Becket’s Unspeakable Love Story

Becket Cavorting Adults

DATELINE: Burton & O’Toole in Epical Struggle

In 1964 came the extraordinary event of a literate play turned into an epic movie. This was the Hollywood version of Murder in the Cathedral.  The more mundane play version by Jean Anhouilh was called simply Becket.  Its Broadway incarnation was a legend with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn playing the leads, and exchanging roles every other night.

So, the movie version had big shoes to fill. Director Peter Glenville went out and arranged for the two biggest stars of the decade to go head-to-head:  Welsh Richard Burton, fresh off Cleopatra’s couch, and Irish Peter O’Toole, fresh off an Arabian oasis.

Everyone expected fireworks, but the two stars actually liked each other.

The movie shows it. O’Toole’s Henry II is utterly hysterical, and funny too. Burton’s Thomas Beckett is somber and sly. You will first be shocked at how young they are: the dissipation would set in, like dry rot, over the next decade.

They enjoyed their roles because, as O’Toole said at the time, in two blockbuster movies he was allowed a love interest of camels (Lawrence of Arabia) and Burton (Becket). And Burton was allowed only Elizabeth Taylor as his love interest. So, it was a natural affair between the actors.

Love interest indeed!

The docudrama goes grandiose in damp castles and Sherwood Forest, as Henry and Becket are like smitten boyfriends. That was the historical take—as no one could really figure how the Norman king and the Saxon aide-de-camp could be so entwined.

In a series of long capes, O’Toole is flashy and a hoot—and Burton’s character becomes more ethical and somber. Henry made Becket the recipient of many gifts: deaconship, chancellor, and Archbishop of Canterbury, to win his affection. Alas, it never worked the way Henry wanted, as Becket began to oppose his schemes.

Henry threw a fit in which he basically said he was surrounded by idiots, and the smartest man in the kingdom was opposed to him.

Well, the Knights took that to mean they had to relieve their king of a strange affection. As normal heterosexuals, they figured, you kill the one he loves. It’s a British tradition.

Of course, it all backfires. Henry II did penance with flagellation—and made Becket a saint, literally, by church canon. It makes for a rousing adventure and fascinating intellectual thriller.

 

 

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People’s Princess v. The Queen

 DATELINE: Ten Years Later

Queen & Country

As docudramas go, Helen Mirren’s movie about Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana is among the best.

Now ten years later, we took another peek at the film called merely The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears and written by Peter Morgan. It has that wry detail of Diana looking back at the Queen with an accusing stare.

We don’t know how the creators know what tears, angst, and emotions, were expressed when the Queen was alone.  Mirren provides all this and more. Yes, it surely makes an exciting and intimate film performance.

This is the best of Mirren’s many queen roles, and this is the best of Michael Sheen’s many Tony Blair roles. Blair has to save the Queen from herself and her noblesse oblige family. Mirren’s Queen is witty and ultimately practical, whether this is true of the real people in the movie or not.

Actors re-enacting surely provides powerful insights into the tragic event of Princess Di’s death and the reaction of Her Royal Pains in the afterlife.

We recognized an impressive Roger Allam this time, from his Endeavour TV series, playing the Queen’s personal assistant. James Cromwell is his usual acerbic character as Prince Philip.

Mirren has many stunning moments, such as her shock when the public applauds Di’s brother after giving her eulogy. The Queen’s speech left more to be desired, even with a great actress delivering the same words.

Sherlock Meets Hornblower

DATELINE: Amazing Grace: The True Story

Sherlock meets Hornblower

Director Michael Apted put together a film called Amazing Grace in 2008 in which Sherlock Holmes would meet Horatio Hornblower. Well, not exactly, but Benedict Cumberbatch costarred with Ioan Gruffudd in the true story of young Wilberforce and young Pitt, British abolitionists.

 

The film was never embraced by the African American audience because it is plainly Masterpiece Theatre level Brit drama. It depicts the 20 year struggle of these English Members of Parliament to ban the slave trade in the British Empire around 1800.

Gloriously cast with actors with great faces, you can add Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Michael Gambon, Albert Finney, and Rufus Sewell, into the mix. You have a masterpiece of English actors.

Though not exactly action packed, it creates moments of powerful emotion as these intellectuals, Wilberforce and Pitt, boyhood chums, take on the powerful economic force that enslaved people.

It is well produced, has the flair of the era and aristocratic settings to tell the tale.

When the story of the timeless spiritual, “Amazing Grace,” is a secondary subplot, you have intriguing history alive. Albert Finney plays Gruffuld’s boyhood pastor, a former slave ship captain who wrote the song. Indeed, in one compelling scene, Cumberbatch presents Gruffud’s impressive rendition of the tune.

The film fell through the cracks initially because it did not go through television as its main channel. If one of the cable stations had picked it up, it would have become a biopic miniseries about ten hours long.

Instead, we have a throwback to the great historical movies that came out of England in the 1960s.

Trump to Nominate Roger Goodell for FBI?

DATELINE:  Whimsy & Humor

illuminati

With the big news out of Washington that President Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey, the speculation has run rampant down to Foxboro about the next man Trump may select for a grueling Senate confirmation hearing.

And, the word around is that President Trump’s good friend, Bill Belichick, might be the grandest choice to head the crime fighting agency.

Trump appears ready to buck the past precedent to hire a man who relaxes in his mother’s old dresses.

Belichick shares a disdain for talking to the media that Trump admires—and no one knows better how to deal with fake news than the head coach of the Patriots.

Of course, first choice Tom Brady wants to keep his job with the Patriots. The FBI director receives a contract to play for ten years—and Tom expects to be around Gillette Stadium for at least a dozen more seasons.

Considering the problems of a Watergate type trouble that Trump may find himself, it would surely be good to find someone familiar with Spygate, Bountygate, and Deflategate, to head the FBI job.

That leads us to the unfortunate conclusion that the best man for the job could be Roger Goodell. We don’t know if he wears dresses in his spare time, but we won’t bet against it.

Trump should nominate Goodell for the post. He can keep Belichick on ice until the head of the CIA job opens up.

 

 

 

Clinton Supporters Blackball Their Friends Post-Election

DATELINE:  Unpleasant Discovery

batman-versus-superwoman

Thanksgiving is over, but not the political brawls.

Though many wanted to avoid politics during the traditional dinner, it was truly unnecessary. Offended parties likely avoided breaking bread with the newly minted, newly hated enemy: Victors of the Trump campaign.

We found that this number of indignant and raging sore losers were all Clinton supporters. They demonized anyone who voted for Trump as a racist, homophobe, and misogynist. This turn of events only occurred after the votes were counted.

They were prepared to continue to be your hypocritical friend if Clinton had won—and gloat over your support for Trump.

If Hillary had won, they might have been more tolerant.

Friends of long-standing now have unfriended Trump supporters and blocked their calls.  If you had exchanged birthday cards for decades, or helped a friend through a crisis or two, you now learned that your vote for Trump made you anathema. Excommunicated.

It is certainly bracing to learn that people you liked and trusted for years really harbored a contempt for your politics that they could no longer forgive.

Not everyone who voted for Trump is racist, but Clinton supporters have broadened the definition to include anyone who didn’t agree with Hillary.

We find it interesting that the people who decried hate and haters turn out to be the worst offenders.

If you expect to call your former friends and Trump supporters with an apology, it may not work this time. And if you expect your quondam friends to recant their votes, that too is unlikely.

Perhaps it is indeed a time for giving thanks for finding out who your true friends are. Life teaches many unpleasant lessons and is patently unfair often—but finding out those you believed to be your friends are miserable and unfaithful is definitely a shocker.

Gronk’s Party Cruise Ship: Mal de Merry

 DATELINE: Sink or Swim

Gronky

 

No one told us! We have discovered there are few spaces left on the party ship to set sail for the Bahamas in February. Gronk is hosting a party ship. Move over, drydock. Look out, Andrea Doria.

We presume too that this may be a Super Bowl party combination.

All guests with reservations on the ship actually will be able to pose with Gronk for a photo. At least we think it is the real Gronk, not a cardboard cutout. We already have one of those pix from Dunkin’ Donuts.

This continues Gronkonomics, a means for the Gronk to make money hand over fist without cashing a single paycheck from the Kraft family sports team.

Gronk’s parents appear to be on board this party ship as chaperones. His brothers will be there to prevent assaults for deranged women looking to make a husband out of the New England tight end.

The few balcony rooms left for our delectation will cost $1500 per person for the three days. We will need to find someone willing to spend three days and two nights with us in a small room. This is especially important for those with a tendency to be seasick after imbibing many drinks.

Whether this is another overblown publicity stunt by the master of gathering attention is unknown. We are leery of ships going out into the Atlantic in iceberg season.

We have not even considered the likelihood of coming down with a stomach virus, which we always see on the news when cruise ships are stalled out at sea.

If you are pickled with Gronk, we suppose neither iceberg nor viral infection will slow you down.

Trump Wins a Big Endorsement

DATELINE: Birds of a Feather

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To no one’s surprise, the man with a Trump cap with the logo “Make America Great Again” in his locker has thrown his support behind presidential candidate Donald Trump. “It would be great,” said one icon about another becoming America’s next president.

Tom Brady was directly asked if he supported The Donald—one of his better golf buddies, and Brady’s answer was unequivocal. There was no suspense when it came to Tom’s loyalty.

Brady is of the mind that Trump will put a putting green on the White House lawn if he wins the election as president.

With a major debate of all Republican candidates pending on this evening, Trump will have to throw more touchdowns than Brady managed on Sunday in order to neutralize his opponents.

Brady probably feels some sympathy for the man who gave his total support during the lingering effects of the Deflategate court case this summer. As of now, Trump is about as beleaguered as a man with the media on his back, disrespect emanating from a large segment of the political spectrum, and a self-made man mantra.

Trump and Brady share many characteristics, which is probably why Trump wanted the QB to wine, dine, and marry his daughter a decade ago.

Brady continued his “aw, shucks,” demeanor by simply gushing about the memorabilia that Trump had sent him. It was something of a keepsake no matter how the political winds blow.

Brady may also be keeping an eye on Trump’s gameplan—and it may become the blueprint for Tom’s own run in the political arena sometime down the road.