Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Extra! Extra! Read About Print Journalism Films

Fact or fiction based loosely, at times closely, on facts?

That was the choice video viewers had Monday night as PBS ran part one of its two-part documentary of newspaper publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, while TCM counter-programmed with “Citizen Kane,” the Orson Welles fictionalized masterpiece structured around Hearst’s larger-than-life life (for the record, I caught short bursts of both, content I was recording PBS and that I had seen “Citizen Kane” countless times).

As a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor I am partial to movies with a print journalism focus (a subsequent list will come for electronic media). Herewith are my favorites:

Libeled Lady

Citizen Kane

Gentleman’s Agreement

The Front Page

His Girl Friday

All the President’s Men

The Life of Emile Zola


Five Star Final

The Paper

Ace in the Hole


The Devil Wore Prada

It happened One Night

Call Northside 777

I Want To Live!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

America Is a Story of Immigrants

As we grapple and grieve over the migrant crisis across our Southern border it is important to remember we are a nation of immigrants. From among the “tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free” have sprouted scientists and industrialists, politicians and, yes,  gangsters, as well as artists and teachers, and everyday workers, the men and women who toil to feed us, clothe us, build and clean our homes, drive us to work and play, care for our sick, infirm and elderly.

Here are my favorite movies dealing with immigrants as they struggle to gain acceptance and perspective on a new culture in their adopted land while forging a new life for their families that retains the traditions of their original homelands.

I Remember Mama

The Godfather 

Black Fury

In America


Our Vines Have Tender Grapes

An American Tail

Gangs of New York

America America

Moscow on the Hudson


Far and Away

Once Upon a Time in America

Sallah Shabati


A Most Violent Year


Bend It Like Beckham

Hester Street

Frozen River

The Visitor

The Joy Luck Club

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Dear Evan Hansen, the Movie, Opens Friday

The movie adaptation of the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” opens Friday. Gilda and I saw “Dear Evan Hansen” off Broadway, at the Second Stage Theater, in 2016. Like so many we were exhilarated by the play’s treatment of mental illness and youth suicide, as well as the superb cast led by Ben Platt as Evan Hansen. 

Shortly thereafter the play moved to Broadway to outstanding reviews. It received nine Tony Award nominations, winning six, one for Platt as best actor in a musical, best featured actress, best musical, best original score, best book and best orchestrations. 

Playing the teenage Evan Hansen since 2014, Platt coincidentally turns 28 on Friday. There is no guarantee that transposing this intimate yet topical story of  teenage angst to the silver screen will be a success. There are too many musicals that are off key as film. “Cats,” anyone?

I’m betting “Dear Evan Hansen” is not one of those misguided adaptations. 

I’ve been to Broadway musicals since 1959 when I was 10, seeing a production of “Take Me Along,” an adaptation of Eugene O’Neills’s “Ah, Wilderness,” starring Jackie Gleason, Walter Pidgeon and Robert Morse. I’ve been fortunate to see some classic shows with their original casts—Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet in “Camelot;” Zero Mostel in “Fiddler on the Roof,” Richard Kiley in “Man of La Mancha,” Ron Moody and Georgia Brown in “Oliver!,” Lin-Manuel Miranda in “In the Heights,” to name a handful—and revivals, including Yul Brynner in “The King and I.” 

Here are my picks of the best filmed adaptations of Broadway musicals:

My Fair Lady

West Side Story



Fiddler on the Roof

Damn Yankees

The Pajama Game



South Pacific





The Sound of Music

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Little Shop of Horrors



Funny Girl

Annie Get Your Gun

The King and I

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

The Music Man

Guys and Dolls

The Producers 

Kiss Me Kate


Saturday, September 11, 2021

20 Years Later, What Kind of Nation Are We?

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of words have been written to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attack on America on September 11, 2001. As I reread my post from September 11, 2011, I was struck by how relevant it remains 10 years later (http://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/2011/09/reflections-on-september-11.html).

Twenty years from that inflection point for America, and yes, the world, the calamity of 9/11 is that we are a divided nation torn apart by our inability to agree on the promise, much less the fulfillment, of what America stands for and its message to the rest of mankind.

Are we a Christian nation with prejudices against other religions, or a secular society, albeit with a dominant Christian population?

Are we a magnanimous nation open to aid democratic nations under duress and even autocratic countries humbled by natural disasters, or, as our history has repeatedly shown, are we a flawed, bigoted, imperialistic entity that chooses to engage the world only when it is in our own self-interest?

Are we color blind or racist to the core, with much of our citizenry ignorant, oblivious or indifferent to our collective history?

Are we a caring nation to our downtrodden, or has the last 90 years of social welfare legislation been an aberration?

Are we a forward thinking nation, or are we tethered and thus restrained by originalist allegiance to a document whose authors had no inkling to the advances in science, technology, medicine, industry, economics, political theory that would arise in the ensuing 230 years.   

Are we a nation consumed by conspiracy theories, or do we believe in facts; are we a nation that reveres science over alchemy?  

Are we a nation of laws and representative government, or has our noble governmental experiment reached its zenith before sliding back into the mix of countries and people dumbstruck enough to follow the rants and illusions of demagogues?

The tragedy of 9/11 is that in the ensuing 20 years America and much of the world have reverted to pre-Enlightenment tribalism. Just as the 9/11 attacks unified the country for a moment, it might take a similarly cataclysmic event to solidify our disparate nation once more. 

The January 6 insurrection at the Capitol could have been such an event. Alas, it was not. How could it when members of Congress and the Senate, who were themselves targets of the attack, disavow its evil intent? 

Just as we always remember December 7, we are told to “Never Forget” September 11. Add January 6 to the list of dates to always remember.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Reflections on a New Year and One Just Ending

Spellcheck didn’t catch the error when I first composed this blog. Instead of it being a New Year’s blog in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah which begins Monday evening, I had mistakenly inputted “New Tears blog.”

A year ago COVID kept Gilda and me from hosting a 35-person dinner on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Instead of delivering a verbal recap of the news of the past year experienced by the 10 extended families sitting around our expanded tables, I sent out an email that included the following:

“Thankfully there are no passings to report this year among our chevra [friends]. But we mourn the more than 196,000 who have succumbed to the coronavirus. We pray the pandemic will be corralled and that an effective, safe vaccine will be formulated that people the world over will enthusiastically and universally take to enable us to return to normal life and experiences in this new year 5781.”

Despite three emergency approved effective and safe vaccinations being available, in the last 12 months we were not so fortunate. The pandemic toll in America is approaching 650,000, with little prospect the misery will diminish because of virus variants and, tragically and implausibly to the intelligent mind, millions upon millions refuse to get vaccinated or wear a protective mask.

Individual deaths also intruded into our bubble. They didn’t die of COVID, but three passings darkened our lives. Our daughter-in-law’s father succumbed to a quick-acting virulent cancer. A mutual friend of many of our guests died from abdominal complications. A stroke claimed the brother-in-law of dear friends.

Births, moves to new homes, beginnings at new jobs and schools temper the sadness. But there is no dismissing the overwhelming sorrow of more than 400,000 deaths in the past year, many of them needless. And those were just the deaths in the United States. Woeldwide, deaths from COVID totalled more than 4.5 million.

As a society, America has permitted partisan politics to cloud our thinking. Too many have retreated into Dark Ages ignorance, often accompanied by vigilante attacks on the educated, on immigrants (especially Asians), on Jews, on Moslems.

The richest, most productive country in the history of mankind is a hollow shell. We have let our infrastructure decay. We have outsourced much of our manufacturing prowess and the solid jobs that underpinned the middle class. Many want to close our doors to immigrants—especially refugees— who, our history has shown, are among the most creative and industrious of our workers. The long march to equality of opportunity to vote, to learn, to work, to enjoy decent housing, to tap into quality healthcare, has been stymied by political and judicial roadblocks. 

I have no solution to this sad state of affairs. My fingers will continue to punch out mistakes that only a careful reading of my scribble (is it permissible to categorize typing on a computer or iPhone as scribble?) will detect before I hit the “publish” key.

This New Year, 5782 according to the Jewish calendar, surely will be bathed in tears. It would be dishonest to believe otherwise.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Surviving Agnes in 1972 and Now Ida

I really like our house, except for the minuscule unfinished basement. For decades I’ve lamented its small size, thus the inability to send kids down there to play. But since we put in French drains and a dual sump pump system about 15 years ago, its dryness during even the most extreme storms has been a blessing.

As several of our neighbors dragged soiled and muddy carpets and sundries from their Ida-waterlogged basements, Gilda and I reveled in our good fortune, though we inexplicably must have had several inches of water in our garage which we did not discover until Thursday afternoon by which time the water had receded leaving only telltale watermarks.

Ida was not the first hurricane-inspired drenching we survived. After graduating with an MA in journalism in 1972, I traveled to many newspapers searching for that elusive first job. 

In late June, Gilda and I packed up my Buick Skylark for a trip to Delaware, Maryland and eastern Pennsylvania. Riding through northern Delaware we drove in and out of torrential downpours so thick that sometimes we had to stop the car under an overpass because we couldn’t see out the windshield. After each cloudburst, the sky would brighten.

We plied on, heading towards Harrisburg. It was late in the afternoon when we hit Hershey. We stopped at the Hershey Inn, but the price of a room was way too high for a not yet employed reporter. Everywhere else we looked, however, had no vacancies. 

We were about to swallow our pride and budget and go back to the Hershey Inn when we came across a motel built like an old Victorian home. It had a room, in the basement, next to a steep driveway. Though she was currently renting a basement apartment in Brooklyn, Gilda had no desire to spend the night underground, so we pushed on, fortuitously discovering the newly opened Milton Motel sitting on a slight bluff less than half a mile away. 

We took a room, ate dinner at a nearby restaurant, went to bed and slept right through Hurricane Agnes which at the time was considered to have caused the worst flooding in U.S. history.

On both sides of the Milton Motel roads were impassable beyond half a mile, and remained that way for more than a day. We weren’t too inconvenienced. We played cards. As the motel still had power, we watched some TV. And we had our choice of restaurants, a fast food hamburger joint to the right of the motel, a fried chicken place to the left. Only one thing kept us from fully enjoying the experience. Within our arc of comfort lay the Victorian-style motel, now submerged in water up to the second floor! Not being a swimmer, I shuttered to think what I would have done if water had gushed into our basement room.

In recent days, floods have killed scores of people including some in the New York area who drowned in their basements. Had it not been for Gilda’s reluctance to spend another night below grade, I, we, might not be here today, 49 years later.

Favorite Films of Challenges of Nature:


The Wizard of Oz

The Hurricane (1937)

The Good Earth

The Grapes of Wrath

The Gold Rush

The Ten Commandments

The Day After Tomorrow

Into the White

The Wind (1928)

The Perfect Storm

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

History Recalled and Constitutional Reform

No one, I suspect, is naive enough to believe our exit from Afghanistan would be met with universal appreciation free from politics. However, I would like to believe critics of Joe Biden would at least be historically accurate in their denunciations.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday the loss of 13 {keep that number in mind} Americans in Kabul to a suicide bomber amidst the handling of the evacuation from Afghanistan was the “biggest failure of an American government on a military stage in my lifetime.”

Funny, I thought it was mandatory that all Republicans study the history of Ronald Reagan. Apparently, if true, the lessons do not include some of his less than conservative doctrinaire actions, such as raising taxes during five years of his presidency (1982, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987) to close budget deficits. 

Or, more to the point, Reagan’s decision in 1984 to abandon a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon after 241 {yikes, 241!!!} U.S. military personnel perished in an October 1983 suicide bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut. 

McCarthy is 56 year old, meaning he was 18 when the bombing occurred, 19 when Reagan bugged out of Lebanon without ever fulfilling his vow to deal justice to the perpetrators. 

According to the Office of the Historian of the Department of State: “Reagan’s decision to withdraw the Marines remains controversial. Supporters argue that it did not make sense to sacrifice American lives and resources to help resolve a conflict where the parties involved showed little interest in working toward U.S. goals. Critics, however, claim that Reagan failed to stand firm against terrorism and demonstrated that the United States was an undependable ally.” 

Sound familiar? 

It’s true—some Americans, 100-200, didn’t make it onto airlift planes. And many Afghans who helped us over the last 20 years didn’t, either. But more than 5,000 Americans, 100,000 Afghans and 15,000 other nationalities were part of the 120,000 evacuated in an unprecedented display of logistics and airmanship over 17 days. 

The process was not pretty. It capped America’s longest war—20 years. It implemented Donald Trump’s controversial exit agreement with the Taliban. 

American memories can be short. In 1975 we cringed at the sight of South Vietnamese clinging to U.S. helicopters lifting off from our Saigon embassy after North Vietnam and the Viet Cong emerged victorious. Today, Vietnam is a key trading partner with America as well as being a counterpoint to our economic conflict with China. 

Will Afghanistan someday be a trusted partner? 

McCarthy seems not only to be a poor student of history, he also apparently wants to rewrite or bury history. Specifically, he wants to keep potentially revealing information about the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol away from the House Select Committee investigating the assault on democracy. He has threatened to punish private companies if they cooperate with the Committee (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/01/mccarthy-threat-companies-jan-6-select-committee/). 

Having served in Congress since 2007, McCarthy has reached, or is about to qualify for, the tenured position of elected official that should be placed on a term limit list. I haven’t really been a big proponent of term limits, which would require a constitutional amendment to enact, but I would like to see the following ratified:

“Anyone who seeks federal elective or appointive office must have spent a minimum of two years in a full-time capacity for a public-service institution either as a teacher, fireman, policeman, emergency medical technician, Peace Corp or AmeriCorps volunteer, medical professional at a public hospital, or as a member of the U.S. military.”

The requirement would not solve the problem of incompetent officials, but it would increase the pool of leaders who have given to, more than just taken from, the public trough.