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John Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific is a curious WW2 film involving just two actors, Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune, playing respectively marooned soldiers on a deserted island in the Pacific. It is an extremely intense film, heightened by the language barrier that naturally exists between the two characters. Initially antagonistic towards one another the two characters find common ground in their mutual battle for survival. The rather abrupt ending is a bit disconcerting but it does leave one contemplating how it could end other than tragically. It is war that drove these two characters apart, it is the struggle for life that brings them together, and it is the return of war that finally destroys them.
John Boorman made this film in 1968, following his previous film with Lee Marvin, the excellent crime drama, Point Blank (1967), and four years before his masterwork Deliverance (1972). The film was shot in Rock Islands near Paulu, in the Philippine Sea. Unfortunately, the film did not do well at the box-office, but it is a film that I would recommend one to see. I like John Boorman’s films – they are not always absolutely perfect but they are always imaginative, intense and provocative, and invariably involve characters out of their so-called ‘comfort-zones’, in hostile worlds in which the battle for survival is paramount – such is the case with Hell in the Pacific. Furthermore, Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune are absolutely terrific.
Toshiro Mifune is one of my favourite actors of the twentieth century cinema. He did not make many ‘Western’ films, but as has been acknowledged Hell in the Pacific perhaps comes the closest in capturing Toshiro Mifune’s extraordinary screen presence, power and charisma that is so easily seen in the many masterpieces he did in Japan, especially with Akiro Kurosawa. I also recently watched Kurosawa’s film Scandal (1950), which stars Toshiro Mifune – and it is fantastic! I may be sounding like a obsessive fan but that old cliche that ‘he could make reading a telephone book interesting’ is one that I would certainly give to Toshiro Mifune.
Adelaide, ADELAIDE FESTIVAL CENTRE, ADELAIDE SPORTS OVAL, Australia, BOER WAR, CANOVA, CHARLES KINGSFORD SMITH, GALLIPOLI, HERCULES, PUBLIC ART, RIVER TORRENS, SIMPSON AND HIS DONKEY, South Australia, STATUES, VENUS, WAR MEMORIALS, WWI
PUBLIC ART: The Three Oldest Statues in Adelaide
After spending a large amount of this morning in a dentist’s chair, and feeling a bit numb in the mouth, I walked back to the Adelaide CBD from North Adelaide via the Torrens River. Once again – a fabulous discovery of just how exquisitely beautiful Adelaide is. showing off this lovely sunny February day, and reminding me of certain English, American and European towns that have a river running through it. It also gave me chance to further my file re public art. As mentioned in a previous blog – PUBLIC ART: SINGAPORE – my definition of ‘Public Art’ is basically anything that is in and for the public eye, which can include statues, graffiti, sketches, advertising, memorials, etc. Here are some photos I took on this walk.
I had no clear itinerary worked out, just ‘went with the flow’ as to where I meandered. I walked past the ADELAIDE OVAL, which is a large stylish modern building – with a number of statues of classical heroic athletes, such as Hercules, as well as modern Australian ones.
THE STATUE OF HERCULES, also known as The Farnese ‘Hercules’, sits in Pennington Gardens in front of the Adelaide Oval. It was the second public statue to be erected in Adelaide; given to the City of Adelaide in 1893 by William Austin Horn (1841-1922). W. A. Horn was a prominent South Australian businessman and politician, of whom it was once said that he was ‘one of the most generous public men‘ in South Australia.
Whilst it is a copy of an original, dating from 1892, nonetheless, it is rather unique, presenting a rather reflective and melancholic older-Hercules.
I should add that in 1892 William Austin Horn in had already donated what was Adelaide’s first piece of public art; a classical statue, a beautiful copy of Canova‘s VENUS. This statue was rather controversial at the time. The controversy was possibly inflamed as well as ignored by the fact that one of old Adelaide’s most popular ‘Gentlemen Club’ of the 1890s was directly across the road from the statue which lay on North Terrace in the CBD. Members of the club could go onto the balcony, enjoying their evening brandy or port and cigars, whilst list-fully gazing at this beautiful Canova ‘Venus’. The statue, as well as the building that hosted this club are still there on North Terrace – long may they be so!
The other statues that I noted as I wandered through Pennington Park was a rather impressive one of Sir Donald Bradman (1908-2001), and somewhat perversely one of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (1897-1935). What ‘Smithy’ has to do with sport and the Adelaide Sports Oval I’m not quite sure? Nonetheless, as it may be that younger (and older) Australians have no idea who Kingsford-Smith is (or rather, was), nor of his heroic importance to Australian and World-History, better that he is there smack-bang right at the entrance.
On the other side of the main road there are a number of gardens and war memorials. I didn’t go to all of them, but the ones I did were excellent and somewhat surprising. I’m starting to appreciate the unique quirkiness that one finds in Adelaide, as often as not expressed in it variable range of ‘public art’, which can sometimes be placed in somewhat ironic modern day position. For example, this beautiful stone cross that is right next to speed sign; I call the pix ‘Stone Crucifix in a 50km/hr zone’ (haha).
Attracted by one that had a plethora of petunias, I discovered a statue dedicated to WWI Australian Gallipoli hero John Simpson (1892-1915), of ‘Simpson and his Donkey‘ fame.
Just a little further on was another war memorial shrine, in a classical pagoda with a very unusual life-size statue on the steps.
From here I just walked straight down to the banks of the River Torrens – the vista speaks for itself – marvellous!
I walked towards the city along the bank footpath and under the bridge…..
….continuing my fascination with ‘pathways’, what they look like, and where they lead. The path under the bridge was no exception; plus I discovered a piece of ‘public art’ that I’m pretty sure most people passing through this ‘pathway’ would never really notice – a series of large blue tiles with black drawings and silhouettes.
Emerging from this tunnel, you get a fantastic view of the city of Adelaide, the River Torrens and the Festival Centre.
I then went up and crossed the bridge that becomes King William Street, one of the main roads that travels through the CBD. There are parks and gardens on both sides of the road, but the biggest is the open park in front of the Festival Centre, looking directly across the Torrens to the Sports Centre.
I continued walking up King William Street until it meets North Terrace. Just next to the Festival Centre, on the other side from the park and the river, there are a number of examples of ‘public art’, modern and those from a more distant time.
Was particularly taken with this one; playing with the reflections….
And this lovely drawing near the entrance to the Festival Centre Car Park….
Finally, at the corner of King William Street and North Terrace there is rather impressive War Memorial statue, of a soldier and his horse in action. What is wonderfully intriguing about this terrific bronze statue is that it is dedicated to those South Australians who served in the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902); the same war that saw the court martial and execution of Lieutenant Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant (1864-1902). Morant’s name is not on any of bronze inscription panels that are places around the statue’s pedestal, which list the names of those who fought in the Boer War. However, the name of his comrade, Lieutenant Peter Handcock (1868-1902), who was also courtmartialed and executed at the same time as ‘Breaker’ Morant, was added in 1964 after a family and public campaign to do so.
The statue was designed and created by Adrian Jones (1885-1938); another of this English sculptor’s work, his ‘public art’, is the The Peace Quadriga that sits atop of Wellington Arch in London. After a vigorous competition involving public opinion, The pedestal was made by local firm Garlick, Sibley and Wooldridge, the granite coming from nearby Murray Bridge. The statue was offical unveiled at a big civic function by Sir George Le Hunte (1852-1925), Governor of South Australia from 1903-1909. The date, 6 June 1904, was chosen carefully, coinciding with the birthday of the then Prince of Wales, later King George V (1865-1936).
From the time of it’s unveiling up to present day, this memorial statue, placed right in front of Government House, has been central to any Australian war meorial function, including ANZAC Day. The statue has been known by a number of names. Initially it was the National War Memorial, a position it held until 1931. Today it is called The South African War Memorial and/or The Boer War Memorial.
What is simply wonderful – well I find wonderful in my own romantic way – is that The South African War Memorial, as well as the Canova ‘Venus’, and the Fernese ‘Hercules’, have all witnessed and played a part in the history and evolution of Adelaide. For many Adelaidians over the centuries these statues would have been, as they are now, part of the background for contemporary life and lives. They may not have been directly and regularly noted and commented upon, but was something buried in the conscious and sub-conscious, particularly in regard to memory and place. A common reference point for a number of people from Adelaide, the surrounding region and South Australia. A Collective Memory – what we see now other also saw in the past. Something to treasure!
As some may know, I am writing my PhD thesis about the actor Richard Burbage. The focus of my thesis is summed up in the title – Richard Burbage: Shakespeare’s Actor and the Art of ‘Personation’. My contention is that Richard Burbage is perhaps the greatest actor the world has ever known. No other actor has left such a legacy of roles, written especially for him, and many of which are still performed today. This includes Shakespeare’s Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear; and it wasn’t just Shakespeare but virtually every other major (and minor) playwright of the Elizabethan-Jacobean theatre wrote characters and plays with Burbage in mind, including Ben Jonson, John Marston and John Webster. Furthermore, Richard Burbage marks the beginning of a particular process in ‘Western’ acting that is still present in today’s modern world. Burbage’s acting process of ‘Personation’ was one that essentially involved a complete transformation, a complete immersion into the character, something that Burbage was noted for maintaining on and off stage until the performance was done. This process has resonance with some modern actors noted for their transformational skills, such as Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep.
My research has led me to many wonderful discoveries, some of which I now wish to share.
As well as a close analysis of the respective characters for which their is evidence of Burbage playing, I have also been searching through other sources, namely theatrical allusions and anecdotes in order to articulate and illuminate Burbage’s acting and his particular expressive choices in the original performances of these characters, so many of which have gone on and enjoyed a plethora of ‘after-lives’.
But what did Burbage actually do? Initially, I was confronted with a blank wall, and the assumption that virtually nothing was known. This, however, is not quite true. There isn’t a lot, but what there is is rather fascinating as well as influential. Certain seemingly spontaneous physical actions, recorded by contemporary observations, such as Macbeth dropping a cup when he first sees Banquo’s ghost, or Hamlet beating the arras with his arms before killing Polonius who is hiding behind the arras, are the type of key-holes I have found that give a glimpse of what Burbage was like in performance.
Sitting up late tonight, not being able to sleep due to a fierce wind howling outside, making the large trees near my home creek and groan with alarming volume and closeness, I was going through a Shakespeare Allusion Book and discovered this little gem that reflects what Burbage, the original Hamlet, did in the scene where Hamlet reflects on his relationship with the old court jester, Yorrick, whilst holding the skull of the dead Yorrick in his hand (H.5.1). The allusion comes from a poem, Delarnys Primerose, Or the first part of the passionate Hermit by John Raynolds. This poem was published in 1604, three years after the first performance of Hamlet (c. 1601). I have up-dated the spelling from Elizabethan English to modern-day in order to make it easier to read. (The ‘passionate Hermit’ is holding a skull in his hand:)
He held it still, in his sinister hand,
And turn’d it soft, and stroke it with the other,
He smil’d on it, and oft demurely fawned,
As if it had been the head of his own brother:
Oft would h’have spoke, but something bred delay;
At length half-weeping, these words he did say. (John Raynolds, The Shakespeare Allusion Book, 160)
What the Hermit then says does not follow what happens in Hamlet, nonetheless, the physical image of Hamlet holding a skull has become almost emblematic of the play and the character as a whole. Whilst there is an element of uncertainty, if this is a genuine allusion to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which it is considered to be, then what we see is a glimpse of the imaginative physical choices that Burbage made when performing – the first Hamlet. Subsequently, this physical action of holding Yorrick’s skull and caressing it was emulated by other noted Shakespearean actors, namely David Garrick and Edmund Kean (amongst others), becoming a theatrical heritage and legacy, adding to the notion that this is what Burbage actually did in the first performance of Hamlet.
I needed to find this as most of the other Shakespeare/Burbage allusions are quite violent, such as the beating of the arras. I get excited when I find such things, and thank heavens I do as this is a long process; no more so than for my patient and wonderful supervisors at Sydney University. It is very true that when one embarks on a PhD you need to be enthusiastic and excited about your chosen subject. I am – thank you Richard Burbage – I just scored another glimpse of you – a softer, dare I say ‘Gliding’ side of you (Light/Direct/Sustained), and very ‘Adream’ (Feeling/Sensing) – keep ’em coming!
Recently I have become rather obsessed with ‘courtroom drama’. This was partly due to the paper I presented on American drama 1949-1954 early this year at the Musical Theatre Educators Alliance (MTEA) international conference at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), in Perth, WA. This period produced some of the greatest masterworks of American drama in theatre, film, radio and musical theatre, including Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. What soon became apparent was the number of courtroom dramas were produced in this period, which again includes The Crucible and also works from other domains, as diverse as the film Witness for the Prosecution and the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Subsequently, I have started to look at the wide range of ‘courtroom drama’, with the only prerequisite that there was at least one scene, or act, set in a courtroom.
‘Courtroom drama’ is actually one of the oldest forms of drama…
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I WANT TO LIVE (1958): This ‘courtroom’ drama is based on the real-life involving convicted murderess, Barbara Graham. Produced by Walter Wanger, and directed by Robert Wise (yes – the same Robert wWise who directed The Sound of Music), with a screenplay by Nelson Gidding and Don Mankiewicz, based on newspaper articles by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ed Montgomery, and letter Barbara Graham. Whilst it would seem that the real Barbara Graham was actually guilty, nonetheless, the version follows its sources (Montgomery and Graham) that mounts an argument for Graham’s innocence and presents as passionate, opportunistic and reckless but also the victim of brutish masculine manipulation. The soundtrack, featuring a jazz music score by Johnny Mandel, as well as Gerry Mulligan and his band, is excellent and was very popular when the film was released. It set a new standard and set exerted a considerable influence in regard…
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I have no idea what drew me to watch Francis in the Navy this afternoon. Whilst out shopping I came upon a DVD copy in a $5 bin – and debated internally whether or not to follow my impulse and buy it. In my childhood and teenage years I can remember watching at least some of the Francis films on TV; so I was aware of the film series. What I couldn’t remember was whether or not I had seen this film. My justification for this ‘impulse buy’ continued – I can include it as part of my on-going investigation into American Drama in the 1950s, as well as not having a copy of any of the Francis films this would make and excellent addition to my private collection, particularly in regards to American Comedy, etc. I bought it. Little did I realize that I had bought a real little gem of a film, that subsequently led to a number of different discoveries; such as – this is the first film credit for Clint Eastwood who makes a number of appearances as one of the US Navy sailors involved in the plot, appearing alongside with featured players and ‘stars’, Donald O’Connor, Martha Hyer, and Jim Backus. Also – discovering more about the director, Arthur Lubin (1898-1995) whose life and body of work, now largely forgotten, was quite exceptional and successful.
Francis The Talking Mule was a popular American film series, comprising seven films starting with Francis (1950) and ending with Francis in the Haunted House (1956). The series starred Donald O’Connor a wonderful and energetic American comedian who is probably best known for his hilarious performance in Singin’ in The Rain (1952), with Chill Wills memorably providing the voice for ‘Francis’, in what is distinctly an Afro-American accent – language, rhythm and pitch; Wills was ‘white’.
The relationship between ‘Francis’ and his human, ‘Peter Sterling’ (played by Donald O’Connor) operates like and old American vaudeville act, not dissimilar to the Abbott and Costello; at one stage they even call each other ‘mate’. In the same vintage as Bert Williams‘ persona, Francis is the wise and wisecracking old sage who helps his incompetent human survive the challenges of life in a number of different scenarios. These comic scenarios follow conventional forms and means of ‘classical’ comedy, such as ‘mistaken identity’, slapstick humour (plenty of pratfalls etc), and quick witty dialogue dominated by wise-cracks. Furthermore, following contemporary comparisons, the films of Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers, the situation of each film is summed up in the title of the respective films, such as Francis in the Navy (1955). The similarity between the Francis and the Abbott and Costello film series is understandable. They shared a director, ARTHUR LUBIN.
First and foremost, to enjoy any of the Francis films you need to be a fan of Donald O’Connor. I am – ever since I first saw Singin’ in the Rain. The vitality and inventive expressiveness of Donald O’Connor’s comic persona gives a boost to any of the many films in which he performed. This particular comic zanni persona, a modern-day Harelquino, is encapsulated in his work, such as in Singin’ in The Rain with his brilliant performance of the song Make ‘Em Laugh; and also in Francis in the Navy. The basic comic scenario for this film is ‘mistaken identity’, with Donald O’Connor playing dual roles, Lieutenant Peter Sterling (in the US Army), and his ‘doppelganger’ Bosun’s Mate ‘Slicker’ Donovan (in the US Navy); complicated by Francis being sold to the Navy. In one scene involving both characters there is the ‘classic’ fake ‘mirror’ comic scenario, with the ‘Slicker’ character mimicing what the the Peter Sterling character does in order to avoid detection etc. It is a short scene that doesn’t necessarily advance the plot, but it is an example of style of American Hollywood comedy that sadly is no longer really present in modern film comedies, one where the ‘star’ comedian does a particular ‘classic’ act; in this case the fake ‘mirror’ act. O’Connor is fantastic in this scene; with his characteristic quickness and physical agility and inventive expressiveness. There is also Donald O’Connor’s version of the ‘classic’ mimicry ‘boxing match’ scenario, made famous by Chaplin, whereby his Peter Sterling character has to pretend to be an expert boxer – and he is not – so has to fake it. Hilarious!
I think, however, it can be acknowledged that comic genius’ that these artists may be, nonetheless, they needed a director to help bring out the best in them. Taking into account the relatively large number of films they respectively did together it would seem that Donald O’Connor, as well as Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, had a very productive and successful collaboration with their director, Arthur Lubin.
Arthur Lubin is a fascinating Hollywood director. As a young man he was considered quite a radical – being arrested for ‘obscenity’ in Los Angeles in 1925 for putting on a production of Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms (1924). He was, however, in his main film-making days in the 1940s and 1950s considered a stable and reliable ‘studio director’, particularly of B-Grade comedies. Even though Rubin had a desire to do more than just the comedies, nonetheless, his particular skill was in successfully harnessing and directing comic masters – not an easy feat. Major films that Lubin made include, the first ‘musical’ film version of The Phantom of the Opera (1943) with Nelson Eddy and Claude Rains, and Rhubard (1951), a truly wonderful American ‘screwball’ comedy about a cat who inherits a professional base-ball team. Cat-lovers – watch it; it’s terrific!
The Francis the Talking Mule film series sits in the background of the early 1950s in the USA. Whilst there are a number of ‘Cold War’ references, notably both US Army and Navy being involved in a kind of ‘war games’, nonetheless, it is not a major feature – a statement in itself.
Writing this post won’t stop the cultural amnesia associated with all of this, but it does give it a pause, and maybe encourage you to watch some of these films.
THE CLARE VALLEY is about 130 kms north of Adelaide, easily accessible, just a 90 minutes drive down excellent highways and roads, and absolutely spectacular landscapes and scenery!
The following is a photographic record of a local Tony’s Tours trip to the Clare Valley, and in particular Skillogalee Vineyard and Paulett’s Vineyard, just two of the over fifty vineyards in the region.
It seems almost cliche, yet as with any cliche there is always an element of truth, but one thing you are bound to do when visiting Adelaide is to be taken to one (or more) of the justly celebrated wine vineyards just outside the city in the Barossa Valley, McClaren Vale and Clare Valley. Adelaidians take great pleasure in taking visitors and friends to the vineyards in these regions, many with highly rated ‘fine dining’ restaurants. Since moving to Adelaide last April I have been fortunate to go to a number of different vineyards in the Barossa Valley and McClaren Vale, as well as in the nearby Mt Lofty Ranges, but I hadn’t as yet been to the Clare Valley.
The Clare Valley is one of the oldest wine growing regions in Australia, starting with European settlement in the 1840s. Vineyards and wine-making was not initially the primary industry when the region was first settled by a diverse cultural and ethnic mix. Grapes, however, did accompany the first group of crops planted, and continued to be so throughout the development of the region. The Clare Valley still has a diversity in crops, people and places, but it is the vineyards that are the main tourist attraction – and deservedly so – with many vineyards being regarded as not just the best in Australia but also world-wide.
The wine for which the Clare Valley is mostly known for is Riesling. The region also produces excellent red wines, notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. It is, however, the Riesling that people come for, many following and enjoying the ‘tasting’ journey through the region called The Riesling Trail.
Skillogalee Vineyard and Paulett’s Vineyard are well known for producing all these wines, and more; not just the fabulous ‘tastings’ but also the delicious award-winning ‘fine dining’ restaurants – and both set within magnificent country landscapes and gardens.
After an leisurely drive to the Clare Valley, it was easy finding Skillogalee Vineyard due to good sign-posting, just a short drive off the main road that traverses the region. There is old homestead of the left, which houses the well-known and very popular restaurant, surrounded by massive grape crops on either side of the road,
‘Reception’ doubles as the ‘wine tasting’ room (more later)….You move through the relatively small but cozy house, with two small living rooms with old fire-places for those who desire indoor dining (great for Winter), to the slender verandah at the rear of the house. The notion of smallness continued as we were sat for lunch at a rather small wooden table. As it worked out, however, it didn’t matter; with the excellent service we ordered lunch and then went to a pre-meal wine ‘tasting’.
The vineyard lives up its reputation – the wines we tasted were fantastic! Personal favourite was the Late Harvest Riesling. Sign of a good wine, at least for me and my palate, is how easy is it to drink. In this it case, I loved it so much I had two generously filled glasses with my lunch.
A little inebriated and full of good cheer we returned to our table. The meal wasn’t actually ready as yet, one our party somewhat wisely having ordered a chicken dish that would take 30 minutes, giving us enough time for the ‘tasting’. However, after the ‘tasting’ we were ravenous. In order to kill a bit of time I went exploring the garden that lay to the side and below us.
The lunch was superb!
For ‘Entre’ I had a divine potato, leek and bacon soup – Heaven! This was followed as my ‘Main’ a Malaysian-Australian cuisine fusion of a slow cooked pork on balsamic rice, which virtually melted in one’s mouth – Double Heaven!! Couldn’t resist the dessert – neither could my companions. Somewhat amusingly, when initially ordering our lunch, after looking through the mouth-watering and pricey menu we had all decided just to have two courses – ‘Entres ‘and ‘Mains’; however, subsequently, the food being so good we also had dessert – Triple Heaven!!! I had an ‘affogato’ with a simply yummy home-made vanilla ice-cream, accompanied by the Skillogalee Vineyard’s amazing muscat liqueur. Quadruple Heaven!!!!! And all this complemented by excellent wines and coffee. Highly recommended.
After lunch we drove the relatively short distance to Paulett’s Vineyard. This vineyard has won numerous awards, notably for its excellent red wines – Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
The restaurant and ‘tasting’ bar is a in a relatively modern building, perched high on a hill that looks over a truly majestic and sweeping vista of the Clare Valley.
I was a little over drinking and actually had had my fill, nonetheless, the other joys and wonders of Paulett’s Vineyard marked this as a place that I most definitely would like to come back to one day.
Whilst my companions were tasting wines I went to the adjacent garden; a ‘native garden’ named Bush Divine.
The Garden – Bush Divine
Bush Divine is a relatively large ‘native garden’, from which the vineyard uses various Australian plants, herbs and flowers in the restaurant, as well as producing numerous jams and pickled items. I wandered through this terrific garden, learning more about edible native plants and flowers, as well as enjoying the various nooks and crannies within the garden, some of which contain somewhat curious and amusing objects, and all with stunning views of the Clare Valley. Fantastic!
All in all – wonderful!
There are a lot more vineyards and old historic towns that one can visit in the Clare Valley. I hope this post stimulates your interest, as well as your taste buds, to go for a visit – you won’t be disappointed.