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Thursday, December 25, 2014

SOME CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS


(Originally posted December 22, 2011)
                                             
                                         James Stewart and Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu) in "It's a Wonderful Life." (RKO Studios, 1946)
Image result for Jimmy stewart and karolyn grimes photoLast night I dusted off my DVD of Miracle on 34th Street (1947) to give it its yearly viewing. Of the three greatest Christmas films I have seen, this one leads the way followed closely by The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).                                              There are other great Christmas films and I would be amiss if I didn’t mention A Christmas Story (1983) which as always will be shown for twenty-four hours over Christmas on WTBS. We all have our favorites and it’s comforting to watch them every year during the holidays. 

Miracle on 34th Street is a great example of Hollywood’s use of the fine character actors of the day to produce a fine, heartwarming film about Christmas. The stars are John Payne and a beautiful 27 year old Maureen O’Hara with nine year old Natalie Wood playing her daughter. Edmund Gwenn stole the show and won an Oscar for his role as Kris Kringle.

Probably the most important thing to remember when watching the classic films is to watch them in the form in which they were originally intended. That means that if they were filmed in black and white, that is the way to see them.

Years ago when Ted Turner bought the libraries of the MGM and Warner Brothers films, he thought colorization of the black and white classics would be a genius idea. It wasn’t. A good example of the failure of colorization is what it did to the Jimmy Cagney classicYankee Doodle Dandy. Cagney won best actor in 1942 for his portrayal of George M. Cohan and to see him dancing across the stage in a powder blue jacket that looked like a poor excuse for a leisure suit reject, was incredible. Fortunately, viewers agreed.

I guess I am old fashioned about Christmas. Like all kids, I loved everything about the Christmas holidays and there was never any dissension about the day just because it was a Christian holiday. We would have a tree in our grade school classrooms and the schools would always have a Christmas show. Any kids who were'nt Christian went along for the ride with no concern about the Christian aspect. I think they and their parents figured "What the hell." The one thing we all agreed upon was how great it was to get off school at noon on December 24 if it landed on a school day.

Today is December 21 which is my wife’s birthday. That means a celebratory trip to the casino with dinner at the Orange Sky restaurant on the roof of the Talking Stick Resort. The views there are incredible. After that we might make a late night of it by turning on the Christmas tree lights and watching The Bishop’s Wife.

That may sound corny to some but I can’t think of a better way to end the day.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

LOOKING BACK: "A DATE WHICH WILL LIVE IN INFAMY"

                               This column originally posted on December 7, 2011

                                  (The New Pearl Harbor Museum Opened on 12-7-2010)

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the empire of Japan."

With that statement describing the attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, this nation was thrust into World War II. The first wave of Japanese aircraft attacked at 7:53 a.m. and by the end of the second wave at 9:45 a.m., the U.S. had suffered casualties of 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians, while 1,178 were wounded.



Of the dead, 1,177 were men stationed on the USS Arizona, which was destroyed when a bomb hit the forward magazine, starting a series of explosions. Eight Arizona residents were listed among the dead on the battleship, which was moored near Ford Island on that dreadful morning 65 years ago.

Today the remains of the Arizona still lie in the same shallow water where she sat helpless during the attack. In 1962, the ship was declared a national shrine and a memorial was built across her remains. A room within the shrine lists the names of the dead crew members, and regular memorial services are performed to respect their memory. A new U.S. flag is raised each day above the site, and at the end of the day is folded and given to various dignitaries.

Time has taken its toll on the memorial and in September, 2005, Governor Janet Napolitano toured the site and pledged Arizona’s help in raising $34 million to build a new visitors’s center. ("Napolitano to help raise $34 million for USS Arizona," The Arizona Republic, Oct. 20, 2005).

"It’s Arizona’s battleship," she said in the article. "When it was commissioned (1916), they broke not just a bottle of champagne over its bow, but a bottle of water that had just come from the newly created Roosevelt Dam. We’ve always had a close connection with the USS Arizona."

Napolitano also declared 2006 as the "Year of the USS Arizona Memorial."

Many of the dead from the Arizona are still entombed within its hulk. Oil still seeps from the wreckage after 65 years and is sometimes referred to as "the tears of the Arizona." Each year the number of survivors decreases and many of them have made arrangements to be cremated with their ashes placed by their fallen shipmates at the site. Many of these men believe that the oil will continue to leak until the last survivor dies.

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