Twilight Saga 101: 33 Things You Should Know About Twilight Before Seeing New Moon

This article provides the plot of the movie Twilight in list form. It includes spoilers as the movie and story are summarized as a whole.

I went to see the third movie of the Twilight Saga Eclipse with two friends and one of them hadn’t read the books or seen the first two movies- Twilight and New Moon. While I did my best to update him before and during the movie, he would have been better off with a background guide.

The story of Eclipse is not complicated and not knowing anything won’t keep you from enjoying the movie. However knowing a little might help you have more fun. And of course, there will be spoilers concerning Twilight and New Moon. So read on at your own risk.  Below is the guide to the Twilight movie.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in Twilight Image via http://3aymun.files.wordpress.com

  Above, Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen and Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan in Twilight

1. Bella Swan’s (Kristen Stewart) parents got divorced when she was little.

2. She is a high school student who lived with her mother most of her life.

Billy Burke as Charlie Swan in Twilight Image via http://users.atw.hu/twilighter/charliescard.jpg

Billy Burke as Charlie Swan, Bella's dad.

3. She moves to the small town of Forks, Washington to live with her dad Charlie (Billy Burke), who is the town’s chief of police.

4. Although Charlie loves his daughter, it takes him a while to get used to having his child in the same house with him. He is a bit introverted but affectionate and caring.

5. Bella has always felt like an outsider. It takes a long time for her to adjust as being social doesn’t come easily for her. The constant rain and bad weather of the town don’t really help her mood either.

6. She attracts the attention of all the kids in her new high school because it is a small town where everyone knows everyone and people love to get to know someone different.

7. The boys of the school, especially Mike want to date Bella as she is the new girl.

8. However romance is the last thing on her mind.

The Cullens: Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Elizabeth Reaser, Robert Pattinson, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone Image via http://www.twilightgear.net

Above, The Cullens: From left: Emmett Cullen (Kellan Lutz), Rosalie (Nikki Reed) , Esme (Elizabeth Reaser), Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), Alice (Ashley Greene) and Jasper (Jackson Rathbone).

9. She soon finds out that there is something very interesting about her school: There is a family called The Cullens. The Cullens consist of 3 boys and 2 girls- 2 couples and a guy. They are not actual siblings but adopted children of the town’s young but brilliant and highly respected doctor Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) and his wife Esme Cullen (Elizabeth Reaser).

Alice and Jasper Cullen (Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone) Image via http://3.bp.blogspot.com

Alice and Jasper Cullen- Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone

10. The High School Cullens are Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), Jasper (Jackson Rathbone) and Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) (couple), Emmett and Rosalie Cullen (Kellan Lutz and Nikki Reed) (couple).

Rosalie and Emmett Cullen: Nikki Reed and Kellan Lutz

Rosalie and Emmett Cullen- Nikki Reed and Kellan Lutz. Image via http://c2.api.ning.com

Esme and Carlisle Cullen - Elizabeth Reeser and Peter Facinelli Image via http://blog.espol.edu.ec.jpg

Carlisle and Esme Cullen- Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser

11. Bella’s classmates find the Cullens really weird as they always hang out with each other, they are extremely blonde, never seem to eat much and they go camping with their parents whenever the sun shines in Forks.

12. The only Cullen that is not coupled-up is Edward Cullen and Bella finds out that he is her lab partner.

Edward Cullen- Robert Pattinson Image via http://img03.blogcu.com

Edward Cullen- Robert Pattinson

13. Bella is fascinated and intrigued by all the Cullens, especially by the air of mystery and how beautiful they all are, especially Edward.

14. Bella tries to be nice and friendly, but for some reason, Edward is very hostile towards her. In fact it seems like he can’t even stand her presence.

15. The real reason of his hostility is of course unknown to Bella. The Cullens are all vampires. But they don’t drink human blood or harm humans in anyway. They need to go away in sunny weather because they don’t want to be exposed, as no one in town knows they are vampires.

16. Since the Cullen teenagers have become vampires at about the age of 17, they only stay in a certain town until they graduate. Then they have to start their high school education all over again.

17. Edward is not hostile towards Bella because he doesn’t like her or is repelled by her, as Bella mistakenly but naturally believes him to be. He is incredibly drawn to her blood-there is something about its smell and effect that he has never encountered before. Since Cullens are good vampires, Edward is disgusted by himself and afraid of his tendency to hurt Bella so he stays away from her as possible.

18. He goes away for a while and when he comes back he has gotten rid of his fears and learned to control his desire to drink her blood. And there is another reason why Bella’s scent is irresistible to him, as because in the romantic sense, she is the one he has been waiting for.

19. Edward and his family members have special qualities in addition to the regular vampire super strength, ability and extreme sense of smell. Alice can see the future and people’s decisions, albeit with limitations. Jasper can control emotions and moods. Edward can hear everyone’s thoughts, apart from Bella.

20. When he comes back, he is really nice to Bella and this catches her by surprises. Without revealing his actual reasons, he becomes friends with her.

21. Neither the Cullens nor her friends are really happy with Edward’s sudden interest for her. But Bella, though she doesn’t understand why the most gorgeous guy around is interested in such a plain girl like her, is enjoying his attention.

Jacob Black- Taylor Lautner Image via http://www.robertpattinson-tr.com

Jacob Black - Taylor Lautner

22. Bella also has one close friend, who doesn’t go to her school. His name is Jacob Black. He is a year younger and she used to know him when they were kids.

23. On a school trip, Jacob tells her a myth that he finds amusing and doesn’t really believe in. According to the tales, there are vampires and werewolves and they both exist in Forks. They are sworn enemies and they have made a territorial agreement and they are not allowed to cross over to the enemies’ side of the town.

24. After Bella hears the tale, however, things start to make sense, albeit frighteningly. From what she learns from research and Jacob, she puts one and two together and realizes the Cullens are all vampires.

25. She confronts Edward and he explains everything.

26. Bella is not scared and even though it is a potentially dangerous relationship, she is in love with Edward and he is in love with her. However he is very careful about physical intimacy as he doesn’t want to lose control in anyway.

27. Bella also gets to see what happens when a vampire is exposed to sunlight: he doesn’t burn or burst into flames but all his skin glitters like diamonds.

28. Things are going to get more complicated as Jacob has a crush on Bella.

29. Esme and Carlisle Cullen along with Alice Cullen- are more than willing to welcome Bella to the family. Emmett and Jasper have doubts but it is Rosalie that is openly hostile towards Bella. She doesn’t want a human around them.

30. 3 not-so-nice vampires arrive in town: Victoria, Laurent and James. They sense that but Bella is not a vampire and they want to hunt her. Of course the Cullens don’t allow it but now Bella and her father are in danger so Bella makes a plan with the Cullens. She will supposedly break-up with Edward and will leave her father to move in back with her mom. The idea is to protect her father easily until the vampires can be hunted down.

31. The vampires get hunted down through a vigorous fight that almost kills Bella.

32. After the incident, Edward’s bond with Bella is even stronger and Bella goes back to live with her dad but he will always be skeptical and disapproving towards Edward from then on.

33. The problem is, while one of the vampires- James- is dead, Victoria is still pretty much alive.

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Ten Best Al Capone Movies

Al Capone movies are legendary in Hollywood. The Untouchables, Al Capone, Capone, Scarface, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, The Scarface Mob, Alcatraz Express, Frank Nitti: The Enforcer and Road to Perdition are the best Capone movies.

The notorious Al Capone (1899-1947) ruled the Chicago underworld during the Roaring Twenties. Big Al later ran afoul of the tax man in 1931, serving part of his seven-year prison stretch for income tax evasion at infamous Alcatraz Island. Capone died of complications from neurosyphilis at his Palm Island, Florida, home on January 25, 1947.

Here are ten movies featuring Al "Scarface" Capone that no film fan should ever miss. The screening room at the Lexington Hotel, Capone's old Chicago headquarters, is now open, with Geraldo Rivera as your genial host...

The Untouchables (Paramount, 1987)

Robert De Niro winningly plays Al Capone in this $20 million crime drama that also stars Kevin Costner as U.S. Treasury agent Eliot Ness. Set in 1930, the film is centered on Ness and his Untouchables, who work tirelessly to bring down the ruthless Capone and his criminal empire. One of the most memorable scenes – and certainly an extremely violent one at that – takes place at a gangster banquet where a baseball bat wielding Capone brutally eliminates one of his fellow mobsters who failed to protect a liquor warehouse from the police. The baseball loving Al didn't appreciate his own "players" exhibiting individualism over teamwork – as the bloody result so graphically illustrates.

Director: Brian De Palma

Review: "As Capone, De Niro's going for a broad, theatrical style of acting. He creates a satire on the idea of Capone. With his chest puffed out in front of him, he's a petty despot – Il Duce in spats. But because the crime boss is supposed to represent the force of evil in the film, the absence of any real violence in his characterization is a crucial miscalculation." - Hal Hinson, The Washington Post (6/3/87)

On DVD: The Untouchables Special Collector's Edition (Paramount, 2004)

One sheet movie poster: The Untouchables (1987)

Al Capone (Allied Artists, 1959)

Rod Steiger has the title role of Alphonse Gabriel Capone, charting his rise from New York City transplant to unchallenged czar of the Chicago underworld. Fay Spain plays Maureen Flannery, Capone's love interest and the widow of a man he murdered, with Nehemiah Persoff as Johnny Torrio, Murvyn Vie as George "Bugs" Moran, Robert Gist as Dion O'Banion and Joe De Santis as Big Jim Colosimo. Steiger excels in the "Scarface" role, effectively capturing the gangster's many moods, from violent hoodlum to charming benefactor. The final scene, in which the big shot Capone is attacked while an inmate at Alcatraz, serves as the movie's crowning sense of justice.

Director: Richard Wilson

Review: "A tough, ruthless and generally unsentimental account of the most notorious gangster of the prohibition-repeal era, Al Capone is also a very well-made picture. There isn't much 'motivation' given for Capone, at least not in the usual sense. But the screenplay does supply reasons and they are more logical than the usual once-over-lightly on the warped youth bit." - Variety (1959)

On DVD: Al Capone (Warner Bros., 2009)

Rod Steiger in Al Capone (1959)

Capone (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1975)

Ben Gazzara enters the gangster cinematic sweepstakes, ably playing Al Capone in this somewhat forgotten entry from the Gerald Ford era. Susan Blakely plays Iris Crawford, Capone's main fictional squeeze. "There should be a law against women drinking," Capone tells Iris. "Well, I think there is," Iris smugly replies, correctly referring to the 18th Amendment that ushered in Prohibition. A parade of actors portray real-life gangsters, including Sylvester Stallone as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti, Harry Guardino as Johnny Torrio, John Cassavetes as Frankie Yale, Frank Campanella as Big Jim Colosimo, John Orchard as Dion O'Banion, Carmen Argenziano as Machine Gun Jack McGurn and John Davis Chandler as Hymie Weiss. Don't look to Capone for the historical facts – Frank Nitti, for example, is seen giving the eulogy at Big Al's funeral despite having died four years earlier. But for a good, violent gangster romp, Capone may just fit the bill, pallie.

Director: Steve Carver

Review: "Sad to say, 'Capone' isn't much fun. There's one good laugh and a lot of violence. And if you're ready for it, there is even a brief outdoor love scene in which Al Capone and his new girl friend run dreamily past soft-focus trees and flowers...But too much of the movie is devoted to a deadingly repetitious series of scenes in which men in overcoats drive up in cars and machine gun gangsters coming out of restaurants." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (4/18/75)

On DVD: Capone (Fox, 2006)

Lobby card: Ben Gazzara and Susan Blakely in Capone (1975)

Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (United Artists, 1932)

Paul Muni plays Antonio "Tony" Camonte, an extremely violent hood who claws his way to the top of the underworld. The principal character may be Antonio Camonte, but there's little doubt as to who producers had in mind when they filmed this baby during the Great Depression. Mr. Camonte shares the same initials with one Alphonse Capone, who was about to depart to the big house to serve an eleven-year sentence for income tax evasion upon the movie's release on April 9, 1932. Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Osgood Perkins, C. Henry Gordon, George Raft and Boris Karloff appear in supporting roles. It's an over-the-top performance by Muni, featuring prominent use of the Thompson submachine gun – a.k.a. "tommy gun," "bean shooter" and "Chicago typewriter." Two of Capone's thugs visited the film's screenwriter Ben Hecht in Los Angeles, demanding to know if the movie was about their boss. When told that it wasn't, they were still curious as to why the picture was titled Scarface. "If you call the movie Scarface, people will think it's about Capone and come to see it. It's part of the racket we call show business," Hecht informed the two torpedoes. Satisfied, the bent noses left the hotel. 

Director: Howard Hawks

Review: "The slaughter in 'Scarface, the Shame of a Nation,' the Howard Hughes gangster production which was launched yesterday at the Rialto, is like that of a Shakespearean tragedy, for after the smoke of machine guns and pineapple bombs has blown away and the leading killer has gone to his death on the gallows, the only one of a group of principal characters left is a blonde with carefully plucked eyebrows—she who had been the mistress of two underworld giants." - Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times (5/20/32).

On DVD: Scarface (United Artists, 2007)

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1967)

The infamous February 14, 1929, St. Valentine's Day Massacre garners the Hollywood treatment in this heavy-handed film presented in docudrama fashion. Jason Robards Jr. plays a swaggering, Irish-looking Al Capone, who orders the bloody hit on Bugs Moran's North Side Gang. A fine supporting cast appears, with George Segal, Ralph Meeker, Jean Hale, Clint Ritchie, Frank Silvera, Joseph Campanella and Bruce Dern filling the ranks of gangsterhood. When a newspaper reporter suggests that maybe cops were responsible for the massacre, Bugs Moran (Meeker) replies, "You must be new to this town, mister. Only Al Capone kills like that." Look for bit player Jack Nicholson, who appears as a gangster named Gino.  

Director: Roger Corman

Review: "The only theatrical value and commercial purpose of this luridly publicized picture, which opened at the Warner and the 68th Street Playhouse yesterday, appear to me to be the callous horror and the morbid fascination of the terminal scene, in which those seven members of the Moran gang are trapped and mowed down by Capone machine-gunners in a North Side garage. For those who like blood and twitching bodies, there is plenty of that in this scene." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (7/27/67)

On DVD: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2006)

One sheet movie poster: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967)

The Scarface Mob (Desilu, 1959)

The Scarface Mob is actually a compilation of ABC-TV's The Untouchables (1959-63) two-part pilot episode, which was first telecast via the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse on April 20 and 27, 1959, with host Desi Arnaz introducing each segment. The edited movie was later released to theaters in 1960-62. Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) and his band of Untouchables move in on the Capone gang, hoping to crush Big Al's hold on the Chicago underworld. Neville Brand portrays a sneering Al "Scarface" Capone, with Bruce Gordon as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti. Also appearing are Keenan Wynn, Pat Crowley, Barbara Nichols, Bill Williams, Joe Mantell, Peter Leeds, Robert Osterloh and Paul Picerni. One scene proved to be particularly racy, at least for 1950s television, whereby several Capone thugs pay a visit to Ness' innocent girlfriend Betty Anderson (Pat Crowley), breaking into her apartment, ripping open her blouse and leering at the "merchandise." I Love Lucy this wasn't.

Director: Phil Karlson

Review: "Originally the opening installments in the TV series, this crime drama of the Aspirin age still looks pretty good in feature form." - Steven H. Scheuer, Movies on TV (1984)

On DVD: The Untouchables - Season 1, Vol. 1, includes feature movie version of the pilot a.k.a. The Scarface Mob (Paramount, 2007)

One sheet movie poster: The Scarface Mob (1962)

Alcatraz Express (Desilu, 1961)

Alcatraz Express is the feature-length version of the two-part The Untouchables episode "The Big Train," first telecast over ABC-TV on January 5 and 12, 1961. The edited movie was later released to theaters in 1962. With Walter Winchell providing the snappy narration, Alcatraz Express opens in 1931, with Al Capone (Neville Brand) having been convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to an eleven-year prison stretch at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Capone's cash bribes have made his stay in the Atlanta pen pretty comfortable, but when it becomes known that Big Al and other top name criminals are now headed to Alcatraz, the Chicago gangster and his mob conspire to spring him loose during the train journey. The old Untouchables gang is here, with Robert Stack as the tight-lipped Eliot Ness, Abel Fernandez as Agent William Longfellow, Nicholas Georgiade as Agent Enrico Rossi, Steve London as Agent Jack Rossman and Paul Picerni as Agent Lee Hobson. Bruce Gordon plays Frank Nitti and Gavin MacLeod appears as gangster Three-Fingered Jack White. Watch Ness and his boys engage in a Wild West shootout with mobsters in a small desert town.

Director: John Peyser

Review: "It still looks like a TV show, but manages to whip up a good amount of suspense." - Steven H. Scheuer, Movies on TV (1984)

On DVD: The Untouchables - Season 2, Vol. 1, includes the original two-part episode "The Big Train" (Paramount, 2008)

Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (ABC-TV, 1988)

This made-for-TV movie stars Anthony LaPaglia as Frank Nitti (1881-1943), one of Al Capone's top lieutenants and the front man for the Chicago Outfit. Like his boss, Nitti was later found guilty of tax evasion and sent to infamous Alcatraz Island for a little 18-month government-sponsored "vacation." Vincent Guastaferro plays Capone, with Trini Alvarado, Michael Moriarty, Michael Russo, Hank Azaria and Bruce Kirby in support. LaPaglia as the feared "Enforcer", lights up the small screen, with Guastaferro's Scarface appearing as second banana.

Director: Michael Switzer

Review: "Al Capone may be the most famous Chicago mobster, but his successor, Frank 'The Enforcer' Nitti (Anthony LaPaglia), was just as ruthless. This biopic goes to great lengths to accurately trace Nitti's rise to the top of the Windy City's underworld, amid corruption, betrayal and violence. The result is an engrossing glimpse into mob life in the early 20th century." - TV Guide (2009)

On DVD: Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (Direct Source, 2006)

Road to Perdition (DreamWorks, 2002)

Good ol' Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan Sr., a hit man for the Chicago Irish mob seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and youngest son. Anthony LaPaglia plays Al Capone, whose single scene was axed in the final cut. In the subsequent DVD, however, the sequence was restored in the deleted scenes section. Paul Newman, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law and Stanley Tucci also appear in this classic gangster tale with plenty of bleak, film noir atmosphere.

Director: Sam Mendes  

Review: "Filmed in a harsh winter of rain, snow and chilling darkness, Road will be long remembered for the artistry of cinematographer Conrad Hall. There are breathtaking scenes of shootouts and bank robberies, complimented by Thomas Newman's evocative score." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone (8/1/02)

On DVD: Road to Perdition Widescreen Edition (Universal, 2003)

One sheet movie poster: Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition (2002)

The Untouchables (Paramount Television, 1993-94)

This syndicated television series stars Tom Amandes as fabled Treasury agent Eliot Ness. Appearing in 15 episodes is William Forsythe, who plays the role of Al Capone with hot-headed, tommy gun relish. The series wrapped up its two-season, 42-episode run with the two-part segment "Death and Taxes," telecast on May 15 and 22, 1994, with Forsythe's Big Al eventually running afoul of both. Also look for Paul Regina as a sinister Frank Nitti in 15 episodes.  

Director: Tucker Gates, Vern Gillum, Charles Robert Carner, Steve De Jarnatt, Eric Laneuville, et al.

Review: "First installment in Paramount's latest attempt to mine the 'Untouchables' cash cow looks great, sounds trite. Figuratively speaking, at least, it's a return to black-and-white television. Problems may be that the story of Eliot Ness and Al Capone has been told so often, it's already part of the national consciousness." - Todd Everett, Variety (1/12/93)

On DVD: Not commercially available

The Untouchables: Capone Rising

  • The Untouchables: Capone Rising, a prequel to the 1987 Brian De Palma movie, is now in pre-production. Nicolas Cage, slated to play Capone, had earlier withdrawn from the film.

Images Credit

  • All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
  • Top image: Half sheet movie poster style A: Rod Steiger as Al Capone (1959)

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

Ten Best Big Band Movies

Big band movies are great entertainment. New York New York, The Glenn Miller Story, The Fabulous Dorseys, Orchestra Wives, The Benny Goodman Story, Hollywood Hotel, The Gene Krupa Story, Las Vegas Nights, Reveille with Beverly and Swing Kids are the top swing music films.

The heyday of the big band era of the 1930s and '40s was a special time in music history. Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Xavier Cugat and the Dorsey Brothers were just some of the big name swing artists leading the charge.

Here are ten big band movies that no fan of swing music should ever miss. Are you "In the Mood?"

New York, New York (United Artists, 1977)

Robert De Niro plays fictional bandleader Jimmy Doyle, who after V-J Day in 1945 forms his own orchestra. Joining the temperamental Jimmy in the band is his talented girlfriend/wife Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli), with the two carrying on their rocky romance amidst the constant travel, petty jealousies and artistic clashes of their entourage. Robert De Niro, the consummate method actor, learned to play the saxophone for his role as the egotistical, womanizing Jimmy.

Liza Minnelli as the perky girl singer Francine, of course, was already set in the music department from day one, with her rousing rendition of "New York, New York" one of the picture's true highlights. There are plenty of big band tunes in this one, including Tommy Dorsey's "Song of India," which kicks off the movie at a raucous New York nightclub where boozy, delirious patrons are celebrating the end of World War II.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Review: "The movie's a vast, rambling, nostalgic expedition back into the big band era, and a celebration of the considerable talents of Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (6/23/77)

On DVD: New York, New York Special Edition (MGM, 2005)

Insert movie poster: New York, New York (1977)

The Glenn Miller Story (Universal, 1954)

James Stewart has the title role of Alton Glenn Miller (1904-1944), the fabled big band leader whose plane went missing over the English Channel in December 1944. There's more Hollywood hokum than actual Miller biography in this film, but the performances and especially the music will surely entertain both Glenn Miller and big band fans. June Allyson plays Helen Berger Miller, with a toothy Harry Morgan as Chummy MacGregor and Charles Drake as Don Haynes. Many of the Glenn Miller standards are here, including such gems as "String of Pearls," "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "In the Mood," "Tuxedo Junction," "At Last" and of course the band's signature song "Moonlight Serenade."

Director: Anthony Mann

Review: "Sweet is the word the modern swingsters would apply to the type of music played in the Thirties and early Forties by the late Glenn Miller and his band. And that is the word, beyond question, for the picture that has been made by Universal-International about the bandsman, his wife, his music and career." - Bosley Crwother, The New York Times (2/11/54)

On DVD: The Glenn Miller Story (Universal, 2003)

One sheet movie poster: The Glenn Miller Story (1954)

The Fabulous Dorseys (United Artists, 1947)

Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey suspended their sibling feud long enough to play themselves in this big band Hollywood biopic, with Janet Blair and William Lundegan in key supporting roles. Look for an impressive contingent of other big band artists, including Paul Whiteman, Charlie Barnet, Bob Eberly, Henry Busse, Helen O'Connell, Mike Pingatore, Stuart Foster, Art Tatum, Ray Bauduc and Ziggy Elman. The Fabulous Dorseys serves up such big band standards as "Tangerine," "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "Green Eyes," all of which make up for the movie's weak storyline and the Dorsey Bros', mediocre acting.

Director: Alfred E. Green 

Review: "Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey are topnotch popular band leaders. That much we knew before seeing the story of their battling career acted out yesterday on the screen at Loew's State in 'The Fabulous Dorseys.' The picture naturally stresses their musicianship, with the result that Tommy's trombone and Jimmy's saxophone stand out from the dialogue, which is just as well. Whether the film is a fairly accurate account of their rise from humble beginnings we don't pretend to know, but it seems they were always scrapping as kids and the passing of years did not cool their tempers any." Bosley Crowther and Thomas M. Pryor, The New York Times (5/30/47)

On DVD: The Fabulous Dorseys (Quantum Leap, 2004)

Lobby card: The Fabulous Dorseys (1947)

Orchestra Wives (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1942)

George Montgomery stars as Bill Abbot, a trumpeter for the fictional Gene Morrison Orchestra, with Ann Rutherford as his romantic interest. As the title implies, the plot centers on the musicians and their bickering wives, the latter of whom almost tear the band apart. Glenn Miller plays bandleader Gene Morrison, with the rest of the Miller orchestra plus the Modernaires (Tex Beneke, Johnny Best, Ray Eberle, Billy May, Al Klink, Marion Hutton, Skippy Martin, Paul Tanner, Bobby Hackett, Ralph Brewster, et al.) along for the Hollywood party.

Glenn Miller and his band had arrived by train in Hollywood on March 17, 1942, beginning work on Orchestra Wives six days later. Johnny Best performed the trumpet work for George Montgomery while Chummy MacGregor tickled the ivories for Cesar Romero. Later, Ray Eberle quit the band, saying that Glenn Miller had failed to pay him for his appearance in Orchestra Wives, with Miller claiming that Eberle's contract hadn't called for any extra compensation for doing the picture. Orchestra Wives opened on September 4, 1942, featuring such Miller hits as "At Last," "Serenade in Blue," "(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo," "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Moonlight Serenade."

Director: Archie Mayo

Review: "Hep cats and other such fauna who are 'sent' by Glenn Miller's honeyed swing will be the most likely recipients of Twentieth Century-Fox's 'Orchestra Wives,' which was wafted into the Roxy on wings of song and little else yesterday. For once more the Hollywood tailors have draped the shivering shoulders of a popular band with a trifling little story which is as ridiculous as a zoot suit and has no more shape or distinction than one of those forbidden garbs. Mr. Miller and his assorted virtuosos are killers when it comes to making jive, but it takes more than wind and willingness to support a ninety-seven-minute film." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (9/24/42)

On DVD: Orchestra Wives (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2005)

Three sheet movie poster: Orchestra Wives (1942)

The Benny Goodman Story (Universal, 1956)

Steve Allen has the title role of Benny Goodman (1909-1986) – a.k.a. the vaunted "King of Swing" – in this spirited Hollywood biopic. Donna Reed plays Alice Hammond and Berta Gersten appears as Mama Goodman, with cameos from musicians Harry James, Ben Pollack, Teddy Wilson, Stan Getz, Ziggy Elman, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa and vocalist Martha Tilton. Although Steve Allen was already an accomplished musician and songwriter, the comic/actor/television host had to take instruction from Sol Yaged in order to convincingly mime the clarinet for the cameras.

Universal paid Benny Goodman $25,000 for the movie rights to his story, with Goodman also collecting another $10,000 for his role as consultant and for his musical contributions to the soundtrack. The movie, which chronicles the life of Goodman from age nine up to his historic 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall, features plenty of tunes, including "Let's Dance," "Goody, Goody," "Stompin' at the Savoy," "And the Angels Sing," "One O'Clock Jump," "Avalon," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Don't Be That Way" and "Moonglow."

Director: Valentine Davies

Review: "Benny Goodman's swing music is so much a part of the familiar sounds of our times that just to hear it as Benny and his bandsmen used to play—and still do—is an experience of multiple charms...It's this music, delivered in abundance and in the genuine Goodman style, that makes the movie, 'The Benny Goodman Story,' at all worth going to see...Steve Allen, the TV actor who makes his screen debut in the role of the fictitious Goodman...is so tense and taciturn—or so timid and temperate—that the only personality he projects is that of an amiable wallflower. It isn't Benny—and it isn't good. Mr. Allen has picked a fine way to crimp his popularity on TV." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (2/22/56)

On DVD: The Benny Goodman Story (Universal, 2003)

Half sheet movie poster style B: The Benny Goodman Story (1956)

Hollywood Hotel (Warner Bros., 1937)

Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane and Lola Lane head the cast of this wacky musical comedy, with Powell playing Ronny Bowers, a saxophonist in the Benny Goodman Orchestra who wins a ten-week movie contract with Miracle Pictures in Hollywood. The big attraction in the film of course is Benny Goodman, whose clarinet wails as he leads his orchestra in such spirited tunes as "Hooray for Hollywood," "California Here I Come," "Let That Be a Lesson to You" and "Sing, Sing, Sing." Look for Goodman band members vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, drummer Gene Krupa and trumpeter Harry James. Raymond Paige and His Orchestra also appear, along with Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons, Hugh Herbert, Ted Healy, Glenda Farrell and Frances Langford.

Director: Busby Berkeley

Review: "Hollywood Hotel is a smash musical entertainment, with a lively and amusing story and some popular song numbers." - Variety (1937)

On DVD: Hollywood Hotel (Warner, 2008)

One sheet movie poster: Hollywood Hotel (1937)

The Gene Krupa Story (Columbia, 1959)

Sal Mineo has the title role of Gene Krupa (1909-1973), the popular jazz/swing drummer who plied his talents for such bandleaders as Red Nichols and Benny Goodman, later forming his own orchestra in 1938. Susan Kohner, James Darren and Susan Oliver also appear, with Red Nichols, singer Anita O'Day and comic Buddy Lester playing themselves. The movie candidly delves into Krupa's struggle with alcohol, drugs and fame, but on the whole Hollywood "artistic license" appears to be the order of the day. Gene Krupa himself provided the off-screen drumming, and one can't help but admire his immense talent playing the skins. Among the featured tunes are "Cherokee," "Memories of You" and "Royal Garden Blues."

Director: Don Weis

Review: "Columbia's film biography of the king of hot jazz drummers arrived yesterday at the Forum with Sal Mineo in the title role, some dandy musical sequences and a plot that, however authentic, plays like a familiar success story. As we meet the gifted Mr. Krupa here he is an out-of-town lad who conquers the jazz world, makes a bad mistake and finally comes back from oblivion to the right girl and the big tune." - Howard Thompson, The New York Times (12/26/59)

On DVD: The Gene Krupa Story (Sony, 2004)

Lobby card set: The Gene Krupa Story (1959)

Las Vegas Nights (Paramount, 1941)

Constance Moore, Bert Wheeler and Phil Regan head the cast of this musical, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Pied Pipers as the principal attractions. Frank Sinatra fans can view an uncredited Ol' Blue Eyes in his motion picture debut (earning $15 a day for the effort), singing his dreamy version of "I'll Never Smile Again" as a vocalist for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. The Dorsey band also performs "Song of India," "The Trombone Man Is the Best in the Land" (with a manic drum solo by Buddy Rich), "Shadow Waltz," "On Miami Shore," "Dolores" and "Cocktails for Two." The movie's storyline involves an old vaudeville act who purchases a decrepit building and tries to turn it into a swinging nightclub, but watch this one for the big band music.

Director: Ralph Murphy

Review: "On account of Tommy Dorsey and his band being hopefully but vainly involved, there may be some mild jitterbug interest in Paramount's 'Las Vegas Nights,' which settled heavily upon the screen of the Paramount Theatre yesterday. But from every other possible source of friendship, its expectation of favor is virtually nil. For there is precious little humor, little life, little anything save an excess of dullness in this labored musical show about a troupe of indigent entertainers adrift in the Nevada gambling town." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, (3/20/41)

On DVD: Not commercially available

One sheet movie poster: Las Vegas Nights (1941)

Reveille with Beverly (Columbia, 1943)

Ann Miller stars as Beverly Ross, the spunky host of an AM radio show that caters to servicemen, with William Wright, Dick Purcell, Franklin Pangborn and Larry Parks also on board. Get set for big band/pop music in this baby, with appearances by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra ("Take the 'A' Train"), Bob Crosby and His Orchestra ("Big Noise from Winnetka"), Count Basie and His Orchestra ("One O'Clock Jump"), Frank Sinatra ("Night and Day"), the Mills Brothers ("Sweet Lucy Brown"), Freddie Slack and His Orchestra featuring Ella Mae Morse ("Cow-Cow Boogie") and the Radio Rogues ("Wabash Moon"). Made for $400,000, Reveille with Beverly was a big box office hit, particularly with the troops, raking in over $2 million. Look for Ann Miller's big, spectacular "Thumbs Up and V for Victory" number.

Director: Charles Barton

Review: "'Reveille With Beverly' opened with a thud yesterday at the Abbey. Dedicated to the hepcat element, which seemed to have stayed away in large numbers, it is a cheerless series of musical numbers strung together with a tired little story guaranteed to produce a severe case of ennui in record-breaking time. One by one, between smiles by Ann Miller, Duke Ellington, Bob Crosby, Count Basie and Freddie Slack stand up to wave their batons over some noisy demonstrations which resemble nothing so much as the left-over numbers from some old musical short subjects." - Theodore Strauss, The New York Times (4/24/43) 

On DVD: Reveille with Beverly (MarsRising, 2010)

One sheet movie poster: Reveille with Beverly (1943)

Swing Kids (Buena Vista, 1993)

The sleeper in the genre, Swing Kids stars Robert Sean Leonard and Christian Bale as teenagers in 1939 Nazi Germany who use banned American swing music as a form of rebellion. Also in the cast are Frank Whaley, Barbara Hershey, Tushka Bergen, David Tom and Noah Wyle. Swing Kids' soundtrack is loaded with big band tunes, including "Bugle Call Rag" (Benny Goodman), "Taint What You Do (It's the Way That Cha Do It)" (Jimmie Lunceford), "Harlem" (Teddy Foster) and "Goodnight, My Love" (Benny Goodman). "No one who likes swing can become a Nazi," Frank Whaley's Arvid proclaims. What a wonderful thought...

Director: Thomas Carter

Review: "'Swing Kids' is a bad idea whose time has not come. It's 'Cabaret' as Col. Klink might have envisioned it, a nutty anti-Nazi a go-go for teenagers, set to American music... 'Swing Kids' is another daft idea from Disney on the order of 'Alive,' the movie about really bad airline food. It's a moralistic muddle with only one message: If Disney wants to make movies about Germans, it should restrict its efforts to German shepherds." - Rita Kempley, Washington Post (3/5/93)

On DVD: Swing Kids (Buena Vista, 2002)

Ten More Big Band Movie Favorites

  • Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
  • Dancing Co-Ed (1939)
  • That's Right - You're Wrong (1939)
  • Hi-De-Ho (1947)
  • Hollywood Canteen (1944)
  • Birth of the Blues (1941)
  • Beat the Band (1947)
  • Thousands Cheer (1943)
  • Hi, Good Lookin'! (1944)
  • Best Foot Forward (1943)

Movie herald: Sun Valley Serenade (1941)

Images Credit

  • All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
  • Top image: Half sheet movie poster style A: The Benny Goodman Story (1956)

Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

Steve McQueen in Papillon (1973): Movie Trivia & Fun Facts

Papillon (1973) is one of Hollywood's greatest adventure movies. Amazing Papillon movie trivia and fun facts encompass Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Anthony Zerbe, Henri Charriere, Franklin J. Schaffner, Devil's Island, French Guiana, Louis Dega and Ali MacGraw.

Franklin J. Schaffner's Papillon thrilled movie audiences in 1973. Steve McQueen has the title role, playing a resourceful prisoner who mounts several escape attempts from the brutal French Guiana penal institution better known as Devil's Island. Here are 21 amazing Papillon movie trivia items and fun facts...

1. Papillon is based on the 1969 book of the same name by Henri Charriere (1906-1973). Known as Papillon ("the Butterfly") in the Parisian underworld, Charriere had been sent to French Guiana in 1931 following his conviction for the murder of a pimp. Charriere had always maintained his innocence, and later made his successful escape from French Guiana in 1945.

Steve McQueen in Papillon (1973) - Heritage Auctions

2. Henri Charriere had begun writing his memoirs in July 1967. By early 1968, he had completed his work, written in longhand and housed in 13 spiral notebooks. The manuscript was then typed by several volunteers in Venezuela, where Charriere was now a citizen, and mailed to Paris literary agent Jean-Pierre Castelnau. In June 1970, Papillon was published in France by Robert Laffont, eventually becoming an international bestseller.

3. Charriere's memoirs have always been suspect, with many charging his book is largely fiction. One doubter was Papillon director Franklin J. Schaffner, as quoted by actor Don Gordon: "Schaffner told me that he never believed half the things he (Papillon) said in the book, that Charriere was a lying son-of-a-bitch."

4. The movie rights to Papillon were purchased by European producer Robert Dorfmann for $600,000. Dorfmann had originally envisioned French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo in the title role.

5. Steve McQueen was very wary when approached to play Papillon, changing his mind several times. Finally, McQueen consented to do the movie at a salary of $1.75 million (later upped to an even $2 million) along with a hefty percentage of the movie's gross.

6. Franklin J. Schaffner, who had won an Academy Award for the World War II epic Patton (1970), collected a salary of $750,000 for his services on Papillon.

7. Dustin Hoffman had caught wind of Papillon and was looking for a serious role in the production. Since no significant role existed at the time for Hoffman, producers basically created the co-starring role of Louis Dega, the frail, bespectacled counterfeiter of National Defense Bonds Series 1928. The consummate professional, Hoffman immersed himself in the history of French Guiana's penal colonies, reading everything he could find in the New York Public Library. Hoffman earned $1.25 million for Papillon.

8. Papillon proved to be a bear to make, initially budgeted at $4 million but eventually escalating to $14 million. Raising additional cash proved to be a problem. Don Gordon, a friend of Steve McQueen who plays Julot in the film, later recalled: "From what I understand, the producer would take a couple of reels of film, get on an airplane, go back to France, show them the reels of film, get money, get back on an airplane, and bring it back on a lease."

9. Producers had originally wanted to film Papillon in French Guiana, where the infamous prison had once stood. That idea, however, was quickly abandoned when it was discovered that many of the original buildings were either in ruins or had been reclaimed by the jungle.

10. Honduras, Guatemala and the Cayman Islands were all considered as location shoots. Winning out in the end, however, were Spain and Jamaica. An actual replica of the original prison at French Guiana was constructed in Spain. Visiting the set one day was the real Papillon – Henri Charriere. Ali MacGraw, Steve McQueen's girlfriend (and later wife), was present on that day, and later described Charriere as "quite a charming character, but with a huge ego." Charriere died in Madrid on July 29, 1973, and never viewed the final print of Papillon.

11. Steve McQueen shut down the production for five days when he learned that other cast and crew weren't receiving their per diem living expenses, like himself and Dustin Hoffman were. The shutdown cost producers $250,000.

12. That's Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman actually wrestling a crocodile in the movie, "shot" by Vic Tayback who plays a guard. The "wounded" 22-foot croc used in the scene had been temporarily drugged with its deadly jaws wired shut. McQueen jumps on first, followed by a wary Hoffman.

13. Steve McQueen's love for Red Stripe Jamaican beer proved to be a problem. In order to mask the actor's weight gain, costumer Kent James outfitted McQueen in bigger and baggier prison clothes.

14. Papillon begins in a French prison yard populated by naked convicts, where screenwriter Dalton Trumbo plays the stern commandant, launching into his speech: "As of this moment, you are the property of the Penal Administration, French Guiana. After serving your full terms in prison, those of you with sentences of eight years or more, will remain in Guiana as workers and colonists, for a period equal to that of your original sentences. As for France, the nation has disposed of you. France has rid herself of you altogether. Forget France, and put your clothes on." The scene was actually shot at a school yard in Las Matas near Madrid, Spain.

15. Memorable scene: The assembled convicts are marched through the cobbled streets (not in France, as depicted, but actually in Fuenterrabia, Guipuzcoa, just across the border in the Span­ish Basque country) in a long procession down to the harbor, guarded at all times – both front and back – by soldiers and policemen with drawn, bayoneted rifles. "You'll' be back, Papillon. Don't worry. You'll be back," a well-dressed woman calls out. "No, you won't," answers Julot softly as he marches to the right of Papillon.   

16. Newly arrived on French Guiana, Dega bribes a trustee 2,000 francs so that he and Papillon can remain on Saint Laurent and given easy jobs. A guard hears Dega's name mentioned, introduces himself and states that his family lost everything in Dega's National Defense Bonds forgery scheme. He then assigns both Dega and Papillon to Kilo 40, a brutal work camp where cons cut and move logs in crocodile-infested waters.

17. On his first escape attempt, Papillon is sent to Reclusion on Saint Joseph, where the policy is total silence. Here he endures two years in solitary confinement in cell #234.

18. Anthony Zerbe plays Toussaint the Leper Chieftain. On Pigeon Island, the hideously deformed Toussaint offers Papillon a puff on his cigar, which the escaped con accepts. "How did you know I have dry leprosy, that it isn't contagious?" an amused Toussaint queries. "I didn't," Papillon replies.

19. Papillon debuted on December 16, 1973. Reported Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice: "Schaffner has really made an exhilarating movie out of the most dangerously depressing material."

20. Papillon was a hit, grossing $22.5 million at the American box office, earning the #4 position on the list of the top moneymaking movies of 1973.

21. The film ends with the narration: "Papillon made it to freedom. And for the remaining years of his life, he lived a free man. This, the infamous penal system in French Guiana, did not survive him."

Additional Reading & Top Image 

Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner

Mara Clara Finale Review

A review on the last episode of Mara Clara

Mara Clara's finale is one of the most emotionally compelling last episodes on Philippine television. It features the conclusion of these storylines: 

  • Mara and Clara's exchange to prevent being hurt by Clara's crazed biological father known as Gary.
  • Susan (Mara's pseudo-mother) gives birth to twins that belonged to Gary, yet he did not believe them to be his twins.
  • The Amante-Alvira-Gary love triangle.

And since this is the finale, one person from the series would die and it would most likely be Gary.

As for the ending itself, it is summarized in these words: 

  1. Amante and Alvira visit Gary at an abandoned warehouse with no cops.
  2. Mara gets locked up in a water tank by Gary after arguing with the antagonist for a while.
  3. Alvira was forced to choose between Amante or Gary, because Gary can only tell Alvira where Mara is unless she shoots Amante.

The climax arrived when Amanthe fought Gary and ended up falling down a few storeys from the building where they fought; Amante falls towards the ground but is only hurt, not dead. Then, Alvira wants Gary to kill her out of pity since this has caused Gary's obsession towards the young woman. As she was about to be shot, Gary fires a shot, but Clara takes the shot in exchange of Alvira. Because of this action, Susan attacks Gary with a pipe until she eventually stabs the crazed man with a stick. Gary dies due to the said pipe impaling, Clara was shot in the arm and survived. Mara was eventually saved, right before Clara took a bullet for Alvira. 

After the climax, Clara was placed inside a mental institution for treatment because of her behavior disorder. 

Time passed, the epilogue sets in: 

  • Susan gives birth to twins.
  • Mara and Clara are in total friendship once more.

And eventually, they all lived happily ever after. It is a wonderful ending that can compel even the hardest of hearts. The actors have placed a lot of effort (especially for Kathryn Bernardo/Mara) replicating a dramatic scene with their own artistic flavour. The action scenes weren't much, even for the finale; in the words of some directors in an art class: "It's good, but not good enough", they could've hired trainers to do some fight scenes with basic grappling arts, given Amanthe is a "Privileged" man who can afford classes instead of a pistol, but we have to understand also that budget plays a role towards the finale. Overall, it's above average. The series ended with a bang, but the writers and producers could've developed the ending more to be an explosive and heartwarming closure to one of Philippine TV's best drama series'.

Himala (1982): Movie Review

Himala is one of the best Filipino films ever created. It was released during the period considered as the second golden age of Philippine movies. It was a tremendous critical and commercial success. The film premiered at the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival where it swept 9 out of 11 awards including Best Actress for Nora Aunor, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture. It also bagged awards in the 1982 Catholic Mass Media Award. In the international scene, the film was awarded with the Bronze Hugo prize at the 1983 Chicago International Film Festival. It also became the first and to date, the only Filipino film to be included in the “Competition Section” of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival.

Himala (“Miracle”) is a Filipino film directed by the late Philippine National Artist Ishmael Bernal in 1982. Written by multi-award winner screenwriter Ricky Lee, the movie is based on a true incident of a teenage girl in Cabra Island in the province of Occidental Mindoro between 1966 and 1967. The movie’s heroine is played by Philippine superstar Nora Aunor whose portrayal of Elsa is considered by most Filipino critics as the best of her career.

Plot. The movie is set in the small arid town of Cupang. The people believes that the drought they are experiencing is the product of a curse placed upon the town for driving away a leper years before.

During a solar eclipse, a local young woman named Elsa claims to see an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary atop a barren hill. Elsa then begins healing local residents and creates her “Seven Apostles” which includes her friends Chayong and Sepa and entrepreneur Mrs. Alba. Her miracle healing spreads around and soon pilgrims and tourists start arriving in Cupang to visit Elsa. Elsa’s house bears a big sign “Elsa loves you”. Because of the influx of tourists and patients, business in the town booms as people sell religious articles and offer accommodation. Around the same time, Elsa’s childhood friend Nimia, now a prostitute, returns and establishes a nightclub for foreign tourists, which is later ordered closed by the Seven Apostles.

Orly, a filmmaker, also arrives in Cupang to make a documentary about Elsa. One day, Orly confesses to the town’s Catholic priest that he has seen two drugged youths rape Elsa and Chayong on the hill. He holds a heavy guilt because he just filmed the incident instead of helping the two victims. Later, Chayong hangs herself because of shame, though what happened to her and Elsa was never revealed to the townspeople.

A cholera epidemic soon inflicts the people of Cupang and many have died including the children of Sepa. Elsa blames herself and stops healing; the authorities also quarantine her house.

Elsa then stars to show signs of pregnancy. Mrs. Alba then concludes that it is “Immaculate Conception” and proclaims Elsa to be truly blessed. As the same moment, thunders roar and a heavy downpour wets the dry landscape of Cupang. The people rejoice and are convinced that the curse has been lifted and that Elsa’s miracles have come back. Mrs. Alba and the people rush to Elsa’s house and called her out. Elsa then commands her followers to call everyone to assemble on the hill.

The sick, tourists, foreigners, media men and businessmen gather on the hill. In front of her congregation, Elsa finally professes that everything has been a lie – that there are no miracles, no sightings of the Virgin Mary, and the miracles that happened are only products of their invention. In the middle of her speech, a gun fires and hit Elsa in the chest. A stampede ensues, throwing everyone into a mass hysteria and many are badly injured.

Elsa breathes her last while Orly and other reporters capture her dying moments. The crowd cries and gravitates toward her after her death is announced. Her followers lift her lifeless body overhead, in a crucifix position, and take her to a waiting ambulance. The crowd wails more as they touch her body. Sepa then proclaims to the crowd that Elsa is a saint, a martyr for the world’s suffering. She leads the congregation in praying the Hail Mary on their knees going up the hill as the ambulance carrying Elsa drives away.

Watch "Himala" movie trailer here.

Commentary. Himala, for me, is one of the best Filipino films ever created. It was released during the period considered as the second golden age of Philippine movies. It was a tremendous critical and commercial success. Its achievement can be attributed to three main factors – its technical aspects, the lead actress Nora Aunor, and the storyline.

French-trained director Ishmael Bernal masterfully produced Himala using long single-shots. Right from the start, Bernal has created a perfect setting for the film. He portrayed here a Third World rural life against a backdrop of superstitious and fanatic small sleepy community. The movie opens in a depressing darkness of an eclipse which sets the tone of the movie’s supernatural theme. Bernal then slowly infuses the harsh realities and ugliness of backward village life. The details are very rich and events were perfectly timed. Its subtlety and the unfolding of subplots, along with intriguing visuals, draw audience from beginning to end. And in the final scene, when Elsa was shot and the people still believed in her despite the lies, was enigmatic and awe-inspiring.

Nora Aunor as Elsa was very brilliant, an actress of legendary proportions. She gave a sensitive and polished low key performance. But more than her acting, she struck as someone ordinary but believable. She depicts the image of a common Filipina, and along with her impressive talent, she knows how to draw mass sympathy. While watching the film, you do not see an actress, but someone like a neighbor talking to you, like a common person who can engage you in a natural but powerful way. Ms. Aunor has done countless award-winning portrayals, but as Elsa is her best.

Lastly, Himala succeeds in the commonality of its storyline. The movie is far from being mind-boggling that pieces have to be fitted in order to understand it as a whole. The story is explicit from the very beginning. It is about a poor community and the hope that a lying lass has brought to it. Though the film is centered on the issues of religious faith and faithlessness, it actually speaks about desires and yearnings. Elsa longs for attention and respect, Orly the filmmaker for prestige, Nimia the prostitute for trust and happiness, the sick for healing, Mrs. Alba and the businessmen for wealth, and the townspeople for hope and redemption. The sad truth depicted in the film is how people grab even the smallest opportunity just to satisfy that desire, but then suddenly breaks upon a little failure. And in the end, we invent things to fill in every longing in our heart.

Reception.  The film premiered at the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival where it swept 9 out of 11 awards including Best Actress for Nora Aunor, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture. It also bagged awards in the 1982 Catholic Mass Media Award.

In the international scene, the film was awarded with the Bronze Hugo prize at the 1983 Chicago International Film Festival. It also became the first and to date, the only Filipino film to be included in the “Competition Section” of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival.

In 2008, Himala won the Viewer’s Choice Award for the Best Film of all Time from the Asia-Pacific Region in the CNN Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

Himala is best remembered for Elsa’s (and Aunor’s) most famous speech delivered on the hill:

 

"Walang himala!! Ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao, nasa puso nating lahat! Tayo ang gumagawa ng mga himala! Tayo ang gumagawa ng mga sumpa at ng mga diyos..." ("There is no miracle!! The miracles are in people's hearts, in all our hearts! We make the miracles! We are the ones who make curses, gods...")

Ten Best John Dillinger Movies

The ten best John Dillinger movies include Johnny Depp in Public Enemies, Warren Oates in Dillinger, Nick Adams in Young Dillinger, Lawrence Tierney in Dillinger, Robert Conrad in The Lady in Red, Martin Sheen in Dillinger and Capone, Leo Gordon in Baby Face Nelson, Mark Harmon in Dillinger, Ralph Meeker in Dillinger and Martin Kove in Baby Face Nelson.

John Herbert Dillinger Jr. (1903-1934) was one of America's most notorious gangsters during the Depression-era 1930s. The scowling, flamboyant Dillinger, who met his bloody end outside Chicago's Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934, at the hands of the FBI, has been featured in a number of movie and television productions through the years. Here are the ten best John Dillinger movies...

Public Enemies (Universal, 2009)

Johnny Depp stars as John Dillinger in Public Enemies, director Michael Mann's $100 million ode to the gangster era. Public Enemies focuses on Dillinger's final years of the early 1930s, where he is living in Chicago. G-man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) tracks down Public Enemy Number One, where the latter finally meets his bloody end outside the Biograph Theater after being betrayed by the infamous woman in red. James Russo (Walter Dietrich), David Wenham (Harry Pierpont), Christian Stolte (Charles Makley), Stephen Dorff (Homer Van Meter), Channing Tatum (Pretty Boy Floyd) and Marion Cotillard (Billie Frechette) also appear. Johnny Depp garnered a Satellite Award nomination for Best Actor.

Dillinger (American International Pictures, 1973)

Warren Oates plays John Dillinger in this bloody, violent gangster flick written and directed by John Milius. Oates' Dillinger hooks up with Baby Face Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), Pretty Boy Floyd (Steve Kanaly) and other hoods, trying to stay a step ahead of dogged pursuer Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson). Michelle Phillips plays Billie Frechette, Dillinger's beautiful gal pal, with Cloris Leachman as Anna Sage and Harry Dean Stanton as Homer Van Meter. "I rob banks for a living, what do you do?" Oates' John Dillinger declares in one scene.

Warren Oates in Dillinger (1973) - Heritage Auctions

Young Dillinger (Allied Artists, 1965)

Nick Adams comes out smokin' as John Dillinger in yet another extremely violent account of the gangster's bloody exploits. Directed by Terry D. Morse, the movie charts the first incarceration of Dillinger after he is convicted of robbing the father of his girlfriend Elaine Johnsyn (Mary Ann Mobley). While in prison, young Dillinger falls in the orbit of Pretty Boy Floyd (Robert Conrad) and Baby Face Nelson (John Ashley). There's plenty of action in this one, featuring bank robberies, shootouts and prison breaks. In one scene an angry Dillinger straps a quack doctor (John Hoyt) into a wheelchair and pushes him off a ramp into a lake. The doc had screwed up, botching Dillinger's plastic surgery. The movie's soundtrack is wild and brooding, ably capturing the bloody life and times of young Dillinger.

Dillinger (Monogram, 1945)

Lawrence Tierney has the distinction of first playing John Dillinger on the silver screen. Dillinger chronicles the rise and fall of Public Enemy Number One, with Anne Jeffreys (Helen Rogers), Edmund Lowe (Specs Green), Eduardo Ciannelli (Marco Minelli), Marc Lawrence (Doc Madison) and Elisha Cook Jr. (Kirk Otto) along for the violent ride into gangsterdom. Directed by Max Nosseck and made for $193,000, Dillinger went on to gross over $4 million, proving that crime does pay, at least at the box office. 

Lawrence Tierney in Dillinger (1945) - Heritage Auctions

The Lady in Red (New World, 1979)

Robert Conrad – Pretty Boy Floyd in Young Dillinger (1965) – returns to the gangster era, this time as John Dillinger in The Lady in Red. In this outing written by John Sayles and directed by Lewis Teague, Dillinger acquires Polly Franklin (Pamela Sue Martin) as his gun moll, with the pair engaging in a life of crime. The Lady in Red is told through Polly's eyes, making for a different version of the John Dillinger story. Tough-guy actor Conrad carries the Dillinger role nicely, with Pamela Sue Martin making for a darned cute gun-toting accomplice.

Robert Conrad and Pamela Sue Martin in The Lady in Red (1979) - Heritage Auctions

Dillinger and Capone (New Concorde, 1995)

Martin Sheen plays John Dillinger and F. Murray Abraham appears as Al Capone in this wild gangster conspiracy film directed by Jon Purdy. As the story goes, the FBI gun down the wrong man outside the Biograph Theater in 1934, with the real Dillinger slipping away to a new life. Chicago underworld czar Al Capone, however, knows the true story, and forces Dillinger to pull one of the biggest bank heists in American history, hoping to retrieve the millions in cash which he, Scarface Capone, has hidden away. Roger Corman served as executive producer, with Stephen Davies (Cecil), Catherine Hicks (Abigail), Don Stroud (George) and Sasha Jenson (Billy) in support.

Baby Face Nelson (United Artists, 1957)

Mickey Rooney has the title role of Lester "Baby Face" Nelson in this low-budget gangster flick made for $175,000 and directed by Don Siegel. Playing the role of John Dillinger is tough-guy character actor Leo Gordon, who does a credible job as Public Enemy Number One and the "brains" of his own criminal enterprise. Carolyn Jones (Sue Nelson), Cedric Hardwicke (Doc Saunders), Anthony Caruso (John Hamilton), Jack Elam (Fatso Nagel) and John Hoyt (Samuel F. Parker) round out the supporting cast. The Mick and Gordon deliver the gangster goods big time in this mobster shoot-'em-up.

Dillinger (ABC-TV, 1991)

Mark Harmon of NCIS TV fame stars as John Dillinger in this made-for-television movie directed by Rupert Wainwright and first telecast on January 6, 1991. Sherilyn Fenn (Billy Frechette), Will Patton (Melvin Purvis), Bruce Abbott (Harry Pierpont), Tom Bower (Captain Leach) and Patricia Arquette (Polly) also appear. Dillinger recounts the life and death of the one-time Public Enemy Number One, including his famous demise outside Chicago's Biograph Theater. Dillinger was filmed in Wisconsin (Milwaukee, East Troy, Mequon) and features actor Lawrence Tierney, who starred as Dillinger in 1945, in the role of Sheriff Sarber. Also look for Vince Edwards of TV's Ben Casey fame in the role of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

Mark Harmon in Dillinger (1991) - ABC-TV

Dillinger (CBS-TV, 1960)

Ralph Meeker stars as John Dillinger in this made-for-TV flick directed by David Davidson and first telecast on June 24, 1960. Philip Abbott (Harry Pierpont), Steven Hill (Melvin Purvis) and Jane Rose (Anna Sage) round out the sparse cast.

Baby Face Nelson (Concorde-New Horizons, 1996)

C. Thomas Howell has the title role of Depression-era gangster Baby Face Nelson in this Roger Corman produced-flick directed by Scott P. Levy. Martin Kove appears as John Dillinger, with Lisa Zane (Helen Womack), Doug Wert (Paul Chance), F. Murray Abraham (Al Capone) and David Parry (Artie Folsom) along for the ride into gangster hell. As history it's pure Hollywood hokum, but for mindless entertainment Baby Face Nelson just may fit the bill. Watch an FBI agent fire 13 shots from a six-shot revolver without reloading!

More Best John Dillinger Movie & TV Favorites 

  • Crime Wave: 18 Months of Mayhem (TV, 2008), Lynn Bumgardner as John Dillinger
  • The Kansas City Massacre (TV, 1975), William Jordan as John Dillinger
  • The FBI Story (1959), Scott Peters as John Dillinger
  • The Real Untouchables (TV, 2001), Michael Dailey as John Dillinger
  • Guns Don't Argue (1957), Myron Healey as John Dillinger

John Dillinger on Episodic Television

  • Gang Busters (NBC-TV, 1952): "Alvin Karpis" (4/17/52),  "Homer Van Meter" (10/16/52), "Dillinger" (10/23/52), Myron Healey as John Dillinger in all three segments
  • Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (ABC-TV, 1993-97): "That Old Gang of Mine" (11/13/94), Robert Clohessy as John Dillinger
  • Night Man (Syndicated, 1997-99): "That Ol' Gang of Mine" (11/24/97), Brian Fitzpatrick as John Dillinger

Top Image

  • Johnny Depp as John Dillinger cradling a Thompson submachine gun in Public Enemies (2009) - Universal Pictures

Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner

Ten Best Jesse James Movies

Jesse James movies are legion in Hollywood. Jesse James, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, American Outlaws, The Long Riders, The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James, I Shot Jesse James, Alias Jesse James, The True Story of Jesse James and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter are the top films.

The infamous Jesse James (1847-1882) remains one of the Old West's mythic outlaws. Confederate guerilla, train robber, bank robber and killer, James was a featured character in a number of motion pictures dating back to Hollywood's Silent Age.  

Here are ten Jesse James movies that no western film fan should ever miss. Some are good, some are so-so and some are just plain strange...

Jesse James (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1939)

Tyrone Power claims the title role, with Henry Fonda (Frank James), Nancy Kelly (Zerelda "Zee" Cobb), Randolph Scott (Marshal Will Wright), Henry Hull (Major Rufus Cobb), Slim Summerville (Jailer), Brian Donlevy (Barshee) and John Carradine (Bob Ford) along for the ride in this $1.6 million western. It's mostly fiction, as Jesse and brother Frank turn to robbing trains after an evil railroad agent murders their mother. Jesse later takes a mortal shot to the back from fellow gang member Bob Ford. "It's just like I always told you: I hate the railroads... and when I hate, I've gotta do somethin' about it," Jesse tells his future bride Zerelda.

Director: Henry King, Irving Cummings (uncredited)

Review: "It is historically inaccurate, since aside from their names and Bob Ford, it gets almost nothing right, but it is a very enjoyable film that moves along well and has a surprisingly bleak view of the price of the outlaw life." - Andrew Allen, History on Film (2010)

On DVD: Jesse James (20th Century Fox, 2007)

Insert movie poster: Jesse James (1939)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warner Bros., 2007)

Brad Pitt stars as Jesse James in this $30 million outing based on the novel by Ron Hansen. Other principals include Mary-Louise Parker (Zee James), Brooklynn Proulx (Mary James), Dustin Bollinger (Tim James), Casey Affleck (Robert Ford), Sam Rockwell (Charley Ford) and Sam Shepard (Frank James). Brad Pitt's Jesse James is a grizzled, depressed, confused but still murderous outlaw in his final days, with Casey Affleck's Bob Ford out to collect a reward and win fame by eliminating the man he once idolized. The movie earned two Oscar nominations: Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins) and Best Supporting Actor (Affleck).

Director: Andrew Dominik

Review: "'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' will drive a lot of people to distraction, if they’re even attracted to it in the first place. A meditation on celebrity, 19th Century frontier fan boys and the myths America feeds to its young, this superbly realized adaptation of Ron Hansen’s novel runs about 160 minutes, and while there aren’t many individual acts of violence, they are painful and, more importantly, carry a moral consequence." - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune (10/4/07)

On DVD: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warner, 2008)

Advance one sheet movie poster: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

American Outlaws (Warner Bros., 2001)

Colin Farrell plays Jesse James, with Scott Caan (Cole Younger), Ali Larter (Zee Mimms), Gabriel Macht (Frank James), Gregory Smith (Jim Younger), Kathy Bates (Ma James) and Timothy Dalton (Allan Pinkerton) also on hand. Filmed in the Texas Hill Country, American Outlaws is more hip comedy/action than historical movie, with Farrell and his young guns taking up arms against a corrupt railroad baron. Kathy Bates has a field day as ol' Ma James.

Director: Les Mayfield

Review: "You can tell Colin Farrell is the star of the drab new Western 'American Outlaws' by the fact that he's the only one who's bothered to partially shave before the slaughter begins. As Jesse James, he hops on a steed, puts the reins in his mouth and shoots with a pistol in each hand. Though by the end of that sequence, his 5 o'clock shadow is about to strike 9. Irishman Farrell is Hollywood's new 'it' toy – according, at least, to Joel Schumacher, who directed him in last year's soggy boot-camp drama 'Tigerland.' But with a bland performance here, he's more persuasive as the next-big-thing-in-waiting." - Wesley Morris, San Francisco Chronicle (8/17/01)

On DVD: American Outlaws (Warner, 2001)

The Long Riders (United Artists, 1980)

The ultimate "brothers" movie, The Long Riders features four sets of siblings in the featured roles: David Carradine (Cole Younger), Keith Carradine (Jim Younger), Robert Carradine (Bob Younger); James Keach (Jesse James), Stacy Keach (Frank James); Dennis Quaid (Ed Miller), Randy Quaid (Clell Miller); and Christopher Guest (Charlie Ford), Nicholas Guest (Bob Ford). A tough, gritty oater, this $10 million effort traces the origins of the James-Younger Gang, highlighted by the disastrous 1876 Great Northfield Minnesota Raid where the boys are ambushed by the God-fearing townsfolk while trying to rob the local bank. The sight of the gang all decked out in their identical gray dusters and galloping down the trail is classic Hollywood western.

Director: Walter Hill

Review: "The Long Riders is striking in several ways, not the least of which in casting actor brothers as historical outlaw kin, but narrative is episodic in the extreme." - Variety (1980)

On DVD: The Long Riders (MGM/UA, 2001)

One sheet movie poster: The Long Riders (1980)

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (Universal, 1972)

The bungled 1876 James-Younger Great Northfield Raid is the focus of this western, with Cliff Robertson (Cole Younger), Robert Duvall (Jesse James), Luke Askew (Jim Younger), R.G. Armstrong (Clell Miller), John Pearce (Frank James) and Matt Clark (Bob Younger) manning the principal roles. Robertson and Duvall are excellent in their respective outlaw characters. The film is a sympathetic portrayal of the James-Younger Gang, with the greedy railroads as the true villains.

Director: Philip Kaufman

Review: "Philip Kaufman's 'The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid' is a lovely, odd sort of middle Western. That is, it's neither conventional Western fiction nor completely documented fact, although it makes full use of history and is as crammed with the artifacts of 19th-century America—everything from dolls to a working calliope—as an especially splendid Third Avenue Shop." - Vincent Canby, The New York Times (6/15/72)

On DVD: The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (Universal, 2007)

The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (NBC-TV, 1986)

This made-for-TV movie stars Kris Kristofferson (Jesse James) and Johnny Cash (Frank James), focusing on the final years of the James boys' lives. Also on hand are Marcia Cross (Sarah Hite), Gail Youngs (Anna), David Allan Coe (Whiskeyhead), Andy Stahl (Liddil), June Carter Cash (Mother James), Darrell Wilks (Bob Ford) and Willie Nelson (General Jo Shelby). Filmed on location in Tennessee, The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James was first telecast over NBC-TV on February 17, 1986.

Director: William A. Graham

Review: "This is a surprisingly fine motion picture. Well written with far more attention to historic detail in firearms, clothing and even saddles than I would have expected, excellent writing and fine acting from all involved." - skoyles, The Internet Movie Database (6/9/07)

On DVD: The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (Lions Gate, 2003)

I Shot Jesse James (Lippert, 1949)

One of many confessional movies of the era with "I" in the title, this western features Reed Hadley in the role of Jesse James. Also in the cast are Preston Foster (John Kelley), Barbara Britton (Cynthy Waters), John Ireland (Bob Ford) and Tom Tyler (Frank James). Once again sneaky little coward Bob Ford ends Jesse James' life in St. Joseph, Missouri, shooting him in the back and collecting a $10,000 reward. The outdoor scenes were shot at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, California. "I... I want to tell you something I ain't never told anyone. I'm sorry for what I done to Jess," a repentant Bob Ford tells Cynthy Waters in his final line. Well, this is a confessional movie.

Director: Samuel Fuller

Review: "I Shot Jesse James is a character study of the man who felled the west's most famous outlaw with a coward's bullet. It's an interesting treatment that doesn't overlook necessary plot and action." - Variety (1949)

On DVD: Eclipse Series 5 - The First Films of Samuel Fuller (Eclipse, 2007)

Alias Jesse James (United Artists, 1959)

A little "funnin'" never hurt anyone, and in this nearly forgotten comedy western Bob Hope plays insurance agent Milford Farnsworth, who sells a $100,000 life insurance policy to a stranger. The buyer turns out to be none other than Jesse James – played with gusto by Wendell Corey. The hapless Farnsworth is sent west by the home office in order buy back the policy, but ends up getting robbed and set up as the fall guy in Jesse's scheme to fake his own death and collect the insurance money. Rhonda Fleming (Cora Lee Collins), Gloria Talbott (Princess Irawanie), Jim Davis (Frank James), Will Wright (Titus Queasley) and Mary Young (Ma James) are also along for the ride. A fun role for Bob "I'm not Jesse James" Hope.

Director: Norman Z. McLeod

Review: "...Mr. Hope strives valiantly to kid all the Western clichés. And he is professionally amiable about his trade. Falling into this gag bag are the traditional train robbery, the saloon drinking bit with tough, bearded hombres, the gun duel between the bad man and Jesse James and the climactic street battle between the James gang and our wacky hero, who happens to be aided at this juncture, through small, cute bit roles, by practically every noted Western hero and heroine in films and television." - A.H. Weiler, The New York Times (5/18/59)

On DVD: Bob Hope MGM Movie Legends Collection (MGM, 2007)

Lobby card: Alias Jesse James (1959)

The True Story of Jesse James (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1957)

Robert Wagner stars as Jesse James, with Jeffrey Hunter (Frank James), Hope Lange (Zee), Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Samuel), Alan Hale Jr. (Cole Younger), Alan Baxter (Remington), John Carradine (Reverend Jethro Bailey), Rachel Stephens (Anne James) and Biff Elliot (Jim Younger) also dotting the western terrain. The movie follows the murderous exploits of James and his gang, using flashbacks to try and rationalize their outlaw behavior. And this is Hollywood, so don't put too much stock in the "true story" gracing the movie's title.

Director: Nicholas Ray

Review: "It is a remake of the Henry King production with Tyrone Power. Oddly enough, it is more accurate than the original but less enjoyable." - Andrew Allen, History on Film (2010)

On DVD: The True Story of Jesse James (20th Century Fox, 2007)

Half sheet movie poster: The True Story of Jesse James (1957)

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (Embassy, 1966)

Just by the title one strongly suspects that this entry is not your run-of-the-mill western. John Lupton, who starred as Indian Agent Tom Jeffords in ABC-TV's Broken Arrow (1956-58), plays Jesse James opposite Narda Onyx's Dr. Maria Frankenstein. The plot – such as it is – features the Missouri outlaw on the lam, where he takes refuge in a castle. The owner of said castle is Dr. Frankenstein's granddaughter, whose experiments turn Jesse's wounded sidekick Hank Tracy into a zombie. Also on hand are Cal Bolder (Hank/Igor), Estelita Rodriguez (Juanita Lopez), Jim Davis (Marshal McPhee), Steven Geray (Dr. Rudolph Frankenstein), William Fawcett (Jensen) and a body count of eight. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter was paired at movie theaters with Embassy's Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966), making for a fine time at the old picture show. Perhaps your future husband "treated" you to this sensational double feature?

Director: William Beaudine

Review: "The title pretty much tells the story, as two historical characters – one real, one fantasy – collide in an awful mess of a plot that has Jesse James seeking medical help for his shooting buddy from the most unlikely doctor in town. The story, the acting, the dialogue – it's all a mess..." - Christopher Null, AMC Filmcritic.com

On DVD: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (Alpha Video, 2004)

Five More Jesse James Movie Favorites

  • Frank & Jesse (1995)
  • Young Jesse James (1960)
  • The James Brothers of Missouri (1949)
  • Best of the Badmen (1951)
  • Days of Jesse James (1939)

One sheet movie poster: Days of Jesse James (1939)

Image Credits

  • All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
  • Top image: Lobby card: The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)

Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

TV's The Big Valley: Interesting Facts & Television Trivia

ABC-TV's The Big Valley ran from 1965 to 1969 with Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Long, Peter Breck, Lee Majors and Linda Evans in the starring roles. Here are some interesting facts and TV trivia concerning The Big Valley and the Barkley clan of Stockton, California.

The Big Valley ran on ABC-TV from 1965-69, generating 112 episodes. Barbara Stanwyck heads the clan as matriarch Victoria Barkley, with Richard Long (Jarrod Barkley), Peter Breck (Nick Barkley), Lee Majors (Heath Barkley) and Linda Evans (Audra Barkley) rounding out the regular cast.

Set in California's San Joaquin Valley of the 1870s near Stockton, The Big Valley debuted on September 15, 1965. Along with Gunsmoke (1955-75) and Bonanza (1959-73), The Big Valley is considered to be one of the Big Three in TV westerns. Here is a potpourri of interesting facts and TV trivia surrounding The Big Valley...

1. Charles Briles appeared in eight first season episodes as youngest brother Eugene Barkley. His character was later written out of the show – the storyline had him away attending law school – when the 19-year-old Briles was drafted into the United States Army in June 1965.

2. Richard Long's lawyer character – with offices in Stockton and San Francisco – was named Jarrod Thomas Barkley. The middle name of Thomas came from his deceased father, Tom Barkley. Tom Barkley's avenger was an old cuss named Handy Random (James Whitmore), who appeared as a hired gun specializing in range wars in "The Death Merchant" (2/23/66).

Cast of The Big Valley, l-r: Richard Long, Lee Majors, Linda Evans, Barbara Stanwyck, Peter Breck - ABC-TV

3. Jarrod, Nick and Heath Barkley had all served in the Union Army during the Civil War (1861-65). Nick had been a captain, Jarrod had been stationed in Washington, D.C. where he had been in intelligence and Heath had saw action at Chickamauga.

4. The idea for The Big Valley began with Lou Edelman, a producer on The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1960-62). For two years Edelman had tried to interest the TV networks in a western series starring Miss Stanwyck, but his efforts came to no avail. In late 1963 Edelman sold the property to the producing team of Jules Levy, Arthur Gardner and Arnold Laven, who struck a deal with ABC in late 1964 to bring The Big Valley to television.

5. Barbara Stanwyck originally voiced misgivings about playing Victoria Barkley. As originally conceived by Lou Edelman, Stanwyck's proposed character was just a little too tame for her. "I'm a tough old broad from Brooklyn," she informed the producers. "Don't try to make me into something I'm not. If you want someone to tiptoe down the Barkley staircase in crinoline and politely ask where the cattle went, get another girl. That's not me."

6. Like many television shows of the era, The Big Valley was cranked out in assembly line fashion. Each hour-long episode (with commercials) was filmed in approximately six days, averaging 12 pages of script per day. The series was in production for nine months every year, followed by a three-month hiatus. Hours on The Big Valley set were long, with cast and crew usually up at four in the morning, with filming sometimes lasting until nine at night.

7. Said Barbara Stanwyck of The Big Valley's production schedule: "We do twenty-six shows in twenty-six weeks, twenty-six very fast movies, and no one bothers counting the hours. The script is here, the cameras are there, and you are here. Late afternoons you feel you're so hot and tired – particularly on those hot locations – that you just can't do a thing. But somehow you always do. At night, you have a pot of soup and go to sleep. It's a brutal life."

8. Hollywood stuntmen were used extensively in The Big Valley – producers couldn't risk serious injury to the show's stars – particularly during the many fight and bronc-busting scenes. The stuntmen are rather easy to spot, with the camera going into a long shot during the violent fracas and then returning to a closeup view of the actor in the tamer proceedings. Nick Barkley's numerous saloon fights serve as a fine example of a stunt double being employed for Peter Breck and his flowing dark hair.

9. Barbara Stanwyck, by virtue of her vast Hollywood experience, was considered "the Queen" on the production. One time, when an assistant director was unable to bring order to the set, Queen Barbara (all 5'3" of her) stepped up and yelled "Qui-et!" in her booming, trademark voice, whereby the sound stage fell into dutiful silence.

10. Barbara Stanwyck had taken young Lee Majors under her wing during the show's first season because of his lack of experience. When Majors and guest star Peter Haskell returned late from lunch one day, Stanwyck lit into Majors, reminding him of her passion for punctuality.

11. Barbara Stanwyck also lent her experience to Linda Evans. During rehearsal, when it was determined that Evans' character, Audra, needed more presence in a scene, Stanwyck told the young actress that she would show her the inside ropes in achieving that goal. "As the rehearsal went on," Evans recalled for People magazine in 1990, "I waited for an explanation from Stanwyck about 'presence,' but she didn't say anything. I had to walk in this door and walk into the scene, but she didn't come over. Finally the director said, 'Action!' She came over behind me just as we were supposed to walk in the door. I thought, 'When is she going to tell me what to do?' Then, as I opened the door, she picked up her boot and kicked me in the butt! I went flying onto the set with my eyes wide open and she said, 'Now, that's presence.'"

12. Cast members of The Big Valley appeared on the cover of TV Guide twice: February 26, 1966 and July 20, 1968.

13. The Big Valley premiered on Wednesday night, September 15, 1965, with the episode "Palms of Glory. Network competition in the 9-10PM (ET) time slot was Green Acres and The Dick Van Dyke Show on CBS and Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater on NBC. Preceding The Big Valley on ABC in the 8:30PM time slot was Gidget starring Sally Field. The Big Valley moved to Monday nights, occupying the 10-11PM (ET) time slot, in July 1966. And there it stayed until its final episode on May 19, 1969.

Peter Breck and Linda Evans in a 1966 The Big Valley promotional still - ABC-TV

14. Variety previewed The Big Valley on September 22, 1965: "The Big Valley registers on the home screen as Bonanza in drag. It's a direct variation on the proven theme only with a femme (Barbara Stanwyck) at the head of the clan, a daughter included in the offspring, and of course, the name is changed to Barkley...There is good reason to expect it to command a respectable audience. The acting is strong, the cast attractive, and the production coffers opened wide, at least on the preem (premiere)."

15. Deceased The Big Valley cast members are Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990), Richard Long (1927-1974), Peter Breck (1929-2012) and Napoleon Whiting (1910-1984). Whiting played the Barkleys' black servant/chef Silas in 36 episodes.

The Big Valley Top Image

  • Lee Majors and Linda Evans in The Big Valley - ABC-TV

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

Child Of Rage: An HBO Documentary

This article revisits the 1989 documentary and how it is still relevant 30 years later.

What happens when a child is deprived of love? What are the ramifications of a very young child be physically and sexually abused? What do you do when you are a naïve family who adopts a child who has been deeply damaged at a very young age? Can a young child really be capable of thoughts of murder? These are some of the issues which were addressed in the original HBO documentary Child of Rage which was produced in 1989.

Child of Rage is the story of Beth, an extremely disturbed six year old who has seen more horrors than any child should have to endure.

As the film opens, we hear the voice of a child screaming “I want to kill you mommy,” as the opening credits roll. This is the voice of Beth, a six-year-old child who had faced the loss of a mother, physical abuse, and sexual abuse all before the age of 19 months. Both Beth and her younger brother Jonathan were put up for adoption. They were adopted by a minister and his wife. This unsuspecting couple quickly learned that something was extremely wrong with Beth.

This terrifying and disturbing documentary traces Beth as she goes through therapy in Colorado. The video explains that Beth suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, an inability to trust and attach to others. This is frequently caused by severe abuse or neglect. As Beth is questioned about the things she has done. When asked if she has ever stuck pins in people, Beth answers that she has. The reason that she gives for doing this is, “I wanted him to die.”

She also confesses to wanting her mommy and daddy to die. Beth also answers questions about physically assaulting her brother and doing sexual things to him. What increases the twisted factor to this is Beth’s lack of any real emotion about what she is discussing. She is as laid back and nonchalant about these things as you would expect a child talking about there day at kindergarten to be. It is as if she has no conscience. Unfortunately, this is all too accurate of a way to look at it.

Beth’s early traumas, experienced before the age of five, have affected her ability to care about others. She is unable to trust others because she had that trust broken and abused at such a tender age when the bonds of attachment are being formed.

The good news is that RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), does not have to be permanent. Through intensive and exhausting therapy (both for the child and the adoptive, foster, or biological parent), a child can learn to love and trust again. As the video progresses, we see Beth beginning to feel remorse for the deeds that she has done.

This is a chilling video that is not for the faint of heart. Although the video is 30 years old, it is still relevant today. RAD still exists. Very young children are still traumatized by severe abuse and neglect. And unsuspecting families are still victimized by these tiny victimize children turned victimizer. Child of Rage should be required reading for all foster, foster/adopt and adoptive families. It is divided into three parts totaling a little over 27 minutes.

For more information on RAD go to RadKid.org. The diagnostic qualities of RAD can be found in the DSM-IV-TR for Diagnoses.

YouTube

Sources:

 HBO: America Undercover

www.radkid.org

Ten Best Hollywood Movie Execution Scenes

The best Hollywood movie execution scenes include such grisly fare as Hang 'Em High, The Green Mile, Papillon, The Execution of Private Slovik, The Great Escape, In Cold Blood, Schindler's List, Murder in Coweta County, The Dirty Dozen and The Passion of the Christ.

Capital punishment is very much alive and well in the movies. Here are ten infamous movie execution scenes from the vast archives of Hollywood history. Warning: These are not for the squeamish.

Hang 'Em High (1968) - A Swinging Time in the Old West

As befitting the movie's title, United Artists' Hang 'Em High features a mass execution on the gallows in 1889 Oklahoma/Indian Territory. Pat Hingle as Judge Adam Fenton – a.k.a. the "Hanging Judge" – orders the execution of six men. Amidst a lighthearted, carnival atmosphere, the condemned are marched up the gallows, hooded and, with a nod from the judge looking on from an upstairs window, sent packing into eternity feet first by Schmidt the Hangman (Bert Freed). When asked if he has a final request, one impatient prisoner (Paul Sorensen), fed up with a long-winded speech by the condemned Francis Elroy Duffy (Michael O'Sullivian), spits out his cigar and answers, " Yeah, tell him to shut up and let's get this over with." And of course rancher Jed Cooper (Clint Eastwood) is nearly lynched by vigilantes in another scene, but survives the attack to become one of Judge Fenton's U.S. marshals.

Six condemned men on the gallows in Hang 'Em High (1968) - United Artists

The Green Mile (1999) - Delacroix's Wild Ride in the Chair

The Green Mile, the 1930s Stephen King prison flick starring Tom Hanks as guard Paul Edgecomb, features three execution scenes in the electric chair. The most gruesome one by far involves the hapless Eduard Delacroix (Michael Jeter), who literally fries in the chair after sadistic little runt Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison) purposely fails to follow proper procedure. The botched execution is like something out of the supernatural, as the condemned cooks in the chair, emitting sparks and acrid smoke while the guards frantically try to up the voltage in order to hasten his death.

Eduard "Del" Delacroix literally fries in the electric chair in The Green Mile (1999) - Warner Bros.

Papillon (1973) - Execution in French Guiana

When it was first introduced in 1792, the guillotine was touted by its French backers as a more humane means of capital punishment. In the movie Papillon, prisoners Henri Charriere a.k.a. Papillon (Steve McQueen), Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman) and other assembled guests are "treated" to a live demonstration of the guillotine at the infamous penal institution in French Guiana circa the 1930s. The struggling condemned man is brought out by the guards followed by a priest reading Scripture. His head is quickly placed in the wooden frame, the silent command is given with a nod and the razor-sharp blade comes barreling down, neatly separating the head from the torso.

The Execution of Private Slovik (1974) - Death by Firing Squad

In this NBC-TV movie Martin Sheen plays the real-life Private Eddie Slovik (1920-1945), who on January 31, 1945, was executed in France by the U.S. Army for desertion. Of the 49 American soldiers condemned to death for desertion during World War II, Slovik was the only one to actually be executed. The  execution scene is harrowing, with the scared, befuddled Slovik, repeatedly muttering the Hail Mary and Our Father, strapped to a post, read his death sentence, black hooded and then shot by an Army firing squad. When the attending doctor pronounces that the moaning Slovik is still alive, a disgusted Catholic chaplain Father Stafford (Ned Beatty) calls out, "Give it another volley if you like it so much."

Martin Sheen and Ned Beatty, right, prepare for the firing squad in The Execution of Private Slovik (1974) - NBC-TV

The Great Escape (1963) - Shot While Trying to Escape

After busting out of "escape-proof" Luft Stalag III, British POWs Bartlett (Richard Attenborough), MacDonald (Gordon Jackson), Cavendish (Nigel Stock), Haynes (Lawrence Montaigne) and 46 others are eventually recaptured and driven to a remote field. Ordered out of the truck in order to "stretch their legs," the men then hear the click of a heavy machine gun, which is mounted in the back of another vehicle. The order is given by a German SS officer, with all 50 prisoners summarily executed. Oberst von Luger (Hannes Messemer), the commandant of Luft Stalag III, later has the unpleasant task of informing the ranking British officer that the men were shot while trying to escape. The execution scene is a bloodless one, brilliantly staged with only the echo of the machine gun reverberating off the surrounding mountains, signaling the POWs' inglorious end.

In Cold Blood (1967) - The Kansas Gallows

Truman Capote's haunting "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood features real-life convicted killers Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickock (Scott Wilson) awaiting their turn on the gallows. Hickock goes first, followed by Smith, who sums up his miserable life while a hard rain beats outside his death row cell. The executions were filmed at the Kansas State Penitentiary, with an actor playing the state's official hangman. 

Robert Blake as Perry Smith awaits the hangman's noose in In Cold Blood (1967) - Columbia Pictures

Schindler's List (1993) - Dead Nazi Walking

SS Captain Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) – Nazi evil personified – acts as one of Hitler's "Final Solution" executioners in occupied Poland. Goeth's idea of "amusement" is grabbing a sniper's rifle and picking off concentration camp inmates from his balcony. The monster Goeth is later executed for war crimes during one post-war scene, with soldiers violently kicking away a stool as the noose tightens around his neck. In actuality, the real Amon Goeth, age 37, was hanged in Poland on September 13, 1946. The execution was botched twice – the rope wasn't long enough – with the third try finally accomplishing the grisly job.

Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in Schindler's List (1993) - Universal Pictures

Murder in Coweta County (1983) - Andy Griffith Gets the Chair

Based on a true story of the late 1940s, this CBS-TV movie features Andy Griffith as John Wallace, the most powerful man in Meriwether County, Georgia. When a tenant farmer named Wilson Turner (Robert Schenkkan) makes off with one of Wallace's prized dairy cows which he believes he was owed as compensation, Wallace and three of his cronies pursue the man into neighboring Coweta County, where Wallace savagely beats the man to death. Coweta County Sheriff Lamar Potts (Johnny Cash) takes up the case, eventually bringing Wallace to justice. The scene in which Andy Griffith's Wallace is executed in the electric chair is one of the most chilling sequences ever staged for television. Griffith, sporting a shaven head and a pseudo-Christian defiance right to the end, is strapped in the chair and fitted with a skull cap. Andy Griffith was a long way from Mayberry in this harrowing TV movie.

The Dirty Dozen (1967) - Lee Marvin Goes to a Hanging

Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin) is invited to a hanging while stationed in England during World War II. U.S. Army MPs with a clergyman in tow escort the condemned soldier Private Arthur James Gardner (George Roubicek) to the gallows as he pleads that he didn't mean to kill the woman. The order is given and the trap door released, sending Pvt. Gardner into eternity. Later, Major General Sam Worden (Ernest Borgnine) asks Major Reisman how he liked the show. Reisman replies that it was a hell of a way to die, with General Worden commenting that more than a few souls he knows deserve the same fate.

The Passion of the Christ (2004) - The Crucifixion

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ features one of the most brutal execution scenes ever filmed. The final hours of Jesus Christ (James Caviezel) are depicted in harrowing detail, including the actual nails being hammered into his wrists. There's perhaps no more gruesome a death than crucifixion as practiced by the Romans, with The Passion of the Christ horrifying many moviegoers. The production proved to be an especially difficult shoot for James Caviezel, who was accidentally whipped twice and struck by lightning during the Sermon on the Mount scene. The actor also suffered a separated shoulder when the 150-pound cross fell on him. 

James Caviezel as Jesus Christ in The Passion of the Christ (2004) - Icon Productions

Ten More Memorable Movie Execution Scenes

  • The Victors (1963). A U.S. Army soldier (James Chase) is executed for desertion – think Private Eddie Slovik – as Frank Sinatra sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in the background. 
  • Dead Man Walking (1995). Convicted murderer Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) is executed in Louisiana by lethal injection.
  • Billy Budd (1962). Billy Budd (Terence Stamp) is hanged for the murder of the sadistic John Claggart (Robert Ryan).
  • The Chamber (1996). Convicted killer Sam Cayhall (Gene Hackman) is executed in Mississippi's gas chamber.
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005). Anti-Nazi resistance leader Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) goes to the guillotine in 1943.
  • Cromwell (1970). England's Charles I (Alec Guinness) is publicly beheaded by a black masked executioner in 1649. "Behold, the head of a traitor!"
  • Let Him Have It (1991). Convicted murderer Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) is hanged at London's Wandsworth Prison in 1953.
  • Paths of Glory (1957). Three French soldiers (Ralph Meeker, Timothy Carey, Joe Turkel) are executed for cowardice by firing squad in World War I.
  • The Hoodlum Priest (1961). Father Charles Dismas Clark (Don Murray) witnesses the execution of one of his young charges in the electric chair.
  • Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman (2005). Britain's most prolific hangman Albert Pierrepoint (Timothy Spall) executes a reported 608 people from 1933 to 1955. Among his victims as depicted in the movie are Nazi war criminals Irma Grese and Josef Kramer a.k.a. the Beast of Belsen.

Three French soldiers prepare for execution by firing squad in Paths of Glory (1957) - United Artists

Top Image

  • Half sheet movie poster: Hang 'Em High (1968) - Heritage Auctions

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.