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About ThelmaTodd

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  1. Thank you all for a very interesting and charming topic! Classic era film makers made heavy use of model trains. It was very common to show a distance shot of a supposed train rolling through the landscape that was actually a model train. Model trains were also useful when the story called for a crash or derailment. Digital techno fakery was not invented and destroying real trains expensive- so they settled for models! You will see many examples of this on old TCM films, and many studios used this trick. For the studios, the go to guy for these models was San Francisco based model maker Rollin Lobaugh. A lifetime spent dabbling with antiques, has taught me a healthy respect for old model trains! They represent history and can be worth a lot. The trains shown in the Hidden Room are a 3 rail British O gauge system, running British style trains. The equipment shown, in good condition today, would be worth many thousands. Don't ever pass on or throw away old things until you learn what you have! Model trains often made their appearances in other American films too. I hope to see more posts!
  2. Here is a short segment showing the breathtaking restored version. The contrast with older prints of this film are stunning. Surrealism was not just the domain of "fine artists" like Dali. There was a lot of pop-culture Surrealism in Hollywood films as well. A whole orchestra appearing out of a giant grand piano represents a surrealist imagination. How do you embed a video on this site? I haven't done it in ages.
  3. An extraordinary spectacle- so unlike anything that would be made today. The highlight tune of the film is Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, performed by the orchestra that made it famous. There was an element of pop-culture Surrealism to many of the scenes, like the big Paul Whiteman Orchestra playing inside a giant grand piano. And no, it was not "computer generated"; people had to live in work in the "real world" back then! Carpenters and painters had to actually create that set and build it in a big sound stage. The colors from that early 2 strip Technicolor process look soft, dreamy and surreal as well. It's almost like watching a cartoon. In parts, it's even early psychedelia, evocative of the art of the 60's! It's a plotless "cavalcade" film, featuring a lot of what looks like vaudeville routines and stars, interspersed with elaborate musical numbers. This film is a little known and seldom seen gem from that era. I've seen a portion of the restoration and it took my breath away- it is a vast improvement and very likely to help generate renewed interest in this almost forgotten treasure!
  4. For the last couple of years, I have been watching a lot of 1930's German films on youtube, as so much has been uploaded. When speaking of Third Reich era films, there has been a tendency for film historians to emphasize a few key films. Because the German market was so large, people overlook the fact that numerous film features were produced during that era, and most of them were escapist entertainment. Goebbels and Hitler were big film buffs and knew people went to the movies to be entertained and to escape their cares. (Both men watched a lot of Hollywood films, which gave them a template for mass entertainment). Many of the German films of that period clearly show a Hollywood influence. The Hitler regime considered film to be of vital importance, and so that regime expended vast resources on film production. Many slick, well produced, stylish and entertaining films were created then. A lot of this has made it to youtube. Unfortunately, most of this stuff has not been subtitled, so your German will have to be good!
  5. I've read the book, and it was helpful towards understanding the film. There were some things implied or mentioned in the book that were not so easy to get away with in film back then. Geiger's antiquarian bookstore was a front; he "rented" pornography out of his back room. Possession of pornography, like possession of drugs, was very illegal. In order for Geiger to get "protection" for such a racket, he had to be under a bigger racketeer, in this case Eddie Mars. Geiger rents a house owned by Eddie Mars and does a side business in getting rich young girls doped up, photographed compromisingly and then blackmailed. The older sister of one of the victims (Mrs. Rutledge, played by Lauren Bacall), is none to pleased, but what can she do? She has a gambling addiction and she likes to drop a lot of money at the illegal tables owned by Eddie Mars! Into this mess walks private eye Phillip Marlowe (Bogart), hired by the concerned father of the two young women. Much of the reason the film is confusing to follow is because of what they could not say openly back then because of the film production code.
  6. THE SINKING OF THE LUSITANIA (1918) Cartoon by Winsor McCay Tonight TCM lived up to it's splendid heritage as a classic movie channel that sometimes shows pioneering work from the earliest days of the cinema! Shown were the animation works of cartoonist Winsor McCay, a wildly imaginative artist who I believe was one of the real pioneers of surrealism. McCay loved the whimsical, but for this documentary cartoon rendering of that great tragedy, he played it straight as an arrow. This animation, while showing great artistic sensibility, was graphic and realistic- a rare early example of a cartoon documentary. Animators at the time, who mostly did features with animals and kids were in awe of McCay's milestone accomplishment. Two years in the making, it took a LOT of work to draw this sucker! It was a great tragedy, and McCay's treatment had about it an appropriate gravitas and sensitivity. This was not meant to amuse or make children laugh! I looked at over a dozen copies posted to youtube, almost all of which ranged in print quality from just bearable to awful. The copy I have posted above is the best and approximates the image quality of the restored print shown tonight on TCM. ================================================ The Germans warned people, especially the American public. Their embassy in Washington issued a statement and that statement was repeated in newspaper advertisements paid for by the German government: ships flying the British flag into British waters would be attacked and that travellers would be at risk. Maybe it was because the US was not yet at war and had not joined the European conflict which was then in it's second year, but a 159 Americans disregarded the warnings. My anecdotal experience with Germans is that when they are serious and say they mean business- they mean business! On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland (then a part of Great Britain) by the submarine U-20. Of the 1,959 people aboard, 1198 perished leaving 761 survivors. Out of the 159 Americans aboard, 124 died. Out of 124 children, 94 perished. The sinking was rapid and occurred in about 18 minutes. The torpedo was bad enough and could have finished the job, but there was a secondary explosion, (probably due to a boiler explosion or coal dust) which made a quick kill of the vessel. The ship listed to it's side, which made lowering lifeboats difficult to impossible. Out of 48 lifeboats, only six could be successfully launched. One lifeboat had it's ropes break as it was being lowered and spilled it's occupants into the sea (Depicted in McCay's cartoon) Another was "launched" by the sea itself and not by seamen when the boat floated free of the sinking ship. Another lifeboat sank as soon as it hit the water, because it's bottom plug was left open, treating it's occupants to a cold bath. It was a chaotic evacuation. There was plenty of room in some of the lifeboats and it was possible to rescue some of the many people who had jumped or fallen into the water. ================================================ The American press and public opinion did not take well to this incident, however the loss of "only" 159 Americans was not considered by many to be enough of a provocation to overcome the strong isolationist sentiment. Many felt that those who traveled on that ship had assumed the risk in light of the public travel warnings. Most Americans wanted no part of that European war, and Woodrow Wilson made non-intervention a part of his platform in the Presidential election of 1916. Back then Americans did not imagine themselves as any kind of global cop, nor did we have a massive peacetime military. The British were having a tough time of it by then, and there has been a lot of speculation that they wanted America to join as their allies, whether by hook or by crook. Churchill wrote in a letter at the time: "It is most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores in the hope especially of embroiling the United States with Germany . . . . For our part we want the traffic — the more the better; and if some of it gets into trouble, better still." The Lusitania lacked the usual escort protection from destroyers and Q ships, even though several such ships were in dock and available. The First World War was the breeding ground for the modern day concept of a "conspiracy theory" as the explanation for why, when and how wars start and end. The vast and senseless carnage made people question "official accounts" and the good faith of their own governments and institutions. Commentators, polemicists, propagandists and bar room philosophers all joined in and offered up suspects ranging from the Rothschild bankers (and along with that a lot of anti-Semitism), the Morgans and Mellons to munitions manufacturers. So many felt like powerless pawns and that their own leaders were but puppets and stooges to a moneyed cabal that starts and stops wars from behind the scenes for profit and power. Henry Ford himself was influenced by such ideas when his "peace ship" mission failed- resulting in a chapter to his biography that caused much public relations embarrassment later. Such conspiracy thinking continues to this day and represents one of the enduring effects and fallout of WW1.
  7. Hi slaytonf! It gets very, very complicated over there! The Balkan region features two important civilisational fault lines: ethnicity and religion. It is impossible to draw a neat boundary line separating two peoples over there, and ethnic states have overlapping territorial claims upon one another based upon past history. The area also has conflict stemming from Catholic (Croats) vs. Eastern Orthodox (Serbs and Russians). Add Islam to the mix (Bosniaks and Albanians), as well as the long sad history of mutual massacres- and you have a lot of gasoline vapor in the air! The Balkans is the political San Andreas fault of Europe; you know the "big one" is going to hit someday; we just don't know when! There are points you raised that I would like to address further, but it's getting late! Tomorrow!
  8. Thanks slytonf! This map shows the alliances of 1914. As you can see, there were not too many neutral states, hence it was a domino effect if and when the "Central Powers" got into a spat with one of the green colored nations. (In this case, it was caused by a declaration of war between Austria and Serbia ) Such arrangements put Germany at risk for a two front war. Poland was a part of the Russian Empire, and so Russia and Germany were adjacent states. Austria was not really geared up for large scale war with Russia, who played the role of Serbia's "protector". The Austrians relied on assurance of support from Germany. Once Russia mobilised, then so did France it's ally. The rest is all history, folly and tragedy. (Note the helpful inset of a map of Illinois, provided to give Americans a sense of the relative size of these nations,) Austrian emperor Franz Josef's nephew "Archduke Franz Ferdinand" and his "morganatic" wife Sophie (*) were assassinated in Sarajevo a 100 years ago by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist. Bosnia was part of the Austrian Empire. The elderly Emperor wanted blood and handed the Serbs an ultimatum. I don't know if it was vengeance or opportunism (thinking that he now has the excuse to gobble up Serbia); maybe both! The Serbs were not pleased with Austria's annexation of Bosnia in 1908, as many of their nationals lived there and they dreamed of a "Greater Serbia" that included Bosnia and which extended to the Adriatic. (They had the same idea in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990's) As one from that part of the world, I can attest to the fact that nationalist dreams and bitterness die hard over there, if ever. People there have very, very long historical memories; they are not wont to forgive or forget! That region was always a powderkeg and could be the place of future conflict still. WW1 is anything but "ancient history" to those peoples! In their eyes, many scores remain to be settled. (*) Morganatic. Sounds like a terrible disease, but not really; just a term rarely used in today's world. This was a form of "pre-nup" imposed on someone who wanted to marry above their station into royalty or nobility. The "morganatic" spouse agreed either give up the title that usually went with such a marriage, or agree that the resulting children would not inherit the title. In this case, the Emperor Franz Josef felt that Sophie was riff raff, being just a mere countess! He felt that his nephew deserved no less than a titled princess or queen. Sophie had to agree that her children would not inherit the title of emperor upon the old man's passing.
  9. Hi Palmerin, Many bad results came from that war. In a future post I will elaborate what they were, given that I'll have have enough time and enrgy to do so! Many bad political effects, but possibly the worse was the worldwide influenza epidemic that claimed 50 million lives. I believe this was a proximate result of the war itself- there was a breakdown in public health, nutrition and sanitation that helped the virus to spread, given that so many immune systems were vulnerable.
  10. Sorry I mistyped your name! I caught it and fixed it!
  11. Hi Hibi, Thanks for reviving this thread! The subject of WW1 is profound, and yet our collective understanding and memory of it has faded. This war was a pandora's box! It had terrible long term consequences that continue to this day and may possibly continue into the future.
  12. Was Kaiser Willie as bad as this? Was he the original "Axis Of Evil", a megalomaniac wanting all nations and peoples to bow down to him? The background is eerily reminiscent of of the flag of one of Germany's future allies- Japan. Puttin' that poor Devil out of work! The closest he ever came to a mea culpa: "My conscience stands clear before God and history; I did not want the war." =========================================================== My assessment of Kaiser Wilhelm II was that he was an ambitious and opportunistic militarist and imperialist. He took advantage of what situations he could in the building of Germany's colonial empire, which spanned Africa and Asia, while mostly respecting existing British and French spheres of influence. One interesting example is the Spanish American War of 1898. Spain's colonial possessions were up for grabs, and he saw an opportunity to take the Philippines, a Spanish colony. There was a German cruiser off the coast of Luzon (the largest island) and a local pro German Philippine militia was armed and recruited, but then American Admiral Dewey showed up in Manila with greater force and the Kaiser wisely backed off. I do not believe that his ambitions matched the megalomania of Hitler, who was motivated by an apocalyptic geopolitics (among other things). Hitler believed that Germany did not have enough territory to be self-sufficient hence large territory had to be secured by the invasion of Russia. He believed that if more territory wasn't secured, his nation and people would be doomed. The goal was the vast agricultural resources of the Ukraine and the largest known oil deposits in the Caucasus, near Baku. There is a big difference between thinking that it would be nice to get away with the stealing of a candy bar, vs. believing that the your very destiny and survival depends on the stealing of a candy bar! That schematically, is the essential difference in motivations between Wilhelm and Hitler as it pertained to conquest. The Kaiser too ended up occupying much of the Ukraine, but to him it was a spoil of war, the byproduct of an unfortunate conflict with Russia. For Hitler, the invasion of Russia was his dream and goal. He didn't want to do it so much as he believed he had to do it! Seen in hindsight, it was a terrible strategic miscalculation for Wilhelm to side with Austria in it's trumped up dispute with Serbia. A Balkan spat wasn't worth the risk of a 2 front war with France and Russia. He should have told the Austrians to settle the matter with Serbia peacefully, or risk losing Germany's support. Had Vienna gotten that message from Berlin the Austrians would have had to back down or risk singlehandedly having to fight Russia (Serbia's ally) alone without Germany's help. It was the Austrians who were behaving recklessly, and they behaved recklessly because they assumed unconditional German support. Wilhelm had great commercial ambitions for his country, as well as a desire to build up a navy rivaling Britain, then the ruler of the seas. This did not sit well with the British ruling class and likely prompted them to take sides against Germany in 1914. Germany was feared as economic and military competition. The arms race that went on prior to the war gave hubris to various leaders, most of all the Kaiser, who was more than ready to have any excuse to try out his new toys and gain some spoils of conquest in the process. Wilhelm didn't do enough to defuse the conflict, because I believe he welcomed the "opportunity". Therein lay his downfall; the Grand Opportunist and Gambler miscalculated, "bet the farm", lost the farm and ended up in exile sawing his own logs on a farm.
  13. Thanks Fred, you're amazing! The resulting English subtitles are off a bit, but that's because I've never sen any language translation software that produces really good results. Translating one language into another would require a very complex algorithm, needing to cover all possible idiomatic expressions, multiple meanings etc. But it's very helpful- better than nothing if you don't know German. I agree about the historical value. On another thread, you were discussing contemporary references and sources (Meaning sources from the historical time period in question) Even when they are biased or skewed, they bear some kind of witness to the time itself. One certainly gets that sense from this film!
  14. Hi Fred, I tried that, but the only language choice I see offered is Estonian, which around here, doesn't help very much. I don't see English offered as a menu choice.
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