Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, August 31, 2023

The 49th Parallel- A 1941 Movie from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger -starring Leslie Howard and Lawrence Olivier - 122 minutes

The film is set in the early days of World War II, and tells the story of a small band of German soldiers who are stranded in Canada after their U-boat is sunk. The soldiers are led by Lieutenant Hirth (Eric Portman), a ruthless Nazi officer. The soldiers attempt to cross the border into the United States, which has not yet entered the war and is officially neutral.

Along the way, the German soldiers encounter a variety of Canadians, including a French-Canadian fur trapper (Laurence Olivier in a contrary to type role), a young woman (Glynis Johns), and a group of Hutterites. The Canadians are initially sympathetic to the German soldiers, but they eventually come to see them as a threat.

Here are some of the notable aspects of the film:

The film was made on a relatively low budget, but it still looks impressive. The cinematography is beautiful, and the film captures the vastness and beauty of the Canadian landscape.

The cast is excellent, with Eric Portman giving a chilling performance as Lieutenant Hirth. Laurence Olivier is also memorable as the French-Canadian fur trapper.

The film is a powerful anti-war statement. It shows the horrors of war, and it reminds us that the Nazis are a threat to all freedom-loving people

I especially enjoyed the scene where Leslie Howard Reads from The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. The opening is also very stirring.

Mel Ulm


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Metropolis- A 1927 Silent Movie- Directed by Fritz Lang - Run Time Two Hours and 26 minutes


The link above goes to a restored version with English Captions and a contemporary sound track.

I highly recommend Roger Ebert's brilliant thoughts on Metropolis

Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist science fiction silent film directed by Fritz Lang and written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang from von Harbou's 1925 novel of the same name (which was intentionally written as a treatment). It stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, and Brigitte Helm. Erich Pommer produced it in the Babelsberg Studios for Universum Film A.G. (UFA). The silent film is regarded as a pioneering science-fiction movie, being among the first feature-length movies of that genre.

The film is set in a futuristic city of Metropolis, where the working class toils underground to power the city's wealthy elite, who live above in luxury. The story follows Freder, the son of the city's Master, who falls in love with Maria, a worker who leads a rebellion against the machines. The film's themes explore the conflict between labor and capital, the potential dangers of technology, and the possibility of a better future.

Metropolis was a critical and commercial success upon its release, but it was also controversial. Some critics accused the film of being too pessimistic, while others praised its groundbreaking visuals and innovative storytelling. The film was also banned in some countries, including the United States, for its depiction of class conflict.

Despite its initial controversy, Metropolis has since been recognized as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. It has been praised for its groundbreaking special effects, its expressionist visuals, and its prescient depiction of a future divided between the rich and the poor. The film has been cited as an influence by many other science fiction films, including Blade Runner (1982) and Brazil (1985).

In 2001, Metropolis was inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register, the first film thus distinguished.

The film's special effects were groundbreaking for their time, and they still hold up today. The film's use of miniatures, matte paintings, and stop-motion animation helped to create a visually stunning and believable world.

The film's expressionist visuals are iconic. The film's use of shadows, distorted angles, and exaggerated sets create a dark and foreboding atmosphere.

The film's story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of technology and the importance of social justice. The film's themes are still relevant today, and they have been explored in many other science fiction films.

Just last week I watched a Startrek Episode taken directly from the plot of Metropolis.

Mel Ulm

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Christmas in July - A 1940 Film Directed and Written by Preston Sturges - Starring Dick Powell and Ellen Drew - A Post in observation of his 124 Birthday

Preston Sturges 

August 29, 1898 Chicago

 August 6, 1959 New York City

The Documentary Below details the amazing life and career of Preston Sturges 

This is the third film directed and written by Preston Sturges I have posted upon.  My prior posts were on Sullivan's Travels and The French They Are a Funny Race.

 The plot follows an ambitious clerk who is tricked into thinking he has won $25,000 in a slogan contest for a coffee company, and begins using his believed winnings to fulfill his dreams. It was Sturges' second film as writer-director, after The Great McGinty (also 1940).

The film's title refers to the protagonist's belief that he has won a Christmas-themed contest in the middle of July. This sets the stage for a series of comedic misadventures as he tries to spend his newfound wealth in a way that is both festive and practical. (His weekly wage was $22.00 from which he also supported his elderly mother. His girl friend played by Ellen Drew made $18.00 a week.)

The film explores themes of class and social mobility. The protagonist, Jimmy MacDonald (Powell), is a low-paid clerk who dreams of one day becoming wealthy and successful. When he believes he has won the contest, he is able to experience a taste of the high life, but he quickly realizes that money cannot buy happiness.

Christmas in July is a classic example of Preston Sturges' unique brand of screwball comedy. The film is full of witty dialogue, sight gags, and absurd situations. It is also a surprisingly thoughtful film that explores the human condition in a humorous way.

Here are some of the things that make Christmas in July a great film:

The witty dialogue: Sturges was a master of dialogue, and Christmas in July is full of quotable lines.

The sight gags: The film is full of physical comedy and sight gags that will make you laugh out loud.

The absurd situations: The film's plot is full of absurd situations that are both funny and thought-provoking.

The performances: The cast is excellent, and they all give memorable performances.

The social commentary: The film also has a layer of social commentary that is still relevant today.

Mel Ulm

Monday, August 28, 2023

"A VERY FULL DAY" a Short Story by Shubha Sunder - 2021 - in The Common Issue 22 -PORTFOLIO OF Writing from the Arabian Gulf

 Today's Story by Shubha Sunder, available to read in the Kindle Unlimited Edition of The Common # 22, "A Very Full Day" gives a marvelous account of a day in the life of a retired Air India Pilot.

"He was, locals agreed, the quintessential Kaverinagar retiree. In his wool-silk trousers, navy-blue sweater, and plaid scarf wrapped tight about the ears, C. K. Rajgopal, former Air India pilot, cut a lithe figure as he strode down Eighth Main. On his feet he wore the ergonomic shoes his son had brought him from America."  (Kaverinagar is a city in Bangalore)

He is a widower, as am I, we tag along as he walks through the city on his daily stroll.  He thinks back on his years as an Air India Pilot, on his marriage. Walking with his friend from the senior center 

"They set off on their daily loop, Murthy laughing at his own joke while Mr. Rajgopal rotated his arms to exercise his shoulder joints, warm in a long-sleeved woolen sweater knitted for him by his late wife. Earlier that morning she’d appeared in a vision, crouched on the floor with her back to him, shelling peas." I often have visions of my wife.

The two men discuss politics and remark on things they see.

The story is very well written and the characters well developed.

The Common Issue 22, 320 pages, contains essays, poems and several short stories by new to me writers.

SHUBHA SUNDER’s prose has appeared or is forthcoming in New Letters, Catapult, SLICE, Crazyhorse, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. Two of her stories were named as notable in The Best American Short Stories 2016. She was a City of Boston Artist Fellow for the year 2020. Other distinctions include a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship, the Crazyhorse Prize in Fiction, a Narrative “30 Below” prize, and awards from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences and from The Corporation of Yaddo.

Mel Ulm

Sunday, August 27, 2023

In Observation of the Birthday of Yujelyn Norte Ulm

 In loving observation of the Birthday of Yujelyn (Lyn) Norte Ulm- Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend to All- the finest person I have ever known

"A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" by John Donne - 1611

As virtuous men pass mildly away,

   And whisper to their souls to go,

Whilst some of their sad friends do say

   The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,

   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;

'Twere profanation of our joys

   To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,

   Men reckon what it did, and meant;

But trepidation of the spheres,

   Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love

   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit

Absence, because it doth remove

   Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,

   That our selves know not what it 

Is Inter-assured of the mind,

  Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,

   Though I must go, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion,

   Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so

   As stiff twin compasses are two;

Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no 

 show   To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit,

   Yet when the other far doth roam,

It leans and hearkens after it,

   And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,

   Like th' other foot, obliquely run;

Thy firmness makes my circle just,

   And makes me end where I begin."

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp- A 1943 Film Directed ahd and Written by Michael Powell and Emeric - run time 169 Minutes

Of the sixty or so movies I have featured on The Reading Life, this and another film from William Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Red Shoes, jointly are in first place on my in the works list of favourite films, Mel's Marvelous Movies.

The film stars Roger Livesey as Clive Candy, a British officer who serves in the British Army from the late 19th century to the Second World War. The film follows Candy's life and career, and explores themes of patriotism, nationalism, and the futility of war.

The film was a critical and commercial success, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It won the award for Best Original Screenplay. The film is considered to be one of the greatest British films ever made.

The film is divided into three parts:

The first part, set in the late 19th century, tells the story of Candy's early career in the British Army. He is a young and idealistic officer who is eager to fight for his country.

The second part, set in the First World War, tells the story of Candy's experiences in the trenches. He is a more cynical and disillusioned officer, but he still believes in the importance of fighting for his country.

The third part, set in the Second World War, tells the story of Candy's final years in the British Army. He is a retired officer who is watching the war from the sidelines. He is no longer sure what he believes in, but he still believes in the importance of fighting for what is right

Here are some of the things that make The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp a great film:

The performances: Roger Livesey gives a tour-de-force performance as Clive Candy. He captures the character's evolution from a young and idealistic officer to a cynical and disillusioned one. The supporting cast is also excellent, with Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook, and Stanley Holloway all giving memorable performances.

The direction: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger are masters of filmmaking. They use a variety of techniques to tell the story, including flashbacks, dream sequences, and symbolism. The film is visually stunning, and it is full of memorable images

I felt a strong personal identity with both of the lead male characters living now as widowers as do I.

Below is one of the very powerful scenes 

The Archers made 20 films together, it is my hope to post on them all.

Mel Ulm 


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Rebecca- A 1940 Movie Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - Sfarring Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine - run time 125 minutes


Alfred Hitchcock had a very long career in movies.

(Born: August 13, 1899, Leytonstone, London, United Kingdom
Died: April 29, 1980, Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, United States)

In his six decades in the movie business he made over fifty films. 

Rebecca was the first film he directed after moving to the United States. 

The screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison, and adaptation by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan, were based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier.

The film stars Laurence Olivier as the brooding, aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter and Joan Fontaine as the young woman who becomes his second wife, with Judith Anderson, George Sanders and Gladys Cooper in supporting roles.

The film is a gothic tale shot in black-and-white. Maxim de Winter's first wife, Rebecca, who died before the events of the film, is never seen. Her reputation and recollections of her, however, are a constant presence in the lives of Maxim, his new wife and the creepy housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. 

Rebecca was a critical and commercial success, and it won two Academy Awards: Best Picture and Best Cinematography. The film is considered a classic of the psychological thriller genre, and it has been praised for its suspenseful story, its atmospheric cinematography, and its iconic performances.

Here are some of the things that make Rebecca a great film:

The story is suspenseful and intriguing, with a twist ending that will surprise you.

The characters are complex and well-developed, and they are brought to life by the excellent performances of the cast.

The performances: Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine are both excellent, and Judith Anderson is particularly memorable as the sinister Mrs. Danvers.
The direction: Hitchcock is a master of suspense, and he uses his skills to great effect in Rebecca. The film is full of memorable scenes, such as the one where the young woman sees Rebecca's ghost.

The story: The story is well-paced and suspenseful, and it keeps the viewer guessing until the very end.

Rebecca is a classic film that is still enjoyed by audiences today. It is a must-see for fans of Hitchcock, psychological thrillers, and gothic tales

It may not sound like it but there are some very funny scenes in Rebecca 

there is an important change from the novel but it has no impact on the movie 

I greatly enjoyed this  movie

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Vertigo- A 1958 Film Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - Starring James Stewart and Kim Novak -run time two hours and Five Minutes

 Alfred Hitchcock had a very long career in movies.
(Born: August 13, 1899, Leytonstone, London, United Kingdom
Died: April 29, 1980, Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, United States)

In his six decades in the movie business he made over fifty films.  My research indicates Vertigo is regarded among his very best works.

The story was based on the 1954 novel D'entre les morts (From Among the Dead) by Boileau-Narcejac. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor. The film stars James Stewart as former police detective John "Scottie" Ferguson, who has retired because an incident in the line of duty has caused him to develop acrophobia (an extreme fear of heights) and vertigo, a false sense of rotational movement.

The film opens with Scottie witnessing the death of a police officer who falls from a rooftop. Scottie is blamed for the death, and he develops a fear of heights. He retires from the police force and becomes a private investigator.

Scottie is hired by his old college friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) to follow his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak). Elster believes that Madeleine is possessed by the spirit of her great-grandmother, Carlotta Valdes. Scottie agrees to follow Madeleine, and he soon becomes obsessed with her.

Scottie follows Madeleine to various locations around San Francisco, including the Mission Dolores cemetery, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the Twin Peaks. He watches her as she gazes at Carlotta's grave, and he sees her fainting at the top of the bell tower.

Scottie eventually saves Madeleine from suicide, and he begins to fall in love with her. However, Madeleine's behavior becomes increasingly erratic, and she eventually disappears. Scottie eventually discovers that Madeleine is not who she seems, and that Elster has been manipulating him all along.

Vertigo is a complex and multilayered film that explores themes of obsession, deception, and the nature of reality. It is considered to be one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, and it has been praised for its visual style, its psychological insights, and its haunting atmosphere.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Master of Souls by Irene Némirovsky (1940?) Translated by Sandra Smith 2022 - 216 Pages

 Suite Francaise is the acknowledged master work of Iréne Nemirovsky. I first read this book during Paris in July in 2015. I loved that book so much that I added her to my read all I can list. Since then I have read and posted on 12 of her novels and four short stories. I have also read two biographies On her way to Auschwitz in a cattle car she carried with her a copy of the notebook of Katherine Mansfield. She died there after a month at age forty. She was a very prolific writer with about a novel a year. The Germans cheated the world out of at least thirty wonderful works. I cannot find a way to forgive or forget this.

Master of Souls is a newly translated work  by Némirovsky. Sandra Smith has translated numerous other of her  works.

I am very grateful for the publication of this work but I am frustrated as no where in the text or online that I could find is the original publication date given.  There must be a back story as to why it is just now being published and I wish we had been provided this information.  

"A starving young immigrant doctor of Italian and Greek descent, Dario Asfar struggles to establish his practice, and is desperate to provide for his wife and newborn son. When the vulgar, self-indulgent French aristocrat Philippe Wardes dismisses his personal physician’s advice to abstain from alcohol and gambling, he turns to Dr. Asfar for a second opinion. Understanding the opportunity before him, Dario obliges Wardes, and others like him, knowing well that the rich want to eat of the forbidden fruit without paying for the sin. At first Dario’s plan is just for survival, but soon he begins to enjoy increasing rewards by selling himself as a master of souls who can miraculously cure restless minds, and in so doing sheds light on the lies we tell ourselves in the name of family and love." From the publisher 

We follow Dario from struggles to find patients to years later when he is a celebrity physician to the wealthy.  He is a bit of a charlatan.  No matter how much money he has it is never enough.  He cheats on his wife and dodges creditors.  He expressed feelings that his ethnic background made it more difficult to get patients.  There is a lot about the business aspects of practicing medicine in Paris between the wars.

"Murdered during the Holocaust, novelist Irène Némirovsky finally achieved the recognition she deserved long after her death. Némirovsky’s family fled the Russian Revolution and settled in France in 1919. She studied at the Sorbonne and began writing at eighteen. She published her first novel, L’Enfant Genial, in 1927. Her next two novels, David Golder (1929) and Le Bal (1930), were great successes and were adapted for the screen. Despite her literary achievements and popular acclaim, she struggled with antisemitism and converted to Catholicism in 1939. In 1942 she was sent to Auschwitz, where she died of typhus. In 1990 her daughter Elisabeth Gille published Némirovsky’s Suite Française, a novel about the invasion of Paris. The novel won the Prix Renaudot in 2004, a first for a posthumous author" From

The Enclopedia of Jewish Women

Mel Ulm

There Was a Father is a 1942 Film - Directed by Yasujirō Ozu. The film stars Chishū Ryū as Shuhei Horikawa - Run time One Hour and 34 minutes

 Available on YouTube with English Subtitles 

Originally released in 1942 during World War Two, the only surviving prints were clipped by censors under orders of General MacArthur to remove what were viewed then as scenes celebrating the Japanese war efforts.

The film stars Chishū Ryū as Shuhei Horikawa, a widower and schoolteacher who struggles to raise his young son Ryohei (Haruhiko Tsuda) alone. After a tragedy involving the death of one of his students, , Horikawa resigns his position and moves to the country with his son. As Ryohei grows and needs better schooling, Horikawa makes the difficult decision to move to the city for better paying work. The father and son then spend the next decade or more barely seeing one another, as the grown son attends university and then begins work in another city.

The film follows the father and son over the course of many years, as they experience both joy and sorrow.

Shuhei Horikawa is a widower who works as a mathematics teacher. He has a ten-year-old son named Ryohei.

One day, while on an excursion with his class, one of Shuhei's students drowns. Shuhei blames himself for the accident and quits his teaching job.

He moves to the countryside with Ryohei, where he finds a new job as a clerk.

Ryohei grows up and goes to college. He gets a job as a teacher in another city.

Shuhei and Ryohei rarely see each other, but they remain close.

In the end, Shuhei dies peacefully in his sleep.

The film is set in the early 1940s, during World War II. This historical context is important to the film, as it reflects the challenges that Japanese families faced during this time. The film also explores themes of sacrifice, duty, and family.

There Was a Father is a beautifully made film with a moving story. It is a classic of Japanese cinema and is considered one of Ozu's best films

The film explores the themes of fatherhood, sacrifice, and duty. It is a quiet and understated film, but it is also deeply moving. Ozu's use of traditional Japanese techniques, such as low-angle shots and long takes.

Like A Tokyo Story death of parents and spouses are central to this film.

The scenes of the students reunion made me wonder how many of the actors would survive the war.

There are a number of Yasujiro Ozu's films on YouTube with Subtitles and in time I hope to watch them all.

Mel Ulm

Sunday, August 20, 2023

A Great and Monstrous Thing: London in the Eighteenth Century by Jerry White - 2012 - 729 Pages

A Great and Monstrous Thing: London in the Eighteenth Century by Jerry White is an excellent through account of life in London in the Eighteenth Century.  White takes us from the magnificent homes of the rich to stories of people living on the street. 

He includes famous people like Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Joshua Reynolds and lots of infamous courtesans.  Long ago I did a literary tourist type visit to London and White's book took me back.

London in the 18th Century was a powerful draw for ambitious people from the provinces, Scotland and Ireland. Some became famous, others were tradesmen, servants and lots of the women became prostitutes.

There are chapters on just about every aspect of London life. London was full of prostitutes, many doubled as petty Thieves. Simple crimes could get you hung. He goes in detail into crime, publishing, hack writers and geniuses (not mutually exclusive categories), taverns, inns, different kind of servants, and much more.

if you are interested in Eighteenth Century English history this is a perfect book for you,

There is an extensive bibliography, numerous illustrations and maps.

It is currently on sale for  $4.95 as a Kindle 

I suggest you consult the author's website for bio data

Mel Ulm


Paisan - A 1946 Film directed by Roberto Rossellini - running time two hours- distributed by MGM


Earlier this month I posted upon Germany Year Zero, a component of three films from Roberto Rossellini concerning the immediate post World War Two Years in Germany and Italy.  These films are considered inspiration for the Italian Neorealist Movement in Cinema.  I do not hesitate to designate them as High Art.

In six independent episodes, it tells of the Liberation of Italy by the Allied forces during the late stage of World War II. The film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and received numerous national and international prizes including a nomination at the 22nd Academy Awards for Best Story and Screenplay.

The six episodes:

"Invasion" (Sicily, July 1943): An American soldier helps a young Italian woman escape from a group of German soldiers.

"Abruzzo" (September 1943): A group of Italian partisans help an American soldier who has been injured.

"Florence" (August 1944): An American soldier falls in love with an Italian woman, but their relationship is complicated by the war.

"Romagna" (September 1944): A group of American soldiers are captured by the Germans and forced to work in a labor camp.

"Tuscany" (October 1944): An American soldier is befriended by a young boy, but their friendship is tested when the boy's father is killed by the Germans.

"Po Valley" (April 1945): American and German soldiers fight a battle to the death in the Po Valley.

Paisan is considered a masterpiece of neorealism, a film movement that emerged in Italy in the aftermath of World War II. Neorealist films are characterized by their use of non-professional actors, location shooting, and a focus on the everyday lives of ordinary people. Paisan is also notable for its use of documentary-style techniques, such as long takes and handheld camerawork.

This film is available on YouTube with English Subtitles- the film is partially in English.

I hope to post upon Rome-An Open City soon

Mel Ulm

Friday, August 18, 2023

Germany Year Zero - A 1948 movie Directed by Roberto Rosselli -Run Time One Hour and 18 minutes

 Germany Year Zero is available on YouTube with English Subtitles 

Germany Year Zero is a merciless view of 12 year old boy, once an avid Hitler Youth, caught between the designs of a pedophilic Nazi, shady black-marketers, and his own ailing family.  The background of the bombed out buildings is magnificent.

The film tells the story of 12-year-old Edmund Köhler (Edmund Meschke), who lives in a bombed-out apartment building in Berlin with his ailing father (Ernst Pittschau) and his adult siblings, Eva (Ingrid Thulin) and Karl-Heinz (Wolfgang Krüger). Eva manages to obtain cigarettes by going out with soldiers of the Allied forces, but she resists others' expectations to prostitute herself. Karl-Heinz is the older son who fought in the war and is a burden to the struggling family, refusing to register with the police and get a ration card because he is afraid of what would happen if they found out he fought to the bitter end.

Edmund is left to fend for himself, and he soon gets involved in the black market. He also comes under the influence of a former schoolteacher (Eduard von Winterstein), who encourages him to give up on life and commit suicide.

The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 1948 Cannes Film Festival, and it won the award for Best Director. It has since been recognized as a classic of Italian neorealism and one of the most important films about the aftermath of World War II.

The title of the film, "Germany Year Zero," refers to the fact that Germany was essentially a blank slate after the war. The country had been destroyed by Allied bombing, and its people were demoralized and hungry. The film suggests that Germany needed to start over, to create a new society that was free from the evils of fascism.

Germany Year Zero is a powerful and disturbing film that offers a harsh but realistic look at the aftermath of war.

"Roberto Rossellini was an Italian film director, screenwriter and producer. He was one of the most prominent directors of the Italian neorealist cinema, contributing to the movement with films such as Rome, Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and Germany, Year Zero (1948). He is also known for his films starring Ingrid Bergman, Stromboli (1950), Europe '51 (1952), Journey to Italy (1954), Fear (1954), and Joan of Arc at the Stake (1954).

Rossellini was born in Rome in 1906. He began his career as a journalist and documentary filmmaker. In 1945, he made his first feature film, Rome, Open City, which was a critical and commercial success. The film, which was shot on location in Rome during the German occupation, helped to define the Italian neorealist movement.

Rossellini continued to make neorealist films in the years that followed, including Paisan and Germany, Year Zero. These films were praised for their realism and their unflinching portrayal of the human condition.

In the 1950s, Rossellini began to experiment with different film styles. He made a series of films with Ingrid Bergman, including Stromboli, Europe '51, and Journey to Italy. These films were more personal and introspective than his earlier work.

Rossellini continued to make films until his death in 1977" From Bard

“A Wilderness of Destruction Confederate Guerrillas in East and South Florida by Zack C. Waters - May 2023 - Mercer University Press - 326 Pages

 August 17, 2023

“A Wilderness of Destruction Confederate Guerrillas in East and South Florida by Zack C. Waters - May 2023 - Mercer University Press - 326 Pages

I first learned about the history of the American Civil War in the 1960s in High School in Florida. We were taught a romantized view of the old south with little mention of slavery. We were taught to sing "I wish I Was in Dixieland" and to revere Confederate Generals. I developed an avid interest in the military aspects, especially the Confederate Navy, of the war. I have kept up this interest for fifty years.Frankly, until I read this fine book, I didn’t know much about Florida’s role in the Civil War except for the Battle of Olustee. For anyone like me who wants to know more about the state’s very important role in the conflict, I highly recommend this very readable book. Waters gives a very even handed, historical account of every aspect of his subject. Surely he provides all the details a non specialist should ever need, and still keep his tales interesting, and at times quite exciting.

I have visited many of the towns/sites discussed, such as Ft Myers, Ft Brooke, Ft Denaud, etc. – without fully appreciating their role in the Civil War. Years ago, I even canoed a portion of the Myakka River (south of what is now Sarasota). I had no idea I was following the same path of a union ship (boat?) the Rosalie, that accompanied a unit from Pennsylvania on a raiding party into the interior.

One section I particularly enjoyed was the battle for Tampa. Tampa was a significant importance, as it provided a harbor Confederate blockade runners. A certain Lt. Comm. Alexander Alderman Semmes was in partial command of the Union attack which included heavily armed union vessels . Most readers of a book such as this will recognize the name ‘Semmes’ from Adm. Raphael Semmes. Raphael, the cousin of the Alexander was the very famous Confderate raider who inflicted fear and havoc on Northern shipping for years on his raiders Sumter and Alabama. You will enjoy the lively, exciting tale of the evenly matched battle. You can almost hear the splashes of the Rebels and their famous Rebel Yell as they chased the Yankees back to heir boats. Overall it sounds like both sides had something be proud of from the battle.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the amazing detail Waters’ research revealed on the many skirmishes and minor battles throughout the state. He seems to have left no stone unturned, and I appreciated that very much. So the book is an easy recommend for other Florida heritage individuals for sure(like me),and all who have a serious interest in this part of American history. The book nicely fills the bill for Civil War history that’s quite a bit of the beaten track. It’s a ‘must have’ for all Civil War bookshelves. All libraries need this marvelous book.

"Modern historians have consistently treated Florida as a military backwater. Despite that assessment, Rebel guerrillas blocked repeated Union attempts to establish a stronghold in the Florida's interior. After the "abandonment" of Florida by the Confederate government, in early 1862, Gov. John Milton organized guerrilla units to protect the state's citizens. These irregular companies kept Union forces largely confined to a few coastal outposts (St. Augustine, Fernandina, and Ft. Myers), though the state's citizens suffered greatly from the depredations of Unionist units. After the Federals capture of Vicksburg, the South's only significant source of beef were the vast herds in Florida. It fell to the state's Rebel partisans to protect the state's interior, thereby keeping open routes for the delivery of longhorns to the South's major armies. Skirmishes and battles raged throughout Florida, but the flow of beef cattle halted only after Appomattox. This book should be of interest to those researching the Civil War and Florida history. Also, local historians studying cities such as Tampa, Jacksonville, or more rural areas, will find a wealth of information in this volume." From the Publisher 

Mercer University Press has published many titles of high quality

Mel Ulm

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Gilda- - A 1946 Film Directed by King Vidor - Starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford -run time 1 hour 50 Minutes - distributed by Columbia Pictures


Available on YouTube 

Just seeking group reactions

"Gilda is not a musical, even though Hayworth was a musical star for the audiences of 1946. Although she had appeared in nonmusicals as she climbed to stardom (Only Angels Have Wings, Susan and God, The Lady in Question), she had reached the top through her wonderful dancing (and extraordinary glamour) in two musicals with Fred Astaire (You’ll Never Get Rich, You Were Never Lovelier), one with Gene Kelly (Cover Girl), one 20th Century–Fox color success, My Gal Sal, and Columbia’s Tonight and Every Night. To express Gilda’s frustrations, it was suitable for Hayworth to sing (dubbed) and dance. Yet Gilda, the movie, is a film noir with danger, suicide, murder, corruption, Nazis, and barely submerged sexuality. Gilda, a nonmusical, is nevertheless defined by the musical performance of “Put the Blame on Mame.” In fact, Rita Hayworth’s career has also been defined by it" from Movie Musicals by Jennifer Basinger

"Elements of film noir in Gilda: Rita Hayworth is perhaps the best example of a femme fatale in all of film noir. There is definitely a sinister underworld that includes Ballin Mundson and the German mobsters. Most of the action takes place at night. Lots of night clubs and jazz music Double crosses and betrayals galore between the three leads Guns play a huge part. ..Rita Hayworth did not do her own singing in this film. Her songs were actually sung by singer Anita Ellis." From Memorable Film Noir Movies of the 1940s and 1950s by Gary Koca

The film's plot is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is a small-time American gambler who is caught cheating at blackjack in a casino. He is rescued by Ballin Mundson (George Macready), the casino's owner, who offers him a job as his assistant. The two men become friends, but their relationship is complicated by the fact that Gilda (Rita Hayworth), Mundson's new wife, is Farrell's former lover.

Gilda is a complex and ambiguous character. She is both alluring and dangerous, and she seems to enjoy playing with the men around her. She is also a victim of her own circumstances, and she is ultimately unable to escape the cycle of violence and betrayal that surrounds her

Gilda was a critical and commercial success when it was released in 1946. It was praised for its stylish visuals, Hayworth's performance, and the film's exploration of themes of sexuality and power. The film has since been cited as one of the greatest film noirs ever made, and it has had a lasting influence on popular culture.

Mel Ulm 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Gigi is a 1958 American musical romantic comedy film directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier, and Hermione Gingold. It is based on the 1944 novella of the same name by Colette


Gigi is a 1958 American musical romantic comedy film directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier, and Hermione Gingold. It is based on the 1944 novella of the same name by Colette

The film is set in Paris during the Belle Époque at the turn of the 20th century. Gigi (Caron) is a young girl who is being trained by her grandmother (Gingold) and great-aunt (Jeans) to be a courtesan, a kept mistress of wealthy men. Gaston (Jourdan) is a wealthy playboy who is bored with life and has no interest in marriage. He enjoys spending time with Gigi, but only as a friend.

As Gigi matures, she begins to attract the attention of Gaston. He is initially resistant, but he is eventually drawn to her intelligence, charm, and vivacity. Gigi, however, is determined to marry and have a family, and she refuses to be Gaston's mistress.

Gaston eventually realizes that he loves Gigi and wants to marry her. He proposes, and she accepts. The film ends with their wedding, as Gigi embarks on a new life as a wife and mother.

The acting is superb. Caron gives a charming and endearing performance as Gigi, while Jourdan is perfectly cast as the charming but self-absorbed Gaston. The supporting cast is also excellent, with Gingold, Jeans, and Chevalier all giving memorable performances.

The music is beautiful. The songs by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe are some of the most iconic in musical theater history, and they are beautifully performed in the film.

The production values are top-notch. The film is visually stunning, with gorgeous costumes, sets, and cinematography.

Monday, August 14, 2023

La Grande Illusion - A 1937 Film (The Geand Illusion) - directed by Jean Renoir - run time an hour and 54 minutes


The Grand Illusion is considered one of the greatest movies ever made.

"It's not a movie about a prison escape, nor is it jingoistic in its politics; it's a meditation on the collapse of the old order of European civilization. Perhaps that was always a sentimental upper-class illusion, the notion that gentlemen on both sides of the lines subscribed to the same code of behavior. Whatever it was, it died in the trenches of World War I." from Roger Ebert.

You may watch it on

The movie is set in a German prison during World War One. The prisoners are a diverse mix of prisoners.  It was released just as another war was on the way.

With Grand Illusion, Renoir provides a multilayered perspective on class, war, nationalism, and prejudice. For example, the film’s treatment of Rosenthal—an affluent Jewish banker who generously shares his food with his fellow inmates— has been interpreted as an effort by Renoir to combat anti-Semitism during the rise of Nazi Germany. De Boeldieu’s sacrifice for his working-class comrades, furthermore, symbolically mirrors the changing social order of Europe. In addition, Rosenthal points out the ultimate “grand illusion”: that the current war will end all wars. The performances by Jean Gabin and Erich von Stroheim are exceptional, although the latter, having spent years away from his native Austria, reportedly struggled to speak German. Grand Illusion was the first non-English-language film to be nominated for an Academy Award as best picture. However, the work was so despised by the Nazis that they confiscated and destroyed prints of the film during their World War II occupation of France.

I highly reccomend the presentation below from the M I T film school.

"Renoir was born in Paris in 1894, the son of the famous Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He began his career as an actor in the early 1920s, and his first film as a director was La Fille de l'eau (1924). Renoir's early films were mostly silent, and they often featured his wife, Catherine Hessling, in the lead role.

Renoir's first sound film was La Chienne (1931), a dark comedy about a man who is driven to crime by his mistress. The film was a critical and commercial success, and it established Renoir as one of the leading directors of the French cinema. 

Renoir's most famous films were made during the 1930s, including La Grande Illusion (1937), The Rules of the Game (1939), and The Woman on the Beach (1943). These films are all considered masterpieces of world cinema, and they explore themes of war, class, and love.

Renoir left France for the United States in 1941, and he made several films there, including The Southerner (1945) and The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946). He returned to France in 1949, and he continued to make films until his death in 1979." - Bard

Mel Ulm

Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure by Julia Flynn Siler - 2012


Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America's First Imperial Adventure by Julia Flynn Siler - 2012

200 to 350 AD - Polynesian Settlers Arrive

1778  - arrival of British explorer Captain  James Cook was 

 the first documented contact by a European explorer with Hawaiʻi

1795, all inhabited islands were subjugated Under one ruler who established a dynasty that ruled the kingdom until 1872.

June 15, 1898 - Hawaii becomes a US Territory 

August 21, 1959 - Becomes a US State

An Autodidactic Corner Selection 

I am very glad I read this highly educational book.

If it has a flaw it would be in lacking an account of day to day governing of Hawaii before it was annexed by The USA.  I already knew sugar has caused imperial expansion and slavery so I was not surprised to learn 

the role owners of big sugar plantations played in the fall of the ancient monarchy of Hawaii.  

Siler goes into the settlement of Hawaii about 200 AD by Polynesians, pre-annex social customs, the disastour impact the arrival of Western Whaling ships had in terms of letting out plagues, rats, mosquitos had on indeginous populace.  She also details the attempts of Christian Missionaries to turn people away from tradition beliefs.  Many

 white settlerx saw 

the Hawaiians as savages, cannibals living a sexually promiscous Life Style.  Descendents of Missionarries, often with Hawain mothers, often became very wealthy.  Siler goes into a lot of detail on how this happened, including information on financial take over  of the royal Family.

Julia Flynn Siler is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist. Her latest book, The White Devil’s Daughters: The Women Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown, was a New York Times Book Review “Editors’ Choice” and a finalist for a California Book Award. She is also the author of the bestselling nonfiction books, Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure and the The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty.

As a veteran correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek magazine, Ms. Siler spent more than two decades in Europe and the United States, reporting from a dozen countries. She has covered fields as varied as biotechnology, cult wines, puppy breeding, and a princess’s quest to restore a Hawaiian palace’s lost treasures.

A graduate in American Studies at Brown University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Ms. Siler began her career as a staff correspondent for BusinessWeek, working in the magazine’s Los Angeles and Chicago bureaus. She wrote stories on everything from White Castle “sliders” to the roiling futures markets for the New York Times. By taking classes at night during that time, she earned an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. - from

I am respectfully republishing this post in observation of the tragedy in  Hawaii 

Mel Ulm 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Tokyo Story - A 1953 Movie Directed by Yasujiro Ozu - starring Chishū Ryū and Chieko Higashiyama


Tokyo Story is about an aging couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children. The film was a critical and commercial success in Japan, but it did not receive international recognition until the 1970s. It is now considered one of the greatest films ever made.

The film tells the story of Shukishi and Tomi Hirayama, an elderly couple who travel from their small seaside village to Tokyo to visit their grown children. Their elder son, Koichi, is a doctor who is busy with his work and his young family. Their daughter, Shige, is a hairdresser who is also busy with her work and her husband. The only child who has time for them is their daughter-in-law, Noriko, who is the widow of their younger son who was killed in the war.

The Hirayamas are disappointed by the lack of attention they receive from their children. Koichi and Shige are too busy with their own lives to spend much time with them. Noriko tries to be a good hostess, but she is also busy with her own work. The Hirayamas feel like they are a burden to their children and they start to feel lonely and isolated.

Tokyo Story is a beautifully made film that is both moving and thought-provoking. It is a film about the importance of family and the challenges of aging. It is also a film about the changing values of Japanese society in the post-war era.

Here are some of the things that make Tokyo Story a great film:

The acting is superb. Chishū Ryū and Chieko Higashiyama give heartbreaking performances as the elderly Hirayamas. Setsuko Hara is also excellent as Noriko.

The direction is masterful. Ozu uses his trademark low-angle shots and long takes to create a sense of intimacy and realism.

The writing is sharp and insightful. The film explores complex themes of family, aging, and loss with honesty and compassion.

The cinematography is beautiful. The film is beautifully shot in black and white and it captures the sights and sounds of post-war Tokyo.

Tokyo Story is a must-see for any fan of cinema. It is a film that will stay with you long after you have seen it.

The film is set in 1953 post-war Japan, a few years after the new Civil Code of 1948 stimulated the country's rapid re-growth and embraced Western capitalist ideals while simultaneously destroying older traditions such as the Japanese family and its values. Ozu was very close to his own mother, living with her as a surrogate wife and never marrying. Ozu called Tokyo Story "the film that tends most strongly to melodrama." It is considered a Shomin-geki film for its depiction of working-class people.

"Ozu was born in Tokyo in 1903. He began his career as a film assistant in the 1920s and directed his first film in 1927. He made over 50 films over the course of his career, including such classics as Tokyo Story (1953), Late Spring (1949), and An Autumn Afternoon (1962).

Ozu's films are often praised for their simplicity and understated beauty. He was a master of capturing the small moments of everyday life, and his films often have a wistful, nostalgic quality. Ozu was also a pioneer in the use of sound in film, and his films often feature long, uninterrupted takes that allow the viewer to immerse themselves in the world of the film" Bard

I intend to watch and post on all of his films on YouTube that have English Subtitles

Mel ulm

Tokyo Story is Available on YouTube with English Subtitles