Monday, 13 December 2010

The Last Hurrah

The last day of February ended with the feeling that I had, on a fine balance, passed the test set for each day. A good combination of project work, enjoyment and other activities. The other activities did not include a walk or much house work, but I did a number of little jobs but which did not amount to balancing the food enjoyment of the day

I considered going out for a bacon roll but decided on a brunch using the new grill plate which required assembling, lightly greasing the top plate and the eight individual under grill pans before switch on with the expected brief smoking, the cooling, then washing and drying before commencing a first trial cook. I had a medium to small portion of piece of peppered steak, accompanied by two small pieces of already cooked gammon, two eggs, one sliced tomato and one sliced onion. I started everything at the same time, prepared to eat individually as items cooked but was able to try them at the same time. The steak was cooked on the top plate and was about right with perhaps another few minutes but no more. The eggs in contrast were over done but fitted well into two of the individual small cooking plates and were easy to remove without breaking. I will try another time on the flat area of the grill plate. The tomato and the gammon together with the onion were topped off on the top plate and perhaps the onion need to go in earlier. I must try some mushroom, scrambling the eggs, some hash browns and cheese on small cuts of bread although this will be part of a sliced finger roll. I will save bacon for the bought out rolls, I nearly forgot heating up a small portion of baked beans. When in the mood I will try some thing more imaginative.

In the evening I created a bed of lettuce and cucumber pieces with some French dressing and then covered with pieces of the previously cooked and now cold mackerel mixed with prawns peeled from shell. I had not been looking forward to the cold fish having been unable to separate into two meals when removed from freezer and defrosted and cooked on the same day, but the combination worked well so that the mackerel did not overpower everything else. Staying up until three am there was a midnight soup in a cup and a finger roll filled with slices of gammon and peppered mustard. A banana, grapes and portion of Lemon Tort comprised the sweets. Another admission has to be a can of caffeine and sugar free Pepsi cola.

The film find of the day was a showing of the Spencer Tracy performance in the film the Last Hurrah, from a book written in 1956 by Edward O Connor and which was a best seller in its day. The book is believed to have been based on the former Mayor of Boston James Michael Curley. Both characters were of Irish descent with working class backgrounds.

Mayor Curley became a working class hero where he and a political associate served a short prison sentence for fraud in 1904, having served as a member of the Massachusetts state House of representatives 1902-1903 and then become an Alderman, they had sat the civil service examination to enable two men in their district to get jobs as postmen with the Federal Government. The going to prison created a dark reputation for political opponents who exploited the incident during his subsequent election campaigns.

He was elected to the US House of Representatives 1911 to 1914 and was first elected Mayor of Boston in 1914 until 1918, returning in 1922-1926, 1930-1934 and 1946-1950. In 1937 and 1940 one of his former party political friends defeated him for the Mayoral nomination, which is an indication of the love hate reputation developed for him within the party as well as those supporting the Republican Party.

The reason for this is the scandals throughout his political life, During his tenure as Governor of the State 1935-1937 the state limo was involved in several accidents, he was accused of the sale of pardons to state convicts, and the appointment of scores of poorly qualified individuals to public office. The media stories led to the Democratic leadership failing to endorse his candidacy for the Senate in 1936. However he was back in favour in 1943, elected to the United House of Representatives and serving for four years and a Member of the US House of Representatives 1943-1947. In 1943 he was convicted on a felony indictment for influence peddling from his involvement for influencing peddling to secure defence contracts, but using the slogan Curley gets things done he won his fourth term as City Mayor. He was convicted of a further offence during this last period as Mayor and continued to hold the office while he was in prison. Despite these serious failings he remained worshipped in the city and when he died he received one of its biggest funerals, two statues and his former home is now an historical site. He had nine children by his first marriage but his wife and seven of the children all died before him. One son became a Jesuit priest.

In the novel the Mayor is a colourful character with a dark past aged in his 70‘s and a widower who explains to his nephew, a journalists, the realities of political life and election campaigning as he attempts another term as the Mayor. However in a reminder of the last days of Margaret Thatcher recently viewed, his methods are no longer acceptable and he is defeated by an unknown political inexperienced Republican with a good War record, smart appearance and good manners. He has a heart attack soon after the defeat and city in mourns someone whose time was past.

The film follows closely the story of the book, I am told. The role was originally planned for Orson Wells but while away one of his team turned it down, some thing which Wells regretted and I imagine he would have played the role in a darker way than he much loved Spencer Tracy. Pat O’Brien and Basil Rathbone also featured in the John Ford Film and Jeffery Hunter played the nephew journalist. Although popular in the city, former Mayor and Governor, Curley had quickly disappeared from national interest, but the book and the film helped to soften his image although the film link with the individual and the city was denied at the time.

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