Friday, April 30, 2021

The 80th Anniversary of "CITIZEN KANE"

by George Haloulakos

With the Academy Awards having just completed its annual recognition of the best film productions for the prior year, we thought it might be fun as well as timely to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of what the American Film Institute (AFI) has ranked the Number One movie of all time: "CITIZEN KANE."

Before we begin, here is a fun question for you to think about: As the Number One movie of all time (according to AFI), how many Academy Awards do you think "CITIZEN KANE" won?  More than five?  More than ten? The answer is at the end of this month's blog.

Released in 1941, "CITIZEN KANE" was directed, produced and co written by Orson Welles, who also starred in the lead role.  Much has been written and discussed about "CITIZEN KANE," including its groundbreaking film making techniques such as the innovative lighting and close-up / focusing methods of cinematographer Gregg Toland and the dramatic, sharp editing style of Robert Wise.  At  the time of its release, Welles was just 25 years old but already a media star because of his famous radio show Mercury Theatre on the Air, that had stirred the imagination of an entire nation with its "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast a few years earlier that sounded so realistic, large segments of the listening audience actually thought an invasion by the planet Mars was actually underway!

Essentially, "CITIZEN KANE" is a biography of the rise and fall of a fictional publishing magnate Charles Foster Kane, that closely resembled William Randolph Hearst.  This in itself, is an entirely separate multi layered story but is worth reading as it involved behind-the-scenes efforts by Hearst aimed initially at stopping its production and then later suppressing publicity of the film following its theatrical release.  If you have never viewed this film before, now would be a great opportunity to appreciate the iconic status "CITIZEN KANE" as the film follows the efforts of a news reporter to unveil the mystery of the word "Rosebud" - the last word uttered by Kane just prior to his passing.  In the process, we learn about Kane's entire storied life beginning with his childhood.  While the news reporter does not himself find out the true meaning of "Rosebud" the viewer is allowed to learn (or rather "see") that "Rosebud," is in fact, the name of Kane's beloved sled from his childhood.  A childhood that sadly and poignantly was taken from Kane at a young age, and that he vainly sought to regain for the rest of his life, even while rising to the heights of financial success.

The dynamics of political ambition, media and gossip of the day provide a flashpoint to "CITIZEN KANE" that is eerily similar to the 24/7 digital media of the 21st century.  As the viewer will see, the dark side of such a world is very much the same in 1941 as it is in 2021.  Human nature really has not changed all that much!  (The famous photo of Kane seeking political office is posted above.)

For those of you in the Galaxy Nostalgia Network audience who enjoy watching ME TV which airs classic TV programs from the 1950s - 1970s, one of the most endearing aspects of "CITIZEN KANE" is to watch members of the stellar supporting cast (all of whom were part of Welles' Mercury Theatre) before their memorable TV roles shine forth as star contributors in this landmark film.  Before they became stars, the following people made their mark in this classic film:

> Agnes Moorhead (who played Endora the witch in "Bewitched") -- portrays Mary Kane, the mother of Charles Foster Kane!

> Ray Collins (Lt Tragg on "Perry Mason") -- as James W. Gettys, arch political rival to Kane.

> Everett Sloane (who starred in a variety of dramatic roles in "Patterns" and "Twilight Zone")  -- as a lifetime business associate of Kane.

And here is one more thing to listen as well as look for when watching "CITIZEN KANE" -- that familiar, wonderful, deep, friendly voice coming forth from the shadows (where there are numerous news reporters gathered in a conference asking questions about the life of Charles Foster Kane) is none other than Alan Ladd (famous years later as the good samaritan gunfighter "Shane"), in an uncredited role.  Look closely in the closing moments of the film and you will see Mr Ladd's silhouette as he is sporting a hat and smoking a pipe in his reporter role!

Finally, the answer to our question on how many Academy Awards did "CITIZEN KANE" win is (1) Academy Award, for Best Screenplay.

Do you have any special memories or thoughts about "CITIZEN KANE" and its memorable cast of actors?  Please share your thoughts and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.

View my LinkedIn profile at:  

Sunday, April 4, 2021

"TALKIN' BASEBALL" (Willie, Mickey and the Duke)

by George Haloulakos

Springtime marks the beginning of baseball season and this year's new season brings forth a very special celebration: the 40th anniversary of Terry Cashman's song "Talkin' Baseball."  Mr Cashman wrote and performed this song in 1981 in which he describes the history of Major League Baseball (MLB) from the 1950s to the very early 1980s.  Released in the midst of a nearly 2-month MLB strike, the song provided a wistful remembrance of the summer game as fans eagerly awaited the return of their heroes on the diamond.  Inspired by the memory of when New York ruled the baseball world from the late 1940s through the late 1950s -- [from 1947-1956 either the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers were in the World Series] -- with each of the teams having a star center fielder [Willie Mays with the Giants, Mickey Mantle for the Yankees and Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers], it was the perfect blend of nostalgia and celebrating excellence.  

Roger Kahn, a famed newspaper columnist and best selling author who was a native New Yorker, wrote a wonderful book on the subject in which fans debated which of these eventual Hall of Fame center fielders was truly the best at their craft.All three of these wonderful players (appropriately known just by their first names) were enormously gifted athletes, personally popular and accessible to fans everywhere, but especially in New York, where they lived and played.  Mr Cashman's song begins with the first ten notes (in a synthesizer version) of the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" before he begins singing.  

What makes "Talkin' Baseball" so compelling is the many players and managers referenced throughout the song, some by their full name while others it is either a partial name or nickname -- all them instantly recognizable, even to the most casual baseball fan.  

In short order, one is treated to over three decades of baseball history through the prism of the many wonderful, iconic players from that era.  Here is a very small sampling:

                                                              - "The Man" (Stan Musial)

- "The Barber" (Sal Maglie)

- "The Newc" (Don Newcombe)

- "One Robbie Going Out" (Jackie Robinson) 

  - "One Robbie Coming In" (Frank Robinson)

-  Hank Aaron

-  George Brett

Mr. Cashman also manages to pay tribute to his childhood friends in the song by referring to them as "The Bachelor" (Mike Green) and "Cookie" (Bobby Cook).  Iconic teams (the "Whiz Kids" - a nickname for the Philadelphia Phillies 1950 National League Champions), great moments ("Bobby Thomson had done it" - the Giants winning the pennant in the final inning of their 1951 final playoff game versus the Dodgers) and great managers ("Well Casey was winning" - referring to Casey Stengal piloting the Yankees to 7 World Series Championships and 10 American League pennants in 12 years) are all mentioned in this song, along with much more.

The much more includes a couple of US Presidents:  "And Ike was the only one winning down in Washington '' (Dwight Eisenhower - POTUS - 1953-61 -- while the Washington Senators were a perennial loser in the same period).  "And the great Alexander is pitchin' again in Washington" is a double reference to Ronald Reagan (POTUS - 1981-89) who was inaugurated shortly before the release of Cashman's song and who in his former career as an actor portrayed Alexander in the 1952 motion picture "The Winning Team."

In the years since its release, "Talkin' Baseball" gained such great popularity that not only was Cashman honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 but the original sheet music is a part of the Baseball Hall of Fame Collection in Cooperstown, New York.  In addition, Mr Cashman has written many alternate versions that are team-specific while being periodically updated and rewritten to reflect lineup changes or major events.  No matter the version, the song brings a smile to the listener's face as baseball marks the return of yet another spring season, that is immediately followed by summer and autumn!

Are any of your favorite players mentioned in the original version?  If so, who are they?  Is there a particular memory of one of those players that stands out above all others?  Who do you think is the best among the Hall of Fame New York center fielder trio that make up the subtitle of this song: Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider?

Please share your thoughts and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.

View my LinkedIn profile at: