“White Heat,” (1949) Was James Cagney’s Most Menacing Gangster
Film, TV, and the Arts

“White Heat,” (1949) Was James Cagney’s Most Menacing Gangster

When the production team on White Heat first met, they asked themselves how to make James Cagney’s character the toughest, most menacing gangster ever filmed. Cagney said he told them to “make him nuts.”

In the Bible, God is a Four-Letter Word
Religion, spirituality, and Jewish life

In the Bible, God is a Four-Letter Word

The Hebrew Bible uses two words and a million synonyms for God. El, or Elohim, simply mean God. The second word, the Hebrew consonants YHVH, is full of mystery, the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush, possibly the past, present, and future tense of “to be,” squeezed together in one word – like a bush that is burning but not consumed.

Andy Griffith Was Something Before Sheriff Andy
Film, TV, and the Arts

Andy Griffith Was Something Before Sheriff Andy

Before Andy Griffith became TV’s sheriff of Mayberry, he played two roles that are considered classics: “A Face in the Crowd” and “No Time for Sergeants,”

Outfielder Jim Piersall’s Public Struggle with Mental Illness
Mental Health

Outfielder Jim Piersall’s Public Struggle with Mental Illness

Jim Piersall, a successful center fielder (1950-67), struggled publicly with mental health problems as a player, was hospitalized twice, treated with lithium, then recovered aneopd became a baseball “lifer.”

Burl Ives Played A Southern and Western Big Daddy in Two Films
Film, TV, and the Arts

Burl Ives Played A Southern and Western Big Daddy in Two Films

Burl Ives’s big daddy in The Big Country” has more honor than his Big Daddy in “Cat on A Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams. Both tyrrant father roles were written with Burl Ives in mind, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing them.

Did “The Russians Are Coming…” Change Cold War Attitudes?
Film, TV, and the Arts

Did “The Russians Are Coming…” Change Cold War Attitudes?

The 1966 comedy “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” raises the ancient question: does art change values or reflect them. This movie did both. It reflected changes that were already underway, and also pushed those changes along.

Judge John Wayne By His Movies, Not His Politics
Film, TV, and the Arts

Judge John Wayne By His Movies, Not His Politics

Many peoplw still dislike John Wayne’s movies because of his outspoken conservative political opinions. His work is too important dismiss for that alone. He filled every screen he ever appeared on, and embodied much of our national folklore.

Jewish Immigrant Wrote “White Christmas” and “God Bless America”
Film, TV, and the Arts

Jewish Immigrant Wrote “White Christmas” and “God Bless America”

“White Christmas,” is the most popular Christmas song of all time. It was written by a Russian Jewish immigrant, Irving Berlin, who also wrote “God Bless America,” the best American patriotic song.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, “War on Christmas”
Religion, spirituality, and Jewish life

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, “War on Christmas”

A Letter to the Editor promised to tell anyone who wished the writer “happy holidays” instead of Merry Christmas to “go soak their heads” or “go back where they came from.” I said this kind of nativism is anti-Semitic and intolerant by definition. Many people answered me very favorably.

Henry Aaron Might Be “The Last Hero”
Baseball and Football

Henry Aaron Might Be “The Last Hero”

Henry Aaron might have been “the last hero” as the title of his biography says. How many athletes, celebrities, or politicians under 60 would you want your children to be like when they grow up?

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