Today I bring you one final non-time sensitive, non-football related post before I get back into town and back into business. Frequent commentor Sculptor!? was kind enough to pitch some softballs my way so that I could, well, talk about stuff that I like that isn’t football-related. I’m going to play “fast and loose” with some of these and I’ll deal with the consequences later…
1. Best Sherlock Holmes? (Film or Television)
Let’s deal with the obvious part first- there has never been a good portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in a film. Basil Rathbone looked the part in the black and white films, but as an actor he was just “okay.” Nigel Bruce (Dr. Watson) out-acted him in all 14 of the films. Robert Downey, Jr.? Love him. Enjoyed the movies. But no. They’re action movies, there’s nothing “Holmesian” about them except the costuming and sets.
Which brings us to Jeremy Brett, who portrayed Homes in the Granada TV series. Perfectly cast, and not simply for his abilities as an actor (which were formidable). If you read about Brett’s life you will find a man dogged by both mental and physical health issues, learning disabilities, struggles with his sexuality, all of which he either overcame or, at the very least, met head on. I think all of this inner turmoil found its way to the screen. His Holmes was a man of both brilliance and limitations, but genuine in both. It didn’t hurt that he had Edward Harwicke (Dr. Watson) as his foil either.
I’m quite fond of Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent portrayal of Homles as well- lots of potential if he chooses to continue on with the character.
2. What, in your opinion, makes John Wayne such a popular actor?
First off, this should be “made.” As impossible as it may seem, you don’t really here much about him these days. I’ll quibble with “actor” in a moment…
This will be an exercise in over-simplification, but I think it’s safe to say that in large part John Wayne was a reflection of how Americans wanted to see themselves- especially white, American males- during that time (roughly mid-1930s until the mid-1960s). Americans saw themselves as strong, certain in their beliefs, plain spoken, etc. and Wayne’s characters (and to some extent Wayne himself) reflected this back to them. He was “reassurance” embodied. Due to time constraints I’ll not delve into his life offscreen, but onscreen there were two “John Waynes.”
John Wayne the “movie star” made a lot of forgettable movies (and a few terrible ones- “The Green Berets” comes to mind) that were really little more than John Wayne on screen with other people and stuff happening, and it didn’t matter who those people were or what they were doing because, well, John Wayne!
As an “actor” however he made some films so good that it’s worth the effort so see past the movie star and just enjoy them. To name a few: Stagecoach (1939), The Long Voyage Home (1940), Angel and the Badman (1947), Red River (1948), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), El Dorado (1966), and The Shootist (1976).
It’s also worth noting- especially in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Shootist – that Wayne knew exactly what his “movie star” persona was and was more than willing to subvert it to great effect. If find it worth noting that his co-star was the same in both movies- James Stewart.
3. Someplace you’d never visit, no matter how much money were offered to you to do so?
India. I just have no interest. Then you add in the heat, 1.2 billion people, too many vegetarians, etc.. Wait, just how much money?
4. Most hilarious event during a vacation (this can include family vacations too – they often make for excellent fodder)?
This probably won’t translate well since nobody knows these people, but… A few years ago I got together with my best friend, my younger brother, and my brother in-law to our camp on Moosehead Lake in Maine (where I am as you read this). Dan (my best friend) and Pete (my brother in-law) were going to meet for the first time. As you might know from reading other posts here Dan has doctorate in fluid dynamics and works for NASA doing “structural analysis on flight structures” and can seem intimidating if you haven’t known him forever– as I have. Pete is a chef with a wide “Chris Farley” streak. Needless to say, Pete was a bit nervous. As we were approaching the parking lot where we would pick up Dan, Pete ran over a giant traffic cone with his truck and dragged if or a fair distance. His only comment, “I hope Dan didn’t see that!” He did and the first words he said to Pete were, “Boy, that cone really gave you the business. So, Pete is mortified.
Fast forward about three hours to our lunch stop. We all get out of the truck to go into Wendy’s, but Pete lags behind saying, “I’ll catch up with you.” After about 10 minutes, Pete sits down at the table and Pete being Pete, he answers honestly when I ask what he was up to? Long story short, at some point during the trip north Pete had “gambled and lost.” If I have to explain that part to you, you probably didn’t find any of this funny. Pete and Dan got along great during the rest of the trip.
4. Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, or Lauren Bacall? And, no, your answer of “yes please” is disallowed. You may, however, substitute someone else (contemporary to the above)?
I’m going to pull a “my site, my rules” move here. Rita Hayworth in Gilda. Lauren Bacall in To Have and to Have Not. Veronica Lake in anything, but especially in Sullivan’s Travels. And one addition, Dorothy Malone in the “bookstore scene” in The Big Sleep.
5. We know you vacation in Scotland (you’ve mentioned it more than a few times) – best trip, and why?
At first I thought this was difficult, but it turns out it’s not. 2008 is the answer. I visited the village of Ballachulish where my family lived and worked in the slate quarry, I visited Bellshill where my grandmother was born, I visited Lewis & Harris in the Outer Hebrides (beautiful and peaceful), I walked from Uig to Portree (15 miles) on the Isle of Skye in what we would call a hurricane and the Scots would call “a heavy mist”, and I saw County play twice.
6. Best Bogart movie, and why?
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It is not my favorite Bogart movie, but it is his best. He won an Oscar three years later for The African Queen, but he should have won another one for this role. The “why” is easy- in most of his movies Bogart is, well, Bogart and he’s great at it. In Treasure he completely disappears into the character of Fred C. Dobbs. It is a completely over-the-top role, but Bogart somehow keeps just enough of a lid on it to prevent it from becoming a farce. The supporting cast is great and John Huston’s directing is flawless. The backstory of the book it is based on is fascinating, and the memorable quotes are…memorable. “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”
7. Best travel food – where, and why?
With the caveat that I’ve not yet been to Italy (Tuscany, Abruzzo, Calabria, Emilia-Romagna), the American South, hands down. Barbecue (all varieties), hush puppies, fried chicken, sweet tea, corn bread, cobblers, country ham, chicken-fried steak, biscuits (and gravy), Cheerwine, chicken and dumplings- shall I continue?
I hope that was…entertaining?