Charles Van Doren Dies

Charles Van Doren of quiz show infamy has passed away at age 93.  It now seems almost quaint, but most Americans were genuinely shocked back in the Fifties to learn that many of the quiz shows they were watching on television were fixed, and that Charles Van Doren, scion of a family of intellectuals, who had achieved fame and fortune by his appearances on the show Twenty-One, had gone along with the cheating which had allowed him to win.  Van Doren initially vigorously denied cheating, but sang a different song when the evidence became overwhelming.  When he appeared before a Congressional committee he was contrite:

I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception. The fact that I, too, was very much deceived cannot keep me from being the principal victim of that deception, because I was its principal symbol. There may be a kind of justice in that. I don’t know. I do know, and I can say it proudly to this committee, that since Friday, October 16, when I finally came to a full understanding of what I had done and of what I must do, I have taken a number of steps toward trying to make up for it. I have a long way to go. I have deceived my friends, and I had millions of them. Whatever their feeling for me now, my affection for them is stronger today than ever before. I am making this statement because of them. I hope my being here will serve them well and lastingly.

I asked (co-producer Albert Freedman) to let me go on (Twenty-One) honestly, without receiving help. He said that was impossible. He told me that I would not have a chance to defeat Stempel because he was too knowledgeable. He also told me that the show was merely entertainment and that giving help to quiz contests was a common practice and merely a part of show business. This of course was not true, but perhaps I wanted to believe him. He also stressed the fact that by appearing on a nationally televised program I would be doing a great service to the intellectual life, to teachers and to education in general, by increasing public respect for the work of the mind through my performances. In fact, I think I have done a disservice to all of them. I deeply regret this, since I believe nothing is of more vital importance to our civilization than education.

Van Doren received accolades from some for finally coming clean.  However, Congressman Steven Derounian (R.NY) was having none of it:

“Mr. Van Doren, I am happy that you made the statement, but I cannot agree with most of my colleagues who commended you for telling the truth, because I don’t think an adult of your intelligence ought to be commended for telling the truth.”

Being fast on one’s feet intellectually, and the glibness that usually accompanies that ability, tend to be vastly overrated in our society.  Simple honesty, that base foundation for all the virtues, vastly underrated.

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Star Wars: Always

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought the Star Wars mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.

A lot more entertaining than anything since The Return of the Jedi, of course watching paint dry also fits into that category, although I do think that Solo was not quite the grand buzzard of a film that most of its detractors claim it was.

 

Published in: on March 8, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Star Wars: Always  
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News to Make All Baby Boomers Feel Very, Very Old

 

Peter Tork of The Monkees has died at age 77.  May his soul rest in peace.

Published in: on February 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on News to Make All Baby Boomers Feel Very, Very Old  
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The Duke Sends His Regards to SJWs Everywhere

 

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought the John Wane mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

News that I missed courtesy of The Babylon Bee:

 

HOLLYWOOD, CA—After a 1971 Playboy interview with John Wayne that was deemed offensive surfaced online, liberal activists took to the streets to boycott the actor, vowing that Wayne will never work in Hollywood again.

Wayne died in 1979 of stomach cancer.

Marchers could be seen on Sunset Boulevard with signs calling for the firing of “that cowboy guy from those old movies.” Many seemed confused about who Wayne actually was, with some assuming he may have been a relative of Batman, and others thinking that maybe he was in a Coen brothers movie or something. However, they all agreed he is what’s wrong with this country, as evidenced by their chant, “John Wayne bad!”

Activist leaders announced that at 10:30 am they would hold a massive burning of John Wayne films, posters, and other memorabilia at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. When the time arrived, many people arrived but there was nothing to burn. “I don’t think anyone here has ever even seen a John Wayne movie, now that I think about it,” one activist told reporters. 

Go here to read the rest.  Hmmm.  Wayne has been dead for four decades, but in a fight between him and any number of Social Justice Warriors, my money would still be on the Duke.

 

Published in: on February 26, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Duke Sends His Regards to SJWs Everywhere  
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January 20, 1929: In Old Arizona

I give the talkies six months more. At the most a year. Then they’re done.

Charlie Chaplin, 1931

 

 

 

The things you find on YouTube.  Ninety-years ago the movie In Old Arizona was released.  The first full length “talkie” filmed outdoors, it featured the O. Henry character The Cisco Kid and was based on the O. Henry short story The Caballero’s Way.  The film was a hit, helping to establish that “talkies” were not just a fad, and the now forgotten Warner Baxter would receive the best actor Oscar for his rendition of The Cisco Kid.  In the Thirties he would go on to star in a number of films and was at one time the highest paid actor in Hollywood.  He died in 1951 at age 62.  With the passage of years, most fame is indeed fleeting.

Published in: on January 20, 2019 at 7:56 am  Comments Off on January 20, 1929: In Old Arizona  
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Hal Holbrook on Playing Lincoln

 

Hal Holbrook starred in a miniseries back in 1974 where he played Lincoln.  The series was based on Carl Sandburg’s romantic, if dubious historically, take on Lincoln in his Pulitzer winning biography.  The episodes in the miniseries do not tell the entire life of Lincoln, but rather focus on vignettes from Lincoln as a young lawyer up to his years as President.  The series had its moments, Holbrook being an actor of considerable ability, but I chiefly remember it for the makeup job of Holbrook as Lincoln:

 

It simply didn’t work for me.  It struck me as fake looking, although I admit that your mileage may vary.  A decade later Holbrook would portray Lincoln in the soap operish look at the War in North and South, and I thought the makeup was much better done:

 

 

 

Playing an historical figure who has become a national icon is rough, and especially so with Lincoln who had a strikingly unique appearance and mannerisms, and who lived before the time of audio or film recording.  It is no wonder that efforts to capture the man on stage or on film so often meet with negative or mixed results.

Published in: on January 16, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Hal Holbrook on Playing Lincoln  
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Star Trek the Music

Something for the weekend:  Star Trek Mega Suite.  Something easy to star off the year, various Star Trek musical themes.

Published in: on January 5, 2019 at 7:37 am  Comments Off on Star Trek the Music  
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Requiescat In Pace: Stan Lee

( I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the comic mavens of Almost Chosen People might be interested in it.)

Stanley Martin Lieber, better known as Stan Lee, passed away today at age 95.  A World War II veteran, Lee  worked for virtually his entire adult life, except for his time in the Army, for Timely Comics, which became Atlas Comics and, by the early sixties, Marvel Comics.  After DC comics, the colossus of the comic book world at the time, met great success with its revival of superheroes in the mid fifties, Lee followed suit in the early sixties, but with a twist.  His superheroes had human frailties and wrestled with the type of problems that normal people deal with.  In short, he made superheroes more realistic.  He understood that such realism made his heroes and heroines more heroic, not less.  His strategy worked, and Marvel unseated DC, which was rather like Avis beating Hertz.  Lee assiduously also developed a loyal fan base.

For the past few decades Lee has not been involved in the operations of Marvel Comics, contenting himself with being the public face of the company and with humorous cameos in the numerous films based on Marvel comic book characters.  His wife of 69 years died last year, and recent stories about him have focused on allegations that his daughter, or others, have been attempting to take advantage of him, the type of very sad conflicts that often seem to surround the very elderly with money. Unlike in comic books, happy endings are not assured in real life.

However, none of this can diminish the entertainment and inspiration that Mr. Lee gave to hundreds of millions over the years, including me during my boyhood.  Excelsior Mr. Lee, and may this quotation now stand you in good stead:

“There is only one who is all powerful, and his greatest weapon is love.”
Published in: on November 15, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Requiescat In Pace: Stan Lee  
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Death of a Nation: A Review

 

 

I saw Death of a Nation, the latest film of Dinesh  D’Souza, on Saturday with my bride and son.  Overall I was disappointed by it.  The review is below the fold and the caveat as to spoilers is strictly in force.

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Published in: on August 20, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Death of a Nation: A Review  
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Aretha Franklin: Requiescat in Pace

 

Something for the weekend.  I Say A Little Prayer, sung by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.  She died this week at age 76, leaving behind a body of work that will give joy to generations to come, and that is not a bad legacy.

Published in: on August 18, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Aretha Franklin: Requiescat in Pace  
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