Thursday, 2 April 2009

Bourne Ultimatum, Stockyard Channing, Three Came Home, Little Richard, Churchill's Bodyguard.

A very different kind of personality from Billy Bob Thornton is Stockyard Channing; you know the young woman who plays alongside John Travolta and Olivia Newton John in Grease. Stockyard is her maiden surname name. What I had forgotten is that Stockyard's major work is a play which became a film. Six degrees of separation. This is the concept that if everyone is one step away from each person you know, you are then two steps away from each person they know, then it can be demonstrated that we are all six steps away from everyone in the world.

In 1994 this concept was applied by two students to the actor Kevin Bacon through connecting him to other actors through no more than six connections, and which was then taken up by Kevin Bacon develop a network of involvement in charities and that we all can be connected to accomplish something good. In 2006 a TV series was launched in the USA with covers the experiences of six New Yorkers who go about their lives without realising they are affecting each other and gradually meet one another. From the except of the film, it is immediately added to the must see list and I did not understand why I did not see it when it was released until I remember the date 1993, the year when I completed the writing of a novel. It is not a valid excuse but the novel could have been that much better had I viewed the film. A belief I will put to the test. I commenced one piece of recent writing "There was Adam and there was Eve, and you and me and we are all connected. There is nothing original left to say, except in the way it is retold.

I have seen the Stockyard Channing Actor's studio interview before but watched it recently again with increased intensity and awareness. I had come to know her acting from the West Wing as the President's wife, but never made the connection with Grease.

I have also viewed Little Richard the about 2000 made for TV biopic although his life had previously interested me because of the lifelong raging conflict between his religious upbringing and beliefs and his success as a rock and roll singer and being part of that sometimes murky underworld where Brittney Spears in the USA and Amy Winehouse in the UK are the present day descendents.

Little Richard is in fact Richard Wayne Penniman born seven years before me whose father was a bootlegger and his grandfather an evangelical preacher, thus the eternal conflict between good and evil between the spirit and the flesh, and between the church goer and rock and roller were established in him through his genes and his nurturing. Leaving aside the bootlegging his was a spiritual family, part of a group of singers at churches called the Penniman Singers and it is said that from the earliest age Richard was known for his loud screaming singing voice which became his trademark. He is the second individual, one a MySpace friend who was influenced in their childhood by Sister Rosetta Sharp a Gospel singer whose LP I bought as a young man just out of school and have to this day. Another was Mahalia Jackson who I believe featured in the amazing Jazz on film work Jazz on a Summer's Day which I first saw on the first full day after being in prison for six months.

Now Little Richard is known for his songs such as Tutti Fruiti, Lucille, Long Tall Sally, and the Girl Can't Help it, from the film of the same name and for the fact that at the height of his career in 1957 while on tour in Australia he stopped overnight and became a born again Christian, studied and became a preacher himself. Between the later 1950's and early 1960's when I had become a political and social activist and then went into university level further education while he also performed and issued new records these were of Gospel music, a period which is truncated in the film, but my the mid sixties he was persuaded to six again his former his and this led him back to the lifestyle which went with it. Since then he has swung between the extremes of his life and significantly from my viewpoint the is someone else who has worked out that everyone is a mixture of good and evil, sinner and saintliness and that those painted all black or all white may be towards one end of the spectrum but they are never all one or all the other, something which the early Christians leaders ensured was included in their written life of Christ and of the Apostles.

Little Richard is generally regarded as one of the most influential and significant of the first Rock and Rollers with artists such as Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Jimmie Hendrix all proclaiming him as the greatest influence on their work. The Beatles opened the show for one Little Richard Tour while Jimmy Hendrix another. Billy Preston became a protégé and White Supremacists persuaded Pat Boone to release a number of covers which led to the comment that young people had Boone records on their players to satisfy their parents and Little Richard originals under their beds.

Shortly after the death of my mother I went to see the Bourne Ultimatum, having previously watched the first two films of the trio in cinema, and then back to back on a TV channel so that it was possible to make an evaluation of the series to-date. I say to-date because it is evident from the ending of the new film that a fourth remains a possibility. The Bourne Ultimatum is the back story for the other two, and tells how he was recruited as a volunteer, knowing what was to happen to him. However the story is also brought vividly into contemporary American hypocrisy as the focus is the discovery that within the CIA there is a high level chain which not only disregards the rule of law and the US constitution to execute terrorists and anti American interests, but the ultimate crime, Americans and members of the CIA are executed or attempted executions for not going along with the policy. I was left with the distinct impression that what they were doing would have been OK as long as they had not started to get rid of their own. However the film is good fun with prolonged noisy car and other chases which has become a feature of some films and which enable me to doze off having seen it all before.

A very different kind of film was watched yesterday on TV called Three Came Home made in 1950 and starring Claudet Colbert. It is a film I am likely to have seen at the Odeon Wallington with my mother and the two sisters when I lived with them as my aunties. It features a family who are part of the civilian administration of somewhere in the East who are required to surrender to Japan and placed in nearby prison camps and which is brilliantly portrayed in the series Tenko and A Town Like Alice. Produced just after the war Three Came Home has a highly contrived ending which undermines the truth of all that went on before with its happy o all happy endings. The film emphasises the dependency that most wives had on their husbands with the consequence of what happens to the women when there is enforced separation? The answer is that that they quickly realise that they are not only just as strong, as their men folk, I suspect even stronger, on the issues that matter such as caring and protecting their children, but quickly develop ways of coping and surviving for themselves. Not all did of course but that has always been so for all people, irrespective of their age, colour and gender, but the majority do, unless they are wiped out at a stroke, as in this film when the wife and children of the POW island/area commander learns that having moved his family out of Tokyo for their safety they are obliterated at Hiroshima I thought the film was amazingly honest about English and Japanese attitudes and behaviour, considering its time, although it did stereotype the Australian POW's as I want to get into your knickers regardless of age or looks.

I also managed to catch one of the final if not the final episode of the series of films based on the full memoirs of Churchill's Bodyguard which also chronicles Churchill's role in the world war. In this episode his successful effort to end the civil war in Greece and create a non communist administration is covered together with the infamous Yalta conference in which Churchill and the UK was sidelined and Roosevelt effectively surrendered much of middle and eastern Europe to Russia because he trusted the word of Stalin and feared the ambitions of Churchill. I must find out if this was true. For me the most important aspect of the film was to learn that over 1000 V2 ballistic rockets were dropped on the UK until the German Army was pushed back the 200 miles beyond their range. The programme brought out how the first rocket bombs were put down to gas explosions although it was never explained why the rest of the gas supply was never affected. The government feared the loss of morale would affect the willingness to cope with further loss of life, one has only to see public reaction to the deaths of professional soldiers and airmen Iraq and Afghanistan now to appreciate the government viewpoint then. However when the truth was released in the USA media the public resolve in the UK continued. A lesson for modern day politicians.

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