Posts Tagged ‘March 4’

Remembering John Garfield

Posted in General, On This Day on March 4th, 2016 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

John GarfieldMarch 4th

If you have noticed the schedule on Turner Classic Movies, this is the birthday of John Garfield. Although Garfield is now barely remembered, he was the first of the tough, chip-on-the-shoulder, punk leading men. He was the brooding young rebel when James Dean was only alienated from his kindergarten.

Furthermore, Garfield was conspicuously ethnic; his stage name may have seemed homogenized but he still obviously was Jules Garfinkel of the Lower East Side. He appeared at a time when the Hollywood barrier for acceptable ethnicity was James Cagney’s engaging if feisty Irishman. But Garfield’s English was very first-generation and, by the standards of the times, far more New York than American. His compelling presence breached that barrier as well, creating the way for Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.

Garfield was never a star of the first magnitude: no Gable, Flynn or Cooper. He certainly would have been out of place in most costume epics. Cecil B. DeMille would never have known what to do with him. Yet, if Garfield was not the essence of Hollywood glamour, he was the world-weary everyman whose bitter wisdom and bad luck resonated with an audience that knew the deprivations and losses of the real world. Since he did not fit the Hollywood mold, the studios made films to fit him. “Humoresque”, “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, “Body and Soul” and “Force of Evil” are his best films.

You might also be interested in his first film, “Four Daughters.” By today’s standards, the movie is hokey. We would dismiss it as a “B” feature; but it wasn’t. In fact, the film was considered sensational, “The Last Tango in Paris” by the standards of 1938. John Garfield’s alienated, nihilistic, self-destructive character was unprecedented in Hollywood films. Such a character could be a gangster but NOT the romantic lead.

Unfortunately, John Garfield didn’t live to become an older actor. The pressure of the Hollywood Blacklist and the effects of his childhood’s rheumatic fever led to his early death. “Force of Evil” might describe his encounter with the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Jules Garfinkel of New York knew too many Leftists for his own–and America’s–good. Garfield admitted his support of the Spanish Republic and other liberal causes; if any of them had been Communist fronts, he was unaware of that. He apologized for his political naivete but he also refused to divulge the names of other people involved in these organizations. His characters never squealed, and neither did he. So John Garfield ended up being blacklisted by the studios. Once again, he was the kid from New York scrounging for work. His characters usually ran out of luck; so did he.

He died at the age of 39, leaving behind a wife, two young children and the next generation of actors.

Looking for Mr. Good Book

Posted in General on March 4th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

Beset by bankruptcy, my local Borders bookstore is closing.  However, the corporation can still afford email and it has been barraging me with notices of the great sales at the soon-to-be shuttered locale.    “Everything Must GO!”  Today I had some free time and Karen trusted me with the car, so I decided to bargain-hunt.  You know, I didn’t have a comprehensive history of the Netherlands.  Well, I still don’t.  Everyone else apparently got it first.

Of course, I was open to any bargains.  Somehow the Twilight calendars didn’t appeal to me, however.  But the history shelves were not completely barren.  I was tempted by a history of Sicily, at least until I started perusing it.  The introduction certainly made a vivid first impression.  “When you say Sicily, you probably think of the Mafia.  But there is more to Sicily than that.”  Judging from the author’s tone, I would probably learn that Sicily is a big island in the Mediterranean Sea–which is filled with water.  Yes, I could see why the book was still for sale.

There was also a history of ancient Alexandria, and its author did have a style appropriate for an intelligent adult.  Borders almost had a sale, at least until I read the author’s biographical sketch.  He cited among his achievements being the historical consultant on “Elizabeth”, the film featuring Cate Blanchett as Miss Tudor.  That film did correctly depict Elizabeth’s hair color, and that the extent of its historical accuracy.  In other words, the consultant was bragging about being either a liar or a studio stooge.  I no longer could trust anything he had to say.   

I did finally find a book with an interesting topic and a reputable author.  It is a history of Germany’s Jews.  Now, don’t tell me how it ends.

p.s.  Let’s not forget the historic significance of this day: