Tag Archives: World War I

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II Book Review

When it comes to Hollywood personalities, there are sometimes two people: the real person and the image crafted to sell tickets.

Audrey Hepburn is one of the most recognized and revered celebrities of Hollywood’s golden age. Movies such as Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady have endeared her to generations of film fans.

The new biography, Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II, by Robert Matzen, tells the story of a portion of the late Ms. Hepburn’s life that is sometimes overlooked: her childhood during World War II. She was born in 1929 to a British father and an aristocratic Dutch mother. Her parents divorced when she was young. Her father left the family soon after and Audrey was raised by her mother.

When she was a pre-teen, World War II started. The Dutch believed that because their country was neutral during World War I, nothing would change. Little did they know how history would forever change their country and affect the future film icon that is Audrey Hepburn.

I loved this book. I was aware previously that Ms. Hepburn was a child during World War II, but I had no idea of how much the war would have a life long affect on her.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Thoughts On the Supreme Court World War I Memorial Decision

One of the basic tenets of America is the separation between church and state. While on the surface, this statement seems black and white, there are shades of grey beneath the surface.

This week, the Supreme Court decided that a giant cross in Maryland that memorializes young men from that community who died for their country in World War I can stay on public land.

I have to be honest, I am torn about the decision. Without a shadow of a doubt, the young men who gave their lives for our freedoms deserve to our respect, our thanks and a perpetual memorial. However, those who erected the memorial either forgot or ignored the fact that not every American soldier who died for their country was of the Christian faith.

Is there an easy answer to this question? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that all of our soldiers who gave their lives for their country deserve to be remembered, not just those who practiced Christianity.

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Dumbo Movie Review

Over the past few years, Disney is intend on using our childhood memories to bring us once more to the movie theaters. This weekend, the reboot of Dumbo (1941) was released.

Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) has just returned home from fighting in World War I, sacrificing one of his arms in the process of fighting for his country. His wife died during the war, leaving his two children Milly (Nico Parker, Thandie Newton‘s daughter) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) motherless. Stuck in the past, Holt is unable to move forward until his boss and circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) puts Holt in charge of the elephants. One of the female elephants has just given birth, the newborn elephant has unusually large ears that allow him to fly. After the circus has a bit of success with the new elephant, named Dumbo, V.A. Vandervere (Michael Keaton) takes notice of the little elephant. He wants to add Dumbo to Colette Marchant’s (Eva Green) aerialist act. But Vandervere’s plans are not completely altruistic; he has some plans up his sleeve that are questionable.

First of all, I have to give kudos to the screenwriters. Not only did smartly remove the racist caricatures of the crows, but they used Dreamland as the background for the second half of the movie. Dreamland is not a well-known subject unless one is well versed in the history of New York City or early 20th century amusement parks.

I haven’t seen the original animated film in quite a few years, but I feel like this reboot is close enough in narrative to its predecessor. What is nice about this film is that not only is not the typical slightly out-there Tim Burton film, but it speaks of animal cruelty and gives Milly, as a budding scientist, her due.

I recommend it.

Dumbo is presently in theaters.

 

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The Royal Nanny: A Novel Book Review

Any working parent will tell you that finding quality childcare is hard to find. Especially if you are royalty and at least one of your children will one day wear the crown that lies on your head.

In 2016, Karen Harper published The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The book is based on the true story of Charlotte Bill, who was the nanny to the children of King George V and Queen Mary from the late 1890’s to the end of World War I. While Charlotte was responsible for all of the children(who referred to her as Lala), she took extra responsibility for Prince John, the youngest of the King and Queen’s six children. The young prince needed extra love and attention, a task that Lala took on with everything she had.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because it was written and it shows that despite wealth and power, those who bear the title of King or Queen are still human beings. Their children still face the same obstacles that we all face as children, regardless where their family is placed on the social scale.

I recommend it.

 

 

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He Can Play Golf Every Weekend, But He Cannot Go Out In The Rain To Honor The Heroes of World War I

When one joins the military, there is the expectation that he or she may give up their life at some point to protect their country.

Today is Veterans Day. We remember the millions who served, regardless of whether they came home or gave their lives to protect everything that they hold dear.

This year is the 100th anniversary of ending of World War I. In addition to remembering all of the American veterans, we remember those who fought and died in World War I.

You know who promised to support veterans, but not surprisingly, there were no actions behind his words.

During the election, he chastised President Obama for golfing, but he has golfed every weekend since taking office. Yesterday was the international gathering of world leaders to remember those who gave their lives during World War I.  He used the excuse that it was raining not to attend. Was he afraid of getting his precious hair wet? If so, this another example, at least to my mind that he is unfit to lead the country.

To give your life during war to protect and support your country is the most heroic act anyone can do. By using a flimsy excuse to not attend the memorial ceremony, he is once more showing his true colors. It is those colors that continue to prove that he should be holding any political office, especially the highest political office in the land.

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House of Gold Book Review

There is an old Chinese proverb:

“May you live in interesting times”

Natasha Solomons’s new book, House of Gold starts a few years before World War I. The Goldbaum family is one of the wealthiest and most powerful Jewish families in Europe. Everyone within the family knows their place and their responsibilities. The men go into the family business. The women marry their cousins and produce the next generation of Goldbaums. The main character in House of Gold is Greta Goldbaum. A member of the Austrian branch of the family, Greta is independent and intelligent. She would love to live by her own rules, but she also knows that she is going to do her duty, one way or another.

She marries Albert, a distant cousin from English branch of the family. Like many arranged marriages, their relationship is slow to take off. When Greta is made mistress of the family garden, she begins to see that things are not so bad. She may even start to get to know her husband in the process.

Then war breaks out. World War I consumes all of the Europe. There is no amount of influence or money that can shield the Goldbaums from the horrors of war. As the war rages on, the family is torn apart and Greta must make a decision. She must choose the family she left in Austria or the new family she has come to love in England.

This book is amazing. While the beginning of the narrative is a little slow, it takes off about a third of the way in and does not let go until the very end. What hooked me most is the main character. While Greta is certainly a woman of her time, she is not one to automatically submit to her husband. She is intelligent, a little defiant when she needs to be, and has a backbone.

Another reviewer compared House of Gold to Downton Abbey. The comparison is spot on and this book is amazing.

I absolutely recommend it.

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The Greatest Thing You Can Do Is Serve Your Country, But Some Are Still Prevented From Serving

Immigrant has become a dirty word in this country, especially since you know who became President.

While the ban on Transgender troops was lifted last year, there are many who are willing and able to serve, but are given the runaround when they present themselves as recruits.

Today, the Associated Press reported that immigrant recruits are being quietly discharged by the military.

Not only is America the land of immigrants, but her military is made up of immigrants or children of immigrants. My grandfathers, the sons of Jewish immigrants, served their country in World War II. One of my great-uncles served in World War I.  Many Irish immigrants fought for the North and the South during the Civil War. Similarly, European immigrants fought for America during World War I. They wanted to prove that they were just as American as any native-born soldier.

The fact is that America has not had a draft since Vietnam. Everyone who signs up for the military is doing so of their own free will.  They know, just as we know, that it is an honorable, but perilous profession.

To potentially put your life on the line to protect the American people, reveals to me at least, the nature of those who join the military. I could say the same thing about you know who, but he did use the excuse of “bone spurs” to get out of serving in Vietnam.

 

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Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

*Warning: this review contains minor spoilers. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the film. 

Winnie The Pooh is one of those childhood books that we all cherish. Written by A.A. Milne in the 1920’s, the world of Winnie The Pooh and the characters who inhabit that world have lasted generations.

The new movie, Goodbye Christopher Robin,  is not only the story of how Mr. Milne came to the idea of Winnie The Pooh, but also the eventual toll it took on his son, Christopher Robin Milne.  Domhnall Gleason plays A.A. Milne and Margot Robbie plays his wife, Daphne. Their son is played by Will Tiltson at age 8 and Alex Lawther at age 18. Kelly Macdonald plays Olive, the nanny who is like a second mother to Christopher Robin.

While the narrative went a little overboard on the drama at certain points, I really enjoyed the film. I enjoyed it because the characters were alive, flawed and thoroughly human.  The marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Milne was not all sunshine and roses and Christopher Robin, known to his family as Billy Moon, did not escape the fame came with his father’s success unscathed. I also appreciated that the filmmakers focused on the PTSD that affected Mr. Milne after he returned from World War I. It added another layer of humanity to the character and the narrative.

I recommend it.

Goodbye Christopher Robin is presently in theaters. 

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Flashback Friday-In Love And War (1996)

It has been said that for a writer to create memorable narratives and characters, he or she has to truly live.

Ernest Hemingway was an ambulance driver during World War I. Injured in the line of duty, he fell in love with nurse Agnes Von Kurowsky, and she with him. While their relationship did not last, their story was chronicled in the 1996 film, In Love And War.

The film starred Chris O’Donnell as Ernest Hemingway and Sandra Bullock as Agnes Von Kurowsky.

 

I haven’t seen this movie in a long time, but I remember that while the narrative did not rise to the level of an unforgettable romance, it was not entirely bad either. What I do remember is that it was the story of young love and how it stays with us, even when that love is not meant to last forever.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Character Review: Ned Malone

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the television show, The Lost World (which is loosely based the book of the same name). Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either the book or the television series.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from The Lost World to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

It’s easy to take someone we have just met or randomly bump into on the street at face value. But looks, more often than not are deceiving.

Ned Malone (David Orth) is initially introduced in The Lost World as the lone American and wet behind the ears reporter who more often than not, needs saving. Far from adventurous, Ned’s motivation to join the Challenger Expedition seems rather mundane: he wants to impress a pretty girl. Ned is secretly in love with his publisher’s daughter, but she has kept him parked in the friend zone for years. To prove his mettle, Ned joins the expedition to not only write about what they will be experiencing, but also in hopes that his crush will notice him and return his affection.

Over the course of the three seasons, Ned become more mature, more confident and more self-sufficient. Part of that due to the friendship turned semi romantic relationship with Veronica Layton (Jennifer O’Dell), a young woman raised in the jungle who is the exact opposite of the woman he was in love with when he left London.

While Ned may appear to be innocent and naive, his past was revealed about a third of the way into the 3rd season. He was unexpectedly drawn into the trenches during World War I and suffered emotional scars that lay deep and open beneath the surface.

To sum it up: No one is just one thing. We all have our light sides, our dark sides, the face we present to the world and the scars that are hidden beneath the surface. One of the primary jobs of a writer is to create fleshed out, 3D characters who are multifaceted and human. Human beings naturally relate to other human beings, whether they be real or fiction. If a character is human and feels human to the audience or reader, the writer has succeeded. If the character feels fake and uncomplicated, the writer still has work to do.

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