Showing posts with label Sink the Bismarck. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sink the Bismarck. Show all posts

26 July 2019

Movies 1960-1963


My father, an army CID Agent, was stationed at Camp Passalaqua, SETAF, Verona, Italy, from 1960 to 1963. We lived off base in the city of Verona –  one of the great experiences of my life. I was 10 when we arrived in Italy and was immediately disappointed there was no American television. No TV for three years. It wound up being one of the best things that happened to me because I read and read and read – children's books, adult fiction, non-fiction. Fell in love with the school library and the post library. I attended Verona American School, Borgo Milano, Verona, and spoke fluent Italian by the time we returned to the states.

I also fell in love with movies. The post theater changed movies every other day and we saw nearly every movie released between mid-1960 and mid-1963. I still think of them as Verona movies. There was no motion picture codes back then - no PG and PG13 ratings. Parents figured out what we could watch, which meant I was not allowed to watch any Alfred Hitchcock movie (Psycho came out in 1960) and any James Bond movie because of the naked women. My father came back from seeing Dr. No and said we could have gone with him, assuring my mother there were no naked women in the film. Just a woman in a bikini. I did get to see some movies with mature themes.

Verona movies. Viewed now, some were good, some bad but we kids loved seeing them all.

I remember ...

This great adventure –




Young, hot Jane Fonda –



Another great war story. Jane Fonda? No. Great beauty Dana Wynter. Smart. Sharp. Kenneth More was dynamite in a subdued role. The scene in the claustrophobic room when they learned HMS HOOD had blown up was riveting –



OK. I was 11 years old and loved this one –



I thought this was the best movie ever made when I saw it as a kid. Still think it's great –



I looked for Sidney Poitier in all subsequent movies. Saw A RAISIN IN THE SUN in 1961 too –



Wow. Great flick. Lee Marvin was such a great bad guy –



Didn't realize I liked musicals until I saw this one –



Scariest werewolf movie I've ever seen. This werewolf was awesome –



Fun. Fun. Fun. Even had Fabian –



The song sold me but hard to take my eyes off Capucine. What? Fabian again?



Did not realize the genius of David Lean yet. The panoramas. Peter O'Toole was fantastic. Omar Sharif was the coolest –



Still don't know what all the fuss was about with this one. Never thought Ann-Margaret was the "young Marilyn Monroe." Wasn't bad but ... I mean the hero was Bobby Rydell –




My parents did not realize the content of this one. It was about our home town. A movie about a "stylish New Orleans brothel" may have been a bit much for kids. Capucine and young Jane Fonda together in this one –



When you're a kid there was JERRY LEWIS. We also saw CINDERFELLA  –



Another mature movie. Natalie Wood was wonderful. Wasn't crazy about pretty boy Warren Beatty –



They kept this one around a while –



Several Elvis movies came around, this was the best. We also had GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! and BLUE HAWAII –



Glad I saw this when I was a kid. It left a big impression on me –



OK. Had a crush on Hayley Mills after this one –



Love this movie. Great songs. James Dean was the smoothest and got a crush on Deborah Walley.



So many other good movies came to the theater. Others I remember – THE LAST VOYAGE, THE LOST WORD (the one with Claude Rains), WHERE THE BOYS ARE, THE WACKIEST SHIP IN THE ARMY, THE MIRACLE WORKER, THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, THE HORIZONTAL LIEUTENANT, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (Marlon Brando version), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Herbert Lom version), IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD, ZOTZ!

That's all for now.
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08 June 2016

The Weight of Silence


David Edgerley Gates


An obituary for an Englishwoman named Jane Fawcett, who died recently at 95. She was a codebreaker at Bletchley Park during the war, and deciphered the message that led to the sinking of the Bismarck. I've talked about Bletchley before, and Alan Turing, and breaking the Enigma, but I bring it up in this context to note that a lot of our witnesses to history are taking their curtain calls. This is the natural order, and marks the passage of time. It also means that we're losing an immediate living connection to a common, remembered past.

Yesterday (as I write this) was June 6th, the anniversary of the Normandy landings. D-Day was a big deal. The largest air-sea amphibious combat operation ever mounted, I think I'm safe in saying, it cracked open Festung Europa and marked the beginning of the end for Hitler and the Third Reich. Every year, there are fewer surviving vets who visit the battlefields and the cemeteries. The event itself recedes, and pretty soon there won't be anybody left that was actually there.

On a more domestic scale, my cousin Jono has a fairly exhaustive collection of his parents' personal effects. They've been dead more than a few years, and he's in effect the keeper of the flame. My sister and I have run a similar course, with our own parents' stuff, but we've divested ourselves of an enormous amount. The lesson here is that simply because an object or an artifact meant something to them doesn't require us to be their proxies. You can make a counter-argument here, though, and I think Jono's entitled to make it. Whether our own families were walk-ons or center stage, they were part of collective memory. They may have been present at historically significant turning points. Or not. But if they're not in the record books,. then as each of us in our own generation die off, our memories of that previous generation disappear with us, and those people disappear.

History is surprisingly empty, in this sense. Kings and generals crowd the canvas, but the background, the foot soldiers and camp followers, don't leave much more than a shadow. We intuit or interpolate, but the raw detail isn't always that sharp. A lot of them couldn't read or write anyway, and for a long time they just got squeezed out of the story, except as spear-carriers, literally. So losing our first-hand storytellers drops a stitch in the fabric. And all too often, these people will say, Jeez, kid, what I did wasn't all that interesting or important.

Well, yes and no. One of the more fascinating histories I've ever read was based on the accounts of a merchant family, trading out of Brest or the Hague or someplace - I've forgotten - and it was so many bolts of cloth or barrels of salt, but it was an amazingly vivid picture of daily life, in the commonplace. We forget that it isn't necessarily the sword fights, much of the time it's just making the car payments or shoeing the horse. 

So, here's to Jane Fawcett - or Miss Jane Hughes, her maiden name in 1940 - who may have fallen off the radar in the meanwhile, but I'm glad she was manning her desk at the time. And here's to all those guys who struggled ashore, or who didn't, or who never made it off the beaches, I wish I could hear your stories. We bear witness to the times we live in. We don't always sort the wheat from the chaff, or spin gold out of straw. The silence, though, is heavy.