Saturday, September 5, 2009

Humphrey Bogart, John Houston and Lauren Bacall Show Real Courage


I always remember the story of how George W. Bush almost flunked out of flight school during his "military" service, then telling everyone that he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. The only problem with the story, he made sure to volunteer when it had already been announced by the Pentagon that no new pilots were going to be sent to the war. That is probably as brave as any coward ever gets. Unless you count Evangelist Pat Robertson. When Pat Robertson ran for President in 1988, he bragged about his military service in Korea. If you listened to Pat he was a man of God and a true Christian Soldier, brave, fearless and a leader of men. Well, that is until Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey revealed the truth about Robertson's military service. Pat Robertson's Dad was a US Senator from Virginia. Whose only claim to fame was he opposed every Civil Rights law ever passed in the US. In fact, Pat Robertson's Dad was declared a Hero of the KKK.
Senator Robertson pulled strings so that his son didn't end up where the fighting was. Daddy got Pat assigned to a detail which delivered alcohol to Officer's Clubs behind the lines during the war. While men such as "The Rockford Files" James Garner served honorably and bravely in the trenches of the Korean War, watching his friends and buddies wiped out by the Communists, Pat cowered/coward in fear leaching off the bravery of the real men who fought there and died there. Republican Pete McCloskey was a real hero serving with honor in Korea. When he heard Pat Robertson lying about his record, he is quoted as saying, he didn't give a damn whether he won or lost the Republican Nomination, but he intended to make sure that everyone knew the truth about the coward that Pat Robertson was.

But Humphrey Bogart (Bogie), John Houston and Lauren Bacall were real heroes. They prove that you don't have to be on a battlefield to earn the "red badge of courage". With Richard Nixon and his anti-Communist, Anti-Jewish, Republican Witch Hunts of the late 1940's, a lot of innocent people saw their lives and careers ruined. Most people didn't have the courage or the character to stand up to Nixon and his fellow Republicans. A few did. They risked everything standing up for what was right. Republicans smeared and slurred these brave few. Pictured here Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall prepare to testify before Congress against the activities of HUAC. Bogies friends advised him that he might never work again, but he forcefullyresponded that some things are more important than work.
Pastor Niemoller, Lutheran Pastor, Anti-Nazi and Dachau Death Camp Survivor(1946)
"First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no left to speak up for me."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Memorable Moment


I was listening to the radio the other day when Barbra Streisand came on singing one of my favorite songs, Evergreen. It brought to mind one of those odd memories which make the ordinary extraordinary. I remember that there was a show years ago called "Fish" starring Abe Vigoda. It was a spin off of Barney Miller. The acting wasn't that good, but the writing was worse. Totally forgettable. I think I only watched it one or two times before giving up on it. But one night I was channel surfing and I came across one scene which has staid with me the thirty years since I saw it.
Sarah Natoli playing the character Diane Pulaski is a lonely, unhappy girl. She is not particularly attractive and certainly not popular. I think that the story line was that some boy had hurt her feelings. Though the show wasn't a musical, Sarah is shown singing "Evergreen". Evergreen is one of the most beautiful songs Barbra ever wrote. Sarah sings beautifully and with as much passion and feeling as Barbra Streisand. It was an incredible moment. I've never seen that episode again and, yet, that particular scene and the memory of Sarah Natoli's singing will never leave me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Sullivan Ballou Letter

A week before the Battle of Bull Run Sullivan Ballou, a Major in the Second Rhode Island Volunteers, wrote home to his wife in Smithfield.
July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington, DC

Dear Sarah,
The indication are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more.
I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which we are engaged, and my courage does not halt of falter. I know how American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all the blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes and future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and see our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us.
If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been!
But, O Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you, in the brightest day and in the darkest night....always...always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breadth, and the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again....
Sullivan Ballou



 
 
Early life
Ballou was born the son of Hiram and Emeline (Bowen) Ballou, a distinguished Huguenot family in Smithfield, Rhode Island.[1] He lost both of his parents at a young age and was forced to fend for himself.[citation needed] In spite of this, he attended boarding school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Following his graduation therefrom, he attended Brown University, where he was a member of Delta Phi, and went on to study law at the National Law School, in Ballston, New York. He was admitted to the Rhode Island bar and began to practice in 1853.
Ballou was active in public service. Shortly after being admitted to the bar, he was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives, where he served as a clerk, and later as the speaker. He was a staunch Republican and supporter of Abraham Lincoln. Ballou immediately entered the military in 1861 after the war broke out. He became judge advocate of the Rhode Island militia and was 32 at the time of his death at the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. When he died, his wife was 24. She later moved to New Jersey to live out her life with her son, William, and never re-married. She died at age 80 in 1917.
Civil War
When war broke out, Ballou immediately left what appeared to be a promising political career and volunteered for military service with the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. In addition to his combat duties, he served as the Rhode Island militia's judge advocate.
Ballou and 93 of his men were mortally wounded at Bull Run. In an attempt to better direct his men, Ballou took a horse mounted position in front of his regiment, when a 6-pounder solid shot from Confederate artillery tore off his right leg and simultaneously killed his horse. The badly injured Major was then carried off the field and the remainder of his leg was amputated. Ballou died from his wound a week after that Union defeat and was buried in the yard of nearby Sudley Church. After the battle the territory was occupied by Confederate forces. According to witness testimony, it was at this time that Ballou's corpse was exhumed, decapitated, and desecrated by Confederate soldiers possibly belonging to the 21st Georgia regiment. Ballou's body was never recovered.[1]

In place of his body, charred ash and bone believed to be his remains were reburied in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island. His wife, Sarah, never remarried. She later moved to New Jersey to live out her life with a son, William. She died in 1917 and is buried next to her husband.
 
Wikipedia


I was in Anissa Jones's(Family Affair) house in Playa Del Rey. There was a book of poetry on living room bookshelf, I noticed that it had a bookmark. I went to the bookmark and found this letter, which has always been one of my favorites. I asked, Anissa's Mom, Paula, who had placed the bookmark there and she told me that Anissa did. It was one of her favorite "poems".

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Truth is the Daughter of Time, the real Richard III

Richard III


Richard III outlaws bribery



…the king will it to be ordained, by the advice and assent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons, of this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that his subjects, and the commonality of this his realm, from henceforth in no wise be charged by no such charge, exaction or imposition, called a benevolence, nor by such like charge; and that no such extractions, called benevolences, before this time taken, be taken…of any of his subjects of this realm hereafter… - Statutes of the Realm, 1484



After Richard III's death, the Tudors became infamous for their spending, or in Henry VII's case, miserliness, both of which were predicated on extortion, theft and bribery.



Richard on the Battlefield

"His courage also high and fierce, which failed him not in the very death". - Polydor Vergil, Historian, 1520

"Such was his renown in warfare, that when ever a difficult and dangerous policy had to be undertaken, it would be entrusted to his discretion and his generalship". - Dominic Mancini, 1483

"In his small body the greatest valor held sway". - Archibald Whitelaw, 1484

"For in the thick of the fight, and not in the act of flight, King Richard fell in the field, struck by many mortal wounds, as a bold and most valiant prince". - Croyland Chronicle Continuator, 1486

"King Richard alone was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies". - Polydor Vergil



A Good King is missed by his subjects

In the minutes of the City of York 1485:

…it was shown by divers persons, especially by John Sponer sent unto the field of Redmoor to bring tidings from the same to the city, that King Richard, late lawfully reigning over us, was…piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city…



…as a singularly thoughtful and enlightened legislator, who brought to his task a profound knowledge of the nature of contemporary problems, and an enthusiastic determination to solve them in the best possible way, in the interests of every class of his subjects…H.G. Hanbury, 1962

"The good reputation of his private life and public activities powerfully attracted the esteem of strangers". - Dominic Mancini, Report, 1483

"On my trouth I lykyd never the condicions of ony prince so wel as his; God hathe sent hym to us for the wele of all..."
Thomas Langton - Bishop of St. David's, Letter to a friend 1483

"If we look for prudence in fostering peace and waging war, who shall we judge his equal?" - Pietro Carmeliano,Poet, 1484



In His Own Words

"...justly and duly administer the laws without delay or favor, (dispensing justice) indifferently to every person, as well as to poor as to rich". - Richard III - Address at Westminster, 1483



St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More wrote a history of Richard III, which he never published. Even when it might have aided him in his defense against charges of Treason brought by Thomas Cromwell, Thomas More's successor as Chancellor of England. These charges are now known to have been based on the perjury of Richard Rich who was acting at the direction of Thomas Cromwell the Lord Chancellor and Thomas Cramner the Archbishop of Canterbury, who were acting at the behest of King Henry VIII. For his perjury, Richard Rich was to succeed Cromwell and become Lord Chancellor.

Richard Rich had been a Apprentice to Thomas More when Lord Chancellor. Knowing a certain lack of ethics and character on Richard's part, More suggested that Richard Rich become a Teacher, best rendered by Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons":



Thomas More to Richard Rich, "Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one."

"If I was," replies Rich, "who would know it?"
Thomas More, "You, your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public that."

Why did St. Thomas More never publish his history of Richard III?

Some have speculated that Thomas More became disenchanted with what he had been taught about Richard as a child. He was an apprentice in Cardinal Morton's household as a boy of twelve. Cardinal Morton was one of Richard III's enemies, a firm supporter of the Tudors. The only history he knew of those events came from this and other Tudor partisans. For over twenty years the manuscript lay unpublished among More's papers, Thomas More having made the choice not publish it. It was until long after his death that the Tudor Court received a copy of the manuscript. They then published it and it became the foundation for Shakespeare's Richard III.

Always remember that the extant portraits of Richard III have been retouched by Tudor Partisans to show a "hunchback", which apparently is made out of whole cloth, if the Countess of Desmond is to be believed:

Richard was the handsomest man in the room except his brother Edward, and was well made. - Countess of Desmond describing dancing with Richard, Reported by Horace Walpole, 1768

"...three fingers taller than myself...also much more lean; he had delicate arms and legs, also a great heart..." - Nicholas von Poppelau, Diary,1484

One aspect, which may have troubled Thomas, was that in all the charges that Henry Tudor brought against Richard III, not once did he accuse him of killing his twelve-year-old nephew, King Edward V and his ten-year-old brother, Richard. When Parliament declared Edward illegitimate and gave the crown to Richard, Edward was no longer a threat to Richard. But he was a threat to Henry Tudor(VII), because even if he overthrew Richard, that would put Edward V on the throne again, not Henry. Henry's whole rationale for becoming King was that Richard III usurped the Throne. And an odd coincidence, The Lord of the Tower of London in Richard's reign was Henry Stafford, The Duke of Buckingham. Henry was a relative of both the houses of Lancaster and York and himself stood in line for the crown. But he had the same problem Henry Tudor had. Overthrowing Richard would not make him King, but overthrowing Richard and killing Edward V and his brother, Richard, Duke of York could. Many have speculated as to whether Henry Tudor and Duke of Buckingham conspired together, or acted independently, but both are the main suspects in killing the Princes because they were the only ones who gained by their murder.

One of the main tenets in solving crimes is to first check to see who benefits from the crime, because they are always your best suspect. Richard III gained nothing from the death of Edward V and Richard Duke of York, but Henry Tudor and Henry Stafford did, because they became heirs to the throne on Richard's death....



All historians agree on one point, Richard III was the bravest man on the field at Bosworth. While Henry Tudor cowered behind a bodyguard of a hundred, Richard fought alone, bravely and without fear. At the end of the battle, when he knew the battle was lost(after the treachery of the Stanleys), Richard charged towards Henry, cutting a swathe through his host, only cut down in the last twenty feet of his quarry.

Henry ordered Richard's body stripped naked, then dragged behind a horse, ripped apart by rocks, thickets and bushes. That is not the way for the bravest man in a battle to be treated in death.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nicholas II one of History's Much Maligned Heroes


Everyone knows that Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra, were one of the great romances of history. But almost no one knows that in the calamitous events leading up to World War I, it was Nicholas, alone, who tried to avert the war. Had the world listened to him 20,000,000 people would have not been needlessly slaughtered in "The Great War".
Nicholas championed the Hague Conventions which sought to outlaw Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes. The Hague Conventions were the antecedents of The Geneva Conventions which followed. He was in fact the first to call for the 1899 Hague Convention. Nicholas and American President, Teddy Roosevelt, led the call for the 1907 Convention. One of the main tenets of these conventions was that disputes between nations be settled by arbitration under the authority of the world community. Many people consider this the forerunner to the League of Nations and, later, The United Nations. He was the first European Leader to propose that Poison Gas be outlawed.
Nicholas proposed that the Assasination of Austrian Grand Duke Franz Ferdinand be submitted to an International Tribunal for Arbitration.
Nicholas personally pleaded with Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany not to Mobilize the German Army and promised to reciprocate. What if they gave a War and nobody came?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Trent Bernard Junior Durkin

July 2, 1915 - May 4, 1935
After someone dies, I think that you have a moral duty to show them and their memory respect. I stumbled across the story of Junior Durkin in researching Jackie Coogan. History has recorded four things/events about him.
Unfortunately, two of these are less desirable stories that have become integral to his biography, the third is his distinguished resume, the fourth is the story of the horrible wreck which killed him.
When Trent came to Hollywood in 1930 he was 15, within 5 years he made 13 films(and some of these were starring roles too; but more impressive is the fact that Trent was not under contract to any studio at the time; he had to go out and audition and win each and every role he got), making him one of the busiest and most successful actors in Hollywood.
His most famous roles:
Tom Sawyer(1930) w/Jackie Coogan, playing Huck Finn
Huck Finn(1931) w/Jackie Coogan, playing Huck Finn
Hell's House (1933) w/Bette Davis, Pat O'Brien
One reviewer said of his performance in Hell's House, "this gawky lad with an expressive face...dominates the screen whenever he is present." In fact, Junior Durkin was listed ahead of both his co-stars, Pat O'Brien and Bette Davis in the films credits. Leslie Halliwell in his "Who's Who in Movies", describes Junior as one of the five great child stars in Hollywood's infancy(Pre-1940 films); the others Judy Garland, Shirley Temple, Jackie Coogan and Junior Coughlin. Famed Hollywood Director Cecile B. DeMille personally cast Trent as the central character "Steve Smith" in his film, "This Day and Age", but a scheduling conflict prevented Trent from taking the role.


Trent "Junior" Durkin and his best friend Jackie Coogan filming Tom Sawyer in 1930.

Trent is the perfect Huckleberry Finn.
The National Council of Teachers handbook to the Movies describes Junior's portrayal of Huckleberry Finn as "remarkably convincing". 

It really is an amazing performance, one that  Mark Twain, himself, would have been proud of, made even more impressive once you consider that he was a Broadway actor(since he was 5),  and a New Yorker, not a country kid discovered by a talent scout at mass auditions in local schools in rural areas, like Claude Jarman in the Yearling(1944) or Brad Renfro in The Client (1994) who were both discovered in Tennessee.

After watching Hell's House and his portrayal as Huck Finn, he seems, at least to me, a lot like Henry Fonda in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath". A quiet, gentle man(boy) who brought much more depth and character to his roles than anyone would have thought possible.

Trent Bernard "Junior" Durkin's Complete Filmography:

The New York Times describes Courage(1928) star Janet Beecher's brilliant performance as Mrs. Colebrook which earned her 10 curtain calls and thunderous applause, then qualifies its praise by saying that "Junior Durkin" almost stole the show by his performance...

Little Men (1935) .......................Franz
Chasing Yesterday (1935) ........ Henry
Big-Hearted Herbert (1934) .... Junior Kainess
Ready for Love (1934) ........... Joey Burke
Man Hunt (1933) ......................Junior
Hell's House* (1932) ............... Jimmy Mason
Huckleberry Finn (1931) .... .....Huckleberry Finn
Conquering Horde, The (1931)
Tom Sawyer (1930) .... ............Huckleberry Finn
Santa Fe Trail, The (1930) .......Old Timer
Recaptured Love (1930) ........ Henry Parr
Fame (1930)
Law Rides West, The (1930)
*also known as "Juvenile Court"

The Ritz Theatre(now called the Walter Kerr Theatre)


Broadway
Some Night(Harris Theatre, September 23,through October 5, 1918; uncredited, Cupid at age 2 1/2)
The Lady(Empire Theatre, December 4, 1923 through May 1924)
Poppy(The Apollo Theatre, Starring WC Fields, September 3, 1923- June 2, 1924)
HMS Pinafore(Century Theatre, April 6, through May 1926; Gilbert and Sullivan)
Courage(Ritz Theatre(now the Walter Kerr Theatre): October 8, 1928 through June 1929, 280 Performances)
Growing Pains(Ambassador Theatre, November 23 through December 31, 1933; 29 Performances)


Growing up on the stage, Trent, Grace and Gertrude would run to visit and eat lunch with their mother at the Shubert Theatre.

Trent was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey on July 2, 1915. His father, Bernard, had become a hotel owner after a career on the stage. He had separated from his wife while Junior and his sisters were quite young. Trent had two sisters, Gertrude Durkin Ellison(1910- 1970, married to Western Actor James Ellison 1937-1970) and Grace Durkin Henry(July 17, 1914- November 26, 1991) All three kids began acting on the stage before the age of 5. There mother was "Molly" Florence Edwards Durkin(1893-1932), who worked as a secretary at the Shubert Theatre Chain's Headquarters at 225 West 44th Street in New York City.
Apparently Trent, Gertrude and Grace's Dad, was an actor with traveling companies; their mother was an actress on Broadway before she settled down after the children were born and became a secretary at the Shubert Theatre. Florence died in 1932, after a long debilitating fight against cancer(apparently being separated from their father because of his career in a traveling company. The hotel apparently lost in the Great Depression). For at least part of the time during her illness, Grace, Gertrude and "Junior" lived at St. Mary's Convent(Orphanage/School) in New York.
By 1930 with their Mom dying, Trent, Grace and Gertrude were on their own.

From what little information I can find, it seems that the kids were in touch with their father when Trent was killed, Gertrude, Grace and Dad sued Jackie Coogan's insurance company for negligence in Trent's death. The accusation was that Jack Coogan had been drinking(no indication of whether it was beer or something else) and was driving about 70 MPH on the winding roads east of San Diego, near Pine Valley, California, near where the Coogan Ranch was located.
Trent's family sued Jackie  because the car was his (an early present for Jackie's 21st birthday from his Dad) and his Dad was technically an employee of Jackie's Production Company.  By then Louis B. Mayer had squeezed Jack out of any real role at MGM as a Producer at the Studio(Jackie wasn't a cute kid any more, so he had nothing to lose).


If you look at the picture of the terrain around the Coogan Ranch, you will realize how really treacherous the roads were, especially at night. It is hard to tell exactly what happened but the prime factor has to be Jack's speed and the terrain.

"They were traveling west on the highway, when an automobile which JACKIE said he thought he could identify approached from the opposite direction, on the center line of the highway, and swerved over."
"The other machine forced the COOGAN car from the highway. It swerved into an eight-foot ditch." Dr. Westphal's statement of a conversation he had with Jackie right after the accident.

As the only survivor, Jackie's testimony carried a lot of weight with the Judge and the case was dismissed.


When Trent's body was found, he was face down in the creek at the bottom of an embankment. His skull had been fractured.  He and Jackie had been riding in the cars rumble seat. Jackie had either crouched down and or been forced down by the force of the accident, in panic he grabbed the footrest, which probably saved his life and certainly protected him from a more serious injuries(he had broken ribs), Trent had been thrown out of the car as it rolled over and over going down the embankment. Trent's death was probably immediate. Jackie's father was still alive when Jackie reached him, somehow Jackie was able to drag his father back up to the road, but he died shortly thereafter in his son's arms. Jackie also brought the other passengers up to the road. When he found Trent, he could tell that he was already dead.

Florence G.E. Durkin
L'Homme Dieu
1893 MKINS 1932
To Know Her Was To Love Her

From their mother's grave marker, Trent and his sisters re-interred her body in Forest Lawn Memorial Park. She is buried two rows above Trent and about 10 graves to the left of his.
With the passage of time it becomes harder to find out any information about Trent's early years. The Shubert Theatre has no record of his Mom working there(but you have to remember that 84 years ago), but for some reason, they did tell me that she was called Molly by her friends.  The translations from French roughly means what man proposes, God disposes, or our fates are not in our hands, they are in God's hands.
When their mother became too ill to take care of Gertrude, Grace and Junior, they were placed under the guardianship of Marian Gering, a Broadway and, later, a Hollywood Producer, who was a close friend of their mother. The kids spent much more time on the stage, than being kids or a family. Though that may be true, even years later, they were still ferociously loyal to each other. I've seen Grace's family scrapbook in which she kept every press clipping about her brother. She loved him, that's obvious.
Unfortunately, Marian allowed 16-year-old Trent "Junior" to go to Los Angeles and live with his Hollywood Agent, Henry Willson. Henry worked for Zeppo Marx's Talent Agency. Marian allowed Henry Willson to act as Junior's Guardian(in locus parentis: to protect a child while serving as a temporary parent) while he was in California. It didn't turn out to have been the best decision she could have made for her ward. Henry Willson's scandalous reputation for promoting young male actors, for a price, for better or worse, started with Trent "Junior" Durkin.


The second story is worse. Trent was invited to a party at Bette Davis's house during the filming of "Hell's House".  Trent and Bette starred in this story about boys in reform school. While watching rushes, Howard Higgin, the Director, discovered an embarrassing shot of Trent's natural reaction to being held, comforted and embraced by the beautiful Bette Davis. Every boy has been there and what happened to Trent was perfectly normal. It was Higgin's actions which were abnormal. Higgin had the scene cut from the rushes and developed so he could show and share it with his friends at parties. He brought it with him to the party at Bette's house and everyone broke out laughing when it was shown, except the 16-year-old. Trent was so humiliated that he ran out of the house crying.
Later the film made its way to the stag movie circuit. Just a embarrassing and humiliating moment in the life of a teenage boy, which should have been ignored and forgotten.
That story was told by Humphrey Bogart, who was at the party. Bogie said that he was so angry by the way Trent was treated that he would never allow anything like that to occur in his presence again. And according to the book, Bogey said that if he ever ran across a young person while acting, he would be sure to treat them with respect, compassion and understanding. And that's what happened in 1944 when 44 year old, Bogie, met 20 year old "Baby"(Lauren Bacall/Betty Perske) while filming Howard Hawks "To Have and Have Not".




The Pasadena Playhouse founded in 1917 is a historic performing arts venue located 39 S. El Molino Avenue in Pasadena, California. The 686-seat auditorium produces a variety of cultural and artistic events, professional shows, and community engagements each year. Wikipedia
But I end this post with one little story which tells you a lot about him. While appearing at The Pasadena Playhouse in 1934 in a production of "Growing Pains" produced by Arthur Lubin, Trent did a favor for his fellow cast members. The Pasadena Playhouse had a reputation for being a stop for actors on the way up or on the way down. Few of his fellow cast members had cars, so Trent volunteered to pick up five of his cast mates(friends) who lived in Hollywood, Pasadena and LA and take them to the theatre and drop them off home everyday.
I think that any of us would give a friend a lift, but how many of us would go all over Los Angeles to pick up five people and give them a lift everyday? A really nice guy and a Damn Good Friend would.
That isn't something anyone would repeat, but it certainly something his friends would remember when a few months later he was killed in a traffic accident.
Trent was scheduled to star in a Production of Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness" when he got back from his vacation with the Coogans. He had also just signed a 7 year contract with RKO Studios. Trent Bernard "Junior" Durkin had everything going for him, except time.


RKO was founded by Joe Kennedy(President Kennedy's father, merging Keith-Albee-Orpheum (KAO) theater chains and Joseph P. Kennedy's Film Booking Offices of America (FBO) in 1928). Later it was purchased by Lucy and Desi Arnaz and turned into Desilu Studios(Desilu created I Love Lucy, Star Trek and Mission Impossible).

Cottonwood Creek, Pine Valley California


Pine Valley, CA John Coogan Sr. Other Killed, May 1935

Jackie Coogan hurt; auto plunges in ravine---kills father and three others.
JUNNIOR DURKIN AMONG DEAD IN CANYON TRAGEDY EAST OF SAN DIEGO; ELDER COOGAN DRIVES OFF ROAD TO AVERT HEAD ON COLLISION.
(By The United Press)
San Diego, May 4. -- Four men were killed and JACKIE COOGAN, 20 year old former boy film star, was injured tonight when an automobile in which COOGAN and his party were returning from a hunting trip into Mexico plunged off the road at high speed into a creek bed on the El Centro Highway, fifty miles east of here.
The dead were:
JOHN L. COOGAN, SR., father of the former boy actor.
JUNIOR DURKIN, 19 year old motion picture actor.
CHARLES JONES, foreman of the COOGAN Ranch, near here.
ROBERT HORNER, 25, Hollywood film writer.
JACKIE COOGAN was reported not seriously injured.
The San Diego County coroner at Pine Valley, where the dead and injured were brought, said the automobile left the road on a curve, plunged over a bank, and rolled over four times before it came to a stop in the bottom of the creek.
JACKIE COOGAN, bruised and shocked at the death of his father, said the automobile left the road in attempting to dodge another machine. COOGAN, SR., was driving.
Jumped Out.
"I crouched down in the seat as the car turned end over end twice," Young COOGAN said. "Then I straightened up and jumped out. I saw the automobile turn over two or three more times."
JACKIE said he seized the foot rest in the rumble seat and held on, riding with the car end over end.
DURKIN, who had been in pictures since early childhood, was riding with him in the rumble seat.
Their friendship started when DURKIN played the title role in Huckleberry Finn, and JACKIE took the part of Tom Sawyer in the same film. The partnership was seated in death when DURKIN lost his grip and was hurtled from the rumble seat to fall dead in the rocky creek bed.
Father Dies Later.
JACKIE'S father died shortly after the car smashed into the rocks. JACKIE, dazed and bruised, and his fater were the only survivors of the accident when passersby first arrived.
The elder COOGAN died of his injuries with his famous son by his side. The younger COOGAN was brought to the Pine Valley store, where he received treatment, but was found not to be seriously injured.
Postmaster JAMES RUSSELL of Pine Valley called in a nearby priest to comfort JACKIE.
JACKIE'S mother, and PATRICIA ELLIS, pretty young actress who has ofter been seen with the young actor, chartered a special airplane to fly to San Diego. They planned to proceed by car to Pine Valley.
Has Chest Injury.
DR. H. G. WESTPHAL, Glendale physician who flew to the scene with JACKIE'S mother and MISS ELLIS, reported that JACKIE suffered a chest injury, including two injured ribs, possibly broken, cuts and bruises. An ambulance was dispatched to Pine Valley to bring him to San Diego.
"They were traveling west on the highway," DR. WESTPHAL said JACKIE told him, "when an automobile which JACKIE said he thought he could identify approached from the opposite direction, on the center line of the highway, and swerved over."
"The other machine forced the COOGAN car from the highway. It swerved into an eight-foot ditch."
"JACKIE and JUNIOR DURKIN were in the rumble seat. JACKIE saw the other car swerve toward them. COOGAN, SR., lost control. When the car left the road it cut five heavy posts, turned over five times and crashed into the rocks."
"All but JACKIE were thrown out as the car landed in the creek bed."
"Young COOGAN picked himself up and went first to the unconscious form of his father. He dragged his father up to the roadside, then brought all the rest up.
Flags Motorist.
"JACKIE flagged down M. E. MAGEE of El Centro, a passing motorist. MAGEE had to drive thirty miles to the nearest physician. Before that doctor arrived, all the critically injured except JACKIE'S father were dead."
"MR. COOGAN died in his son's arms a moment after the physician arrived."
Deputy Coroner DAVE GERSHEN of San Diego County said the COOGAN automobile was traveling at a high rate of speed, "seventy miles an hour, at least."
He said that it skidded 100 feet on the pavement, 125 feet after it struck the fence and then hurtled into the creek bed.
Planned Weekend Party.
JACKIE COOGAN had planned to have a number of Hollywood friends as weekend guests at his ranch.
Among others who had planned to go were PATRICIA ELLIS, TOBY WING, with whom JACKIE'S name has been associated romantically, both film actresses, and WILLIAM JANNEY, juvenile film actor.
JACKIE went down alone Thursday and was followed Friday by DURKIN, HORNER, DURKIN'S two sisters, GRACE and GERTRUDE, and PAULA STONE, daughter of FRED STONE.
The Fresno Bee Republican California 1935-05-05


 Terrain around the Coogan Ranch in the Cleveland National Forest. Note the twisting, treacherous road and the stream to the right of the picture.

Jackie Coogan's Roadster after the wreck, Jackie and Trent were in the Rumble/Jump Seat to the back.



Jackie and his Dad at the Coogan Ranch near San Diego. 
A couple of stories about Jack Coogan:
Former child star Dickie Moore relates the true story of what it was like to be a child star in Hollywood based on his own experiences and via contributions from Jackie Coogan, Natalie Wood, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney and other famous child stars. Coogan tells the story of how during the filming of Old Clothes, in order to get Joan to cry during a big scene in the film, his father and producer of the film, Jack Coogan, had detectives follow her for two weeks and learn everything about her. The scene in question called for her to enter alone and come down the stairs and start to cry. Coogan ordered everyone off the set and then told Joan everything he'd found out about her. Horrified, she began to cry.
Jack was a producer at MGM and had a reputation as a lady's man via the casting couch. Joan had an incredibly tough childhood working in a laundry with her mother, barely surviving. Several sources report that she surrendered to Jack for the sake of her career, but swore that she would never allow that to happen again, once she made it.

Trent lies buried on the "Sunrise Slope" at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. I doubt that very many people visit his grave. More should, because few have ever shown more promise, in any field, than young Trent did.


The saddest thing of all, if Trent is remembered today at all, it is in a small passage in some scandalous story or book about Henry Willson, or, quite possibly, merely as a footnote in that story.

He was much more than that. If you were to judge by the people who knew him, he was a good guy and a great friend. Not to mention an extraordinary actor. That seems to be a more appropriate way to remember him and certainly the way he deserves to be remembered.


 From FindaGrave

Some people did.

Close friend, Anglo-American Actress, Screenwriter and Director, Ida Lupino attended Trent's funeral and chose to be buried a short distance away. She was a very close friend of Trent and his sisters, Grace and Gertrude. Ida would tell friends for years afterwards, that the day Junior died was one of the saddest days of her life and his death was a loss from which she and their friends never totally recovered. A couple of sources indicated that she avoided talking about Trent, if possible, because she would break down and cry if she did.

"Today, few people remember Durkin. One person who remembers him well is the now 94-year-old Diana Serra Cary. Once world famous as the child star Baby Peggy, Cary referred to Durkin's funeral as "the saddest event I have ever been a part of in my life."
In an interview with SFGN, Cary revealed a few surprising facts about Durkin. Shortly before he died, he was on the verge of major film stardom. In 1934, when she was 16 years old, Cary appeared with Durkin in the play “Growing Pains” at the legendary Pasadena Playhouse. The play became the basis for the Andy Hardy film series, which ultimately starred Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.
"If things had worked out differently for Trent, he would very likely have ended up as one of MGM's biggest stars," Cary recalled. "Having starred as the lead in the original play, Trent would have had first crack at the part of Andy in the films which later made a huge popular star of Mickey Rooney."   SFGN Staff | David-Elijah Nahmod
http://southfloridagaynews.com/Community/what-might-have-been-trent-junior-durkin-1915-1935.html



 
Trent Durkin shortly before his death.

Trent's nephew, Durk Ellison created this page:  http://vagabond58.org/ellison.htm. Though he has since passed away, he was researching Trent and his family on several genealogy websites, leaving a footprint on the web. He moved to Finland after military service at the suggestion of one of his college professors.

When Trent, Grace and Gertrude arrived in Hollywood they formed an expatriates social group of former New Yorker Broadway Performers called the Puppets. Among its members were Ben Alexander, who went from child star to Joe Friday's partner in Dragnet, and  Anita Louise, before she became friends with Flicka, who was the head of the group. Their first party in Los Angeles was in honor of Junior, Grace and Gertrude at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. A story written by Henry Willson did an expose about the group for in Movie Magazine and included this snippet:

 JUNIOR DURKIN swears this is
true, so don't blame me. The script
of Junior's picture called for him to
fall off a horse and lie in the sand
(supposedly injured) until someone
comes to his rescue. It was about the
fourteenth time the scene had been
shot this particular day, and Junior
was just about as black as he was
blue, when he suddenly felt a tickling
sensation in his right ear. An ant, no
less! The entire company stopped
work while the director tried, in vain,
to catch the dizzy ant with the corner
of his handkerchief. But no soap — or
rather, no ant. One of the extras,
struck by a bright idea — (sure, "ex-
tras" have ideas) — tore over to a
nearby cafe (they were on location),
secured a bowl of sugar, and while
Junior lay on the ground, the director
sprinkled little grains of sugar around
the edge of the actor's ear. This was
too much. The insect's sweet-tooth got
the better of her.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Favorite Movies

1) A Man For All Seasons(1966)
Laurence Olivier said that Paul Scofield took a Saint and made a human being out of him. He called Paul Scofield's portrayal of St. Thomas More, the most brilliant performance of his lifetime. I agree. I remember that there was a story about Paul receiving a multi-million dollar film offer right after "A Man For All Seasons" was released and became a big hit. He turned it down. For one of two reasons, either because his family had just bought a new dog and that he was training him, or that his kids were more important to him than any film. He loved them too much to spend any prolonged period of time away from them. Had he taken the offer, it would have required him to be away from his wife and kids for six months. He asked what of kind of father and husband would do that. Paul was an individualist. He was famous for acting in some of the most brilliant performances ever seen on the English stage, year after year, but every night he would avoid the parties and the press to catch the first train home to his wife and kids.
2) A Witness for the Prosecution(1957)
What a great movie, with impeccable casting. And how could you not love, Marlene Dietrich. She left Germany in the early 30's right after she received a request for a meeting from Adolf Hitler(some say he asked for a date, which she turned down). She gives a brilliant performance, one of the best in the history of film and certainly the best of her career. She obviously was the smartest character in the movie and she makes the complicated story believable(with all apologies to Agatha Christie). If you ever wondered why Charles Laughton is considered one of the best actors Britain ever produced, this movie and his performance in it show why. I don't know of any movie that Tyrone Power appeared in that I liked. His pivotal role in this movie, proves that he was one of the great actors of his generation.
3) Zulu(1964)
The true story of the battle of Rorke's Drift during the Zulu uprising. After the stunning defeat of a British Expeditionary Force under Lord Chelmsford at Isandlwana(1,300 British dead), the Zulus spread out and attacked several British Outposts, including one at Rorke's Drift. Outnumbered 10 to 1, Rorke's Drift is located in the middle of Zululand. It came under attack by the largest army the Zulus ever put in the field. It is a story of courage and character, the British contingent of less than 200 held out against impossible odds for 48 hours. Britain's highest military honor, The Victoria Cross, was awarded to eleven of the men fighting in the battle, the most ever awarded in a single engagement.
4) To Kill a Mockingbird(1963)
One of the great books, movies or stories of our time. Gregory Peck through the character of Atticus Finch, showed us what real courage and character are. Released within a few months of the massacre at Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Civil Rights Workers, Goodman, Cheney and Schwerner were murdered by the Philadelphia Mississippi Police Department for registering blacks to vote. Better than anything else, that event and this movie show the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. While this film was being made Gregory Peck was taking part in Martin Luther King's march on Washington. He was there at the Lincoln Memorial when MLK gave his "I have a dream" plea that all men are created equal. Tweny years earlier he had joined with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Houston, etc... in fighting Joe McCarthy and the Pogroms of the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. That took real courage.
One little footnote, Mary Badham's father was in the military and her mother was a TV annoucer in Alabama , neither of whom could come with Mary to Los Angeles for the filming. Gregory Peck and his wife Veronique volunteered to act as her guardians during her stay in Los Angeles. Mary says to this day that this was one of the happiest times and best experiences of her life. Gregory and Veronique treated her like their daughter and, though she missed her parents, it was a far happier and better experience than she had any right to expect. You know, Gregory Peck found that portraying a decent human being is a lot easier when you are one.
5) Lawrence of Arabia(1962)
One of the most beautiful films ever photographed and one the most interesting stories ever told. Assigned by the British Foreign Office to help the Arabs revolt against the Turks, TE Lawrence became convinced that he was a tool of destiny. And as an advisor and leader of the Bedouin the Arab Revolt became his mission. There is a very famous quote of Oscar Wilde, "Be careful what you wish for; there is the awful possibility that your wish will be answered and then you will be in real trouble". After the Arab Revolt, the British and French role as overlords of the Middle East were numbered.
6) Dr. Zhivago(1965)
A great story at one of the most signifigant moments in history. Few films ever communicated the sweep of history better than Dr. Zhivago. And there is no more beautiful woman than Julie Christie.
"Shocked, shocked, I say, to learn that there is gambling going on in this establishment." Tobey Zeigler, The West Wing(Aaron Sorkin, writer, rewriting Claude Rains in Casablanca): To learn 50 years later that Boris Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in Literature because of the machinations of the CIA.
7) Lord of the Flies(1963)
It won a Nobel Prize for William Golding and continues to be one of the most thoughtful and provocative movies ever made. Peter Brook the director got his start at Cambridge with Shakespeare. You get a definite feel that there is something Shakespearean about the story. It will haunt you long after you've seen it. I remember having nightmares about it when I was 6. A little footnote, I ran across a website which included an interview with William Golding. One of the pictures that came with the story, showed Mr. Golding teaching a class at an English "Public" school(like Eton or Rugby). One of the boys(around 12-years-old) included in the picture has Vladimir Nobakov's Lolita sitting on his desk in front of him. Somehow that seems appropriate to the spirit of "Lord of the Flies".
8) It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World(1963)
And funny too. Everyone is in it and there are enough laughs for a hundred movies.
9) The Changeling(1980)
George C. Scott moves into a haunted mansion. Jacques Tourneur was a director who advocated keeping the monsters hidden, which is more frightening than the monsters you confront face to face. Kolchak the Nighstalker was a direct result of this school of horror movie.
10) The Usual Suspects(1993)
Brian Singer's clever, thoughtful movie, which harkens back to the time of the Maltese Falcon and Film Noir. You have to pay attention to the story or you will get lost. Kevin Spacey is wonderful in the starring role and is supported by a great story and a great supporting cast. I especially like the way "Dave Kujan" discovers who Keyser Soze is. The one thing missing from movies today is great writing. The Usual Suspects is proof that there are a few really good writers left, Christopher McQuarrie of the "Usual Suspects" is one of them. Brian Singer went from Directing "The Usual Suspects" to being Executive Producer for the wonderful "House MD".
11) The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca
Dashiell Hammett, wrote mysteries like Ernest Hemingway wrote short stories: he wrote masculine stories, with short succinct sentences, which are governed by their verbs and without flowery expository prose: he cut to the chase. Considered the grandfather of Film Noir, John Houston, Humphrey Bogart et al. created the greatest detective story with the most memorable cast in movie history.
Casablanca
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a love story set in an exotic location with some of the best dialogue ever written. A movie that gets everything right.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jackie Coogan and Trent "Junior" Durkin


JACKIE COOGAN HURT; AUTO PLUNGE KILLS FATHER; 3 OTHERS.
JUNNIOR DURKIN AMONG DEAD IN CANYON TRAGEDY EAST OF SAN DIEGO; ELDER COOGAN DRIVES OFF ROAD TO AVERT HEAD ON COLLISION.
(By The United Press)
San Diego, May 4. -- Four men were killed and JACKIE COOGAN, 20 year old former boy film star, was injured tonight when an automobile in which COOGAN and his party were returning from a hunting trip into Mexico plunged off the road at high speed into a creek bed on the El Centro Highway, fifty miles east of here.
The dead were:
JOHN L. COOGAN, SR., father of the former boy actor.
JUNIOR DURKIN, 19 year old motion picture actor.
CHARLES JONES, foreman of the COOGAN Ranch, near here.
ROBERT HORNER, 25, Hollywood film writer.
JACKIE COOGAN was reported not seriously injured.
The San Diego County coroner at Pine Valley, where the dead and injured were brought, said the automobile left the road on a curve, plunged over a bank, and rolled over four times before it came to a stop in the bottom of the creek.
JACKIE COOGAN, bruised and shocked at the death of his father, said the automobile left the road in attempting to dodge another machine. COOGAN, SR., was driving.
Jumped Out.
"I crouched down in the seat as the car turned end over end twice," Young COOGAN said. "Then I straightened up and jumped out. I saw the automobile turn over two or three more times."
JACKIE said he seized the foot rest in the rumble seat and held on, riding with the car end over end.
DURKIN, who had been in pictures since early childhood, was riding with him in the rumble seat.
Their friendship started when DURKIN played the title role in Huckleberry Finn, and JACKIE took the part of Tom Sawyer in the same film. The partnership was seated in death when DURKIN lost his grip and was hurtled from the rumble seat to fall dead in the rocky creek bed.
Father Dies Later.
JACKIE'S father died shortly after the car smashed into the rocks. JACKIE, dazed and bruised, and his fater were the only survivors of the accident when passersby first arrived.
The elder COOGAN died of his injuries with his famous son by his side. The younger COOGAN was brought to the Pine Valley store, where he received treatment, but was found not to be seriously injured.
Postmaster JAMES RUSSELL of Pine Valley called in a nearby priest to comfort JACKIE.
JACKIE'S mother, and PATRICIA ELLIS, pretty young actress who has ofter been seen with the young actor, chartered a special airplane to fly to San Diego. They planned to proceed by car to Pine Valley.
Has Chest Injury.
DR. H. G. WESTPHAL, Glendale physician who flew to the scene with JACKIE'S mother and MISS ELLIS, reported that JACKIE suffered a chest injury, including two injured ribs, possibly broken, cuts and bruises. An ambulance was dispatched to Pine Valley to bring him to San Diego.
"They were traveling west on the highway," DR. WESTPHAL said JACKIE told him, "when an automobile which JACKIE said he thought he could identify approached from the opposite direction, on the center line of the highway, and swerved over."
"The other machine forced the COOGAN car from the highway. It swerved into an eight-foot ditch."
"JACKIE and JUNIOR DURKIN were in the rumble seat. JACKIE saw the other car swerve toward them. COOGAN, SR., lost control. When the car left the road it cut five heavy posts, turned over five times and crashed into the rocks."
"All but JACKIE were thrown out as the car landed in the creek bed."
"Young COOGAN picked himself up and went first to the unconscious form of his father. He dragged his father up to the roadside, then brought all the rest up.
Flags Motorist.
"JACKIE flagged down M. E. MAGEE of El Centro, a passing motorist. MAGEE had to drive thirty miles to the nearest physician. Before that doctor arrived, all the critically injured except JACKIE'S father were dead."
"MR. COOGAN died in his son's arms a moment after the physician arrived."
Deputy Coroner DAVE GERSHEN of San Diego County said the COOGAN automobile was traveling at a high rate of speed, "seventy miles an hour, at least."
He said that it skidded 100 feet on the pavement, 125 feet after it struck the fence and then hurtled into the creek bed.
Planned Weekend Party.
JACKIE COOGAN had planned to have a number of Hollywood friends as weekend guests at his ranch.
Among others who had planned to go were PATRICIA ELLIS, TOBY WING, with whom JACKIE'S name has been associated romantically, both film actresses, and WILLIAM JANNEY, juvenile film actor.
JACKIE went down alone Thursday and was followed Friday by DURKIN, HORNER, DURKIN'S two sisters, GRACE and GERTRUDE, and PAULA STONE, daughter of FRED STONE.
The Fresno Bee Republican California 1935-05-05

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jackie Coogan and the missing $4 Million Dollars

Shortly before he died Jackie Coogan was interviewed by a British Magazine. What struck me was the last words Jackie said. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I have a beautiful wife, wonderful kids and grandkids and the best friends, who could ask for anything more."
A lot of people would be amazed by that. Jackie was the world's first child star, appearing in "The Kid" with Charlie Chaplin in 1918. During the 20's Jackie's movies were actually making more money than Rudolf Valentino's, Douglas Fairbanks' and Mary Pickford's were.
I've been looking for a picture of Arthur Bernstein, Jackie Coogan's step-father. I finally found one in a story from Life Magazine 1938. I had seen a picture of Jackie with his Mom and Dad before, but I wanted to see a picture of the guy who was driving a new Rolls Royce while his stepson drove a used Ford, which he had purchased with his stepson's money, of course. Not a memorable face, but unforgettable for what he did. When Jackie's Dad, Jack, was killed in a traffic accident(which also killed Jackie's best friend, Trent "Junior" Durkin) near Pine Valley, California, Jackie was worth $4 Million Dollars. When Jackie's Mom, married his agent, Arthur Bernstein, 18 months later, he was still worth $4 Million Dollars. After giving excuse after excuse, Jackie won a subsequent lawsuit(1936) in which the settlement was half of the money that was left, around $136,000.00. About half of that went to pay off his debts.
How much money was $4 million 1935 dollars in today's money?
$100,000,000.00, that's $100 Million Dollars, which his mom and step-father blew through in 3 years through extravagant spending, traveling, partying, bad investments and, purportedly, drugs and booze. Amazing!
Worse than anything they did was what they said. You have to read it for yourself. They said that Jackie may have earned it, but the money belonged to them. Clarence Darrow once said that he could tell the intelligence of his clients by the amount they said. The less they said, he assumed, the more intelligent they were.
Jackie said that he was the luckiest guy in the world. I don't know about that, but the one thing of which I have no doubt, is that his wife, kids, grandkids and friends were. And maybe us too, because we had Jackie in our lives.