap” (scroll down for video clip)

In this film, the famous actor, Charles Laughton, recites the Gettysburg Address in a unique setting to say the least. The Gettysburg Address had great personal significance to Laughton because at the time he was considering taking up American citizenship (he became a U.S. citizen in 1950).

I like this film for several reasons:

1.  It is a comedy (that should be enough right there, actually).
2.  My wife and I are cinephiles.

3.  The film is one of my favorites because it stars Charles Laughton in the first comedic role I ever saw him in, compared to all the other roles for which he was famous, like: “The Private Lives of Henry VIII,” “Les Miserables,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “I, Claudius,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Witness for the Prosecution,” “Spartacus,” and many others. He is extremely funny and I wish he had done more comedies.
4.  The film has a stellar cast with wonderful character actors, like: Mary Boland, Charles Ruggles (same name as the title character), Zazu Pitts, Roland Young, Leila Hyams, and tons of  grizzled old cowboys (all with weathered, rawhide-like faces).
5.  And, there are some interesting stories in the trivia department to tell about the “making-of” of the film.

But first, watch this video clip, then later we’ll share some of the behind-the-scenes tidbits.

 



Pardon Me While I Vent a Little

Amid the current border crisis I am sickened by the anti-immigrant policies being ginned-up by our politicians.  Those officially seeking asylum from violent countries are being turned away. Those entering at other points are being arrested and having their children taken from them and sent to facilities in many far-away states. There appears to be no plan to reunite parents with their very young children. These policies are abhorrent and illegal. They are anti-American, anti-human-rights, and anti-humanist. We can only hope that the dimwits in Washington will return the children to their parents soon.

I just heard of an argument by a Trump supporter that these people applying for asylum should not be allowed in because they are not seeking the correct form of asylum. The Trump supporter claimed that in order to be accepted for asylum, they must be fleeing “political” persecution. That is simply not so. They explained this away by claiming that these people were simply fleeing bad economic conditions. That also is not so.

Here is the actual wording from the law about asylum seekers:  “Asylum has three basic requirements. First, an asylum applicant must establish that he or she fears persecution in their home country.  Second, the applicant must prove that he or she would be persecuted on account of one of five protected grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group. Third, an applicant must establish that the government is either involved in the persecution, or unable to control the conduct of private actors.”

I believe the operative phrases here are:  “particular social group,” and “government is either involved in the persecution, or unable to control the conduct of private actors.” The particular social group is poor people who happen to live in a country where the government isn’t protecting them from private actors, ie. gangs trying to put their children into violent gangs.

The ‘Steelman The Humanist” International Human Rights Court has spoken!


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Charles Laughton as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”


TRIVIA TIME:

>  Edward Dmytryk, the film’s editor, said that Charles Laughton became so emotional during the scene in the saloon where he recites the Gettysburg Address that it took director Leo McCarey 1-1/2 days to complete shooting it. According to Dmytryk, the preview audiences found Laughton’s close-ups in the scene embarrassing and tittered through the speech. When substitute shots of Laughton from behind were inserted, the audience found the reaction shots of the other people watching him very moving, and the second preview was extremely successful.

>  Charles Laughton referred to his reading of the “Gettysburg Address” in the film as “one of the most moving things that ever happened to me.” Laughton recited the address to the cast and crew of Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) on the last day of shooting on Catalina Island and again on the set of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). He performed the Gettysburg Address many times on radio, television, and included it in his one man show all over the country.

>  Nazi Germany banned the release of any German-dubbed version of this film because of the Gettysburg Address speech.

>  There’s another marvelously loose scene between the wonderful Leila Hyams and Roland Young as they perform the song “Pretty Baby” on the piano and drums, respectively. Parts of it look improvised, and I would swear that Hyams and Young are going to break out of character at any second. They seem to be having a ball and that’s contagious to the audience.

 

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DEPRESSION & SUICIDE A SIN?

DEPRESSION & SUICIDE A SIN?
by Ron Steelman
June 19, 2018

Kate_Anthony
(Photo from Today.com)

I happened to see an article in Time magazine about the untimely deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. One point author Belinda Luscombe makes in her article is that the way we often look at those who are extremely successful is through the lens of one of the seven deadly sins: “Envy.” We wish we had what they have (had). That got me thinking about the other deadly sins. I think there’s something worse than envy. 

You remember the whole list, right? In Christian tradition the sins are pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. As an actor I once played the character Gluttony in the play Doctor Faustus, not the opera Faust, but the original play by Christopher Marlowe (I don’t know why they cast me in that role??). I’m not really an expert on the “seven deadlies,” but let’s say I’ve experienced them all at some point in my life.

While reviewing the definitions of these sins, I discovered the original meaning of the word, “sloth.” It comes from the Latin & Greek word “Acedia.” From Wikipedia: “It’s been translated to “apathetic listlessness; depression without joy. It is related to melancholy: acedia describes the behavior and melancholy suggests the emotion producing it. In early Christian thought, the lack of joy was regarded as a willful refusal to enjoy the goodness of God. . .” Good grief!

This primitive, religious belief that depression and suicide is a sin, is something I’ve been wrestling with for years. It continues poisoning our thoughts. I have had various friends and relatives who have gone into severe depressions, some of them in such pain that it led to them taking their own lives. I don’t know anything about the nature of Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s depression. However, it makes me so sad/mad that not only are they gone now, but that they are condemned as sinners in the eyes of the Christian God, and by many Christians who today still harbor this ill-informed belief.Smile_No_Hell_Black

As a modern society/culture we must grow beyond these ancient tribal beliefs and work instead to understand the hideous nature of depression and seek help for those who suffer from it. Too often we try to fix the blame, instead of fixing the problem. Once you fix the blame you are done. That’s easy; you can walk away.

But if you begin with a little empathy and compassion, maybe you can help to fix the problem. Depression is a human problem. It is part of the human condition. It is not a sin, not something about which we should be judgmental. Sorry, we do not get to be vindictive Gods who can send people to hell because they are depressed and not worshiping us properly. Be kind.


Excerpt from the June 25, 2018 Time article by Belinda Luscombe
THINGS ARE NEVER WHAT THEY SEEM:

“Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human condition,” wrote Graham Greene in his second autobiography, Ways of Escape, a book which the chef, author and travel show host Anthony Bourdain, who died on June 8 at 61, kept on his nightstand.

The full Time Magazine article – June 25, 2018:

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Prayer Won’t Stop the Gun Violence

I’m now following a new blogger who I think offers an interesting premise: Love Over Religion – Why I Left Christianity (and that’s the title of her book. . .now on Amazon). Excellent. She was following me (so we know she has excellent taste), and I decided to really sign up and follow her blog when I read her post:  “Guns II.” Take a look. Tell us both what you think.

Love Over Religion

TREASON FROM WITHIN

Illustration by DonkeyHotey

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.”

― Marcus Tullius Cicero