High Noon

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I contribute this movie to have triggered my long lasting love affair with the silver screen.I vividly remember watching this movie on one of the German TV Channels.

Although even at a young age I found it annoying that the Germans just couldn’t resist dubbing any non German movie, I forget how often I have heard ‘John Wayne’, it still didn’t take away the magic of it.

It was on a Saturday morning, I must have been 8 or 9, and the movie started. You have to give it to the Germans, they sure know how to time manage. Since this movie was in real time,long before any other movie, the ZDF had timed it exactly that at the time when the clock struck High Noon in the movie, it would also strike High Noon in real time. I was absolutely in awe.

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65 years after it’s  first release High Noon is still one of my all time favourite movies. However it hasn’t been without controversy.

Both John Wayne and Howard Hawks hated the movie and shot another classic Western “Rio Bravo” in response 7 years later.

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john Wayne  called it “the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life”and Howard Hawks said, “I made Rio Bravo because I didn’t like High Noon … I didn’t think a good town marshal was going to run around town like a chicken with his head cut off asking everyone to help. And who saves him? His Quaker wife. That isn’t my idea of a good Western.”

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Best Actor nominee Gary Cooper was shooting a film (Blowing Wild) in Mexico and couldn’t attend the Oscars, so he asked his friend John Wayne to accept it on his behalf if he should happen to win.Nonetheless, when Cooper won, Wayne did the gentlemanly thing: spoke glowingly of his friend “Coop” as a person, and jokingly pretended to be resentful that he hadn’t played the lead in High Noon himself.

The writer Carl Foreman had been called before the HUAC-House Un-American Activities Committee- while he was writing the movie. The HUAC alleged he was an active communist.

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Foreman had not been in the Communist Party for almost ten years, but declined to ‘name names’ and was considered an ‘un-cooperative witness’ by HUAC] When Stanley Kramer (the producer)found out some of this, he forced Foreman to sell his part of their company, and tried to get him kicked off the making of the picture. Fred Zinnemann, Gary Cooper, and Bruce Church intervened. There was also a problem with the Bank of America loan, as Foreman hadn’t yet signed certain papers. Thus Foreman remained on the production, but moved to England before it was released nationally, as he knew he would never be allowed to work in America.

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Kramer hired the 21-year-old Grace Kelly after only seeing a photograph of her,to play Will Kane’s bride, Amy, without an audition or even a meeting. (He didn’t tell the director, Zinnemann, this until after the fact.) When it was all over, Kramer had second thoughts: “She was miscast. She was just too young for Cooper. She didn’t believe she did well in the role, and I didn’t think so, either.”

As the train pulls in to the station, you can see black smoke coming from it, a sign that the brakes were failing. But Zinnemann and his cameraman didn’t know that’s what it meant, and barely got out of the way in time. In fact, the tripod caught on the track and fell over, breaking the camera, but the film survived.

I don’t want to sound like an old fogey,because I am not, but they just don’t make them like that anymore.

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Charles Harrelson- Woody Harrelson’s Father and contract killer.

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If you think this is a bizarre title wait until you read the full story

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When Woody Harrelson was cast as a psychotic spree killer in Oliver Stone’s film Natural Born Killers, many people were surprised. Since Harrelson was known for playing the innocent, good-natured Woody Boyd on Cheers, it was hard to visualize him as a murderer. It turns out, however, that murder is a major part of Woody Harrelson’s real-life family background.NBKillaz

Charles Harrelson was born on July 23, 1938, in Huntsville, Texas, the son of Alma Lee (née Sparks) and Voyde Harrelson. He was married to Nancy Hillman Harrelson, Jo Ann Harrelson, Diane Lou Oswald and Gina Adelle Foster. Harrelson worked as an encyclopedia salesman in California and as a professional gambler. In 1960, he was convicted of armed robbery.

Harrelson’s son, Woody Harrelson (born July 23, 1961), became a well-known television and film actor. According to Woody, his father disappeared from the family’s home in Houston in 1968, leaving his wife Diane to raise Woody and his two brothers. Woody lost track of his father until 1981, when news broke of Harrelson’s arrest for the murder of Judge Wood. During an interview in November 1988, Woody revealed that he visited his father regularly in federal prison, though he still harbored mixed feelings for him, saying “my father is one of the most articulate, well-read, charming people I’ve ever known. Still, I’m just now gauging whether he merits my loyalty or friendship. I look at him as someone who could be a friend more than someone who was a father

Defended by Percy Foreman, Harrelson was tried for the 1968 murder of Alan Harry Berg (no relation to the Denver talk radio DJ Alan Berg, later murdered by white supremacists) On September 22, 1970, he was acquitted by a jury in Angleton, Texas.The murder is chronicled in the acclaimed memoir Run Brother Run by the victim’s brother, David Berg.

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Prior to the Wood murder, Harrelson was tried for the 1968 murder-for-hire killing of Sam Degelia, Jr., a resident of Hearne, Texas. Harrelson was paid $2000 for the murder of Degelia, a grain dealer and father of four who was killed in McAllen, Texas. His first trial ended with a deadlocked jury,although Pete Scamardo was also tried in the case, found guilty of being an accomplice to the murder, and sentenced to seven years probation.Harrelson was retried in 1973, convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.In 1978, after serving 5 years, he was released early for good behavior.

Shortly after Harrelson was paroled in 1978, he was implicated in another murder. On May 29, 1979, U.S. District Judge John H. Wood, Jr. was shot dead in the parking lot outside his San Antonio, Texas, townhouse.

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Harrelson was convicted of killing Judge Wood after being hired by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra of El Paso. Wood — nicknamed “Maximum John” because of his reputation for handing down long sentences for drug offenses — was originally scheduled to have Chagra appear before him on the day of his murder, but the trial had been delayed.

Harrelson was apprehended with the aid of an anonymous tip and a tape recording of a conversation that occurred during a visit from Joe Chagra to his brother Jamiel Chagra in prison. Harrelson claimed at trial that he did not kill Judge Wood, but merely took credit for it so he could claim a large payment from Chagra.

Harrelson was sentenced to two life terms based largely on Chagra’s conversation with his brother from prison. Both Harrelson and Joe Chagra were implicated in the assassination, and Chagra received a ten-year sentence. Jamiel Chagra was acquitted of the murder when his brother Joe refused to testify against him. Chagra was represented by future mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, then a public defender. In a plea bargain, Jamiel Chagra admitted to his role in the murder of Judge Wood and to the attempted murder of a U.S. Attorney. Jo Ann Harrelson was also convicted of conspiracy and perjury.

In 2003, Chagra recanted his previous statements, and stated that someone other than Harrelson had in fact shot Judge Wood. His son, Woody, then attempted to have his father’s conviction overturned in order to secure a new trial, though without success.Chagra died in July 2008 of cancer.

In September 1980, Harrelson surrendered to police after a six-hour standoff in which he was reportedly “high on cocaine”. During the standoff, he threatened suicide and stated that he had killed Judge Wood and President John F. Kennedy.In a television interview after his arrest, Harrelson said: “At the same time I said I had killed the judge, I said I had killed Kennedy, which might give you an idea to the state of my mind at the time.” He said that the statements made during the standoff were “an effort to elongate my life.”

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Joseph Chagra later testified during Harrelson’s trial that Harrelson claimed to have shot Kennedy and drew maps to show where he was hiding during the assassination. Chagra said that he did not believe Harrelson’s claim, and the AP reported that the FBI “apparently discounted any involvement by Harrelson in the Kennedy assassination.”According to Jim Marrs in 1989’s Crossfire, Harrelson is believed to be the youngest and tallest of the “three tramps” by many conspiracy theorists.Marrs stated that Harrelson was involved “with criminals connected to intelligence agencies and the military” and suggested that he was connected to Jack Ruby through Russell Douglas Matthews, a third party with links to organized crime who was known to both Harrelson and Ruby. Lois Gibson, a well-known forensic artist, matched photographs of Harrelson to the photographs of the youngest-looking of the three “tramps”

The JFK link doesn’t stop there. The Actor Bill Paxton who was in one episode of Frasier(a spin off series off Cheers, in which Woody Harrelson starred with Kelsey Grammer) had been at a JFK event on the 22 November 1963, the day JFK was shot.

Below is a picture of that event. Bill Paxton is the little boy sitting on the shoulders of a man presumably his Father.

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On a side note but also a connection with Woody Harrelson, The sister of Kelsey Grammer, ,co star of Cheers and star of Frasier,was murdered and raped by a spree killer. The type if killer Woody played in Natural Born Killers, that is as far as the connection goes though.

On July 4, 1995, Harrelson and two other inmates, Gary Settle and Michael Rivers, attempted to escape from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary using a makeshift rope. A warning shot was fired at them from the prison’s tower, and the trio surrendered.Harrelson was subsequently transferred to Supermax prison ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado. In a letter to a friend, Harrelson wrote that he enjoyed his life inside the maximum security facility, writing that “there are not enough hours in a day for my needs as a matter of fact… The silence is wonderful.”

He was found unresponsive in his cell on March 15, 2007, having died of a heart attack; and an autopsy showed he had severe coronary artery disease.His Federal Bureau of Prisons Register number was 02582-016.

Forgotten History-WW2 Hero John Steele.

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Who is John Steele I hear you say. Well to be honest until recently I had never heard of him either. It’s just that I am a great WW2 movies fan I came across his name.

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In the movie ” the Longest Day” about D-Day there are a few scenes which made me wonder if they really happened. Some of them are quite funny, there is one scene where a German patrol and an American patrol pass each other by not realizing they are enemies and just walk on minding their own business. Another one where a German officer puts on his boots the wrong way. However there are also some sad scenes. One is showing a paratrooper whose parachute was caught in one of the pinnacles of the church tower.

I could not find anything on the patrols or the visually impaired German officer but the story of the paratrooper is true and really happened. This Paratrooper’s name was Private John Steele. he was the American paratrooper who landed on the church tower in Sainte-Mère-Église, the first village in Normandy liberated by the Americans on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

On the night before D-Day (June 5–6, 1944), American soldiers of the 82nd Airborne parachuted into the area west of Sainte-Mère-Église in successive waves. The town had been the target of an aerial attack and a stray incendiary bomb had set fire to a house east of the town square. The church bell was rung to alert the town of the emergency and townspeople turned out in large numbers to form a bucket brigade supervised by members of the German garrison. By 0100 hours, the town square was well lit and filled with German soldiers and villagers when two sticks (planeloads of paratroopers) from the 1st and 2nd battalions were dropped in error directly over the village.

The paratroopers were easy targets, and Steele was one of only a few non-casualties. His parachute was caught in one of the pinnacles of the church tower, causing the cables on his parachute to stretch to their full length, leaving him hanging on the side of the church to witness the carnage. The wounded paratrooper hung there limply for two hours, pretending to be dead, before the Germans took him prisoner. Steele later escaped from the Germans and rejoined his division when US troops of the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment attacked the village capturing thirty Germans and killing another eleven. For these actions and his wounds, Steele was awarded the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat.

Though injured, Private Steele survived his ordeal. He continued to visit the town throughout his life and was an honorary citizen of Ste. Mère Église. The tavern, Auberge John Steele, stands adjacent to the square and maintains his memory through photos, letters and articles hung on its walls. Steele died of throat cancer on May 16, 1969 in Fayetteville, NC just three weeks short of the 25th anniversary of the D-Day invasion

But his story as a brave soldier starts much earlier and continued well past the episode in Sainte Mère Église. There is much more to the story of paratrooper John Steele.

There are some inconsistencies in various stories that have been cobbled together about him, but it is clear that John Steele was a fearless and brave soldier. He had volunteered his service as a paratrooper and had earlier served in the 82nd Airborne Division in North Africa, prior to parachuting into combat in Sicily with F Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.  On the night of 9 July 1943, John broke his left leg and was sent to a hospital in North Africa.  After he recovered he returned to Italy and fought with his unit from Salerno to Naples.

During his jump into Ste. Mère Église on the night of 5-6 June 1944, John was wounded by a shell fragment and was unable to steer his parachute.  As he dangled from the church spire while a battle was going on below him, he tried to cut himself free but his jump knife slipped from his hand. He dangled helplessly for more than two hours, until a German soldier named Rudolf May cut him down and took him prisoner. Despite being wounded, he escaped three days later and rejoined a nearby Allied unit. He was then transferred to a hospital in England for recovery.

After recovery from his latest wounds, he returned to action and parachuted into action nearNijmegen Netherlands where he participated in the liberation of that city.  In November of 1944 he participated in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes region near Reims, France.  When the Allies crossed the Rhine River into Germany in early 1945, John Steele was there, advancing with his unit from Frankfurt to the crossing of the Elbe River, when World War II ended.  He finally returned to the United States in September 1945.

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Today, these events are commemorated by the Airborne Forces Museum in Place du 6 June in the centre of Ste-Mère-Église and in the village church where a parachute with an effigy of Private Steele in his Airborne uniform hangs from the steeple. Bullet holes are still visible in the church’s stone walls. Inside, there are stained glass windows, with one depicting the Virgin Mary with paratroopers falling in the foreground.

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This is just one of the thousands of the forgotten histories of WW2.

Thanks to brave soldiers like John Steele  the people in Europe now live a prosperous life and have freedom it is important that the sacrifices which were made are never forgotten.

More and more I hear the pleas for history to be taken out of the school curriculum but it is my believe and conviction that history is now more important than it ever was. If we forget our history we will forsake our future.