Monday, January 16, 2017

Adventures in South America

Base, Common & Popular

When you think about Bogota, Colombia, what comes to mind? For most Americans, the answer is not much. Of course Hollywood steps into such vacuums with its own ideas and images, and rarely are they positive. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the 2005 film which sparked the Brad and Angelina romance, depicted the South American capital as a no-man’s land of flying bullets, which enhanced the element of danger for the eponymous couple. It looked like some updated version of a Wild West town, where every minute could be one’s last.

In truth, Bogota is an up and coming metropolis, which has developed rapidly, especially in the last decade. In all fairness, crime and violence persist, but levels have dropped precipitously since the 1990s. As with any big city, it is best to keep your eyes open (and your wallet held), but it is a great place with a big heart and lots to see for the intrepid tourist.

Bogota is also my father’s hometown, so when I visit there it is a homecoming of sorts. As I step out of El Dorado Airport (after an eternity with customs), I meet my family waiting for me. El Dorado is out in the western outskirts, so we have to take a cab back to the family apartment. You have to be careful with cabs; cabbies can be creative. A ride should cost on average 20,000-25,000 Colombian pesos (which in May 2011 conversion rates should be between 11-14 United States dollars). Use your common sense–get a good car service in advance, or ask the driver how much to take you into downtown. If you don’t get a good feel from the driver, wait for the next cab. Another tip: don’t slam the car doors too hard here. Car owners hang on to their vehicles for a longer time, so be gentle.

Our apartment is near Unicentro, a famous shopping mall, which has undergone a major renovation. It’s in the north-east in the Usaquen district. Bogota is an especially large city, spreading south to north, on an Andean plateau. The South is the older part, with the government buildings and older neighborhoods. Curiously the North has become the happening half, with ritzy rich neighborhoods and million-dollar business complexes. The sidewalks near our apartment are framed by huge fat tropical trees, resembling palms, but much wider.

With a highland tropical climate, Bogota is generally warm year round, though subject to its rainy periods of April, May, September and October. It was indeed raining when we were there, but this rain varied.

The following week we started by checking out Unicentro, which has become very Americanized. Many of the stores in the mall are American chains (like NINE WEST and McDonald’s). The week before there was a drive on behalf of the tsunami victims in Japan (see photo). There are girls promoting the same Dead-Sea based cosmetic products, which are seen in malls across America.

Later, we head towards the old town of Usaquen and the surrounding area. Originally Usaquen was just one of several towns annexed by the city, and it has the feel of a small locale. It has a classic cozy plaza with the colonial church of Santa Barbara facing it from the east. Around the plaza are charming low-lying buildings. Sharp entrepreneurs have modernized the buildings with restaurants, which look as up and coming as any trendy American neighborhood. We stepped into an elaborate Middle-Eastern style pavilion, which hosts belly-dancing and feasting.

Moving southward on the seventh street, we encounter the Hacienda Santa Barbara. It starts out looking like an old Spanish-style house with tiled roofs, white painted walls and a old courtyard. But the courtyard connects to an escalator to a modern multi-floor mall.

What is fascinating here is how buildings centuries old mix gracefully with just finished constructions. In my next piece I’ll go into greater detail on its sights and sounds.

Until later, happy travels.

New York May 18, 2011

PS – Bogota and Usaquen are both written with accent marks in Spanish, but I was unable to place that on this blog. My apologies to purists.


Labels: Adventures in South America

Anne Hathaway? Putting the Face with the Name

While reading an article by Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi on the Venice Film Festival Awards, I found that Mickey Rourke and Anne Hathaway are nominees for the best actor and actress in Italy. At least that is what it seems to be stating.

The short but interesting article made me wonder, “What have I seen Anne Hathaway in before?” I am good with faces, but names sometimes escape me. Therefore, I had to look up the name at IMDB to see if I recognize any of her works.

I knew that name sounded familiar. The Princess Diaries, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Hoodwinked! (I had no idea!), Get Smart, and Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control. All of these I have seen, and yet…I keep forgetting who she is.

It must be an age thing in someway because she’s only 26 years old. Make that 25. It will not be until November 12th that she will be 26 years old. Still, it is not easy putting her face with her name.

Maybe it is her name because is does have and older connotation to it. Both Anne and Hathaway are very old names in history.

On the flipside of all of this is Mickey Rourke. What guy my age does not know who he is? Come on now. Mickey Rourke has been in acting since the late 1970s, and then some.

I will have to admit that Mickey Rourke is not on my favorite actor list. Still, how can I forget him in “Year of the Dragon,” which came out in 1985? I had been out on my own for a year after high school, and movies were not a top priority for me. So, yeah, this was a treat.

Mickey Rourke may not have aged well, but Anne Hathaway sure has. I’m sure she has broken a few hearts along the way. Both Anne and Mickey are currently working on movies to come out next year. Mickey is one up on Anne with two burners.

Anne just finished filming “Passengers,” which is due out on the 18th of this month. She Stars with Patrick Wilson in this thriller drama movie. It appears to be a gripping movie of surviving passengers disappearing after being interviewed by Anne.

“The Informers” is still pending on a release date for this year for Mr. Rourke. This is one of those, “Should I bother?”, or “Can I not afford to miss out on this?” Hmm, yeah, not a big fan, obviously.

Anyway, back to my previous thought. Many of us recall names of actors and actresses, yet putting the name with the face or vice versa is not always easy. At least for people like me it is not easy. I am not in that business.

Labels: Anne Hathaway? Putting the Face with the Name

A Meditation on the Night Sky and the Love of God

For a lot of people, the thought of the night sky, with its constellations of stars, reminds them of the vastness of the universe. Scientists tell us that our sun is a fairly ordinary star in an obscure corner of but one of many vast galaxies. From the immensity of the universe to the insignificance of our world seems but a logical step.

A song from the musical Carousel sums up the impression very clearly: “You can’t even count the stars in the sky, and compared to the sky the sea looks small. And two little people, you and I, we don’t count at all.”

Modern astronomers have indeed discovered an immensely larger universe than previous generations ever dreamed of. That does not mean that the ancients thought the universe was compact. The second-century astronomer Ptolemy wrote that, considering the distance of the stars, the earth must be considered a point without magnitude.

It may come as a surprise that the ancients, too, considered the earth insignificant compared to the rest of the universe. Only they were moved by the brightness of the stars, not their distance. The earth produced no light of itself. Light, glory, came from the sun. When it set, all became dark, except the distant moon and more distant stars.

So the ancients thought of the heavens as glorious and the earth as inglorious. By placing the earth where everything else revolved around it, they did not exalt it. Instead, it seemed like the bottom of the universe, to which everything base and inglorious sank. And that explains why so many of them worshiped the sun, moon, and stars.

Whether the glorious brightness then or the vastness now, something about the heavens has always made people feel weak and insignificant by comparison. Even in the Bible, David wrote in Psalm 8:3-4, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?”

But David did not, like the pagans, conclude that man is nothing. He answered his own question in the same poem, “You have made him little lower than God.” He looked at the night sky, but also at God, who created everything, including the human race. If God cares about us, if we matter to God, then we have intrinsic value.

The sun rises and sets in a predictable rhythm. The moon, stars, and planets each rise and set on their own different rhythm. In all the vastness of space, everything is always where it belongs. Nothing gets lost.

The stars don’t care about the earth or any of the people on it, but God does. God, who is vaster than the universe, greeted microscopic beings and subatomic particles. David knew nothing about them, but he knew God. He had experienced God’s love

Jesus later said that God knows how many hairs each of us have. He said that a no sparrow has ever died without God noticing. If we look at the sky and think only of the vastness we can see, we will feel lonely. If we look at it and think about the greater vastness of God and the wideness of his love for us, we will know that we are not alone, and that we are cared for.

Labels: A Meditation on the Night Sky and the Love of God

A Journal of the Plague Years: Maurice Rapf & the Hollywood Blacklist

Maurice Rapf, the blackisted Hollywood screenwriter who became one of the pioneers of cinema studies, was born on May 19, 1914 in New York City to producer Harry Rapf and his wife, Tina Uhfelder Rapf, and given the name Maurice Harry Rapf. Harry Rapf was one of the founders of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer and an Oscar-winner for producing MGM’s first musical, The Broadway Melody (1929), an early talkie smash and the studio’s first of many Academy Awards for Best Picture.

Unlike his father, Maurice Rapf never won an Oscar; his most significant achievement as a screenwriter arguably was Song of the South (1946) for Walt Disney, which he disowned due to its racism, while his most significant “achievement” as an activist, arguably, was to be blacklisted a year later for his communist sympathies. But he left a lasting legacy through his union activities and as a film professor.

Life With Father

“My father started producing features in 1916 when I was two years old,” Maurice Rapf (Dartmouth College ’35) wrote in an article for the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine in 1990. “A year later, I began a brief career as a movie actor, playing war orphans, street urchins and assorted brats. That ended when I started school. My father moved from New York to Hollywood and in 1924 became a mogul at MGM. Making movies was the family business, and with parental help, it became mine as well.”

Maurice’s father Harry Rapf was Hollywood royalty, having worked his way up from minstrel shows and vaudeville to become an independent movie producer in the mid ‘Teens. At the tender age of three, Harry enlisted his son “Maury” as a child actor, and Maurice Rapf‘s personal involvement with the movies began. Maury’s career as an actor soon ended, cut short by the exigencies of schooling.

Harry Rapf was hired by indie producer Lewis B. Selznick in 1919, and then moved on to Warner Bros. in 1921, where as a producer, he and the young screenwriter Darryl F. Zanuck turned World War I veteran Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd saved from the trenches of the Western Front, into an international superstar. When MGM was created from the 1924 merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Productions, Harry Rapf was brought onboard to share central producing duties with Louis B. Mayer (named by TIME Magazine as one of the Top 100 People of the 20th Century) and his protégé Irving Thalberg.

The career change necessitated a permanent shift of the Rapf family from New York to southern California. Harry Rapf was given the job of overseeing the production of the “programmers” that were the bread-and-butter of the studio, pictures starring such box office heavyweights as Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery. With a keen eye for talent, Harry Rapf earned the credit for discovering Joan Crawford in the chorus line of Broadway’s The Passing Show of 1924. Rapf was invited by Mayer to be one of the 36 founders of his brainchild, a company union called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences that was intended to fight off unionization by the crafts.

Maury, as the son of Harry, grew up in Los Angeles, trolling the studios, sets, offices and streets of the Culver City production facilities, one of the privileged “Hollywood Princes,” like his good friend Budd Schulberg, son of Paramount boss B.P. Schulberg. Maury used to bully Loew’s theater owners to get into the movies for free, citing his father’s status at Loew’s MGM subsidiary. His first screen credit was for writing the story of the Jackie Cooper vehicle Divorce in the Family (1932), which produced by his father. He was 18-years-old.

Like Budd, he went to Dartmouth College, and like Budd, he went to the USSR and flirted with communism. Again, like his good friend, he eventually joined the Communist Party. Rapf and Schulberg reportedly where the inspirations for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Hollywood Princess Cecilia Brady, the daughter of the villainous studio boss Pat Brady in his unfinished last novel The Last Tycoon.

While matriculating at Dartmouth in bucolic small-town Hanover, New Hampshire, Maurice Rapf was an exchange student at the Anglo-American Institute in the USSR. Muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens, a communist, had proclaimed “I have been over into the future and it works,” after a trip to the Soviet Union. Steffens’ enthusiasm inspired thousands of other progressives to visit the future themselves, and those visitors included Budd Schulberg and Maurice Rapf.

The Soviets gave foreign visitors tours of fake “Potemkin” villages. Schulberg had been impressed by what he saw, as had Rapf, whose own tour had been sponsored by the National Student League and had included future double-Oscar winning screenwriter, and Hollywood Ten alumnus, Ring Lardner Jr., who would serve nine months in jail for his beliefs a decade-and-a-half after that visit.

After attending the Institute, Maurice Rapf made a trip to Germany in 1934, at a time when Hitler and the Nazi Party were consolidating their dictatorship over all aspects of German life after terminating democracy with extreme prejudice the year before. It was a bold move for someone of the Jewish faith, especially one only 20-years old. His personal experience of Nazi Germany convinced him that communism was the best bulwark against Nazism.

Hollywood Communist

Maurice Rapf joined the U.S. Communist Party (CPUSA) and was an active member throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s. He remained a committed member where others, such as Elia Kazan, dropped out due to disillusionment with the Party after the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany, that set up the two totalitarian tyrannies’ invasion and partition of Poland.

“The thing that most impressed me and probably made me a communist was that anti-Semitism was illegal in the Soviet Union,” Rapf would later claim, “and that the Soviets were very anti-fascist, which the US was not.”

“Making movies was the family business, and with parental help, it became mine as well,” Rapf wrote in his 1990 memoir. As a college boy returned to his family’s studio, he co-wrote We Went to College (1936), They Gave Him a Gun (1937), and The Bad Man of Brimstone (1937) for his father’s production unit, which had been one of several set up by Louis B. Mayer as a ‘college of cardinals’ to replace the ailing central producer Irving Thalberg, and also to dilute his power. Harry Rapf’s power at MGM had been on the wane since suffering a bad heart attack in 1933, which is likely that his son eventually sought employment at other studios.

Along with Budd Schulberg, Maurice Rapf was one of the founding members of the Screen Writers Guild (since renamed the Writers Guild of America), the screenwriters trade union, which is ironic in his light of the ongoing attempts of his father’s generation to forestall unionization of the movie industry. With the Guild duly accredited as the screen writers’ bargaining representative with the studios, a formal system of pay and credit was instituted to protect the rights of writers. Rapf became a secretary of the SWG, while his friend Budd Schulberg served on the Guild council.

Rapf became a busy and serious screenwriter, working on many movies, typically in the action genre. He helped develop the story for the political thriller Sharpshooters (1938) for 20th Century-Fox, where production was headed by the progressive Darryl F. Zanuck, his father’s old Rin Tin Tin collaborator, and then bounced over to Columbia for North of Shanghai (1939).

Maurice Rapf (Dartmouth, ’35) received credit for indie producer Walter Wanger’s Dartmouth-based college love-story Winter Carnival (1939), on which he replaced F. Scott Fitzgerald (Princeton, ’16) as the collaborator with fellow Dartmouth alumnus Budd Schulberg, after the great writer of “The Great Gatsby” went off on one of his Brobdingnagian boozing binges. By the time that film was released, he was working as a staff screenwriter for Warner Bros.

According to a memoir published by screenwriter Malvin Wald, when he was first employed by Warner Bros., Maurice Rapf was made his collaborator after another collaborator changed an original story of his beyond all recognition. When Warners screenwriter-in-chief John Huston invited Rapf to join the Writers Table, Rapf’s collaborator was invited as well. Wald found Rapf to be a “considerate and patient teacher,” who was concerned with his young protege’s professional well-being. Eventually, the writing team lost one producer, and then their replacement producer was fired, and their contracts were terminated by production chief Jack Warner. Wald couldn’t complain, as under Rapf’s tutelage, he had learned the business and even had qualified for membership in Rapf’s Screen Writers Guild.

In the early ’40s, Maurice Rapf bounced between Paramount, Budd Schulberg’s father’s old studio, and 20th Century-Fox, which was headed by Joseph Shenck, the brother of Loew’s Inc. President Nicholas Shenck, the capo di tutti capi of MGM. Rapf even made a house-call as a script doctor at
Poverty Row for Republic Pictures’ Call of the Canyon (1942). He eventually wound up at Walt Disney & Co., which would prove to be his final home studio. It seems ironic that his longest stint in a studio, even longer than the professional association he had with his father’s, was at Walt Disney, as the eponymous owner had the reputation as being perhaps the premier anti-communist in Hollywood.

In 1944, Walt Disney offered him a chance to rewrite a script based on Joel Chandler Otis’ Uncle Remus stories. Rapf was worried that writing for an animated film would hurt his career as it was considered a kind of ghetto in Hollywood, and he also expressed his anxiety over the racism in the stories. Disney assured him that the film would be a live-action feature, and that he was being hired to expressly cut the racism out of the script, although what he likely was looking for in hiring Rapf was political cover from the left. Rapf accepted the job and did the rewrite while waiting for a commission from the U.S. Navy.

After working on the “Uncle Remus” screenplay, he and fellow communist (and fellow traveler to 1934 Russia) Ring Lardner, Jr., helped co-write the animated short The Brotherhood of Man, which was co-produced by the United Auto Workers labor union and United Productions of America (best known for their post-war Mr. Magoo cartoons), and released by the U.S. Navy. When the “Uncle Remus” movie eventually was released after the war, Rapf expressed his dismay that the film, now entitled Song of the South,” failed to rid itself of its residual racism. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People denounced Song of the South for perpetrating racial stereotypes.

At Disney, Rapf wrote an early draft for an animated feature film based on the fairy tale “Cinderella,” for which he would receive no credit. The last film he worked on at Disney was the slice-of-Americana So Dear To My Heart (1949). He left Disney under a cloud of suspicion, as the movie moguls had agreed at the Waldorf Conference, a film industry summit meeting called after the 1947 House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) had the Hollywood Ten indicted for contempt of Congress, to fire any communists they had in their employ. Maurice Rapf was subpoenaed to testify before the HUAC, but was excused because he became sick with the mumps.

Ironically, the communist Maurice Rapf got along well with the right-wing Republican Walt Disney, whom he categorized as a personally modest perfectionist, and both enjoyed arguing politics. Disney told Rapf that he became a Republican when, as a boy, a gang of young Democrats pulled down his pants and coated his testicles with hot tar. Contrary to the now-accepted caricature of Disney as a racist reactionary, Rapf wrote
in his 1999 autobiography Back Lot that Walt Disney was neither a red-baiter, nor an anti-Semite.

“I never knew anyone in the Party – in all the years I was associated with it, which was a long, long time – who was seeking anything but humanistic goals. Certainly, there was never any attempt on the part of the people I knew to overthrow the government of the United States…. We did believe in class struggle. I still believe in class struggle,” Rapf was quoted in the book Tender Comrades.

Marx described class struggle as the conflict between capital (the bourgeoisie) and labor (the proletariat). While capital and labor do have common interests, as the proletariat must sell its labor for wages and the bourgeoisie must expend capital to obtain labor, one class’ individual interests inevitably lead to conflict with the other class, as capital seeks to enhance its surplus by immiserating labor. The history of Hollywood from the mid-1920s and up through the mid-1930s, and again after World War II, was a “class struggle” between the studios and the various crafts over wages, working conditions, and ultimately unionization when the company union that was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences could not or would not protect the interests of the crafts.

This paradox also was a metaphor for Freud’s Oedipal conflict (itself a metaphor), that set privileged “Princes of Hollywood” like Budd Schulberg and Maurice Rapf against the interests of their fathers, all self-made men who rose to the top through a combination of cunning and ruthlessness, who once established, tried to buy respectability through the ostentatious consumption of goods and people, be they respected writers like Fitzgerald, James Hilton, or William Faulkner, or stars and starlets alike, like Clara Kimball Young, Normal Talmadge, and Marilyn Monroe.

B.P. Schulberg and Harry Rapf were doers, while their more artistically inclined sons Budd and Maury were observers, but observers who had carried the gene for action. After observing that something was rotten in the state of Hollywood, they were determined, like Hamlet, to do something about it. Indeed, Schulberg’s Oedipus-like blow against the Hollywood system that nurtured him, What Makes Sammy Run?, his excoriating exegesis of studio executive Sammy Glick, was credited by Schulberg himself with terminating his father’s career in Hollywood.

Budd Schulberg makes no bones about it in What Makes Sammy Run? The old type of Hollywood-hustler/immigrant-Jew who made the motion picture industry and believed in assimilation with society at large while indulging their gross individual appetites embarrassed him. The Party went so far to censure him publicly for anti-Semitism after the novel was published in 1941. Schulberg dated his own disillusionment with the Party to the time he refused the order of the CPUSA dramaturge, future Hollywood Ten member John Howard Lawson, to submit to Party discipline with his novel.

The Cold War & The Black List

As history developed in fact, not theory, the dictatorship of the proletariat proved to be a legal justification by which tyrants imposed a totalitarianism over their subject peoples. Democracy for the post-War communist activist often meant ensuring a unanimity of interests in which one interest, that of the Party, could veto and thus gain control over all other competing interests. In the 1930s and ’40s, Stalin and his NKVD spent almost as much time eliminating fellow socialists, leftists and fellow travelers as it did in fighting fascism, and indeed, had been fascist Germany’s ally in the opening days of World War II.

Documentation reveals that the Hollywood Ten’s legal defense of aggressive non-cooperation (rather than just taking the Fifth Amendment) was dictated from the Soviet Union via CPUSA, which Moscow financed, and that screenwriter and Hollywood Ten blacklisted John Howard Lawson was the CPUSA point man in Hollywood, reading members’ work and demanding emendations. (That none of the Hollywood Ten members sang in 1947 was considered a brave act, but now seems to be an expression of party discipline.) Of course, how effective this party discipline was for getting out communist propaganda can be called into doubt, as so many movie industry writers of every political persuasion were used by the studios to write, rewrite, and then rewrite a rewritten script.

Indeed, one scoffs at the exaggeration of many charges of certain Hollywood professionals being “red” or “pink” or a “fellow-traveler,” such as those leveled against outspoken liberal Burt Lancaster, whose swashbuckling movies of the early ’50s contained the thematic element of the oppressed rising up against their oppressor.

Yet, Lancaster’s business partner, former CPUSA member Harold Hecht, in friendly testimony before HUAC told of how, when he was employed by the Works Progress Administration’s National Theater Project, he was commanded by CPUSA to fire Party critics and retain Party members when the organization’s budget was cut and layoffs were immanent. To his credit, Hecht did claim that CPUSA did not have inordinate influence over the National Theater Project, as had been claimed by Congressional anti-communists before the War. So, there was real interference with Party members, as Elia Kazan noted in his justification of his own friendly testimony before HUAC; it just seems like it never was very effective in actually creating communist propaganda.

The sole exception was Warner’s 1943 release Mission to Moscow, made at the request of the federal government, a pro-Stalin potboiler written by future blacklisted screen writer Howard Koch that justified the Soviet dictator’s show-trials of the late 1930s as having been undertaken to rid the USSR of real and potential spies for Nazi Germany. The leader of this Nazi Fifth Column, the chief culprit behind all this skullduggery was, of course, Stalin’s nemesis Leon Trotsky, who had been murdered in Mexico in 1940 by an NKVD agent under Stalin’s orders. Many leftists, including educator John Dewey, who ran an inquiry, were fully aware at the time of the purges that the show trials were staged theatricals whose victims confessed to improbable if not downright impossible crimes. Stalin was imposing a cruel and implacable dictatorship on the Soviet Union, in effect, consolidating his grip on the USSR through the judicial murder of his old Bolshevik and Menshevik allies to eliminate potential rivals and any possible challenge to his monopoly on power, real or imagined.)

The Hollywood red-baiting and witch-trials must be understood in the context of the intense backlash against the New Deal that gained strength when Harry Truman assumed the presidency, and which gained more momentum when Truman unexpectedly won the 1948 presidential election, thus keeping the Republicans out of power for four more years.

The Grand Old Party began to be dominated by reactionary, anti-interventionists, who wanted to isolate America from the rest of the world and from its dolorous influences. It was an ancient theme, as old as the Republic itself, when George Washington in his farewell address cautioned his new country against becoming entangled in foreign alliances. Like Metternich at the Congress of Vienna, who wanted to turn post-Napoleonic Europe back to the status quo ante-bellum of monarchies that could suppress the spreading liberalism that threatened to upset the old social equilibrium that Napoleon had knocked off-kilter, many Republicans and some conservative Democrats wanted to return the United States to its inward-looking self, and Washington, D.C. back to the swampy, sleepy Southern town it had been before the War. But it’s impossible to turn back the clock, and Harry Truman was determined to contain Soviet communism while avoiding World War III.

Many pre-war proto-fascists of the old pro-Nazi German American Bund and the anti-Roosevelt America First isolationists were quick to launch a crusade against the USSR and its American supporters after World War II’s end mooted the necessity for an anti-Axis alliance. They were joined by many others, including some anti-communist converts whom had once been enthusiastic New Dealers, such as newspaper columnist and radio personality Walter Winchell, who grown older, wealthier and more conservative, turned into a red-baiter. In addition to being an outburst of anti-Semitism by the old proto-fascists that were now part of the anti-red right, the anti-communist witch-hunt of the late 1940s and early ’50s can be seen as a reckoning by conservatives, both the dyed-in-the-wool variety like studio boss Walt Disney and the arriviste like Winchell, against liberals, who were enjoying a 20-year run in power via the Roosevelt-Truman administrations.

The country that they, and most Americans, had known had changed dramatically, and there was a great deal of anxiety out and about that could be exploited by the ruthless power-seeker. Attacked by the hard left via the Progressive Party, dedicated New & Fair Dealer Harry Truman was forced to tack right himself, as did many liberals desiring to survive the onset of the political winter for liberalism in Hollywood and the country at large. The studio bosses, themselves ruthless power-seekers, made common cause with the inquisitors for the sake of their bottom-lines, already being ravaged by a post-War recession and soon to fall victim to an even more insidious ‘foreign menace,’ television.

Anthropology holds that social phenomenon such as witch-trials are a type of homeostatic device to regulate the stress building up in a community by discharging excess pressure to eliminate the strain that could wreck the community. By directing the community’s anxieties against a scapegoat that is then destroyed, the community purges itself of the dangerous buildup of psychic stress. Many people were sincerely concerned about the future welfare of the United States and the direction the country was headed in, while many others were not, but used the social distress as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement. There was an element of the show-trial in the HUAC hearings of 1947 and the early ’50s, in which conservatives sought to hobble the left and individuals grasped for recognition and power.

Through a wide network of informers put together by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the American Legion, and the California Assembly’s own Un-American Activities Committee, HUAC had a good idea who was or had been a member of CPUSA. It had been said that by the early 1950s, when almost all of the communist networks that had been active in the US during World War II had been broken up by the FBI or terminated by Moscow soon after the war (afraid its operatives might get caught), there were more FBI agent-member-informers of CPUSA than there were authentic, card-carrying communists. The Alien Registration Act of 1940, a.k.a. the Smith Act, had been used to destroy CPUSA by banning knowingly or willfully advocating, abetting, advising, or teaching the necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing the government of the U.S. or any of its subdivisions by force or violence, or by assassination of its officials. It also outlawed the printing, publishing, editing and distribution of materials advocating violent revolution, and made it a crime to organize, help or make attempts to organize any group advocating the same.

By outlawing “advocacy,” a class of speech seemingly protected by the First Amendment, Congress had cast a wide net in which it caught many writers and performers with liberal tendencies, including life-long Republican Henry Fonda and old liberal war-horse Edward G. Robinson, both of whom effectively were “gray-listed” out of films for almost a decade and were forced to make their living in the theater, in which no blacklist existed. Interestingly, despite the theater being a form of communication, and the new medium of television rapidly evolving as the most potent form of mass communication ever, many members of the gray- and black-list (those who refused to testify before HUAC), could find employment.

The theater and television did not have the labor troubles that Hollywood did, nor the likely level of organized-crime affiliation that had been exposed during the extortion trial of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees President George Browne (also a vice president of the American Federation of Labor) and his right-hand man, Chicago mobster Willie Bioff, shortly before the war that had led to the imprisonment of industry bagman Joe Shenck of 20th Century-Fox.

Interestingly, the studios’ initial payoff to the mob was done in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel where a decade later, the movie magnates would agree to impose the blacklist.) The movie moguls and Hollywood craft unions, whose members were dunned 2% of their wages for a “strike fund” that was channeled back to Bioff’s “Outfit” (the old Al Capone mob) in Chicago, paid The Outfit as much as $15 million to ensure labor peace, in a symbiotic relationship the skirted the fine line between bribery and extortion.

The federal government eventually broke up the Hollywood racket, in no small part because Screen Actor’s Guild president Robert Montgomery had initiated an investigation of the situation. A Chicago tax court tackling the case ruled that the studio bosses “knowingly and willingly paid over the funds and in a sense lent encouragement and participated with full knowledge of the facts in the activities of Browne and Bioff.”

The moral rot of Hollywood was all pervasive. Sammy Glick was every bit as rotten as Budd Schulberg had warned.

Event though he was excused from testifying and did not defy the Committee, Maurice Rapf, after being called by HUAC (thus indicating industry knowledge of his connection to CPUSA) was subsequently blacklisted in accordance with the movie magnates Waldorf Statement.

Maurice Rapf was done in partly due to his association with fellow unapologetic Stalinists like Lillian Hellman, a HUAC unfriendly witness, but more likely due to his militant support of labor unions during a time when Hollywood was besieged with labor troubles and tended to tar union activists as “red” in order to deliver Hollywood into the hands of more-amenable mob-controlled sweetheart unions. Disney was known to be an implacable foe of unionization, and although the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization (separate entities until 1955) fought communists and had been purging them from their member unions for years, the charge of being a secret red remained a potent weapon in the studios’ anti-labor arsenal for years to come.

Life After Hollywood

Now blacklisted and thus technically unemployable as a screenwriter, Rapf left Hollywood and began a new life across the border from Hanover, New Hampshire in Norwich, Vermont. He was one of the founders of The Dartmouth Film Society in 1949, the first college film society in the US. Like many blacklisted screenwriters who chose to remain in the country and pursue their craft, Rapf had to use various fronts to market his work. He also worked in the production of industrial films and television commercials in New York City, functioning as a writer, director and. In addition to these labors, Rapf was a movie critic for the mass-circulation periodicals Life and Family Circle.

It was in these years that his old friend and fellow Hollywood Prince forever tarnished his crown when he appeared as a friendly witness before HUAC on May 23, 1951, and named names. One of the 15 names he named was Maurice Rapf.

Budd Schulberg told HUAC that CPUSA tried to dictate changes to What Makes Sammy Run? so that it conformed to the Party line. He was ordered to talk to John Howard Lawson, their generalissimo of the arts in Hollywood, who asked him to submit an outline so that Lawson could vet his novel, a request Schulberg ignored. At a meeting with V.J. Jerome, the CPUSA theoretician whom former Daily Worker managing editor and blacklistee Howard Fast termed the Party ‘cultural czar’, Schulberg was told “my entire attitude was wrong; that I was wrong about writing; wrong about this book; wrong about the Party…. I remember it more as a kind of harangue. When I came away I felt maybe, almost for the first time, that this was to me the real face of the Party.” Schulberg, once again playing Oedipus, proved determined to slay another patriarch.

In 1967, Maurice Rapf was hired by Dartmouth College as an adjunct professor to teach about the cinema. In 1976, he was promoted to full professor with the portfolio of establishing Dartmouth’s new film studies program. As a professor, he was prized for his honesty; many of his students, after having established themselves in the business, would return to him for critiques and advice on their film projects.

In 2000, he published All About the Movies: A Textbook for the Movie-Loving Layman, based on his 30 years of teaching at Dartmouth. That book was published a year after his 1999 memoir, Back Lot: Growing up with the Movies, an insider’s look at the movie business.

The special strength of Back Lot is that Rapf’s experiences are gained from first hand experience. He experienced the evolution of the American film industry from silence to sound, from the amalgamation of studio control to the overthrow of the studios by the independent contractor with his or her own production company. Rapf gives special attention to the film community’s awakening from an apolitical apathy, focused on assimilation rather than confrontation, towards a community increasingly aware of its social responsibility due to the Great Depression and the war against the fascist Axis powers.

Variety, the bible of show business, reported in its July 31, 1998 issue that the Writers Guild of America, the union that Rapf had helped create, had voted to give screen credits to 13 blacklisted screenwriters, including Rapf, for their unaccredited contributions to 21 movies produced during the period of 1950-69. The WGA’s Blacklist Credits Committee had conducted an investigation into the production history of each movie with questionable credits, a process hampered by the blacklisted screenwriters’ use of fronts and the pseudonyms. Although Dalton Trumbo of Hollywood Ten fame broke the blacklist in 1960 with credits for Spartacus and Exodus, some screenwriters had continued to write under pseudonyms until the 1970s.

In addition to Maurice Rapf, who was given credit on The Detective (1954), the blacklisted writers included the late Paul Jarrico, one of the more famous of blacklisted screen writers, who posthumously picked up four credits. Jarrico had refused to be given credit by the committee until after it had investigated all other blacklisted screen writers. CPUSA stalwart and Hollywood Ten member John Howard Lawson picked up one credit, while Carl Foreman, one of the first benefactors of credit revision when he and Michael Wilson were given credit (and posthumous Academy Award statuettes) for the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Bridge On the River Kwai, picked up another credit, for the Oscar-nominated screenplay of A Hatful of Rain (1957), which lost to their “Kwai” screenplay incorrectly credited to Pierre Boule, a Frenchman who did not write in English.

Screen writers who were awarded multiple new credits were Henry Blankfort, with three, and Daniel James and Robert L. Richards, with two each. Screen writers receiving a single new credit were Leonardo Bercovici, Jerome Chodorov, Howard Dimsdale, Howard Koch, Jean Rouverol, and Donald Ogden Stewart. WGA West president Daniel Petrie Jr., at the announcement of the new credits, said, “It is with pride and sadness that we announce these changes.”

In a speech at the University of Oklahoma, Rapf said that Walt Disney & Co. had contacted him about a re-release of “Song of the South” on DVD. The studio wanted to create disclaimers about the film’s “racial insensitivity” and asked Rapf to write them. Ever the committed progressive, he declined, thus able to expiate a sin from the past as he had come to believe that the film was inherently racist, and should never have been made. No one ever claimed that Maurice Rapf was not a man of his word, or a man of courage who stood up for what he believed in. In his belief in himself and his ideals, this idealistic man who was accused of being “anti-American” elucidated the best of the American character.

Maurice Rapf died on April 15, 2003, at the age of 88. He had been married to his wife, the former movie actress Louise Siedel, for 56 years before her death. His daughter, Joanna E. Rapf, is a Professor of English and Film & Video Studies at the University of Oklahoma, but regularly teaches as a Visiting Professor of Film & Television Studies at her father’s alma mater.

Upon his death, Dartmouth President James Wright eulogized the man responsible for the success for the college’s film department. “Because of Maurice Rapf‘s commitment, love and encouragement, the Dartmouth Film Society is a highly-regarded Dartmouth institution and Film Studies is a strong and thriving department on campus. Dartmouth is forever enriched by his commitment. We will greatly miss our friend and colleague.”

The college bestows the Maurice Rapf Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film at Dartmouth in his honor.

Labels: A Journal of the Plague Years: Maurice Rapf & the Hollywood Blacklist

A Ski Trip Skin Care Guide

A ski or snowboarding trip can be the perfect getaway during the cold, winter months. It’s exciting, fun, and a great way to reconnect with family and friends while you get a little fresh air and exercise. But when you’re packing up for that ski trip, don’t forget to bring the right products to protect your skin from the harsh elements it will be exposed to on those slopes! A sunburn, windburn, or cracked lips can ruin any ski vacation.

Protect Against Dryness
One of the biggest problems your skin will face is the cold, dry air. The whipping wind doesn’t help much either! After a day on the slopes, your skin might be dry, blotchy, tight, and even chapped. To prevent this, adopt a gentle cleansing and deep moisturizing routine on your skin trip. Avoid using a cleanser with a drying agent, like alcohol or witch hazel, which can deplete your skin’s natural moisture before you even step outside. Follow up your gentle cleansing with a deep moisturizer that will help protect you out there in the elements. Look for products that contain ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, and vitamin E, which can help seal off skin from dry air and keep chapping at bay.

Protect Against Sunburns
Cold weather doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen. When you’re skiing, you’ll be outside in the sun just as long as you might be on the beach in summertime, if not longer. The sun’s rays are just as strong no matter the temperature, so prep your skin with the same kind of sunblock you would during the summer months. An SPF of 30 or higher will be enough protection, but bring it with you to reapply. All that snow, sweat, and other moisture could affect your sunblock’s ability to protect you, so plan to smear some on again every few hours.

Protect Your Lips
Your lips, which are harder to cover up with a mask or goggles, will take quite a beating on your ski trip if you’re not prepared. Use a hydrating lip balm with an SPF to get the full spectrum protection you’ll need. Again, bring it with you to reapply as needed. Licking your lips can dry them out faster, since the digestive enzymes in your saliva eat away at the moisture. Avoid dry, cracking, bleeding lips just by sliding some lip balm on whenever your lips need some.

Protective Gear
The skin care products you pack are one thing, but protective gear that covers your skin can up your safety factor quite a bit. Invest in UV-blocking goggles or apparel to protect yourself from sun damage. Cover your hair and as much of your face as possible to cut down on your skin’s exposure to the cold. If you dress appropriately and pack all the right skin care, you’ll be back from your ski trip without any painful reminders!


  • Epic Ski. Skin Care for Skiers.

  • Ski Resort Adventure. Skin Care Essentials for a Skiing Trip.

Related Content:

  • Winter Skin Care Tips for Oily Skin

  • Don’t Make These Winter Hair Care Mistakes

  • Moisturizing Chapped Lips

Labels: A Ski Trip Skin Care Guide

6 X 9 = 42: My Favorite Author

An author excites me the most when he or she turns a phrase in an original way. Playing with the rules of syntax makes for enjoyable and memorable prose. When asked about my favorite author, several authors who creatively twist the language come to mind (Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Glen David Gold, for examples), but one writer stands out as my personal favorite.

Don’t Panic

From the first passage of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams describes his fictional universe with twisted logic and language. Through the five books of the “Hitchhiker’s Trilogy”–itself a bit of playful language–Adams takes a comedic look at everything from diners to politics to rock and roll. All along the way, Adams’ absurd prose enhances the comedic effect of the novels. The following quotes demonstrate Adams’ unique ability to turn a phrase.

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t. – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. — Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties. – Life, the Universe and Everything

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Beyond the Galaxy

Adams’ wonderfully comic prose wasn’t limited to just the Hitchhiker’s Guide novels. Adams also wrote two fantastic novels featuring holistic detective Dirk Gently, a non-fiction book about endangered species entitled “Last Chance to See,” and, with co-author John Lloyd, penned “The Meaning of Liff,” in which the duo invent an entire dictionary of new words.

However, Adams voice wasn’t restricted to prose writing. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” began life as a radio play. Following the success of the novel version, Adams also turned the story into a text-based video game produced by Infocom, creators of the Zork series. Adams would then go on to create an entirely original text-based game for Infocom entitled Bureaucracy. A decade later, Adams would create Starship Titanic, a new video game which featured, appropriately enough, SpookiTalk, a system which enabled players to verbally interact with the game’s characters to a groundbreaking degree.

Adams also found success writing for television and films. His credits include well-known programs such as “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Not the Nine O’Clock News,” and “Doctor Who.” Not content just writing, Adams took a few turns at acting as well. In 1990, Adams wrote and starred in a film entitled Hyperland, which examined the concept of hypertext before the World Wide Web had been released to the public.

Sadly, Adams’ unique voice has now been silenced. Douglas Adams passed away in 2001 at the age of 49. The novels Adams wrote in his all-too-short life excite, amuse and intrigue me every time I read them. For that, he certainly ranks among my favorite authors.

More from this contributor:

The Unpredictable Donald Barthelme, My Favorite Short Story Author

Cool Books to Beat the Heat

Travelogue – Three Days in Vernon, Florida


Labels: 6 X 9 = 42: My Favorite Author

Amazingly Simple Tips to Reduce 100 Calories

There are very few people you will see around who know the proper diet which can reduce almost 100 calories of their food intake. In today’s world it is a must have thing to know how to reduce calories in the food you eat to avoid further obesity problems. As we all know, obesity leads to many other by default diseases like heart attack, cancer, blood sugar, etc. So it is the need of the time that we should know the ways to reduce the calories we take as more calories leads to more fat which in return causes obesity. There are very simple tips to reduce 100 calories which any one can implement in their daily routine which are as follows:

1) Include one orange and one banana in your daily breakfast.

2) Most people include 1 full cup of milk in their breakfast. Rather you can reduce it to ½ cup of milk.

3) Include papaya in your lunch as it includes very less calories.

4) When you want to have cold drinks like coke or Pepsi then I suggest instead of simple coke you go for diet coke which contains less calories.

5) Do not use margarine when you prepare cheese sandwich. Instead you can use nonstick cooking spray. Also you prefer only to eat sandwich made up of cracked wheat bread. You can also reduce the butter served with the sandwich from 2 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon. In this way you can reduce significant amount of calories intake.

6) When you eat ice cream, then you can put ¾ pint of fresh strawberries on it instead of 3-4 tablespoons of strawberries. Also avoid double scoop of ice cream and go for only single scoop of ice cream.

7) Always go for cheese pizza when you order pizza and try to avoid eating pepperoni pizza as it contains more amounts of calories.

8) When you want to eat Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts then always go for its Nutri-Grain product containing less calories.

9) Always include turkey chili with beans instead of regular chili having no beans which can drastically reduce your overall calories intake.

10) When you want to eat potato chips then eat only 2 ounces of oven baked potato chips which contains very less calories as compared to its counterpart.

11) When you want to use syrup in the food then include only 2 tablespoons of light pancake syrup instead of 2 tablespoons of regular syrup.

12) Instead of going for strawberry milkshake from outside you can prepare it at home by including 2/3 cup of low fat milk, ½ a banana and ½ cup of strawberries.

These are very simple but very powerful ways you can implement with ease and with very less investment and you will be eating less than 100 calories a day. Thus your obesity problem can be easily tackled with the success.

Labels: Amazingly Simple Tips to Reduce 100 Calories

5 Great Electric Razors

Electric razors have come down in price and gone up in quality in the last few years. They are an especially good buy when you consider how much replacement blades cost for traditional razors. These razors can literally pay for themselves in just a few dozen shaves. If you’ve been resistant to buying an electric razor then the recent price drops combined with the increased performance may be enough to change your mind. Without further ado here are five electric razors that are reasonably priced and work as advertised.

1) The Panasonic ES8043SC Pro-Curve Linear Shaver is a good buy that can be found at various online retailers for between $60 and $90 dollars. It is a wet/dry shaver which means it can be used with or without water on your face. It has a one hour quick charge feature, but also boasts an emergency five minute charge for those times when you forgot to charge the razor, but are heading out for a night on the town.

2) Another good choice is the the Norelco 8160XLCC Speed-XL electric razor. This razor can give you a faster shave because the blades cover more area than many other shavers. The razors adjust to the contours of your face which makes it a more comfortable shave. A great feature of this particular model is that it cleans the blades while it sits in the charging station. This model can be found online from anywhere between $75 and $135 dollars.

3) The Braun PocketGo P-70 is a compact model that is perfect to bring with you to the office, on a trip, or even in the car (while parked). It is about the size of a standard cell phone and features a precision trimmer for mustaches, beards, and other longer hair. It will give you a nice close shave due to the floating foil design of the blades, and runs on two AA batteries so you don’t need to worry about finding a socket wherever you are. It is a breeze to clean and that is done by holding it under running water.

4) The Braun 9595 Pulsonic Shaving System is reported to give one of the closest shaves of all electric razors. The shaver heads pivot and pulsate which allows the blades to get closer to your skin.This shaver is also self-cleaning and it does so while in the charging cradle. The Braun 9595 can be found online for between $180-$260 dollars.

5)the Gillette 360 rounds out the list. It produces a skin close shave and has multiple blades which will conform to the contours of your face. to fully charge the battery take up to an hour, but there is a three minute quick charge feature just in case. The Gillette 360 can be found from anywhere between $199-$250 dollars online.

I am one of those people with heavy facial hair and had never had much luck with electric razors until I got the Braun 9595. I’m sure the other shavers will do just as good a job, but from personal experience I would recommend the Braun.

Labels: 5 Great Electric Razors

5 Greatest Emmy Award Show Hosts

The Emmy Awards are coming up again soon and people are all aflutter with who’s wearing what and who sat with whom and all the usual hoopla. Young whippersnapper Jimmy Fallon will be hosting this year’s event; a young man like Fallon could go on to a long career of hosting like Johnny Carson or he could be flipped out again next year like Neil Patrick Harris was last year (it’s okay Neil; the Tony’s will always have you.) Regardless of which way Jimmy Fallon goes, the Emmy Awards have had a long tradition of great hosts over its sixty plus year history. Here are my picks for the top 5 Emmy Award Hosts from history.

Desi Arnaz: The consummate professional, beside himself, Desi Arnaz (1) hosted the Emmy Awards in 1952 with his other half Lucille Ball and again in 1957. Desi Arnaz was the easily agitated, but always loving Ricky Ricardo on the classic show “I Love Lucy.”

Neil Patrick Harris: Having hosted but once, in 2009, at the 61st Emmy Awards, Neil Patrick Harris (2) will go on to host many things, many more times in the future. Getting his start as Doogie Howser and current star of the lost-twenty-something hit How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris has got a surprising timing and ease about himself making him the ideal host for a show like the Emmys.

Joey Bishop: Standup comic, actor, and frequent host for a variety of television shows (including his own) Joey Bishop (3) was a class act all the way. Joey Bishop hosted the Emmy’s five times in the 1960’s with different pairings which included Chet Huntley, Dick Powell, and Hugh Downs among others.

Bill Cosby: Funny man, actor, activist, Dr. Huxtable, and Mr. Jell-o Pudding Bill Cosby (4) has a knack for the gift of gab. Bill Cosby actually hosted the Emmy’s three time; twice in the late 1960’s and in 1970. Bill Cosby will always be remembered as a great host of the Emmy’s just from the sheer ease he’s able to deliver punch lines and the easy manner in which he can elicit details from unsuspecting co-hosts!

Johnny Carson: I don’t think anyone can disagree that Johnny Carson (5) is the consummate Emmy Award Show host; the host of our modern era, if you like. Johnny Carson hosted many things in his day (including a staggering 1905 episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson from 1962-1992) as well as numerous other galas, specials, profiles, and showcases with other talent from around Hollywood and around the globe. But Johnny Carson was born to stand onstage; born to envelop the audience; and for that reason he tops this list of the 5 all time greatest Emmy Award Show hosts.







Labels: 5 Greatest Emmy Award Show Hosts

America the Free?

Why does our society try to hold us back? We are Americans. Have we forgotten what that means? In the days of our founding fathers, it meant freedom. Freedom to become better than what is expected. Freedom to learn from our ancestors mistakes. Freedom to acquire the knowledge to make our own decisions. Freedom to express ourselves. Freedom to fight for our beliefs. Where has that Freedom gone? We are now in a form of slavery. We are oppressed. The oppression is of our own making. Our school system is teaching our children not to think for themselves, but to follow the standard, which happens to be substandard nowadays. As adults of this type of education, we go through life just doing the bare minimum we can get away with. Anyone who tries to climb up and out of the standard is ridiculed. The rare few who gain the knowledge to control their own destinies end up working for the system or corporation and then are told what they can or can not do. Our children today are not given the chance to succeed. They are taught what society wants them to learn. They are told what society wants them to know. Laziness is the new normal. We are only hurting ourselves. This a sad time for Americans. We, as Americans need to take control of our own lives and choices. We shouldn’t just be happy to exist. We should try to make a difference. Not to society, or to some stranger, or the world. We need to make a difference in ourselves. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is what our Founding Fathers wanted for Americans. What kind of life do you have? Is it what you wanted? What type of liberty do you have? What ties you down? Are you Happy? Do not what is expected. Do what you feel is right for yourself. Live the life we as Americans were given by our Founding Fathers. Strive to live each day in the pursuit of happiness. Your own happiness. Not what society tells you that you must have to be happy. Only when we as Americans choose to hold ourselves accountable for our own education will we again have the FREEDOM our Founding Fathers fought for us to have. That is when we can be called PROUD AMERICANS!

Labels: America the Free?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...