“The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”: was she an angel warning us?

The 1952 film “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”, by John Brahm, is of some special interest to me right now, with my own fiction project.  The film, in “Warnercolor”, predates the religious spectacles that would start a year later with “The Robe”, when Cinemascope would introduced;  this film is in the old 4:3 aspect.  And it looks a little hokey by modern standards.

The film opens in 1910 with the revolution and establishment of the First Portuguese Republic, which was definitely authoritarian, with mixtures of fascism and communism. Most notably, it as anti-Church.

Fast forward to 1917 when the Catholic churches have been begrudgingly allowed to reopen. Three grade-school-age shepherd children one day in May encounter, in a dry thunderstorm, an apparition hat seems to be the Virgin Mary or some related angel. The angel warns them to say their rosaries and to be careful but to return regularly.  Media accounts often maintain that she was the Virgin Mary.

The family and local priests try to get the kids to remain quiet, but word gets around and soon pilgrims start to arrive to the hill to see the angel again, especially in October.  The kids are arrested and jailed and terrorized, and told they will be responsible for the deaths of their families (a common tactic of totalitarianism). But Hugo (a very hairy-chested Gilbert Roland) gets them out of jail, and the authorities cannot stop the pilgrimage, which assembles in another storm in October 1917. The angel appears and warns everyone that a second great war may happen even though the current World War will end soon.

The Sun comes through the cloud as if it were going to burn up the landscape and then recedes. This conclusion reminds me of the end of a short film “Anton Bruckner’s Ultimate Finale” (Dec. 3, 2016) where an angel or extraterrestrial appears over Vienna with blazing light, burning off a young man’s chest hair in the very last shot.

The style of writing in the script, however, emphasizes simple, almost naïve Christian faith and loyalty to the authority of the Church, with no respect for independent thinking — this stands in contrast to the stark warning of the film.

The film has an epilogue in 1951, showing the modern day church and grounds at Fatima, which I visited myself in April 2001.  The grounds are massive, and various pilgrim groups appear.  There are unusual candles in large quantities.

The music score by Max Steiner is impressive, with choral passages that remind me of Vaughn Williams.

There are various Catholic churches around the world for which claims of miracles around Virgin Mary statues are made.  Two of these are in Aliquippa and Ambridge PA, north of Pittsburgh;  I visited the Aliquippa church briefly in 1989.  Another may be in Harlingen, Texas (near Brownsville), which I think I visited with the help of Southwest Airlines “peanuts fares” when I was living in Dallas, in 1980.  The Church generally does not verify these claims or continue to publish them.

Catholic churches and schools, to a Protestant, seem to have their own world. I can tell that from visits to an “Our Lady of Good Counsel” school in northern Virginia for “Chess for Charity” Sunday afternoon events in the past couple of years.

Fatima church and grounds today (wiki).

Aliquippa (wiki)

Harlingen (wiki)

Name:  “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima”
Director, writer:  John Brahm
Released:  1952
Format: 4:3  WarnerColor (an old proprietary process)
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD, 2017/12/29
Length:  102
Rating:  NA (probably PG-13)
Companies:  Warner Brothers
Link:  Washington Post 2007 article on the Miracle

 

(Posted: Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 at 10 AM EST)

“The Man Who Invented Christmas”: Charles Dickens authors “A Christmas Carol” as he lives his own ghost story

Bharat Nalluri’s “The Man Who Invented Christmas” is a layered meta-telling of Charles Dickens’s classic novel “A Christmas Carol”, by dramatizing his writing of it. Actually, the full title of the novella (quite literary in the sense of high school English indeed) is “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas”, published December 19, 1943 and selling out copies (that is, “instances” in OOP-speak) in record numbers for the time.  The film is actually based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Les Standiford, as adapted for the screen by Susan Coyne.

The film, a well-staged period piece, presents Dan Stevens as the young author, reeling from a few commercial failures (like “American Notes for General Circulation”), as the film starts with his giving the equivalent of a Ted talk on an American stage.

Dickens approaches investors and considers “self-publishing” (he hardly needed the vanity, but he needed to get his career going) and has to borrow some money.  This was a time when books really did have to sell;  there was no capability of allowing freeloaders on the Internet.  The film gets into the relationship with his father (Jonathan Pryce) and an Irish immigrant, Tara (Anna Murphy).  There is enormous pressure to get the cursive manuscript done in six weeks, and illustrated (Simon Callow).

Along the way Dickens has his own visions of the characters, perhaps in dreams or some sort of meditation, as the ghosts return and regret the limitations of their afterlives.  Most compromised of all is Ebeneezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer, who pretty much starts out as the same character as John Paul Getty in yesterday’s film – “nothing”). Tara convinces Charles to have Scrooge change heart an save Tiny Tim and adopt or godfather him as family.

Scrooge’s motivation, as a ghost, seems to be obsessed with his own idea of righteousness, and doesn’t want to give in to making others who seem to fail “all right”.  Tiny Tim would present an existential challenge to the aims of his personality. He has to change, or be changed.

I wasn’t aware of the claim that the exaggerated winter solstice festivities of the Christmas season really started with this novel in England.

Donald Trump, as we know, has been bragging that he can bring Christmas back again (MAGA indeed).

The film now has little availability in theaters, having been released a little early for Christmas. I made a “night day trip” and saw it at Countryside Regal Cinemas in Sterling VA.  The theater was very crowded for other films, much more so than many other theaters. Despite popular beliefs, the audiences in this upscale area of northern Virginia look quite diversified.

A Christmas Carol” has been made into a feature film several times, most notably in 2009 in 3-D by Disney and Robert Zemeckis with Jim Carrey (legacy link).

Name:  “The Man Who Invented Christmas”
Director, writer:  Bharat Nalluri, Les Standiford, Susan Coyne, Charles Dickens
Released:  2017/11
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Countryside in Sterling VA, small audience night 2917/12/16 but theater facility as a whole was very crowded with other films
Length:  105
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Bleecker Street    (Canada, Ireland)
Link:  official 

(Posted: Wednesday, December 27, 2017 at 11 AM EST)

“Hurry Sundown”, Otto Preminger’s 1967 melodrama, examined race relations and even draft dodging

Having been reminded of this film by yesterday’s movie with an accidentally similar title, I did rent Otto Preminger’s 1967 melodrama “Hurry Sundown” on Amazon today.

There is something about these older big expansive films in historical settings (the biggest of all is “Giant” in 1954 by George Stevens, which I saw in Dallas in the 1980s at the Inwood) that I miss today.

The film was released in February 1967 when I as starting my third semester of graduate school at the University of Kansas.  I sometimes made it to the Varsity or Granada in downtown Lawrence (Mike Nichols’s and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” in black and white) but I don’t remember seeing this one.

The specific issue that got my attention is that a lead character, Henry Warren (Michael Caine, looking out of his usual character) is described as a draft dodger, as he tries to swing a land deal in post World War II Georgia (the film is said to have been shot near Baton Rouge, LA). His rival is a cousin Rad McDowell (John Phillip Law) who has returned unharmed from WWII combat in Europe.  The script (the movie runs 2-1/2 hours) doesn’t tell us exactly how he got out of the draft (like CO, or a fake medical excuse).  There is an early conversation in a car where Rad says that how one experiences European capital cities (like Paris) depends on one’s point of view.  Later Rad tells his own kids that cousin Henry has no conscience.

Henry has a story marriage with Julie (Jane Fonda), who is more protective of her autistic son. Henry blames the mother’s side of the family for his “defective” kid.  But it was common in earlier generations to look at autism or mental disabilities through a moral lens.

Rad has his sons (who figure in the climax) and wife played by Faye Dunaway. Burgess Meredith plays the bigoted judge, and George Kennedy the corrupt sheriff.

People in this generation indeed had different moral postulates, especially about race.  Rad wants to partner with a black sharecropper family  (Reve and Rose Scott, played by Robert Hooks and Beah Richards) to develop his land and refuses to sell.  Rad would have learned better racial attitudes being in the Army. True, Truman would integrate the military in 1948 (as in the HBO film), but there had been proposals when the war began, in 1941.  All of this is prelude to the debate over “don’t ask don’t tell” to erupt a half century later.  Times do change, and so do moral postulates.

The film foreshadows its tragic conclusion by showing blasting on the land to clear irrigation ditches.

Name: “Hurry Sundown”
Director, writer:  Otto Preminger
Released:  1967/2
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Instant 3.99
Length:  144
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Paramount
Link:  Ebert

(Posted: Friday, May 19, 2017 at 8:45 PM EDT)

“Deadline – U.S.A.” — 1952 classic tale about courage in journalism

The 1952 classic film “Deadline – U.S.A.”, directed by Richard Brooks, seems timely now, given the issue of journalistic integrity as challenged by the new administration of Donald Trump.

Humphrey Bogart plays Ed Hutcheson, the managing editor of a newspaper called “New York Day”, said to resemble the “New York Sun” which had folded in 1950.  One day Hutcheson is told that the newspaper’s owner, Margaret Garrison (Ethyl Barrymore) wants to sell the paper, apparently to a competitor who would put it out of business.

About the same time Hutcheson learns of a gangland murder, with connections that suggest that the real motive for the sale is to cover up an organized crime conspiracy.  Hutcheson pursues the story, and is even pressured not to publish by advertisers.  The script mentions ideas like “ignorance of facts”, libel, and makes an indirect reference to “the right to be forgotten.”  There are a couple of interesting courtroom scenes.  Finally, the mother of one of the victims provides and important clue, a diary. As the movie closes, Hutcheson publishes even as he is threatened.

The screenplay is terse and follows the pattern of maintaining urgency.

The music score by Cyril J. Mockridge and Sol Kaplan reminds me of the music of Arthur Bliss.

Name:  “Deadline – U.S.A.
Director, writer:  Richard Brooks
Released:  1952
Format:  1.37:1  (Black and white)
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD  2017/2/28
Length:  87
Rating:  PG-13 probably
Companies:  20th Century Fox, Kino Lorber
Link:  n.a.

(Posted: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 8:15 AM)