Miguel Dieppo: Memoirs of a Penitent Heart

DATELINE: A Lost Generation  

You may never find a more flattering sense of duty and obligation than to have a niece who barely remembered you as a child make a documentary of your life 30 years later. The little documentary is called Memoirs of a Penitent Heart.

Cecilia Aldarnondo was on a mission. Only after making her film did she seem to have second thoughts about letting the dead stay dead. She uncovered more than the tragic death of an uncle who passed away from AIDS during the height of the epidemic.

She tracked down his lover, a former priest who spent twelve years with the young Puerto Rican transplant to New York. They might have been an odd couple, but the family of Michael had no use for him, never followed up on his whereabouts, or even his name. It was for a niece to dredge it all up: to discover an old man who still carried the flame for his lost lover.

Father Bob had saved everything; the love of one’s life is like that.

 

What Cecilia discovers is the fanaticism of religion and how it set up terrible and irreconcilable conflicts between mother and son’s lover. She even tells him on his death bed to remove the friendship ring or he will be denied entrance to heaven.

The director sticks it to her own mother for abandoning her brother Miguel. No one is spared from the hook.

This is a personal film, showing conflicts between gay and straight, between living la vida locain Puerto Rican and immigrating to New York. It shows the genetic horror of learning about a parent’s own sexual secrets.

The film may seem irrelevant if you are not a Catholic, a Puerto Rican, gay, or even promiscuous. Yet, it is relevant and it is moving. The past is always with us, ever changing—and the future is immutable. It’s called irony.

 

Making Montgomery Clift

DATELINE: Extraordinary Film

The man who turned down the lead in Sunset Boulevard and East of Eden made it possible for other stars to have their great moments. Montgomery Clift played down his refusal to do those films, but we think he would have reached latitudes and heights later denied to him.

Monty Clift’s nephew Robert has made a biographical film documentary to correct decades of misinformation and misjudgments. It is better late than never and tries to address the legend that he was a self-hating, self-destructive homosexual.

The charges against Clift, salacious and mean-spirited, may have been vestiges of homophobia he constantly encountered, even from sadistic directors like John Huston (our late friend Jan Merlin who made List of Adrian Messenger with Huston confirmed this—and we have been dunned for saying it).

Robert Clift interviews those still around so many decades later—like Jack Larson (Superman’s Jimmy Olson) and his mother Eleanor Clift. They report Monty was a funny creative man with a giving personality. He was an actor and used life experiences all the time in his art.

Brooks Clift, Monty’s brother, collected and kept everything about his brother to the point of obsession and taped conversations. Yet, it was he who was duped into providing info that would disparage the man he most loved and admired in life.

Robert Clift is to be highly commended for sorting through all this data to give us a more balanced, kindest view. Robert was born long after his uncle died, and he does not have the benefit of a personal relationship. Yet, the trove of collectibles, never seen or heard, provide insights that might only come from sitting down with Monty.

Most people looked at his later performances as biography, not art. He loved being alive and enjoyed being artistic, but it was a world of cruelties and harsh realities.

This is a brilliant work, worth your time and should send you scurrying for any Montgomery Clift movie you can find.

John Wayne Revisited, 50 Years Off the Saddle!

DATELINE:  Too Late for Words!

Duke, Duck!Duck, Dodge, and Hide, Duke!

Fifty years after John Wayne gave an interview to Playboy, it has been re-discovered and has become an interesting, revisionist historical document that berates black people, Native Americans, and gays.

Wayne was home on the range but would be shocked by today’s brave new world. He would have punched Trump in the nose for suggesting America is no longer great.

Actors have never been known for their giant brains. You have only to look at stories about Jussie Smollett to learn that hard lesson.

So, it is not surprising that an interview given by Duke Wayne in 1971 is rife with frightful prejudice against black people and Native Americans. You should add women to the list.

Wayne played an array of Union soldiers and military heroes often in defense of America, popular ideas in his movies. He was in real life only one step to the left of J. Edgar Hoover and not much removed from a political Know-Nothing.

If you put his statue in front of a Confederate stronghold, the rebels would have ripped it down.

John Wayne refused to work with “liberal” Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood on a movie.

Well, the shocks mount up like Wayne on a charging steed with the reins in his teeth and six-shooters firing at will.

Young anti-Vietnam war Americans of the “hippie era” hated John Wayne for his backward view of politics. He was right up there with Bob Hope as a supporter of war in its many forms.

Now that generation of youth, regarded as wayward and drug-addled, is older than Wayne when he gave his notorious interview of 1971.

Back in the 1970s, liberals laughed at Wayne and threw snowballs at him when he was in a Cambridge parade and received the Hasty Pudding Man of the Year at Harvard.

He also went on TV to guest star on Maude, Bea Arthur’s liberal bastion series. She promised a shootout with Wayne at High Noon.

Of course, Maude was a half-baked hypocrite and she melted when John Wayne told her he never discussed politics with a woman. They ended up in a waltz.

The problem that faces the old Bernie Saunders liberal types who are pushing 80 (and soon to be pushing up daisies) has more to do with an old Bette Davis quote.

She said of her hated rival Joan Crawford: “They don’t change just because they’re dead.”

People should remember that Davis was only partly correct. She should have said: “You can’t change your mind once you’re dead.”

Code-breaker: Rebel Genius

DATELINE:  Einstein of Computers   

 real Turing

Alan Turing, age 14.

The inspiration for the movie with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, entitled The Imitation Game, was a small British documentary called Codebreaker back in 2011.

The term “codebreaker” refers to two distinct segments of Turing’s life. He was a war hero who invented computers in the early 1940s and broke the German Nazi secret code.

Later in his life, he broke the social morays of staid British sexuality with his gay lifestyle.

Some dim-bulbs on IMdB have criticized the film for forcing them to endure his terrible, tragic second half of life, that included sex scandal, arrest, and chemical castration by the government he worked assiduously to save.

The film is also strengthened by the performers who re-enact Turing and his psychiatrist, Franz Greenbaum. With many moments of fraught faces, we have a definitive portrait of anguish.

Ed Stoppard and Henry Goodman give masterful performances. They regard each other perfectly as patient and doctor, later as friends. Goodman’s paternal father figure looks with pain upon Stoppard’s victim of cruel treatment.

Their looks make the re-enacting of Greenbaum’s medical journals quite compelling.

The film is fleshed out with interviews from Greenbaum’s now elderly daughters who knew Turing and his coworkers in breaking the Nazi code.

What you have here is a powerful indictment of how governments abuse and use people ruthlessly. In many ways this documentary is far more fascinating than the tale of the man who invented computers in the Imitation Game.

Rondo Speaks with ‘F’ Tongue

DATELINE: Rondo’s Indiscretion

 

Rajon Rondo has gone too far, but it is symptomatic of some men under pressure. Lately he issued a statement he meant no offense to gay people with his tirade on court, on television, for lip readers everywhere to parse.

A suspension followed the Rondolian Death Stare at referee Bill Kennedy in Mexico. In case people did not know why, Bill Kennedy came out of the closet as an “open” gay man, and Rondo was accused of using slurs to demean the long-time referee.

Gay slurs had been a bugaboo of the NBA for years—but had largely disappeared until this latest flap. Of all the gin joints in all the world, Rondo had to use “fag” in his vocabulary in Mexico City, not meaning Brit cigarettes.

Most men who resort to that sort of rage and homophobia usually harbor some inner feelings that make them Nervous Nellies. Imagine having to apply that standard to Rondo. Of all the matters we observed over his years in Boston, we never thought that (tongue firmly in cheek).

We made a cottage industry out of suggesting—nay, labeling Rondo, year after year—as a member of the Unofficial Friends of Dorothy group.  There, we said it. No more hiding between the lines or in the subtle nuances of ambiance.

We always thought of Rondo as a little light headed when it came to the big men. We might also mention he was always a flight risk in his sneakers, as if they were too light to be real loafers.  How often have we learned that the biggest homophobes harbor the deepest worries.

We tried to tie Rondo to so many big men in the game that we have lost track of all those we may have stuck with voodoo pins. It was only Rondo we tried to pin down.

Now, Rondo’s “spokesperson” denied he ever spoke a slur about a gay person. In some ways, we think it true, but like the notorious “n” word among black men, the fairy word seems to roll trippingly off the lips among gay men. Rondo forgot himself.

We hate to end four books on Rondo with a charge of a hate crime, but if you hate, you likely commit the crime privately. We are sorry Rondo has fallen into the hottest of scalding waters, but he can right the ship by admitting he was merely calling one of his kinsmen by his favorite label.