REVIEW POTPOURRI: Robert P. Tristram Coffin (continued)

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Continuing the weekly series of paragraphs from Robert P. Tristram Coffin’s essay Kennebec Crystals:

“Then a sharp blue wind came up out of the northwest, the mercury in the thermometers tumbled. The pines roared on into the dark, the stars snapped in the skies like sapphires. Good weather for future soldiers, Napoleon once remarked. Napoleon be hanged! So thought the farmers along the Kennebec, who were up in history as they were down in their pork barrels. There were enough small pairs of pants running around their farms already. What they needed was nights to breed that life-giving ice which would keep the small thighs in the trousers going. Good freezing nights for starting the crop of the water.”

Third paragraph next week.

Paul Whiteman

Paul Whiteman

On December 15, 1922, Paul Whiteman (1891-1967) and his orchestra recorded a pair of fox trot arrangements of two songs — Ivy (Cling to Me) composed by James P. Johnson (1894-1955) and Isham Jones (1894-1956); and I Gave You Up Just Before You Threw Me Down, by Bert Kalmar (1894-1947) and Harry Ruby (1895-1974).

Whiteman was often criticized for the sameness of his dance music arrangements but I have found the piles of his shellacs and other records quite enjoyable. The musicians performed with perky rhythms, savory phrasing and, at times, imaginatively improvised detail within the sometimes constricted trotty parameters that might be lacking in the foxy element.

James P. Johnson was an African-American barrelhouse pianist from New Jersey. Isham Jones was one of the early ‘30’s big band leaders who left a number of very good 78s. Coincidentally, Jones was born January 31, 1894, one day before James P. Johnson.

Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby wrote such songs as I Wanna Be Loved By You which was immortalized by Betty Boop and Who’s Sorry Now, itself a megahit MGM 45 for Connie Francis in 1957. They were the subject of the classic 1950 MGM musical Three Little Words, starring Fred Astaire (1899-1987) and Red Skelton (1913-1997) as the songwriters.


ZeroZeroZero is a recent crime drama series that premiered on Amazon Prime February 16 with a package of eight episodes. It depicts the activities of Mexican cocaine dealers; Mexico’s semi-corrupt military fighting the dealers, often murderously, while taking cash as well; a New Orleans family who owns a fleet of container ships and acts as middlemen between sellers and buyers; and the elderly mafioso big scale buyer in Calabria, Italy, whose grandson is secretly planning to feed Grandpa to his sow and take over that family business while pretending to be loyal and loving.

I watched the first two episodes this past weekend and am now hooked.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Robert P. Tristram Coffin, Lorenzo Molajoli, The Irregulars

Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Author and Bowdoin professor Robert P. Tristram Coffin (1892-1955) won the Pulitzer prize and achieved much renown particularly for his writings and poems about Maine. He was born in Harpswell to a family with seven children.

An essay, Kennebec Crystals, gives an evocative sense of life during the cold months in Central Maine along the Kennebec River during the 1800s. Too lengthy to re-print in full, I will offer a weekly paragraph until completed in full and begin below:

“The shopkeepers of Hallowell and Gardiner and Augusta had watched the January weather like hawks. They thumbed their ledgers and shook their graying temples at the lengthening columns of debit. The doctors had their eye on the sky as they felt of their lank wallets. Twenty miles deep each side of the river, farmers in small story-and-a-half farmhouses eyed their grocery-store thermometers at the side door, and bit more sparingly into their B.L. plugs. They chewed longer on their cuds, too. In the kitchen, the wife was scraping the lower staves of the flour barrel. The big bugs in the wide white mansions along the river looked out of their east or west windows at crack of day to see the state of the water. Teachers in school grew short with their pupils who confused Washington’s crossing of the Delawre with Clark’s fording of the fields around Vincennes. The mild weather continued. The river rolled on, blue in its ripples. Shopkeepers got short with their wives.”

Second paragraph next week.

A Hollywood character actor of film and TV, Tris Coffin (1909-1990), was a nephew of the author and appeared in good guy/bad guy roles on such shows as the Adventures of Superman.

Lorenzo Molajoli


Lorenzo Molajoli

Gianna Arangi-Lombardi

A 1930 Columbia Master­works set of ten 12-inch 78s, OP-7, featured one of the label’s busiest house conductors, Lorenzo Molajoli (1868-1939), leading a very good cast of soloists and the Milan, Italy, Sym­phony Or­chestra – probably the same orchestra serving the city’s world-renowned La Scala Opera – in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. It has been reissued a number of times on compact disc.

The main role of Santuzza was sung by soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi (1891-1951) who left a number of complete recordings of operas such as this one, Verdi’s Aida and Boito’s Mefistophele back during the 1920s of heavy breakable sets. After praising Lina Bruna Rasa ardently in a recent column for her Santuzza in the 1941 recording with Mascagni himself conducting, I was quite impressed by a darker deeper quality to Giannina’s voice in this role. She doesn’t spill her tears with the intensity of Rasa but does bring a more controlled, gripping power uniquely her own.

Excerpts from this recording can be heard on youtube.

Sanford’s Famous Dance Band

A 1918 acoustic ten-inch shellac – Emerson, 10185 – has the long-forgotten Sanford’s Famous Dance Band giving charmingly perky performances of Victor Jacobi’s On Miami Shore and George Gershwin’s Swanee, of which Al Jolson (1886-1950) did a spirited recording on a Decca 78 in 1945.

A few other sides of this band can be heard on YouTube but not these two selections.

The Irregulars

Thaddea Graham

A new British crime series, The Irregul­ars, is available on Netflix. The setting is Queen Victoria’s London and the show deals with a group of street kids living from hand to mouth. I have only seen the first episode in which they are utilized by, who else, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson for keeping their eyes and ears opened for information on several kidnappings of infants. There is also an evil connoisseur of ravens.

The leader of the group, a young woman named Bea, has a formidable honesty, courage and sassy spunk, especially against rich white trash, and is portrayed most memorably by the Irish actress Thaddea Graham.







Peter Catesby Peter Cates

James Joyce

James Joyce

Fifteen years ago, I binged for a couple of months on the Irish writer James Joyce (1882-1941) and read his first novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the short story collection Dubliners. The reading experience was, to put it mildly, intense.

Joyce’s singular achievement was to render the total life experience of Dublin, Ireland, in all its aspects and without any of his own personality intruding, as all great literature is achieved. He was perhaps most well known for his novel Ulysses, which devotes its several hundred pages to one day in the life of Stephen Dedulus, and Leopold and Molly Bloom. It is almost impossible to read because of its stream of consciousness technique with several events, impressions, and conversations occurring all at once, yet it has sold millions of copies.

I would recommend the Dubliners for beginners, especially its longest story, The Dead, which depicts an annual Christmas dinner party hosted by two elderly sisters. Beneath the festive hospitality is a terrifying sense of life going nowhere; Joyce’s genius was in the arrangement of particular details of food, chit chat, and good fellowship against the mood of desolation. One scene describes the impressions of the nephew of the two sisters, Gabriel, as he notices them entering the drawing room:

“His aunts were two small, plainly dressed old women. Aunt Julia was an inch or so the taller. Her hair, drawn low over the tops of her ears, was grey; and grey also, with darker shadows, was her large flaccid face. Though she was stout in build and stood erect, her slow eyes and parted lips gave her the appearance of a woman who did not know where she was or where she was going. Aunt Kate was more vivacious. Her face, healthier than her sister’s, was all puckers and creases, like a shriveled red apple, and her hair, braided in the same old-fashioned way, had not lost its ripe nut colour.”

The two women are leading lives of blighted banality, which this annual party does little to alleviate.

I close with some verses from Joyce’s lengthy poem, Chamber Music:

“Lean out of the window,
I heard you singing
A merry air.

“My book was closed;
I read no more,
Watching the fire dance
On the floor.

“I have left my book,
I have left my room,
For I heard you singing
Through the gloom.

“Singing and singing
A merry air,
Lean out of the window,

As a young man, James Joyce learned the Norwegian language just so he could read the collected works of Norway’s famed playwright Hendrik Ibsen in the original tongue.

He was a fanatical taskmaster on himself and would be happy if he came up with seven words that met his approval during a 15-hour workday.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Perry Mason continued…

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Perry Mason continued

(see previous article: TV Show: Perry Mason)

Producer Gail Patrick Jackson saw actor William Talman (1915-1968) as the serial killer in 1953’s The Hitch Hiker, directed by Ida Lupino, and immediately knew who she wanted for the role of District Attorney Hamilton Burger on the Perry Mason TV show. Talman was also one of five escaped killers in 1955’s The Big House starring Broderick Crawford, Charles Bronson, Ralph Meeker and Lon Chaney Jr., and appeared in other similar roles during the fascinating film noir years. He was scarily convincing in the sulfuric venom he exuded in those films, particularly the deranged eyes.

In his portrayal of Burger, the courtroom encounters with defense attorney Mason frequently brought on a look of outrage at a contentious eye contact level when Mason scored points for the defendant, raised objections to Burger’s examination of witnesses on the stand or insisted that certain testimony was irrelevant and immaterial. And he gave the same tit for tat.

However, both characters, sometimes begrudgingly, respected each other, both upheld the integrity of the law and both were in pursuit of justice and the truth. Burger himself stated a few times that, when he lost a case, it was a win because an innocent person didn’t go to prison or the gas chamber.

In 1960, Talman was found smoking marijuana with a group of friends and was fired from the show for a few months, until a vociferous letter writing campaign and the high pressure lobbying of CBS by producer Jackson, Burr and other cast members got Talman reinstated .

Talman came down with lung cancer in 1968 after decades of chain smoking and filmed a public service announcement on the dangers of cigarettes not to be shown until after he died. It can be seen on YouTube.

Ray Collins (1889-1965) in his role as Lieutenant Arthur Tragg almost stole the show time and again, not only with his formidable presence as Chief of Homicide, but also with his infectious sense of humor in many scenes. At one murder scene, Tragg cuts Mason some slack with the gathered evidence but states that District Attorney Burger would have his own head if the latter ever found out. And just about every time Mason would show up even at the most out of the way locations to help his client, Tragg would appear with his usual “Good morning, Counselor,” and an arrest warrant.

Collins worked often with Orsen Welles and was in the cast of the original radio broadcast of War of the Worlds that caused a nationwide panic. He too was a chain smoker and passed away from emphysema, at the age of 74, on July 11, 1965.

The many actors and actresses who made guest appearances included some memorable ones:

Angie Dickinson (1931-) was the defendant when a man who was blackmailing her wound up dead in an episode from the 1957 first season.

Joan Camden (1929-2000) appeared twice during the 1957-58 season as two different variants of the scorned woman, the first a collaborator/girlfriend with an extortionist who winds up dead and the second as a defendant whose ex-boyfriend is found dead and her fingerprints are on the gun. She brought a spitfire bitterness that reminded me of such actresses as Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Susan Hayward and Maureen Stapleton at their best.

Douglas Kennedy (1915-1973) was a gifted character actor who also appeared twice during the first season and as the actual killer – in one as a detective who murdered another detective, tries to kill Mason in the lawyer’s office but is caught by Lt. Tragg and his men who are hiding in the next room. A later episode has him as a corrupt lawyer who helps his girlfriend in the murder of her husband. He conveyed a nasty hot-tempered edginess that compelled attention.

Henderson died in 1973 in Honolulu after he suddenly came down with cancer while filming episodes with Jack Lord in Hawaii Five O.

Judy Tyler (1932-1957) played a delightfully sultry chorus line girl in a December 1957, episode seen six months after she was killed with her husband in an automobile accident . She was most famous for a starring role with Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock.

Ben Wright (1915-1989) played a jeweler who kidnapped his business partner and assisted in the murder of a second one when an embezzlement scheme goes awry. He was most “fondly” remembered for his role as the Nazi Gestapo representative Herr Zeller in the 1965 Sound of Music and conveyed the dubious ambiguity of both roles.


Raymond Burr

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Perry Mason

Perry Mason ran for nine seasons on CBS from 1957 to 1966 and has rarely been out of syndication or inaccessible. I have been watching one or two episodes daily via Amazon prime and am now into the second season. And I plan to keep watching until all 271 episodes are finished.

The show was based on the character of a very intelligent and highly ethical defense lawyer created by Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) in 1933 when he published The Case of the Velvet Claws and would go on to write 79 more in the series. The author himself was a lawyer and represented many clients among the poor who had been wrongfully convicted. He would also appear in an uncredited role in the final episode as the presiding judge.

Raymond Burr (1917-1993) initially auditioned for the role of district attorney Hamilton Burger but producer Gail Patrick Jackson (1911-1980) felt he would be better as Mason, provided he shed 60 pounds, which he did. His previous TV and film appearances had frequently been as very convincing villains, including his appearance as the murderous husband in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window where he tries to kill Jimmy Stewart.

His characterization of the lawyer was quite subtle, especially in ferreting out the real killer by the end of the episode.

Barbara Hale

Barbara Hale (1922-2017) portrayed Della Street, Mason’s infinitely charming and discreet confidential secretary. She would reprise that role with Burr in a few made-for-TV films with Burr’s Mason. On the TV series, she and Mason’s relationship remains on a friendly professional level that extends to her boss treating her to meals in restaurants and comical visual and verbal interactions especially when other women show up at the office seeking advice.

William Hopper (1915-1970) was the private investigator Paul Drake whose office was next to Mason’s and who had his own private connecting door. His personality is multi-faceted; immensely resourceful, physically imposing against intimidating individuals, charming with the ladies, flirtatious with Della Street (always greeting her with “Hello, Beautiful !”), and at times comically bungling.

Hopper’s mother was the feared Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (1885-1966); rumor has it that the actor was estranged from his mother as an adult because he disliked her interference in his life, and her power to destroy careers and lives in the movie industry.

I will continue with more about this show in next week’s column.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Armenian American singer Armenuhi Manoogian

Kay Armen

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Armenuhi Manoogian
(Kay Armen)

Armenian American singer Armenuhi Manoogian (1915-2011), known by her stage name as Kay Armen, achieved fame during the 1940s and ‘50s with her NBC radio show, records and appearances in films and on television. Her 1950 recording of Come On A My House appeared one year before Rosemary Clooney’s megahit.

A 1945 Decca 78, 18672, featured her renditions of the wistful Ira Gershwin/Kurt Weill song All At Once and a throwaway Back Home for Keeps with Satchmo’s all-time favorite orchestra, the Royal Canadians led by Guy Lombardo (1902-1977). She sang with a keen sensitivity to the meaning of the lyrics, a wonderful low, middle and high register, and a commanding individuality of presence.

Both her father Robert Manoogian and younger brother Robert Jr. were professional wrestlers; Dad’s stage name was Bob Monograph, Junior’s Bobby Managoff.

Most of the morning while writing this, I have been listening to the numerous YouTubes of this singer, ranging from All at Once to a medley of Sinatra hits, In the Wee Small Hours, Time After Tim, etc., which she performed at a social gathering in 2007 when she was 92, and still in good voice.

The 1961 movie Hey Let’s Twist featured her and the uncredited actor Joe Pesci in his Hollywood debut more than 20 years before he cashed in with My Cousin Vinnie and Home Alone.

Guy Lombardo

Guy Lombardo and his three brothers formed their first orchestra while still in elementary school in London, Ontario, constantly practicing in the back of their father’s tailor shop. The band would sell 300 million records. Lombardo was also a champion speed boat racer.

Lyricist Ira Gershwin (1896-1983) outlived younger brother George by 46 years and would collaborate with composers Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen. He loved listening to music with the volume turned up while his wife despised it. In 1977, singer Debby Boone gave him a Sony Walkman cassette player with headphones. The next day, he instructed his broker to invest in Sony.

His very extensive collection of records, books, scores and sheet music was catalogued by singer/pianist Michael Feinstein.

Composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) was part of Germany’s avant-garde musical theater scene, until 1933, and is most famous for the Three Penny Opera and its showstopper Mack the Knife, which made the Billboard Top Ten during the ‘50s via an Atco 45 by the late Bobby Darin. Weill collaborated several times with playwright Bertolt Brecht and was married to one of his best interpreters, singer Lotte Lenya (1898-1931).



REVIEW POTPOURRI – Writer: George Meredith

George Meredith

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

George Meredith

The English poet/novelist George Meredith (1828-1909) composed the following tribute to Queen Victoria (1819-1901), At the Funeral; February 2, 1901 :

“Her sacred body bear – the tenement
Of that strong soul now ranked with God’s
Her heart upon her people’s heart she spent;
Hence is she Royalty’s lodestar to direct.

The peace is hers, of whom all lands have praised
Majestic virtues ere her day unseen.
Aloft the name of Womanhood she raised,
And gave new readings to the Title, Queen.”

I have too little space to go into Victoria’s reign, of which libraries of materials exist elsewhere, but Meredith touched on a few of her qualities that sum up the simplicity of greatness.

‘Her sacred body bear –’; Victoria brought integrity to the throne in her world view and practice of a happy, righteous life in her marriage, parenting and compassion to others. Meredith’s use of a dash after the verb ‘bear’ had a dramatic effect in the rhythm of that first line; her physical body, ‘the tenement’, was the home of a morally strong woman who found inner peace in this world against the savage pressures of political intrigue at Buckingham Palace, the social problems on the home front, the Crimean War during the 1850s, the death at a young age of her husband Prince Albert, etcs.

Queen Victoria

Meredith eloquently articulated a sense that she was now with the angels in heavenly eternity – ‘that strong soul now ranked with God’s/Elect”; again the dramatic pause between ‘God’s’ and ‘Elect’ heightening a feeling that Victoria had achieved a mighty victory in passing from this world to the next.

Moving on, despite her faults, historians have generally agreed that she brought a quality of being to the British throne that has been rarely, if ever, seen before her ascent and since her death in 1901 (I do admire the present Queen Elizabeth but her own virtues are for another day); ‘Majestic virtues ere her day unseen./Aloft the name of Womanhood she raised,/And gave new readings to the Title, Queen.’

I also couldn’t emphasize more the power of great literature on its own terms than in this poem itself. George Meredith was one of a large number of great English writers to emerge during Victoria’s 64-year reign from 1837 to 1901, along with Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Christina Rossetti, A. Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson and others. The poet Richard Howard commented that English literature during the 1800s was one major explosion of talent, and I concur.

I have only read a few other works of Meredith – his exquisite poems A Lark Ascending and Modern Love, and his more than 500 page novel, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, which I joyfully plowed through in two days, 30 years ago, and remember fondly for its comedy, tragedy, realism, romanticism and other elements of the life experiences blended in a very memorable group of characters on a country estate. He had an individuality, and a style of writing that won renown during his lifetime, despite its sometimes thorny difficulty.

The novelist Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) wrote her own tribute to Meredith and remembered vividly his loud hearty laughter.


Rudy Vallee

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Rudy Vallee

Singer Rudy Vallee (1901-1986) was one of the first matinee idol crooners, starting in the late ‘20s. Frantic mobs of teenage girls went berserk at his live appearances as they did later with Sinatra, Presley and the Beatles, although with the shortly coming emergence of Russ Colombo and Bing Crosby and their even smoother use of the microphone, Vallee’s peak years with the swooning ladies would wane within two years but he did remain an influential figure in the entertainment world.

Born in Vermont, he grew up in Westbrook, did a brief stint in the army, played trombone in a dance orchestra at London’s Savoy Hotel from 1924-25, and returned to Maine where he briefly attended the University of Maine at Orono.

With relation to Vallee’s Orono years, he worked for a dance band led by a gentleman named Ralph Wallace, who fired Vallee for constantly being late to rehearsals.

Wallace later worked as a deejay for the now-defunct WTVL, here in Waterville, having retired during the late ‘50s to my hometown of nearby East Vassalboro after a broadcasting career in Cleveland, Ohio. I got to know him, was given the opportunity to watch him spin records on four different turntables on his radio show, explored the station’s record library with utter fascination, and was given 78 record sets of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler and soprano Dorothy Kirsten from his own vast collection.

His program, Time for Wally, ran five days a week for two hours in the morning and in the afternoon; he would play records and tell a few jokes (He once commented to me that, all too often, the disc jockeys were stuck with playing the same crappy records).

Back to the Vallee/Wallace connection. An acquaintance went to a San Francisco party honoring Rudy during the 1970s and mentioned his old boss. Vallee retorted jokingly, “Ralph Wallace!!!! Is that S.O.B. still living?” But he sent best wishes back to Maine.

Vallee transferred to Yale University where he graduated with a degree in philosophy and formed his own group, the Connecticut Yankees. They scored a hit record on Victor 78s in 1929, the University of Maine Stein Song, its success a bit of a mystery because of its cloying corniness but Vallee did sing with commitment, pep and warmth.

I recently listened to two other Victor ten inch 78s of the singer. The first, Victor -22136, recorded August 15 and August 21, 1929 – contains two wistful love songs; You Want Lovin’ (But I Want Love), written by Sam Coslow (1902 – 1982) who turned out dozens of songs for Paramount Pictures, and Lonely Troubadour.

Victor 24581, recorded March 5, 1934, featured two selections, Hold My Hand, and Nasty Man, that were in the 1934 filmed music revue, George White’s Scandals. He also appeared in the film and got into a fistfight with its producer George White.

All four songs were of higher quality than the Stein Song, sung and played with charming musicality and can be heard on YouTube.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: The Bronte sisters poetry

Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë, by their brother Branwell (c. 1834). He painted himself among his sisters, but later removed his image so as not to clutter the picture. (National Portrait Gallery, London.)

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

In 1846, a slim volume, Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, was published in Great Britain, sold two copies and generated three unsigned, but very positive reviews. Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell were, due to the damn-with-faint-praise prejudice against women writers, pseudonyms for Charlotte (1816-1855), Emily (1818-1848), and Anne (1820-1849) Bronte. Since the sisters were little girls, they were writing poems, romances and stories as games of the imagination.

The Brontes were three of six children born to the Reverend Patrick (1777-1861) and Maria (1783-1821) Bronte. From all accounts, the parents were very kind, committed to education and provided material needs. But the family was cursed by tragedy and sorrow. The oldest daughters Maria and Elizabeth died in their teens, the mother perished from tuberculosis when Emily, the youngest, was only three and the remaining three girls and one son passed away within a seven-year period, with the father outliving all of them.

Emily is arguably considered the most gifted of the three sisters as a poet and contributed 21 poems to the volume; a book of her collected poems would number over 200.

The usual adjectives of powerful, eloquent, beautiful, sublime seem like very tired cliches when describing their effect. Her passionate, solitary nature lent the several ones I have read a complex range of emotions (the fascination with the wild, windy English moors and rocky cliffs in her novel Wuthering Heights strengthen her poetic imagery) and, even more importantly, universal wisdom of a spiritual nature.

One of the unsigned reviews praised her poems for a “fine, quaint spirit” and that they had “things to speak that men will be glad to hear, – AND an evident power of wing that may reach heights not here attempted.”

I offer The Old Stoic:

“Riches I hold in light esteem,
And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of fame was but a dream
That vanished with the morn;

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is, ‘Leave the heart that now I bear,
And give me liberty!’

Yes, as my swift days near their goal,
‘Tis all that I implore:
In life and death a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.”

This poem conveyed Emily’s scorn of materialism, ‘Riches in light esteem’; her disdain for ordinary notions of romance, ‘Love I laugh to scorn’ – she was the consummate introvert and allowed very few people to get close to her, except her sister Anne, but she was compassionate towards the less fortunate; and a fearless search for righteousness and spiritual victory – ‘In life and death a chainless soul, /with courage to endure.’

One of Emily’s teachers wrote the following:

“She should have been a man – a great navigator. Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never would have given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman…. impairing this gift was her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned.”

Her sense of right and of tender compassion are interestingly juxtaposed in the following anecdote. When she was six, her brother Branwell had been naughty and their father asked how he should deal with the little guy. She replied, “Reason with him, and when he won’t listen to reason, whip him!”

Emily Bronte came down with a cold while attending her brother’s funeral in September 1848, which developed into tuberculosis, but she refused all medical help until the very end when it was too late, being determined that no doctor would poison her. She died within three months on December 19, at 2 p.m., with older sister Charlotte tending her.

To conclude, one of Emily’s untitled poems:

“All hushed and still within the house;
Without – all winds and driving rain;
But something whispers to my mind,
Through rain and through the wailing wind,
Never again.
Never again? Why never again?
Memory has power as real as thine.”


Lee Marvin

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Lee Marvin

For me, Lee Marvin (1924-1987) was one of the most consistently fascinating actors to grace the movies and television. He was considered a director’s dream because he instinctively knew how to move for the camera. And his ability to convey character was formidable.

Some background on his life is in order. He and his older brother Robert were both named for the ancestral family fourth cousin, Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Another ancestor from 200 years further back than General Lee, Matthew Marvin, emigrated from England in 1635 and helped in establishing the city of Hartford, Connecticut.

Marvin took violin lessons as a youngster. Also, to quote a May 1964, article in the magazine Gun World entitled Elk Hunting with Lee Marvin, he “spent weekends and spare time hunting deer, puma, wild turkey, and bob white in the wilds of the then-uncharted Everglades.”

As an adolescent, Marvin attended several boarding schools in New York and Florida but was kicked out for rowdy behavior.

He joined the Marines and fought in the Battle of Saipan where most of his unit was killed, his sciatic nerve severed by machine gun fire and his foot wounded by a sniper’s bullet. He spent over a year in the hospital and was awarded the Purple Heart and five other medals for bravery, yet was busted down to private from corporal for speaking his mind too freely.

My first experience of him was as a kid when I watched his show, M Squad, in which he starred as a detective.

His portrayal of evil characters was vividly manifested in guest appearances on Wagon Train, as a sadistic wagonmaster replacement, after Ward Bond died, for two episodes and as a gunman on The Virginian. An early ‘50s TV appearance was as a serial killer on Dragnet who’s also a vegetarian.

His most famous role of venom was a majorly billed appearance in Director John Ford’s 1962 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, in which he thrashed Jimmy Stewart with a horsewhip during a stagecoach holdup and squared off unsuccessfully with John Wayne. Just the way he menacingly walked into a saloon and sat with an attitudinal smirk conveyed his natural gifts as an actor.

In 1964, he and Clu Gulagher were two professional hitmen in The Killers, which was based very loosely on Ernest Hemingway’s story (the late former President Ronald Reagan very convincingly did his only role as a mobster in what would be his last film before his political career took off).

Other memorable roles – the movies Pete Kelly’s Blues, Bad Day at Black Rock, Cat Ballou, Point Blank, Paint Your Wagon, Prime Cut, Pocket Money, Violent Saturday, The Caine Mutiny, Emperor of the North, The Iceman Cometh, Missouri Traveller, Gorky Park, and The Dirty Dozen with a sequel.

He turned down the lead role of Jaws – “What would I tell my fishing friends who’d see me come off a hero against a dummy shark?”

Lee Marvin died of a heart attack on August 29, 1987, at the age of 63.