In our first overnight trip away, Yang and I traveled to the renovated Capitol Theatre in Rome, New York for Capitolfest. This year’s subjects proved irresistible: the fabulous Bennett sisters, Joan and Constance! We were fortunate to see the theatre, designed by Leon H. Lempert and first opened in 1928, returned to much of its original art deco glory. However, our trip was even more of a treat. Not only did we get to see two Joan Bennett movies from early in her career that I’ve never seen, but we met up with wonderful friends from the Friends of Joan Bennett FB group: Kayla Sturm and Eve and Edward Lemon! It was a fun, heart-warming, and exciting experience.
First, let me tell you about the theatre – and share some images with you, too. Many of these are courtesy of Eve and Kayla. You can see that the original marquee is not the same, but the outside still has much of the original feel. Further, once you enter the lobby, you see wonderful polished wood doors and art deco detailing on the walls and ceiling.
The inside is spacious, seating over 1000 people, with plenty of room on the ground floor and in the balcony. The latter place is where we Bennettphiles sat. You can see that the screen is huge, just like in the old days that some of us are life-experienced enough to remember. Other Lowellians, remember the Strand Theatre, with that ginormous chandelier that none of us wanted to sit under – just in case? There’s me in the lower right corner, wearing my hat and my mask.
Note the organ just below and in front of the stage. The theatre was built in 1928, so silents still would have played there in the infantine era of sound. Also, people would love to hear pre-show concerts on that organ – before you got to the raffles, the cartoons, the newsreel, the Lower half of the double bill, then the feature. Here’s a closeup of the organ. We had a little concert, ourselves, before the start of Weekends Only. (Note: both these shots are courtesy of Kayla Sturm.)
She also photographed one of my favorite things to shoot: heads in relief. I wonder who these guys are? To me, they look like Eisenhower, Marx, and Peter Lorre; but I’m probably wrong.
How about this shot by Kayla of the gorgeous arches?
There were lots of early, pre-Production Code films by Joan and Constance – plus both Joan and Constance doing their bits against the Nazis in Manhunt and Madame Spy, respectively. Come to think of it, Joan practically made a cottage industry out of taking down goosesteppers: Manhunt, Confirm or Deny, The Man I Married, The Wife Takes a Flyer, and Margin for Error. Who needs John Wayne?! (That’s Kayla’s photo of the Manhunt poster).
Anyway, Yang and I saw two films I’d never seen before: She Wanted a Millionaire and Weekends Only. Hush Money had also been on the bill, but Disney forced the festival to pull it in a legal CYA move. That’s the technical term my lawyer nephew gave me. God bless UCLA for going to bat for the festival and still getting us these two films. They were something else. Millionaire is a humdinger, starting out as a romantic comedy and turning into a Gothic piece with a sadistic husband who lures a naif into marriage, using the typical secret passages, peep holes, and untrustworthy servants in his isolated, creepy mansion, but modernizing Otranto’s castle with high tech (for ’32) listening devices. His manipulations, viciousness, and violence would give Manfred, Brother Ambrose, and Schedoni a run for their money. Joan does get up the gumption to hang tough and give her tormentor what for; but, darn it all, they have her faint at a crucial moment. They just had to go all Victorian, didn’t they? Victorian, with the exception of Margaret Hale in North and South, who has to get hit in the head with a rock to go down for the count.
Weekends Only was interesting and enjoyable. Joan was a snappy, intelligent gal who grows up fast when her rich-girl paradise crashes and burns with the stock market in 1929. She’s smart and independent, so she’s is no easy victim to sly seductions or aggressive assertions. We also can tell that this is a pre-Production Code because it’s clear that when she and artist Ben Lyon fall in love and show that they genuinely care for each other there are a couple of fadeouts that indicate the two aren’t off for a round of pinochle. Of course, misunderstandings do gum up the romantic works; however, things get resolved in a way that suggests their reconciliation is believable. And the slick rich guy who wants Joan for his mistress bows out with humor. The depictions of the loft apartments where Joan and Ben Lyons live hint at an almost pre-noir dreaminess. Black and white is so evocative. I do wonder what happened to the two portraits painted for the movie. (Thanks to Eve for the shot of the film’s opening on that delicious big screen!)
Anyway, our crew had a wonderful time. We enjoyed films together. Traded Joan gossip. Got to know one another better. Had a lovely dinner ensemble after the first movie on Friday afternoon on the outside terrace at the Delta Lake Inn – thanks to Eve’s planning! Gosh, I had a great time. I can’t wait for another Joan festival to bring us all back together!
Images from Weekends Only and She Wanted a Millionaire from IMDb
Thanks again to Kayla Sturm and Eve Lemon for letting me borrow their photos for this blog.
Growing up watching films from the ’30s, 40’s, and 50s, often in the dark hours of the night, I was deliciously haunted by the noir-inflected, melancholy, shadowy worlds of Val Lewton films, the eerie displacement of Universal and Columbia horror, and the mind-twisting mysteries exploring the dark side of society and the human heart. Those were perhaps the major impetus for my desire to recreate shadowy even eerie realms with my own writing. For the chiaroscuro worlds of the mystery and horror delightfully lingered in my imagination.
Specific films influence each of my novels. With Bait and Switch, I was inspired by those exercises in noir that voiced homefront fears of Nazi fifth columnists infecting our security from within. So, when Jessica Minton finds herself caught in the middle of a espionage plot that is either a gambit to flush out a fifth columnists or a fifth columnist’s plot to trick her into saving his skin, such films as They Live by Night, The Fallen Sparrow, and Confessions of a Nazi Spy inspired my creation of slippery deceptions, unclear loyalties, and sudden death in a world of slick, dark mean streets; fog rolling off the Hudson, through the New York waterfront and the Brooklyn Bridge; crumbling, sinister rows of buildings lowering on the wrong side of town; and deserted theatres.
Of course, I was not inspired merely by the dreamy darkness of these films but by the quick wit and humor peppering many of them. Perhaps the most influential in that department was All through the Night, a fast-moving tale of Nazi infiltrators inhabiting the stylish but shadowed upper echelons of New York Society – as well as the dark recesses of obscure warehouses and secret panels leading to command centers. Cutting through that sinister atmosphere is the sharp wit of Humphrey Bogart’s semi-gangster, Gloves Donohue, and his sidekicks played by the fast-talking likes of William Demarest and Frank McHugh. Of course, there is romance, as well, with a damsel in distress. I love to spice Bait and Switch with the same sort of irreverent, sardonic humor. And, though Jessica Minton may find herself caught in distress, she’s hardly a damsel. She holds her own when in danger, though a little help from her vis à vis does come in handy – that and a banana cream pie.
Letter from a Dead Man is more straight noir. No Nazis, but plenty of intrigue and unexpected conflicts stemming from hidden identities fatally revealed; stolen jade; romantic intrigue; a femme fatale who’s in the chips now (socially and financially) but will do anything to prevent the exposure of her sordid past; a frame job for murder; two tough cops, just this side of jaded; and an F.B.I. agent from Jessica Minton’s past who has his own agenda. Images and even passages from specific films noirs imbue Dead Man. The seductive manipulations of Helen Grayle fromMurder, My Sweet inspire the deadly web that Alanna Tewkesbury weaves around the Minton sisters, and those they love, to keep her secrets intact and to get her hands on stolen treasure. Imagery from The Seventh Victim, Woman in the Window, The Fallen Sparrow, Scarlet Street, and Manhunt live on in the darkened, deserted offices; lonely, rain-slicked streets; deadly lurkers in late-night subways; and even behind the hulking, cold stone of the New York Public Library Lions!
Dead Man is not all darkness. It’s lightened with the sharp reparté you’d expect from the mouth of a Rosalind Russell, a Joan Bennett, or an Eve Arden. Plus, there are some truly Lucy-and-Ethel-worthy moments of slapstick, with Jessica and Liz forced to hide in a closet from Alanna and her tough-talking torpedoes, friend Iris leading a room full of party-goers in a madcap conga to cover up an argument between Liz and her boyfriend that will put him at the center of a murder investigation, and Jess donning disguises as a maid to recover a stolen gun and as a shady lady in need of reform to snare a vital witness.
This leads to the third, soon to be released, novel in the Jessica Minton mystery series: Always Play the Dark Horse. Though this book shares much with its predecessors, there’s a different take on the noir world of mystery, fifth columnists, darkness, and doubt. Dark Horse is more inspired by the dreamy nature of Jean Renoir’s The Woman on the Beach, Lewis Milstone’s Guest in the House, or Orson Welles’s The Stranger. Scenes on the Connecticut beach at night; in the foggy advent of a storm; the presence of a mysterious rider on a magnificent black horse along the shore; the battered ghost of a beached ship where forbidden lovers once met; the twisting corridors, warren of offices, dark-paneled rooms, and hidden stone staircase of a college building, all capture the dreamy world of those films, especially Woman on the Beach. As in Renoir’s film, I found myself caught up in creating a world formed in tune to the haunting mood of Debussey’s music. The story of dark love, vicious personal conflicts, uncertain loyalties, cruel memories of war’s horrors, and the threat of a Nazi resurgence, however, edge that dream uncomfortably into the realm of nightmare so effectively created in The Stranger and Guest in the House/
That’s not to say you’ll need uppers to get through Dark Horse! The quick wit and strong sense of camaraderie that I portray in the other novels percolates here as well. I really enjoyed developing the married relationship between Jessica and James, showing their support and love for each other seasoned with their playful humor. They may not always get along or be perfectly happy with each other; but, as grown ups, they work things out. That partnership and humor are what help them resolve their case. I also enjoyed Jessica’s bond with her friend Rose. An educated and intelligent working woman (professor) and mother, Rose is a loyal, funny friend who helps Jessica stay ahead of the game. I always like to show the power of girlfriends in my books! Last, but never least, where the dog – e.g. Asta – has traditionally been the animal sidekick in mysteries, I once again return Dusty to her feline glory! She plays a major role in all three novels: a pal but not a drippy one. And there ends up being nary a mouse in the cottage by the beach where Jessica and James must do their part against murder, betrayal, and Nazis.
Screen shots from The Woman on the Beach and The Seventh Victim are from the author’s collection. RKO videos
I haven’t had a chance to do a lot of photography around the yard lately, since I’ve been so busy with writing and traveling. However, we do have many neat critters to see. We still have many interesting birds, for examSas for several days, visiting around 5:00 in the afternoon. Rosalind noticed the turkey first and tipped me off. so, we got some nice shots of her.
The cardinals have been bringing their kids to visit. I see plenty of Mr. and Mrs. Cardindal, but I’m not sure how many adolescents they have because they are all olive colored with black beaks (The beak helps you distinguish kids from female adults). I only see one baby at a time, so I don’t know if it’s the same one repeatedly or different Cardinal kiddos every time. Last year, the parents brought quite a few to the feeders, and we had about six males and females in the winter and through the spring. Then, we only seemed to have two adults. My guess is the last generation of kids moved off to college or got a job and nest in a new territory. What do you think, Cardinal experts? Anyway, this kid is pretty aggressive. He was on the feeder with a female Rosebreasted Grosbeak, who had scared every other birds off, including Mommy Cardinal. Not this kid! He kept pecking right back at her for some time.
Speaking of Grosbeaks, we have at least three males (whom I’ve seen all at the same time), but I’m not sure how many females. I have noticed that I do see a pair show up frequently, though I usually see a male or two show up without the wife. Occasionally, I’ve seen a female without the hubby. These two like to hang together on this particular feeder. They also decided to check out the oranges we put out for the Orioles as well.
The catbirds used to come frequently in the beginning of the summer, then they disappeared, pretty much, for about a month. However, now they are BACK. And they are aggressively defending the suet, cocking up their black tails and showing off that red spot underneath. I’m glad to see them-and hear them call my name, “Sharon! Sharon!” There’s one outside my window right now!
I’ll have to do another bird blog, to show you more pictures of our other feathered visitors.
This blog starts with everyone’s favorite, Lt. Riley (Bruce Hyde). But really, pity poor Kevin Riley, a character with some of the worst luck in Star Trek. First, his parents get wiped out by Kodos the Executioner on Tarsus IV. Even Captain Kirk was only visiting when he lived through that horrific time. Still, you kinda wonder what special qualities old Kevin had that made Kodos spare him but not Mom and Dad. We already know it wasn’t his singing voice.
So, with his whole family pushing up quadrotriticale, things ought to be looking up for our Irish lad. Enough tragedy for any poor soul. And even with that, he’s still a cheery sort, joking around with Sulu. Well, Lt. Riley was on his way up for a while, rising to Lieutenant in Star Fleet and taking the position of navigator. Unfortunately, in “The Naked Time” doesn’t he happen to be one of the first crew members to get infected by the inhibition-freeing virus from PSI-2000? And that happens because he joins Sulu in trying to save Joe Tormolon!
Anyway, one minute, he’s playing that navigation panel like a maestro, the next he’s taking over the engine room, controlling all ship’s functions, then ordering all female personnel to wear their hair “loose and about their shoulders” and ice cream to be served to the crew (except for Lt. Uhura for being a killjoy by trying to cut him off the com).
Oh, he also shuts down the engines, dooming the entire crew to shriveling up in an atmosphere-entering flame out of the Enterprise. But all of that’s nothing compared to his subjecting the entire ship’s contingent to an excruciating rendition of “I’ll Take You Home, Kathleen” over the ship-wide com. Repeatedly.
Once cured, do Lt. Riley’s tribulations end? Uh-uh. He comes back in “Conscience of a King” to relive his horrific experience on Tarsus IV, with a disguised Kodos the Executioner doing Shakespeare on the ship. Then, he’s nearly murdered by Kodos’s nutcase daughter who surreptitiously spritzes a milky poison into his cow juice. Apparently, Uhura has forgiven Riley for his no-ice-cream edict, for she had been serenading him via the intercom with a magical version of “Beyond Antares.” Fortunately, the com link was open and the people in the rec room heard Riley gasping for life after a sip of his murderous milk.
Next, after overhearing McCoy recording the fact that ole Kodos is actually Karidian on board the Enterprise, Riley decides that he’s no Prince of Denmark and is going to exact revenge forthwith. Fortunately, Kirk heads him off in the flats behind the stage and prevents Kevin from ruining his life by committing murder (however, well justified it may seem).
Riley’s placement on the Enterprise gets a little confusing in this episode. Earlier, we’d seen him as navigator, now Spock mentions he’s in the Communications department. Kirk then transfers him “back to engineering,” as Spock says. The poor lieutenant’s head must have been spinning. And after the last time Riley was in engineering, you’d think it would be the last place they’d want him to be in again. At least he let Lt. Uhura do all the singing this time.
Actor Bruce Hyde who gave us the never-boring Irishman (even when uninfected), was under contract to Desilu for multiple performances. So, when Hyde was cast in the role of Daiken, someone remembered that he’d played Riley earlier. Consequently, the character’s name was switched to Riley for consistency. Too bad we never got to enjoy more exploits by this lively guy, though let’s hope without musical accompaniment. The Riley character also appeared in several of the Star Trek novels published over the years, moving up the ranks in Star Fleet into the diplomatic core.
Hyde earned a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and taught there and at the Theater of Film Studies and Dance at St. Cloud University in Minnesota, where he served as Department Chair. And, hey folks, he was an English major at Northwestern University! Here’s a tip of the hat to Kathy Healey for this link to an interview with the late Bruce Hyde. You can see that he’s a neat guy.
Lt. Angela Martine-Teller-(Baker?)-Lisa (Barbara Baldavin) Wondering why I included “Baker” in her list of last names? Don’t worry; I’ll get to that. Angela does have almost as many surnames as there are crew members on the star ship. Well, there are reasons for that. When it comes to marriages, she’s kind of the Zsa Zsa Gabor of the Enterprise.
In her first appearance, in “Balance of Terror,” Specialist 2nd Class, Ensign Angela Martine is on her way to marry Lt. Tomlinson, whom she met as a co-worker in the forward phaser-room. She rates so highly that Mr. Scot is giving her away! However, even as Captain Kirk was starting the ceremony some pesky Romulans rudely choose this time to break through the neutral zone, wipe out some forward Star Fleet bases, and go after the Enterprise. Some beings have the worst timing! Before the Romulans end up making our girl a widow before she can become a wife, we do see her exchange some sassy banter with her husband on the job, telling him “You don’t get off my hook that easily. I’m going to marry you, mister.” We also see that she’s quite efficient at her job making sure those phasers fire.
Unfortunately, though Mr. Spock rescues the bigoted Mr. Stiles, thus neutralizing his anti-Vulcan/Romulan bias against him, Lt. Tomlinson is too far gone and succumbs to poisoning by phaser-coolant leak from a hit on the Enterprise. At least we don’t have to add Tomlinson to Angela’s lengthy chain of names. Still, the poor guy is the only Enterprise death from the encounter? And he wasn’t even wearing a red shirt.
Memory Alpha, Memory Beta, and Tales of the Unknown Redshirt offer some interesting background info on the wedding ceremony from the original script. The direction calls for Tomlinson not to kneel “according to his beliefs” but for Angela to kneel at the altar (no mention of beliefs written in). From that information, several sources have described Angela Martine as a Catholic, though no conclusions are clearly drawn about what Tomlinson’s beliefs are: Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, really reformed Protestant? Your guess is as good as mine.
The penultimate scene where Angela sits in the chapel, alone, until comforted by Kirk is poignant, an emotion created partly by the words they share and their hear-felt expression. Yet, perhaps the most effective technique is the framing of Angela in profile when Kirk enters. It’s one of those images that always haunts me.
The next time our girl appears is in “Shore Leave,” filmed several episodes later but broadcast the following week. Angela is still in her command gold, but now her hair is a little more reddish, while the wiglet and side curl have disappeared into a bob. She suddenly has the last name Teller, but she’s romantically involved with Lt. Esteban Rodriguez. Wait?! What?! Tales of the Unknown Redshirt points out here’s where big controversy arises, with some fans looking at Angela as quite a tootsie, not only moving on too fast from Tomlinson to some Teller person, but having ditched Teller to get all flirty with Rodriguez, even when hiding from a tiger. The author raises the point that sometimes great emotional loss leads to rebound romance, while also kind of paraphrasing the sentiment of the MST3K theme: “Repeat to yourself it’s just a show. I should really just relax.” I might also add, we’re never quite sure exactly how long the time span is between the events of episodes. Anyway, let’s not get too hard on the girl. She does get strafed and killed when the overly imaginative and voluble Rodriguez starts talking about WWII stuff on a planet where what you imagine comes true. She is resurrected (don’t ask me to get into metaphysics here), but, sheesh, dying is pretty tough on a girl. Why rag on her about anything else, at this point?
Her re-appearnce is also kind of interesting. We see the revived McCoy walk in with two show girls. However, Angela has no visible entrance. One minute Sulu, Barrows, and Rodriguez are standing in a line, the next Angela is cuddling up to Rodriguez. She just kind of “appears”! That mystery may be explained by the fact that a line of hers had been cut, which may have been filmed as part of her entrance. However, she and Esteban are verrrrry friendly, as you can see.
Interestingly, the character originally had a different name, Mary Teller, but it was changed when someone remembered that Barbara Baldavin had already played Angela. Apparently, it didn’t get changed in Shatner’s script, so he called her Teller rather than Martine, where everyone did call her Angela. Anyway, yes, MST3K-theme philosophy applies.
So, when do we see Angela again? In “Turnabout Intruder,” two years later in the final episode of the series. Now, she’s switched departments and moved to communications; has a new hair style and slightly different color; and, you guessed it, a new last name! Now she’s Lt. Lisa. Who knows what happened to Teller and Rodriguez?! Apparently, being around our Angela is more hazardous than visiting your friend Jessica Fletcher in Cabot Cove, Maine. As communications office on duty, Angela Lisa doesn’t show off the same technological capabilities as Uhura or Palmer, like repairing and rewiring an entire communications station. Still, she’s not a slouch. She’s our court reporter for the Janice-Lester-in-Kirk’s-body Queeg-style court martial of his senior officers. She even has the gumption and integrity to join Sulu and Chekov, ahead of other members of the bridge crew, in refusing to follow the possessed Kirk’s whacko orders. So, with her promotion, her new department, and new coiff, let’s hope that Angela has found happiness at last with Mr. or Ms. Lisa. Let’s just hope she hasn’t been watching Double Indemnity lately. Interestingly, Memory Alpha breaks from most Star Trek sources to list Lt. Lisa as a different character from Angela Martine-etc-.
Ah, here’s the Baker story. According the Tales of the Unknown Redshirt, apparently, Barbara Baldavin filmed a scene with Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) in “Space Seed” that was cut before the final broadcast. She is listed as “Baker” for that episode. Now, her hair’s long again! She’s still in command gold, though. Lord knows what happened to Baker to make room for Lisa. Anyway, do you think she was giving Lt. McGivers romantic advice about Khan? That would explain a lot.
Barbara Baldavin is quite interesting, herself, though she doesn’t have nearly as many names as Angela. She was married to Joseph D’Acosta, Star Trek’s casting director and later became a casting assistant and associate, herself. I remember being pleasingly surprised to see her name in that credit on Trapper John, M.D. She also worked in casting on Dynasty and Matt Houston. Her acting career included a stint as Nurse Holmby on Medical Center. If you check out her photo on Rotten Tomatoes you can see she still has that sassy smile. I especially like the fact that she is a home girl to my state of Massachusetts, being born in Quincy. I wonder if she ever strolled on Wollaston Beach, as I and my husband do now?
Part Three: Always Play the Dark Horse
Casting Characters, Part 2: Letter from a Dead Man
Letter from a Dead Man gave me some nifty casting possibilities as well. For the experienced Detective Leo McLaughlan, I chose Fred MacMurray. Not the befuddled, cuddly MacMurray of My Three Sons, but the shrewd, been-around-the-block-a-few times version in Bordertown, Singapore, Calloway Went Thataway, and Double Indemnity (without the murderous leanings). Yup, I found great inspiration for Leo in Calloway when MacMurray’s jaded press agent told a neophyte Western actor, “You’ve got two expressions: hat on and hat off.”
Whom did I select for the sexy, treacherous Alanna Tewkesbury of the novel? None other than that queen of noir femme fatales, Claire Trevor. True, Trevor has played reliable smart-talking gals (Crackup), but her conniving dames luring men to do her selfish, illicit bidding in Murder, My Sweet and Johnny Angel were the ideal inspiration for Dead Man’s “barracuda in Max Factor.” Take a look at Trevor’s seductive first meeting with Philip Marlowe in Murder before you read Alanna’s interview with Leo McLaughlan and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Don’t forget FBI agent Jeff Hooley in the novel, either. For him I went to a more modern source. Who might be a model for an acerbic, black-sheep agent with a touch of the romantic? A chap with a dark secret about betrayal and corruption driving him for justice? How about David Duchovney from The X-Files fitting the bill?
I decided to dip into my preoccupation with Star Trek for casting two supporting players in the cast. Iris’s boyfriend Walter Castle got his start in Walter Koenig, with a pun on the last name. It makes sense if you know German. And the mysterious Kavanaugh that Hooley sought out to clear his family name? Leonard Nimoy. Don’t you think he could do jaded, world-weary, and feelings tightly guarded? Don’t worry, though, there were no point ears in this role to keep his hat from fitting right.
So, whom from the classic era do you think might have inspired the Minton sisters’ friends Iris and Lois.? Or Alanna Tewkesbury’s torpedo Eddie Kubeck? Let me know what you think and I’ll let you know whom I had in mind.
Once again, Dusty is always Dusty.
Photos: No intention to violate copyright law,images used for entertainment and educational uses only. If there are any problems, contact me to remove the image
Readers often compliment me on the believability of the actors in my novels and ask me how I create even supporting characters who seem so human. One explanation I have harks back to my choice of the word “actors,” above. For I love to cast my novels as one might a movie. “Casting” my novels gives me a way to develop a more convincing character by drawing on actual expressions, ways of moving, ways of speaking, and general behavior.
My casting tends to reflect my preference for films of the golden age of Hollywood, especially the 1940s. Sometimes, I even select folks who are more contemporaneous, or more contemporary to when I was in my teens and twenties. I almost feel as if I’m creating exciting roles for some of my favorite performers that the limits of their careers might have denied them.
Many of you have heard me explain how the Minton sisters, Jessica and Liz, are based on the witty, smart, independent parts played by Joan Bennett and Rosalind Russell, respectively. You’ve also heard me mention that the sisters’ traits and relationship is also flavored by the wise cracking, warmth, and wackiness I share with my sister-in-law Pam Healy. But how about some of the supporting characters?
In Bait and Switch, Jessica’s boyfriend is drawn from a young Laurence Olivier. So, we have a chap with enough wit, charm, dependability, and good looks to give James Crawford a run for his money in the romance department. No Ralph Bellamys or Alan Mowbrays being obvious second choices in my books!
When it came to the law, I had some fun in this novel. James Crawford’s partner is gruff and sarcastic, with a bit of the old softie hidden under his prickly exterior. Who better to cast in this brusque-on-the-surface part of “the fire-plug” but Ed Asner of Lou Grant fame. James’s partner also hates spunk. Casting Detective Winston particularly gave me a chuckle. Loving irony, I thought it would be a hoot to have this intelligent, calm, world-weary, patient man be a dead ringer for Moe Howard of the Stooges. Characters in Bait and Switch trying to square his appearance with his capabilities provide some fun moments in the novel-though not so much for Jim Winston.
Who inspired the wise-guy cat, Dusty? None other than my first cat, Dusty. Want to hear more about her wise-cattery? Check out this blog that I did on her. All Hail Dusty!
We all know about the main supporting cast of Star Trek. Lt. Uhura, Lt. Sulu, Ensign Checkov, Nurse Chapel, Yeoman Rand, and Mr. Scott were all regular players with important roles in the action of the original series. However, the show also created a sense of verisimilitude with another level of players, supernumeraries. These spear, or phaser, carriers may not have had lines (though many did) but they appeared in multiple episodes as crew members, thereby creating continuity. Sometimes, though, that continuity might have been set askew by outfitting them in different uniforms and occasionally having them show up as aliens or civilians filling out the background. After working my way through the series this year, I thought it would be fun to create a run down on the cast supporting the supporting cast.
My first entry is Dr. M’Benga (Booker Bradshaw). This sawbones made such an impression that many people, myself included, were surprised to realize that he only appeared in two episodes. In “A Private Little War,” his background interning in a Vulcan ward provided him with the knowledge that in order to bring Mr. Spock out of a healing trance, the first officer needed a good sock in the kisser. Poor Nurse Chapel, following Dr. M’Benga’s instructions, ended up in a tussle with Scotty, who didn’t understand why she was smacking Spock around. Fortunately, Dr. M’Benga arrived on the scene to slap Mr. Spock back to consciousness.
We might wonder if Mr. Spock thought the good doctor had been a little too good with his rough prescription. In “That Which Survives,” Spock verbally slices down the doctor for being a bit too cheery about pronouncing he has no idea why a crewman had died from having every cell in his body exploded. Then again, when crewman are dropping left and right (some not even in red shirts!), maybe a playful attitude about your ignorance deserves a cool comeuppance.
Even after the series ended, Dr. M’Benga’s popularity in the Star Trek universe lived on. He has been a major character in Star Trek novels and some non-canonical works. Everybody and his brother has a first name for him. Memory Alpha provides a nice bio of the character with more details. Actor Booker Bradshaw has the intriguing background of graduating from Harvard University, studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and acting as talent manager for The Supremes (IMDB and Find a Grave)!
Lt. Palmer (Elizabeth Rogers): Uhura has to sleep sometime! So, in two episodes, we find Lt. Palmer taking over for her at the communications panel: “The Doomsday Machine” and “The Way to Eden.” With her blonde beehive and patrician features, Palmer remains stoic and efficient in times of adversity, be it an omnivorous space Hoover, a nutso commodore commandeering the Enterprise, or really obnoxious space hippies. She must be fairly high in Communications, because she’s the only member of the department who, like Uhura, knew how to repair the Communications equipment. Enterprise GRRRLS do science!
In one Star Trek short story, her first name was revealed to be Elizabeth – a tip of the hat to the actress who played her. In at least one of the appearances, Palmer replaced Uhura because Nichelle Nichols had a singing commitment to fulfill. Reports differ as to which episode this was, but Rogers herself said that she was used as “an instant ‘threat’ replacement.” This last statement is according to Wikkipedia, which I am loathe to quote because they’re frequently soooo wrong about stuff; however, the writer of the article did cite These Are the Voyages, Season Two as the source.
Rogers is an interesting actress. On Star Trek, she also voiced “The Companion” in “Metamorphosis.” If you watch much sixties or seventies TV, you are likely to see her in a guest-starring role. Further, she was a friend of producer Irwin Allen and played in The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. I didn’t catch her in the second film (though I’ll be sure to look for her next time), but I remember her in The T.I. She’s the first one to ride the captain’s chair across the cable strung between two skyscrapers – and she’s screaming all the way! Planet-devouring doomsday weapons and pain-in-the-ass space hippies are nothing to her – but heights? That’s another matter! Memory Alpha and Memory Beta are solid sources for more information on the character and the actress.
Mr. John Farrell (Jim Goodwin) Like Dr. M’Benga, Mr. Farrell only appeared in a limited number of episodes. Three to be exact. Usually, he was navigator, though the gold-shirted young officer with reddish hair and slightly protruding eyes did take a turn at Uhura’s console in “Miri.” This installment of “Phaser Carriers,” we just seem to keep catching our girl Nyota off-shift! We discover that Farrell’s first name is John when Sulu refers to him as “Johnny-O” after they both have been knocked off kilter by the hormone-stimulating drugs of “Mud’s Women.” In this episode, poor also John Farrell gets schnoockered out of a communicator by one of Mudd’s gals, Magda. Interestingly, according to Memory Alpha and The Lost Redshirt sites, some dialogue cut from the scene reveals that Farrell had a girlfriend and was thinking of growing a mustache! Anyway, he’s not doing too well in the formal inquiry of Harcourt Fenton Mudd and his hotties, is he?
Also like M’Benga, Mr. Farrell made it into Star Trek short-story adaptations of episodes and other fiction. Though Farrell was scheduled for more appearances, his character was replaced in “Charlie X” and “The Naked Time.” Hmm, if it had been Farrell instead of Riley who’d been infected with the inhibition-freeing virus, maybe we would have discovered what his girl friend’s name was, with him singing, “I’ll take you home…?” James Goodwin, who played Farrell, was friends with associate producer John D.F. Black, so when Black left the series, our actor’s connection disappeared – and so did Farrell. Interesting to other New Englanders, Goodwin was from Boston and passed away at fifty years young in Beverly, Mass. There’s great detail on the character at Memory Alpha, Memory Beta, IMDB, and at the tale end of Tales of the Unknown Redshirt.
Images: author’s screen shots from original episodes (no copyright infringement intended, informational and educational use only)
Well, here I go trying to create a new blog with WordPress’s Godawful new editor. Forgive me if this comes out crappy. It’s taken me forever to figure out how to switch back and forth between html editor and visual-nothing is clearly labeled or explained. I know this format is much uglier than the one I had previously. We’re all at the mercy of tasteless, unimaginative, homogenizing forces.
Anyway, let’s move on to a more enjoyable descent into darkness. Here’s a last gasp at wintry images with Part 2 of my report on the Hillside Cemetery of North Adams. Across the street from the original portion of the graveyard, lonely mountains rise up to close you you in and the rest of the world out on this grey day.
This is the newer portion of Hillside, and much more on an actual hillside. With the rolling slopes here, the graves, mostly 19th century, tilt and are almost upended as the ground has settled and shifted over the years-or is someone or something trying to push out?
And those slopes are pretty darned high, too, with gravestones and monuments, bleakly, implacably towering upward from an earth both browned by autumn and frosted by snow.
This cemetery has it’s share of intriguing, impressive statuary, but the brutal western Massachusetts winds, rain, and snow have not been kind to them, gradually wearing them down to softened blurs in many cases. The dove embracing this shrouded cross has lost its distinctive features and now softly merges into the cross’s drapery. The child and the lamb, representing her innocence, have melted into the seat of broken rocks symbolizing her life cut too short, too soon. A relief that should have preserved a woman’s identity in endurable stone for eternity has blurred her features into gentle vagueness. Even her identity in the form of name, family, and birth and death dates have been smoothed away to soft whiteness. A book of life’s secrets has subsumed its truths into a creamy blank of pages melted together, marked only by the stain of mold and decay. Or might this be an edition of the Necronomicon?
Of course there are also still striking images of angels and symbolic broken columns, some standing relentless against nature’s assault by winds, weather, and devouring by lichen and mold.
Some are less successful than others in resisting the assaulting elements, but are no less beautiful.
There was only one large mausoleum in this portion of the cemetery-but it is impressive, especially for the art deco angel guarding the resting bodies of the family beneath. There’s a wonderful starkness in its rising near the crest of the rolling hill, the dark tree grasping hungry branches at the sky beyond it.
And here is a closeup of the angel. Regard the myriad layers of feathers creating a shield of wings behind its head, seeming both like a peacock’s tail in full extension and a wall of tongues of flames.
The day had been cold, but not bitterly so. The ground betrayed the tracks of deer, racoon, and perhaps more predatory mammals. It was an isolated spot where no human seemed to have ventured to grieve or pay veneration for a very long time. In fact, this day this cemetery seemed like a place lost to time, to human connections. Thank goodness I saw this cute guy and not some colour out of space.