historical films

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Guest, Feb 23, 2003.

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    obelix2
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    (4/28/01 8:43:07 am)
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    Ignorance is bliss. I am not very much bothered by things I know nothing about in historical films. The possibility that the Puritan's hat is the wrong height or that the samovars in War and Peace come from the wrong period pass me by. But, there's the rest of the audience enjoying the hell out of itself while I sit there unable to concentrate on anything but the fact that everybody seems to have obtained 25-years-in-advance prototypes of the Winchester 92 or that the CW railroad cars have Westinghouse brakes.

    This started early. As a youngster I saw a film about the Battle of the River Plate. I can't tell you whether the film was any good or not; the only thing I remember about it 40 years later is that the lead role, theAdmiral Graf Spee, was played by a Des Moines class heavy cruiser, very little disguised.

    In pictures that don't take themselves too seriously I don't mind -- Charlie Chaplin in Shoulder Arms wearing a silver-painted bowler for a helmet and carrying a Krag is technically wrong, but then I know that Charlie didn't capture the Crown Prince either -- still I notice. The exhuberance of Errol Flynn in Captain Blood isn't ruined by the fact that he goes into battle against the French exultantly hoisting a union jack that wouldn't exist for another 20 years -- but there you are.

    It seems to me that in pictures that do take themselves seriously historical distractions come in two distinct types, separated roughly by film period.

    In earlier films, the problems are more physical; I'll hold it down to firearms, since those are the examples we're most familiar with.

    It begins at the beginning. I know how much trouble DW Griffith had raising money for The Birth of a Nation, but still the marvellous early authenticity of his battle scenes is marred for me by his infantrymen conspicuously reloading their trapdoors. Is there anyone on this board who hasn't winced just a little during the six-zillion westerns where badmen are killed (bloodlessly, to be sure) by SAA Colts that have yet to be invented?

    The reverse anachronism, though much rarer, does occur. The pedant in me (okay, a big one)is disturbed when in one of the later John Waynes (Big Jake?), set around 1910, his son (or Robert Mitchum's?) is compelled to explain away his use of a Bergmann (on the market before 1900) as an advance copy, obtained because the family owns stock in the arms factory.

    Far worse, though, in my mind -- and here's where it gets controversial -- are the more recent pictures. Here the physical authenticity is often all that money can buy, but the writers and directors have no notion of how to fit people into all the correct junk around them; no idea that words and customs have dates just as surely as wallhangings and millinery.

    Here are two movies with some merit and period feel that were nonetheless diminished for me in the opening moments: In Altman's Thieves Like Us, set in the mid-30s, the credits have scarcely rolled when one of the characters makes a feeble double entendre about a "pot"-hole in the road. In Cobb (framed in 1960), the writer walks into his watering hole and is praised by the bartender: "You the man! Not all the 56 Buicks in the world can quite redeem that first scene.

    Just two examples of the recent and particularly egregious ; sufficient, since both won Academy Awards:

    Dances with Wolves. See what happens when you take a 1990s politically correct, kostnerian psyche and set it into the skull of a 19th-century soldier and then go on to let that psyche interpret the history. I have a double grudge against this Picture That Everyone Loves, because I saw it (pirated, naturally) on Cuban television, where it was shown because of its obvious political appeal.

    Titanic. Set in motion the most elaborate special effects ever devised on a ship that is every inch the real thing, then populate it with caricatures that not even a mother could believe could exist at any time, much much less in 1912. Have them use words that would make a black-gang stoker blush if he heard them spoken in front of a lady. Make them say things like, "This conversation is NOT happening" or "I'm a survivor" (he ain't). After that, let them drown. I don't much care.

    Dixi








    Kdubya
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    (4/28/01 1:41:55 pm)
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    Aw, C'mon Obe -
    Tell us how you REALLY feel!

    Actually, I drive my wife to despair watching westerns or military movies, with my snide comments about this or that not being authentic to the period or activity.
    Keep off the Ridgeline!!

    Xracer
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    (4/28/01 5:04:28 pm)
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    That Des Moines class CA was the U.S.S. Salem. The on-board scenes were filmed while it was alongside pier 55 in Naples.

    A high school classmate of mine, who also went thru Navy boot camp with me, was aboard at the time and had a bit part (non speaking) as a German sailor. He had taken me for a tour of the ship a couple of days before filming started.

    My ship was in port at the time, and we had to anchor out so that the Salem could have the pier space.

    All in all, a pretty good movie though......I doubt that refloating the Graf Spee for authenticity's sake was within the movie's budget.

    obelix2
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    (4/28/01 5:49:49 pm)
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    I knew there were three in the class, but I never knew which I was watching. I too had a terrific time in boot camp (cf tyrants), but I knew what it was about. Do these new ones?

    polishshooter
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    (4/29/01 8:57:45 pm)
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    I'm just tickled that I lost my title to the longest post ever!

    Yeah, sometimes, the stuff is "cute." I loved "Hogan's Heroes" as a kid, even when I realized Shultz was carrying a Krag. Even funnier is I think he has Krag pouches too.
    That show was so far-fetched the props matched.

    My favorite Western, "The Wild Bunch," does well with the '97s, 1911s, Model 12s, 03 Springfields and the like, but I feel uncomfortable with the Browning watercooled 1917. I would have liked to see a Potato Digger, I guess...

    Yeah, I liked that John Wayne movie and the play on new vs old, but they could have used a Luger just as well, I noticed that. Plus, the 1911 would have been in Army use...

    You know, the fake "Tigers" in Kelly's Heroes were rather well done. I still don't know exactly what tank they used to make them. The interleaved road wheels were well done. The Shermans were good too.

    On the other hand, the Grey paint and crosses didn't do anything for the M48s they used in both "Patton" and the "Battle of the Bulge." I remember seeing "Patton" with my Dad as a kid in the theater and being disappointed about that. The Chaffees in the "Bulge" MAY have been possible, but you think they would have bought at least ONE Sherman. The irony of using M48 "Patton" tanks as fake Tigers he's fighting still grates on me...

    I also cringe whenever I see the Jap planes taking off from carriers with "Islands" on any film from "Midway" to "Tora,Tora,Tora". I wonder what the new Pearl Harbor flick will do here...

    I saw a naval flick one time, don't remember the name, where the Jap ships all had "pagoda" masts which was a nice touch.

    I also count the different types of Jap planes a single AT6 with meatballs can be passed off as, but sometimes they do a good job at it.

    One of my favorite movie memories as a kid though was "Tora,Tora,Tora." I remember the theater breaking into cheers and applause when the first Jap plane got shot down.

    The worst John Wayne flick EVER? Green Berets. I liked the sun setting in the WEST when they landed at the end...

    "Saving Private Ryan" did a good job overall, don't you think?



    Edited by: polishshooter at: 4/30/01 1:07:32 am

    obelix2
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    (4/30/01 9:33:06 am)
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    Jeez, you award me "longest post ever," then ask a dozen questions and make as many comments that all demand lengthy replies. I won't bite.

    The Schultz I remember (maybe it was later) did carry a K98. But, who cares? The show was a cross between Stalag 17 and a Mickey Mouse cartoon. List of absurdities endless; funny Gestapo in dubious taste; still enjoyable.

    The Wild Bunch pleases me more every (many) time I see it. The 1911 is explained away (same place they got the uniforms?), but I hadn't even noticed it was a 17 Browning; just thought it was some kind of Maxim or other. But, when I think about it, it was stolen from the US Army, wasn't it? I do think the German Advisors are a bit overboard, but, whatthehell, it will always be Some Climax.

    In Patton, authenticity matters because it's such a fine film. But in The Battle of the Bulge they could have painted over garbage trucks for all I care, since it's so bad on every other level.

    Kaga and Akagi, of course, had no islands. But Hiryu, Soryu, Shokaku and Zuikaku did have them, though much smaller than those on the Yorktowns. This may help get you through Midway again, though I don't know what you're going to do about the moronic, intrusive romantic subplot.

    Worst John Wayne movie ever (he only produced two himself, and one is The Green Berets): The Alamo. Take well over three hours to misrepresent every known fact (except at the end; they die), pay no attention to your central plot, give the Mexicans enough artillery to level modern San Antonio in two hours, and, just when you need it most, send in Frankie Avalon for a song or two. And...

    The Green Berets is bad, too, with its own set of absurdities. But I like it as an artefact. It's about the only Vietnam movie done at the time, as well as the only one that unambiguously sees the War as a Good Thing.

    As for Private Ryan. I can get past the fictional Omaha Beach part. Spielberg wanted to spend his money on effects rather than on the Spanish Army, the way Zanuck spent his.

    Yeah, at least all the stuff looked real; maybe it was. Of course, there are two comments like: "They've got an MG42". When you finally see one, damned if it isn't, but how could anyone know at a distance that he wasn't being shot at by any of a dozen different varieties?

    Spielberg tries, but what he is worst at is creating real characters. That's why I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is his best -- it's a comic strip, so characters don't have to pass the reality test. In the enormously expensive Amistad I could live with the fact that everything was too damned clean, but there is no way to overcome the moment where Matthew McConaughey -- after winning one of the umpteen court battles -- jumps up, sticks out a fist, twirls around, and shouts "Yes!", a gesture-cluster that wouldn't be around for another 150 years, much the less in a New Hampshire courtroom.

    Back to Ryan. Some other things bother me. Offhand examples: even if the same Ranger teams HAD gone through Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normany (they didn't), I cannot imagine that any of them would be lunatic enough to weight down his pack with mason jars of dirt. Something bothers me about soldiers being rewounded by machine-gun fire ten feet under the water; effect works, though. Why does the Tom Hanks squad go looking for Ryan waaay over in 82nd territory? Sure there were mix-ups in the drops, but the beachhead wasn't small enough to walk all around it. By the time Hanks gets going, it's what? -- D+6? They should have had some communications established. No hint at the total Allied air superiority until the very end, when you really need a Mustang(?).

    Oh yeah, that ending. I know that for dramatic reasons, Spielberg had to have a climactic battle sequence, but I don't have a clue to any other reason for it ("the key to Cherbourg, which is the key to Boulogne..." Come off it.)

    If the Germans needed that bridge, any Captain with the sense God gave a goose would fall back across it and blow it. If the Americans eventually needed it the engineers could build a better one in a few hours. It isn't exactly an eight-lane highway across the Rhine. And then, those socks... But I only tend to get hypercritical about movies I think have merit; so, yes, I like it.

    Damnit, I bit. You did make me do it in spite of myself.







    LIKTOSHOOT
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    (4/30/01 12:00:37 pm)
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    Hey!! How did that tank on the bridge blow up? Did Hank`s hit the fuel tank with ole slabsides or what? Mustangs "Angels on our shoulders" Did ya notice the missing hard points and gun ports.....What the hell did that Mustang(s) bring anyway? Maybe that tank ran over a "sticky bomb" GESSH!!

    TYRVR
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    (4/30/01 2:34:18 pm)
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    LTS, I really got bent when Hanks killed that"Tank" with His 1911A1,just as the slide locks back, everyone knows You can't kill A tank without at least one Mag.change,even when You use Black Talons

    17th FA Bn
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    (4/30/01 3:42:23 pm)
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    It has to be extremely difficult to do a WW II movie with large battle scenes today. If you are staging a massive tank battle where could you get enough Sherman's and Tigers or T-34s to do it right? And finding the correct aircraft has to be even harder. In Saving Private Ryan I heard they had to use P-51s as the "tank killers" because they couldn't find any P-47s (the real tank killers) to be in the scenes.

    I went to "Freedom Flight" at Wright Patterson A.F. base in 1995. It was billed that 300+ WW II combat aircraft would be flying accross the country in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of WW II. They listed many planes that would be there such as P-51, P-47, P-38 etc. At the show there were around 80 planes. One or two P-51s, and a B-25. Almost all the other planes were T-6 trainers. One of the owners I talked to said the T-6s went for around $100,000 were easier to maintain and used less fuel. He said a P-51 would go for $500,000 or more were hard to find, very expensive to maintain and used fuel at a phenomenal rate. He said P-47s and P38s that were flyable were almost impossible to find.


    I think the worst John Wayne movie ever was "Gengis Khan" starring John Wayne in the title role. John Wayne could play a Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Pilot, Cowboy, but a Leader of the Mongol hord with John Wayne's speach pattern just doesn't get it. I've read he had them promise not to show it again till he was dead. It was funny in the way Plan 9 from outer space is funny.


    Xracer
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    (4/30/01 4:58:30 pm)
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    Another John Wayne "stinker" was Jet Pilot, with, of all people, Katy Hepburn! I believe they used an F-84F as a MiG in that one. It was so bad, Howard Hughes had it pulled from circulation shortly after it's release.

    It's said that in his later "hermit" years, Hughes used to watch it over and over again.

    Now, if you want authentic props, 17th is exactly right! Go see "Plan 9 From Outer Space". Paper plate UFOs, cardboard cemetary headstones, and a really authentic airliner cockpit consisting of two chairs, two steering wheels, and a sheet for a background.

    obelix2
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    (4/30/01 5:22:59 pm)
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    Hey, no dragging Ed Wood into the discussion; nobody else has a chance against him. I kind of wish he had made an historical (as opposed to hysterical) movie; would have been fun to see.

    I'd forgotten about The Conqueror and Jet Pilot (Janet Leigh, I think), I guess because I was thinking in terms of 100% JW films: wrote, acted, directed, produced, destroyed.

    Both the movies you mention were part of Howard Hughes' plan to ruin RKO while making tons of money out of it. He succeeded; the pictures didn't (though I think he had already absconded by the time they were actually released).

    polishshooter
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    (4/30/01 6:21:44 pm)
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    Your assignement gentlemen: Nickleodeon. Show: Hogan's Heroes. Everyone watch Shultz VERY closely, and darn if you won't see the loading gate on his Krag.

    I got you Ob! Don't you just love the old, "I'm not going to do it, but..." posts? I do it all the time, too!!!

    Saving Private Ryan used IMG as the source of all the authentic German stuff, including the REAL MG 42s. Their the ones in SGN that have all the really cool drawings illustrating all the esoteric surplus stuff they sell like trench mirrors for your enfield, British Tea Mugs, French FL Wine tins, Sleds for your Russian Maxim, and of course, MG42 parts. I read in his ad about how and what he supplied, and how he got to shoot the 42 until the barrel ALMOST overheated so in that one scene after they take out the nest, and show the closeup, you can HEAR the barrel and jacket cooling. Plus those were actual 42 links hitting the ground in the beach scene, they had microphones on the concrete floor to amplify the links hitting, though.

    Yeah, I knew the Jap carriers that had the tiny Islands, but come on, you HAVE to have the first wave coming of the Akagi, don't you?

    There was an old movie I watched as a kid, I can't remember the name, I wonder if anybody remembers it.

    Two RAF P-40s in the desert strafing a German convoy, one gets shot down, the other is damaged but lands and picks up the other pilot, but is too damaged and overweight to really fly, but over the hill comes a "Tiger" so they taxi and "hop" over the next hill to get away. But the fanatical Nazi keeps coming and it turns into a duel for the whole movie, the plane taxiing and "hopping" away only to have the tank catch up, final scene a game of chicken with the 40 taxiing with all guns blazing right at it. Anybody remember it?

    And then there are the two movies I saw ONCE years ago and have been trying to find ever since with no luck. One is "What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?" A really funny one on the Italian Front where the Italians want to surrender to a weak American patrol, but they can't let the Germans know so they "fake" fighting during the day so the Nazi Observers in the hills and Storches think they are holding, but then they party together all night. Each morning the American Captain and the Italian officer would "choreograph" the battle so the observers would think the fighting was real. If I remember right it gets serious at the end when the Germans DO show up and the Italians and the Americans fight them side by side.

    The other is a Korean War flick about a routine patrol through the "quiet" area that has the geeky "Regimental Historian" along for the show, and then the Chinese hit, and the Seargent in charge is blinded, and the "Historian Lt." takes over and uses like ancient tactics and Indian War ruses to get them all back through the lines.

    If anybody has these or knows where I can get them, let me know...

    obelix2
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    (4/30/01 9:16:04 pm)
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    You found the only three war movies I know nothing about. For the last two, do you have any clues -- cast, director, year? The place to go for unfindable movies is Movies Unlimited. I don't use them much because not only do they charge me the normal 6% PA sales tax, they tack on another 1% for Philadelphia (which is still in first place, and it's practically May!). Website is www.moviesunlimited.com. Phone is 1-800-4MOVIES. But we need to get the titles first; their customer-service people tend to get Extra Polite when you try to order by plot elements. There. One lousy paragraph. See what ignorance can accomplish?

    obelix2
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    (4/30/01 9:24:28 pm)
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    Just checked their website; they've got What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? for 15 bucks. S&H, but no sales tax. Just tell them you're from Indiana or someplace like that.

    obelix2
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    (5/2/01 11:30:02 am)
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    I watched a couple of old episodes just out of curiosity. They flash their rifles by a little too fast for the old eyeballs, but damned if they DON'T look like Krags!

    Given the otherwise meticulous research and documentary-like accuracy of the show, are you sure the Germans didn't issue Danish and/or Norwegian Krags to second-line Luftwaffe troops?

    polishshooter
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    (5/2/01 5:02:55 pm)
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    Now THAT'S a stretch! I don't think they were THAT cutting edge... Could be though, they issued everything else to "second line troops," M-95 Steyrs, 8mm Carcanos, etc.

    But then again, not to GOERING's "Second line troops." They would have had nothing but the best no matter what the Army needed.

    But I believe I remember a story about them, how they just needed "any" rifle at the beginning and took the first available for Schultz, and when it was pointed out, they decided to keep it for comedic value. Can't be sure but I heard that somewhere. They HAD to get tons of complaints.

    The best time to see it is when Schultz comes through the door of the barracks and there's a close up...

    In reality, the real problem is LaBeau. He is never really explained. I'm not sure any "Free French" would have been in air action to be shot down, and if so, probably would have been shot. Any "real" French POW from 1939-40 wouold have been released because now they were "allies," and if he was Resistance, he would have been tortured and shot also.

    LIKTOSHOOT
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    (5/2/01 8:17:38 pm)
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    Cool aray of weapons in the "Mummy" LTS

    obelix2
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    (5/2/01 9:33:28 pm)
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    I don't have figures here, but I think the Germans held on to French POWs for quite a while, maybe for war work? After all, Vichy never really entered the War. Of course, French POWs had separate camps. As did Brits and Russians (one of the latter is in the early Hogans).

    The most inexplicable to me is Hogan himself. A colonel is generally thought to be an officer, right? Even if he's in the USAAC?

    There's a great Mauldin cartoon, with his grizzled infantryman meeting up with what looks to be an 18-year-old kid, wearing an Air Corps patch and colonel's eagles on his leather jacket. Caption: "Uncle Willy!"



    Xracer
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    (5/3/01 9:08:37 am)
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    FYI, Robert Clarey (sic?), the actor who played Lebeau, was a French Jew who served time in a concentration camp in WWII.

    Werner Klemperer, who played the Commandant, was the son of Werner Klemperer, the famous conductor and composer (for you classical music fans).

    polishshooter
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    (5/3/01 10:48:44 am)
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    And Werner Klemperer (Klink) just recently died. (around Xmas)

    obelix2
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    (5/3/01 11:56:46 am)
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    And what happened to Bob Crane? All I can seem to remember is that it was something violent, and I could be wrong about that.

    Kdubya
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    (5/3/01 12:08:08 pm)
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    You're right, Obe -
    Ol' Bob Crane got done in with a camera tripod in a motel room in Scottsdale, Az some years back. They think he and someone else were making homemade porno videos and a ruckus broke out with Crane ending up with his head bashed in. The police have a strong suspect, but not enough to tie the guy with the crime to go to jury trial. If a woman was involved, they haven't found anyone.
    Nice circles the rich and famous travel in, eh?
    Keep off the Ridgeline!!

    obelix2
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    (5/4/01 6:50:40 am)
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    Probably it's a combination of lots of money, artistic temperaments, and press drawing power, but Hollywood does seem to have a higher interesting-deaths rate than your average Iowa farmtown.

    Just keeping it down to firearms, the murder of William Desmond Taylor -- second-rate director but first-string Handsome Guy -- has never been solved. Bullet in the back of the head, no clues. Nonetheless, despite all studio PR efforts, it ruined the careers of two actresses.

    Mabel Normand was discovered rummaging through Taylor's little cottage, after some compromising letters. Mary Miles Minter, a promising Mary Pickford imitation, not only failed to find hers, but had also left in Taylor's closet a sheer nightgown prominently embroidered "MMM". Mabel Normand wasn't just promising; she was the screen's No. 1 comedienne, having worked with Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle. Neither lady was suspected of any involvement in the crime, but both were history.

    This happened, by the way, in 1921, the same year that Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was arrested for what might be called the "homicide by tonnage" of an aspiring actress during a very wild party, taken up to San Francisco for the sake of discretion. He was tried and released three times. But the studio refused to send out shorts of his that were already set for distribution, and this very popular comedian finished up directing very B movies under an assumed name. Buster Keaton always stayed loyal to him, but I don't think anyone else did.

    polishshooter
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    (5/4/01 8:03:47 am)
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    Where in the HECK do you get all this esoteric information???!!! You are astounding, Ob!

    obelix2
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    (5/4/01 9:01:31 am)
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    But the fact is I need a mind-bridle to keep from constantly going off-topic.

    TallTLynn
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    (5/4/01 9:07:32 am)
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    obelix2 - you go off topic all you want - it's fascinating just to read this stuff.

    polishshooter
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    (5/4/01 8:31:08 pm)
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    Anybody that can spew accurate details all the way from an obscure border war in the Andes to an unsolved murder mystery in pre-talkie Hollywood is someone that deserves ANYONES respect...Geez, if I could even remember HALF of what I read or know as good as you, much less all the esoteric stuff you know that I never HEARD of...How the heck do you do it?

    I stand in awe...

    Edited by: polishshooter at: 5/4/01 9:32:41 pm

    Tac401
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    (5/5/01 12:30:49 am)
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    This forum is sheer pleasure for me to come to and
    read every night.

    A fine job you are all doing indeed!

    Tac
    The Firearms Forum Vietnam Memories Bulletin Board Contact Administrator

    obelix2
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    (5/6/01 10:02:28 am)
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    shucks. Was going to stop here, but hate to have anybody scroll through two pages for zilch.

    There's also the murder/or suicide of Thelma Todd, a very talented actress (you can see her in a couple of early Marx-Brothers pix) in 1935. Back when going to the movies meant cartoon, newsreel and comic short, she and Patsy Kelly made a series called "The Boyfriends" which there is no way to find today. Wish I could.

    Anyhow. No hose into the car. No suicide note. What happened?
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