Posts Tagged ‘Henry Fonda’

The Grapes Of Wrath (1940) — movie review
Today’s review is for the John Ford directed movie: “The Grapes Of Wrath” starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad and John Carradine as Jim Casy.  The movie is based on the novel written by John Steinbeck which was published the year before the movie (1939).  The subject of the movie is the move by the Joad family from Oklahoma to California – what causes the move and what happens during the move.  This is the first time I’ve seen this movie and I never had to read the book while in high school and haven’t read it since.  Yes, I know it’s a “classic”.  Mea culpa, mea culpa.
It seems I’ve been watching a number of Henry Fonda movies lately, so I thought I’d do this review next (after “Once Upon A Time In The West“).  In OUATITW, Fonda plays a cold blooded killer named (only) Frank.  I was surprised to find he is also a killer in this movie.  At the start of the movie, Tom is released from prison (convicted of murder which he claims was in self-defense) and he makes his way to his family’s farm in Oklahoma.  He finds the farm abandoned, but is able to meet up with them at his uncle’s farm nearby.  Unfortunately, his uncle’s farm has also been repossessed, and the family is being forced off of it.
Repossessed is probably not an accurate description, because they don’t actually own the farm.  They are sharecroppers.  As long as the land was productive, they could scrape by enough to feed themselves and pay their rent.  But, when the world was hit by the Great Depression and most of the mid-west was hit by the “dust bowl” of the mid-1930’s, the land was unable to support the families let alone pay for the rents.  Many families were forced to move or starve.
Like many families, the Joad’s decide to move to California on the “promise” of well paying jobs.  The majority of the rest of the movie is about the difficulties of the trip and the eventual realization that “the promise” was merely a means for the owners of the land in Oklahoma to get the sharecroppers to voluntarily move off the land without the owners having to use force.  And, during the course of the movie, Fonda’s character kills again.  This time Tom kills a “deputy” who has just killed Fonda’s friend (Carradine / Casy) for no reason except that he (the deputy) can get away with it.
This movie is a powerful indictment of capitalism, fascism and authoritarianism in the United States during the 1930’s.  It has strong political (anti-communist) undertones which touch on both the “red scare” and anti-unionism as the wealthy, in California, try to take advantage of their fellow Americans who have been driven into poverty and into migrant worker status by weather and economic forces beyond their control.  The movie also uses two specific scenes to demonstrate that average Americans have charity in their hearts – in sharp contrast with those with economic power / wealth.
The movie is generally considered to be one of the greatest American movies of all time – and I agree it one of the most powerfully disturbing movies I’ve ever viewed.  According to Wikipedia: “this film was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” “
The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards (1941) and won two: Darwell for Best Actress and Ford for Best Director.  Fonda was nominated for Best Actor, but did not win.  He lost to James Stewart in “The Philadelphia Story“.
Final recommendation: very highly recommended!  Disturbing, yes!  Powerful, yes!  If there is ANY downside to the movie, I’d say the weak attempt at an optimistic ending detracted from the overall power of the movie.  Fonda’s “Joad as everyman” in the prior scene was barely believable.  Ma’s “we’re gonna get by cause that’s what we’ve always done” – far less so.  In any case, this is a great / classic movie and well worth viewing in our day due to its message about our own economic / political time.
On This Day In:
2017 Proof Sits In The Oval Office
2016 Tragic Determinism
2015 Maybe It Should Be Clearer
2014 Make It Your Strength
2013 Four Score
2012 The Ruler
2011 Forever
2010 Just Cuz
How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?
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Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)  —  movie review
OUATITW is a “classic” style “spaghetti” western directed by Sergio Leone who made Clint Eastwood a movie star with his “Man With No Name” trilogy.  This movie stars Henry Fonda in a role / type reversal as the movie’s main bad guy, a killer called “Frank”.  The movie includes Claudia Cardinale as Jill McBain – a New Orleans prostitute who comes out west after marrying a dirt farmer who has the foresight to buy land with the only available water in 200 miles; Jason Robards as Manuel “Cheyenne” Gutiérrez – a bandit who seems to get into and out of trouble for most of the movie, (kind of the good hearted bad guy); Charles Bronson, known only as “Harmonica” – not really a good guy, but the closest thing this movie has to one as he kills all the bad guys; and Gabriele Ferzetti as Mr. Morton – the background bad guy who hires Frank to force Jill McBain off the land, so he can take ownership.
I borrowed this DVD from my brother who claims it is one of his favorite Western genre movies of all time.  He also claims the Western genre is his favorite genre of all.  I don’t remember ever seeing this movie, so I brought it home for a look see…
My reaction: it’s good, but not great.  It’s long and I found it a bit confusing.  The movie tries to use flashbacks to explain things (particularly near the end), but it doesn’t do it well.  My brother says he remembers seeing a different version which has an additional twenty minutes and explains everything better.  Maybe, but I can only watch what’s before me…
So, does Fonda make a good baddie?  Does Robards play a convincing Mexican?  Does Bronson play a good Eastwood?  Is this a good Western?  Is this a good movie?  Three yeses and two noes.
Henry Fonda makes a surprisingly good “evil killer”.  He plays it straight and it works.  He’s believable.  Robards plays a terrible Mexican.  I didn’t even realize he WAS a Mexican.  I just thought Cheyenne was a nickname.  Even saying that, Robards plays a surprisingly great “good hearted bad guy”.  I like him.  He was threatening and likable (almost funny) at the same time.  Charles Bronson CANNOT play Clint Eastwood.  While the role was clearly written for Eastwood, Charles is just okay in it.  Not great, but okay.  And, finally, Claudia Cardinale is gorgeous.  I’ve heard her name before, but cannot honestly say I’ve ever seen her in any movies – even movies I’ve seen (LOL).  No, she is not believable in this role, but I think it would have been a tough role for any actress to pull off.  Having said this, she is good enough in the role it makes me want to see her in some of her other performances to see if she can act or if she’s just another pretty face who was okay in this role.
Is this a good Western and / or a good movie?  Yes.  To both.  Although it is LONG and a bit slow in parts, it is trying to tell a story and it mostly accomplishes that – and that (both, actually) in itself is pretty unusual for most Westerns.  I like gritty Westerns and this is one of those.  I like movies which have a story to tell and this one does.  I like movies where some of the characters evolve and some calcify, because that’s how people react in real life – and this movie shows this.  So, yeah, all in all it’s a good Western and a good movie.  It’s not Oscar material, but it’s an enjoyable watch.
Final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended.  It’s no where near my favorite Western, but it’s a good movie and I really liked the good guy actor (Fonda) in this type reversal.
On This Day In:
2017 Faith In Science
2016 What The World Calls
2015 Say What?
2014 Start Today
2013 Fly!!
2012 Greater Love
2011 Before

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Trump Is Woody Allen Without the Humor

Half his tweets show utter weakness.  They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn.
By Peggy Noonan
(Former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan)
July 27, 2017 6:06 p.m. ET
This opinion piece originally appeared in:  The Wall Street Journal
The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive.  It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider.  It is that he is weak and sniveling.  It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.
He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying.  He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic.  He’s a drama queen.  It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband.  Trump must remind people of their first wife.  Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.
Half the president’s tweets show utter weakness.  They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn.  “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their president.”  The brutes.  Actually they’ve been laboring to be loyal to him since Inauguration Day.  “The Republicans never discuss how good their health care bill is.” True, but neither does Mr. Trump, who seems unsure of its content.  In just the past two weeks, of the press, he complained: “Every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!”  Journalists produce “highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting.”  They are “DISTORTING DEMOCRACY.”  They “fabricate the facts.”
It’s all whimpering accusation and finger-pointing: Nobody’s nice to me.  Why don’t they appreciate me?
His public brutalizing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t strong, cool and deadly; it’s limp, lame and blubbery.  “Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes,” he tweeted this week.  Talk about projection.
He told the Journal’s Michael C. Bender he is disappointed in Mr. Sessions and doesn’t feel any particular loyalty toward him.  “He was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’  And he endorsed me.  So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement.”  Actually, Mr. Sessions supported him early and put his personal credibility on the line.  In Politico, John J. Pitney Jr. of Claremont McKenna College writes: “Loyalty is about strength.  It is about sticking with a person, a cause, an idea or a country even when it is costly, difficult or unpopular.”  A strong man does that.  A weak one would unleash his resentments and derive sadistic pleasure from their unleashing.
The way American men used to like seeing themselves, the template they most admired, was the strong silent type celebrated in classic mid-20th century films — Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Henry Fonda.  In time the style shifted, and we wound up with the nervous and chattery.  More than a decade ago the producer and writer David Chase had his Tony Soprano mourn the disappearance of the old style: “What they didn’t know is once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings they wouldn’t be able to shut him up!”  The new style was more like that of Woody Allen.  His characters couldn’t stop talking about their emotions, their resentments and needs.  They were self-justifying as they acted out their cowardice and anger.
But he was a comic.  It was funny.  He wasn’t putting it out as a new template for maleness.  Donald Trump now is like an unfunny Woody Allen.
Who needs a template for how to be a man?  A lot of boys and young men, who’ve grown up in a culture confused about what men are and do.  Who teaches them the real dignity and meaning of being a man?  Mostly good fathers and teachers.  Luckily Mr. Trump this week addressed the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, where he represented to them masculinity and the moral life.
“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts, right?”  But he overcame his natural reticence.  We should change how we refer to Washington, he said: “We ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to perhaps ‘cesspool’ or perhaps to the word ‘sewer.’ ”  Washington is not nice to him and is full of bad people.  “As the Scout Law says, ‘A Scout is trustworthy, loyal — we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.”  He then told them the apparently tragic story of a man who was once successful.  “And in the end he failed, and he failed badly.”
Why should he inspire them, show personal height, weight and dignity, support our frail institutions?  He has needs and wants — he is angry! — which supersede pesky, long-term objectives.  Why put the amorphous hopes of the audience ahead of his own, more urgent needs?
His inability — not his refusal, but his inability — to embrace the public and rhetorical role of the presidency consistently and constructively is weak.
“It’s so easy to act presidential but that’s not gonna get it done,” Mr. Trump said the other night at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio.  That is the opposite of the truth.  The truth, six months in, is that he is not presidential and is not getting it done.  His mad, blubbery petulance isn’t working for him but against him.  If he were presidential he’d be getting it done — building momentum, gaining support.  He’d be over 50%, not under 40%.  He’d have health care, and more.
We close with the observation that it’s all nonstop drama and queen-for-a-day inside this hothouse of a White House.  Staffers speak in their common yet somehow colorful language of their wants, their complaints.  The new communications chief, Anthony Scaramucci, who in his debut came across as affable and in control of himself, went on CNN Thursday to show he’ll fit right in.  He’s surrounded by “nefarious, backstabbing” leakers.  “The fish stinks from the head down.  But I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, and that’s me and the president.”  He’s strong and well connected: “I’ve got buddies of mine in the FBI”; “Sean Hannity is one of my closest friends.”  He is constantly with the president, at dinner, on the phone, in the sauna snapping towels.  I made that up.  “The president and I would like to tell everybody we have a very, very good idea of who the leakers are.”  Chief of Staff Reince Priebus better watch it.  There are people in the White House who “think it is their job to save America from this president, okay?”  So they leak.  But we know who they are.
He seemed to think this diarrheic diatribe was professional, the kind of thing the big boys do with their media bros.  But he came across as just another drama queen for this warring, riven, incontinent White House.  As Scaramucci spoke, the historian Joshua Zeitz observed wonderingly, on Twitter: “It’s Team of Rivals but for morons.”
It is.  And it stinks from the top.
Meanwhile the whole world is watching, a world that contains predators.  How could they not be seeing this weakness, confusion and chaos and thinking it’s a good time to cause some trouble?
[I found this on her site at: http://www.peggynoonan.com/trump-is-woody-allen-without-the-humor/
I apologize to any who are offended by my posting this editorial without prior permission.  Hopefully my full attribution to both Ms. Noonan and the WSJ mollifies you somewhat…  —  KMAB]
On This Day In:
2016 Discontent
2015 Do You Know Me?
Appetite For Life Update
2014 Tough Journalism
2013 Things I’ve Learned
2012 Abstainer, n.
2011 Rain, Rain, Rain
Test Your Strength
2009 End the mistakes…

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Last night I finished reading another of the $2 books I keep picking up at my local used bookstore (Half-Priced Books).  This was not one of the ones I was planning to take with me to Baltimore for my (now) aborted detail, but it was picked up shortly after I wasn’t able to go.

The book is titled: “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life“, and was written by Alice Schroeder (2008©).  The author spent several years with Mr. Buffett and seems to have had fairly unlimited access to his time and records in order to create this work.  And, it is a “work”, as it’s over 800 pages!   Having cautioned any readers about the volume of the tome, I’ll now state categorically it is well worth the time invested in reading it (pun intended).

If you know anything about Warren Buffett, it’s probably that he is one of the ten richest men in the world.  You may also have heard something about his personal philanthropy – he will be giving away tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.  How does such a man come to be so wealthy?  What “tricks” did he use?  And why does he now plan to give it away?  The answers appear to be he earned it by saving, investing, and having an incredible amount of focus and intensity; and, he plans to give it all away because he can.

That’s all you will really get out the book…  A personality, a philosophy and a lifestyle, but almost no tips of the trade or inside knowledge of how to make “smart” investments.  Sadly (or maybe not), this is what I was hoping to get from reading the book.  Buffett’s suggestion if you want to learn how to invest: read Benjamin Graham’s books.  After all, that’s what he (Buffett) did.  Again, having said the book is not what I hoped for – or expected – it turns out to be a terrific biography about a truly historical figure.  The book covers most of the 20th century and is almost a history book in itself.

I found the book to be extremely well written and I will even go so far as to admit I cried when Mr. Buffett’s wife passed away.  Highly recommended!

Last night I watched “On Golden Pond” with Hil.  We are both Katherine Hepburn fans and we have both seen this movie multiple times, but probably not in the last ten years or so.  Anyway, the movie co-stars Henry Fonda in his final movie role and for which he received an Oscar for Best Actor.   The movie is about an elderly couple trying to come to terms with family issues (cantankerous father and insecure daughter) as they also are trying to come to terms with their own mortality.  I believe it was nominated for ten Oscars and it won three.  I highly recommend it – for the actors, the cinematography and the story – all brilliant!

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