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!


hunchback_promo1

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.

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 74 other followers

: : :

 

THE PERFECT MATE

The Perfect Mate
by Ron Steelman

(Case study #03059)

Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.
– Oscar Wilde

Just about everyone I know hopes for success in finding a compatible mate with whom they can share a happy life. However, it is inevitable that one falls in love without any control whatsoever. Affairs of the heart do not seem to fit into the scientific arena. The idea that one could create a list of personality, philosophical, and physical attributes for a potential mate, then find this person, and then have that person fall for you at the same time you fall for them, is simply laughable.

Love won’t play that game. Love doesn’t want to be a controlled experiment that can be replicated precisely in a laboratory. Love is messy, mad, and marvelous. Attempting to control the elements of love in a scientific way is like trying to herd cats, or nail Jell-O to a wall.

My second marriage is working out much better than my first. I’d like to say I had complete control over the conditions that led to falling in love with my current wife of 29 years, but that is not true. I’d also like to say that I utilized all I had learned from the mistakes in the choice of my first wife. I’d like to say that I was totally in control at the moment thunder and lightning struck – I may be mistaken, but I believe the Italian for that is: “tuoni e fulmini.” But, alas, I was simply a pawn. I was not in charge of the experiment. The attraction was too powerful. I was struck dumb with love.

I do think there are a few things I’ve learned about our relationship that may be helpful to analyze. Experience has demonstrated that there are certain compatibilities – certain conditions, if you will – which have proven to be the keys to the success of our particular relationship. This is real science and I will present the supporting data and results at the end. Therefore, here are the four conditions for compatibility.

  1. bone-jokeHumor is our joy. We love to laugh. We both laugh at the same things. We love to make each other laugh. Some people prefer whips and chains for love-making; we are likely to fall out of the bed in hysterical laughter. We often make each other laugh a split-second after we wake up, or even while falling asleep. We share things that make us laugh. Sharing a sense of humor is one important condition.
  2. Civility is critical. ignore-the-snide-comments-quoteWe made a pact early on not to snipe at each other. We don’t use sarcasm in our speech to each other. Snide and mean remarks are not allowed. This forces us to speak to each other in civil tones. And when we don’t, the air turns heavy and dark, and we know why we agreed to this covenant in the first place. We sit down then and figure out what the misunderstanding was between us, or what was the cause of the “hurt” that made us break our agreement.
  3. Item #2 above leads directly to this: Respect. I loathe the typical “battle of the sexes” clichés that many men moan about women over and over behind their backs, and that women wail about men when they’re not around. I love my wife aretha-franklin-respect-1967-30-1and who she is and all of the good things in her character that make her an intelligent, witty, charming, loving partner. When I sometimes hear men trash women, I am surprised. For me, I love women. They’re neat! I’d have two or three if my wife would allow it! (this will make her laugh; see Item #1 above) I stand on my soapbox frequently lecturing others, “My wife is not my ball and chain, she is my accomplice. Life can be hard enough at times. We must help each other get through the day, and nights.” She is truly my partner. She must have my respect.
  4. Religion and Sex. Yes, they do go together. Seek someone who is compatible with your religion or life philosophy. This is key. Sometimes one of the lovers is willing to convert, but I always wonder about that. If you don’t share a religion or a philosophical view of life, you may be on thin ice. If you fail at this, you may also have trouble when it comes to the bedroom. Many religions seek to control your sexual life and birth control. eve_in_the_garden_of_eden_by_whimsicalmoon-d38i967Some religions also like to blame women for the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Some even attempt to punish women through mutilation of sexual organs. . . to diminish their pleasure during sex. This seems to me to be grossly unfair as well as primitive.  However, once you are aligned in your religious or non-religious beliefs, then be sure to seek a partner who happily shares your desires when it comes to the bedroom. It takes two to tango (if that’s the way you like to do it).

The results of my “scientific study” demonstrate that certain minimum conditions must be present to create a successful partnership. However, before you set out on your journey toward a permanent partnership, you must take some time to conduct the proper experiments yourself to test your assumptions about a potential mate. This chart reveals the possibilities for success given the results of your research.

Mate_Chart

If you have achieved proper test levels, i.e. the target conditions in the four areas of compatibility, this will certainly produce excellent results. Happy hunting!

: : :

It’s February; Let’s Talk About LOVE

It’s February; Let’s Talk About LOVE
by Ron Steelman

Humanism is a philosophy for those in love with life. And there’s no better time to think about love than February. The famous Humanist orator, Robert Green Ingersoll, said it nicely:

Love Is…
Love is the only bow on Life’s dark cloud.
It is the morning and the evening star.
It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb.
It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher.
It is the air and light of every heart — builder of every home, kindler
of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality.
It fills the world with melody — for music is the voice of love.
Love is the magician, the enchanter that changes worthless things to Joy,
and makes royal kings and queens of common clay.
It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that
sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts;
but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods.
– Robert Green Ingersoll, Orthodoxy (1884)

A live Italian Cupid statue

A live Italian Cupid statue

In a masterful mistaken-identity-and-spy-on-your-lover-plot, Valentine in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona finally gets the right girl at the end of the play. I prefer to cite Shakespeare’s Valentine, not St. Valentine, nor that Cupid twit (who was really just a voyeur). I like a man of real action, a guy who truly gives his heart away, rather than that elusive naked cherub who flits about shooting tiny arrows into the unsuspecting. And thus, when in doubt, always look to Will for something illuminating.

At the end of the play Shakespeare’s Valentine has just learned an extremely valuable lesson: love is what makes the world go round. What great excitement! Love ignites such exuberance in the young. Remember? The following lyric was written long after Shakespeare, yet it expresses Valentine’s joy in Broadway musical terms:

Rodgers & Hammerstein – “State Fair”
It’s a grand night for singing,
The moon is flying high,
And somewhere a bird
Who is bound he’ll be heard,
Is throwing his heart at the sky!
It’s a grand night for singing,
The stars are bright above.
The earth is a-glow
And, to add to the show,
I think I am falling in love!  (with emphasis)

Yes, I’m a romantic rapscallion.

At some point after you’ve fallen in love, if you’re lucky, you look at your lover and say to yourself:  “YIKES! SHE/HE LOVES ME. Am I lucky? Yes, very lucky! I need to love her the way she loves me.”

That feeling is captured in the next set of lyrics from the 1928 song, She’s Funny That Way, with music by Neil Moret and lyrics by Richard Whiting. It’s a gentle ballad. I discovered that various vocalists selected just some of the lyrics, and many have even re-written some of them. I have pieced together what I think is the whole song (maybe not exactly). I’m including it all because it’s like a short story as our hero contemplates his relationship with his lover.

She’s Funny That Way
Once she dressed in diamonds and pearls, Owned a Rolls Royce car
Now she seems quite out of place, like a fallen star
While I worry, plan and scheme, over what to do,
Can’t help feeling that it’s a dream. She’s just too good to be true.

I’m not much to look at, I’m nothing to see
I’m glad to be livin’ and lucky to be
I’ve got this girl that’s crazy for me
She’s funny that way.

I ain’t got a dollar, can’t save a cent
She doesn’t holler she’d live in a tent
I got girl who’s mad about me
She’s funny that way.

Tho’ she loves to work and slave for me ev’ry day
She’d be so much better off if I went away.

But why should I leave her, why should I go
She’d be unhappy without me I know
I got this girl crazy for me
She’s funny that way.

She should have the very best, Anyone can see
Still she’s diff’rent from the rest, satisfied with me.
While I worry, plan and scheme, over what to do
Can’t help feeling it’s a dream, too good to be true.

Never had nothin’; no one to care
That’s why I seem to have more than my share,
I got a woman, crazy for me,
She’s funny that way.

When I hurt her feelings, once in a while,
Her only answer is one little smile,
I got a woman crazy for me.
She’s funny that way.

I can see no other way and no better plan,
End it all and let her go to some better man;
But I’m only human, coward at best
I’m more than certain she’d follow me west,
I got a woman crazy for me,
She’s funny that way.

family sculptureIn the arc of life it might take a while for the next level of understanding to set in. When that magic moment materializes, and hopefully it comes well before you die, the reaction usually is: “Of course, it was right in front of me all of the time.” This next level of understanding is one of the great secrets of life: love is a priceless treasure that makes life worth living. It’s something that must be exalted. This reminds me of a Sondheim song from his Broadway musical, Company (I left out the recitative parts his close friends interject throughout, encouraging him and supporting him with their love).

Being Alive
by Stephen Sondheim

Someone to hold you too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair
To ruin your sleep
To make you aware
Of being alive

Someone to need you too much
Someone to know you too  well
Someone to pull you up short
To put you through hell
To give you support
In being alive
Being alive

Someone you have to let in
Someone whose feelings you spare
Someone who, like it or not
Will want you to share
A little, a lot

Someone to crowd you with love
Someone to force you to care
Someone to make you come through
Who’ll always be there
As frightened as you
Of being alive
Being alive
Being alive
Being alive

Somebody, need me too much
Somebody, know me too well
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive
Make me alive

Make me confused
Mock me with praise
Let me be used
Vary my days
But alone is alone
Not alive

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I’ll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

Sondheim sure knows how to hit an intimate button. He proves through his music and lyrics that the love of family and friends is definitely one of the “secrets” of a happy life.

That makes me turn again to the truth in Shakespeare and the many ways he looks at love. I like the usual suspects,  Sonnet 116 – “Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments,” or, Sonnet 18 – “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” I’d like to close, though, with this one line from Twelfth Night:

“Love sought is good, but given unsought better.”   – William Shakespeare

Kiss Sculpture

:  :  :