LIFE LESSONS FROM THE ICONIC CELLULOID BITCH
The One and Only Bette Davis
by Sheri Warren Sankner

1. Iconic Bette DavisWhat can you say about Bette Davis and her devilishly entertaining career that spanned some 50 years of Hollywood’s golden age? She was called the “First Lady of American Film” and while only 5’3”, her personality was larger than life. Bold, brash and ballsy both on and off-screen, Davis became known as much for her scandalous affairs and bitter feuds with Hollywood rivals like Joan Crawford as for her Academy Award-winning acting. It was rumored she had affairs with George Brent, William Wyler, and billionaire Howard Hughes, among others. She was married four times, three of which ended in divorce, and always said that her career always came first. Her large, piercing trademark eyes inspired a #1 song in 1981, Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes.” She had numerous biographies written about and even penned her own story, but it was her daughter Barbara “B.D.” Hyman 1985 tell-all book, “My Mother’s Keeper,” that painted her as a ruthless bully who faked attempted suicides for sympathy.

2. Davis and HowardDavis once said “old age is no place for sissies,” though no one would’ve ever dared call her such a timid or fragile creature no matter her age. On-screen she played up her deliciously evil, sarcastic, and sardonic personality. Her powerful, outspoken, unapologetic, go-for-it-all female roles were just as devious, scheming and selfish as any male. Davis earned star status with “The Man Who Played God” (1932), known as the actress that could play a variety of very strong and complex roles. But it was the role of Mildred Rogers in “Of Human Bondage” in 1934 that would finally give her major acclaim from the film critics, but resulted in a Best Actress nomination snub.

Davis sought the part of Mildred aggressively, feeling that it could be her breakout role after years of starring in Warner Brothers films that weren’t furthering her career. She begged studio chief Jack L. Warner to let her out of her contract so she could make the film. He relented, misguidedly thinking she would fail. When her standout performance sparked Oscar buzz, Warner went on the offensive with a spite campaign encouraging academy members not to vote for her.

3. Davis and MerrillDavis fans and supporters protested though and she garnered significant write-in votes for the Best Actress nod though she lost to Claudette Colbert for “It Happened One Night.” After that incident, write-in votes were never allowed again and the academy handed over the counting of the results to PriceWaterhouse, who still does the official counting.

Davis finally received her first Oscar for her role of Joyce Heath in 1935’s “Dangerous.” The one role that got away from her was Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.” Warner Brothers wouldn’t allow David O. Selznick to use her unless Errol Flynn played Rhett Butler.

4. Of Human BondageAdapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s 1915 novel, “Of Human Bondage” was a meaty role for Davis who reveled in the trashy, selfish waitress, playing opposite Leslie Howard’s Philip Carey, a club-footed young man who leaves art to study medicine. He is obsessed by the vulgar, low-class Cockney-accented blonde. He is smitten, even though she shows him nothing but disdain, repugnance and cruelty. Mildred is a manipulative, exploitative, two-timing, shrewish woman who distracts him from his studies and later more sympathetic love interests. When he proposes, she refuses and tells him that she will instead marry a salesman named Emil Miller (played by Alan Hale). The self-centered Mildred vindictively berates love-struck Philip with nasty insults proclaiming, “You dirty swine! I never cared for you, not once. I was always makin’ a fool of ya. Ya bored me stiff. I hated ya. It made me sick when I had to let ya kiss me. I only did it because ya begged me. Ya hounded me and drove me crazy! And after you kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! Wipe my mouth!”

5. Another Man's Poison PosterThe bumpy ride continues in “Another Man’s Poison,” based on a play by Leslie Sands. On the heels of their success and newfound love in “All About Eve,” Davis and husband Gary Merrill made this independent film noir feature set in an isolated house on the English Moors. Adulterous mystery writer Janet Frobisher is involved in murderous relationships. “Another Man’s Poison” is a sordid tale of murder, deception, and desire masterfully played by Davis and Merrill, one of three feature films the husband and wife made together.

Ironically, Davis’ Janet Frobisher kills her estranged husband with poison. When his bank robber partner, George Bates (played by Merrill) comes calling, Janet confesses the murder to George. As they are trying to dispose of the body, George conveniently passes himself off as the Himalayan-traveling husband to Janet’s nosey neighbor, her illicit lover and his fiancé (who just happens to be her secretary). Plot twists and turns and plenty of deception keep both Davis and Merrill on their toes. Finally, when George kills Janet’s beloved horse Fury, the only thing she truly loves, Janet plans to get rid of him once and for all. The dialogue is fast-paced and edgy, reinforcing the cat-and-mouse game the leads are playing. It’s Bette Davis at her bitchy and brutal best!

Check out both Davis films now on MovieZoot.com here.

CAN STORIES OF DEATH BE HEALTHY?
“Death in Small Doses”
by Chris Hoey

1. Lead Image Death in Small Doses image 1Shakespeare’s Macbeth and his Lady longed for power at any cost. They set the bar very high for notorious couples seeking shortcuts to the top. “Death in Small Doses” provides another twist on tales of taking the easy way. What is it that captures our attention about the idea of a trusted partner, providing the deadly poison that defeats the soul and spirit before delivering a deadly blow? Is it he betrayal? What do we love about stories of those who risk it all to get more than their fair share? What happens when a person finally finds their soulmate, but knows nothing of the darkest shadows of that mate’s soul?

History is filled with true stories of betrayal and murder. A man in Boston was convicted in 2004 of murdering his wife with antifreeze-laced Gatorade. The 2000 death sentence of a California woman was upheld by the California Supreme Court when they found that her sentence was fair for the murder of her husband. She carried it out with a concoction of oleander tea and antifreeze. He was her fourth husband. There must be more to these stories than the satisfaction of justice being served. There is always an element that somewhere, someone has “gotten away with it.”

2. Norman Mailer - Death in Small Doses image 2Norman Mailer, reportedly quipped “Let’s get out of here. I think this guy is innocent. I thought we were going to be having dinner with a man who actually tried to kill his wife. This is boring,” when Alan Dershowitz described how Claus Von Bulow had not actually attempted to murder his wife with a lethal dose of insulin. Sunny Von Bulow’s story was depicted in 1990’s “Reversal of Fortune,” with Jeremy Irons playing the husband who seems so likely to have done it. By the end of the film, you are not relieved to find that he was innocent. Instead, you wonder how justice could be blind to Von Bulow’s obviously oozing guilt. Irons won both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for his portrayal of the innocent man who seemed so rightly accused.

3. Richard Thomas - Death in Small Doses image 3“Death in Small Doses” adds another twisted tale of deception and disloyalty to these stories we love. Richard Thomas, of “The Waltons” plays the husband accused of killing his wife. The film plays with his fame as “John Boy,” perhaps one of the most trusted and upstanding characters in American television.  He is perfectly cast as the husband who presents evidence that his wife, who conveniently suffered from clinical depression, committed suicide. Tess Harper, plays the Assistant D.A, who is determined to uncover the truth. Harper went on to play roles in “No Country For Old Men”, 1986’s “Crimes of the Heart,” and 1997’s “The Jackal,” with Bruce Willis and Richard Gere.

4. Cain & Abel - Death in Small Doses image 4From the first fatal betrayal by Cain to the political betrayals that emerge daily from Washington DC, nothing captures the public’s attention like the intrigue of the treacherous former friend and lover. Our stories explore the depths to which greed can drive us. Maybe we love these stories because they reinforce, ultimately, our sense of what’s right and wrong. We love our stories of death in small doses to keep our sense of morality healthy.

Watch Death in Small Does on MovieZoot.com here.

MARLENE DIETRICH IN “THE BLUE ANGEL”
When She’s Just Not That Into You
by John Francis

1. Marlene in The Blue AngelCalling the great German actress Marlene Dietrich merely a temptress in “The Blue Angel” is like calling Donald Trump a divisive man.

The 1929 film, the first major German “talkie,” was directed by acclaimed German director Josef von Sternberg, who took a chance on the young actress and essentially made her (or perhaps more correctly, gave her the opportunity to become) a major international star. Sternberg later claimed that he had “discovered” Dietrich. They also became romantically involved and eventually made six films together.

“The Blue Angel” was actually supposed to be a star vehicle for German actor Emil Jannings, who was a silent film star and won the first Academy Award for Best Actor for two films, the Sternberg-directed “The Last Command” and “The Way of All Flesh.”

But it was Dietrich’s magnetic personality and overt sensuousness and sexuality that took over the film and made her a star. Jannings’ career actually took a nosedive after that, particularly since his heavy German accent didn’t translate well to sound motion pictures and his later embrace of the Nazis made him a pariah in Hollywood.

2. Marlene and Emil JanningsIt didn’t help that in “The Blue Angel,” his character, Professor Immanuel Rath, at first a steadfast and self-righteous teacher and keeper of morals, especially those of his students, becomes a downtrodden, obsessed, jealous and humiliated shell of a man due to his love and obsession for Dietrich’s seductive and wanton cabaret performer Lola Lola.

His Prof. Rath goes from being a respected and admired academician to basically a roundly scorned and humiliated clown working in a cabaret, The Blue Angel of the title. Sternberg described the story as “the downfall of an enamored man,” calling the professor “a figure of self-satisfied dignity brought low.”

Lola, despite or perhaps because of, her almost callous indifference to him, takes a shine to the chivalrous educator, who doesn’t seem to care that she’s a lowly cabaret performer with loose morals and a seeming disdain for men who lust for her nightly. He’s besotted, which, of course, will lead to his eventual sad demise.

Dietrich is said to have been the prototype for the sleek and deadly “femme fatale” (fatal women) that became popular in the film noir genre of the 30s and 40s. While later femme fatales used their wiles and sexuality for nefarious ends, such as gaining money or favors, Dietrich’s Lola is not out for money or property, in fact, she doesn’t seem to have an endgame other than to string the hapless professor along and use and abuse him. Against all rationality, they actually get married, which doesn’t exactly go the way the good professor had imagined.

The late renowned film critic Roger Ebert, perhaps like many viewers of the film, found this puzzling.

“There are times when she seems fond of him, times when she is indifferent, times when she is unfaithful, and yet she has a certain stubborn affection for this pathetic figure,” he writes in his 2001 review of the English language version. “Perhaps he acts as a front for her shadow life of discreet prostitution; perhaps, in a world that regards her as a tramp, she values the one man who idealizes her.”

3. The Blue Angel PosterMatthew, a blogger with classicartfilms.com, came to the same conclusion, that “she probably was fond of him and had some form of sweet affection towards him. I also believe it was because he was one of the few men in her life who regarded her less as a tramp or a prostitute and more as a human being. There are times in which she seems to care for the professor’s feelings and then the next minute she can coldly be indifferent to them by being openly unfaithful.”

He also says that the song that Lola sings at the end of the film, “sums up her character perfectly and how she embodies the perfect all-dominant female sexual creature; a dangerous woman who can naturally move from one male victim to another, always feeling completely indifferent about it.”

The song is “Falling in Love Again,” which is used in the finale of the American version of the film because it wasn’t as dark as the German language version, which has the professor, destitute and filled with remorse, dying at the desk he used to teach from at his former school.

In it, Dietrich sings, “I can’t help it … Men swarm around me like moths round a flame … And if their wings are singed, surely I can’t be blamed …Falling in love again …Never wanted to … What’s a girl to do?”

What’s a girl like Lola to do, indeed?

Watch The Blue Angel on MovieZoot.com here.

Feuding Couples – “One of these days, Alice!”

A really great Hollywood script always has sexual tension between the characters in a film – it’s just part of the box office (and television) formula – because we are all experiencing the same feelings. Maybe not to the extent of some movies or programs, but nevertheless, we can all relate to the “battle of the sexes.”

This week, MovieZoot.com explores this tension by featuring four films from our archives that exhibit this tension to new levels as we present, Bette Davis and Gary Merrill in Another Man’s Poison, Richard Thomas and Tess Harper in Death in Small Doses, Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings in The Blue Angel, and Bette Davis and Leslie Howard in Of Human Bondage.

If you are single, these movies help remind you why you are!

Yours truly,

MovieZoot.com
Where you’ll find Movies you love with Stars you know.

Another Man’s Poison

Another Man’s Poison is the 1951 Irving Rapper black & white drama/mystery starring then real-life couple Bette Davis and Gary Merrill where a mystery writer is confronted with the entangled and complex relationships of her past and her present sexually-charged preoccupations.

Death in Small Doses

Death In Small Doses is the 1995 Sondra Locke drama starring Richard Thomas and Tess Harper where a wife mysteriously falls ill and dies by apparent arsenic poisoning. As the police investigation heats up, the woman’s husband becomes the prime suspect, and exposes a terrible family secret that ultimately reveals the identity of the killer.

The Blue Angel

The Blue Angel is the classic black & white Josef von Sternberg musical drama starring Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron and Emil Jannings telling the story of loneliness and obsession that doesn’t end well for a German prep-school teacher who falls for the love of his life at a cabaret theatre.

Of Human Bondage

Of Human Bondage is the 1934 black & white John Cromwell romance/drama starring Leslie Howard and Bette Davis telling the manipulative story of an impetuous woman who wreaks havoc on her life-long admirer, only to have karma come a-calling in the end.

“GOD’S GUN”:
Corralling Three Tough Cowboys to Make One Helluva Film
by Sheri Warren Sankner

1. cross1976 saw the release of “God’s Gun” (also known as “Diamante Lobo”), an Italian–Israeli Spaghetti Western filmed in Israel and directed by Gianfranco Parolini (credited as Frank Kramer). The film starred several veteran stars famous in the Western film genre, most notably Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance and Richard Boone. Any Western that corrals the talents and charisma of these three popular actors just has to be a memorable one.

2. Lee Van Cleef 1Van Cleef plays a dual role of twin brothers, a priest-turned-vigilante named Father John and his reformed gunslinger brother Lewis. Palance plays Sam Clayton, the leader of a sadistic group of Wild West bandits and rapists, who terrorize the town of Juno City. Boone portrays an aging, drunk, ineffective Sheriff in the small town, who is unable to protect his townspeople from the Clayton gang.

The story follows Father John, who is killed trying to uphold some semblance of justice in his sleepy little town, following the invasion of Clayton’s band of criminals. One of his young parishioners vows to avenge his death, by traveling to Mexico to seek the help of Father John’s brother. Together, they return to clear the town of all the violence once and for all. Great plot executed by a great cast!

3. God's GunA Cast of Characters Like No Other
During his career, the steely-eyed, hawk-nosed Van Cleef was revered as one of the all-time great movie villains, first in Westerns and then later in action films and martial arts. He began his career as an accountant after serving in the U.S. Navy aboard minesweepers and sub chasers during World War II. He became involved in amateur theatre. His performance in the touring company of “Mr. Roberts” was seen by Stanley Kramer, who cast him as henchman Jack Colby in “High Noon” (1952), a role that brought him considerable recognition despite the fact that he didn’t speak a word of dialogue. Rumor has it that Kramer wanted him to originally play deputy Harvey Pell, but first Van Cleef would to have his trademark nose fixed. Van Cleef declined to alter his looks and played the silent gunslinger instead. In the mid 1960s, Sergio Leone cast him as Col. Mortimer opposite Clint Eastwood in “For a Few Dollars More” (1965). A new career as a western hero (or anti-hero) was launched, and Van Cleef became known as an international movie star. His career culminated in 1966 with Leone’s “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” In his roles in “God’s Gun,” Van Cleef demonstrated his acting chops and ability to juggle two demanding parts with skill and finesse.

4. Jack PalanceAnother memorable character actor on television and on the silver screen, Palance was a two-time Oscar nominee and Oscar winner for “City Slickers.” Proving his vitality and humor at the ripe old age of 73, Palance took to the floor, performing a series of one-armed push-ups on stage as he accepted the Best Supporting Actor Award in 1992. The son of a Ukrainian immigrant coal miner, he was born Volodymyr Palahnyuk. His career included stints as a miner, professional boxer, short-order cook, fashion model, lifeguard, and radio repairman. During WWII, he piloted bombers in U.S. Army Air Corps. His bomber crashed, knocking him unconscious and giving him severe burns. These injuries led to extensive surgery on his face, resulting in his characteristic gaunt, pinched look. Despite the haggard and hollow-cheeked appearance of a villain, Palance always had a bit of a comical, hammy edge to his acting prowess which was even visible in his role in “God’s Gun.”

5. Richard Boone 1After being expelled from Stanford University, Boone worked as an oil-field laborer, boxer, painter and freelance writer before becoming an actor. After WWII, Boone used the GI Bill to train at the Actors’ Studio, making his Broadway debut at 31 in “Medea.” Signed to a 20th Century-Fox contract in 1951, Boone’s first feature was “Halls of Montezuma.” From 1957 through 1963, Boone portrayed Paladin, an educated western soldier of fortune, on the popular western TV series “Have Gun, Will Travel.” A master of over 50 films and numerous TV series, Boone was cast in a pretty minor role as the drunken sheriff in “God’s Gun.” While he adds a brief bit of snarling menace to the film, his performance was affected by his late-career health issues. He later died in 1981 from throat cancer. Film insiders claim that after a drunken argument he walked off the film set and left the location before he had recorded all his dialog. Hence, his voice was dubbed.

Watch God’s Gun now on Moviezoot.com here!

AMERICA’S HEROES ON HORSEBACK
Randolph Scott in “Rage at Dawn”
by Chris Hoey

1. Rage at Dawn poster copyFollowing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans felt a loss – a loss of loved ones and the brave first responders, but also a loss of the sense of our vulnerability, a loss of our identity.

Americans have always identified themselves as the strongest, the best, the owners the high moral ground. When we face a loss of identity, to whom do we look to find our national persona? We seem to have rediscovered ourselves in the Western. If there is an American identity, it can be found sitting astride a leather saddle in films like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” “Tombstone, Last of the Mohicans” and 2018’s “Hostiles,” as well as “Rage at Dawn,” featuring Randolph Scott.

Heroes on horseback are not new to national identities. The Bedouin warriors of the famous 1001 Nights, or Odysseus’ famous horse used to win the battle of Troy seem embedded in the human DNA. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table provided a code for western civilization to follow. Where do we find our Knights in Shining Armor? American celluloid heroes on horseback hold a special place in our national identity.

2. Randolph Scott 2We look to the model set by the Lone Ranger when we find a righteous member of an enemy tribe – accept and form a strong partnership toward share goals. We admire the cowboy who takes on the impossible task and succeeds – giving up is not an option. We borrowed “pistols at dawn” from our British ancestors and we made it a showdown in the dusty town square outside the saloon. Our cowboys hold a mystical quality, like Curly from the film “City Slickers,” who reminds us all to focus on the “one thing.” Mel Brooks irreverently celebrated our national identity as well as our love of baked beans in “Blazing Saddles.” Our Marlboro Man helped prop up the tobacco industry in the U.S. for decades as the ideal American Man.

3. Randolph Scott 3“Rage at Dawn,” featuring Randolph Scott, highlights all the ideals of our national identity. There’s a tight family bond, but a belief in justice that trumps all. It’s a classic tale of the lone lawman versus the corrupt gang of outlaws. One lone cowboy, resolute in his righteousness, is able to infiltrate the gang that terrorizes this southern Indiana town soon after the Civil War.

4. Randolph ScottWhen the chips are down we can be sure that our hero will appear, take care of the black-hatted villain and ride off into the sunset, leaving behind a strong sense of who we are. Who was that masked man? It was all of us, more interested in seeking justice than we are of seeking celebrity and fame.

While the hero on horseback may be in the DNA of people the world over, Americans find their heroes in jeans.

Watch Rage at Dawn now on Moviezoot.com here!

INSIDE THE MAKING OF “RED RIVER”:
How the Feud Between Duke and Monty Almost Derailed One of the Best Westerns Ever Made
by John Francis

1. Red River Lead ImageWesterns used to be a staple of American movie theaters, as much as charismatic gangsters, conflicted private eyes and gorgeous femme fatales.

The biggest names in filmdom starred in these “oaters,” including James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Alan Ladd, Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy, Audie Murphy, Lee Marvin, Dana Andrews, Jeffrey Hunter, Victor Mature, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Dean Martin, Dan Duryea, Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott and the biggest name in Westerns, John “Duke” Wayne.

Even female actresses got a lot of screen time, and not just as wives or girlfriends, but as strong individual characters with spine, grit and grace: Maureen O’Hara, Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwick, Rhonda Fleming, Marie Windsor, Olivia de Haviland, Jane Russell, Maureen O’Sullivan, Vera Miles, Joanne Dru, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Linda Darnell, and Vera Miles.

Renowned directors made their names with their iconic Westerns, including John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Sturges, Fred Zinneman, Nicholas Ray, Raoul Walsh, William Wellman, Anthony Mann, Robert Aldrich, Samuel Fuller, and even such out-of-left-field names such as Fritz Lang (“Metropolis”), Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”) and Cecil B. DeMille (“Sunset Boulevard”).

And later, directors Sam Peckinpah, Robert Altman, Walter Hill, Sergio Leone, Kevin Costner, Don Siegel, and, of course, Clint Eastwood, who made a half a dozen great Westerns, including one of the best ever, “Unforgiven,” which garnered him two Oscars, made a name with their Westerns.

Two of the biggest names in Hollywood and one of the greatest Hollywood directors joined forces for a film in 1948, one that looked like it could be trouble from the start, but which actually benefitted from the combustible chemistry of its stars and director.

The resulting film, “Red River,” is considered one of the best westerns ever made, even though it could have been derailed before it even started.

For one, there was an issue between Hawks and actor John Ireland and his drinking and his lecherous behavior, as well as a love triangle involving Ireland, Hawks and actress Joanne Dru, that caused tension on set.

But the real conflict was between the big, brawny Wayne and the sensitive, moody Clift, an actor who was a student of the Method system of acting and whose political views were diametrically opposed to Wayne’s. Also, although not publically known at the time, Clift was bisexual, while Wayne was a right-wing Republican, although it’s not known if he knew about the rumors of Clift’s sexuality.

Wayne didn’t believe the slight Clift was “manly” enough to stand up to his rugged physique and character, especially in the final fight scene. His mind changed after his first few scenes with Clift, who was an excellent actor, but they still kept their distance and never interacted after their scenes were over.

In fact, Clift rarely took part in the nightly poker games, where he said “they laughed and drank and told dirty jokes and slapped each other on the back. They tried to draw me into their circle but I couldn’t go along with them. The machismo thing repelled me because it seemed so forced and unnecessary.”

Clift didn’t warm to Hawks either and later turned down Dean Martin’s role in “Rio Bravo” (1959) because he did not want to be reunited with Wayne, Hawk and actor Walter Brennan, who also didn’t like Clift.

Later, Wayne said in an interview with Life Magazine, that Clift was “an arrogant little bastard.”

Clift not only survived all the tension and hostility on the set, but also turned in a great star-making performance, especially in scenes with the larger-than-life Wayne. In fact, Clift’s character Matt Garth could be seen as the heart and soul of the movie. Wayne’s character, Thomas Dunson, was cruel, dictatorial and not well liked, one of Wayne’s rare non-hero good-guy roles (his role in “The Searchers” being the epitome).

Red River EndingAmerican Film Institute ranked “Red River” as the #5 best western in 2008 and Roger Ebert considered it one of the greatest Western films of all time. And, if not for a ludicrous ending that wrapped the film up in a laughably happy bow, its stock might be higher.

In screenwriter Borden Chase’s original Saturday Evening Post story, Wayne’s character is shot dead at the end, while his screenplay has a dying Dunson escorted home so he could die on Texas soil. Chase vigorously objected to Howard Hawks’ change to the ending, but to no avail. Hawks claimed the problem with the ending, which has drawn the most criticism, was not the scene itself but the way Joanne Dru played it. Wayne’s lofty position in Hollywood probably had a lot to do with the happy ending.

Watch Red River now on Moviezoot.com here!

 

The Kings of the Westerns

Many of us grew up with a romantic notion of the old west as we were bombarded with a seemingly endless supply of Western movies and Television shows. The movies released in the 40s, 50s and 60s on through till the mid 70s were peppered with Hollywood’s Western storytelling and the leading men of those Westerns were the heroes to many a young boy.

This week, MovieZoot looks at four of these iconic actors who could very well be considered The Kings of the Westerns, including John Wayne in Red River; Randolph Scott in Rage at Dawn; Lee Van Cleef in God’s Gun; and even a very young Roy Rogers in 1940’s The Carson City Kid.

So fire up that popcorn maker and re-live your childhood fantasies with these great movies and the dynamic actors that defined the concept in our minds of the Western Hero.

Red River

Red River is the 1948 Howard Hawks western drama starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru and Walter Brennan telling the story of a stubborn cattleman in Texas and his adopted son as they each try to make a success in cattle-farming in the depressed south.

Rage at Dawn

Rage at Dawn is the 1955 Tim Whelan western dram starring Randolph Scott, Forrest Tucker, Denver Pyle and J. Carrol Naish telling the Post-Civil War story of the siblings of an outlaw Indiana farming family and their struggles as bank-robbers and train robbers.

God’s Gun

God’s Gun is the 1976 Gianfranco Parolini spaghetti western drama staring Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance, Richard Boon and Leif Garrett as a gang of outlaws headed by a priest iin the thick of it with murder, jail-breaks, gun-fights, illegitimacy, boarder-bouncing and politics. Sound familiar?

The Carson City Kid

The Carson City Kid is the 1940 Joseph Kane Western comedy action film starring Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, Noah Beery, Jr. and Francis McDonald telling the story of murder, bounty hunting, saloons and a gold-mining codger seeking a cowboy’s quest for vengeance for the murder of his brother.

EPIC STORY OF BEATING THE ODDS:
Band of British Soldiers Conquer an Entire Nation in “Zulu”
by Chris Hoey

1. Zulu Movie PosterIn 2006, Hollywood brought us a tale of bravely beating the odds with the film “The 300,” which told the tale of the a small, but skilled Spartan fighting force as they clashed with three hundred thousand invading Persians.

The 1964 Cy Endfield War/Drama film “Zulu” tells the tale based more in reality than legend, of a British colonial force of half the size of the mythic 300, as they fight off a fierce tribe of attacking Zulus in southern Africa. Grounded on the true story of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, in January of 1879, this film chronicles the story of the conflict that led to eleven prestigious Victoria Crosses being awarded to British soldiers.

2. Zulu NationWhy do we love stories about the underdog who fights on despite having little chance of victory? We love stories that confirm the idea that skill, training, hard work, and discipline can contribute to a clear purpose on the side of justice and morality to bolster a side that cannot lose.

Michael Caine’s character undergoes a transformation in this film even as Caine’s career transformed into that of a major film star. Concerned that his nerves got the better of him during the audition, Caine became convinced that he had lost the role when he felt snubbed by the director at a coincidental meeting at a dinner party. n the end, though, his skill and dedication helped Caine parlay the role into his entrance into big films.

3. Michael Caine in ZuluCaine’s transformation from a nervous novice is not the only change in this film. The savage Zulu fighting force, who uses weapons stolen from dead British soldiers, takes a cowardly offensive on the British field hospital. The Zulus not only use the British weapons against the British, they also attack the men who are already at a disadvantage – hardly a fair fight. The British cling to the values they brought to the ‘dark continent.’ The story of “Zulu” takes a surprising turn, validating the victors’ cause. The Zulus, in the end, will abandon their villainous ways in favor of the valor shown them by the smaller British force who fought for God and Country.

4. Battle of Rorke's DriftWe root for the underdog because we believe they should win. It’s not just the story of how they overcame the odds that drives us, but the firm belief that the underdog deserves to win. In stories from the Trojan wars to the stories of the British Empire rooted in the ideals of spreading fairness and valor for God and country, it is not merely the side of the underdog we love, it is the side of the moral and just that we love.

Watch Zulu now on Moviezoot.com here!

“THE CENTURION”:
Who Are The Modern Day Mercenaries?
by Sheri Warren Sankner

1. Centurion Movie PosterFor as long as there have been wars for global domination, there have been mercenaries or “Soldiers of Fortune,” who trade their allegiance to the highest bidders and effectively kill for a profit as guns for hire. In popular old movies like 1961’s “The Centurion” we discover the mercenaries of Greco-Roman sword and sandal days. Based in part on factual, historic events, this emotional drama has all of the earmarks of a classic war story – filled with adventure, romance, and epic fight scenes with thousands of extras.

Directed by Mario Costa, “The Centurion” follows a Roman imperial gladiator, named Caius Vinicius (Jacques Sernas), who is sent on a diplomatic mission to Greece. Charged with the task of convincing the Greeks to accept Roman rule, he is opposed by freedom advocates. However, the gladiator falls in love with Hebe (Genevieve Grad), the daughter of the head of the anti-Roman faction, the astute Critolaus (Gianni Santuccio). The wounded Centurion is saved by Hebe, who is being wooed by the ruler’s second-in-command, the nasty Diaeus (John Drew Barrymore). After double-crosses and betrayals, Caius Vinicius is tortured and jailed. Hebe agrees to marry Diaeus if he will save the Roman’s life but then a Roman army comes to fight the Corinthian forces and all hell literally breaks loose.

The historic Battle of Corinth was fought between the Roman Republic and the Greek state of Corinth and its allies in the Achaean League in 146 BC. It brought the complete and total destruction of the wealthy state of Corinth. The 140s BC was a decade when Rome proved its military superiority to its neighbors. In 146 BC the Romans stormed the city of Carthage and set it ablaze. The Romans spent the spring of 146 taunting the Greeks. That winter a group of Greek cities retaliated against Rome, leading to a war that doomed the city of Corinth. During these grand battles, the Romans often hired mercenaries including Cretan archers. After meeting in various battles, the Romans recognized their proficiency and they hired the mercenaries themselves.

2. New MercenariesWho are the new mercenaries?
Today, hired mercenaries and private military contractors (PMCs) are helping countries wage war like never before. Governments draw upon their defense and training expertise and ability to mount offensives on behalf of their clients – all with “plausible deniability” and no blood on their own hands. PMCs represent billion dollar multinational corporations with stakes on Wall Street. Their boards contain business and financial magnates and former generals. Their ranks contain ex-military and law-enforcement personnel recruited globally. They are hired by governments, the private sector, and humanitarian organizations and even boast their own industry trade associations: the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) in Washington, D.C., the British Association of Private Security Companies in London, and the Private Security Company Association of Iraq.

Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and associate professor at National Defense University, claims private armies have experienced a resurgence in the past 25 years. McFate is a former contractor and author of the book, “The Modern Mercenary.” Companies like DynCorp and Blackwater were major forces in the U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing logistics and other services, as well as armed guards and trainers for local armies.

During WWII, only 10% of our forces were private contractors. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, their involvement grew to 50%. Since 2009, the ratio of contractors to troops in war zones has increased to about 3 to 1. In 2014, the Pentagon provided $285 billion to federal contracts – more than all other government agencies received, combined with 45% of those contracts for services, including PMCs.

3. Private Military ContractorsPrivate military companies allow governments to disclaim involvement in politically controversial activities. For example, Putin used Chechen mercenaries in the Ukraine. Nigeria has deployed mercenaries from South Africa to fight Boko Haram. Since contractors in war zones don’t count as “boots on the ground,” their numbers are often sketchy and their deaths often go unreported. Sometimes, however, their misdeeds catch global attention. Four former Blackwater Worldwide private security guards were responsible for the massacres of civilians while under contract to the Pentagon during the U.S. war in Iraq. They were later convicted and jailed for their roles in a deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that left 17 civilians dead.

4. Erik PrinceBuzzfeed recently reported that the Trump administration was considering a secret, private spy network that would run counter-terrorist propaganda efforts around the world. The plan’s proposal was developed by Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (known as Academi since its 2011 acquisition by private investors), financial backer of President Trump, and the brother of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He has reportedly developed the project with former CIA colleague John Maguire, the company Amyntor Group, and Iran-Contra figure Oliver North.

Interestingly, Prince has also been offering his military expertise to support the Chinese government by setting up two Blackwater-style training camps in China. They will train and deploy an army of Chinese retired soldiers who can protect Chinese corporate and government interests around the world, without involving the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. So, it looks like loyalty continues to be tied to business, with alliances formed with the highest bidders for some of these modern day mercenaries.

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