James Stewart and Walter Matthau in 453rd Bombardment Group.

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The title is not a tagline for a Hollywood blockbuster, although it should have been. I am sure it would have made a great movie.

James Stewart and Walter Matthau did serve together in the 453rd Bombardment Group during WWII.

WALTER

Prior to becoming a Hollywood icon,Walter Matthau was a radioman-gunner in the U.S. Army Air Forces with the Eighth Air Force in the United Kingdom, crewing a Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber. He was assigned to the same 453rd Bombardment Group as James Stewart. When he was  based in England at RAF Old Buckenham, in Norfolk he partook in several  missions across  Europe during the Battle of the Bulge. He ended the war with the rank of Staff Sergeant. He served with Jimmy Stewart, who was an operations officer giving mission briefings to the group.

Jimmy

When it comes to Hollywood greats, they don’t get any bigger than James Stewart, the list of iconic movies he made is endless. Prior to the war he already made a number of classic movies”Mr Smith goes to Washington” being one of them.

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Having learned to fly in 1935, he was drafted into the United States Army in 1940 as a private (after twice failing the medical for being underweight). During the course of World War II he was promoted  to the rank of Colonel in March 1945, first as an instructor at home in the United States, and later on combat missions in Europe.

On March 30, 1944, he was sent to RAF Old Buckenham in a function as group operations officer of the 453rd Bombardment Group, a new B-24 unit that had just lost both its commander and operations officer on missions. Leading as an example, he flew as command pilot in the lead B-24 on several missions deep into Nazi-occupied Europe.

B 24

Two heroes, who not only fought for freedom, they also entertained us and still do .

 

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The special effects in Laurel & Hardy movies.

Brats L & H

Ever since I was a kid I loved watching Laurel & Hardy movies and I believe I have them all in my collection.

The humour in their films has remained fresh till today and they never dated. But it is only since recently I started to appreciate that some of their movies had very advanced special effects for their time, and those effect have also stood the test of time for more then 80 years.

Below are just a few examples.

Brats

In the movie Brat Stan and Ollie play themselves but also their sons and in several scenes the four are seen together.

Brats 2

Babes in Toyland aka March of the Wooden Soldiers

That whole movie is filled with special effects. Recently it has become a bit controversial because some people had called some scenes and especially the march of the wooden soldiers anti-Semitic, I have watched this movie hundreds of times and I could not see it, if at all it is more of a warning of things to come.

march

The Flying Deuces

Nowadays having it seem like an animal is talking is not anyone gets excited about, it is even used in TV ads. However in 1939 having a horse mimicking Ollie and telling Stan “That’s another fine pickle you got me in” was a technical masterpiece.

Flying Deuces

Ending with one of my favourite scenes from ‘Way out West’

 

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The Longest Day and how Goldfinger temporarily was banned in Israel.

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The Longest Day is still one of my favourite movies. The epic cinematic event about D-Day and the direct aftermath. It was one of the first ensemble cast movies, basically anyone who was anyone in Hollywood was part of the movie.

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Because it was shot less then 2 decades after D-Day and the end of WWII it meant that some of the actors in the film had actually seen action on the battlefield during the war.

As you can see from the title there is a mention of another movie, the James Bond movie Goldfinger. Gert Fröbe who played Auric Goldfinger also played in The Longest Day, he portrayed the role of the Wehrmacht soldier Sgt. Kaffekanne.

Sgt. Kaffekanne

Fröbe was born on 25 February 1913 and had joined the Nazi party at the young age of 16 in 1929. Disillusioned by the party and what it stood for he left in 1937. By September 1944 however he was drafted into the Wehrmacht.

During an interview in 1968 with a reporter of the Daily Mail, Fröbe had said “I was a member of the Nazi Party. During the Third Reich, I had the luck to be able to help two Jewish people, although I was a member of the Nazi party.”

The reporter however had shortened it to ” I was a member of the Nazi Party” As a result Israel banned the movie Goldfinger for several months.

GOLDFINGER

Many people just didn’t believe Fröbe’s version of the interview. Until one of the Jews he helped, Mario Blumenau, showed up at the Israeli Embassy in Vienna.  Blumenau informed them that his and his Mother’s life  were saved by Fröbe by hiding them.  They’d heard of how Fröbe was being vilified and wanted to set the record straight.  Shortly after this, the Israeli ban on Goldfinger was officially lifted and Föbe’s reputation restored.

Gert_Fröbe_(1965)

 

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The Wilhelm Scream

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What do the movies. Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back,Toy Story 3,Juno,Where Eagles Dare and Distant Drums(and a few hundred more) have in common?

It’s not the cast or screenplay or even the studio but there are 2 seconds in all these movies which are identical. Those 2 seconds are called “The Wilhelm Scream” which is a sound effect.

The likelihood is great that you’ve heard the Wilhelm Scream at some point when watching a movie or TV show. The sound effect originated in the 1951 Gary Cooper film Distant Drums, and has become a Hollywood sound effects staple for more than 60 years.

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At one point in the film ,Distant Drum , some soldiers are slowly walking through a dark swamp when one of them is fatally attacked by an alligator. At the moment when the alligator  surprises him and drags him underwater, the soldier lets out the first known instance of the iconic scream.

The scream is often used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown from an explosion. It  has been used in 382 + movies and countless television shows.

However the name wasn’t used until 1953  In the movie ‘Charge at Feather River’, a character named Private Wilhelm gets shot in the leg with an arrow. He screams as he falls off his horse. Filmmakers used the Wilhelm Scream twice more in that movie as a stock effect to save money.

Private-Wilhelm

The famous scream was made mainstream by the Star Wars franchise. One of Star Wars sound designers named Ben Burtt was busy creating the sound palette for George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope. He came across the Wilhelm scream and realized that a great number of  filmmakers had used it since the 1950s, he decided to pay homage to the sound effect by incorporating it into the  sci-fi classic. The scream can be heard in the  famous scene in which Luke Skywalker shoots a Storm trooper aboard the Death Star and the unfortunate trooper falls off a ledge. In fact the scream is used in all Star Wars movies.

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Research by Burtt suggests that Sheb Wooley, best known for his novelty song “The Purple People Eater” in 1958 and as scout Pete Nolan on the television series Rawhide, is likely to have been the voice actor who originally performed the scream.

Sheb Wooley

On a different not but yet slightly related another used soundbite that has made it into many Movies/TV Shows and even Heavy Metal albums is the line “Dr. Davis, telephone please. Dr. Blair, Dr. Blair. Dr. J. Hamilton, Dr. J. Hamilton”

I heard it on the classic Queensryche album ‘Operation Mindcrime’ and it was bugging me for I knew I heard it before, and then I heard in an episode of the Cosby show and several other shows and movies.

In case you are wondering about the connection of the painting ‘the Scream’ (at the start of the blog)and ‘the Wilhelm Scream’ there is none, other then the actual word scream. I was looking for a picture of a scream and that was the best one.

Ending the blog with a compilation of ‘the Wilhelm Scream’

 

 

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They went on to do bigger things.

Hollywood_Sign_(Zuschnitt)

Over the decades there have been so many iconic movies and TV shows which spawned many big actors and actresses.But it didn’t always happen over night, sometimes these stars started off in big shows or movies with minor obscure rolls, or even in music videos.

Below are just a few examples.

Before Dirty Dancing.

Dirty

The biggest star to come out of the movie Dirty Dancing is without a doubt Patrick Swayze,although I didn’t like the movie I have to admit it became one id the most iconic movies of the 80s.

However before Patrick Swayze made it big, he appeared in an episode of MASH. Where he played a character who catches Leukemia at a young age.

mash

Before Magnum P.I.

Magnum_PI_Still

When you think Magnum P.I. you just couldn’t imagine else playing that role then Tom Selleck. Tom went on to do other iconic movies such as ‘Three men and a baby’ and stars currently in the hugely popular ‘Blue Bloods’

But before all this he had an obscure role in the medical thriller ‘Coma’ as an injured football player.

coma

Before Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Bbay

Million Dollar Baby is still one of the finest movies ever made. It gave Hilary Swank the chance to shine and show how good an actress she is.Deservedly she won the Oscar for her role. But before she was boxing, she was being harassed by vampires in the movie “Buffy the Vampire slayer”

Buffy

Before Blade

Blade

Staying with vampire slayers, although Wesley Snipes has played in many big budget action movies, his most iconic role is that of ‘Blade’ half vampire,half human vampire slayer.

But it was Michael Jackson who chose Wesley for hos other talents, his dancing skills in the music video for ‘Bad’Bad

Before Speed

Speed

Sandra Bullock has done so many great movies in a variety of genres from comedy to science fiction but her breakthrough movie is without a doubt “Speed”

However before she drove buses at a speed of over 50 M/PH she was a bit of a Bionic woman in “Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1989 TV Movie)”

bionic

 

Before Man on the Moon

Moon

I good picked a number of movies when it comes to Jim Carrey, -the Grinch,Mask,Dumb and Dumber- the list goes on. But I picked ‘Man on the Moon’ because I think that was his best performance to date, and he should have got the Oscar for that.

He did have a part though in another iconic movie “The Dead pool” the last of the Dirty Harry movies, where he played a rock star, basically based on Axl Rose.

Dirty Harru

They all went on to do greater things.

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Your job in Germany and Our Job in Japan.

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Cat in the hat;How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and It’s a Wonderful Life are not stories you would associate with WWII or propaganda, and yet they have a distinct ,albeit indirect link to WWII propaganda movies.

The name Theodor Seuss Geisel will mean little to many people,although there is a hint in his name which gives away the name he is known by to most. He is better known as Dr. Seuss.

Seuss

In 1943, he joined the Army as a Captain and was commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces. Where he got to work with Frank Capra, the director of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

Initially they worked together on a series of black-and-white American instructional,  cartoons, of a character created by Capra called ‘Private Snafu’,that were produced between 1943 and 1945

Private_SNAFU

The cartoons were humorous very much like the Looney toons. The short movies were directed by famous  directors like Chuck Jones and Fritz Freleng.

In one episode of the series ‘Three Brothers’ released on December 4, 1944 a certain Bugs Bunny made an appearance.

Frank Capra and Dr Seuss worked on 2 hard hitting propaganda films ,shortly after WWII in 1945.

Your Job in Germany

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The film would probably be called racist and non political correct nowadays but in the context of the time it was accepted and also understandable.This training film was made for U.S. Army occupation forces in Germany following World War II.

It  tells how Germany has always been evil and when given a the chance again they would start another war with another leader like Hitler.

In the films the troops are urged not to become friends with the Germans, for the Nazi mentality is still prevalent in the German psyche, and probably always will be.

intro

Jack Warner, of Warner Brothers,  secured the rights to ‘Your Job in Germany’ and turned it into a short documentary entitled Hitler Lives?, directed by Don Siegel. It was released commercially on December 29, 1945 and won the 1946 Academy Award  for Documentary Short Subject.

Our Job in Japan

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Our Job in Japan was a United States military training film made in 1945. Equally to ‘Your Job in Germany’ this movie would now be perceived as racist and totally not political correct.But similarly in the context of the aftermath of WWII and the brutality the Japanese army had displayed during the war it was understandable and probably warranted to portray the Japanese people in the way they did.

The film was aimed at American troops heading to Japan to occupy the country in 1945  It presented the problem of turning the militarist state into a peaceful democracy.

It starts off showing Japan surrendering  , followed by the depiction of bad things that they did during the war, and also how the Japanese always followed a backward quasi religious philosophy. The  narrator explains that although the war is over the Japanese brains still need to adapt to a more modern society based on common sense and not by worshiping the old ways.

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Our Job in Japan was also used as a  basis for a longer, commercially released film, with the title ‘Design for Death’  in 1947 directed by Richard Fleischer. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

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How Peter Falk cheated the system to serve in WWII-Columbo’s 1st case

Columbo_Peter_Falk_1973

I have always been a great fan of the cop show Columbo with Peter Falk in the title role. However I did not know that Peter Falk and I had a few things in common.

Born in New York City, Falk was the son of Michael Peter Falk , owner of a clothing and dry goods store, and his wife, Madeline (née Hochhauser) an accountant and buyer. Both of his parents were Jewish,coming from Poland and Russia on his father’s side,and from Hungary and Labowa, Nowy Sacz, Poland, on his mother’s side. Falk grew up in Ossining, New York.

When Peter was 3  he lost his right due to a tumor. This is where one similarity comes in, although I did not lose my right eye, I did nearly lose my left eye when I was 3. Due to an accident my eye was pulled out of its socket. I have  had a very bad vision in that eye ever since, well until recently, I’ll come back to that later.

He used a prosthetic  eye throughout his life, which makes his War contribution evene more remarkable.adafruit_products_IMG_5242

Always embracing challenges, he tried to join the Marines, and even got as far as passing his first eye test, using “creativity.”, by memorizing the eye test chart. This is something I also did when I was called up for military service. A second round rousted Peter Falk out though. Undaunted, several months later he joined the Merchant Navy as a cook. He also tried to join the Israeli Irgun and the CIA, both turned him down. The CIA however did not turn him down because of his eye but according to Peter Falk in a Guardian interview “I’d joined the union of cooks and stewards at sea. And because I’d attended a liberal college and been in Yugoslavia.”

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As I mentioned earlier I would come back about my eye. Ironically,although I had always fears of losing my left eye.In 2011 I ended up losing my right eye, well partially, because of a failed operation the wall of my left eye caved in, making it shrink and resulting in loss of vision.I now also wear a prosthetic eye, not a full one as Peter Falk though.

Peter Falk is one of my heroes, despite some set backs in his life he didn’t give up on his dreams.Such was the charisma of the man that when one thinks of Columbo one automatically thinks of Peter Falk, not realizing he was actually the 2nd actor to play the slightly confused but highly intelligent Lt Columbo.

The first actor who played Columbo was Bert Freed  in an episode of “The Chevy Mystery Show” called “Enough Rope”

enough rope

Bert Freed had served in the US Army during WWII in the European theatre.

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May the Force be with you

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No movie buff could ignore this day’May the 4th’ or better known as “May the 4th be with you”. The day that is now widely accepted as Star Wars day.

But why is that:

The original movie “Star Wars -A New hope” opened on May 25th 1977.

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It would forever change the way movies were made, and left a footprint so deep in the culture that sometimes “culture” feels synonymous with “Star Wars.”

So why not have he 25th of May as “Star Wars” day. For a time it actually was the 25th.

The phrase ‘May the 4th be with you’ originates from something from a galaxy far far away from Star Wars. It actually comes from British politics.

The reference was first used on May 4, 1979, the day Margaret Thatcher took office as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.Britain’s Conservative Party celebrated the election of British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, by taking out a full-page ad in the London Evening News. The ad read, “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.” This was for Thatcher’s inauguration date as Prime Minister: May 4, 1979. In only two years, Star Wars‘ Jedi catchphrase was recognizable and influential enough even to be used in the soap opera that is British politics.

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The date was chosen for the pun on the catchphrase “May the Force be with you” as “May the Fourth be with you”. Even though the holiday was not actually created or declared by Lucas film, many Star Wars fans across the world have chosen to celebrate the holiday. It has since been embraced by Lucas film as an annual celebration of Star Wars.

I will not go into whether May the 5th or May the 6th should be known as Revenge of the fifth/sixth as a pun on ‘Revenge of the Sith’ that would bring me to close to the dark side. To be honest this is not the Sith fan you are looking for.

Darth-Vader_6bda9114

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I pronounce you Mr and Mrs Dougherty-a slightly different WWII story.

Monroe_and_James_Dougherty (4)

A young couple in love,neighborhood sweethearts getting married. It was just like a fairy tale, what could possibly go wrong.

Well WWII for one, but not in the usual World War 2 drama sense, but  there were more reasons. one being fame.

They began dating in January 1942 and were married in June of that year, just 18 days after she  celebrated her 16th birthday.The she was Norma Jeane Baker.On June 19, 1942, she got married to James Dougherty, a 20 year old Los Angeles police officer .The wedding was officiated by a minister, Norma Jean wore an embroidered lace wedding dress with long sleeves and veil.

Monroe_and_James_Dougherty (3)

James’ family lived next door to Grace Goddard, a friend of Norma Jean’s mother, Gladys, who was frequently in psychiatric hospitals. After living in a handful of foster homes, Norma Jeane was taken in by Grace and her husband, who wanted to move across the country and couldn’t take her with them. To prevent Norma Jean from having to go back into the foster care system, Grace suggested that James marry the teenager.

Norma Jeane and her Jimmie had a near idyllic first one or two years as a married couple and seemed destined to spend their lives together in marital bliss.

But after Jimmie enlisted in the Merchant Marines in 1943, things were to change.Monroe_and_James_Dougherty (6)

He was soon called up for overseas duty. Norma Jeane would dutifully write her husband letters several times a week, but soon she became bored without him. She got a job at the Radioplane factory, inspecting parachutes and preparing planes for flight. Photos of the pretty brunette taken at work landed her modeling gigs around LA, and it wasn’t long before she caught the fame bug.Norma Jeane

While James was still stationed overseas in September 1946, Norma Jean filed for divorce.“I was on a ship in the Yangtze River getting ready to go into Shanghai when I was served with divorce papers,” James said in a 2002 interview. They divorced in 1946.

Norma Jeane Baker of course went on to become Marilyn Monroe, one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century.

How things could have been for these tow if it hadn’t been for WWII, we will never know.

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When Stalin wanted to kill John Wayne

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No this is not the title of a movie, but why this never was turned into a movie is beyond me.

Joseph Stalin wanted John Wayne gone so badly he sent two men to pose as FBI agents to take him down.It might come as a surprise that Joseph Stalin, Soviet dictator, man of steel, and murderer of millions, was quite the movie buff. He had a private theater in each one of his homes,and in his last years, the cinema became not only his favourite entertainment but also a source of political inspiration.

Stalin was so angered by John Wayne’s anti-communism that he plotted to have him murdered. He ordered the KGB to assassinate John Wayne because he considered him a threat to the Soviet Union.maxresdefault

When the Russian filmmaker Sergei Gerasimov attended a peace conference in New York in 1949 he heard about John Wayne and his anti-communist beliefs. When he returned to the Soviet Union he immediately told Stalin about John Wayne.

Wayne had previously clashed with the Communists because of his opinions, even receiving a threatening anonymous letter. When one of his friends advised him to be more cautious, the Duke declared “no goddamn Commie’s gonna frighten me.”john-wayne-assassination

The situation took a decidedly more serious turn, however, when the movie star attracted the attention of the Soviet dictator himself.

The alleged assassination attempt unfolded in the early 1950’s, just as the Communist scare in the United States was starting to peak.

Sources reported that after one of his routine film viewings, Stalin suddenly decided that Wayne was a direct “threat to the cause and should be assassinated.”

American agents also took the threat seriously enough to offer Wayne protection, to which he replied: “I’m not gonna hide away for the rest of my life, this is the land of the free and that’s the way I’m gonna stay.”

According to Wayne’s stuntman and real-life cowboy Yakima Canutt, the FBI foiled at least one assassination attempt with the help of the Duke himself.yakima-canutt

After getting word that two KGB agents posing as FBI agents were going to come to the movie studio where Wayne was filming and lure him away, the FBI and the actors decided to outflank them. When the Soviets came into Wayne’s office as expected, the actual FBI agents were hidden in a room next door and were able to burst in and subdue them at gunpoint. The Soviets were so terrified of being sent back to Russia and reporting to Stalin they had failed, that they willingly agreed to provide intelligence to the Americans.

Later, in 1953, Wayne was filming “Hondo” in Mexico when yet another communist cell tried to assassinate him.

Hondo

The Soviet campaign was canceled after Stalin’s death in 1953 because his successor Nikita Khrushchev was a fan of the film star. In a biography written by Michael Munn it says Krushchev told Wayne in a private meeting in 1958: “That was a decision of Stalin during his last five mad years. When Stalin died, I rescinded that order.”

John and Joe

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