Saturday, February 26, 2022

Winners of the We Love Detective Week Giveaway + Wrap-Up

Here's the post you've all been waiting for on tenterhooks, right?  Time to solve our own little mystery of Who Wins What Gift from this week's giveaway :-D

Prize One: Silver Screen Icons collection of The Thin Man (1934), After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), and Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) on two DVDs (used) -- Eva

Prize Two: Charade (1963) on DVD (new) -- Phyl

Prize Three: Calcutta (1947) on DVD (new) -- Annie

Prize Four: Classic Tales of Detection and Adventure by Edgar Allan Poe (new) -- AnnMarie

Prize Five: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (new) -- Andrea

Prize Six: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (used) -- Chloe the MovieCritic

Prize Seven: The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler (used) -- Katie Hanna

Prize Eight: Four bookmarks featuring quotations from Agatha Christie mysteries -- Realweegiemidget Reviews

Prize Nine: Four pieces of Sherlock Holmes artwork featuring quotations and illustrations -- CC

Congratulations to the nine winners!  I will be emailing you later today to ask for your mailing info, but I need to scoot out the door right now, so it will have to wait for later.

And thank you to everyone who participated in We Love Detective Week and made it so much fun!  If you have any last-minute contributions, go right ahead and share them!  If you haven't read everyone's entries yet, here's a handy list so you can find them:  

Answers to the "Name That Mystery" Game

Here are the answers to the "Name That Mystery" game from Tuesday!  And everyone's scores are below.  How did you do?

A: Paris, prosthetic hand, multiple identities, gold.
7. Charade (1963)

B: House party, butler, candlestick, singing telegram.
10. Clue (1985)

C: New York City, portrait, silver shinbone, negligee.
3. Laura (1944)

D: Massachusetts, mystery writer, birthday party, immigrants. 
15. Knives Out (2019)

E: Apartment complex, binoculars, wheelchair, suitcase.
6. Rear Window (1954)

F: Chicago, vascular surgeon, wrongful conviction, train wreck.
12. The Fugitive (1993)

G: Kenport, boiling coffee, car bomb, mink coats, the mob.
5. The Big Heat (1953)

H: Mississippi, racism, factory, chewing gum.
8. In the Heat of the Night (1967)

I: Manderley, housekeeper, sailboat, fire.
16. Rebecca (2020)

J: Amish country, barn raising, lemonade, ice cream.
11. Witness (1985)

K: San Francisco, Knights Templar, statue, dreams.
2. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

L: London, martial arts, sewers, disguises.
14. Sherlock Holmes (2009)


Andrea -- 12
Phyl -- 12
Eva -- 11
Lissa -- 10
Katie Hanna -- 9
Chloe the Movie Critic -- 6

Friday, February 25, 2022

My Answers to the We Love Detectives Week Blog Tag

Quick reminder -- today is the LAST day you can enter my giveaway!  There haven't been a lot of people entering yet, so you might have a really good chance at winning something.  Go enter, if you haven't yet!

Today, I've finally got a few minutes to answer the official party tag :-)  So, here we go!

What's your favorite mystery with... 

1. ...a historical setting? 

The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle.  That's one of my top ten favorite books of all time, and my favorite mystery.  While its setting was contemporary at the time it was written, it's now a historical one for us!

My favorite filmed adaptation is the 1988 version starring Jeremy Brett, which is practically perfect in every way :-D

2. ...a modern setting? 

This is a toss-up between Bones (2005-2017) and Castle (2009-2016).  I absolutely love both shows, for my usual reason that I really enjoy hanging out with the characters.  If I had to pick a favorite episode for each of them... I probably couldn't.  Too many fun ones!

3. ...a lone detective? 

The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler is my favorite book by my favorite author, and it is completely splendid.  Private investigator Philip Marlowe may be on his shiniest white knight behavior in this one.

4. ...a pair of sleuths? 

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King.  Sherlock Holmes takes on an apprentice?  Who's an obstinate, headstrong teen girl?  My only regret about this book is that I never read it when I was an actual teen girl myself.  I would have loved it.  I do love it, anyway, but I could have loved it for longer than I have, you know?

5. ...a professional/police detective? 

Definitely Laura (1944).  Detective Mark MacPherson (Dana Andrews) is simply marvelous.  I really just never get tired of that movie!

6. amateur detective? 

Probably The Blue Dahlia (1946).  Johnny Morrison (Alan Ladd) doesn't set out to be a detective, but the only way he can figure out how to clear himself of his wife's murder is to find who actually did kill her, so off he goes.

7. ...a young sleuth? 

I'm going with The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.  Yes, I love Trixie Belden and Frank and Joe Hardy a whole lot.  But Turtle Wexler is in a special league all her own, folks.

8. aging detective? 

Hmm.  Maybe Hell on Frisco Bay (1955).  Former policeman Steve Rollins (Alan Ladd) is released from prison after serving time for a crime he didn't commit, and he sets about tracking down those who really did it.  He's not some young, tough, snarky guy, but a tired man who got middle-aged while in prison and has to lean more on his brains than his physical strength than he might have years ago.

9. ...a cozy feel? 

I'm not hugely into cozy mysteries, but the Drew Farthering mysteries by Julianna Deering are pretty cozy and comfy, except for all the dead bodies that keep turning up. They're set in England in the 1920s and are probably the best Christian historical fiction mysteries I've ever read.

(From my Instagram account)

10. ...a shocking reveal?

A Family Affair by Rex Stout shocked me so much the first time I read it!  Don't read it if you aren't familiar with the characters already, as it won't be nearly as shocking if you aren't.  But if you are, well, it's pretty darn intense.  I really love the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Stout, and if you like snappy dialog, mid-1900s settings, and complicated plots, definitely try them out.

This is my last entry for my We Love Detectives Week party!  Don't forget to enter the giveaway and play the games -- I'll be drawing winners for the giveaway and posting answers and scores for the matching game tomorrow.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

"In the Heat of the Night" (1967)

It kind of blows my mind that Norman Jewison directed In the Heat of the Night (1967) because I associate him with the comedies The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! (1966) and Moonstruck (1987).  And this movie is definitely not a comedy, though it has some funny bits of snappy dialog that make me laugh aloud.  But he also directed Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and that definitely has a lot of melancholy and dark parts, so... he obviously handles darker material well too.  Which is cool, to have that kind of directing range.

Anyway.  I first saw In the Heat of the Night about fifteen years ago.  I watched it for Sidney Poitier because I knew this was one of the three movies he made in 1967 that all made a huge splash -- the others were Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and To Sir, with Love, and I'd seen them both before I saw this.  Of the three, this is by far my favorite.  

The movie opens with a dorky white police officer finding a dead body in the alley of a small Mississippi town.  It's a rich white man from Somewhere Else who was spearheading the building of a new factory that was going to bring a thousand new jobs to the area.  But now, he's dead, his wallet's gone, and who in this sleepy little town could possibly have done such a thing?  Surely not anyone who belongs there.

Enter the perfect, most obvious suspect possible:  a stranger.  Not just any old stranger, but a black man in a nice suit with a lot of money in his wallet, waiting in a train station.  Obviously, he must have killed that rich white man and stolen his money.  Why else would a black man have a lot of money?  The white police officers who find this obvious suspect are filled with joy over having solved this murder so quickly and easily, and they can't wait to drag their obvious suspect down to the police station to impress their chief!  Never mind that their obvious suspect insists he is innocent and has no idea what is even going on.

But then, their solution falls apart.  The suspect's name is Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), and Chief Gillespie (Rod Steiger) quickly discovers that Tibbs is also a police officer -- and not just a fellow officer, but a big-city homicide detective from Philadelphia.  Which the over-eager small-town officers didn't bother finding out before they arrested him.  Tibbs is just passing through, on his way back to Philadelphia from visiting family and changing trains in this little nowhere town.

Much to the chagrin, annoyance, and even anger of both Tibbs and Gillespie, Tibbs gets ordered by his superiors to help Gillespie solve this murder.  So he does.  Eventually.  But along the way, both Tibbs and Gillespie have a whole lot of learning and growing to do.

You see, this is 1967.  It's the height of the Civil Rights Movement.  In 1967, there were riots in black neighborhoods in more than 100 American cities.  Change had arrived, but not enough change and too much change all at once, and Americans of every color were having to examine their thoughts, beliefs, and behavior toward anyone who didn't look like them.  And it's that examination that is the core of In the Heat of the Night.  

Chief Gillespie begins the movie with a snide, condescending attitude toward Detective Tibbs.  Even after he finds out Tibbs is a fellow police officer, he talks down to Tibbs.  Pretends to humor him.  Pretends to allow him to work the case, even when it is very clear to Gillespie that he needs Tibbs's expertise.  He can't bring himself to admit, for a very long time, that Tibbs might be smarter, more educated, and more experienced than he is.  Because if he admitted any of that, he'd have to admit that Tibbs was at least his equal, if not his superior.  And that's not a view that's allowable by the culture Gillespie grew up in, lives in, trusts.

Detective Tibbs begins the movie knowing he's smarter, more educated, and more experienced than Chief Gillespie.  He knows that, if he doesn't work this case, they're probably going to pin the murder on the next person that suits them.  He believes himself above everyone on that police force.  He would never arrest someone because of the color of their skin.  He would never pin a crime on an innocent man because finding the guilty one would be inconvenient.  He would never look down on someone because they are a different race than he is.  Until, gradually, Tibbs begins to realize he's doing exactly that.  He's convinced that he's better than Chief Gillespie and the other police officers because he's not white.

Once Gillespie and Tibbs stop treating each other -- and thinking of each other -- as A Black Man and A White Man, they finally make progress on the case.  They both discover that they can respect and even like each other for who they are, not despite what they look like.  And that was a lesson that 1967 America desperately needed to learn.  It's also a lesson that 2022 America desperately needs to learn.  We've come a long way in learning to like people who look differently from us for who they are... and we have also not come very far at all in learning that we shouldn't like someone despite what they look like.  Does that make any sense?  I hope so.

Anyway!  Gillespie and Tibbs solve the murder, and Tibbs gets on a train for Philadelphia a couple days later than expected.  And he and Gillespie share a rueful smile as they say farewell.  I think they're both acknowledging how much they learned over the couple of days they worked together, and how hard it's going to be to hold onto that new knowledge.

Is this movie family friendly?  Well, no.  There's a smattering of bad language, violence, scary situations, and a lot of unsavory stuff going on.  (WARNING: the rest of this paragraph contains SPOILAGE).  Unsavory stuff like peeping tom behavior, accusations of rape, and discussions about illegal abortions.  There is some clinical discussion of cause of death for the murdered man, plus shots of his body on the street when discovered and in the morgue when examined later.  And there are a couple of very tense and possibly scary parts where Virgil Tibbs is threatened by white supremacists who gang up on him and clearly intend to hurt and then kill him.  

TL;DR:  This movie does not shy away from hard topics, and I would not show it to anyone under sixteen.  However, it is clearly not glorifying or condoning the kinds of behavior and actions listed above.  I do not find it a problematic movie for adults and mature teens to watch.  It is definitely not appropriate for children, in my opinion.

I'm contributing this review to my We Love Detectives Week blog party :-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Detective Adventure Game

Time for this week's second game!  This is a sort of choose-your-own-adventure game where you mix and match different ingredients to write your own little mystery.  Share your results in the comments below!

(Note: comments are still on moderation because of Tuesday's guessing game, but I will approve comments as quickly as I can.)

You're going to mix all these ingredients together to make a funky little mystery story starring you and some famous detective(s)!

Your Problem

Your favorite of these candy options determines what you need a detective to solve.
  • Peanut butter cup = your father has disappeared
  • Licorice = your grandma got swindled out of the deed to her house
  • Jelly beans = your son has been kidnapped
  • Peanut brittle = your car has been stolen
  • Taffy = you're being blackmailed 
  • Gummy bears = your dog's puppies have been stolen
  • Dark chocolate = you have selective amnesia
  • Chocolate-covered cherry = your fiance/e is hiding something from you
  • Caramels = you're being mistaken for a notorious criminal
  • Bubble gum = you think your neighbor has killed their spouse

The Chief Suspect

The last number of your birth year determines who you think is behind these shenanigans.  
  • 0 = the barista at your favorite coffee shop
  • 1 = your boss
  • 2 = your favorite uncle
  • 3 = your childhood best friend
  • 4 = your mother-in-law
  • 5 = the lifeguard at the neighborhood pool
  • 6 = your ex
  • 7 = two little old ladies who live around the corner
  • 8 = the mayor
  • 9 = a stranger you met on the train

The Setting

The first letter of the town/city where you live determines where your story takes place.  (If you live out in the country, use the town in your mailing address.)
  • A-E = the Australian Outback
  • F-J = Los Angeles
  • K-O = Rio de Janeiro 
  • P-T = London
  • U-Z = a small village in Botswana


The color of your shirt today determines who you ask to solve your mystery!  (I've linked their names to Wikipedia articles about them in case you don't know who these reasonably famous fictional detectives are.)

Plot Twist

When you woke up today determines the sudden twist that complicates your case.
  • Before 5am = Your detective uncovers a plot to kill your favorite pop star, and you learn that your own problem is just a side issue in a much larger conspiracy.
  • Between 5am and 6am = Your detective searches your chief suspect's rooms and discovers a cache of Medieval artifacts that are obviously stolen.
  • Between 6am and 7am = Your detective discovers that your chief suspect might actually be Jimmy Hoffa in disguise.
  • Between 7am and 8am = Your detective gets kidnapped by your chief suspect, and now you must try to find and rescue them.
  • Between 8 am and 9am = Your detective tracks your chief suspect to their hideout and discovers they are actually working for KAOS, the international organization of evil.
  • After 9am = Your detective turns out to be in cahoots with your chief suspect.


The color of your eyes determines how it all works out.
  • Brown = Your chief suspect turns out to be completely innocent; a criminal mastermind was framing them, and your case helps put that mastermind away for life.
  • Blue = You help your detective follow your suspect and catch them red-handed trying to do the same thing to someone else that they did to you.  They're going to jail for a long time now.
  • Green = Your chief suspect gets into a shoot-out with your detective and dies in your arms after confessing.
  • Gray = Your chief suspect turns her/himself in and plea-bargains with the District Attorney, turning state's evidence against some bad guy you've never heard of and not getting punished at all for what they did to you... at least, not by the authorities....
  • Black = You try to trap your chief suspect into confessing, but they jump off a bridge and drown, so you never learn why they did this.
  • Hazel = Your chief suspect tries to flee the country, but border patrol catches them and turns them over to the authorities.
  • Violet = You save your chief suspect from drowning in a river, and they confess out of remorse and beg you to forgive them.

Now you just put it all together!  Something like this:

[Problem] just happened, and I think [Chief Suspect] is responsible.  So here I am in [Setting], asking [Detective(s)] to find out what's going on.  Before they do [Plot Twist] happens, but eventually [Solution].

Here's mine:

I have selective amnesia, and I think the barista at my favorite coffee shop here in this small Botswana village is responsible.  So I hired Sherlock Holmes to find out what happened to me.  But the barista kidnapped Sherlock Holmes, and I had to try to rescue him!  Happily, the barista was completely innocent, and being framed by a criminal mastermind, which is good because I liked the way she made mocha.  Sherlock Holmes caught that mastermind and turned him over to the authorities, so that guy will be spending the rest of his life in jail.  Now if I could only get my memory back and figure out what I'm doing in Botswana...

Your turn!

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Name That Mystery Game

This week's first game is a matching one!  I'm giving you clues to twelve famous mystery-oriented movies, and you have to match them to the title of the movie they come from.  The only catch?  I'm providing sixteen "suspect" movies, but clues for only twelve movies, so you'll have four movies left over that don't get used... just to keep things interesting!

I have tried not to spoil any of the mysteries with my clues by using things that reveal stuff about their endings or solutions.  So I've stuck to settings, famous incidents or character types, and props or objects that play an important or memorable role somehow.  I hope they're not too hard!


1. The Thin Man (1934)
2. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
3. Laura (1944)
4. The Blue Dahlia (1946)
5. The Big Heat (1953)
6. Rear Window (1954)
7. Charade (1963)
8. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
9. Bullitt (1968)
10. Clue (1985)
11. Witness (1985)
12. The Fugitive (1993)
13. Taken (2008)
14. Sherlock Holmes (2009)
15. Knives Out (2019)
16. Rebecca (2020)


A: Paris, prosthetic hand, wash-and-wear, gold.
B: House party, butler, candlestick, singing telegram.
C: New York City, portrait, silver shinbone, negligee.
Massachusetts, mystery writer, birthday party, immigrants. 
Apartment complex, binoculars, wheelchair, suitcase.
Chicago, vascular surgeon, wrongful conviction, train wreck.
Kenport, boiling coffee, car bomb, the mob.
Mississippi, racism, factory, chewing gum.
Manderley, housekeeper, sailboat, fire.
Amish country, barn raising, lemonade, ice cream.
San Francisco, Knights Templar, statue, dreams.
London, martial arts, sewers, disguises.

Put your answers in a comment on this post -- for example, "M = 17, N = 20, O = 18."  I've put all comments on moderation, so you don't have to worry about someone seeing your answers and cheating off them.  I'll reveal the solutions on Saturday, along with everyone's scores!

Monday, February 21, 2022

We Love Detectives Week -- Link-Up and Tag

We Love Detectives Week is here!  Are you excited?  I'm excited :-D

The Link-Up

Just like last year's pirate party, you can use this handy widget to share the link to every post you contribute to this event.  And then check out other people's posts!  These parties are all about getting to know each other, sharing love for a genre, and getting recommendations for new movies and books and shows to try. 

The Tag

As always, I've created a quick tag to help break the ice at this party.  Simply copy these questions to your own blog, answer them there, and then leave us a link to your post!  It's not a mysterious process at all, I promise ;-)

What's your favorite mystery with...

1. ...a historical setting?
2. ...a modern setting?
3. ...a lone detective?
4. ...a pair of sleuths?
5. ...a professional/police detective?
6. amateur detective?
7. ...a young sleuth?
8. aging detective?
9. ...a cozy feel?
10. ...a shocking reveal?

Don't forget to add one of these cheery buttons to your posts for this event!  

I've already started my giveaway, so be sure to enter that if you like free detective-oriented stuff.  

I'll be sharing a couple of games over the next few days, so stop back for those!  And check that link-up widget every day or so to see what people have been contributing :-)  But, most of all... have fun!

We Love Detective Week -- Giveaway

Of course there's a giveaway!  There's always a giveaway.  Get out your magnifying glass and give these prizes a look!

This giveaway is open internationally. If the USPS delivers to your country, you may enter. 

More about the prizes: 

Prize One: Silver Screen Icons collection of The Thin Man (1934), After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), and Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) on two DVDs.  These are effervescent comedy-mysteries starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a retired detective and his wealthy wife.  Their dapper chemistry, witty banter, and generally jolly attitude toward everything make them the perfect pick-me-up for any cloudy day. This collection is USED -- the discs appear to work in my DVD player, but I can't guarantee they will in yours.  (Appropriate for most ages; contains a lot of alcohol use and some violence.)

Prize Two: Charade (1963) on DVD.  A witty and sophisticated suspense film starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.  A young widow is pursued by three Bad Guys who insist she's hiding something her husband stole from them, and the only person she can trust is... complicated.  You can read my full review here.  This copy is NEW.  (Appropriate for teens and adults; contains violence, frightening and suspenseful moments, and lots of double-entendre-laden banter.)

Prize Three: Calcutta (1947) on DVD.  A twisty film noir mystery starring Alan Ladd and Gail Russell.  An American pilot living in India tries to figure out who killed his best friend, and why.  You can read my full review here.  This copy is NEW.  (Appropriate for ten and up; contains violence and some kissing.)

Prize Four: Classic Tales of Detection and Adventure by Edgar Allan Poe.  Contains the first true detective story, "Murders in the Rue Morgue," as well as two other adventures starring C. Auguste Dupin, plus two other mysterious Poe stories.  This copy is NEW.  (Appropriate for readers 12 and up.)

Prize Five: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Contains twelve classic Sherlock Holmes stories, plus fifteen reproductions of Sidney Paget's original illustrations. You can read my full review here.  This copy is NEW, but it has a slight defect at the bottom edge, as shown below.  (Appropriate for readers 10 and up.)

Prize Six: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.  Possibly the most-famous hardboiled detective mystery ever, and certainly a fine one.  Philip Marlowe is hired to figure out who is blackmailing a spoiled little rich girl, and it all snowballs from there.  You can read my full review here.  This copy is USED.  (Appropriate for readers 15 and up.)

Prize Seven: The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler.  My favorite mystery by my favorite author.  Philip Marlowe is hired to check on a rich man's wife at her lakeside retreat, just to be sure she's okay, and people keep winding up dead.  You can read my full review here.  This copy is USED.  (Appropriate for readers 15 and up.)

Prize Eight: Four bookmarks featuring quotations from Agatha Christie mysteries paired with illustrations.  I purchased these as a digital file from Eden Digital Arts and printed them on cardstock, then added velvety ribbons for a little extra elegance.

Prize Nine: Four pieces of Sherlock Holmes artwork featuring quotations and illustrations, each approximately 4"x6".  I purchased these as a digital file from Images By the Book and printed them myself.  They would be suitable for framing or sending as postcards, etc.

Rules and Regulations:

This giveaway will end at 11:59pm EST on Friday, February 25, 2022. I'll draw nine winners on Saturday, February 26, and announce them here on my blog that day, as well as alert them by the email provided to the widget. Use an email address you check often! If I don't receive a response from a winner by Saturday, March 5, that winner will be disqualified and I'll draw another. 

This giveaway is open worldwide to anyone living in any country where the USPS delivers. I am not responsible for the activities of any postal service -- I will send off your prize in the condition shown above, but it's arrival condition is not something I can control. To enter, must be 18+ or have parent's permission to provide a mailing address. Void where prohibited. Not affiliated with Blogger, Google, Etsy, or any of the shops listed here. I purchased all these prizes, they were not donated or solicited in any way. I will use your email and mailing addresses solely for the purpose of this giveaway. They will not be saved by me to use another way or provided to anyone else.

Once you've entered, go check out the rest of the party fun!

Friday, February 18, 2022

Would You Rather: Lovely Edition

Cordy is hosting her Lovely Blog Party all month long at Any Merry Little Thought!  Although I am late to the party, I guess it's better to be late than not to join at all, right?  So here are my answers to her "Would You Rather: Lovely Edition" blog tag for the party :-)

Would you rather wear a ball gown for a formal first date, or would you prefer an active first date?

Well, my actual first date with the man I eventually married was our college's Spring Formal dance!  So I wore... not a ball gown, exactly, but a formal gown.  But, on a whole, I would rather have a laid-back but maybe more active sort of date like going to a movie or taking a walk or going horseback riding, that sort of thing.  If I had to go on a first date again, which, Lord willing, I never will.

Would you rather have to matchmake for someone, or have someone matchmake for you? 

NEITHER.  I do not like matchmaking.  I find it meddlesome.  I actually went on a blind date that a friend set up once, and we did go on a second date, but that was as far as that ever went.  On a whole, I think matchmaking tends to not work very well at all.

Would you rather be serenaded or be the one that has to do the serenading? 

I'd rather be serenaded.  I would probably be much too nervous to actually serenade someone.

Would you rather receive flowers and chocolates or chocolates and a teddy bear as tokens of affection? 

Flowers and chocolates!  Which is what I got this year for Valentine's Day, actually, though my Cowboy got me the flowers a week ahead of time when they're cheaper, and I chose my box of chocolates myself and gave them to him to give to me.  Hee!

Would you rather wear a veil or a flower crown on your wedding day? 

I wore a flower crown (of fake flowers) with an elbow-length veil coming out of it at the back for my wedding.  I did not have a veil in front of my face.  I am really clumsy and was afraid the limited visibility of a veil would make me trip while walking down the aisle.

(Us on our wedding day, getting ready to walk to church.)

Would you rather receive a romantic poem or have to write and gift a romantic poem? 

I've written and given quite a few romantic poems, but I'm not sure I've ever gotten one because my husband is not a poet.  Sometimes he writes down lyrics for a favorite love song and gives me that, though!

Would you rather cook a meal for your date, or have your date cook for you? 

My husband is a WAY better cook than I am, so I would love to have him cook for me!  I mean, he actually does cook every weekend, but a special meal just for us would be a lot of fun :-)

(Actual food made by my actual husband...)

Would you rather watch a chick-flick or an action film as your date-night movie? 

I prefer action films to most chick flicks, so I will definitely go the bang-bang-shoot-em-up route!

Would you rather dance in the rain, or stargaze together?

Hmm.  This is the hardest question here, for me!  I like to do both.  I've done both.  I might pick stargazing, as doing that would mean we had gone out to the countryside far from the city.  Much too much night pollution here to do any real stargazing.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

My Ten Favorite Alan Ladd Westerns

Today is my sixth Alaniversary :-)  To celebrate six years of loving Alan Ladd, I am sharing my list of my ten favorite western movies he starred in.  (I did a list of my 10 favorite movies of his from all genres a couple years ago, which you can check out here.)  He's best known today for westerns because of Shane (1953), but for most of his career, he was mostly known for action and film noir movies! But you know I have a special soft spot for his westerns.

All titles are linked to my reviews if I've done a review of that film :-)

1. Branded (1950) A conman (Robert Keith) persuades a drifting loner (Alan Ladd) to impersonate the long-lost son of a wealthy rancher (Charles Bickford) to acquire his fortune. But the drifter comes to care about the family and sets out to find their real son for them. It's unlike any other western I've ever seen, and I mean that in the best way possible. Refreshingly non-usual! 

2. Shane (1953) A stubborn farmer (Van Heflin) hires a drifting stranger (Alan Ladd) to work on his farm. The stranger turns out to be a gunman who uses his deadly prowess to protect the farmer and his family from a bullying rancher who wants to push them off their land. This is probably Ladd's most famous movie now, and with good reason -- he fits the role with a comfortable grace seldom equaled. 

3. Whispering Smith (1948) A railroad detective (Alan Ladd) discovers that his longtime best friend (Robert Preston) is stealing from the railroad. To complicate matters, he used to be in love with the woman (Brenda Marshall) who ended up marrying this friend instead. This is the movie that made me fall in love with Alan Ladd. 

4. The Proud Rebel (1958) A widowed father (Alan Ladd) with a mute son (David Ladd) gets hired by a farmer (Olivia de Havilland) to help repair her run-down farm and keep a greedy rancher (Dean Jagger) from seizing her land. When he learns of a possible cure for his son's muteness, he sells the boy's beloved dog to raise the money for the operation, with heart-breaking results. But it all turns out okay.  I love the scenes between Alan and his son David -- they're very sweet and natural together. 

5. Red Mountain (1951) Near the end of the American Civil War, a Confederate officer (Alan Ladd) is sent to Colorado to aid General Quantrill, but ends up involved in a murder, a rebellion, and a love triangle. It's a totally different movie than I was expecting, but not in a bad way.  Another atypical western for Ladd.

6. Saskatchewan (1954) A member of the RCMP (Alan Ladd) rescues a woman in distress (Shelley Winters), leads his troop to safety when local natives rise up against them, and stops an invasion.  All with absolutely breathtaking Canadian scenery.  One of the few westerns I've seen that are set in Canada!

7. The Iron Mistress (1952) Highly fictionalized and adventuresome portrayal of the live of frontiersman James Bowie (Alan Ladd).  Bowie falls in love with a sophisticated New Orleans woman (Virginia Mayo), fights a bunch of duels, and finally forges the perfect frontier knife.

8. Drum Beat (1954) A former Indian fighter (Alan Ladd) is sent to make a peace treaty with the Modoc tribe of northern California.  This involves him having to guard a wagon train, make quite a few speeches, and fight one unwilling-to-make-peace Modoc played by a very young Charles Bronson.

9. The Big Land (1957) After the Civil War, former Texas Confederates are still battling former Yankees, especially in Missouri.  When one Texan (Alan Ladd) saves one Yankee (Edmond O'Brien) from a lynching, the two decide to work together to help the railroad reach Kansas so the Texans can drive their cattle there for shipment instead of to embattled Missouri.  The Yankee has a pretty sister (Virginia Mayo) to complicate matters.

10.  Guns of the Timberland (1960) A group of lumberjacks (led by Alan Ladd) arrives in town to cut down a bunch of timber nearby, and the people of the town (led by Jeanne Crain) object.  Loggers had clear-cut an area not far away and destroyed a town in the process, and these townsfolk don't want the same thing to happen to them.  Interestingly, while on set, Alan Ladd became friends with Louis L'Amour (who wrote the book this is vaguely based on), and L'Amour later dedicated his book The Broken Gun to Alan Ladd and his best friend William Bendix after they had both died.

Okay, there you have it!  My ten favorite Ladd westerns :-)  Want to guess which one I'm planning to watch tonight?

Monday, February 14, 2022

Happy Birthday, Vic Morrow: "Dear Goon"

It's Vic Morrow's birthday today.  You know he's a favorite of mine.  You know I love the character he played on Combat! (1962-67), Sgt. Saunders, more than any other fictional character I've ever met.  You might even know that I have, for many years, co-maintained a fansite dedicated to Combat! that features all the fanfiction I've written for the show over the past 20 years.  I haven't written any for a couple years, but today, a friend shared a new story with me, and I'd been thinking a lot about Vic because it's his birthday, and, well... a story happened.

This is basically a first draft.  I wrote it after my kids finished school, ran over it once to find typos, and now I'm posting it.  If you've ever wondered what an unedited story from me looks like, well, now's your chance to find out ;-)

Happy birthday, Vic Morrow.  Thank you for everything.

"Dear Goon"
by Rachel Kovaciny/White Queen

Saunders turned the unopened letter over and over in his fingers, wondering.  He'd gotten hundreds of letters from home over the past few years.  His mom favored regular letters over V-mail, but she'd use the faster method if she thought she had things to say that needed to get to him quickly.  Never good things.  Getting V-mail from home usually meant a problem.  Something she thought he could somehow fix from the other side of an ocean.  Something that usually left him feeling frustrated at not being able to be two places at once.

Except this wasn't from his mom.

That wasn't her tight script spelling out his name.  And it wasn't her name in the return address section.  It was a loopy handwriting that said 'Louise Saunders.'  And that worried him.  What could his kid sister need to write him about?  She usually just added a line at the end of their mother's letters, maybe a joke or a funny remark.  She'd never written him a whole letter, much less sent him something on her own.

Saunders headed for his quiet spot in the corner of what had once been a greenhouse.  The platoon had set up their HQ in a bombed-out manor house, and they'd been there for almost three whole days.  Long enough for the mail to catch up with them.  He should be trying to grab some sleep that afternoon, resting up before tonight's patrol.  Night patrols were always rough.  But he'd never sleep until he knew what Louise needed.

Thinking her name brought a half-smile to his face.  Louise.  Such a grown-up name for a runny-nosed brat with skinned knees and pigtail braids and freckles.  No wonder he almost never used it.  Not to her face, anyway.  Maybe she'd grow into it one day.

He settled into the corner he'd cleared for himself, sunshine pouring through the glass above and behind him, good walls to his back, all approaches in clear view.  Half of the greenhouse was a twisted wreck, smashed when a bomb tossed a huge tree on top of it.  The other half had been cluttered up with junk and debris, but the panes of glass and metal framework holding them were still just fine.  And it was quiet.

Saunders knew he was just delaying the moment when he'd have to open the letter, read about his sister's problems, maybe see if he could write her back with a few words of... whatever she needed.  Advice, probably.  Didn't daughters and mothers sometimes butt heads?  Maybe she and their mom were on the outs. That was it.  Probably.

Unless there was some reason their mom couldn't write to him.  Chilling thought.

Unfolding the paper against his knee, he skimmed the letter through first, checking to make sure there wasn't any dire news.  No deaths, no illnesses.  She'd typed the whole thing, with occasional misspellings and X-ed out words.  Probably thought she could fit more words that way.  He went back and reread the whole thing slowly, once he saw there was nothing serious to worry about.  

Dear Goon,

I suppose I shouldn't address your letter that way.  Not on the outside, anyway.  Bet they wouldn't deliver something marked 'Sgt. Goon Saunders.'  Maybe they would.  Maybe I should say 'Dear Sergeant' here instead, too.  They read V-mail, don't they?  I guess they read all your mail.

I'm stalling.  Sorry.  I've got a problem.  This is so awkward, but I don't know who else to talk to.  My problem's name is Terry Dawes.  He's sixteen too, and funny, and he reads more books in a week than I read in a year.  I like him an awful lot.  I even asked him to the Fourth of July dance last week -- it was a Sadie Hawkins dance, so that wasn't awkward, me asking him to the dance.  That's not the problem.

The problem is, I mean it when I say I like him.  So much.  Have you ever been in love?  How do you know if you are?  I know you've had girlfriends.  I even liked some of them.  But you didn't ask any of them to marry you before you left for the war, so I guess you didn't love any of them.  And I don't guess you'll fall in love while you're fighting a war, unless you meet a nurse or something.

Stalling again.  Here's the real problem: what if I'm falling in love with Terry?  How do I know if he's a good guy?  I mean, a really good, solid guy?  My friends like him.  But they're all sixteen like me.  What do they know?  Mom likes him.  But what does that tell me?  She liked our dad too, once.  Look how that ended up.  And I don't want to end up that way.  I know I'm too young to get married yet, but it won't be long before I'm not.  I'll be seventeen next year, and eighteen a year after that, and then... 

I know you understand people.  I just wish there was some way for you to meet Terry and tell me what you think of him.  I want your approval.  Isn't that wild?  You're probably laughing your head off by now.  That's what you usually did when I asked you for help with something.  Glad I could amuse you.  But, after you'd laugh, you'd help.  You always did.

Don't worry, I'm not eloping with him or anything.  I've promised Mom to finish high school, and I will.  Maybe by the time I do, you'll be home, and you can meet Terry and tell me what you think of him, first-hand.  I don't even know why I'm writing you this.

Thanks for listening, Goon.  When you get home, can I still call you that?  Or should I start practicing saying 'sergeant' and 'yes, sir' and saluting?

Your bratty little sister,

Saunders smoothed the creases and wrinkles in the paper against his knee, rubbing his palm over the letter. The Brat was sixteen?  The Brat had a steady boy?  When did that happen?  While he'd been gone, obviously.  Almost three years -- yeah, she would be about sixteen by now.

What had it been like to be sixteen?  He'd been sixteen when their dad left.  Sixteen was a lifetime ago.  What could he tell her?  Be careful?  Mom would tell her that.  Be sensible?  Maybe.  

Saunders leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.  What did he know about the kind of love a sixteen-year-old girl might be feeling?  Not that swift, aching desperation he'd felt a couple times the past year or so, that yearning for a private little oasis in the middle of a war.  Just two kids, pure and clean and sweet and happy, holding hands and dancing the jitterbug.  And thinking, maybe, this is it.  Asking a wise older brother for advice.  

Some wise older brother he was.

Sergeant Saunders, all out of advice.  Wasn't that a laugh.  Why did the words and the wisdom come easily when he had shells going off all around, or when he was pinned down in a firefight?  But now, nothing.

Who had he loved when he was sixteen?  Could he even push his mind back that far, past the war, past his jobs, past making sure his mom could make rent and his siblings could eat.  Sixteen.  A face teased him, taking its time coming into focus.  His high school sweetheart:  perky nose, red hair, little gap between her top front teeth.  Not his first kiss, but his first real sweetheart.  And he couldn't even remember her name now.  The Brat was right -- he'd never loved any of his girlfriends back home.

Be patient.  The Brat was never patient.  That's what she needed him to tell her.  Take her time, enjoy being sixteen, and let the rest come when she was ready.

Saunders opened his eyes.  It was better than nothing.  Maybe more words would come to him when he had those down.  He pulled out the pen and paper he'd stashed in his jacket's inner pockets, uncapped the pen, and started writing.

Dear Louise,

You can call me Goon as long as you want.  If I can still call you the Brat to your face.  What would your Terry think of that?

Listen, the thing I remember about being sixteen is, everything's happening all at once and you're in a big rush about it all.  Well, don't be...

The End

Sunday, February 13, 2022

"Death on the Nile" (2022) -- Initial Thoughts

I FINALLY GOT TO SEE THIS MOVIE!  I have waited for more than two years to see this movie.  And I have finally seen it.

Unfortunately, that long wait may have built my expectations up higher than this movie could actually bear.  I did like it.  But I didn't love it.  And maybe that's because... it would be really hard for any movie to live up to two years' worth of expectations and anticipation?  Possibly.

Except I often have movies that I really, really want to see and don't get a chance to see for years and years.  So I'm not convinced that over-anticipation is the reason I didn't love it.

Part of what I didn't love is how much they pushed the PG-13 boundaries in regards to sensuality.  There's a lot of suggestive bumping and grinding and clutching, and even a moment when a woman starts to unbuckle and reach inside her husband's pants.  It gets way too hot and heavy for me to let my 14-year-old watch this, for sure.  I, as a married adult, was uncomfortable.  And that was just not necessary.  Sigh.

The mystery itself is thoroughly mysterious.  People keep dying under Hercule Poirot's very mustache.  He is flummoxed.  In fact, he might be too flummoxed.  He really didn't do any detecting of note until very close to the end of the film.  It was almost like he was along for the ride on the murder boat, then finally got around to trying to solve things after multiple bodies had stacked up.  And it's not like he really stopped any more murders from happening, he just figured out who did the killing.  I don't think anyone else was going to get killed, by the time he solved it.  

I haven't read the novel yet, though it's been sitting on my shelf for two years, waiting for me to see this so I could read the book after.  I suspect I may like the book better.  We'll see.

(MAJOR SPOILERS in this paragraph!)  And, yes, part of what made me not love this movie was that Armie Hammer's character turns out to be a villain, and I am always vexed when a favorite of mine plays a bad guy.  Especially when I don't know going in that they'll be the bad guy.  So, there's that.  Plus, there's really no justice served on the guilty parties, as they commit murder-suicide to get out of going to jail.  Hmm.


So... I'm not saying "this movie isn't worth seeing," but it's not one I'll be buying so I can watch it over and over.  Which I was kind of hoping it would be, so that's a disappointment.  However, I will say that Armie Hammer was devastatingly handsome, Gal Gadot and Letitia Wright were very beautiful, and the whole movie was aesthetically elegant.  I do love how Branagh directs, with every shot very purposeful and never shaky or distractingly showy.  And the music by Patrick Doyle was lovely.  I may pick up the soundtrack at some point, since I do love Doyle's scores.

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Movie Music: John Williams' "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1982)

Today is John Williams's 90th birthday!  To celebrate, I am here today to discuss one of the coolest soundtracks ever. Ever. It's one of those soundtracks that is delicious to listen to by itself, but when paired with its movie, it's just sublime. I am, of course, talking about John Williams' insta-classic score for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982). 

The first track I'll share with you is "A Thought for Marion/To Nepal." I love how expectant it is, beginning with some soft, sweet ponderings, then a little mystery creeping in. And from there, a jolt of excitement, that wonderfully playful Indy theme popping in for a moment. Then it finishes up with a little Oriental flourish to bring in the idea we're going somewhere Foreign and Exotic. So cool!

My next selection is "The Basket Game," which balances playful and fearful so niftily. We're worried cuz Marion gets chased and then abducted, but there's a lot of comedy going on during the chase scene too, so the whole song feels like juggling, doesn't it? 

This might be my favorite moment in the whole movie -- when Indy's in the Map Room and the medallion on top of the staff actually shows him the location of the Ark. "The Map Room: Dawn" perfectly captures Indy's expressions there, going from hopeful to awestruck. 

"Washington Ending & Raiders March" starts off all sentimental. Indiana Jones has lost his prize. But he's got Marion still, so that's something. The song doesn't waste too much time on his annoyance -- he gets one minute to grouse, and then here comes the most glorious theme song in action movie history (IMHO). 

Really, the Raiders March feels to me like eating a giant Snickers bar while riding on a roller coaster with my best friend -- like being surrounded with joy, in other words. I'm sitting here with a big, goofy grin on my face, bobbing my head along with it as I type, and fully intending to hit "replay" as soon as it ends. How about you?

That's all I've got for you today, but if you want to listen to more, the entire album is available for your listening pleasure on YouTube here.

(This review originally appeared in a slightly different form here at J and J Productions on July 8, 2016.)

Saturday, February 05, 2022

My Ten Favorite John Williams Scores

John Williams is probably the only composer whose music is just as familiar to my kids as to my parents.  His career has lasted since the late 1950s through now, which is just staggeringly cool.  And his ninetieth birthday is February 8, so I am celebrating him this weekend by talking about how much I like his music.

Now, I'm no music expert.  I enjoy music.  I love soundtracks.  I can't tell you what makes a soundtrack good or bad, only whether or not I enjoy it.  And I really enjoy a lot of his soundtracks.  Not only has John Williams composed some of the most memorable and recognizable theme songs of all time (Star Wars?  Indiana Jones?  Harry Potter?  All the same guy?  WOW.), but his music is simply fun to listen to.  And he's written for such a variety of genres that there's a little something for everyone, which is always a bonus.

So, here are my top ten favorite John Williams scores, listed in order by how often I pull them out to listen to them (though there are a couple here I don't own on CD, but must listen to as mp3 files or on YouTube because those are what's available).  

Titles are linked to my reviews of the movies themselves, where applicable, but I've also included a link to a YouTube version of a favorite or iconic track for each score.

1. The Patriot (2000).  A beautiful blend of haunting melodies and insistent themes that fill me with resolve.  Listen to the final track here.  It brings a lump to my throat just around the three-minute mark.  And then keeps building.  Glorious.

2. Sabrina (1995).  Floating, gentle, sparkling music that perfectly suits one of my favorite movies of all time.  This is one of the first soundtracks I bought with my own money, though I have long since upgraded my cassette tape copy to a CD.  Listen to the main theme here.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).  This soundtrack makes me grin and want to go learn to do parkour or ride a horse or something.  Such an upbeat batch of music!  You can hear the last track here, which has all the good stuff in it, especially that march ;-)  Just so classic!

4. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).  I don't think I could separate these movies from this music.  They're all tied up so well in one happy and exciting package.  My favorite track is probably "The Throne Room/End Credits" because, like so many I'm sharing here, it makes me grin.  Also, I seem to have a thing for the last track on a soundtrack?  Anyway, you can listen to it here.

5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).  More happy, bouncy, let's-run-around-and-have-a-lot-of-rowdy-fun music :-)  With some poignant bits here and there, for balance.  My favorite track might be "Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra" which you can listen to here.

6. The Rare Breed (1966).  If this soundtrack was available as an album for real, it would be way higher on this list.  Probably at number two or three.  But it's not.  All I have ever found is a suite, which you can listen to here.  But I love that suite, and I love the movie, so... that's enough to put it on this list.

7. Return of the Jedi (1983).  Even though this is my favorite Star Wars movie, I don't pull the soundtrack out as often as the first one.  But I really like the medley of "Leia's News/Light of the Force" because it's sweet and gentle... and one of my favorite parts of the movie, heh.  Listen to it here.

8. The Phantom Menace (1999).  A rather weird case of me liking the soundtrack better than the movie.  Especially "Duel of the Fates," which is just one of the best movie score tracks ever.  Listen here.  It gives me goosebumps.

9. The Empire Strikes Back (1980).  Even though this is my least-favorite of the original trilogy, it might actually edge out Return of the Jedi for number of tracks I really like.  But when I listen to a soundtrack, I'm listening as much for the pleasure of remembering bits of the movie that goes with it as I am for the music itself, so that bumps this down a few notches.  I really like "Clash of Lightsabers" a lot -- so dark and chilling.  You can hear it here.

10. Superman (1978).  This is the only soundtrack on this list that I do not own a copy of and must listen to on YouTube.  I heartily recommend the main theme because it is such an iconic and delightful fanfare -- listen right here.  It's so exuberant! 

This has been my contribution to the John Williams Blogathon hosted all weekend by Taking Up Room in celebration of John Williams's 90th birthday!

By the way, if you've enjoyed this, I have been sharing an ongoing series of movie soundtrack reviews over the past few months.  You can find a list of all of those on my Movie Music Reviews page.  I'll be sharing a review of one of John Williams's scores on his birthday, too!