Saturday, November 26, 2005

NEW on the Web: Theater X-Net

Featuring: The illustrated story of Ida Rubinstein
Russian/Judaic Princess of Belle Epoch Parisian Theatre.

Thanks to Toni Bentley, author of The Sisters of Salome who took a look at Ida's chronology, and wrote these very nice words: Dear Mike, OK the link worked this time and the website is simply wonderful! Really quite lovely and thrilling to click through. Thanks for doing it and thank you for sending me the link.
Toni's written a number of other interesting books and articles, as well as dancing for George Balanchine in the NYC Ballet: Toni Bentley's Website

Visit: Michael's Montana Web Archive
Theater, Art, Flash Gordon, Funky Music and MORE!

Wildlife: The Raccoon pair visited us last night -- the cats were all staring out the back door, and when I looked out two sets of black-masked eyes were staring back at me from either side of the box feeder.

Weather: The inversion has passed, but a huge snowstorm is about to envelop the Western USA and Canada, well out into the upper Great Plains.

Charity Alert: Click on The Hunger Site every day -- they can handle it.

In The Community: The Kalispell Art Walk is a week from tonight. I'll be at the Hockaday Museum of Art helping to host our share of the event, where art galleries all over the downtown area stay open, serving food and drink, until about 9 PM to kick off the Christmas season, and have a mutual welcome-to-winter party. The People's Choice Awards for the Hockaday's Member's Salon will be announced that night as well. Hockaday Museum's Website

Media Watch: Who needs Mystery Science Theater 3000? I just got an early birthday present of a dozen dawg-assed movies on DVD. We watched The Wasp Woman (1960) last night, and no, it wasn't the inspiration for Desperate Housewives (W.A.S.P. s everywhere! Nothing but W.A.S.P. s!) -- it was B-Movie Queen Susan Cabot's last starring role. The other goodies were: Bucket of Blood, Little Shop of Horrors, The Terror, The Ape (both with Boris Karloff), Bowery at Midnight, Brooklyn Gorilla, and Devil Bat (all three with Bela Lugosi), Indestructable Man (with Lon Chaney Jr.), Attack of the Giant Leeches, Great Gila Monster, Dead Men Walk, and The Manster (there's gotta be a dud in every group -- I never liked that last film).

Friday, November 25, 2005

Welcome Toni Bentley! Take a look at: Theater X-Net

Featuring: The illustrated story of Ida Rubinstein
Russian/Judaic Princess of Belle Epoch Parisian Theatre.

I sent emails to all three of the authors who I quoted in my project. Toni Bentley, author of The Sisters of Salome wrote back to me -- she wants to look at Ida's illustrated chronology on but the URL I sent her via email wouldn't work. (Day-um!) I replied with some alternate ways of getting there -- including visiting this blog!
Sad to say, but Michael DeCossart, Ida's pioneer biographer, passed away a few years ago according to his publisher. I wonder if Vicki Woolf will contact me through her publisher too? She's a busy BBC actress who just might have a multi-level firewall between her and the general public. (I hope she's proud enough of her book to sneak a peek, though.)

Visit: Michael's Montana Web Archive
Theater, Art, Flash Gordon, Funky Music and MORE!

Wildlife: A huge Redtailed Hawk was watching Buckboard Lane from atop the high-tension tower. Pheasant families were strolling through the neighbor's yards.

Weather: The cursed temperature inversion continues -- dark, cold, just above freezing, and trying to snow under low gray clouds.

Charity Alert: Click on The Hunger Site every day to help out a bit.

Media Watch: Turkey Day Television -- starting with NFL Football while cooking Thanksgiving dinner. The Detroit game was a one-sided blowout, which Altlanta won without much effort. The Dallas game was pretty hard-fought. The Denver Broncos were the better team, but Dallas found ways of fooling them, and then matching their physicality to hold the score to a tie at the end of regulation play. The overtime period was a hoot when the referee blew the first coin-toss, and they had to throw it again. Denver got the ball first, gave it to a fresh backup running-back who nearly ran the entire field, and then kicked an easy field-goal to win. The cast of MAD-TV made me laugh with their impersonations again during the pre-game show.
(I sure miss the Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathons that Comedy Central used to run on Thanksgiving.)
One TV interviewer I have a hard time with is Charlie Rose on PBS. (Tavis Smiley also turns me off most of the time, and vice-versa.) Last night, while in a vegetative state after cooking, eating, and cleaning-up, I watched columnist Maureen Dowd and musician Roger Waters on Rose's show.
Maureen Dowd has written an observational, hopefully humorous, book called Are Men Necessary?

The cover is a 50's style painting of a red-haired, red-clothed lady (resembling conventionally good-looking Dowd) standing in a subway car, surrounded by ogling men. Rose kept saying, "Let's talk about sex," but he never really started a conversation about Dowd's book. She cracked a couple of jokes, but seemed to eventually resign herself to Rose's ignorance. (I doubt Rose had even opened the cover of her book.) What WAS interesting were the times when she spoke out about the deceptions of our government which led to the horrible Iraq war.
Roger Waters was articulate as always when he talked about There is Hope, an opera he wrote over the last 15+ years. When asked if Pink Floyd fans might like it, he said "It definitely has my voice," with an amused smile. It IS an opera, and it's sung by operatically-trained singers. If Waters' audience of somewhat-discerning twenty-somethings and retro-rock fans warm up to something like this, I'll be VERY surprised.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NEW Website: Theater X-Net

Featuring: The illustrated story of Ida Rubinstein
Russian/Judaic Princess of Belle Epoch Parisian Theatre.

Wildlife: A whole flock of tiny little chickadees are haunting both the seed and suet feeders -- they used to stick around the pines in the front, but they're finally coming around to the back deck. Last night the Raccoons were prowling around the box feeder again, but they left plenty for the birds.

Visit: Michael's Montana Web Archive
Theater, Art, Flash Gordon, Funky Music and MORE!

Weather: The damn fogbank is making it cold in the valley. There's sunshine up at West Glacier. Can you spell i-n-v-e-r-s-i-o-n?

Charity Alert: The Hunger Site -- Click to help out with several projects.

Media Watch: I'm off work until Monday, and I'm going to be cooking tonight and tomorrow. I'm watching a little more TV as a result. Last night TCM showed most of the original King Kong, plus a short biography of it's producer Merriam C. Cooper. It turns out that there were parallels between the characters in Kong, and Cooper's real-life adventures.
There was nothing said about the brilliant English writer Edgar Wallace's contribution to the movie, but after I asked around, I got this communication from Arthur Lortie: Recycling an old "article" of mine --

King Kong was created by:
1] Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- in the novel "The Lost World", Professor Challenger finds a hidden plateau where dinosaurs rule. He brings a pterodactyl egg back to London which promptly hatches and runs amuck;
2] Willis O"Brian -- the special effects wizard, after completing the silent version of The Lost World, put together some test footage of a giant ape and other giant critters. David O Selznick bought this and decided to write a script around the footage.
3] Meriam C Cooper -- developed a plot from the test footage Since the plot has some resemblance to the Conan Doyle book, Selznick purchases those rights also. London is changed to New York.
4] Delos Lovelace -- finalizes the original script upon which the film is based.
5] David O. Selznick -- who put the whole thing together

But Wallace's contributions exist.
From the American Film Institute Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-1940:
In an interview with David O. Selznick (the producer), it states: "During the filming of the test reel, Selznick brought in popular English mystery writer Edgar Wallace to write a draft of the script based on Cooper's treatment. Selznick writes in a modern source: 'I had signed up and sent for Edgar Wallace and brought him to California, where unfortunately he died in consequence of getting pneumonia [on 02/10/1932]...I have never believed that Wallace contributed much to King Kong, but the circumstances of his death complicated the writing credits.'
Selznick persuaded Cooper to use Wallace because of his renowned speed and talent, but also admitted his desire to exploit the popular writer's name. In a July 1932 memo to Selznick, as quoted in modern sources, Cooper complains about giving Wallace a story credit as he believed that little if any of the script was attibutable to him. He did agree that Wallace's name should appear on the novelization of the screenplay, which was written by Delos Lovelace, because he recognized the value of Wallace's name and wanted "to use it". However, a modern source contends that Wallace contributed more than Cooper was willing to admit. Wallace's draft of the script, which he wrote between 1 Jan and 5 Jan 1932 does detail many aspects of the story as it was eventually filmed. In addition, Wallace indicates in his published memoirs that his script was received with great enthusiasm by Cooper and Selznick. It is not known how heavily Wallace relied on Cooper's treatment for his draft, however."

(The article goes on to discuss other writers involved in the script.)

There is more in Edgar Wallace's book, MY HOLLYWOOD DIARY, which consists of informal letters home to his wife. Specifically, see page 132 [25 Dec 1931 - Merian Cooper called and we talked over the big animal play we are going to write, or, rather, I am writing and he is directing. He has just had an approval from New York, and I am going to turn him out a scenario]; page 141/2 [29 Dec 1931 - An announcement has been made in the local Press that I am doing a super-horror story with Cooper, but the truth is it is much more his story than mine. I am rather enthusiastic about it, but the story has got to be more or less written to provide certain spectacular effects. I shall get much more credit out of the picture than I deserve, if it is a success, but, as I shall be blamed by the public if it's a failure, that seems fair.]; page 143 [30 Dec 31 - We had a long talk about the scenario, which is not yet written but only roughly sketched, and came to a decision as to the opening. We practically know how the story is going to run.]; page 147 [still same letter of 30 Dec - I am going to write the story of our beast play in collaboration with Merian Cooper, That is to say, I will give him a "bar line," a bar line being credit as collaborator, because he has really suggested the story, though I of course shall write it, and I am to be allowed to use the illustrations that we are having drawn. It ought to be the best boys' book of the year.
Now THERE's some English understatement for you!
He doesn't want to take a penny out of it as long as he has a credit line.]; page 154 [1 Jan. 1932 - After they had gone I went on working on the scenario and I have got 28 pages of it done, which is a good start. I can't do very much at a time because each sequence has to approved by 'Coop.'] ; page 163 [4 Jan 32 - I have nearly finished the beast scenario, and Cooper has the second part and is coming up to discuss one or two points which he thinks are important, but which are really unimportant since they can be altered terribly easily.]; page 164 [5 Jan 32 - Cooper and O'Brien came and we went right through the script, except the very last two reels, which are not yet written. . . . Cooper is very pleased, and to-day I am finishing the scenario and letting him have it.] ... and so forth. The last letter in the book is dated 7 Feb, and Wallace died on 10 Feb.

There is one last part to this story.
In November , 2002 I stumbled across a citation in NUCMC (National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections) that listed the Wallace script at the British Library Dept. of Manuscripts! The script had been sold to the Library by a private collector 10 years ago. I contacted them and they weren't even aware what they had. Two weeks later they reported that it had been stolen. So close ....
The manuscript, or a copy, showed up on ABE in 2004 for $25K but was quickly removed [or sold]

Arthur Lortie
16 Adams Street #3
Taunton, MA 02780-2504

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

NEW Website: Theater X-Net

Featuring: The illustrated story of Ida Rubinstein
Russian/Judaic Princess of Belle Epoch Parisian Theatre.

Wildlife: A full-rack Whitetail buck was chasing a doe across Buckboard Lane this morning. How appropriate -- of course there's a REAL buckboard (horse-drawn wagon) parked by the edge of the aforementioned road. As a matter of fact, it is parked in the same yard from which the two deer emerged this AM.

Visit: Michael's Montana Web Archive
Theater, Art, Flash Gordon, Funky Music and MORE!

Weather: Still stuck inside of that damn fogbank -- a little snow falls occasionally. The cats pester me to let them out at 7:30 AM, but the low clouds make it too dark, despite DST ending last month. Dare I ask the weather to "lighten up" a little?

Charity Alert: The Hunger Site -- Click to help make the Holidays special indeed.

Media Watch: A small book by Issac Asimov about Halley's Comet, written in anticipation of it's return. This famous celestial visitor was a major spectacle in 1910, but was almost unseen in the Northern lattitudes during 1986.
I'll always remember my parents packing our car full of kids to see Comet Mrkos in 1957. It was twilight, and a fairly new moon was up in the Western sky. Comet Mrkos was below and right of the moon, just above the horizon. It really looked like a sparkler in the sky, about the width of my second-grader's fist. The shaggy-looking comet was easier to see when clouds covered the moon, but it got brighter as nightfall approached. (See picture below.)
One of the most lasting impressions of that little jaunt was how rural the banks of the Jordan River used to be in Salt Lake Valley, even though it was only about two miles or so from my house in the post-war suburb of Rose Park. We saw the comet at the junction of Redwood Road (17th West) and 10th North. There was a trapezoidal iron-lattice bridge across the Jordan there, and an identical structure to the south at 4th North. I still dream of them both, and the willows and wildlands which surrounded them.
For the first ten years of my life, this Northwestern area was given over to drainage canals and marshlands all the way to the Great Salt Lake. I hate to describe how overbuilt it is now, but the homeowners there can tell you how the water table rises up into their basements, and the Salt Lake International Airport authorities can tell you how their runways sink or rise with yearly rainfall, or lack thereof.

Digital superimposition of an astronomical photo of Comet Mrkos
over an online painting (artist unknown) -- reproducing
my view of the same comet in the Autumn of 1957.

Monday, November 21, 2005

NEW on the Web: Theater X-Net

Featuring the illustrated story of Ida Rubinstein
Russian/Judaic Princess of Belle Epoch Parisian Theatre.

Wildlife: Those suet cages brought the whole bird-neighborhood to our back yard.

Visit: Michael's Montana Web Archive
Theater, Art, Flash Gordon, Funky Music and MORE!

Weather: Foggy and moist -- we're inside of a cloud. I stayed in 4-wheel drive too -- somebody almost swerved into me near the college when the slippery road fooled him.

Charity Alert: The Hunger Site -- Click to help make someone's day a little more tolerable.

Media Watch: Paul McCartney is on Ellen DeGerneres. He mentioned that a couple of his kids suggested that he had to "Disappear off the face of the Earth" next year because he'll be sixty-four then. (Y'know THAT song dontcha?) McCartney followed by saying, "I'll run with it!"

In The Community: Today was the fourth Native American Thanksgiving I've helped out with at the Flathead County Fairgrounds. Stephen Small Salmon came up from Ronan with a couple of other costumed dancers. He was really on his game this year and masterfully entertained the hundreds of third and fourth graders who attended this event.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

I created a new domain on the Web: Theater X-Net
Right now, it features the full illustrated story of Ida Rubinstein, a Russian beauty who became the exotic Judaic queen of Belle Epoch Theatre in Paris -- about twelve years after I found that forgotten old American-Examiner newspaper page about her at a garage sale in Spokane. (See photo below.)

Visit: Michael's Montana Web Archive
Theater, Art, Flash Gordon, Funky Music and MORE!

Wildlife: A straggling Robin and Goldfinch dropped by the bird feeders on their way south. There was also a Hairy Woodpecker, plus a Flicker -- when the suet cages go up tomorrow, we expect more of the latter.

Weather: I'm glad I didn't have to drive anywhere this morning. There was a thin layer of ice on everything, including the roads!

Charity Alert: The Hunger Site -- Click to help make the world a little more tolerable.

Media Watch: NFL Football -- When I was in 5th grade, the AFL was a brand-new pro football league, and I enjoyed watching their pass-happy antics on B&W television. The AFL team we saw the most in those childhood days was the Oakland Raiders, so I think that's why I enjoy seeing this team win every now and then -- especially when they are less than stellar, as they've been for the last two seasons. They upset the Washington Redskins, who wanted to pull two games ahead of last-place Philadelphia in the NFC East, but didn't. I like a close game, and I liked hearing that Donovan McNabb is probably going to undergo that operation he needs -- the Eagles aren't going to the playoffs this year anyway. Pregame madness was more about the announcers this week. Frank and Jillian were only so-so in their comedy breaks. Barbarie sounded much more hoarse than usual though -- she is known for her husky voice, but she didn't sound healthy at all.
TCM showed a colorized version of Vouges of 1938 this morning, with Warner Baxter, the Ritz Brothers, and a Busby Berkeley finale. It looks like they are showing a series of Harold Lloyd movies tonight -- GOOD! I like Lloyd's "knowing" style of slapstick.

Ida Rubinstein's Life & Art at Theater X-Net