Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pinterest Storyboards for "Cloaked" and "Hopeful"

Here it is!  My Pinterest storyboard for "Cloaked," my western reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood.  It's about an imaginative teen who travels to Wyoming to meet her grandmother, and there encounters a scheming bookkeeper intent on stealing her grandmother's ranch.  My story board is filled with casting ideas, locales, historical details, props, and even some costume thoughts.



I mentioned recently that I've finished writing the first draft of "Cloaked."  I'm working with an editor to really bring it into focus, and my plan right now is to release it as an ebook this summer.

Today, I'm also going to share the board for a story I'm still doing research and planning for.  I call it "Hopeful" right now, and it's a Snow White reimagining set during the 1870 "Exoduster" migrations when thousands of African Americans left the south for the wide frontier.  The history of that time is really fascinating, and I'm having a great time researching it.  I won't start writing "Hopeful" for a while yet, not until I've got "Cloaked" published and finish up another project, probably.  But it's coming!



I have to admit I've gotten kind of addicted to making these inspiration boards.  Sometimes, my best friend and I even use them to make up stories together, adding photos and seeing where the story takes us, though that was a lot more fun before Pinterest started hiding the comments, alas.

This post is my contribution to the Pinterest Storyboard Party 2017 hosted by Elisabeth Grace Foley.  If you'd like to see the boards I did for her party a couple of years ago, including the one for "The Man on the Buckskin Horse," my story that's included in the Five Magic Spindles anthology, you can read that post here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

"Blackboard Jungle" (1955)


Blackboard Jungle stars Glenn Ford as Richard Dadier, husband, WWII veteran, and brand-new high school English teacher.  He gets a job at North Manual High School in what we assume is New York City.  He's diffident, quiet, nervous.  He has a pregnant wife (Anne Francis) who miscarried their first baby and is terrified she'll lose this one too.  And he's faced with an inner-city high school full of rowdy, surly, angry, combative teen boys.


Two of them, Artie West (Vic Morrow) and Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier), give him an especially hard time in the classroom.  Dadier struggles to teach them, to reach their minds and hearts, to lead them.


This film is a product of its times, certainly -- the optimistic ideal it holds forth is that if teachers only care enough, only try hard enough, they can engage their students.  Sure, there are bad kids, but once you weed them out, the rest of the kids will learn and grow and flourish.  At first glance, this film can seem simultaneously naive and bleak -- love for your students will solve everything!  But inner-city schools are horrible garbage cans full of human refuse, so you're going to need a lot of love!  Not a lot of nuance there.  All the nice, white, middle-class teachers kindly trying to rescue the poor students, many of whom are black or Hispanic, all of whom are "depraved on account they're deprived," as West Side Story would put it.


But if you look at this film through the lens of time, if you keep in mind what was going on in 1955, Blackboard Jungle is amazingly progressive.  You've got a fully integrated school here -- black and white students mingling freely.  It was only one year earlier that the Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" rights and the segregation of schools was unconstitutional.  And while this film does address race several times, it doesn't make that the point of the movie.  The "us vs. them" divide is about teachers versus students, all the students.  Maybe this is the most naive thing of all in the film, but I think that by not focusing on "let's all try to get along with people who look different" and instead showing black and white students simply interacting naturally, the filmmakers were presenting a positive look at how students really could get along.  With each other, anyway, if not with their teachers.


I mentioned above that Dadier's two problem students are played by Sidney Poitier and Vic Morrow.  In the end, it's Poitier's Greg Miller who Dadier connects with, while Morrow's Artie West gets kicked out of the classroom and sent to reform school.


Throughout the film, Miller is shown to be intelligent, and Dadier picks him out as the leader of the class, the one the other boys look to and follow.  He never says "even though you're black" or "because your black," he just sees that Miller has the charisma and attitude of a leader.  While Miller refuses to help Dadier by leading the class to cooperate with him for much of the film, in the end, he chooses to support the teacher against Artie West and rallies the classroom to do the same.  I find that pretty remarkable for a film made in the 1950s.


Yes, racial tension gets addressed in Blackboard Jungle.  Dadier, when lecturing his class on things NOT to call each other, uses several racial slurs.  A student then reports him as being racist and bigoted.  Dadier vehemently denies it, then goes right out and has a big argument with Miller, in which he starts to blame Miller's incooperativeness on his race, then realizes what he's saying, and apologizes.  So don't think they entirely sidestep this issue in a "La la la, racism doesn't exist here" way.


Both Poitier and Morrow turn in startlingly nuanced performances -- their characters could have been cliches, a black "uncle tom" helping the white teacher and a white "angry boy" striking out at authority figures.  But Poitier brings a dignity laced with resignation that makes us root for his character even when he isn't cooperating at all with the protagonist.  And Morrow puts so much feral, sly desperation into Artie West that you can't take your eyes off him whenever he's in the frame.


This was Vic Morrow's first film, but he knows already how to own a scene, and more than holds his ground with the big-name star, Glenn Ford.  In fact, I've read that Morrow beat out Steve McQueen for the role, both being relative unknowns at the time.  Way to go, Vic!


This was the first movie I ever saw Sidney Poitier in, and possibly the first I ever saw Glenn Ford in as well.  I didn't initially watch it for either of them, but this film made me a fan of both actors.  If you've ever seen To Sir, With Love (1967) and think this sounds a lot like that, you're not wrong.  To Sir is not a remake of Blackboard Jungle, but the two films share many similarities, and I personally like to imagine that Poitier's character in the later film is his character from this one, all grown up and following in the footsteps of the teacher who reached out to him many years earlier.


I watched this for the first time twenty-one years ago, when I was fifteen and freshly in love with the TV series Combat! (1962-67).  I'd stumbled across an article in Reader's Digest about a person reminiscing about their own teenhood in the mid-50s and this movie they went to see, the first major motion picture to play real rock 'n roll right in the film.  Not just in the film, but over the opening credits:  Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" blasted loud and clear for all the audience to hear.  What interested me particularly about this article was a tiny picture of one of the actors in the film, a very young and very delinquent-looking Vic Morrow.


I latched onto the idea of this film, Blackboard Jungle, with Vic Morrow in a black leather jacket and brandishing a switchblade.  I desperately wanted to see it.  I had no idea who else was in it, or what it was about other than '50s JDs, but I had a thing for juvenile delinquent movies already then -- I was in the middle of a West Side Story (1961) phase, you see.  I was fifteen, full of hormones and emotions, starting to figure out my identity, and realizing I could like things my parents didn't, and not like things they did.  Typical early teen stuff.

And like I said, I had recently fallen in love with Combat! (it's still my favorite show).  Vic Morrow played my favorite character on it, Sgt. Saunders.  I knew he had acted in lots of other things, but this was 1996.  You couldn't just watch movies and clips on YouTube, rent a movie on Netflix or Amazon, or find cool stuff on Hulu.  You had to find movies on TV or on VHS.  If you had cable and a great channel like AMC used to be, you could eventually get lucky if they decided to play whatever movie you were hungering to see.  Or, if you had a really cool entertainment store that stocked kinda obscure old stuff, you might be able to find what you were looking for there, or get them to order it.

We didn't have cable TV at my house, but we did have this store called Media Play that fed my burgeoning entertainment appetite.  And on February 15, 1996, I found Blackboard Jungle on VHS at Media Play.  I spent my carefully-hoarded and hard-earned money on it -- I didn't have a "real" job yet, but a friend and I made money painting faces at various local festivals, so I could buy a video now and then if it was something I wanted to see and my parents didn't.

But I didn't rush right home to watch Blackboard Jungle.  I waited.  I was afraid, to be honest.  I knew, from the synopsis on the back, that Vic Morrow was going to play the bad guy.  At that point in my life, I had a really hard time dealing with actors I liked playing Bad Guys.  I'm a little calmer about it now, but witness how annoyed I am right now at Luke Evans for playing Gaston in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast -- I want MY actors to play Good Guys, I just do.  So I worried about watching  Vic Morrow be the Bad Guy in Blackboard Jungle.  What if he was horrifying?  What if he played a character so awful in this, I would somehow stop loving his character on Combat!, Sgt. Saunders?  Worse, what if the whole movie was awful?  What if my parents hated it and banned me from ever watching it again?  That wouldn't be so bad if it was awful, but what if I liked it and they didn't?

For three days, I waited.  Waited for my parents to go somewhere and leave my brother and I home alone so I could watch this movie in peace and the relative security of no parents judging me and my movie choices.  And finally, on February 18, 1996, they left us home alone for a Sunday afternoon.  I've kept a journal since I was fourteen, so I know exactly when I bought and watched this movie, and exactly what I thought of it after that first viewing:
"Then Mom and Dad went to Hickory, so John and I watched Blackboard Jungle!!!!  We loved it!!!  WOW!  There was only, like, one swearword in it.  Vic Morrow played a knife-toting Artie West, Glenn Ford was a teacher named Richard Dadier, and Sidney Portier [sic] played Gregory Miller.  It was great!  Most Excellent!"
Um, yes, fifteen-year-old me was not the most coherent movie reviewer.  But I liked Blackboard Jungle so much, I watched it again the next day and declared it one of my second-favorite movies ever.  (It's still in my top 100 now.)  My instincts were correct, though -- neither of my parents cared much for this film at all.  Such is life.

I didn't realize until I looked up my first viewing in my journals the other day that I would be posting this two days after the 21st anniversary of my first seeing Blackboard Jungle, but I absolutely love that coincidence.  This film has been a big part of my life for a long time, and I'm glad I've gotten the chance to reminisce a bit about it.  Especially because I usually post something special in honor of Vic Morrow's birthday, which is February 14, and this year my Jane Austen blog party kind of took over the whole blog for a week, so this post is also my Happy Birthday to Vic moment, just a few days late.


This is also my entry into the 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon -- Mr. Poitier is 90 years old today!  Astonishing.  Please follow this link or click on the button below to read lots of reviews celebrating this legendary actor and his film legacy.


One last thing -- is this movie family friendly?  It does have two curse words, several violent fistfights, a tense moment where a student pulls a switchblade and threatens people with it, and an attempted rape scene that is non-graphic but still too much for younger children.  Also, a teacher flirts openly with Richard Dadier and asks him to leave town with her, then grumbles because he's married and won't cheat on his wife.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I Love Austen Week -- Wrap-Up Post with Alllllll the Links


Thank you, everyone, for making I Love Austen Week so much wonderful fun!  I have thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I hope you have as well.  Maybe you've found some new blogging friends, even!  I know I have.

Here are links to all the great posts people contributed to this week.  I know they're also all in the linky thing in the master post, but that linky tool is hosted by another site, and there were so many wonderful posts this week that I would hate to lose track of should that linky tool quit working some day.

Reviews and Such

Becoming Jane (2007) review by Elanor
The Best of Jane Austen Knits book review by Molly Rebekah
Bride and Prejudice (2004) review by Catherine
"Captain Wentworth's Famous Letter" by Kara
"Character Sketch of Anne Elliot" by Hamlette
Color Me Jane coloring book review by Hamlette
Dear Mr. Knightley book review by Jane
"Dressing Like Jane Austen" by Skyeler
Emma (1996) review by Charity
Emma (2009) review by Rachel
The Jane Austen Guide to Life book review by Hamlette
The Jane Austen Handbook book review by Abby
"Jane Fairfax -- An Appreciation Post" by Elanor
Lost in Austen (2008) review by Rosie Dean
Love and Friendship (2016) review by Maggie
Mansfield Park (1986) review by Eowyn
Northanger Abbey book review by Allison
Northanger Abbey (2007) review by Natalie
"On Loving Emma" by Hayden
Persuasion (1995) review by Erin
Persuasion (2007) review by Meredith
Pride and Prejudice (1995) episodes one, two, threefourfive, and six by Movie Critic
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) review by Charity
Sense and Sensibility (1995) review by Heidi
Sense and Sensibility (2008) review by Jessica Prescott
"Sense and Sensibility vs. Frozen" by Movie Critic
"Strength and Beauty in Austen" by Heidi
The Third Sister book review by Birdie
"The Thoughtfulness and Sweetness of Jane Austen's Heroes" by Miss March


Tags

Livia Rachelle at Rose Petals and Faerie Dust
Natalie at Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens
Catherine at We'll Meet it When it Does
Elanor at Musings of a Jane Austen Wannabe
Rachel at The Beckoning Hills
Evangeline at Over the Hills
Abby at Lavender Spring
Movie Critic at Movies Meet Their Match
Kelly-Anne at The Diary of a Country Girl
Hayden at A Singular and Whimsical Problem
Erudessa Aranduriel at The Flowering Vales
Molly at A Ramble Through the Woods
Heidi at Along the Brandywine
Miss March at Sunshiny Corner
The Elf at Willawa
Madeline at The Little Decorator
Eowyn at Captured by the Word
Kelsey at Kelsey's Notebook
Kara at Flowers of Quiet Happiness
Hamlette at The Edge of the Precipice
Ruth at A Great Book Study
Lois at You, Me, and a Cup of Tea
Lissa at An Attempt to Be Classic
Phyl at Solid Moonlight
Meredith at On Stories and Words
Elisabeth at Elisabeth Grace Foley
Night Owl at The Night Owl Reads Books
Deborah at The Road of a Writer
Mary at Misty Corners
Rosie at Rosie Dean
Rachel at A Girl's Place


I haven't finished reading all these yet, but I will do my best to finish them in the next day or two.  So if I haven't commented on your contribution yet, I'm not ignoring you!  I'll read it soon.

EDIT:  I just discovered there were people who did not put their links into the linky thing, but instead left them only in the comments on the master post.  I've now added them to these lists too.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I Love Austen Week -- Giveaway Winners

And now for the post we've all been waiting for!  The winners of the giveaways!


"Jane Austen Coloring Bookmarks" -- Kelly-Anne

Sticker set #1 -- Natalie

Sticker set #2 -- Aija

Sticker set #3 -- Jessica Prescott

Sticker set #4 -- Rosie McCann

Austen ladies bookmarks set 1 -- Kelsey Bryant

Austen ladies bookmarks set 2 -- John Smith


Letters from Pemberley and More Letters from Pemberley -- Molly Rebekah

Persuasion DVD -- Deborah O'Carroll

The Jane Austen Guide to Life -- Abby P.

Jane Austen's Little Advice Book -- Ashley Stangl

Jane Austen:  Her Complete Novels in One Sitting -- Kara

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet -- Lucy Reiss

Congratulations to all the winners!  Please check the email address you provided to the Rafflecopter widget because I am in the process of emailing you to request your mailing address.

I Love Austen Week -- Quotations Quiz Answers

Here are the answers to the Valentine quotations quiz!  I hope you had fun :-)  I know many of you did far better on this than I would have -- if I hadn't been looking these up, I would have gotten maybe half of them.  I'm impressed!

(And yes, I'm afraid one of these was actually from a movie, not directly from a book -- I should have checked that one more carefully.  It was hard to find twelve lines that would work as Valentine cards, and I was getting desperate, I guess.)

#1 Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

#2 Elinor Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility

#3 Mr. Knightley, Emma

#4 Captain Wentworth, Persuasion

#5 Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

#6 Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey

#7 Fanny Price, Mansfield Park

#8 Captain Wentworth, Persuasion

 #9 Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice

#10 Captain Tilney, Northanger Abbey

#11 Edmund Bertram, Mansfield Park

#12 Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Scores:

John Smith -- 24
Kelsey Bryant -- 24
Heidi -- 23
Jessica Prescott -- 20
Lois Johnson -- 18
Miss March -- 18
Elanor -- 17
Erudessa Anduriel -- 17
Natalie -- 15
Livia Rachelle -- 14
Rachel (The Beckoning Hills) -- 13
Rachel (A Girl's Place) -- 11
Meredith -- 10

I Love Austen Week -- Unscramble Answers


Well, it's the last day of the party, and time to post the answers to the games, winners of the giveaways, etc.  If you still have contributions to post, that's fine -- the party runs through the end of today, so you still have plenty of time!

Here are the answers for the unscrambling game.  Scores are below!  I was very impressed by how good you people are at unscrambling :-)

1
REMBEPLEY
PEMBERLEY
(from Pride and Prejudice)

2
CHELLYNK LAHL
KELLYNCH HALL
(from Persuasion)

3
SANDRALL
RANDALLS
(from Emma)

4
FLEADHIRT
HARTFIELD
(from Emma)

5
THEFLIEREND
NETHERFIELD
(from Pride and Prejudice)

6
BONGOLURN
LONGBOURN
(from Pride and Prejudice)

7
TRABON EGOTACT
BARTON COTTAGE
(from Sense and Sensibility)

8
DANLORN KARP
NORLAND PARK
(from Sense and Sensibility)

9
ENDWOLL BAYBE
DONWELL ABBEY
(from Emma)

10
SINGORS
ROSINGS
(from Pride and Prejudice)

11
RANGERTHON BEBAY
NORTHANGER ABBEY
(from Northanger Abbey)

12
FLEASMIND KRAP
MANSFIELD PARK
(from Mansfield Park)

Scores:

Elanor -- 12
Elisabeth Grace Foley -- 12
Erudessa Aranduriel -- 12
Heidi -- 12
John Smith -- 12
Kelsey Bryant -- 12
Livia Rachelle -- 12
Natalie -- 12
Rachel (The Beckoning Hills) -- 12
Miss March -- 11
Molly Rebekah -- 11
Lois Johnson -- 10
Rachel (A Girl's Place) -- 9
Movie Critic -- 6
Meredith -- 3

Friday, February 17, 2017

Happy Alaniversary to Me


We briefly interrupt this celebration of all things Jane Austen to bring you a few lovely pictures of Alan Ladd.  And to celebrate the fact that it was one year ago today that I first watched Whispering Smith (1948) and fell "in love" with him.


I've seen seventeen of his films now, and own another nine that are waiting for me to watch them.  Trouble is, I keep rewatching the ones I've already seen (and there are a whole bunch I want to watch yet again to review here), so seeing new ones goes slowly.  Which is how I like it, because you know I love to savor things I enjoy.


I've never before had an actor rise so quickly up my list of favorites.  While John Wayne is still my #1, Alan now runs him a close #2, which means Hugh Jackman has fallen to #3.  What's crazy to me about that is that it took me almost ten years to decide Hugh Jackman was my second-favorite and displace Harrison Ford from that spot, where Harrison had reigned second only to John Wayne for almost twenty years.  And then along comes Alan Ladd and, within six months, there he is, firmly ensconced near the top of my heart.


So here's to you, Alan Ladd, the quiet man who played so many hard-hitters, but was by all accounts a very sweet and soft-hearted person in real life.  And here's to the year to come and all the movies of yours I will watch in it.