Tuesday, June 23, 2020

"One Bad Apple" Advance Reader Copies Available!

EDIT: All my copies have been claimed!  Thank you so much, everyone!  You're so awesome!

One Bad Apple releases on July 28, five weeks from today!  So it's high time to start rustling up some advance readers.  If you would like to receive an ARC, please fill out this Google Form.  I will not use the email address you provide there for any purpose other than to send you an email with information on how to download your free copy.  You will be able to download your copy by the end of June.

Like my previous books, this is around 250 pages. It's Christian fiction, aimed mostly at teen readers, but enjoyable for adults and some younger readers too. Like every book and story in my Once Upon a Western collection, One Bad Apple is a non-magical retelling of a fairy tale set in the Old West. This time, I'm retelling "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

I'm going to try something new this year.  Instead of me sending an e-copy to advance readers via email, I'm going to use the BookFunnel website.  This should streamline the process for me and help you be certain that any file you download is totally safe because it's from a respected website, not me sending it from my laptop.

I will not be providing unlimited e-copies for free, so this will be a first-come, first-served sort of thing.  Any questions?  Let me know in the comments here!

Stay tuned for information about my upcoming virtual book tour, a giveaway, and more!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Two Upcoming Blogathons

Just a quick note to mention two blogathons coming up this summer that you might be interested in joining. 

First is the Oivia de Havilland blogathon hosted by The Sacred and the Secular on July 1-2 to celebrate what will be Ms. de Havilland's 104th birthday.  I've signed up to review A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935).

Then there's the We Love Lucy blogathon hosted by Musings of an Introvert on August 6-7 to celebrate what would have been Ms. Ball's birthday.  I've signed up to contribute a list of my 10 favorite I Love Lucy episodes.

Even though both of these are listed on my Upcoming Blog Events page and my sidebar, I wanted to highlight them in a post as well because I know people won't always check that page, and my sidebar doesn't show up if you're reading this on a mobile device.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

"The Mark of Zorro" (1940)

I love Zorro.  I've loved him since I was a tiny person -- he was one of my first heroes.  In fact, I think only Robin Hood and the Lone Ranger have been heroes of mine longer, and Zorro is sort of an amalgamation of the two of them, isn't he?  Championing the poor and oppressed, wearing a mask to strike fear into the heart of any evildoer who crosses him, and so on.

The first time I encountered Zorro, it was in a picture book based on the Disney Zorro series from the 1950s that starred Guy Williams.  Then I watched a few episodes of the early-nineties TV series that starred Duncan Regehr before finally getting to see a handful of the Guy Williams episodes on VHS.

But in my late teens, I got to see The Mark of Zorro (1940) for the first time on VHS as well.  Or maybe on PBS?  I remember there being a documentary with it too that talked about how Basil Rathbone was a wonderful swordsman for real, and that Tyrone Power had to learn a lot to keep up with him.  That the little trick Zorro does toward the end of this movie, where he slices through a burning candle and it stays upright and burning -- Basil Rathbone could do that for real.  They had to fake it for Power in the film by drawing in the end of his sword across the candle in post-production.

Anyway, this movie is a rollicking good time.  It opens in Spain, with handsome cadet Diego Vega bidding farewell to his friends because his family has called him home to California.

He's not pleased with having to go home to boring California where there's nothing to do but get married to some provincial girl, raise fat children, and tend vineyards.  He's used to dueling, riding fast horses, and pursuing beautiful women around the academy.

He's in for a surprise when he gets home, however.  His father is no longer the alcalde of Los Angeles.  And the new alcalde has a sly and smug henchman, Captain Pasquale (Basil Rathbone), who enjoys threatening strangers with his sword.  On the spot, with no apparent premeditation, Diego affects the demeanor of a harmless dandy, dabbing at his forehead and lips with a scented hankie and acting distressed by the sight of a sword.

The new alcalde, Don Luis Quintero (J. Edward. Bromberg), is a pompous fool.  Anyone can see Pasquale is the real power here.  But Diego pretends not to.

Anyone can also see that Pasquale has the hots for Quintero's wife Inez (Gale Sondergaard).  Inez promptly sets her sights on Diego -- she seems to have grown tired of Pasquale and is eager for a handsome new plaything.

Diego plays along with Inez, flattering her and bolstering her vanity.  But he's spotted Quintero's niece Lolita (Linda Darnell) and his thoughts and eyes belong to her now.

Diego finally returns to his family's hacienda, reuniting with his father (Montagu Love), mother (Janet Beecher), and his old mentor Fray Felipe (Eugene Pallette).  He continues pretending to abhor violence and long only for peace and quiet.

The people of Los Angeles are suffering under the rule of Quintero/Pasquale, who tax them close to death and are generally crabby and grabby.  One day, two soldiers put up a notice about more taxes to be collected when a stranger rides into the square.

He wears all black, including a black mask, waves a sword around a lot, and rides a black horse.  And he pulls down the taxation notice with the tip of his sword and makes the soldiers put up his own announcement instead.

Next, Zorro visits Quintero at night, appearing in his office seemingly by magic.  He frightens Quintero and tells him he won't rest until Quintero goes back to Spain.

They do some really nice things with shadows in this movie.  Here, Zorro's shadow looms over Quintero.

Here, he towers above soldiers that he's about to rob of the unfair taxes they've collected.

While Zorro dashes around the countryside robbing the rich and looking all debonair and exciting, Diego pretends to be bored pursuing the hand of Lolita Quintero in marriage.  We all know he actually likes her a whole lot, but he keeps up the facade of a popinjay.  Still, when they dance after dinner at her father's house, Lolita can't help feeling there's more to Diego than meets the eye.

Eventually, Pasquale begins to figure that out too.  He and Diego have a magnificent sword fight, though (SPOILER) he dies before confirming his suspicion that Diego and Zorro are one and the same.  (END SPOILER)

This is a really splendid duel, by the way -- because Rathbone was a fencing champion, he did all of his own fencing!  Power did a lot too, but did have a double for some of the trickier bits.

Everything ends happily, of course, with peace restored to the land.  Zorro can hang up his mask and sword, and Diego can wed the beautiful Lolita, settle down, and raise fat children and tend a vineyard.

This is not a deep film, but it's a highly enjoyable one.  If you'd like to see a different adaptation that uses the exact same script, but with a different cast, try to find the 1974 version, which is also lots of fun!

This has been my contribution to the Suave Swordsman: Basil Rathbone Blogathon hosted by Pale Writer.  Follow that link to find the other posts people have contributed to this event!

Is this movie family friendly?  Yes!  All innuendo about Inez's extramarital activities is veiled and oblique, and all violence is non-graphic.  There are a couple of kisses, but that's it.  I hadn't watched this movie for a few years, so I showed it to my kids for their first time this week, and they got a huge kick out of it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

"The High and the Mighty" (1954) -- Initial Thoughts

You know what I'm a huge fan of?  Slow-burning, character-driven dramas.  Which is exactly with The High and the Mighty (1954) is.  It's also an early disaster movie, of the airplane-based variety that got very popular in the '50s.  Happily, it focuses more on the drama than the disaster.  Happily for me, anyway -- if you're in it for the pyrotechnics, this probably won't be your favorite.

Also happily, it stars John Wayne.  And quite a few other familiar faces too, like Claire Trevor, who co-starred with Wayne in his star-making film Stagecoach (1939).  She's got a small part here, but she makes the most of it, bringing warmth and humor and kindness slowly to the surface, letting her real self slowly outshine the brassy, brittle exterior she'd so carefully crafted.  I really wish she'd gotten more meaningful encounters with Wayne, as they shared such wonderful chemistry 15 years earlier.  But her character attracted a different man instead.

(Claire Trevor, deciding on a fellow passenger to keep her company.)

Paul Fix is here too -- the person who made more films with John Wayne than any other.  He's playing a sweet old man who says his bones are full of holes and his neck is too weak to hold his head high anymore, and yet he's a firm and steady anchor for several other characters who find themselves tottering under the weight of uncertainty.

(Paul Fix explaining pocket watches to the stewardess.)

I didn't know Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez was in this until he showed up on the screen, but I was so happy when he did!  He always plays just the most helpful characters.  Here, he got to play a really smart sailor who built his own radio -- he uses it to relay messages between the distressed airplane and the people trying to rescue them.

(Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez helping to save the day.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  So, the whole movie starts out on Hawaii as a crew prepares to take off for California.  We get to know just a smidge about some of the characters there, as they check in.  That was a totally fascinating part for me -- was it REALLY that easy to get on a plane in the '50s?  You just walked up, gave them your ticket, stated your name and date of birth, they cross-checked you with their passenger list, and you're hunkydory.  Unless they weren't certain you were a US citizen, in which case you had to go talk to people at another desk.  But wow.  Can you imagine that kind of world?

(Well, right now it's almost hard to remember a world where
we got to fly places on airplanes, but anyway...)

Right, so we get to know just a little about the pilot (Robert Stack) and co-pilot (John Wayne) before they take off.  We learn that the pilot is boring and we should ignore him, and that the co-pilot is very sad and haunted because of personal tragedy.  And he's been flying since 1917, which means he's like a decade older than Wayne was at the time because Wayne was only 10 in 1917.  But anyway.  He's supposed to be pretty long in the tooth for a commercial pilot, but he's kept on because he's so experienced.

(I mean, look how expertly he climbs those steps.)

Then up we go.  This movie starts out slowly, building interpersonal tension before any disasters strike.  We've got a lot of people to get to know.

(Some of them work on getting acquainted faster than others.)

There are newlyweds (Karen Sharpe and John Smith) who spend an awful lot of time making out -- they're on their way home from their honeymoon and worried about starting real life when they get back.  There's another couple (John Howard and Laraine Day) who are getting ready for a divorce because he wants to sell the advertising company her father left to her so he can buy a mine or something in Canada.

Then there's the jolly couple (Phil Harris and Ann Doran) who always look on the bright side of life, even when their vacation plans keep getting interrupted or derailed.  They try to cheer other people up a lot, but when disaster strikes, they learn whether or not their optimism and hopeful outlooks are real or not.

Another couple (Robert Newton and Julie Bishop) are mildly nice to each other sometimes, and mildly bored the rest of the time.  It took me like half the movie to figure out why Newton was so familiar -- he played Long John Silver in the Disney version of Treasure Island (1950), but without his piratical accent, I couldn't recognize him for the longest time!

(Do you recognize him without the pegleg and parrot???)

The single characters get their share of the spotlight too.  Especially Joy Kim's emigrating Korean woman who carries so much joy and wonder within her at the thought that she's really going to live in America.  I liked her very much indeed -- she was such a believable mix of hope and apprehension.

(Plus, she and the stewardess had really nice, friendly chemistry.)

Then there's a rocket scientist (Paul Kelly) who regrets all his achievements because they mean potential misery and death.  There's a former beauty queen (Jan Sterling) who's terrified that the man she's in love with (William Hopper) won't think she's beautiful when he finally meets her.

(William Hopper did most of his scenes on a soundstage, writing letters and looking soulful.
And looking so delicious with his sleeves rolled up that I had to include him here.)

One wealthy businessman (David Brian), one not-so-wealthy businessman with a big grudge against someone (Sidney Blackmer), and a fisherman going home to his family (John Qualen) round them out.  Oh, except for a little boy (Michael Wellman) travelling alone because his parents are separated and keep shuttling him back and forth across the Pacific.  He spends most of the movie asleep, though.

Then there's the crew.  I already mentioned the pilot and co-pilot, but the lone flight attendant (Doe Avedon) gets a lot of storytime too.  She's got a lot of guts, and she never freaks out in front of the passengers, even when they are in the most obvious kind of trouble.  We also have William Campbell as a radio operator or something (mostly he's just here to toss snide or snappy remarks in once in a while), and Wally Brown as the middle-aged navigator with a fast wife back home that causes him a lot of grief.

(What a well-composed shot!)

Now, mix all those people up and get some nice interpersonal conflict going for the first hour or so, and you have yourself a real interesting recipe for a disaster, even if nothing happens to the plane.  But something does -- an engine catches fire after they're too far from Hawaii to turn back.  And so they have to face the fact that they probably will have to make a water landing and spend some time in the life raft before they get rescued.


I was a little disappointed that they never actually made a water landing because they'd spent a lot of time building us up for it by giving the passengers lots of instructions on how to survive the landing and what to do in the life raft.  But they end up not having to do that after all, and while I was happy for the characters not to have to go through that, I kinda would have liked to see how that played out.

Of course, it turns out that the experience and savvyness of Wayne's character save the day.  We would expect no less.  We get a totally happy ending, everyone landing safe and sound in California.


(John Wayne explains the plot for anyone who wasn't paying attention
during the first two hours of the film.)

John Wayne looks excellent in this film.  In his forties, he's handsome and commanding in his pilot's uniform.  He'd really hit his stride as an actor by this point and was convincing as a competent yet weary man who has many regrets, but keeps plugging along anyway.  I'll be watching this one again.

This has been my contribution to the Disaster Blogathon hosted by Quiggy at The Midnite Drive-In and J-Dub at Dubsism.  Check out their blogs for links to the other blogathon entries!

Saturday, June 06, 2020

My Summer 2020 To-Do List

(My container garden this year so far)

~ Publish One Bad Apple

~ Read The Hunchback of Notre Dame

~ Read 2 more titles for my Classics Club list


~ Read 9 books off my TBR shelves

~ Read 2 books from the library

~ Read at least 1 book each month about/by someone who is not white

(Snapdragons that reseeded themselves last year)

~ Watch 5 movies off my TBW shelves

~ Make at least three new kinds of popsicles.  I'm thinking I'll start with these Oreo Pudding Pops.

(Dianthus/cottage pinks that reseeded themselves)

~ Make another book nook shelf insert

~ Finish the blanket I'm crocheting for my 8-yr-old's bed

(More snapdragons -- the pink & yellow last year
crossbred and made peach!)

That's all I've got for this summer!  How about you?  Are you making any reading or movie-watching goals, or have things you'd like to do?

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

The Sunshine Blogger Award

The Story Enthusiast has nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award!  I love her questions -- you're going to too, I just know it.

But first, a bit of business, in the form of the award's rules:

  • List the award’s official rules (doing so now)
  • Display the award somewhere on your blog (hope the above image counts)
  • Thank the person who nominated you (thank you, Story Enthusiast!)
  • Provide a link to your nominator’s blog (did so above)
  • Answer your nominator’s questions (will do so below)
  • Nominate up to 11 bloggers (I'll get there)
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions (what fun!)
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on at least one of their blog posts (of course)

On to the questions!!!  (If I've reviewed a film I mention here, I've linked the title to my review.)

1. What British or international film would you recommend to a friend who has never seen one? 

Hmmmmm.  This is a hard question because it doesn't take into account the fact that people like different genres and so on.  And I'm not sure what friends of mine have never seen an international film!  However, if you happen to be into westerns and/or like unusual retellings of Hamlet, I really dig the Italian spaghetti western The Wild and the Dirty (1968), also called Johnny Hamlet.

2. Which classic film director do you prefer and what is your favorite of their films? 

John Sturges.  I don't love all of his films, but I do love several, especially The Magnificent Seven (1960).  And The Great Escape (1963), Hour of the Gun (1967), and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).

3. Which character actor or actress do you think would have made a great lead? 

I wish Gloria Grahame had gotten to play front and center more.

4. What child actor do you believe should have had success as an adult but didn’t? 

Hmm.  Margaret O'Brien did make a lot of things as an adult, but not with nearly the success she had as a child.  (She's still alive, by the way!  So cool!)

5. What film do you love, but dislike the ending? 

Um.  I don't know if I can think of any.  Endings are super important to me.  If a movie doesn't end properly, I'm not going to love it.  I just looked through my entire list of my 100 favorite films, and I don't dislike a single ending on there.

Now, I can tell you a movie that I would like EXCEPT that the ending ruins it for me, so I can't like it, and that's Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).  I much prefer the ending of the original story by Truman Capote.  And no, this isn't a case of me reading the story first and then not liking the film -- I saw and disliked the movie twice before I ever read and liked the story.

6. Whose onscreen wardrobe do you covet and would like to claim for your own? 

I want to wear basically every dress and bathrobe and pair of pajamas in White Christmas (1954).

7. Which original film do you think could be improved as a remake and who would you cast? 

Hmm.  How about Breakfast at Tiffany's?  We can restore the original ending and all will be well.  I think Alicia Vikander as Holly and James McAvoy as Paul would be interesting.

8. Which classic film actor or actress do you think would be successful in today’s film industry?

Lee Marvin.  Couldn't you see him in modern action movies, menacing and sidewinding and wonderful?

9. What film trope do you never tire of seeing?

Found families.  I eat them up with ravenous delight.

10. If you could adapt a piece of classic literature that has not yet been made into a film, what book would you choose and who would you cast in the main roles?

If I could be in charge of making a movie version of The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery so that it wouldn't get all screwed up, then that would be a very good book to adapt.  But only if it didn't get all screwed up.  I want Elizabeth Henstridge to play Valancy Stirling and Michael Fassbender as Barney Snaith.  If you can't get Fassbender to play Barney, I want no part of it whatsoever, the end.

11. Which of today’s modern actors or actresses do you think would have been successful in classic films and why?

Michael Fassbender.  He has a classical introspection and a wide range, and I think he'd have been fantastic in '60s films.

And now, my questions:

1.  What movie house would you like to live in?
2.  What movie pet would you like to own?
3.  What book do you wish your favorite actor or actress could have starred in an adaptation of?
4.  Are there any movies you like better than the book they were based on?
5.  What's your favorite movie that's set in the decade you were born in?
6.  Do you collect movie memorabilia of any sort?
7.  What actor and actress have never made a movie together, but you wish would have?
8.  What director would you like to have direct a movie based on your life?
9.  Do you ever like a remake better than the original film?
10. What's your least-favorite movie genre?
11.  Are there any movies in your least-favorite genre that you do like?

And my nominees:

Anna and Irene at Horseback to Byzantium
Cordy at Any Merry Little Thought
Eva at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness
Heidi at Along the Brandywine
Jocelyn at Classic Film Observations & Obsessions
Katie at I'm Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read)
MovieCritic at Movies Meet Their Match
Natalie at Starry Ramblings
Olivia at Meanwhile, in Rivendell...
Paddy at Caftan Woman
Phyl at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

Play if you want to!