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Brief stars in the firmament

/ oocities.org

/ oocities.org

There might have been others, and we will look for them, but the shortest period as a ‘star’ in Hollywood I can discover so far was Roger Herren’s. This promising young man was fourth in the Titles under Raquel Welch, John Huston, and Rex Reed (who was not an actor anyway) in a movie called Myra Breckenridge shot under the direction of an Englishman called Michael Sarne, who also wrote the screenplay. He made an adaptation from the original satirical novel by Gore Vidal, who was having one of his periodic goes at Hollywood. The film disappeared beneath a welter of terrible reviews, including dozens which pronounced it as ‘the worst film ever made’. Gore Vidal called it ‘a bad joke’, but then he could because he wrote the novel – not the screenplay. This was the task of the director, Michael or Mike Sarne, chosen one assumes because of the success of a recording he made called ‘ComeOutside’ – a best seller.

   Young Mr Herren had been to acting school and done well, and was chosen perhaps because of his athletic image, because one of the repulsive scenes in this movie is one depicting Raquel Welch anally raping Mr Herren, who is naked, with an ‘implement’ while he is tied to a gym box. Poor Roger starred in this travesty and then disappeared, presumably for ever from the silver screen. He was therefore a star at the premiere, after which me might as well have rushed off to wear monkey makeup in one of those innumerable re-makes of Planet of the Apes. (more…)

By | 2014-08-07T12:12:53+00:00 August 7th, 2014|History of the Cinema, US History|0 Comments

The War in the Pacific

/ pinterest.com

/ pinterest.com

Officially, this war lasted from December 1941,

/ ww2db.com

/ ww2db.com

when the United States entered the Second World War, until 1945. But the Pacific War really started with the Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937, when Japan’s concern was to defeat China. This was to be achieved by expanding in South-East Asia, so that Japan could control the raw materials on which she so much depended – oil from Dutch East Indies and Burma (now Myanmar); and tin and rubber from Malaya. She had to cut off China’s supply routes from the south, even if this involved friction with the United States. Moving further south involved risk of conflict with Russia in Manchuria (the Russians came off best after a battle with Japan’s army in 1939 at Nomonhan. Then a non-aggression pact was signed with Russia in April, 1941: thankfully, Adolf Hitler did the double-cross and invaded the Soviet Union in June with his Operation Barbarossa (q.v.) (more…)

The Battle of Leyte Gulf

US armada moving towards Leyte / en.wikipedia.org

US armada moving towards Leyte / en.wikipedia.org

This little-known sea battle was fought between American and Japanese fleets towards the end of October, 1944. Japanese forces were seeking to stop the US re-conquest of the Philippines, which had started on October 20 with American troops invading the island of Leyte. It was seen as obvious that American success in the Philippines would cut Japan off from her oil supplies as well as essential raw materials in South-East Asia. Though they knew they were outnumbered, the Japanese decided to send all available warships into a conflict they were by no means certain to win. (more…)

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

/ paperdroids.com

/ paperdroids.com

Perversely enough, it was one of the great film comedies that contained a set piece showing with alarming exactitude what happened in Chicago in 1929. The film is called Some like it hot, written by H.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder and directed by the latter. This movie is probably one of the most explosively funny pieces of art ever made, but the Massacre of St. Valentine’s Day was not funny at all.

   On the 14 February 1929 the law against drinking alcohol in the United States was in its ninth year. The gangsters and their political associates had been making fortunes out of Prohibition, and making enemies between themselves. The fourteenth of February was a cold damp day, any old Thursday except perhaps for the romantically inclined. There was a dark, long brick garage in Clark Street, Chicago; the place was used for repairing and hiding trucks owned by one of the big-time gangsters of the city, one Moran, known as Bugsy. The trucks were used in an extensive liquor-running organisation managed by Bugsy.

   That morning almost his entire gang were standing about smoking, waiting for the arrival of their boss, who was late. They were to drive heavily laden lorries to Detroit in a big operation. Once in Detroit they would unload the booze, and drive on to the border with Canada where thousands of gallons of illegal hooch would be awaiting collection. That was the plan anyway. By ten a.m. seven men were nervously waiting for Moran. One of them was Wienshank, a civil servant wanting to join the gang; another was Heyer, a qualified accountant and dead shot; Clark was there, who acted as Moran’s bodyguard and confidant – he was his brother-in-law too; Frank and Peter Gusenberg, paid killers, were hanging around joking; with them was Doctor Schwimmer, friend of Moran’s since childhood and the gang’s medical man. May, a motor mechanic, took advantage of the wait to adjust the transmission on one of the lorries. Suddenly the open doors of the garage were blocked by a large black car: doors opened and stayed open and four men with Thompson sub-machine guns out of sight inside long raincoats walked quickly inside. Two were dressed as policemen, a sight which relieved most of the seven astonished gangsters waiting for their chief. Chicago policemen had the reputation of being as bad or even worse than the crooks. Everything would be all right. (more…)

By | 2014-05-27T08:54:33+00:00 May 27th, 2014|History of the Cinema, US History|0 Comments

The 21 Demands (of Japan)

Yuan Shikai of China / es.wikipedia.org

Yuan Shikai of China / es.wikipedia.org

The 21 Demands (of Japan). In 1915 Japan came up with the odd idea of trying to make the whole of China a protectorate – a protectorate of Japan of course. The Great War started in 1914 and Japan promptly declared war on Germany, in order to take over that country’s leased territory in China. As a part of the so-called ‘Scramble for Possessions’ Japanese soldiers landed at Quindao Port in Shandung province, and soon controlled the important port, plus German mining and railway concessions. Having completed this with their usual efficiency, the Japanese presented China with its ‘Twenty-One Demands’, threatening total war if they were to be rejected.

The Demands included an extension of Japan’s lease of Port Arthur, and the South Manchurian Railway, and the grant of mining, commercial and residential rights in South Manchuria and parts of Mongolia; China must recognise Japan’s dominant position in Shandung province, and promise that she would not make any territorial concessions on her coasts to any other foreign power. China must also accept a huge infringement of her sovereignty, with Japanese political and military ‘advisers’, and the creation of a combined Sino-Japanese police force. The Chinese played for time, with the expectation of help to come from the United States and Britain. All these two major powers did was to protest feebly at the last demand (the mixed police force) – and Japan accepted postponement – but not for long.

In a disgraceful turn of events, both the US and Great Britain were not prepared to antagonise Japan: China was thus forced to agree to the demands, which the Prime Minister did on May 25, 1915. Chinese university students called this ‘The National Humiliation Day’, unsurprisingly, and youthful demonstrations were followed by more serious ones and a boycott of Japanese imports. The United States now showed an increasing worry about expansionism, and strongly suggested Japan should control this instinct, as America would not tolerate any infringement of China’s political and territorial integrity. Britain and France meanwhile looked through the telescope with their blind eye and approved Japanese claims in Shandong in 1917.

George Washington

/ theguardian.com

/ theguardian.com

George Washington was born in the early part of the eighteenth century (1732), a son of a planter in Virginia, he was a Southerner. At 22 he was fighting for the British in both the French and Indian Wars and was present at the taking of Fort Duquesne (later to become Pittsburgh) in 1758 when he was twenty-six. Having completed his duties as a gentleman he resigned from the army and took to planting tobacco. (more…)

The ‘Indian’ Wars

The indian wars

The indian wars

Images, dreamlike or real, and the reputation of the Native American have greatly altered in the last forty or fifty years; he was always the treacherous and deadly villain of the Hollywood scene until certain directors began to take a more sympathetic view. Nowadays the painted ‘savage’ is likely to be an all-American hero rather than a killing machine. Political correctness has changed his name from ‘Red Indian’ to Native American, and Heaven help the writer or speaker who says otherwise. White frontiersmen disliked them strongly: Kit Carson, a frontiersman if ever there was one, said, “I wouldn’t trust any of them,” and Jim Bridger spoke of the ‘wicked and mean Sioux”. Jim Baker the Mountain Man snarled, “they are the most onsartenest (sic) varmints in creation . . . tha’r not moren half human . . . tain’t no use talking of honour with them . . .” etc. Doubtless some of ‘them varmints’ would have held the same opinion about Baker. (more…)

By | 2014-04-01T15:09:10+00:00 March 17th, 2014|US History|0 Comments

The Homestead Act & Strike

This Act was passed in the US government in 1862, at the very height of the ‘Wild West’ era – brave pioneers heading west, ‘Redskins’ whose land it was biting the dust, shootists biting the dust, rumours of massive amounts of gold to be found by prospectors and so on. The intention of the Act was to encourage people in the East to settle anew in the West. Any citizen over 21, or head of a family would be allotted a property of 160 acres – to be his after five years occupation and work. In the following 38 years the government awarded more than 600,000 lucky claimants 80 million acres of mostly arable land. There were hitches however; many claimants were not farmers, they were land speculators, and farmers knew that 160 acres would make too small a farm to make it worth leaving the East and heading for the Great Plains. In fact, a better way to open up the vast ‘virgin’ lands was for individual states and the railroads to prospective settlers. The railroads had already received 520 million acres from the federal government. Perversely, railroads needed settlers to pay to ride on their trains, so they sold off much of the land they got from the government! (more…)

By | 2014-04-01T15:09:54+00:00 March 14th, 2014|A History of North America, US History|0 Comments

The Great Depression

This ten-year horror followed the Wall Street Crash (q.v. 2 days ago), lasting from 1929 to 1939, and might have been longer had not World War 2 interrupted the economic wizards who created it. Since their dramatic and tardy entrance in the last year of the Great War, the United States of America had become the dominant nation on this planet, especially in the world economy. No-one is quite sure whether successive US presidents wanted, like Britain, a huge empire and very little money, or a huge amount of money and no empire. Whatever, the collapse of share prices indicated a rapid withdrawal of loans to other countries, tariffs were raised so that imports declined, and agricultural prices sank.

Most rural districts could not possibly buy industrial goods, which meant the closure of factories and shops going bankrupt. Unemployment shot up, and mean streets were littered with bums who might weeks before have been brokers. From 1929 to 1932 unemployment in Britain and Belgium rose to 33%, in Germany 44% and the US 27%; popular hoodlums like Bonnie and Clyde grew rich dangerously. (more…)

By | 2014-04-01T15:10:52+00:00 March 13th, 2014|US History, World History|0 Comments

The Wall Street Crash

Since the end of the immediate post-War depression in US financial markets, occurring in 1922, share prices rose dramatically. Naturally this encouraged a speculative boom and by 1929 the financial history of the US had never been more hay-wire. Nearly ten million investors, many  hardly knowing where Wall Street was, bought shares not for income but to sell for a quick profit. Not only that, but they bought without paying cash, using ‘credit’ or ‘on margin’. It was bound to head for disaster. (more…)

By | 2014-04-01T15:11:38+00:00 March 12th, 2014|US History, World History|0 Comments
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