Pixel Scroll 2/8/24 It’s The Great Singularity, Charlie Brown

(1) SEE ICONIC ARTWORK IN BAY AREA THIS WEEKEND. Leo and Diane Dillon’s original cover art for The Left Hand of Darkness, recently in the news as one of the items sold from the Carr-Lichtman estate by Mark Funke, will be on display at the Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco, February 9–11 reports KQED in “The Painting That Became an Ursula K. Le Guin Book Cover”.

…“When I talk to other LGBTQIA+ science fiction writers and people who are immersed in science fiction, they always point to The Left Hand of Darkness as a book that kind of showed them how expansive, how rich and how multilayered speculative fiction could be in its approach to gender and sexuality,” says Charlie Jane Anders, a San Francisco-based transgender science fiction writer, who wrote the afterword for the 50th anniversary edition of the novel….

How the cover was acquired by Terry Carr for the Ace paperback edition, and the artistry of Leo and Diane Dillon, is discussed at length in the KQED article.

…Diane Dillon says science fiction writers inspired some of their best work. Leo introduced her to the genre when they met as students at Parsons in the ’50s. They were drawn to sci-fi’s imaginative worlds and the promise of what could be possible.

“Science fiction, fantasy and myth gave us the freedom to invent and challenge our imagination,” Diane wrote via email.

In a 2000 interview, Leo said he and Diane wanted their illustrations to “take science fiction out of that spaceship-and-craters-on-the-planet look.” (Leo died in 2012.)

In the case of The Left Hand of Darkness, the Dillons drew inspiration from Gustav Klimt. The original 24-by-19-inch acrylic painting evokes an uncanny world. Two figures with blurry features melt into a muted luster — an allusion to the icy planet of Gethen that provides the setting for the novel.

“That’s a sprawling piece, and it says volumes in just that one image,” says Paul Gulla, manager of R. Michelson Galleries, which represents the Dillons, in Northampton, Massachusetts.The Dillons’ work was recognizable, but the duo enjoyed experimentation. They used various techniques and materials — including stained glass, woodcarving and clay — throughout their decades-long career, which spanned book covers, album covers, kids’ picture books and advertisements.

The Dillons even forged a new artistic identity. They described their collaboration as a “third artist,” drawing on the combined powers of their own individual styles….

Leo and Diane Dillon’s painting for the cover of Harlan Ellison’s ‘No Doors No Windows.’ (Courtesy R. Michelson Galleries)

The article also has this photo of another item – an album of fan photos, some dating back to the Fifties.

(2) ON THE FRONT. Austin Conrad has more advice for SFWA Blog readers in “Sourcing Art on a Budget (Part 2)”

High-quality art plays an important role in creating the well-presented products expected by most consumers of tabletop games, but commissioning bespoke art can be expensive. Like a novel’s cover, an RPG’s interior graphics evoke the game’s aesthetic and market the game to the audience. Many tabletop writers—especially new creators—don’t have the resources to commission the expected quantity of art. What, then, are a tabletop writer’s ethical alternatives?…

(3) 2024 FANAC FAN HISTORY ZOOM SERIES: AUSTRALIA. [Item by Joe Siclari.] In 2022, we had a very interesting Fan History Zoom Session on Australian history with Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. We didn’t even get to the first Australian Worldcon so we are going to continue.

Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track, Part 2 with Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. Saturday, February 17, 2024. Time: 7PM EST, 4 PM PST and 11AM Feb. 18, Melbourne AEDT

To attend, send a note to [email protected]

(4) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE WINNERS Q&A. Space Cowboy Books will host four Writers of the Future winners in an online event late this month. Register for free HERE.

Online Reading & Interview with Writers of the Future Winners

Tuesday Feb. 27th 4:30pm PT

Reading and Interview with Writers of the Future Winners: David Hankins, Elaine Midcoh, Jason Palmatier, & TJ Knight.

Be amazed. Be amused. Be transported … by stories that take you by surprise and take you further and deeper into new worlds and new ideas than you’ve ever gone before…. Twelve captivating tales from the most exciting new voices in science fiction and fantasy accompanied by three from masters of the genre.

Get your copy of the book at Bookshop.org.

(5) VERSE IS BETTER. Holly Henderson recommends “Using Poetry to Enhance Your Writing” at the SFWA Blog.

Poetry can be one of the shortest forms of fiction, but it has the ability to make an outsized impact on the reader. This is especially true when poetry is combined with fantasy and science fiction—both forms aspire to express common concepts in uncommon ways.

From classics like The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien to recent Hugo Award winner A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, poetry has been used throughout the history of speculative fiction to jumpstart brainstorming, enhance worldbuilding, and reinforce themes so they resonate far beyond the last page….

Effective Poetry Is Its Own Skill Set

Study poetry as you would any other aspect of your craft. Read collections with a wide variety, such as Chris Riddell’s Poems to… series. Pick apart your favorites to figure out why they work. Explore different forms to expand your horizons beyond the ABAB rhyme scheme.

That being said, you don’t need an MFA in Poetry to incorporate it into your novel. Just like with prose, there’s a lot to be said for writing poetry you like to read. Don’t get caught in the trap of it having to be a certain way to be “right.” One of the most beautiful things about poetry is that it encourages you to break the rules….

(6) SWANWICK’S TRIBUTE TO WALDROP. “Howard Waldrop, Implausibly, Is No More” mourns Michael Swanwick at Flogging Babel.

Howard Waldrop is dead. This seems impossible–almost as impossible as that he could have existed in the first place. He was unlike anybody else. I once labeled him in print as “the weird mind of his generation,” and it was true. He simply didn’t think the way other people did.

You could see it in the best of his stories. People would come back from conventions where he’d read a new story (he incubated them in his mind for a long time and didn’t write anything down until the story was letter-perfect; fans learned that you could squeeze a new one out of him by making him the guest of honor at a con and requesting that he read something new at it; the night before the reading, he’d sit down and write out… something amazing) and say something like, “Howard wrote a story about dodo birds surviving in the American South,” or “Howard wrote a story about Dwight D. Eisenhower becoming a jazz musician,” and I’d think: Damn. I wish I’d had that idea! One day somebody said, “Howard wrote a story about Izaak Walton and John Bunyan going fishing in the Slough of Despond.”…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 55. Author, puppeteer, voice actor. Mary Robinette Kowal is an amazing individual indeed.

As I always find out who is narrating the audio works I’m listening to, I first encountered her when she was voicing some of the works that I like best, such as Seanan McGuire’s Indexing novels which are so wonderfully narrated by Kowal. 

Mary Robinette Kowal

She has an ability to give life to each character in a novel so that the listener can tell each of them apart by the way that she voices them. Her narration of her novel is Ghost Talkers is both properly spooky and horrifying in equal measure. 

While doing this essay I got curious about the idea of her as a puppeteer. She has been one for over thirty years and her production company is the Other Hand Productions. So she worked for Jim Henson Pictures in the Elmo in Grouchland film, she assisted Martin P. Robinson who was Sesame Street’s Telly Monster in “Jackstraws” piece, and her design work has been recognized with UNIMA-USA citations of excellence for Mark Levenson’s Between Two Worlds and Other Hand Productions’ Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom. The Citation of Excellence was founded by Jim Henson and is the highest award possible for an American puppeteer. Cool, eh? 

Now for the third part of her quite impressive career. I asked one of our Filers, Paul, to talk about that as I figured he’d read more deeply of her than I have. (I personally loved The Spare Man, Ghost Talkers and the Glamourist series. Her narration of The Spare Man is an  amazing experience speaking as one who only gets his long form fiction now in that way.)

So here’s Paul: “I was immediately enchanted with her first Glamourist history novel, Shades of Milk and Honey. I enjoyed the characters, the magic system and saw her homage to Regency romances, and liked it. I also particularly think that the last book in that series, Of Noble Family, engaging with some difficult subjects of class and race, is a strong entry that shows Kowal’s willingness to work with such material and face the issues therein.  Her recent The Spare Man encapsulates a lot of what she does, on a luxury liner, in SPAAACE.  And while many will point at her Lady Astronaut series as her current pinnacle of work (and I did borrow Elma York’s mental trick of composing fibonacci numbers in my head while hiking in Nepal), I think her alternate WWI fantasy novel Ghost Talkers is very unjustly overlooked as a compelling novel of a woman caught by her duty and needs in a terrible, dangerous wartime.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest has an encounter with a librarian about Robin Hood. But they’re not arguing whether it’s sff….
  • F Minus says there’s a downside to owning a superpet.

(9) PATRICK S. TOMLINSON. The Independent invites readers to “Meet the most ‘swatted’ man in America”.

Mr Tomlinson told The Independent he had woken in the middle of the night to find officers banging on his door, been handcuffed, and had guns shoved in his face during the yearslong ordeal. He was once swatted four times in one day.

Mr Filion has not been charged in relation to the swats on Mr Tomlinson’s home, and investigators believe there are at least two individuals behind the Torswats account.

The FBI, Milwaukee Police Department and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida where the teenager is facing four felony counts declined to provide further information, beyond an extensive account of Mr Filion’s activities in a probable cause charging document.

After Mr Filion was arrested on 18 January at his home in Lancaster, Los Angeles County, Mr Tomlinson said he and his wife Niki Robinson had their first decent night of sleep in years.

Their relief was short-lived. Within a day of Mr Filion’s arrest, a Telegram channel named “Torswats Return” was created by someone claiming that their “partner has been arrested”, according to posts viewed by The Independent.

The channel stated that it would continue offering “swats” for as little as $40, and offered returning customers a discounted rate. It also posted derogatory photographs and text about Mr Tomlinson — noting that there would be no charge for requested swats against him.

“And of course swats to Patrick… are free,” read the Telegram message.

… The science fiction author has endured relentless harassment from an anonymous online army of what he describes as “cyber terrorists”. He says they have stalked and impersonated him, defaced his home, and continue to send a daily avalanche of abusive phone calls, voicemail messages and emails.

“I wont stop until one of them die (sic),” a message posted to the channel, referring to Mr Tomlinson, on 6 January stated.

As swatting incidents have spiked in recent months, victims and cybersecurity experts say law enforcement are failing to deal with the threat.

Last month, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley revealed she was targeted by swatting hoaxes twice in two days, and has requested Secret Service protection amid the rising threats to her safety. She is among the dozens of lawmakers, judges in Trump trials and public figures who have experienced tactical response teams turn up at their homes in response to the false callouts.

Swatting, defined by the Anti Defamation League (ADL) as a “malicious act of reporting a false crime or emergency to evoke an aggressive response”, emerged from online gaming communities in the early 2000s, where rivals would call 911 on each other and watch the armed response on livestream.

The ADL estimates there were over 1,000 swatting incidents in 2019, but the true figure is unclear as there is no federal statute against swatting that would enable convictions to be recorded….

(10) IF COVER REVEAL. Worlds of IF magazine has shared Bob Eggleton’s cover art and the table of contents for the relaunch’s inaugural issue. Issue #177 will be released later this month as both a digest-sized print version and digital download. The PDF version will be free for a limited time at this link. Subscribe to the mailing list for updates.

Featuring stories, poetry, and art by:

  • Renan Bernardo
  • David Brin
  • Michael Butterworth
  • Tara Campbell
  • Kwame Cavil
  • J. Dalton
  • Tatiana Daubek
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Zdravka Evtimova
  • Richard Grieco
  • Akua Lezli Hope
  • Pedro Iniguez
  • Ai Jiang
  • Leslie Kean
  • Rodney Matthews
  • Bruce Pennington
  • Charles Platt
  • Daniel Pomarède
  • Paulo Sayeg
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Andrew Stewart
  • Nigel Suckling
  • Dave Vescio 

(11) CLASSIC FILM MAGAZINE BACK IN PRINT. L’Incroyable Cinema: The Film Magazine of Fantasy and Imagination is available once more. The five issues published in the Sixties and Seventies have been reproduced in paperback editions for sale at Amazon.uk.

For example, issue #4 with Hitchcock on the cover includes the writing of Harry Nadler, Steve Vertlieb, Allan Asherman, and Charles Partington and their coverage of  Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and “Hitchcock – Master of the Eloquent Absurdity”.

Please note: This is a REPRODUCTION scanned from an original printed copy – whilst every care has been taken to make this as accurate as possible to the original some flaws etc will be evident. The only changes made to the layout have been to comply with Amazon printing guidelines. They have been reproduced with the permission of Tony Edwards who printed the originals way back when. Brought to you by Steve Kirkham and Tree Frog Publications.

Issues #2-#5 had color cover artwork by Eddie Jones, featuring Boris Karloff, Star Trek’s Spock and Kirk, Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Harryhausen. All issues had extensive picture coverage of sf and horror films.

(12) HOW TO READ A CHARCOAL SCROLL. “First complete passages from ancient Herculaneum scroll decoded” at CNN.

After using artificial intelligence to uncover the first word to be read from an unopened Herculaneum scroll, a team of researchers has revealed several nearly complete passages from the ancient text, giving insight into philosophy from almost 2,000 years ago.

The Herculaneum scrolls are hundreds of papyri that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. In their charred state, the ancient documents would crumble if anyone attempted to unroll them, and any writing on surviving pieces would be nearly illegible to the human eye.

By using computer technology and advanced artificial intelligence, researchers can now analyze the Herculaneum scrolls without unrolling and risking damage to the extremely fragile documents. More than 2,000 characters — the first full passages — have been deciphered from a scroll, according to an announcement Monday by computer scientists who launched the Vesuvius Challenge, a competition designed to accelerate the discoveries made on the scrolls….

… The recently decoded passages were pulled from the end of a scroll and reveal words written by the philosopher Philodemus, who was believed to be the philosopher-in-residence working at the library in which the scrolls were found, the announcement said.

…In the deciphered text, Philodemus writes on “pleasure,” and whether the abundance of goods available can affect the amount of pleasure they give. “As too in the case of food, we do not right away believe things that are scarce to be absolutely more pleasant than those which are abundant,” the first sentence reads….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. TheHow It Should Have Ended crew say that when it comes to Dune what they really need to fix is “How It Should Have Started”.

An animated Dune cartoon. When House Atreides dares to pass on the spice, who will take on the job? Only a Lethal Company will do.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Kathy Sullivan, Joe Siclari, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/24 The Pixels Will Continue Until Morale Improves

(1) SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE. Malcolm F. Cross takes a deeply skeptical look at “AI, the Algorithm, and the Attention Economy” at Sin Is Beautiful.

…People using AI, even this theoretical ‘good’ kind, are shooting themselves in the foot and don’t know it.

Why? Most generative AI users are trying to participate in the attention economy – attempting to get eyes on their work, to get appreciative comments, sales, to build an audience for content that they produce.

When a generative AI user posts their image on social media, when they use it for their profile, for their website, for all the things art gets used for, they are competing for attention. And they are competing with everything else generated by AI. The same AI everyone else gets to use.

Generative AI for creating images has been big news since DALL-E’s first iteration was released in early 2021. By October 2022 it was generating two million images a day. DALL-E is only one player in the generative AI space for art.  It is estimated that in August 2023, 34 million images were being generated every day across the major generative AI art tools. 15 billion pieces of art, and that was about six months ago.

Assuming you only looked at the most excellent top 0.001% of those 15 billion images, that is still a hundred and fifty thousand images to look at….

… The best the AI artist can hope for in this ideal situation is to be a brief flicker in a constant feed of content we can barely remember.

If the ideas you were trying to express mattered, you wouldn’t have needed AI to win at the attention economy – you could have expressed them with stick figures and still won.

If your ideas actually are that good, then why obscure them by using generative AI?…

(2) AI AND THE FTC. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission today announced it has launched an “Inquiry into Generative AI Investments and Partnerships”. However, apparently is the beginning of a study, not an action in response to a law violation.

…The FTC issued its orders under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which authorizes the Commission to conduct studies that allow enforcers to gain a deeper understanding of market trends and business practices. Findings stemming from such orders can help inform future Commission actions.

Companies are deploying a range of strategies in developing and using AI, including pursuing partnerships and direct investments with AI developers to get access to key technologies and inputs needed for AI development. The orders issued today were sent to companies involved in three separate multi-billion-dollar investments: Microsoft and OpenAIAmazon and Anthropic, and Google and Anthropic. The FTC’s inquiry will help the agency deepen enforcers understanding of the investments and partnerships formed between generative AI developers and cloud service providers….

(3) TOC OF ELLISON COLLECTION. J. Michael Straczynski had announced the table of contents for Harlan Ellison’s Greatest Hits.

  • “Repent, Harlequin,” Said the TickTockman
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
  • The Deathbird
  • Chatting with Anubis
  • The Whimper of Whipped Dogs
  • Jeffty is Five
  • Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes
  • Shatterday
  • Mefisto in Onyx
  • On the Downhill Side
  • Paladin of the Lost Hour
  • The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World
  • I’m Looking for Kadak
  • How Interesting: A Tiny Man
  • Djinn, No Chaser
  • How’s the Night Life on Cissalda?
  • From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet
  • Eidolons All the Lies That Are My Life
  • With a Preface by me.
  • Foreword by Neil Gaiman
  • Intro by Cassandra Khaw

Straczynski also drew attention to a Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition of the book.

(4) ANOTHER SFF FILM SHELVED. “Netflix Axes Halle Berry’s Sci-Fi Film ‘The Mothership’” reports Variety.

Netflix has scrapped the release of “The Mothership,” a science-fiction film starring Halle Berry.

The movie finished filming in 2021, but it couldn’t be completed after multiple delays in post-production, Variety has confirmed.

“The Mothership” is the latest Hollywood movie to disappear even though filming had wrapped. Since 2022, Warner Bros. has axed three movies — John Cena’s “Coyote vs. Acme,” the $90 million budgeted DC adventure “Batgirl” and the animated “Scoob! Holiday Haunt” — for the purpose of tax write-offs….

(5) LOVECRAFT’S MAIL. Bobby Derie explores “Her Letters To Lovecraft: Edith May Dowe Miniter” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

The details of Mrs. Miniter’s long career—a career inseparable from amateur journalism after her sixteenth year—will doubtless be covered by writers well qualified to treat of them. Reared in Worcester, taught by her poet-mother and at a private school, and given to solid reading and literary attempts from early childhood onward, the erstwhile Edith May Dowe entered amateurdom in 1883 and was almost immediately famous in our small world as a fictional realist. Controversies raged over her stories—so different from the saccharine froth of the period—but very few failed to recognize her importance. After 1890 she was engaged in newspaper and magazine work in the larger outside world, though her interest in amateur matters increased rather than diminished.

H. P. Lovecraft, “Mrs. Miniter—Estimates and Recollections” (written 1934) in Collected Essays 1.380

(6) REASONS TO READ. “25th Century Five and Dime #2: You Should Be Reading Judith Merril!” says columnist David Agranoff at Amazing Stories.

…One of the reasons I started this column is to share these discoveries. Early in the process of doing the show, I discovered the book The Future is Female edited by one of our most popular guests Lisa Yaszek. A few stories into the anthology I knew I had to have her on the show. That book has a similar mission to this column. While women like Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Leguin are famous now but The Future is Female as a book more importantly will introduce you to more obscure authors like Katherine Maclean and well known in her day Judith Merril. Her name was always a respected one in SF.

In that collection which collected the best of the pulp era SF ranging from the 20s to the end of the 60s was a story from the 40s by Merril that really stood out for me. “That Only a Mother.” The story of fall-out sickened children of atomic wars was a brutal and powerful stand-out. When Lisa gave us background on the story and author it was clear that JM was an important figure in the community and I needed to know more.

Since then, reading several histories from Fredrik Pohl, Damon Knight, Boucher, and Malzberg further made the point Judith Merril is an important voice in SF. Her role as a founding member of two major NYC clubs The Futurians and the Hydra club predates her publishing that began in 1948…. 

(7) RUBY SUNDAY MAYBE NOT GONE? RadioTimes’ Louise Griffin claims “Millie Gibson’s future on Doctor Who is still very bright”. Gibson plays Doctor Who companion Ruby Sunday.

Emotions have, understandably, been high as reports about Millie Gibson ‘being replaced’ in Doctor Who have rolled in.

First, let’s get the facts right. It’s been reported that Varada Sethu has been cast as the companion in season 15. Great news! Millie Gibson has not been “dropped” or “axed” – actually, the opposite as she’ll still be in season 15, just in a smaller role. But I think this is actually incredibly exciting….

(8) IN THE BEGINNING.  He wasn’t in it, he’s just telling the story: “Sylvester McCoy reminisces about first ever Doctor Who broadcast” in RadioTimes.

Sylvester McCoy has spoken of his fond memories of Doctor Who and reflected on the sci-fi’s first ever episode….

…He said: “It’s been 60 years now. I know where I was when it first came out, partly because I know where I was when John F Kennedy was shot, which happened the day before Doctor Who was broadcast.

“The BBC had to repeat the first episode of Doctor Who the following week because no one had watched it. They were all glued to the news about the Kennedy assassination and Doctor Who got pushed out. But when Doctor Who started, we had no concept it would go on forever and ever and ever.”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 25, 1926 Bob Clarke. (Died 2013.) Stepping not quite outside of genre, or maybe not at all, we have Bob Clarke. 

Clarke started at the age of seventeen according to the stories he tells as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! comic strip. Ripley himself traveled the world collecting his fantastic trivia tidbits and sent them back to Clarke who drew them, captioned them and circulated them. There’s no way to prove or disprove this story.

(It’s most likely true because years later, he illustrated MAD‘s occasional “Believe It or Nuts!” parody in that style.) 

Quite a few sources, briefly and without attribution, say he designed the label of the Cutty Sark bottle.

After two years with Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Clarke joined the army, where he worked for the European edition of Stars and Stripes and met his wife. Clarke remained with Stars and Stripes after being discharged as a civilian contributor, before eventually returning to America and joining the Geyer, Newell, and Ganger (GNG) advertising firm. He was among the artists there who designed the box for the children’s game Candyland

Now to MAD Magazine. Clarke was one of the artists who took up the slack he after original MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman left MAD in an absolute rage, taking two of its three main artists Will Elder and Jack Davis, with him. He claimed working at GNG with its design needs was his best training for this endeavor —“I learned about typefaces and layouts, how to prepare comps in the styles of many artists and cartoonists.” 

In his first year alone there, he illustrated twenty-four separate articles; he would eventually draw more than six hundred. Yes, six hundred.  Here’s one of those illustrations from MAD magazine # 156.

And that doesn’t count myriad covers such as the one below. He was a principal artist of the magazine as it rose fast in circulation, being one of four general-purpose artists who took MAD through the late Fifties and early Sixties, arguably the best years of the magazine. 

(10) OH NO! File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb had a close call but fortunately sustained just a small injury. He explained what happened on Facebook.

This has been a week from Hell. At approximately two o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, January 22nd, the proverbial “Kracken” was released onto the highway. I was driving to the post office, going North on Bustleton Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, on “a wing and a prayer,” when an elderly woman of Russian descent, driving her car going South, took a dangerous left hand turn into opposing traffic in order to gain entrance to her apartment complex.

I was on the inside lane, and so my vision was obstructed by cars to my left. Suddenly, out of nowhere, her vehicle appeared directly in front of me, less than a car length ahead. I screamed in panic, and jammed my foot on the brakes, but it was too late. I crashed into the side of her vehicle with a sickening crunch that I’ll not soon forget.

My vehicle’s airbags deployed upon impact, hitting me in the chest, and grazing my right hand which was clutched on the steering wheel. Smoke filled my car, and fluid drained onto the street all around me.

It could have been worse, I suppose. I could have been seriously injured or killed. A bloody gash adorns the torn skin of my injured hand. My car was totaled. It was paid off, and running in fine condition. I’d taken it in for a four thousand mile checkup only several days earlier.

Now I’m facing an expensive search for a replacement vehicle, while literally stranded in my apartment for the better part of a week. I’m picking up a rental on Friday.

I’m grateful to be alive, yet wondering why my recent mini-stroke, or T.I.A., was followed in rapid succession with a nearly deadly car crash. I seem to be on a roll of late in health threatening catastrophies.

(11) ECHO OVERCOMES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Prepare for the cries that “wokeness is out of control.“ This despite the fact that the Marvel character’s description (female, indigenous, deaf) is pretty darn well matched by the actor’s description (female, indigenous, deaf, amputee). Echo, starring Alaqua Cox, is on Disney+ and Hulu. “Alaqua Cox Was Bullied for Being Deaf and an Amputee, Now the Marvel Star Is ‘Proud’ to Prove She ‘Can Do Anything’” in People.

Preparing to play a formidable Marvel character is a notoriously demanding process that pushes actors to the pinnacle of physical fitness.

For Alaqua Cox, who’s making history as the first Native American star to lead a Marvel series in the new Disney+ show Echo, it meant training five days a week with a stunt team to learn a slew of butt-kicking moves.

“I grew up playing different kinds of sports — I would play one-on-one basketball with my older brother — so I love doing those kinds of physical things,” the actress, who, like her character Maya Lopez, is an amputee and has been deaf all her life, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

Cox, 26, originated the ruthless role with her breakthrough performance opposite Jeremy Renner in the series Hawkeye. Echo, who debuted in Marvel comics in 1999, is a gifted fighter with superhuman strength and a thirst for vengeance.

(12) CALLING WOLF. Sam Sykes on X. I laughed.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. 2023 Hugo Award finalist O. Westin has started a MicroSFF YouTube channel where a selection of their stories are read and presented in a simple format. For example:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Riba.]

Pixel Scroll 1/6/24 10 Pixels To Scroll, Number 9 Will SHOCK You

(1) 2024 IS LAST YEAR KRESS AND WILLIAMS RUNNING TAOS TOOLBOX. Taos Toolbox, a two-week master class in writing science fiction and fantasy helmed by authors Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, is open for submissions.

And as part of the announcement Williams told Facebook readers, “This will be the last year that Nancy and I will be doing this. Taos Toolbox may continue under new management (it’s under discussion), but Nancy and I won’t be running things.”

This year’s Taos Toolobox workshop will take place June 2-15, 2024, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Special Guest for 2024 is the creator of The Expanse, James S.A. Corey, in reality the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank…

Special lecturers this year include Jeffe Kennedy, who currently holds the office of President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She’s been widely published and has special expertise in indiepub, and owns her own press.

The second special lecturer is Diana Rowland, who at various times been an Air Force pilot, a Las Vegas card dealer, a detective for a sheriff’s office in Louisiana, and a morgue assistant, occupations that contributed to writing her Demon and White Trash Zombie series.

(2) MISSING ROYALTIES. Authors are the hidden victims of the cyber-attack on the British Library, which has prevented them receiving an annual rights payment. The Guardian explains: “Richard Osman among authors missing royalties amid ongoing cyber-attack on British Library”.

…In February 2023, those authors would have been paid thousands of pounds each from Public Lending Right (PLR) payments – money earned by writers, illustrators and translators each time a book is borrowed. But not this year.

Ongoing fallout from a massive cyber-attack means that PLR payments will not be paid as expected while the British Library, which manages the service, fights to restore its crippled systems.

Every time an author’s book is borrowed from a library, they get about 13p, capped at £6,600 a year. To authors like Osman and JK Rowling, whose first Harry Potter book was also on last year’s top read list, this might be a drop in the ocean, but for many authors whose books are library favourites it is a different matter….

The British Library was hit by a cyber-attack at the end of October. At the time, its chief executive, Sir Roly Keating, said that access to even basic communication tools such as email was initially lost. “We took immediate action to isolate and protect our network but significant damage was already done.

“Having breached our systems, the attackers had destroyed their route of entry and much else besides, encrypting or deleting parts of our IT estate.”…

(3) STEVE VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb was briefly hospitalized after suffering a mini-stroke on January 4. He told Facebook friends:

Well, there’s good news and bad news early in the new year. The bad news is, that while at needed physical therapy for my balance on Thursday afternoon, I began babbling unintelligibly. I knew what I wanted to say to my trainers but, when it physically left my lips, it became distorted beyond recognition, rather like mumbling incoherently in my sleep.

They called an ambulance and rushed me to nearby Nazareth Hospital where I spent the next twenty-four hours.

I continued complaining, while in the ambulance, that I simply wanted to go home but they drove me, instead, to the Emergency Room.

I began recovering once we reached the waiting hospital. However, to be on the safe side, they kept me overnight in a hospital room. I knew that I must have been returning to “normal,” however, when I began cracking jokes.

It appears that I must have suffered a “T.I.A,” or what’s called a “mini-stroke.” However, following that isolated assault on my sensory nerves, the seemingly isolated attack that apparently came out of nowhere somehow abated and I’ve recovered.

I had a single previous occurrence some eighteen months earlier on what was to have been my last night in Los Angeles. It’s frightening. I can tell you that. The wiring in your brain goes … you should excuse the expression … “haywire.”

I asked the doctors what I can do to keep this from happening again. They said “You’re doing it. You’re taking all the right medications. Just keep an eye out for trouble signs in future.”

What’s the good news, you may well ask?????????? Well, the simple answer is that I’m Home once more!!!!!!!!!! Unlike the esteemed Mr. Bond, I’m “shaken, yet stirred.” “Toto, We’re home …. We’re Home.”

(4) SFWA’S COPYRIGHT OFFICE RESPONSE. Following up SFWA’s October 30th comments to the Copyright Office, they had the opportunity to respond to some of the many other comments received. With over 9,000 responses, SFWA “focused on specific aspects of the conversation around fair use that we felt were not given due attention, as well as to raise concerns that are unique to our community.” Their 10-page response document can be downloaded from Regulations.gov at the link.

One topic SFWA discussed is the scraping of content that is offered free to readers by online sff magazines.

…SFWA acknowledges the problem of generative AI scraping pirated material published as copy-protected ebooks by professional publishers, but SFWA additionally has the unique position of representing many authors who have fought to make their work available for free for human readers. Over the last twenty years, many science fiction and fantasy authors of short fiction have embraced the open Internet, believing that it is good for society and for a flourishing culture that art be available to their fellow human beings regardless of ability to pay. That availability is not without cost; it is quite difficult to bring an online magazine to market, and being freely available has never meant abandoning the moral and legal rights of the authors, nor the obligation to enter into legal contracts to compensate authors for their work and spell out how it may and may not be used. But on balance, many writers and fans believe that freely sharing stories is a good thing that enriches us all.

The current content-scraping regime preys on that good-faith sharing of art as a connection between human minds and the hard work of building a common culture. The decision to publish creative work online to read and share for free is not guaranteed; it is a trade-off of many factors including piracy, audience, and the simple (albeit elusive) ability to make a living. In too many comments to enumerate here, individual authors have made clear that they regard the use of their work for training AI to be another important factor in that mix, and the ultimate effect on the short fiction marketplace and its role in our culture is far from certain. Bluntly, many authors do not want their work taken for this purpose, and that cannot be ignored.

“If my work is just going to get stolen, and if some company’s shareholders are going to get the benefit of my labor and skill without compensating me, I see no reason to continue sharing my work with the public — and a lot of other artists will make the same choice.” (N. K. Jemisin, COLC-2023-0006- 0521)

The developers of AI systems seem to believe that a green light to use scraped copyrighted work will result in a clear field for them to continue freeloading forever; we fear rather that it will result in large swathes of artistic work removed from the commons, locked behind paywalls and passwords to the detriment of all….

(5) AURORA AWARDS. [Item by Danny Sichel.] The Eligibility Lists for this year’s Aurora Awards are open. If you’re aware of any genre work produced by Canadians, submit it. (CSFFA membership required — $10 – to make an addition to the lists.)

(6) WESTERCON 2025 UP FOR ADOPTION. Kevin Standlee announced a “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2025 Westercon” at Westercon.org.

Because no bid filed to host Westercon 77, selection of the site of the 2025 Westercon devolved upon the 2023 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 75 (in conjunction with Loscon 49) in Los Angeles on November 25, 2023. The Westercon 75 Business Meeting voted to award Westercon 77 to a “Caretaker Committee” consisting of Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Vice Chair Lisa Hayes with the understanding that they would attempt to select a site and committee to run Westercon 77 and transfer the convention to that committee.

Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75. There are no other restrictions other than the bid has to be for dates in calendar year 2025. All other restrictions in the Westercon Bylaws are suspended, per section 3.16 of the Westercon Bylaws.

To submit a bid to the 2025 Caretaker Committee to host Westercon 77, contact Kevin Standlee at [email protected], or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee. The Caretaker Committee asks that groups interested in hosting Westercon 77 contact them by the end of February 2024.

Should the Caretaker Committee be unable to make a determination for a site for Westercon 77 by Westercon 76 in Salt Lake City (July 4-7, 2024), and assuming that no bid files to host Westercon 77, the Caretaker Committee will ask the Business Meeting of Westercon 76 for additional guidance on how to handle Westercon Site Selection.

(7) MOVING FORWARD – AT OLD MAN SPEED. Tor.com notified those not reading Bluesky that “Netflix’s Adaptation of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War Is Still In The Works”.

We first found out that Netflix optioned the rights to John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War over six years ago, back in December 2017. It’s not uncommon for things to get optioned but never get made (Old Man’s War, in fact, had been previously optioned by Paramount and Syfy without making it to the production stage), but it sounds like the Netflix movie adaptation is still moving forward.

Scalzi gave an update on the project over on Bluesky yesterday, where he said that work on it is “slowly but surely moving along.”…

(8) COPPOLA’S NEXT APOCALYPSE. Another long-awaited sff project finished filming last year and should actually get released sometime: “Francis Ford Coppola Says ‘Megalopolis’ Is Coming Soon” at Collider.

Francis Ford Coppola is renowned as the mastermind behind some of the greatest pieces of cinema in history but as all legends do, he refuses to rest on his laurels and he’s preparing to release his first film in over a decade with his self-funded star-studded sci-fi drama, Megalopolis. The film has been mired by a number of setbacks, but filming wrapped on the project back in March. And now, we won’t have much longer to wait for it to arrive, as Coppola revealed on the latest episode of The Accutron Show.

The film has an eye-watering array of talent attached, including Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Chloe Fineman, Kathryn Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, DB Sweeney, Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman, Bailey Ives, Grace Vanderwaal, James Remar, and Giancarlo Esposito.

All that’s known so far about the film so far is that it has a futuristic setting and that it will revolve around the idea of humanity attempting to build some sort of utopian society in the wake of a natural disaster. Other than that, it’s anybody’s guess, and Coppola isn’t up for explaining more quite yet.

(9) WAS THIS THE BEST SF OF 2023? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Every January the SF2 Concatenation have an informal survey as to the best SF novels and films of the previous year. It is strictly informal and a bit of fun, enabling team members see what more than one of the others rate. The years have shown that this informal survey has form in that invariably some of the chosen works go on to be short-listed, and sometimes even win, major SF awards later in the year. SF² Concatenation have just advance-posted their selection for 2023 as part of the “Best Science Fiction of the Year Possibly?” post. Scroll down to see how previous years’ choices fared…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. (Died 1978.) So let’s talk about the British writer Eric Frank Russell. His first published piece of fiction was in the first issue of Tales of Wonder called “The Prr-r-eet” (1937). (Please don’t tell me it was about cats.) He also had a letter of comment in Astounding Stories that year. He wrote a lot of such comments down the years. 

Eric Frank Russell

Just two years later, his first novel, Sinister Barrier, would be published as the cover story as the first issue of Unknown. His second novel, Dreadful Sanctuary, would be serialized in AstoundingUnknown’s sister periodical, in 1948.

At Clevention, “Allamagoosa” would win a Short Story Hugo.  The Great Explosion novel garnered  a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

Now let’s note some reworkings he did as I like them a lot. Men, Martians and Machines published in 1955 is four related novellas of space adventures at their very best. 

The 1956 Three to Conquer, nominated for a Hugo at NY Con II is a reworking of the earlier Call Him Dead magazine serial that deals with an alien telepath and very well at that. Finally Next of Kin, also known as The Space Willies, shows him being comic, something he does oh so well. It was a novella-length work in Astounding first.

And then there’s the Design for Great-Day novel which was written by Alan Dean Foster. It’s an expansion by him based off a 1953 short story of the same name by Russell. I’m pretty familiar with Foster has done but this isn’t ringing even the faintest of bells. Who’s read it? 

He wrote an extraordinary amount of short stories, around seventy by my guess. 

(My head trauma means numbers and I have at best a tenuous relationship. I once counted the turkeys left over after we distributed them at a food pantry I staffed pre-knee injury. Three times I counted. I got, if I remember correctly now, twelve, fifteen and eighteen birds. I had someone else do it.)

Short Stories Collection is the only one available at the usual suspects. He’s an author who needs a definitive short story collection done for him. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows there are always lines.
  • Edith Pritchett’s cartoon for the Guardian recalls how “I climbed the tube station steps and entered another dimension.” Steven French adds, “Of marginal genre interest but having walked up those steps, this made me laugh!”

(12) PIONEERING WOMAN COMICS ARTIST RETIRES. BoingBoing pays tribute as “Aquaman, Metamorpho, and Brenda Starr cartoonist Ramona Fradon retires”.

Famed cartoonist Ramona Fradon is retiring at the age of 97, according to a January 3 announcement from her comic art dealer Catskill Comics….

An extremely long run, indeed. Her comic book career started in 1950, and her career highlights include a 1959 revamp and long run on Aquaman, the co-creation of DC’s offbeat superhero Metamorpho with writer Bob Haney in 1965, a run on Super Friends in the 1970s, and the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter from 1980-1995.

She also was a pioneer, as one of the only women working in comics during the first decades of her career.

Cartoonist and curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco Andrew Farago wrote on BlueSky, “Ramona Fradon retires today at the age of 97, just a little shy of Al Jaffee’s retirement age of 99. Not sure if that means that cartooning keeps you young or if it just means that cartooning keeps you broke, but what a body of work she’s produced over the past eight decades!”…

(13) WHAT THEY WILL READ IN 2024. “’I want some light in my life’: eight writers make their new year reading resolutions “ – the Guardian’s collection of quotes includes a declaration from Sheena Patel.

‘I’m turning to sci-fi and dystopia’
Sheena Patel

I have a fascination with sci-fi that is purely theoretical. I often think about reading it but never make any attempt to go near such books because I am afraid of the imagination I will find there. Perhaps I haven’t felt I can really access the genre because sci-fi feels like what Black and Brown people can go through on a daily basis. We’re still in an age of empire, even though we are distracted from this knowledge.

I do love sci-fi films though. I had a true epiphany when I saw Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin at the cinema. It was so strange, the alien mixed with the mundane, documentary spliced with fantastical set pieces. Next year I think I will read the Michel Faber book from which the movie was adapted.

In 2024 I also want to tackle Frank Herbert’s Dune books. Earlier this year, I watched the film on my laptop maybe 50 times. At first, I hated it, but then I totally fell in love with it – the visual representation of different worlds opened my mind. Throat singing and nomadic desert tribes could be used as a mood board for the future, but this is already happening now in communities that are regarded as “primitive”. It is the future because it is eternal – such a beautiful thought.

We are fed so much dystopia that reading it in fiction feels hard – but, as the world burns, maybe it is a good idea to hear from artists about where we might be heading. So the other three titles I will try are classics: Octavia E Butler’s KindredStanisław Lem’s Solaris and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin. The present feels so bleak, and our vision of the future so foreshortened, it almost seems like tempting fate – but, without science fiction, how can we dream?

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel is published in paperback by Granta

(14) HOOFING IT TO MOUNT DOOM. They say “One does not simply walk into Mordor,” but apparently they exaggerated. The Conqueror Virtual Challenges is a thematic program to encourage you to exercise by walking, running, and biking, with solo variations costing from $49.95 to bundles costing $299.95 and up. This link takes you to All 8 LOTR Conqueror Virtual Challenges.

Follow Frodo and Aragorn on an epic journey across Middle-earth with the ULTIMATE THE LORD OF THE RINGS Virtual Challenge Series.

Walk, run or cycle all the way from The Shire to Mount Doom in an epic adventure with one goal – destroying the One Ring. Complete this unforgettable saga by following Aragorn into battle and restoring peace to Middle-earth.

(15) CITY OF HEROES. “11 years after this cult classic superhero MMO was shut down, the original publisher has given its blessing to the community’s custom servers” reports GamesRadar+.

Despite the shutdown of the beloved superhero MMO City of Heroes over a decade ago, fans have been keeping it alive for years with a variety of custom server efforts. Now, one of those projects has just gotten the blessing of the game’s original publisher and license holder, NCSoft.

City of Heroes: Homecoming made the surprising announcement earlier today that “Homecoming has been granted a license to operate a City of Heroes server and further develop the game – subject to conditions and limitations under the contract.” The Homecoming project will remain free and donation-funded, and while there are a few changes to how the project is being managed, it doesn’t look like players will see any meaningful differences in the game itself.

“NCSoft has always had (and will continue to have) the right to demand that Homecoming shuts down,” as the announcement notes. “This agreement provides a framework under which Homecoming can operate the game in a way that complies with NCSoft’s wishes in hopes of minimizing the chances of that happening. We’ve had a really positive and productive relationship with NCSoft for over four years now, so we do not anticipate there being any issues.”…

…The question mark that currently weighs over the license for Homecoming is what this means for other custom server projects, like City of Heroes Rebirth. Today’s announcement notes that “other servers are out of scope” for this license, and the devs say that “our hope is that our license will help us consolidate our userbase with City of Heroes fans from other servers.” There’s already a bit of fear in the community that other private servers might start to disappear following this news, but only time will tell what will happen on that front….

(16) RECORDS BROKEN. Gizmodo tells why “Doctor Who’s New Streaming Home Has Been a Huge Success” – that is, for viewers who can accesss the BBC platform.

To celebrate Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary last year, the BBC made a huge, unprecedented move: for the first time, almost the entirety of Doctor Who, from episodes from 1963 all the way up to the then-airing anniversary specials, would be made available to stream in the UK in one place, on the BBC’s own streaming platform iPlayer. And it turns out doing so has helped the BBC break streaming records over the festive period.

The corporation has announced that Doctor Who—and most specifically Doctor Who episodes from 2005 onwards—were streamed 10.01 million times over the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, helping the platform break a previous record for streamed content for the week between January 2 and January 8, 2023, with 177 million programs being streamed in total….

It’s hard to say just how that success has panned out internationally, however. The BBC’s new deal with Disney to stream Doctor Who on Disney+ everywhere but the UK and Ireland only covers new episodes from the 60th anniversary onwards—other contemporary and classic Doctor Who access is spread out on various platforms elsewhere, such as Britbox for classic Doctor Who and Max for post-2005 Doctor Who.

(17) MY BLUE HEAVEN(S). [Item by Mike Kennedy.] So you know how astronomers are always using false color images to show this detail or that detail or what something would look like if it was only in the visible spectrum or some such? well, those can leave lasting misimpression.

New images showing color-corrected true-color likenesses of Uranus and Neptune show the latter ice giant—rather than being a dark blue—is only slightly darker than the former.  “True blue: Neptune only slightly deeper colour than Uranus, say Oxford scientists” in the Guardian.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Kevin Standlee, Kathy Sullivan, Danny Sichel, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Thomas the Red.]

Sinatra: All The Way

Steve Vertlieb and poster of Frank Sinatra.

By Steve Vertlieb: This is a love story, as wondrous, tender, and affectionate as any that you’ll ever read.  In the current vernacular, it might be referred to as a “bromance,” the non-romantic affection for one man by another. For, in all my life, I have never felt the adoration for another human soul…beyond my brother, my parents, and my beloved girlfriend, Shelly, that I have felt for more than half a century for a man called Sinatra. 

Music and films have, I imagine, played an integral role in my life from my earliest memories, perhaps as early as 1950 when I was but four years old.  We got our first television set that year and, from the moment that the magical square box came to life, I would be permanently and adoringly enchanted and entranced by the sights and sounds that came lovingly from its intimate screen and speakers. 

In my early youth, my mom and dad would take me to the movies, either at our premiere local movie house, The Benner Theater or, during more sophisticated journeys beyond the realm of the Oxford Circle in Northeast Philadelphia, to Philadelphia’s first-run downtown theaters such as The Mastbaum, The Stanley, The Boyd, The Fox, The Randolph, The Stanton, or The Arcadia.  My dad would always take me to see adventure movies such as Ivanhoe with Robert Taylor, The Searchers with John Wayne, or Mogambo with Clark Gable.  My mom, on the other hand, would escort me to the big musicals of the time such as Annie Get Your Gun with Betty Hutton and Howard Keel, The Bandwagon, with Fred Astaire, and a little musical opus from the pen of Cole Porter called High Society.  It was during a screening of the latter motion picture that I first encountered Frank Sinatra on the big screen in 1956.

Now, to be candid, my singular man crush of the period was with Bing Crosby.  I discovered at the tender age of ten or younger that I’d developed a reasonably good romantic singing voice, and that I aspired to follow in the theatrical footsteps of Harry Lillis Crosby (“Bing” to you) when I grew into manhood.  I only had eyes for Bing at the time, and had little interest in an upstart named Sinatra.  My cousin Marsha had developed something of a teen crush on Frank, but the purity of my ten-year-old “vision” would only allow for the more traditional warbling of “the old groaner.”

I had first encountered the enigma called Sinatra a year earlier during a “live” television broadcast of Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town.  The highly publicized and significant tv production was to be aired in “Living Color” on NBC.  The famous story was given a new wrinkle for television.  It was to be an entirely new and original musical production with words and music written expressly for the show by the popular composing team of Sammy Cahn and James (Jimmy) Van Heusen.  Cahn and Van Heusen had become Sinatra’s composers of choice, and their tunes for the program went on to achieve their own “star” status on America’s Hit Parade.  Van Heusen, whose real name was Chester Babcock and who took his stage name from his favorite shirt, was often spoofed by friend Bob Hope when the comedian used the song writer’s real name as his character name in some of the Crosby and Hope “Road” pictures for Paramount. 

Our Town premiered as a part of the “Producer’s Showcase” series on September 19, 1955, and featured Paul Newman as George, Eva Marie Saint as Emily, and Frank Sinatra as “The Stage Manager.” The program contains the only known visual record of Paul Newman singing. Network news commentators and personality hosts all stood gleefully in line to extract interviews from the cast and, in particular, from Frank Sinatra whose recently revitalized career offered him the rare opportunity to introduce four new songs for the production.  These included the title song from the production, “Our Town,” as well as newly realized Sinatra standards such as “Look To Your Heart,” “The Impatient Years,” and the program’s mega hit tune, “Love and Marriage.” The color elements of the original program seem to have been lost over the ensuing years, but a fine black and white “kinescope” survives, and attests to the still poignant drama of this unique interlude in early television history and development.

Now, I’d seen the coming attractions at The Benner Theater for a new film biography “Coming Soon,” and decided in 1957 to go see The Joker Is Wild starring Frank Sinatra as comedian Joe E. Lewis.  It was a wonderful experience which further intoxicated my growing dreams of pursuing a show business career as a singer, further reinforced by Sinatra’s screen performance of a new Cahn and Van Heusen song called “All The Way.”  The film had originally been produced as All The Way, which must have exasperated Cahn and Van Heusen when their carefully fashioned title tune was sung for a film now titled The Joker Is Wild.  Nevertheless, that song would come to play an important role in the transition of my own musical tastes.

Wedged somewhere between my growth from childhood to maturity came a transitional period often referred to as one’s teenage years.  It was during this often troubling period that I came to fall in love with the voice of a young folk/rock singer named Jimmie Rodgers.  I had left Crosby behind, and was purchasing every recording I could find by Rodgers.  “Honeycomb,” “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” and “Oh-Oh, I’m Fallin’ In Love Again” became my favorite songs of this era, and I played them quite literally until the grooves on the recordings had been worn to dust.  I was the singer’s biggest fan from 1957 until somewhere midway through 1960 when a curious thing happened.  I was fourteen years old.  I became aware of politics for the first time, adored Jack Kennedy and Camelot, and wistfully longed for adulthood to consume me.  I was conspicuously aware of searching for more evolved, mature role models.  As an aspiring singer, I began looking for a new musical influence from which to pattern my own vocal development.  In the back of my ever curious, expanding mind and experience, I heard once again the rich, warm, deep strains of “All The Way,” as interpreted by Frank Sinatra.  The “single” of the recording was the first record I’d ever purchased as a determined young eleven-year-old, transitioning to adulthood in 1957.  That record came back to haunt me in the Fall of 1960, and would come to have a profound effect on the meaning and direction of my subsequent life.

One of the first record albums I ever purchased, after Johnny’s Greatest Hits by Johnny Mathis, and Music From One Step Beyond by Harry Lubin, was This Is Sinatra, followed quickly by This Is Sinatra Volume Two.  I’d borrow a little portable record player each weekend from my neighbor, Art Soren, and play these Sinatra recordings over and over again throughout these now interminable weekends for my parents.  That was it.  I was in love.  I wanted to BE Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra’s friendship with Jack Kennedy only served to solidify my connection with the artist.  As for the singer’s validity and credentials as an actor in the motion picture community, these early years in which my cinematic and musical tastes were rapidly developing became integral to my adult years as a writer.  I was growing ever more serious, both about my adoration of Sinatra and the career path that would subsequently guide the direction and meaning of my life.  This, then, was no simple “idol” chatter.

Of Sinatra’s progression from the bobby sox idol of his day to a motion picture star, his evolution was alternately maddening and unforgettable.  It seemed inevitable that the crooning recording artist, first for Harry James and then for Tommy Dorsey, would eventually wind up appearing on movie screens across America.  How to cast the youthful singer, however, became problematic, as his squeaky clean image with drooling teenage girls allowed for little more than fluff appearances in those early war-related years. 

His first appearance came in 1941 with a minor effort produced by Paramount entitled Las Vegas Nights.  This decidedly less-than-stellar endeavor remains notable only for its inclusion of an appearance by the Tommy Dorsey band, and its fledgling male vocalist singing Ruth Lowe’s classic lament for a woman who had lost her husband to war, “I’ll Never Smile Again.”  MGM’s Ship Ahoy followed a year later in 1942 as a thoroughly innocuous musical for dancer Eleanor Powell, and comedian Red Skelton. Tommy Dorsey and his band appeared once again, accompanied by an ambitious crooner named Sinatra who would sing “The Last Call For Love,” and “Poor You.”  Moving over to Columbia Pictures in 1943, Sinatra would perform a single tune, but what a tune.  Sans the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, he sings Cole Porter’s “Night And Day” for an otherwise forgotten Ann Miller vehicle titled Reveille With Beverly. Later the same year, Sinatra would co-star with Michele Morgan and Jack Haley in his first somewhat “starring” screen role in Higher And Higher (which he would later refer to as “Lower And Lower”), an ineffectual musical “comedy” produced for RKO.  He plays a boy-next-door type who, not surprisingly, is actually Frank Sinatra.  He loses the girl to “the tin man,” but virtually steals the show when crooning “I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night,” and “This Is A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening.”  In one memorable sequence, he sings standing by a piano played by Rick Blaine’s Casablanca accompanist, Dooley Wilson.  RKO managed to step lively when preparing their star’s next screen fling, Step Lively, co-starring Gloria De Haven and future United States Senator George Murphy.  As innocuous as its predecessor, the more white than black comedy featured Sinatra as a young country bumpkin aspiring to conquer Broadway as a budding playwright.  The music, however, overwhelmingly steals the show as Sinatra’s stunning interpretation of “As Long As There’s Music” dominates the picture’s legacy.

It was only natural, and clearly inevitable, that Sinatra would soon move over to the reigning bastion of musical comedies, Metro Goldwyn Mayer and, in 1945, the studio released its blockbuster extravaganza, Anchors Aweigh starring Sinatra, along with his new partners, Kathryn Grayson and Gene Kelly.  While no more sophisticated in his characterizations than in his previous roles, Sinatra had dramatically grown in importance to Tinseltown, earning a coveted starring role in a huge MGM musical featuring outstanding production values, and memorable songs.  Adding his usual class to the presentation was the incomparable classical conductor Jose Iturbi who was, in his own right, becoming a highly dignified staple of the MGM musicals.  It is Gene Kelly, however, who steals the show in his immortal dance duet with Jerry The Mouse from the Tom and Jerry cartoons.  Sinatra’s defining moment in the cherished musical comes with his tender performance of “I Fall In Love Too Easily” by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn.  The film was helmed by George Sidney who would direct a decidedly different, far more artistically developed Sinatra a mere twelve years later in Pal Joey for Columbia. 

RKO would produce, perhaps, the most influential and important Sinatra film of the decade later in 1945. The House I Live In, written by blacklisted writer Albert Maltz (one of the celebrated “Hollywood Ten” accused by Senator Joseph McCarthy), and directed by Mervyn LeRoy, was a powerful ten-minute short focusing on racial intolerance in America in which Sinatra, playing himself, records in a studio, blithely unaware of the street kids in the adjoining alley terrorizing another boy from a different ethnic background.  Sinatra’s heartfelt plea to the youngsters for love and tolerance won the singer and the film a special Academy Award.  Sinatra, known even then for his liberal politics, had been visiting area high schools preaching racial acceptance and harmony.  These caring, selfless acts on the part of the singer prompted the studio to produce its celebrated, Oscar winning short film.  Performing with arranger/conductor Axel Stordahl, Sinatra sings “If You Are But A Dream,” and the stunning title anthem by Earl Robinson and Lewis Allan.

In 1946, MGM produced one of their most lavish and respected musicals. Till The Clouds Roll By, inspired by the life and music of composer Jerome Kern, featured a vast ensemble of the studio’s musical contract players in separate set pieces and production numbers, including Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Kathryn Grayson, Van Johnson, June Allyson, and Dinah Shore.  The film’s climactic masterpiece, however, remains the brilliant performance by Frank Sinatra, dressed in a stunning white tuxedo, echoing the pain of millions, in a spectacular rendition of Kern’s superb “Old Man River” from Show Boat.

Sinatra’s next starring vehicle for MGM would be the delightful It Happened In Brooklyn, released by the studio in 1947, pairing Sinatra once more with Kathryn Grayson, along with Jimmy Durante and his later Rat Pack pal, Peter Lawford.  Two army buddies, stationed in England, return to the United States at the conclusion of the Second World War, and vie for the attentions of the proverbial girl next door.  Naïve, but utterly charming, the Sinatra vocals include “Time After Time,” “I Believe,” “It’s The Same Old Dream” and, in a memorable duet with Durante in which Sinatra wonderfully emulates the elder statesman of comedy, “The Song’s Gotta Come From The Heart.”

Sensing the need to expand his artistic horizons, Sinatra took a gamble with his next picture, playing his first somewhat dramatic part in RKO’s tale of faith and spiritual miracles. The Miracle of the Bells, a deeply moving story of a young actress whose untimely death precedes the opening of her first starring role in a film about Joan of Arc, premiered in 1948. Fred MacMurray stars as a hungry studio publicist trying to keep the producers from shelving the picture after the death of its star.  Alida Valli (The Third Man) stars as Olga Treskovna, the film’s ill-fated star, along with Lee J. Cobb as Marcus Harris, the conflicted studio head trying to save his studio.  Sinatra appears in a brief, but pivotal and moving performance as Father Paul, the young parish priest whose small Coaltown, Pennsylvania church has been chosen as the location of Olga’s final farewell.  Sinatra sings the deeply moving “Ever Homeward,” written by Kasimierz Lubomirski, along with Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn.

MGM’s The Kissing Bandit, released in 1948, found the crooner adrift once more in a likeable, if sappy variation of The Pirate in which Gene Kelly was mistaken as a notorious buccaneer.  Sinatra, a milquetoast business school graduate from Boston, finds himself in old California where he impersonates a kissing bandido in a gang once run by his late father.  The film, while colorful and entertaining, has been acknowledged by Sinatra as the least favorite of his various screen roles (together with his performance as Miguel in The Pride and The Passion.  The exquisite Kathryn Grayson co-starred once again as his romantic lead.

Take Me Out To The Ball Game from MGM in 1949 was the second and, perhaps, the weakest of the Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly musical collaborations, featuring the pair of unlikely sports figures, playing both baseball and vaudeville while simultaneously wooing Esther Williams and Betty Garrett.  To Sinatra’s credit, the singer underwent punishing dance steps and routines under the supervision of Kelly in both this film, as well as their earlier collaboration, Anchors Aweigh, and emerged a highly professional dance partner for the more remarkably skilled hoofer.  Their next collaboration, however, would become the most memorable of their three dance films together.

On The Town, produced by MGM in 1949, directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, with music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics (as well as screenplay) by Betty Comden and Adolph Green became the first musical film ever to shoot on actual locations, rather than indoor stages and sets, in the city of New York.  The city, its streets, subways, skyscrapers and bustling landscape were as much the stars and personality of the beloved musical as were its human protagonists.  New York, with its exuberance, excitement, and pulsating electricity, provided the vibrant backdrop and story of three sailors on leave in Manhattan who discover romance, music, and adventure along Rockefeller Center and The Great White Way.  The incomparable vitality of Kelly and Donen’s direction and choreography, together with spirited live on location performances by Kelly, Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett, radiant Vera Ellen as the ever elusive “Miss Turnstiles,” the music of Leonard Bernstein, and the shattering steel and chrome exhilaration of the world’s greatest city, joyfully combined to create a truly one of a kind motion picture musical experience.

RKO’s embarrassing Double Dynamite co-starring Jane Russell and Groucho Marx followed in 1951, nearly ending the long careers of each of its players, but Sinatra’s next performance, though largely forgotten today, would powerfully shape the dramatic career path and stature of its star for virtually the remainder of his life. 

Frank Sinatra was going through the worst period of his life.  He had grown beyond the adoration of his one-time bobby soxer fans. MGM had tired of his seeming one-dimensional screen persona, although they had helped to fashion and perpetuate it…and, while trying desperately to resuscitate his singing career, his vocal chords had hemorrhaged, leaving him to wonder if he’d ever sing again. His cronies, sensing the end of his career, deserted him and wouldn’t pick up the phone to take his calls.  With professional medical care and prescribed rest, the voice eventually returned, but Sinatra remained a professional hot potato in Hollywood. 

Meet Danny Wilson, released in 1951 by Universal International Pictures, should have changed the singer’s fortunes but, astonishingly, it didn’t.  As Danny Wilson, Sinatra plays a brash, hip performer with ties to the mob.  This was not the Sinatra of old but, rather, a self-assured, dramatic powerhouse whose explosive acting and mature vocals set the stage for virtually everything that would establish his familiar persona in years to come.  The baby fat, both physically and vocally, had disappeared, replaced by a lean and confident cocoon preparing to give birth to the most remarkable singer of the Twentieth Century.  Sadly, neither the film’s budget nor cast prompted anything more than unremarkable “B” film reviews. Directed by Joseph Pevney, with an original screen play by Don McGuire, Meet Danny Wilson introduced a brand new, revitalized Sinatra to an audience that simply didn’t care.  Had audiences gone to see this little film with overpowering aspirations, it might not have taken another two years for Sinatra to return to the top.

While traveling with then wife Ava Gardner for location shooting in Africa, Sinatra seemed out of place and uncomfortable.  He was simply along for the ride.  Gardner was starring with Clark Gable and Grace Kelly in John Ford’s remake of an earlier Clark Gable vehicle, Red Dust.  For Mogambo, Gardner was playing the role earlier essayed by Jean Harlow in the MGM 1932 original.  A novel by writer James Jones was being prepped for filming back in the states, and its casting was the hottest ticket in Hollywood.  From Here To Eternity had taken the country by storm, and director Fred Zinnman was busily searching for the actors who would grace the most highly anticipated film in years. The bestselling novel concerned the tumultuous lives of army personnel in Hawaii prior to the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. Among the characters populating James Jones’ novel was a hot headed, arrogant little Italian private named Angelo Maggio.  Sinatra read the novel, and identified so strongly with the character of Maggio that winning that role in the film had obsessed him.  He believed that he WAS Maggio, and that no one else could play the part.  Zinnman wanted no part of him, but Sinatra persuaded Gardner to talk to Harry Cohn, the Columbia Pictures studio head who had wisely purchased the rights to film the novel.  To virtually everyone’s astonishment, Sinatra’s screen test won him the role and what followed became the stuff of cinema legend.  Sinatra became Private Maggio.  He ate, slept, and breathed the characterization.  In the film’s pivotal scene, Sinatra is brutalized by Ernest Borgnine in the company brig.  He escapes imprisonment in the back of an army truck, only to fall out of the vehicle and bounce cruelly along the darkened road.  He crawls in agony to his friends (Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster) where he dies in Clift’s arms.  That performance and, in particular, that sequence won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor of the year.  Suddenly, everyone in town was looking at him with new eyes.  Those who had written him off and forgotten him were now knocking at his door, begging for his attention.  He was back.  Sinatra had returned, and he would become bigger than ever.

Hungry for meatier roles, along with a desire to effectively immolate his former screen persona, Sinatra next enacted one of his most frightening performances and, indeed, one of the most chilling performances in cinema history…that of the psychotic assassin John Baron in Suddenly.  Released in 1954 through United Artists, and directed by Lewis Allen (The Univited), Sinatra plays a vicious killer for hire who, with his lethal associates, arrives in the innocuous California community of Suddenly, where he toys sadistically with conservative, old world ideals and balances while meticulously plotting to kill the President of the United States whose train is scheduled to stop in the quiet suburban community.  America, in the middle 1950’s, still reeling from the subversive shock of war in which its traditional values and morality were challenged and nearly decimated by Hitler and his conquering armies, has returned to the complacency and isolationism inherent in world weary societies, tired of war and seared by pain.  Its citizens ache for the simplicity of an idealistic culture painfully absent from the imposing international landscape.  Into this hedonistic plateau arrives a cold-blooded assassin whose narcissism explodes in ranging contempt for the human Ostrich community refusing to lift up its collective head from the sand.  Baron, too, has been irrevocably scarred by the brutal reality that no man or country is an island unto himself, but his insecurity and fear have been manifested in aggression, suspicion and the seething hatred of an animal cornered in ever diminishing space.  His ugly contempt for humanity shocks his hostages into seizing once more their emasculated strength, embracing their beliefs, and standing firm in the face of fear.  Their unity defeats Baron, exposing his naked cowardice and callous contempt for peace.  Sinatra delivers a fiercely frightening performance as a wounded psychotic, a coward with a gun, finally crumbling in both humiliating and numbingly terrified defeat.  Standing against him in accumulated courage and resolve are Sterling Hayden, James Gleason, Paul Frees (War of the Worlds and The Thing From Another World) and Nancy Gates who would appear once again with Sinatra four years later as Arthur Kennedy’s mistress in Some Came Running.

Young At Heart, released by Warner Bros in 1955, was based upon Fanny Hurst’s “Sister Act,” which had been filmed previously by the studio as Four Daughters.  Sinatra plays “stumble bum Barney Sloan,” a talented song writer plagued by torturous doubt and self defeating insecurities whose insertion into a traditional middle America family wreaks havoc upon their naïve confidence and values.  His edgy, conflicted performance as a ”victim” of bad breaks and circumstances beyond his comprehension, echoes perfectly the cynical interpretation of a talented “loser” earlier enacted by John Garfield in the original production.  Doris Day is the uncomplicated “girl next door” he falls in love with and who, ultimately, saves him from his personal demons. Sinatra escapes the fate rendered Garfield at the sad conclusion of the original version, although his performance is every bit as edgy and emotionally vulnerable.  The film gives both stars an opportunity to shine musically, and Sinatra delivers definitive, unforgettable performances of “One For My Baby, “Just One Of Those Things,” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” the haunting “You My Love” (in his single screen duet with Day), and the hit title theme, “Young At Heart.”

Sinatra next essayed the role of an amusingly cynical young doctor in Stanley Kramer’s ensemble directed Not As A Stranger (United Artists, 1955), based upon the bestselling novel by Morton Thompson, with a screenplay by Edward and Edna Anhalt.  A young, idealistic doctor (Robert Mitchum) nobly climbs the medical ladder of success, sacrificing all human interaction to the aspirations of his clinical beliefs, realizing nearly too late that the frailty of human emotion is as essential a component as medical knowledge in healing the sick.  With an all-star cast, including Mitchum, Olivia DeHavilland, Charles Bickford, Sinatra, Lee Marvin, Broderick Crawford, and Lon Chaney, Jr as Mitchum’s alcoholic father, the film is interesting but, ultimately, flawed as Mitchum’s lead character is written and portrayed as an entirely unsympathetic son of a bitch, failing virtually everyone whose love and support he callously abandons and betrays in the name of blind ambition.

MGM’s The Tender Trap, released in 1955, is an innocuous bit of sexist fluff based upon a Broadway play by Max Shulman, the celebrated creator of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.  Sinatra stars this time as theatrical agent Charlie Reader, a womanizing bachelor romancing multiple secretaries and starlets until he meets Julie Gillis (no relation to Dobie), charmingly portrayed by Debbie Reynolds. David Wayne appears as his best friend, frustrated by the perceived restrictions of a perfect marriage, and longing to emulate his swinging pal.  The wonderfully sophisticated Celeste Holm plays Sinatra’s wise, if ultimately jilted girlfriend of convenience.  Predictably scripted, The Tender Trap offers comparatively little in the way of originality.  Its surviving strength is in its remarkably memorable opening and closing sequences, particularly the former, in which Sinatra emerges from the distance on an empty, barely camouflaged soundstage, adorned in his signature sports jacket and designer hat, swaying persuasively in rhythmic, self-assured confidence as he flirts mesmerizingly with the camera while singing “Love Is The Tender Trap”.  The musically evocative, sexually intoxicating introduction to an otherwise unimaginative bedroom farce, remains both the film’s and its star’s character defining moment of the decade.

Samuel Goldwyn’s lavish Technicolor production of the Broadway smash Guys and Dolls, released the same year, is an ambitious, if slavishly stage bound version of the Abe Burrows hit (based upon “The Idyll Of Miss Sarah Brown” by Damon Runyon) musical with memorable songs by Frank Loesser.  Unimaginatively directed by the usually gifted Joseph L. Mankiewicz, this colorful  screen translation seemed mis-guided and miscast by period star value, rather than genuine musical talent.  Starring the superb Marlon Brando in one of his oddly ineffectual early performances, the otherwise astonishing actor plays the lead role of Sky Masterson in a musically impotent interpretation that begs credibility. Playing the second banana role of ultimate “stooge,” Nathan Detroit, is Sinatra who, at this stage of his re-emerging career, should have played the lead. Sinatra is said to have referred to Brando during the production of the film as “mumbles,” while the method actor delivers a nearly catastrophic performance of the show’s most memorable tune, “Luck Be A Lady.”  Guys and Dolls is remembered more as a curiosity, sadly, than as a successful screen visualization of a classic Broadway show.

Sinatra would fare significantly better in his next film, Otto Preminger’s explosive production of Nelson Algren’s novel, The Man with the Golden Arm.  Released in 1955 by United Artists, Sinatra’s title role in this unflinching look at the world of drug addiction was one of the first American films to explore the raw underbelly of substance abuse.  Still shocking today, the film was revelatory and unimaginably horrifying upon its controversial release in the mid-Nineteen-Fifties.  With a pounding, electrifying jazz score by composer Elmer Bernstein, Sinatra’s stunning performance as a “dealer” of cards in backroom games and marathon betting sessions won him another Oscar nomination for Best Actor.  Sinatra visited a variety of drug rehabs and sanitariums while researching the part, witnessing firsthand the horrors of drug addiction.  It was an experience that would haunt him in years to come, nearly severing his long friendship with Sammy Davis, Jr., when the gifted performer briefly succumbed to the drug culture of the Sixties.  Sinatra’s performance in a key sequence in which Frankie Machine is locked in a room, forced to go “cold Turkey” in order to kick his addiction alone, writhing and screaming in physical torment on the floor, is nearly unwatchable even by modern standards in its violent ferocity and realism.  Kim Novak co-stars with Sinatra as an understanding neighbor secretly in love with dealer, while deservedly acclaimed actress Eleanor Parker is a revelation as his sick, manipulative wife.  The role would become the defining dramatic performance of Sinatra’s screen rebirth.

His next starring role would find Sinatra in a courageous performance as a young coward in one of the first Freudian westerns, the failed yet ambitious story of Johnny Concho.  Released by United Artists in 1956, the complex tale concerned a bully riding on the reputation of his gunslinger brother, until his infamous sibling is killed in an armed confrontation, and Johnny is left exposed and vulnerable.  Naked and ridiculed by the community he once lorded over, the young sibling must prove to the town and his girl that, in the face of avenging brutality by gunslingers and bandits overriding the quiet community, he is a man.  The score by Nelson Riddle is subtle, yet effective, producing the single “Wait For Me,” a brooding, evocative hit for the singer.

His next film, a starring role in one of the most delightful musical comedies of the fifties, would prove a lyrically defining moment for the actor and singer.  MGM’s big budget, glossy remake of the Broadway hit and Oscar winning comedy The Philadelphia Story (Katherine Hepburn’s “comeback” vehicle) provided the basis for the immortal Cole Porter’s final score.  High Society, produced and released by MGM in 1956, was among the most delightful, sophisticated, effusively joyous musicals of the decade.  Pairing Sinatra with his lifelong idol, Bing Crosby, for the first time on screen was a major coup for the studio, for there were no more important musical stars in Hollywood at the time of this inspired collaboration.  Joining forces with Sinatra and Crosby were the reigning dramatic queen of the film industry, Grace Kelly, and jazz musical legend Louis Armstrong.  With Crosby in the lead as C.K. Dexter- Haven (in the role originally enacted by Cary Grant), Grace Kelly as the rich, untouchable Tracy Samantha Lord (the role first played by Hepburn in her career-saving performance), and Sinatra (co-starring once again with the wonderful Celeste Holm) as Macauley “Mike” Connor (originally played by Jimmy Stewart), the film is a musical gem.  Heralded as Grace Kelly’s final screen performance before assuming the real-life royalty persona and duties as Princess of the Principality of Monaco, High Society is a joyous marriage of music, wit, and sophistication.  Both Crosby and Kelly won a gold record for their million selling recording of “True Love,” while Sinatra and Crosby literally steal the show with their incomparable rendition and performance of Cole Porter’s alcohol induced set piece, “Well, Did You Evah?”… a classic screen duet that never fails to invite warm smiles and magical, delectable, happiness and delight.

Among the strangest and, perhaps, most ill-advised films in the Sinatra canon was Stanley Kramer’s ambitious take on the Peninsular Wars and the Napoleonic campaign in Spain, during which Spanish peasants and freedom fighters courageously fought the French with passionate resistance.  An abandoned cannon, left by Spanish soldiers under attack by advancing French forces, is a valued prize coveted by both the peasants and a British captain eager to secure its weaponry.  Cary Grant co-starred with Sinatra and Sophia Loren in The Pride and the Passion, released by United Artists in 1957. The finished film was a colorful extravaganza, but Sinatra seemed uncomfortable in his performance as Miguel, a Spanish rebel, and his accent appeared both forced and at times awkward.  While the actor’s efforts were noble and sincere, the actor himself regarded his performance as embarrassing and among his least favorite roles. Kramer may have overextended himself with this massive, yet somehow lethargic production, which seemed overburdened at times by the weight of its location shooting and self-important dialogue.  Consequently, the film is often more ponderous than impactful and is remembered more as a curiosity than an epic.  

Despite an awkward start to the year, however, Sinatra’s next two films would join the most iconic, beloved productions of his motion picture career.  The Joker Is Wild provided the actor with one of his most ingratiating performances.  Based upon the popular book by Art Cohn, the film recounts the turbulent life story of standup comedian Joe E. Lewis.  Lewis is beginning a promising concert and recording career as a singer when his throat is slashed by rival nightclub owners, retaliating for his defection to another club.  His vocal chords cut and permanently damaged, Lewis can no longer sing.  Sophie Tucker finds the savaged performer hiding beneath the greasy camouflage of a clown’s makeup on a burlesque stage, and helps him to find an unsuspected calling. His cynical wit and comic swipes at his own misfortune lead him on a secondary path as a celebrated, yet volatile, comic whose temper often strains the patience of those who love him.  His tantrums and alcoholic binging ultimately decimate the tenuous bonds of both love and friendship, leading to a final self realization that will either destroy him, or lead to his personal salvation.  Sinatra is wonderful as the conflicted comedian whose real life friendship with the singer played an integral role in his seeking the role.  Upon the film’s release by Paramount in 1957, Lewis remarked that “Frank had more fun playing my life than I had in living it.”

The film had originally been titled All The Way when production began, and Sinatra collaborators Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen had been asked to pen the title song.  However, after the song had been written and submitted, Paramount decided to revert to the original title of Art Cohn’s biography.  The song remained in the picture although it could no longer be considered a “title” tune, winning an Oscar in the process, thereby becoming one of Sinatra’s most closely identified signature songs for the rest of his life.  Directed by Charles Vidor, with a sterling cast that included Eddie Albert as his beleaguered long time pianist Austin Mack along with Mitzi Gaynor and Jeanne Crain as his battle scarred romantic leads, and the fabulous Beverly Garland as Albert’s caustic wife, the picture remains among the brightest lights in the singer’s dramatic film career.  Interestingly, it was during the production of a key sequence in the film involving Sinatra and Mitzi Gaynor that Gaynor was asked to come in and audition for Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein who were casting the leads in their upcoming film translation of South Pacific.  When Sinatra heard that Gaynor could not make the audition due to scheduling demands and conflicts imposed by the film’s director, Charles Walters, he instructed Walters to “just shoot around her.”  According to Gaynor herself, it was thanks to Sinatra’s personal intervention that she made the audition and won the coveted role of Nellie Forbush in the 1958 Joshua Logan production.

Following on the heels of his enormous success as Joe E. Lewis, Sinatra next essayed, perhaps, the most iconic role of his career…that of Joey Evans, novelist John O’Hara’s despicable womanizer and cad, while everyone’s Pal Joey.  Produced on Broadway in 1940 by Richard Rodgers and then partner Lorenz Hart, the modestly successful New York musical made a star of Gene Kelly in the lead performance.  While Rodgers and Hart, along with O’Hara, envisioned Evans as a dancer for the original theatrical production, the suave heart throb became a singer when Columbia Pictures and director George Sidney offered the coveted role to Sinatra.The character of the “character” was softened somewhat for the screen version but Joey, although overwhelmingly charming, particularly to women, remained a narcissistic “louse.”  The part was tailored perfectly to fit Sinatra’s post-comeback swagger and macho persona.  Women adored him, and men wanted to BE him.  As a wisecracking, romantic “user,” Sinatra fit Joey Evans like a well worn glove, twisting and manipulating everyone in his selfishly evolving web of deceit and personal aggrandizement. Aided and abetted by two of Columbia’s biggest female stars, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak, Sinatra was at the peak of his heavily publicized, lecherously sophisticated charm and sensual appeal.  Adorned in a white dinner jacket while seated on a revolving piano stool, his cocky, finger snapping, self assured rendition of “The Lady Is A Tramp” is as classic a male “temptress” in its imagery as John Travolta’s acrobatically sexual movements in Saturday Night Fever.  Waving his fingers in the air, gently clutching a lit cigarette while singing and fondling the piano keys in rapturous romanticism, THIS was Sinatra at the pinnacle of his allure and success.  If the film is deficient in any manner, it would be in the abandonment of a more elaborate musical finale than what ultimately appeared on the screen.  Hayworth, a veteran “hoofer” and dance partner to both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, had rehearsed a complicated musical routine with Kim Novak for the climactic “What Do I care For A Dame” sequence with Sinatra.  While Sinatra had himself performed many stylish, energetic dance steps with Gene Kelly over the years at MGM, he appeared unwilling to participate in an elaborate new choreographed sequence.  Whether due to time constraints or growing insecurity about his earlier film career path, Sinatra chose a more simplistic, stylized treatment over the more ambitious choreography rehearsed by Hayworth and Novak.  Sinatra needn’t have worried about his prowess as a dancer, however.  Years later, after his abrupt retirement from the stage, he returned to television with a musical special entitled “Old Blue Eyes Is Back” in which both he and Gene Kelly sang a remembrance of their musical pairings called “We Can’t Do That Anymore,” all the while reprising their original dance steps and proving that they actually still could.

Kings Go Forth, released the next year by United Artists, and directed by Delmer Daves was a comparatively small film shot in black and white with Sinatra playing an essentially subordinate role opposite Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood in a World War Two drama concerning the dangerous love affair between an innocent Italian girl and a shallow soldier played by Curtis.  Sinatra is torn between his love for Monique (Wood), and his friendship with Curtis.  In the end, the film is a curiosity at best with a romantically unsatisfactory conclusion, and ineffectual hints of racial prejudice. It did, however, generate another modest hit recording for the singer in its title tune, “Monique” written by Elmer Bernstein with Sammy Cahn. Sinatra’s next role as a disillusioned soldier returning to his small Indiana home town after the war would yield one of his most remarkable, deeply sensitive performances, as well as an extraordinarily powerful motion picture.  

Vincente Minnelli was known primarily as a director of musicals, and was MGM’s premier song and dance interpreter.  He would, however, wander off into new areas from time to time and work on some notable dramas.  His non-musical films for the studio were among MGM’s dramatically finest, and included such remarkable films as The Bad And The Beautiful, Madame Bovary, and Lust For Life (the latter two films featuring brilliant scores by three-time Oscar winning symphonic composer Miklos Rozsa.)  In 1958 Minnelli directed one of the most compelling dramas of his distinguished career.  Some Came Running, based upon the novel by James Jones, would be Sinatra’s second involvement with the author of his Oscar-winning characterization in From Here To Eternity.  Once again, he is an enlisted soldier in the Second World War. This time, however, he is a disillusioned veteran returning home to a small town in Indiana.  He is accompanied on his Greyhound bus trip by a floozy he drunkenly picked up in a bar along the way.  As interpreted by Sinatra, Dave Hirsh is a world weary soldier torn between several worlds, searching for his roots as well as a starting point from which to begin again.  He is a writer whose single published novel caused a minor stir upon its publication, but whose creative well has seemingly run dry.  Punctuated by composer Elmer Bernstein’s lush, passionate score, Some Came Running is a tale of loneliness, seething anger, frustration, and sexual repression longing for release.  In his first of many later “Rat Pack” pairings with Sinatra, Dean Martin scores as an alcoholic professional gambler named Bama Dillert who hooks up with, and befriends Hirsh.  Shirley MacLaine is wonderful as Ginny Moorehead, the sweet “hooker” who wants only to “love and be loved” by Dave, while Martha Hyer quietly ignites her surroundings as a sexually inhibited school teacher encouraging Sinatra to begin writing again.  Rounding out the outstanding ensemble cast is the always reliable Arthur Kennedy as Sinatra’s older brother, a traditional small town moralist who wishes that Dave had stayed on the bus.  Some Came Runnng offers Sinatra an opportunity to play a scarred artist reaching out for beauty and meaning in his life following the war, while MacLaine’s bittersweet, Oscar nominated performance is heartbreaking in its fragile, often simple humanity.  The stunning conclusion of Some Came Running brings each of its deeply flawed characters to their inevitable ends, and beginnings with, perhaps, a wiser appreciation for what lies ahead.  This is a superb, often underappreciated, motion picture with unforgettable characters, performances, and the eloquent writing of author James Jones.

The years between 1957 and 1962 were, perhaps, the most creatively fertile for Frank Sinatra as an actor, and his next film would further demonstrate his ever-unfolding artistic talent and expressive range.  A Hole In The Head (United Artists, 1959) features the actor as Tony Manetta, a down on his luck dreamer, and is among Sinatra’s most charming and endearing characterizations.  Manetta owns a small, quirky hotel filled with equally quirky guests in a low rent district of Miami Beach, Florida.  He is a wistful widower living with and raising his young son, Ally (played by Eddie Hodges) on the grounds of a decidedly “down scale” rental facility.  Tony longs to escape the sordid confines of his surroundings, and “hit it big” one day.  As reality closes in and foreclosure threatens, Tony reaches out to his older brother, Mario, and his wife (wonderfully played by the delightful Edward G. Robinson and Thelma Ritter) for money.  Into this mix comes a beautiful widow played by the enchantingly versatile Eleanor Parker whose frightening performance as Sinatra’s conniving wife in Otto Preminger’s The Man With The Golden Arm would ordinarily have led him to run very far from her character, Mrs. Rogers.  Sinatra is both entirely sympathetic and ingratiating in his love for his little boy, and his seemingly unlikely ambitions.  His desperation and ultimate despair at the races as he gambles and ultimately loses the money that might have renewed his hotel lease is painted poignantly upon his face and emotional vulnerability.  As so eloquently written by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen, he has “High Hopes” for “All My Tomorrows.”  As directed by one of the screen’s greatest, most revered and influential directors, Frank Capra’s “American Dream” is lovingly exhibited here in one of his last motion pictures, proving that just when you think that all is lost…It’s A Wonderful Life after all.  Capra was scheduled to direct Sinatra once again in a proposed screen biography on the life of comedian Jimmy Durante with Dean Martin as the legendary comic, and Sinatra as his partner but, sadly, the project was never realized.

A private disagreement with cherished friend Sammy Davis, Jr. led to a creative opportunity for another young actor in Sinatra’s next film, Never So Few, released by MGM in 1959.  Davis had been signed to play the role of Sinatra’s brash subordinate but, when their long friendship abruptly (albeit briefly) derailed over some derogatory statements uttered in public by Davis, the plum role went to an up-and-coming young actor by the name of Steve McQueen.  It was a breakout performance by McQueen, effectively leading to starring roles in shortly subsequent progression.  Directed by ultimately frequent McQueen collaborator John Sturges, Never So Few is an exciting adventure film placed in the Burmese jungles as Captain Tom C. Reynolds (Sinatra) and his guerilla fighters engage in combat with the Japanese during World War Two.  With lush orchestral foliage provided by composer Hugo Friedhofer, and a most decorative cast including Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lawford (soon to join Sinatra’s exclusively jubilant pals in “The Rat Pack”), Steve McQueen, Paul Henreid, Richard Johnson, Brian Donlevy, and another up and coming young actor named George Takei, still seven years away from his own iconic performance as Mr. Sulu on NBC’s Star Trek series, Never So Few is a profoundly underrated, though thoroughly entertaining and exciting war epic.

The cold war between The United States and Russia grew momentarily warmer in 1960 when Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev and his wife visited the set of Can Can at 20th Century Fox during a diplomatic trip to the U.S.  The pair were invited to meet the cast of the film, as well as witness the filming of the infamous “Can Can” sequence with Shirley MacLaine and Juliet Prowse.  The Russian premier, it was reported, openly enjoyed the dancing until his wife grimaced in disapproval.  After that, it was business as usual between the two countries with the cold war growing ever more frigid.  Can Can, directed by Walter Lang, was a big budget musical based upon the legendary stage production with music and lyrics by Cole Porter.  The film is a colorful delight with wonderful comedic performances by Sinatra as a rogue Parisian attorney, Shirley MacLaine as the owner of a popular club specializing in performances of the outlawed dance, Maurice Chevalier as a lecherous judge, and Louis Jourdan as the prudish addition to the court insisting upon the letter of the law.  The obvious chemistry between Sinatra and real life “pal” MacLaine is joyous, while Chevalier and Jourdan both sing and mug deliciously for the cameras.  Sinatra is at the peak of his career, clearly in command of his vocal artistry, and relishing his performances of “C’est Magnifique,” “Let’s Do it” (with MacLaine) and, particularly, the exquisitely performed “It’s All Right With Me,” a nearly heart wrenching lament set characteristically in a Parisian “saloon.”  It is a definitive homage to popular music’s ultimate “saloon singer.”

Old Sinatra pal Peter Lawford had purchased the screen rights to a hip, “buddy,” caper movie about a bunch of former soldiers conspiring to rob the Las Vegas casinos of their substantial loot.  He brought it to Sinatra who then recruited many of his own buddies to co-star in the production.  What seemed a simple heist adventure became one of the most iconic films of the period.  Released by Warner Bros. in 1960, Ocean’s Eleven, based upon a story by co-writer, George Clayton Johnson and directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet On The Western Front), became significantly more than a mere motion picture.  The film, its production and, in particular, its nearly all male cast, transformed the city of Las Vegas into the billion-dollar industry it has since become.  While Las Vegas had offered night clubs, celebrities, alcohol, and women to high rollers for years, and had functioned prominently as a “mob” run franchise under the watchful guidance of such legendary gangsters as Bugsy Siegel, the turbulent filming of Warners’ Ocean’s Eleven changed the topography of Vegas nearly over night. 

The film also gave birth to the legendary “Rat Pack,” headed by Sinatra, who gleefully invited his pals to join the laughter.  While filming by day, the cast adjourned to The Sands Hotel, owned by Jack Entratter, in the evenings and often well into the night to perform, cavort, drink, and party.  The nighttime attraction became as big a draw to the public as the filming of the movie.  High rollers from around the globe would fight to pay exorbitant tabs just to witness Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop perform their wildly talented, anarchic musical and comedic turns on stage at The Sands at night, and into “the wee small hours of the morning.”  After the death of its founding member, Humphrey Bogart, The Holmby Hills Rat Pack (of which Sinatra was a member) floundered without a rudder until Sinatra assumed command of the ritzy social group, transforming it into the hippest ensemble on the planet.  The group’s legendary comradery and razor-sharp wit, performing night after night during the filming of the movie, and for countless years thereafter, by all credible accounts, virtually changed the face of the gambling city from a modest destination for gamblers to the showplace of the world.  As for Ocean’s Eleven, the film itself influenced generations of celluloid caper movies, contained an uncredited voice performance by actor Richard Boone as a Las Vegas chaplain, and inspired a series of high-quality remakes starring George Clooney in the role of Danny Ocean.  As overblown and expensive as these high-priced remakes were, however, they somehow never compared to the chic simplicity of the 1960 Warner Bros. original featuring Sinatra and his legendary troupe of talented bad boys, The Rat Pack.

In the wake of Columbia Pictures hugely successful adventure film The Guns Of Navarone, the studio cast Sinatra with, perhaps, the greatest screen actor of both his, and any subsequent generation, Spencer Tracy, in an explosive tropical paradise on the brink of volcanic devastation.  The Devil At Four O’Clock, based upon the novel by Max Catto, and directed by Mervyn LeRoy, aspired to repeat the success of the earlier production.  The early poster art for the picture proclaimed that it was “in the tradition of The Guns Of Navarone, hoping that cinematic lightening might strike yet again at the box office. 

While few films could survive such an unrealistic advertising comparison, The Devil At Four O’Clock is actually a vastly underrated romantic adventure filled with memorable performances, particularly by Tracy and Sinatra, as an alcoholic priest and cocky convict consigned to a lushly beautiful island soon to be consumed by volcanic ferocity.  Despite some obvious indoor sets substituting for mountainous trails, the film is often exciting, powerful, and exceedingly poignant.  Bernie Hamilton is a standout as a co-conspirator, struggling to break free of his shackles, while unexpectedly finding heroism in one final incomparable act of self-sacrifice, while Barbara Luna is sensually innocent and appealing as the blind girl who guides Sinatra’s own path to spiritual rebirth.  The film “scores” musically, as well, with the finest work of composer George (Picnic) Duning’s long career.  His original music for the picture is as profoundly haunting and beautiful as any of the film’s exotic locations.  Although historically overlooked, and often ignored by self-important film “critics,” The Devil At Four O’Clock is often thrilling, singularly moving, and powerfully dramatic and poignant in its tale of irrevocable disaster and spiritual redemption.

Sinatra’s own Essex Productions was responsible for the filming of his next film.  Directed by the venerable John Sturges, Sergeants 3 is a western remake of George Stevens’ 1939 RKO classic Gunga Din.  Released by United Artists in 1962, Sinatra saw this somewhat updated re-telling of the Rudyard Kipling classic adventure as the ideal vehicle for his Rat Pack pals.  Featuring Dean Martin in the role created earlier by Cary Grant, Peter Lawford in the Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. part, Sinatra essaying the Victor McLaglen role, and Sammy Davis, Jr. as Gunga Din, Sergeants 3 is an entertaining, comedic,  irresistibly irreverent take on a beloved film.  Sinatra performs most of his own, often dangerous stunt work in the picture.  Out of release and distribution for some four decades, the film is largely remembered today as the second and final Rat Pack motion picture.  While the later Warner Bros. production of Robin And The Seven Hoods is often erroneously looked upon as a genuine Rat Pack picture, its pairing of Sinatra, Martin, and Davis excludes both Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.  Only Ocean’s Eleven and Sergeants 3 two years later includes all five of the original Sinatra Rat Pack members in its ensemble cast.

Sinatra’s next performance and film would be remembered as, perhaps, the finest work of his sizeable career.  Richard Condon’s controversial political thriller The Manchurian Candidate was a favorite novel of President John F. Kennedy, and Sinatra was eager to purchase the rights to the book.  United Artists was intimidated by its theme of attempted presidential assassination, and wary of financing or releasing the picture.  When President Kennedy reached out to the studio, at Sinatra’s personal request, indicating that he would love to see the film produced, United Artists relented and allowed the film to be made.  Released in 1962, with superlative direction by John Frankenheimer, a riveting, brilliant, and convoluted screenplay by George Axelrod, superbly valiant performances by Lawrence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, and Janet Leigh, as well as a stunning musical score by composer David Amram, The Manchurian Candidate took the country by storm.  Its shocking, often mesmerizing story of brain washing and robotic homicide during and following the Korean War, became the most fervently discussed and admired motion picture of the decade.  Frankenheimer’s documentary style direction gave the film a brutally realistic look, delivering its controversial themes with ever more immediacy than might have been provided by a traditional, studio bound production. 

Filmed on locations throughout New York City, the picture seems often horrifyingly real and frightening in its depiction of chemically induced paranoia and ultimate societal madness. Harvey’s performance as Raymond Shaw is the most compelling and poignant of his illustrious career, while Angela Lansbury as his morally bereft mother delivers, possibly, the most evil interpretation of motherhood ever committed to film. James Gregory is all too sadly believable as John Iselin, an intellectually bereft, reprehensible Senator based largely upon the real life proclivities of Senator Joseph McCarthy who, like the fictional John Iselin, sells his soul, as well as the reputations of numerous innocent victims of his fictitious witch hunt for communists, in order to further his own purely personal political ambitions and aspirations.  After the real life assassination of President Kennedy, the film’s single greatest champion, on November 22nd, 1963, The Manchurian Candidate disappeared for decades, reportedly due to the remorse of Sinatra who felt somehow complicit in the murder of his president and friend. When the film re-emerged from exile in the early 1990s, it was both hailed and critically acclaimed as a lost masterpiece.  A mediocre, ill-conceived and incoherent remake starring the otherwise gifted Denzel Washington has not diminished the reputation or reverence deservedly afforded the original production.

Paramount Pictures released Sinatra’s next film in 1963.  Based upon Neil Simon’s first Broadway play, which premiered in 1961 in New York with Hal March in the lead, Come Blow Your Horn is a Jewish coming of age comedy in which a restless young man yearns to leave his ever suffocating, traditional ethnic nest, create his own bachelor apartment, and emulate his swinging older brother.  Sinatra plays Alan Baker, the wayward roguish son of traditional, old world parents, who lives the high life while lecherously chasing after numerous models and aspiring actresses from his decadently lavish pad.  His younger brother, Buddy (Tony Bill), sees only the glitzy romance of youthful bachelorhood, and decides to move in with Alan. Come Blow Your Horn, directed and scripted by Norman Lear (All In The Family), is a sparkling, often hilarious comedy gem marred in its ensuing years by changing times, revisionist interpretation, and politically correct criticisms having little or nothing to do with the trendy times in which it was first produced.  The supporting cast is wonderfully befuddled with Molly Picon and Lee J. Cobb as quintessential Jewish parents charmingly out of touch with The Age of Aquarius, while Barbara Rush as Sinatra’s love interest, Connie, is radiantly beautiful in her “good girl” performance.  Logic, admittedly, has been tossed out of the window here with audiences blindly accepting Sinatra as a Jewish Romeo but, with Molly Picon and Lee J. Cobb as his parents, he’d hardly be playing to his Italian heritage.  Cobb and Sinatra became friends some years earlier when the older actor was stricken with a heart attack, and Sinatra paid all of his hospital bills, putting him up at his house while Cobb convalesced. Despite some dated dialogue, the film remains frequently delightful and, even by today’s moralistic standards, a joy to watch.  Its musical highlight is Sinatra introducing his baby brother to the world of exclusive clothing lines while reaching astonishing high notes singing the title tune by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen in the frenetic mean streets of New York.  

Four For Texas, directed by Robert Aldrich and released by Warner Bros. in 1964 featured Sinatra with pal Dean Martin in a strictly by the numbers western with forced humor and utterly routine costume melodrama.  Co-starring Charles Bronson as a gun slinging thug, along with Anita Ekberg and Ursula Andress as a mismatched pair of tough, overly masculine femme fatales, the unappealing western seems more like left over scripting than anything remotely original or inspired.  The film appeared tired when it opened, and has not worn well with the passage of years.

His next film for Warner Bros. would prove far more elaborate and creatively ambitious.  Robin And The Seven Hoods, released in 1964, was a clever take on the legend of Robin Hood, updated to reflect Chicago’s gang wars of the 1930s. Directed by Gordon Douglas with a screenplay by David R. Schwartz, the original satire provided audiences with a big jolt of electrical star power, often amusing situations and comedic writing, bombastic performances by stars Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and, particularly, the enormously gifted Sammy Davis, Jr. in a delightfully over the top, quasi Jerry Lewis performance, as well as a completely new song score written for the film by the incomparable team of Sammy  Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen.  Peter Falk, however, very nearly steals the show as Sinatra’s hoodlum rival, Guy Gisborne.  Falk mugs delightfully, and evidently delighted, for the camera in an often hilarious performance as a nefarious hood from the wrong side of the “hood.”  Sammy Davis Jr. scores mightily with his wonderfully choreographed song and danced homage to his machine gun (“Bang Bang”), while Sinatra sublimely introduces what would soon become one of his most identifiable signature tunes, “My Kind Of Town,” on the steps of a bustling Chicago court house.  This would be the last attempted film reunion of The Rat Pack (or “The Clan,” as it was alternately known) in that it featured three of the original five members (only the sadly disenfranchised Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop were absent from the ensemble), and was billed essentially as a Rat Pack movie.  Although Lawford and Sinatra would never speak again, due to a personal falling out over Lawford’s brother in law (President Kennedy) snubbing Sinatra’s elaborate invitation to stay at his pad, a final tragic irony would forever haunt the making of the film.  It was during the funeral scene for “Big Jim” (Edward G. Robinson) that Sinatra and the cast received word that former pal, John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated in Dallas.

Warner Bros. would release Sinatra’s next film, as well.  None But The Brave, released by the studio in 1965, introduced Sinatra as a first time director, as well as co-star in a subordinate role to Clint Walker, in a surprisingly thoughtful anti-war drama in which both American and Japanese soldiers find an uneasy truce while stranded on a small Pacific island during the Second World War.  Based upon a story by Kikumaru Okuda, with a corresponding screenplay by John Twist and Katsuya Susaki, None But The Brave provides Sinatra with an ultimately selfless opportunity to sublimate himself in favor of Walker’s starring performance, while offering his quietly dignified direction and morality play as the true stars of the film.  The final outcome of the story, though not unexpected, remains sadly haunting and poignant, and is profoundly underscored by the beautifully poetic music of composer John Williams.  None But The Brave is largely forgotten today, but remains the first co-production between American and Japanese studios to be filmed in The United States, as it was lensed on Kauai Island in Hawaii.  Subtle, rather than flashy…thoughtful, rather than bombastic, None But The Brave survives as a noble cinematic document portraying the madness of war.

Another war film, albeit far more successful at the box office, followed the tropical solitude of None But The Brave.  Released by 20th Century Fox the same year, Von Ryan’s Express would provide Frank Sinatra with another of his most memorable roles, that of Colonel Joseph L. Ryan, captured in Italy in 1943, and thrown into a crowded prisoner of war camp run by a sadistic fascist commandant.  Ryan’s conciliatory exchanges with their captors earns him the name “Von Ryan,” considered a collaborator rather than a patriot, until a daring escape through German enemy lines reveals the colonel to be far more courageous than previously imagined.  A thrilling train chase through the Italian Alps toward the Swiss Border provides the climactic highlight of the film.  Directed by Mark Robson, with panoramic Cinemascope photography by William H. Daniels, special effects by L.B. Abbott, and a stirring musical score by composer Jerry Goldsmith, Von Ryan’s  Express would provide Sinatra with one of his most charismatic performances, as well as one of his biggest hits.  His death scene, occurring ironically just when victory appears certain, while Nazi soldiers desperately attempt to prevent a final escape, is as memorable and poignant a finale as any in film history.

Physically exhausted upon the completion of Von Ryan’s Express in Italy, Sinatra’s next project appears equally tired, an awkward attempt to catch his creative breath.  Marriage On The Rocks, released by Warner Bros. in 1965, is an utterly humorless comedy with simplistically bland “sit com” aspirations that never rises beyond its dreary plot devices.  Utterly predictable, and predictably boring, this unimaginative look at a crumbling marriage features Sinatra, unbelievably cast as a lifeless spouse whose wife, played by Deborah Kerr, looks for greener pastures and a more exciting mate.  Pal Dean Martin plays his playboy bachelor friend who tries to teach Sinatra how to be a swinger.  Directed by Jack Donohue, Marriage On The Rocks lectures and preaches with a sledge hammer, and is among the most forgettable of Sinatra’s screen appearances.  Not even a “laugh track” would have saved this laughably inarticulate attempt at farce.

Sinatra fared far better, and somewhat more credibly, in his next starring venture for Paramount Pictures.  Relatively comfortable and at home in another caper film, the singer and pals conspire to “stick up” The Queen Mary while at sea in Assault On A Queen, released by the studio in 1966.  Lacking the charm, humor, clever scripting and sophistication of his earlier Ocean’s Eleven, this Jack Donohue directed thriller was infinitely more user friendly and comfortable for Sinatra than his earlier, Donohue helmed “romantic comedy.”  Based upon a novel by writer Jack Finney (“The Body Snatchers”) and a screenplay by Rod Serling (“The Twilight Zone”), Assault On A Queen is a reasonably well defined heist flick that offers a degree of suspense, along with attractive performances from Sinatra, Virni Lisi and, particularly, Tony Franciosa as an overly greedy provocateur whose nervous unprofessionalism ultimately sabotages the not so well oiled machinery.  Duke Ellington’s edgy jazz score gives the picture a quirky lift, adding to the necessary tension of the story.  While not a great or memorable film, Assault On A Queen is, nonetheless, a pleasant escapist diversion.

The Naked Runner, released by Warner Bros. in 1967, is a ponderous, slow moving spy thriller filmed in Europe, featuring a largely European cast that somehow feels out of kilter with Sinatra’s decidedly American persona.  Unimaginatively directed by Sidney J. Furie, The Naked Runner never seems to come to life or find a voice of its own.  Sinatra plays Sam Laker, an American businessman residing in London with his fourteen-year-old son.  A wartime marksman, Laker is contacted by British Intelligence, and asked to assassinate a double agent who has defected to the communists.  When Laker refuses the assignment, his little boy is kidnapped and held for ransom until the killing has been accomplished.  Sinatra appears uncomfortable both in the role, and in his surroundings, while Furie’s uninspired direction and an often lethargic cast of performers do little to enhance the dullness of an ultimately shabby, unpleasant story.  As a cold war thriller, the picture fails miserably and has all but been forgotten, lost in the shadow of far more memorable thrillers such as The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.  Perhaps the single memorable element to emerge from this turgid melodrama was its theme song, “You Are There” with music and lyrics by Harry Sukman and Paul Francis Webster, which Sinatra recorded with modest success at the time of the picture’s release.

20th Century Fox released the first of two relatively popular Sinatra hits in 1967.  Tony Rome began a brief new franchise about a hip Miami private detective whose arsenal of accoutrements included his own boat (“The Straight Pass”), a ready supply of booze, and an even readier supply of women.  Hard-bitten, cynical, and world weary, Rome is a classic private investigator in the mold of Humphrey Bogart, and authors Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett.  As directed by Gordon Douglas, he is a gritty no-nonsense sleuth delving into the sleazier sides of the Miami strip.  Joined by old pal Richard Conte as local cop, Lieutenant Santini, Sinatra is very much in his element as a swinging private eye aided and abetted by bikini draped women (Jill St. John), rich, pouting young girls (Sue Lyon), and a predatory stepmother (Gena Rowlands).  Punctuated by Lee Hazlewood’s sultry title tune, provocatively sung by daughter Nancy Sinatra for the soundtrack, Tony Rome is a solid, if cliché ridden, look at the often sordid world of private eyes and their similarly assorted, well oiled “dames.”

The following year would welcome the release of, perhaps, the final major film of Sinatra’s career.  Directed once more by Gordon Douglas, released by 20th Century Fox in 1968, and based upon the bestselling novel by Roderick Thorp, The Detective concerns a career minded police officer investigating the brutal murder and gruesomely sensational, sexual mutilation of a prominent gay man.  Sinatra’s Joe Leland is an intensely honest police detective whose crime solving skills have made him the best homicide cop on the force.  Desirous of promotion, Leland is pressured by his superiors and by City Hall to crack the case quickly or see his promotion given to another.  When Felix Tesla (Tony Musante) is suspected of the killing and subsequently arrested, Leland uncomfortably coerces a confession out of the obviously disturbed felon, thereby sending him to the electric chair for the crime.  Joe then receives his needed acclaim for cracking the case so quickly.  When the apparent suicide of a respected businessman, Colin MacIver (William Windom), occurs sometime later, his widow, Norma (Jacqueline Bisset), comes to Leland with the proposition that her husband could not have taken his own life, and that his death was enabled by politically motivated circumstances more sinister and entrenched than initially imagined.  Leland’s life is further complicated by an alcoholic, nymphomaniac wife (Lee Remick), and the possibility that his psychologically manipulated confession from Tesla was responsible for electrocuting the wrong man.  With an outstanding supporting cast of players, including Remick, Bisset, Windom, Ralph Meeker, Horace McMahon, Lloyd Bochner, Jack Klugman, and Robert Duvall, The Detective benefits from a strong, mature performance by Sinatra as the veteran police detective conflicted by his personal integrity and honor, and by the departmental pressure to score just one last big arrest in order to insure his future and security on the force.  Accompanied by composer Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting, melancholy jazz score, The Detective provided a significant box office hit for both Sinatra and his studio.  Mia Farrow, then the third Mrs. Sinatra, had been set to play the part of Norma MacIver in the film, alongside her husband, but when the high-powered couple separated after Farrow’s insistence on starring in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby for Paramount, the relatively unknown Jacqueline Bisset was signed for the coveted role.

Following on the heels of Joe Leland, Sinatra decided to hang out his investigator for hire sign once again, starring in the glossy sequel to Tony Rome.  Lady In Cement, directed once again for 20th Century Fox by Gordon Douglas, essentially completed the “detective” trilogy, pairing the actor and director for the third consecutive time in two short years.  More entertaining, perhaps, than its gritty, deadly serious predecessor, the second and final film in the brief Tony Rome series finds the flip gumshoe discovering the nude, dead body of a shapely young blonde adorning the bottom of the local waters where he has been scuba diving.  Her feet encased in a thick block of cement, thereby “sealing” her fate, the young woman’s murder sets Tony off on his latest case and, in the process, encountering a bikini draped Raquel Welch as his soon to be love interest, along with Richard Conte as Lieutenant Santini, and an overly imposing ex-con named Earl Gronsky (Dan Blocker) who, like Moose Malloy in the earlier Murder My Sweet, hires Rome to find out who murdered his own reincarnated version of “Velma.”  Though innocuous, Lady In Cement remains a joyful guilty pleasure.

Dirty Dingus Magee, released by MGM in 1970 will ever stand as the worst career decision of Frank Sinatra’s otherwise brilliant film career.  With a screenplay inexplicably crafted by, among others, Joseph Heller (Catch-22), and directed by Burt Kennedy, this atrociously unfunny western “comedy” unimaginably stars Sinatra as a hopelessly simple minded “boob,” an incompetent crook whose artless thievery places his uninspired freedom in jeopardy.  Sinatra, the virtual epitome of style, class, and sophistication, is cast as a half-witted hick whose unappealing stupidity keeps him barely one step ahead of the law, and in the beds of equally simple minded whores and witless young ladies of questionable intelligence.  This utterly tasteless, supposed “spoof” stands as a horrid testament to one of the most heinously wrong casting decisions in film history, and to a film whose original “negative” elements are hopefully corrupting more aggressively than the corroded production decisions that sired its production in the first place.    

Stung, perhaps, by critical derision and mediocre box office receipts for Dirty Dingus Magee, Sinatra would not return to the screen for seven years and, when he did, it would be for a medium that he had more control over…television.  Contract On Cherry Street was one of the most highly promoted and anticipated events of the late 1977 tv season.  Produced for NBC Television, the motion picture aired over two nights, beginning on November 19th, 1977.  Directed for television by William S. Graham, with a teleplay by critically acclaimed screen writer Edward Anhalt, and original music by Jerry Goldsmith, Contract On Cherry Street was vintage Sinatra.  Produced by Sinatra’s own production company, Artanis (Sinatra spelled backward, and the name he used when painting), the actor played Frank Hovannes, a tough New York cop battling the mob and local thugs whose eventual undoing is unwittingly determined by one of his own men, a rogue cop bent on his own brand of street vigilantism. Co-starring Martin Balsam, Harry Guardino, and Martin Gabel, Contract On Cherry Street knocked it out of the park for Sinatra.  His performance as a scarred veteran of the police force was tough, unflinchingly honest, and utterly mesmerizing.  The book by Phillip Rosenberg, upon which the mini-series was based, was said to be a favorite of the actor’s late mother, and so he took pains to deliver a carefully textured and gritty performance.  Location shooting on the streets of New York and New Jersey added a sense of urgency and realism to this often compelling and exciting movie for the deceptively “small” screen upon which it premiered. 

Three years later, Sinatra returned to theatrical screens for one more outing.  The First Deadly Sin (Filmways,1980), directed by Brian G. Hutton, was a slow, depressing tale of a police officer struggling with a series of grizzly unsolved murders, while caring for his cancer-ridden wife, hospitalized without hope of survival.  The film had originally been intended as a vehicle for director Roman Polanski but, when Polanski fled the country after accusations of raping an underaged young girl, the directing chores were regretfully re-assigned.  Had Polanski remained and directed the film, the end results might, perhaps, have been more interesting.  With a fine, mature cast that included Fay Dunaway as Edward Delaney’s (Sinatra) wife, James Whitmore, Martin Gabel in his final performance, and a walk on by an uncredited young actor named Bruce Willis, The First Deadly Sin contains deeply melancholy performances by both Sinatra and Dunaway that caress one’s heart strings.  The film, however, fails to ignite its pivotal story, ultimately degenerating into successively brooding, dark interludes that leave its target audience deflated and depressed.  Sinatra is particularly touching in his portrayal of a weary soul watching his minimal world crumbling before him.  Sadly, the film failed to reach an audience and passed mercifully into memory.

While it initially appeared that his role as a grieving cop would become his last screen performance, a seemingly improbable invitation would lead, some seven years later, to Sinatra’s actual dramatic swan song.  Tom Selleck was an enormous admirer of the legendary performer and Sinatra, in turn, was an admitted fan of Selleck’s hit CBS television series, Magnum P.I.  Sinatra openly declared that if the producers of the series ever found a suitable role for him, he’d seriously consider acting on the series.  On February 25th, 1987, an episode of Magnum entitled “Laura” debuted on the network.  A tough New York police officer has announced his retirement from the department.  On the night of his retirement dinner, an innocent little girl in a large apartment building is raped and murdered by a savage, predatory pedophile.  Michael Doheny (Sinatra), now retired but working as a private investigator, is haunted by the case and actively devoting his time to pursuing a suspect now living in Hawaii.  His abrasive methods run afoul of Magnum, causing conflict in an uneasy relationship between the two investigators, until the alleged murderer is finally confronted and accidentally killed in a fall off of a roof, and it is ultimately revealed that Doheny…was the child’s loving grandfather. Sinatra’s performance is quite touching, while his grieving over the loss of his beloved granddaughter is genuinely poignant, and heartbreakingly moving.  After garnering positive critical and audience approval, there was some discussion of the actor returning to the series for yet another episode during the following season.  Time and availability would eventually erase the possibility of a return to the series, however, but…for one brief shining moment in the sun…Frank Sinatra had once more touched the stars, and risen beyond the clouds to create magic yet again…for one enduring, final moment.

Over the years, Frank Sinatra’s legend has grown with justifiable admiration and respect.  His film career, as it must for everyone who has lived a full, rich life, hasn’t always yielded desired results, however.  There have been highs and lows. Prominent among miscalculations in his fabled career was the decision to abandon his starring role opposite Shirley Jones in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s big screen version of Carousel (1956).  Sinatra had been signed to play the coveted starring role of Billy Bigelow in the highly anticipated, big screen production.  He had recorded some of the songs for the soundtrack and flown to the location to begin work on the film.  As technology had not yet progressed to the point where a film need be “shot” only once, and then modified as needed in the lab, Carousel (as had been Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma the year before) was scheduled to be filmed twice, concurrently, for traditional 35 millimeter projection, and for larger “roadshow” presentations.  When Sinatra learned of the shooting schedule he balked, stating that he was only being paid for one film…not for two.  Consequently, he left the production, allowing Gordon MacRae to be called in at the last moment to replace him.  MacRae had performed similar chores during his earlier duties with Shirley Jones in Oklahoma (1955).  While MacRae performed with vocal mastery in the part, his dramatic abilities could never have equaled those of Sinatra’s, and Frank’s loss would forever be felt by cast and crew alike.  Shirley Jones, though friendly with her two time co-star, felt the loss acutely, and has wondered both wistfully, and publically, what the picture might have been had Sinatra remained in the lead.  Their vocal pairing in a duet of “If I Loved You” on ABC’s Frank Sinatra Show in the late 1950s, offered a tantalizing hint of what the film might have been had he stayed.   A planned pairing of Sinatra with Barbra Streisand in MGM’s big budgeted film project, Say It With Music, in the late 1960s, promised a similarly tantalizing marriage of two major musical stars but it, too, failed to rise from the ashes of dreamlike inspiration.  

Sinatra’s numerous film appearances included all star cameos in such films as Around The World In Eighty Days, Pepe, Cannonball Run, The List Of Adrian Messenger, The Road To Hong Kong (the last Crosby/Hope “Road To” picture), as well as an extended cameo in Cast A Giant Shadow with Kirk Douglas.  Among the more bizarre suggested appearances in his extensive filmography were a failed feature length animated version of Finian’s Rainbow for which a preliminary soundtrack had been recorded but, ultimately, never filmed and offers to star as James Bond (before Sean Connery) and Dirty Harry, prior to the eventual casting of Clint Eastwood in what turned out to be a dramatically altered interpretation and script.  There were also films in which Sinatra’s voice was recorded, but not his physical persona.  His voice can be heard crooning “Heart Of Mine” (by Bronislau Kaper) on a juke box for the gay bar sequence in Advise And Consent.  He even recorded a powerful title track for a tune written for, but never used, in Otto Preminger’s The Man With The Golden Arm.  The song, recorded by Sinatra for the trailer, and composed for the film by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, was left out of the finished film due to the sensitivity of its provocative subject matter.

One cannot mention the Sinatra movie songs, of course, without discussing his lush Oscar-winning title track for Three Coins In The Fountain, the 1954, 20th Century Fox film of the same name whose memorable theme was written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. However, the most stunning use of his off camera vocal brilliance was an unforgettable sequence from Carl Foreman’s The Victors, a memorable, if largely forgotten anti-war film, in which Sinatra’s specially commissioned recording of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is played over army loud speakers in a bitter, snow covered military camp, as a sobbing and frightened young soldier is led to his demise at the hands of a firing squad for deserting his combat unit during war time.  Finally, in what must be considered an historic, definitive four-hour documentary for HBO, Alex Gibney’s two-part examination of the life and legend of Sinatra, All Or Nothing At All, premiered over two successive evenings during Easter weekend, 2015.

Frank Sinatra has been idol, my hero, my role model, and my inspiration for fifty-five years.  I fell in love, both with “The Man and His Music,” in the Fall of 1960 when I was just fourteen years old.  Now, in “September of My Years,” at the not so “tender trap” of sixty-nine years of age, my passion for his artistry and life is unabated.  I have reached out to him at various stages of my life and his, and he has often responded. 

When I fell ill to the ravages of hepatitis, and disregarded my health and the warnings of my doctor in order to see his live Philadelphia concert in 1974, a friend remarked that my jaundiced eyes had resulted in a classic confrontation between Ol’ Blue eyes and “Ol’ Yellow Eyes.”  When I wrote Sinatra of the comparison, he was kind enough to respond with a joyful, yet caring note.  When I wrote him once more of my support during his legal battles with the Nevada gaming commission, he wrote a powerful and passionate letter of gratitude.  It was in March, 1976, that I finally got to meet him backstage at the old Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  It was, for me, one of life’s defining moments.  He put his arm around me for one magic filled, unforgettable moment, and smiled that incomparable smile.


Slideshow: Sinatra-signed letters to Steve, photos, and records.


Singer, actor, artist, director, conductor, philanthropist, civil rights champion, humanitarian…He did it all, and he did it His Way.  Some years ago, back in 1993, I wrote a poetic tribute to his artistry entitled, quite simply, SINATRA.  While both Frank and his lovely wife, Barbara, expressed their appreciation for the piece, I was never entirely happy with what I’d written.  I struggled with the ending, not knowing quite how to finish it.  I couldn’t bring myself to accept the stark inevitability of his advancing age and mortality.  I vowed one day to return to my work, however, and finish it properly.  On the tenth anniversary of his passing (May 14th, 1998), I revisited my efforts and addressed at last the solemnity of what (along with the passing of my father) would remain one of the most pain filled days of my life.  During this year of tribute, and remembrance of the centenary of his birth, here is my revised poetic tribute to Francis Albert Sinatra, the most influential, beloved entertainer of the Twentieth Century, and one of the most profoundly significant influences in my life…

++ Steve Vertlieb   April, 2015

Frank Sinatra and Steve Vertlieb

                                                      SINATRA

                  He walked in solitude, traveling that lonesome road
                  a lean and hungry young man brawling his way
                  through back alley scrapes and clubs to the legendary street of dreams
                  bringing with him an eloquence, integrity, and unremitting individualism
                  unparalleled in American music

                  When he sang, he echoed the infinite yearning of lonely souls
                   a brooding, timeless homage to the music of the night

                   He was the premiere romantic voice of our time
                   sweet, tinged with a hint of bitterness
                   a world weary longing for love
                   and an impassioned understanding of the heartache of despair

                   Through evolving tastes and times, he managed to survive
                   and though scars remained, he emerged more potent than ever before

                   He had witnessed and endured a nation in pain
                   yet, through his eyes
                   we basked in reflected wisdom

                   Intensely loyal, he revered those friends who had remained by his side
                   and abhorred those who had callously deserted him
                   while, through it all, a burning new intensity inspired his music
                   enraptured in smoldering sensuality

                   Alone in the burning spotlight, vulnerable
                   bathed in swirling mists of vaporous cigarette smoke
                   he stripped bare our emotions
                   singing his velvet vocals with searing honesty
                   a private anguish expressed in exquisite phrasing
                   as his consummate artistry lit the stage

                   When he snapped his fingers, we came of age
                    and we’d joyfully cling
                    to his Ring-A-Ding-Ding
                    as the world we knew matured

                    Tough, eloquent, sophisticated
                    he was the hippest of the hip
                    perched atop a wondrous rainbow
                    dangling the world on a string

                    An integral component of the rich fabric of our lives
                    his songs pulsated forever under our skin
                    a primal rhythm, throbbing beneath the mannered pretense of society

                    From September of his years, and on into Winter
                    he continued to thrill, caress, and excite our hearts
                    magically transforming verse into poetry
                    for he was the essence of life, love and aspiration

                    And when his own days had at last been spent
                    he put his dreams away for still another day
                    living on in our collective consciousness
                    sublimely young at heart, vibrant and eternal
                    through a timeless portal to the music of his soul.

                                                                  …Steve Vertlieb   05/14/2008                                           


SINATRA: THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT

While the thrust of this remembrance has focused largely on the somewhat checkered film career of Francis Albert Sinatra, it must be affectionately remembered that his lasting, eternal, and most significant contribution to the popular culture will forever be his legacy as a singer, an interpreter of music and lyrics and it is for that, particularly, that he will be remembered as the most enduring voice of the Twentieth Century. 

Sinatra’s recording career began in earnest in 1939 with the Harry James Orchestra.  He is justifiably credited with having invented the “concept” album in the early to late 1950s in his Capitol collaborations with brilliant arranger/conductor/composer Nelson Riddle.  Their association for Capitol Records, beginning in 1954 with Songs For Young Lovers (preserved by The National Registry as one of music’s most priceless recordings) contributed substantially to the success of long-playing records, and revolutionized the recording industry. Sinatra’s vibrant performance of “I Get A Kick Out Of You” sets the powerful stage for the return of music’s most gifted popular vocalist, while his finger popping rendition of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” showcases the singer like he had never been experienced before.  “A Foggy Day In London Town” quickly became a staple of the singer’s repertoire, while the glorious sadness artfully conveyed by his definitive interpretation of “My Funny Valentine” is delivered here by a master musical poet.  The delectable mood of this first Capitol recording  is further exemplified by the singer’s eloquent delivery of the now classic “Violets For Your Furs.”

Life, its scars, disappointments and rejection enabled  Sinatra’s impeccable phrasing, deeply passionate, and acutely sensitive vocal performances, and these sublime recordings have cannily stood the test of time, remaining as fresh today as when they were first recorded more than sixty years ago.  He was a tantalizing troubadour on a provocative long day’s journey into sacred night, mining the deepest loneliness and darkest despair of our collective souls and defining consciousness.

Frank Sinatra sang for countless albums during his recording lifetime.  However, his richest treasure trove of priceless recordings would seem to have been produced during the period of artistic comeback, following the release of From Here To Eternity, during his early association with Nelson Riddle at Capitol Records. 

While a listing of supposedly “Best” recordings would, at this juncture, be entirely subjective, and dictated by the tastes of those compiling such a quietly personal list, common critical consensus will play a stalwart role in any such determination. As much as I love and respect his early work for Columbia Records with Tommy Dorsey and arranger Axel Stordahl, it is with the collaboration between Sinatra and Nelson Riddle that vocal artistry truly came of age.  No one could jolt an audience out of its lethargy as definitively and electrically as Sinatra in his prime.  His swinging stylizations and charts (he methodically chose his own song stylings and selections) continue to infuse and energize the most sophisticated listeners with exhilarating enthusiasm, while his rapturous ballads and torched performances effortlessly transform the most cynical of audiences with their poignant, poetic beauty.  The startling, yearning honesty of each performance quite literally bleeds from the singer’s microphone onto recorded vinyl in world weary sadness, resignation, and emotional defeat.

Their second collaboration for the label, Swing Easy, recorded in 1954, produced more Sinatra classics, including “Just One Of Those Things,” “Taking A Chance On Love,” and the venerable “All Of Me.”  Capitol’s teaming of Sinatra with Riddle was both catching and breathing creative fire, and this new album added considerable fuel to the flame.

In 1955 the team introduced a quintessential recording of gut wrenching proportion, and featured some of their most identifiable signature tracks.  In The Wee Small Hours was an unbearably melancholy collection, featuring some of the singer’s most soul searing recordings.  These included “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning,” “I See Your Face Before Me,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” “Deep In A Dream,” and probably the two most meaningful Sinatra vocalizations of my life…the unimaginably painful “When Your Lover Has Gone,” and every delusional loser’s terminal lament…”I Get Along Without You Very Well.” 

This Is Sinatra, released in 1956, was a superb collection of “singles” never before afforded the honor of assemblage on a single album…And what an album.  This amazing LP gathered together under one roof the best of the best, and included “I’ve Got The World On A String,” “Three Coins In The Fountain,” “Love And Marriage,” “From Here To Eternity,” “The Gal That Got Away” (from A Star Is Born), “Rain…Falling From The Skies,” “My One And Only Love,” and “Learnin’ The Blues.”

In 1956 the team of Sinatra and Riddle released one of their most successful compilations of up tempo recordings designed for hip young lovers.  Songs For Swingin’ Lovers became one of their most highly regarded, best selling LP’s.  Featuring such pulsating Sinatra standards as “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Too Marvelous For Words,” “Anything Goes,” and the Sinatra classic “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” their latest album was a winner by any stretch of critical interpretation and imagination. However, it was during the following year, in 1957, that the duo produced, recorded, and released their definitive finger snapping classic, A Swingin’ Affair.  This astonishingly high powered recording lit turntables on fire with its remarkable recordings of “I Wish I Were In Love Again,” “Stars Fell On Alabama,” “I Won’t Dance,” “The Lonesome Road,” “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” “From This Moment On”, and the incomparably produced, arranged, and performed “Night And Day,” arguably the most fundamentally perfect of all of Frank Sinatra’s thousands of recordings.

Where Are You, released in 1957 by Capitol, pairing Sinatra with his second major collaborator of the period, Gordon Jenkins, is born of the same emotionally naked creativity and inspiration.  Intensely personal, with haunting torch songs that included the title track, “Where Are You,” “I Cover The Waterfront,” the unforgettable “Maybe You’ll Be There,” “Laura” (composer David Raksin’s favorite vocal performance of his tune), “Autumn Leaves,” and “I’m A Fool To Want You,” a melancholy version of a song he’d originally recorded some years earlier when first devastated by his calamitous affair with Ava Gardner. Between 1956 and 1957, however, Sinatra’s voice had decidedly deepened, revealing a hitherto unexpected maturity and world-weary surrender.  Some of the sweetness of his earlier years had now been replaced by a softening of his vocal chords, and he expressed legitimate concern that listeners might not be comfortable with the dramatic change in both the tenor and texture of his voice.  He needn’t have worried.  His audience was, after all, aging along with him.

For the 1957 recording season, Sinatra and Riddle returned to basics with a small ensemble presentation, Close To You.  Performed with The Hollywood String Quartet, this collection of smoldering ballads included the title track “Close To You,” “Everything Happens To Me,” “I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night,” “Blame It On My Youth,” “Love Locked Out,” and the poignant “P.S. I Love You,” a mournful contemplation of life without his now separated wife.

Come Fly With Me, released in 1958 by Capitol, paired Sinatra with composer/conductor Billy May for their landmark recording of “a little traveling music.”  With tunes covering destinations around the globe, listeners were treated to sumptuous up and slow tempo treatments of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s title track “Come Fly With Me,” “Moonlight In Vermont,” the haunting “Autumn In New York” (among my favorite Sinatra recordings), “April In Paris,” “Blue Hawaii,” and the torch lit “London By Night.”  This brilliant concept album remains one of Sinatra’s most enduring and popular sets, while the title track will ever be identified with one singer alone.

1958 saw the release of what must be considered the finest recorded album of Sinatra’s life and career.  Only The Lonely, recorded by Sinatra with arranger/conductor/composer Nelson Riddle is the creative panacea for both artists, a remarkable collaborative effort which produced many of the most searing, poignant tunes ever recorded, and is the definitive highlight product summing up both men’s careers.  It is a landmark album from any standpoint and is easily my personal favorite of all of Sinatra’s hundreds of albums. The startling, yearning honesty of each performance quite literally bleeds from the singer’s microphone onto the vinyl in world weary sadness, resignation, and emotional defeat.  Every performance, every song, sounds as though it had never been sung before, and should never be sung by anyone else again.  Each song is reborn in his recorded imagery.  Selections include “Only The Lonely.” “Angel Eyes,” “What’s New,” “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry,” “Spring Is Here,” and “One For My Baby,” in which the artist musically descends into alcoholic retreat, oblivion, and spiritual redemption.  If ever a pop vocal recording could be considered a masterpiece, this is the one.  Frank Sinatra, Jr., a brilliant musicologist and chronicler of his father’s recordings, famously remarked that this album should never be listened to without a doctor’s prescription.  It is the masterpiece of the Sinatra, Riddle collaborative years.

Sinatra and Billy May joined forces once again in 1959 for their multi-honored, Grammy winning recording of Come Dance With Me.  Featuring Cahn and Van Heusen’s gem “Come Dance With Me” (“come on cutes…put on your Basie boots…and come dance with me”) “Something’s Gotta Give,” “Too Close For Comfort,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night Of The Week,” “Cheek To Cheek,” “The Song Is You,” and “Baubles, Bangles And Beads,” this highly respected, classic collection continues to receive generous airplay today, nearly six decades following its original release, and is still one of the hippest albums ever produced.

Sinatra returned to the studio once more in 1959 to record yet another definitively produced album of ballads and torch songs with Gordon Jenkins entitled No One Cares.  Featuring the Cahn and Van Heusen title track “When No One Cares,” along with such titles as the soul searing “Cottage For Sale,” “I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You,” “I’ll Never Smile Again,” and the eternally beautiful “Here’s That Rainy Day,” this latest recording of classic saloon songs established Sinatra once again as the premier balladeer of the last century.  His interpretations are startling in their degree of vocal honesty, pain, and nearly intoxicating vulnerability.  

Look To Your Heart, released by Capitol in 1959, is among the sweetest of Sinatra’s “singles” compilations.  His voice is in glorious shape as he croons such tender ballads as “Look To Your Heart,” “Not As A Stranger,” “Our Town,” “You My Love” (from Young At Heart), “Impatient Years,” “I could Have Told You,” the powerful “When I Stop Loving You,” as well as yet another Sinatra anthem…”I’m Gonna Live Till I Die.”

As the dawn of a new decade emerged, Sinatra and Nelson Riddle returned to the studio to record a relaxed, yet passionate album of ballads entitled Nice ‘N’ Easy released in 1960.  With another title track written especially for Sinatra by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, this new recording revealed a more mature singer, growing comfortable with his age, as well as the evolution of his romantic progression and emotional resignation.  Tracks for this memorable album included “Nice ‘N’ Easy,” “How Deep Is The Ocean,” “I’ve Got A Crush On You,” “She’s Funny That Way,” “Try A Little Tenderness,” and the rapturous “Embraceable You.”

Wishing to break out of what he perceived as an increasingly stagnating artistic box, Sinatra began his own recording company with the advent of Reprise Records.  The first album from his own label, Ring-A-Ding-Ding (1960) knocked it out of the proverbial ballpark.  This stunning new recording was electrifying in both acoustical sound, and revitalized performance.  Teaming for the first time with arranger Johnny Mandel, this newest album from the Sinatra stable included the astonishing title track “Ring-A-Ding-Ding” written especially for the album by old friends Cahn and Van Heusen, along with such explosively produced charts as “Let’s Fall In Love,” “Be Careful…It’s My Heart,” “A Foggy Day,” “A Fine Romance,” “In The Still Of The Night,” “The Coffee Song,” “Let’s Face The Music And Dance,” and “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm.”  This began an amazing new chapter in Sinatra’s ever developing bag of goodies and surprises. 

The singer contractually returned to Capitol in 1961 to record the wildly enthusiastic Sinatra’s Swingin’ Session, a joyful, impossibly brash collection of up tempo standards that redefined the meaning of recording on the “fast track.”  Sinatra, together with Nelson Riddle were evidently consuming bucket loads of coffee during these sessions which included “When You’re Smiling,” “It All Depends On You,” “My Blue Heaven,” “I Concentrate On You,” “You Do Something To Me,” and “My Blue Heaven,” and all arranged to beat the band with their electrifying rhythms.

All Alone, released by Reprise in 1962, was among the label and singer’s most disappointingly received concept albums, and yet remains one of their most artistically brilliant.  Arranged and conducted by frequent collaborator Gordon Jenkins, this often remarkable collection of torch songs featured some of Sinatra’s most breathtakingly beautiful song stylings.  His eloquent performances throughout this astonishing album are among the most perfectly rendered poetic vocals of his career.  The tracks include the title tune “All Alone,” the haunting “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Oh, How I Miss You Tonight,” “The Girl Next Door,” and his heart searing rendition of Irving Berlin’s tribute to his late wife, “When I Lost You,” recorded on the day Sinatra’s dear friend Jack Benny had succumbed to Cancer.  One can hear the tragic sense of personal loss in the singer’s voice, and his performance remains unbearably grieving and sad.

Point Of No Return, Sinatra’s final recording for Capitol Records, was released in 1962.  Arranged and conducted by old friend Axel Stordahl, a veteran of the singer’s Columbia years with Dorsey, this poignant farewell to the label that re-established Sinatra’s legacy for all time is among his finest.  Featuring eloquent performances that would echo his recorded vocal mastery far beyond his own mortality, this wonderful finale included such unforgettable tracks as “When The World Was Young,” “September Song,” “There Will Never Be Another You,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and the sublimely haunting Sinatra standard “These Foolish Things…Remind Me Of You.” 

These remarkable recordings set the stage for Sinatra’s lasting, eternally complex and powerful imprint upon the popular American musical scene, establishing the singer as, perhaps, the most significant artistic voice of this or any other century.  While many of his later collaborative recordings would dramatically change our musical landscape in historic pairings with Count Basie and Antonio Carlos Jobim, among others, it was the ground breaking concept albums created at Capitol Records with Frank Sinatra, Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May that would forever alter the musical tapestry of a generation.

++ Steve Vertlieb, April, 2015


Slideshow: News photos taken throughout Frank’s career


The JFK Assassination At 60: New Frontiers In Scientific, Medical, Legal And Historical Research

By Steve Vertlieb: My brother Erwin and I joined friends Howard Weitz and Gary Hoffman over the past several days in order to attend this fabulous once in a lifetime event.

The legacy of Camelot still resonates for historians and the public alike. On Nov. 15-17, 2023, experts gathered in Pittsburgh for Duquesne University’s JFK Assassination at 60 symposium.

“Former Secret Service Agent for President John F. Kennedy, Paul Landis, who recently made headlines around the world with new details about the 1963 assassination, was one of the featured speakers.

Speaking with Alec Baldwin, an actor and social activist who has garnered my personal admiration and respect over the years, at the JFK 60th anniversary symposium held at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during opening night remarks on Wednesday evening, November 15th, 2023.

Rob Reiner speaks to the JFK assassination symposium via a zoom conference call.

Together with a truly courageous American hero, Paul Landis, at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh for the 60th JFK anniversary assemblage in Pittsburgh on November 16th. Paul is one of the two last living secret service agents riding with the presidential motorcade when the fatal shots rang out on November 22nd, 1963.

“Don’t Let It Be Forgot
That Once There Was A Spot
For One Brief Shining Moment
That Was Known As Camelot”

Pixel Scroll 11/7/23 Pixel Scrollightly Seems Like A Good Character Name

(1) PHILADELPHIA SCIENCE FICTION SOCIETY CONTEST GOES INTERNATIONAL. [Item by Lew Wolkoff.] For the past 25 years the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society (PSFS) has run a Young Writers’ Contest for students in grades 5-8 and grades 9-12. Winners receive a cash prize and two free memberships (winner and parent or guardian) to the Philadelphia Science Fiction Conference (Philcon). This year, Philcon will be November 17-19 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Cherry Hill, NJ.

The contest is open to any student in the grades mentioned, but in past years, most submissions have been from the greater Philadelphia area. This year, things were different. The contest was mentioned in some Asian scholastic magazines, and there were submissions from India, Nepal, and Afghanistan. The second place winner in the High School category was, in fact, B.S. Raagul of Tasmil Nadu, India.

Some of the winning stories may be posted on the PSFS or Philcon website after Philcon is over says Lew Wolkoff, Contest Committee Chair.

(2) NORWESCON LOVES TERRY BROOKS. Seattle Met’s profile  “Terry Brooks Has Found a Family in Seattle’s Fantasy Scene” includes a quote from Norwescon chair SunnyJim Morgan.

… It’s safe to say that Brooks—who now splits his time between Seattle and Cannon Beach, Oregon—made the right choice. If you’re a fantasy fan, you might know that Brooks has written 23 New York Times bestsellers and sold over 25 million novels worldwide. Sister of Starlit Seas, the third book in his Viridian Deep fantasy series hits shelves on November 14.

It didn’t take long for the Emerald City to embrace Brooks when he first moved here in 1986. Nearly 38 years later, Brooks is still repaying the support that galvanized his career, regularly communicating with the huge fantasy and sci-fi community in Seattle and trying to inspire the next generation of writers in the genre. Later this month he’ll take part in a speaking tour across the Pacific Northwest, visiting Spokane, Seattle, and Tukwila, before heading out of state.

“He is a fan favorite,” says SunnyJim Morgan, the chair for Norwescon, Seattle’s annual science fiction and fantasy convention that has run continuously since 1978 and attracts up to 2,300 fantasy and sci-fi fans every year. “He’s one of those A-list, top-tier genre authors that we would love to have come every year. But they often can’t make it because they’re so overwhelmed with requests.”…

(3) 2025 WESTERCON NEEDS YOU TO FILL IN THE BLANK. In a post at Westercon.org, Kevin Standlee announces that the Westercon 77 (2025) Site Selection Ballot has been released. However, because there are no filed bids for 2025 he goes into some detail about how the fate of the convention will be decided.

The ballot to select the site of the 77th West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon 75) to be held in 2025 is now available online at http://www.westercon.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/Westercon-75-Site-Selection-Ballot-for-Westercon-77.pdf. No bids filed to host Westercon 77 by the filing deadline for the ballot, nor have any write-in bids files as of the date of this posting. The final deadline to file a bid as a valid write-in is the close of voting at Westercon 75 (Loscon 49) on Friday, November 24, 2024 at 6:00 pm Pacific Standard Time. The results of voting will be announced at the Westercon 75 Business Meeting on the morning of Saturday, November 25, 2024. Should no valid bid win the election, the Westercon Business Meeting will determine the site of Westercon 77 per the provisions of the Westercon Bylaws.

There is a site for the 2024 convention — Westercon 76. It will be held in Salt Lake City, UT from July 4-7.

(4) SAG-AFTRA STRIKE PROGRESS. Note: the main articles at the links mainly discuss Monday’s negotiations, with some updates from Tuesday’s session.

“Actors Strike: SAG-AFTRA & Studios End Talks For Night; Guild Responds To Offer” reports Deadline.

…As has been the case for months, AI remains one of the major issues that divides the two sides. The studios are looking to seal the deal with what one source called “an expanded version of what the WGA agreed to,” while the guild wants project-specific protections on scans of performers and re-use of their likenesses. Well-positioned sources on both sides admit that part of the problem is coming up with effective guardrails for a technology that is evolving in leaps and bounds….

The Hollywood Reporter adds, “As SAG-AFTRA Responds to Studio Offer, AI Protections for High-Earning Members Remain Sticking Point”.

… Multiple sources familiar with the state of the negotiations tell The Hollywood Reporter that SAG-AFTRA has pushed back on an AI clause that is included in the studios’ latest offer. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is seeking to secure AI scans for Schedule F performers — guild members who earn more than the minimum for series regulars ($32,000 per TV episode) and feature films ($60,000). The companies’ suggested clause would require studios and streamers to pay to scan the likeness of Schedule F performers. SAG-AFTRA is seeking to attach compensation for the reuse of AI scans, as AMPTP member companies would also need to secure consent from the performer. The language in the AMPTP’s offer would see the studios and streamers secure the right to use scans of deceased performers without the consent of their estate or SAG-AFTRA, according to a union-side source….

(5) UNLISTED NUMBERS FROM NOW ON. “The ‘Wall Street Journal’ Drops Its Bestseller Lists”Publishers Weekly tells why.

The Wall Street Journal has stopped running its weekly bestseller lists. The final lists were carried in the past weekend’s editions. The paper ran a total of six fiction and nonfiction lists, as well as a hardcover business list. All were powered by Circana BookScan.

The fiction and nonfiction categories were both divided into hardcover, e-book, and combined lists. In something of a unique feature, the lists combined adult and children’s titles on one list. Thus, last week’s top-selling hardcover fiction book was Jeff Kinney’s No Brainer, while The Woman in Me by Britney Spears was number one in all three nonfiction categories, including the e-book/print combined list.

Paul Gigot, editorial page editor at the WSJ, said that the company’s contract with Circana expired, “and we are not renewing it.” He added that all other aspects of the paper’s book coverage will “continue as usual.”

(6) TOTALING THE UNACCOUNTABLE. The New York Times’ Ian Wang reviews Naomi Alderman’s new novel, The Future: “In ‘The Future,’ Earth Barrels Toward Fiery Destruction”.

There are few figures in the Bible more cruelly evocative than Lot’s wife, who is transfigured into a pillar of salt for looking back at Sodom. The poet Anna Akhmatova mourned “her swift legs rooted to the ground”; Kurt Vonnegut wrote of her backward glance, “I love her for that, because it was so human.” Naomi Alderman’s “The Future,” like much great science fiction, turns the symbolic into tangible, chemical reality. Early in her novel, a woman is frozen to death with a chemical refrigerant made of paramagnetic salts: a Lot’s wife for the Information Age.

Alderman’s Sodom is our own polarized, plutocratic world. Some names have been changed — instead of Bezos or Musk, we have Lenk Sketlish, Zimri Nommik and Ellen Bywater as our unsavory tech tyrants — but the pressure points are the same: A.I., algorithms, deadly pandemics and the existential threat of climate change, all bound up with the rise of an increasingly unaccountable billionaire class. Whether by divine will or not, “The Future” finds the earth barreling toward fiery destruction….

(7) THE MEASURE OF AMERICANS AND THEIR BOOKS. Book Riot attempts to answer a question with the help of two studies: “What Are The Book-Owning and Book-Reading Habits of Americans? Two New Reports Shed Insight”.

The poll from YouGov includes this information:

  • 20% of Americans own between one and ten books;
  • 14% own between 11 and 25 books; and
  • 13% between 26 and 50.

There are more interesting numbers related to book ownership, too. Only 9% state that they own no physical books, while 69% own fewer than 100. Some 6% have no idea how many books they own. For those of you thinking that you’re now among the percentage of Americans who own a lot of books, you might be right: 4% of Americans claim to own between 500 and 1,000 books, while 3% claim to own more than 1,000 books. These numbers represent physical books, which remain the most common type of book for Americans to own. About 50% of Americans own an ebook, while 9% claim to own at least 100 ebooks…

The article also covers results of a survey by the National Endowment for the Arts.

(8) IF AND ONLY IF. When Worlds of IF is revived the staff will include Robert Silverberg as contributing editor. And bonus content is already being posted to the website.

Worlds of IF is pleased to welcome science fiction legend Robert Silverberg as contributing editor. A multiple winner of both Hugo and Nebula Awards, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and a Grand Master of SF, his input and stories will be a welcome addition to the revival of the magazine.

In addition to finalizing the editorial staff and acquisitions for the inaugural issue, Worlds of IF is rolling out bonus content on the website with new features added frequently including “An Interview with Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey, multiple time Hugo Finalist, and audio adaptations of classic stories from the pages of IF, most recently “Double Take” by Wilson Parks Griffith from 1955 and “Communication” by Charles Fontenay from 1956.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 7, 1910 Pearl Argyle. Catherine CabalI in the 1936 Things to Come as written by H.G. Wells based off his “The Shape of Things to Come” story. Being a dancer, she also appeared in 1926 The Fairy Queen opera by Henry Purcell, with dances by Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton. Her roles were Dance of the Followers of Night, an attendant on Summer, and Chaconne. At age thirty-six, she died of a sudden massive cerebral hemorrhage while visiting her husband in New York. (Died 1947.)
  • Born November 7, 1914 R. A. Lafferty. Writer known for somewhat eccentric usage of language.  His first novel Past Master would set a lifelong pattern of seeing his works nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards as novels but not winning either though he won a Hugo short story for “Eurema’s Dam”. He had received a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, and was honored with the Cordwainer Smith Foundation’s Rediscovery award. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 7, 1950 Lindsay Duncan, 73. Adelaide Brooke in the Tenth Doctor‘s “The Waters of Mars” story and the recurring role Lady Smallwood on Sherlock in “His Last Vow,” “The Six Thatchers,” and “The Lying Detective”. She’s also been in Black MirrorA Discovery of WitchesFrankensteinThe Storyteller: Greek MythsMission: 2110 and one of my favorite series, The New Avengers.
  • Born November 7, 1954 Guy Gavriel Kay, 69. So the story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was then a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? Kay’s own Finovar trilogy is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise somewhat resembles Renaissance Italy . My favorite work by him is Ysabel which strangely enough is called an urban fantasy when it isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award. 
  • Born November 7, 1960 Linda Nagata, 63. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out, to wit The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels) and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Her site is here.
  • Born November 7, 1974 Carl Steven. He appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as a young Spock, thereby becoming the first actor other than Leonard Nimoy to play the role in a live action setting. Genre one-offs included Weird ScienceTeen Wolf and Superman.  He provided the voice of a young Fred Jones for four seasons worth of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo which can be construed as genre. Let’s just say his life didn’t end well and leave it at that. (Died 2011.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side demonstrates that aliens need anger management too.

(11) LOST RELIC OF THE LIGHTER-THAN-AIR AGE. Any number of times I drove past this structure just to soak up the history. Gone now. “Fire destroys second world war-era blimp hangar in California” – the Guardian has the story.  

A giant second world war-era wooden hangar that was built to house military blimps based in southern California was destroyed on Tuesday in a raging fire that authorities expect could continue burning for days.

Firefighters responded to the blaze just before 1am, the Orange county fire authority said, and found the hangar “fully engulfed” with flames tearing through the roof. The ferocity of the fire brought more than 70 firefighters to the scene and prompted authorities to make the unusual decision of deploying helicopters typically used to fight wildfires in an effort to slow the blaze.

Crews were unable to stop it from within the hangar due to the “dynamic nature” of the fire and the collapse risk, fire chief Brian Fennessy said at a news conference on Tuesday morning. Officials determined the only way to fight the fire was to allow the landmark to collapse.

“It’s a sad day for the city of Tustin and all of Orange county,” Fennessy said.

Fennessy said no injuries were reported. The blaze could continue burning for hours, or even days, he said.

The historic hangar was one of two built in 1942 for the US navy in the city of Tustin, about 35 miles south-east of Los Angeles. At the time, the navy used lighter-than-air ships for patrol and antisubmarine defense.

According to the city, the hangars are 17 stories high, more than 1,000ft long and 300ft wide, putting them among the largest wooden structures ever built. The burning structure was known as the north hangar….

(12) A BRIEF HISTORY OF MUSIC FOR THE MOVIES (2011), AND FILM COMPOSERS ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION. Steve Vertlieb invites you to read “Vertlieb’s Views: Tribute to Film Music” at The Thunder Child.

“A Brief History Of Music For The Movies! (2011)”

Much of the most profoundly beautiful music of the twentieth century was composed for films. From the earliest days of sound with scores by Max Steiner for both RKO Radio and Warner Bros, Erich Wolfgang Korngold at Warners, Alfred Newman at Fox, and Victor Young at Paramount, this distinctively Western art form would evolve and mature into some of the most significant, and influential symphonic scoring of the last century.

As the late thirties and early nineteen forties arrived, composers such as Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, and Victor Young would dominate the soundtrack of the American motion picture screen, while Arthur Bliss and others would favor British films with their own original music.

Hugo Friedhofer’s sublime score for William Wyler’s “The Best Years of Our Lives” pervasively influenced the sounds of post war America, while Dimitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman, Elmer Bernstein, Leonard Bernstein, Alex North, John Green, Henry Mancini, Ernest Gold, William Alwyn, Phillip Sainton, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry, James Horner, Ennio Morricone, David Amram, Lee Holdridge, James Bernard and, of course, John Williams would both transform and reinvent the soundtrack of our lives.

Steve also recommends viewing this three hour “live” lecture commissioned by writer/director Robert Tinnell for his film class at The Factory Digital Filmmaking Program on May 4th, 2011, presenting a significantly compressed overview of the history of motion picture music.

It was never intended as definitive but, rather, an understandably simplified evening’s exploration for a then youthful audience of the significance and enduring importance of a century of original film scoring.

A FILM COMPOSERS ROUNDTABLE

This remarkable roundtable of composers and orchestrators assembled ten years ago for a sequence in the unfinished feature length motion picture documentary “The Man Who ‘Saved’ The Movies.”

Below: Pictured from left to right are acclaimed motion picture orchestrator Patrick Russ, Erwin Vertlieb, Emmy winning film and television composer/conductor Lee Holdridge, writer/film score musicologist Steve Vertlieb, and one of the most brilliant composers working in film today, the marvelous Mark McKenzie.

(13) PICKLE FLAVOR TRENDING. Reviewer Angela L. Pagán uses her tastebuds to put the product to the test: “Here’s What the New Heinz Pickle Ketchup Tastes Like” in The Takeout.

…As both an advocate for all applications of ketchup and an ardent pickle lover, I have a lot riding on this new condiment. I’ve chosen to try the ketchup innovation on the perfect blank canvas: a fresh batch of French fries, hot out of the fryer. Two of my favorite items have finally come together as one, but are they truly a match?

Well, as with any real relationship, the pairing isn’t perfect.

One dip of the fries into the new ketchup and the answer is immediately clear. The ketchup tastes like classic Heinz ketchup, full of sweet tang, blended with a dill scent and such a light dill note at the end that you might miss it if you don’t get enough ketchup on your fry.

This isn’t to say that Heinz is pulling a fast one on consumers by not delivering on what the product says it contains (as some brands have lately). Heinz Pickle Ketchup is clearly labeled as containing “pickle seasoning,” which is exactly what it tastes like—a sprinkle of dill flavor mixed into a whole lot of ketchup.

Unfortunately, since this is meant to do justice to pickle fans, the ketchup falls just a bit short of that goal. For a brand that touts its pickle prowess profusely (say that five times fast) in the announcement of this new release, it seems to have fallen victim to the same mistake many other brands make when it comes to pickle products. There’s not enough pickle flavor in this Pickle Ketchup for my taste….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George sells himself on the idea in “Five Nights at Freddy’s Pitch Meeting”.

 [Thanks to Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, Lew Wolkoff, Steve Vertlieb, Jean-Paul L. Garnier, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Remembering Harry M. Geduld (1931-2016)

By Steve Vertlieb: It was Harry M. Geduld who brought Miklos Rozsa and George Pal to Indiana University’s main campus in Bloomington for a memorable film conference in 1978.

Genre fans will remember Harry as the co-author of The Girl In The Hairy Paw (1976), the very first volume ever devoted entirely to the legend of RKO’s classic monster, King Kong. While The Making of King Kong got the jump on the Avon publication in reaching bookstores just a little bit earlier, this colorful publication by Harry and his frequent writing partner and friend, Ronald Gottesman, was in preparation as early as 1972 and was, in truth, the very first book ever devoted to the genre milestone.

Harry and Ron wrote dozens of film books together, including their remarkable work on Sergei Eisenstein and Harry’s own personal literary masterpiece, The Birth Of The Talkies (a seminal work on the development of sound motion pictures).

Harry and Ron invited me to lunch in 1972 after the publication of my series of articles on the making and production of King Kong for the premiere issues of The Monster Times, inviting me to polish and rewrite my work for their forthcoming signature volume on the Merian C. Cooper classic for Avon Books in New York.

Harry was one of the most brilliant men that it’s ever been my privilege to know. He was a cherished friend, a mentor, and truly my brother. He succumbed, sadly, to a long debilitating illness on Sunday afternoon, January 10, 2016, passing peacefully in his sleep.

Harry Geduld was a very special soul who transformed my life with his generosity and kindness. I shall always love him.

Pixel Scroll 10/28/23 When You Saw Only One Set Of Pixels, It Was Then That I Scrolled You

(1) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Con reports: Arthur Liu (part 2)

Arthur’s con crud is subsiding, and he was able to post the second (of a projected four) part of his con report.  This one covers the setup ahead of the event.  Disclosure: I am also mentioned in this part.  Via Google Translate, with minor manual edits:

…in late September (around the 21st), the organizing committee terminated the sale of offline tickets without any notice. The financial problems of fan groups have already been mentioned in the previous article. Among them, members’ travel expenses and conference attendance expenses are equally expensive. Affected by this, as the situation at the booths has not progressed, members of the Tsinghua University Fantasy Association were still waiting and watching, planning to buy tickets after the situation settled down a bit. However, this unexpected situation caused almost all members who were expected to participate in the exhibition to be wiped out. After many inquiries, the volunteers said that there would be work permits, but the number could not guarantee that all people would be covered. This left the fan booth’s participation in the exhibition in a state of limbo until the end of the conference…

Man-made landscapes related to the science fiction conference are everywhere along the way. As I approached the venue, I saw the huge contrast in the street scenes in different areas of Pidu District (outside the main city, there are many open spaces and wastelands, new buildings and abandoned buildings), which also made me realize the importance of the science fiction conference. For the local government, the potential economic significance of hosting this conference is significant…

The security check area was crowded with people, and each gate had a large number of security guards. The inspection process was probably the most thorough in my life ever. Part of our luggage was examined, every page was taken out and checked. After delaying for a while, we arrived inside the venue.  The smell of air freshener was very strong and there was also a strong pungent smell…

After boarding the train, [con liaison] L said that a special car had been arranged to pick us up, but it was no longer needed. On the way, I learned from [con liaison] LY that when the pen club I applied for was handed over within the volunteers, the demand for personnel control (15 people) was not handed over. Now there was no guarantee that this demand would be met, but she promised to report it to the above… By this time, both of us were exhausted and had reached the limit of emotional management.

At 19:03, we finally arrived at Wyndham, and [con liaison] L met us in the lobby. Before checking in, we went to the check-in office to get our guest badges, and then we were told that the conference manual had not been produced yet, nor had the attendant badges. Historically, some science fiction fans will start from a certain point and feel that the entire community is not worthy and is no longer worth bothering with. This was probably that moment for me. In the guest room, I got very angry with [con liaison] L – actually it was not his own fault, so I apologized to him – and explained several requirements: the member’s ID, as well as the participation manual and traffic control map, the next day.  Given that the con was about to begin, the last two were necessities for participating in the con. They had to exist.

In the second image, the data visualization shown on the TV on the right can be found here (note; the UI is Chinese only).

Request for submissions to Zero Gravity

RiverFlow is requesting submissions for a future issue of the Hugo-winning Zero Gravity.

Dear friends, if you write about the memories of the Chengdu WorldCon, welcome to send me the English version and pictures. Chinese Fanzine Zero Gravity newspaper is organizing the Chengdu WorldCon story, we will organize human translation.

The email is: [email protected]

CCTV news report on the Worldcon

I doubt many will sit all the way through this untranslated 21 minute CCTV news item from Monday 23rd about the Worldcon, but I include it just in case.  Notable faces in the early part of the video include (in order of first appearance):

  • RiverFlow and Ling Shizhen
  • Ben Yalow
  • Cixin Liu
  • Enzhe Zhao
  • Hai Ya

Later on, from around 16:00, we also see:

  • Liang Xiaolan (Honorary Co-Chair of the con)
  • Dave McCarty

The core of the piece is a videolink interview with Best Novelette winner Hai Ya from around 04:00 to 12:45.

There’s then more a bit more reportage of the con – mostly the ceremonies – followed by coverage of the Galaxy Award ceremony that took place over in the Sheraton, before going back to the con.

From 16:30 there’s a telephone interview with (Hugo finalist, SF World editor, concom member) Yao Haijun, during which Nicholas Whyte pops up (again 😉 in footage at around 19:23, followed shortly thereafter by James Bryant.

Hai Ya responds to criticism of his work following his Hugo win

SF Light Year posted a brief Q&A with Hai Ya on Wednesday 25th, following the negative reaction in some quarters to his Hugo win, as covered in Tuesday’s Scroll.  Here’s an extract, via Google Translate:

My current mentality is very stable and I have a clear understanding of the award and myself. As for the work, I never thought it was very elegant or something that people expected of me. I could only present what I thought was a better state within the scope of my abilities. Let the readers judge. There will definitely be criticism and harshness. It is actually difficult to define how much of this is objective, but popular novels must accept this unfair scrutiny, and I have the consciousness to accept it.

Compared with the position of a writer, I prefer to define myself as a science fiction fan. I agree with some of your ideas. The science fiction circle should be more diverse. The increase in science fiction fan activities and comments is a sign that the ecosystem is getting healthier

A couple of days later, on Thursday 26th, Hai Ya made a brief statement on Weibo.  Via Google Translate (which seems to be slightly more readable than the Alibaba Cloud rendition available within Weibo, but still far from flawless):

After nearly a week of busy work, things are gradually sorting out, thank God. What I want to express has basically been made clear. I am personally neither qualified nor interested in doing too much value output. Writing science fiction has always been a very personal matter for me, and I have become more and more cautious about various activities and invitations, leaving them to the editor. Happily, despite all the criticism, there were few personal attacks. Friends who care about me, please rest assured. As the saying goes, if you want to wear a crown, you must bear its weight. What I got is not a crown, and the pressure I receive is not that great. Currently I’m in good condition.

There’s at least one hater in the comments.

Weibo SF promo image

(Via SF Light Year)  The Weibo app had a splash page at launch promoting “The New Power of Science Fiction”, showing the avatars of the three Chinese Hugo winners, and namechecking the Hugos and Hai Ya’s Best Novelette win.  A further post shows the page shown if you clicked on the button, you would get a list of notable SF people’s accounts, including previous Hugo winner Hao Jingfang, and some of this year’s finalists Bo Jiang, Regina Kanyu Wang, Lu Ban and Yao Haijun.

Linking to the same list, RiverFlow reported that his number of followers had jumped from around 1,100 to 38 thousand.

Bits and pieces from Xiaohongshu

The following are a handful of posts that I’d never gotten round to submitting before now.

(2) A SNAPSHOT FROM WFC. Greg Ketter of DreamHaven Books and Comics feels disrespected. For good reason.

(3) AGGRESSIVE FAKES. Victoria Strauss exposes the “Imposter Syndrome: The Rise of Impersonation Scams” at Writer Unboxed.

…When I first started discovering these AS knockoffs (here’s my first blog post about them), they were mostly just selling Author Solutions-style publishing and marketing packages–although exponentially more overpriced and deceptively advertised than the original, with terrible customer service and the books and other products far more likely to be of poor quality (and that’s when they didn’t just take the money and run).

In recent years, though, their numbers have exploded—there are hundreds of AS knockoffs in operation now, and more cropping up all the time—creating fierce competition for customers in an increasingly crowded field. This has driven them to adopt ever more brazen practices to support their quest for writers’ cash: forging documents and contracts from Big 5 publishers, selling completely fictional products such as “book insurance”, engaging in elaborate front operations involving multiple fake businesses, and impersonating reputable literary agents, publishers, and movie companies.

Impersonation scams especially have become common over the past couple of years, and they can be quite convincing. In this post, you’ll find examples of the three types of impersonation scam you’re most likely to encounter, along with a look at the telltale signs that can identify them….

(4) INTERVIEW WITH CHANDLER DAVIS BIOGRAPHER. [Item by Olav Rokne.] I’m really hoping this book gets some serious consideration for the Best Related Hugo. Very well written, thoroughly researched. Doesn’t focus very much on the science fiction career of Chandler Davis, but he’s still a figure from the genre’s past, and it’s an interesting and relevant read. 

Got to interview the author Steve Batterson: “The Un-American Treatment of a Leftist Science Fiction Fan” at the Hugo Book Club Blog.

… The book starts off with a fairly straightforward biography of Davis’ early life. His childhood as the son of leftist academics who were members of the Communist Party, his education at Harvard and involvement with science fiction fandom, his military service and his marriage to Natalie Zemon-Davis. All of this is in service of the focus of the book: Davis’ brief stint at the University of Michigan, his firing, and the six-year legal saga that led to his imprisonment.

“It was incredibly courageous what Chandler did,” Batterson explains. “He was 27 or 28 years old when this all started. He had a wife and one child at the time – with another on the way. His wife was a graduate student, and it wasn’t clear at the time that she would go on to become one of the greatest historians of her generation.”

During the period after his firing, the Davis family faced economic hard times. When friends and colleagues took up a donation for them, the FBI ended up with a list of who donated; sadly it appears few in the science fiction community stood by their former compatriot.

“There’s not a lot of mention of science fiction or fandom in the FBI documents,” Batterson notes. “The FBI didn’t consider that to be disreputable.”

After he was released from serving his six-month prison sentence in 1960, the family emigrated to Canada where both Davis and his wife became professors at the University of Toronto. He rejoined fandom there, and published a handful of later stories. In 1989, he was one of the guests at the 47th Worldcon held in Boston. Both he and his wife had distinguished academic careers….

(5) FOR EXPOSURE. Jane L. Rosen reports on “A Night of Reading, Cover to Uncover” to the New York Times. “The author of ‘On Fire Island’ wasn’t sure what to expect when she was invited to appear at a ‘Books & Burlesque’ event. Here’s her unblushing report.”

Early in the summer, an unusual email popped up in my inbox. Sandwiched between a podcast request and an offer to speak at a South Florida chapter of Hadassah was an invitation to read an excerpt from my latest novel, “On Fire Island,” at a “Books & Burlesque” evening on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The event, as the show’s producers Fortune Cookie and Rosie Tulips explained, would feature five writers reading, each paired with a burlesque or drag artist creating an act inspired by the author’s work.

It took me a minute. Funny? Outrageous? Ill-advised? Possibly, but most of all, an intriguing change from the usual folding-chair-strewn book talk or stodgy Q. and A session. Even though the closest I’d ever gotten to burlesque was a brief stint as a young Gypsy Rose Lee at Camp Lokanda in the late ’70s, I nervously accepted….

(6) IF YOU THOUGHT GETTING MARRIED WAS SCARY BEFORE… The New York Times tells about couples “Vowing Till Death Do Us Part at the Hotel That Inspired ‘The Shining’”.

Couples who get married in October at the Stanley Hotel, situated at the doorstep of the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park, Colo., sometimes have a hard time getting their guests to R.S.V.P.

Lauren Nichols and Jeffrey Sheffler, who will marry there Oct. 28, couldn’t convince a dozen of their out-of-town guests to stay on the premises of the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write “The Shining,” his novel turned film, after staying there in 1974. And Melanie Pingel, who married Kyle Johnson there Oct. 13, was compelled to reserve a quiet space on a separate floor for guests who needed a moment away from the ghostly festivities. “My mom called it the place where the old ladies get to go have a break from it all,” she said.

These and other concessions — Jennie Wilson, a 2017 Stanley bride, was told by a guest “straight up that she wouldn’t come” — are perhaps a necessary trade-off for couples who want to exchange vows at what many call “The Shining” hotel….

Only a handful of couples who plan well in advance are greenlit for their October celebrations, said John Cullen, the Stanley’s owner. Those who do snag a spot between Oct. 1 and Halloween, the hotel’s busiest season, tend to share a common aesthetic: bridal fangs and cakes with Frankenstein-like surgical stitching can be part of it. Flower girls dressed as the sinister, not-quite-living Grady twins from the 1980 horror classic, or table décor that includes jars of pig hearts preserved in formaldehyde, can also be used.

The spookiness of the place is the allure for many couples, said Shayna Papke, a popular local planner for Halloween season weddings at the Stanley. “A wedding is the ultimate expression of who you are, and there are just people in the world who, this is who they are,” she said. “They’re the outliers who like dark music and dark stories. They’re fascinated by the death part of life.”

Many who fit that description flock to the Stanley for a ghost tour led by the hotel’s staff or to participate in a séance (More than 100,000 people visit per year; October is busy also because elk walk the streets and it’s “a really nice time to be in Estes Park,” Mr. Cullen said.) Still others consider it the ultimate location for committing to each other….

(7) RICHARD MOLL (1943-2023) [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Though possibly best known for his role as Bull the bailiff in the original run of Night Court, Richard Moll did an amazing amount of genre work over a long career. This includes a lot of voice work in animation and video games (see dozens of credits at IMDb.) One of his notable later appearances was in the 2010 live-action film Scooby-Doo: Curse of the Lake Monster in which he played the mysterious lighthouse keeper Elmer Uggins. Full profile: “Richard Moll, Bull the Bailiff on ‘Night Court,’ Dies at 80” in The Hollywood Reporter.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1944 Ian Don Marter. He was known for his role as Harry Sullivan on Doctor Who. As this is a Birthday listing of writers of authors, you might ask why he’s here. That’s because he’s one of the few Who actors authorized to write fiction in that universe in that time. As a result, he wrote nine novels before he died of a diabetic heart attack. He co-wrote in collaboration with Baker and director James Hill a script for a film provisionally titled Doctor Who Meets Scratchman (also known as Doctor Who and the Big Game). However due to a lack of funding as no one was interested in underwriting it , the project was ultimately abandoned. Bake and Hill novelized this script and there’s a Big Finish version as well. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 72. Writer and screenwriter whose animated DCU Jonah Hex is far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep, an American comedy horror film starring Bruce Campbell, is his best-known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1951 William H. Patterson, Jr.. Author of Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, a two-volume look at Heinlein which arguably is the best biography ever done on him. He also did The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. This “Tribute to Bill Patterson” by Mike with comments by Filers is touching indeed.  (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 28, 1957 Catherine Fisher, 66. Welsh poet and children’s novelist who writes in English. I’d suggest The Book of The Crow series of which Corbenic won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. Her Incarceron and Sapphique also earned a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature nomination. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Kristin Landon. Author of the uncompleted space opera Hidden Worlds (The Hidden WorldsThe Cold Minds and The Dark Reaches) and a one-off, Windhome, a first contact story. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 65. Writer of four novels, including Virtual Girl. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer and was nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Endeavour, Philip Dick and Prometheus Awards. Very impressive indeed. Her short fiction “The Ransom of Princess Starshine” appeared in 2017 in Stupefying Stories, edited by Bruce Bethke. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater shows a monster who you don’t ordinarily think of as moving that fast.
  • Thatababy introduces us to Konbanwa in a strip devoted to cinema history.
  • Jess Bradley says this is what the Singularity will really be like.
  • Finding Dee shows us true horror.

(10) SHOT ON LOCATION IN HALLOWEEN TOWN. “‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’: A Hit That Initially Unnerved Disney” – Tim Burton and director Henry Selick look back 30 years at the making of a cult favorite.  

…Over the course of its original run, “Nightmare” grossed $50 million at the domestic box office. And while that number is by no means dismal, it’s a far cry from Disney animated hits like “Aladdin,” which just a year earlier brought in $217 million from U.S. screens alone.

At the time, Disney couldn’t figure out how to market the operatic saga of Jack, a lanky, sharply dressed skeleton, infatuated with bringing the wonder of Christmas to his monstrous friends in uncanny Halloween Town.

Selick initially worried that the number of songs Danny Elfman had composed for the movie, a total of 10 tracks for the brisk 76-minute run time, would alienate viewers. In retrospect, he said, the memorable tunes were crucial to the film’s eventual success, once audiences connected with its unconventional rules of storytelling and design.

These days Selick can’t go a week without running into a fan wearing a sweater, hat or other apparel emblazoned with “Nightmare” imagery.

“This year there’s a 13-foot-tall Jack Skellington you can buy at Home Depot, and people have them on their lawns,” Selick said. “I like that because it’s pretty bizarre and extreme. That’s not just a T-shirt, that’s a real commitment.”

For Burton, the character of Jack Skellington embodies a preoccupation common in his work over the years: the terrifying notion of being misunderstood. “The conception of it was based on those feelings growing up of people perceiving you as something dark or weird when actually you’re not,” he recalled.

Selick compared the skeletal antihero’s amusingly manic behavior to Mr. Toad from the animated classic “The Wind in the Willows,” one of his favorite Disney protagonists. “I’ve always been drawn to characters like Jack Skellington,” Selick said. “He gets carried away with something new and goes way overboard with his enthusiasm.”…

(11) HERZOG Q&A. While promoting his memoir Every Man for Himself and God Against All, Werner Herzog tells the Guardian: “’I am not that much in pursuit of happiness’: Werner Herzog on beer, yoga and what he would ask God”.

…So, this new book he’s just written about the Austrian musician-cum-dairy-farmer combines two of Herzog’s passions then? “Neither is milking cows a great love of mine nor is rocking so…” he replies with an amused smirk. “But I understand. I catch your drift.”

Herzog is probably best known for his documentary films, which include 2005’s Grizzly Man, the tale of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell in Alaska, and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, made in 3D in 2010 from footage shot inside the prehistoric Chauvet Cave in southern France. Increasingly, though, Herzog devotes his creative energies to writing. In 2021, he published his first novel, The Twilight World, based on the Japanese army lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who refused to believe the second world war was over and only emerged from the jungle and surrendered in 1974.

“I’ve been a writer from the very beginning,” he says. “And it’s important to say one thing because people are puzzled: films are my voyage, and writing is home. And since 40 years, I keep preaching to deaf ears that my writing will arguably outlive my films, all of them.”

Certainly, Every Man for Himself and God Against All is a joyous, fulfilling read….

(12) BRADBURY HISTORY. Phil Nichols’ new Bradbury 100 podcast episode covers “Chronological Bradbury, 1940”.

…Ray published nine stories in 1940, nearly all of them in fanzines (and one of them in a semi-prozine). Here’s a list, with links to online versions of the stories, where they exist….

(13) ORSON WELLES PROFILE. Steve Vertlieb invites you to read his post “Vertlieb’s Views: Xanadu: A Castle in the Clouds: The Life of Orson Welles” at The Thunder Child.

Celebrating the genius of this extraordinary artist with my published look at the turbulent life and career of Orson Welles, the fabulous, visionary film maker whose personal demons sadly overshadowed his staggering talent, and finally, tragically destroyed him.

Yet, in spite of his personal failings or, perhaps, because of them, Welles rose to become one of the most remarkable film makers of his, or any other generation.

From his groundbreaking first feature length motion picture Citizen Kane, regarded by many still as the greatest single film in motion picture history, to Touch Of Evil, his remarkable “Cinema Noir” tale of a squandered life and legacy corrupted by bribery and temptation, Welles remains one of the most extraordinary directors in the history of film.

His is a story of unwitting sabotaged achievement and haunting, incomparable genius.

Here, then, is “Xanadu: A Castle In Clouds … The Life of Orson Welles.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, Mlex, Olav Rokne, Kathy Sullivan, Lise Andreasen, Steve Vertlieb, Steve French, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 10/27/23 For A Mere $39.95 You Can Turn A Dalek Into a Barista Machine

(1) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

New articles on the Chengdu Worldcon website, but only in Chinese

There have been several news articles published on the official website since the convention ended on the 22nd, but only in Chinese.  Below are extracts from a few of them, via Google Translate with minor manual edits.

What kind of “future” did people encounter in Chengdu? (posted Monday 23rd)

This conference is a new starting point for the take-off of the science fiction industry in Chengdu, but it is not only the starting point for the take-off of the science fiction industry in Chengdu. This conference is the starting point for China’s science fiction industry to set sail from Chengdu.

The organizing committee of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference has made the science fiction industry a major topic of the conference for the first time. At the first industrial development summit held at the conference, the “Chengdu Consensus on Science Fiction Industry” was officially released, which will allow various industries to gather a consensus to build the cornerstone of the science fiction industry.

A thank you note! ICBC’s patient and thoughtful service won praise from guests at the Science Fiction Conference (posted Monday 23rd)

On the first day of the World Science Fiction Convention in Chengdu on October 18, foreign customer Mr. Barkley hurried to the mobile banking car for help. He wanted to use his credit card to withdraw some cash to buy a domestic mobile phone to send emails online, but domestic credit card withdrawals required a password.  Mr. Barkley had previously used his credit card abroad to make purchases or withdraw cash based on his signature, and he did not know the reserved password.

Behind the exciting exhibitions at the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, ICBC’s thoughtful, patient and heart-warming financial services undoubtedly provide comprehensive protection…..

The exhibition hall is also equipped with a digital RMB coffee machine. Using digital RMB, you can enjoy a steaming cup of coffee for only 1 yuan. At the same time, the Chengdu Universiade co-branded digital RMB hard wallet set exhibited by ICBC supports payment without network and electricity. Payment can be completed with just a “touch” during transactions, which left a deep impression on many domestic and foreign guests.

In order to provide all-weather, omni-channel, international financial services and facilitate services, ICBC comprehensively promotes the financial services for the Science Fiction Conference at 11 outlets in Pidu District. 

Note that ICBC was one of two top tier sponsors of the Chengdu Worldcon.  Also note that although the article was posted two days after the Hugo ceremony, the article makes no mention of Chris being a Hugo winner.

Ximalaya Operations Director Zhou Tiantian: Science fiction encourages people to find the meaning of life on a cosmic scale (posted Monday 23rd)

Zhou Tiantian, director of operations of Ximalaya, said that science fiction gives people the limits of their imagination and encourages people to find the meaning of life on a cosmic scale . As the leading audio app in China, Ximalaya is closely integrated with cutting-edge technology and has launched many science fiction, fantasy and technological contents. At present, Ximalaya has released a number of sci-fi Atmos audio dramas, including classic sci-fi IPs “The Wandering Earth Liu Cixin Collection”, “Solaris” and “Dune Overture”. Ximalaya has cooperated with Dolby Laboratories to launch a Dolby Atmos zone. Launched with [car manufacturer] NIO, it provides high-quality audiobooks in various genres such as science fiction, suspense, and children’s books.  Previously, Ximalaya cooperated with Li Auto and WANOS to launch panoramic audio dramas, providing a shocking auditory experience for the in-car space.

Ximalaya is committed to empowering culture with technology and actively promotes the widespread application of AI technology in the audio industry, which is consistent with its long-term development strategy. As a beneficiary and leader of AI technology, Ximalaya is unswervingly committed to the exploration of AI technology in the audio field. Through the development of AI technology, Ximalaya can appear in users’ lives in a new way of experience, realizing rebirth in some scenarios. Ximalaya will continue to be committed to the application of AI technology in the audio field, and continue to promote innovation to meet the diverse needs of users and help Ximalaya continue to develop.

[Note: I’m not familiar with this audiobook company, but it seems that they use both the “Ximalaya” and “Himalaya” brand names; the former seems to be aimed at the domestic market, the latter internationally.]

The winning games of the 81st World Science Fiction Conference “Fantasy Galaxy – Annual Selection of World Science Fiction Games” have been announced! (Posted Monday 23rd)

On the morning of October 22nd, the 81st World Science Fiction Conference “Fantasy Galaxy – Annual Selection of World Science Fiction Games” award ceremony was held at the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, where the winning works were announced. The selection event was released by the Organizing Committee of the 81st World Science Fiction Conference and sponsored by Sichuan Game Innovation and Development Center, Chengdu Science Fiction Association, and Sichuan Publishing Association Game Publishing Working Committee.

Sichuan New Media Group and other relevant leaders, as well as Canada’s “Godfather of Science Fiction” Robert Sawyer, attended the event and presented awards, as well as specially invited representatives from Google, Amazon Cloud, NetEase, Tencent, Huawei, Bilibili, and Ubisoft.

The first two winners named are by remarkable coincidence associated with sponsors of the con.

As an aside, I see that Sergey Lukyanenko is still listed as a GoH on the front page, and the “Special Guests” and “Hosts” are still showing as “UPDATING”.

Con reports: Jeremy Szal, Arthur Liu and Nicholas Whyte

Jeremy Szal was tweeting during the con and has now written his con report:

I’m led through a whirlwind of events, ceremonies, meetings, interviews and conversations. I’m thrust in front of cameras, wired up with microphones, offered seats and stools. I greet friends, both new and familiar to me. My editors and handlers keep close correspondence with me, telling me where I need to be, and at what time, and how I should be dressed. I’ve done WorldCons before. I know this gig. But something here feels different. There’s a buzz, a feverishness, in the air…

And it’s nice. Never before have I felt so welcome. Never before have I truly felt at home, as a member of the science-fiction community. Diversity here isn’t spoken off. It’s acted upon. Where other conventions may attempt to gesture at diversity, as an abstract, here it is exacted. It’s presented, on an international scale. And it’s wonderful. We don’t all speak the same language. Because we share something else, something grander: a love of science-fiction and fandom.

Arthur Liu is currently suffering from severe con crud, but nevertheless has put out the first part (of four) of his Chinese-language con report, covering the run-up to the event.  (Disclosure: I am mentioned in this article.)  Via Google Translate, with minor edits:

Yao Xue from the business meeting group also invited me to propose “constitutional amendment” proposals. The F.8 proposal also caused controversy in the American science fiction circle. A group of science fiction fans attacked it on File 770. These somewhat brought back a bit of the “Worldcon” flavor of this conference, and made us decide to at least enjoy it as much as possible. I think that the science fiction fans who finally decided to attend this conference all have more or less ambivalent feelings about it…

The theme salon is divided into three application channels: (1) Questionnaire star entrance provided on the WeChat official account; (2) Organizing committee email address provided on the official website; (3) Planorama website. This caused a lot of confusion in the early days, because the contents filled out in the three channels were different and incomplete. Later, the information was completed only through the collection of volunteers. The application for a fan booth is relatively straightforward, just send an email. However, because the venue had not yet been completed, the relevant person in charge did not respond for a long time after the application was submitted, and did not start notifying people until just before the con. From August to before the conference, I had to go through this “catch up on winter and summer vacation homework” mode at almost every stage and every milestone. The intermediary organizer also repeatedly asked us to fill in forms and provide additional event materials because they needed to review the content to ensure on-site safety. For example, the panellists needed to provide speech notes, the host needed to provide speech notes, etc. In addition, they also had to provide true identity information in order to enable the organizers to be able to perform facial recognition on the guests… From these preliminary preparations, we could actually roughly guess what the scene would be like, which shows that the local government attached great importance to this matter.

Nicholas Whyte’s first post about the con covers the Doctor Who panel:

Many aspects of Chengdu Worldcon were great fun. I will write about the things I especially enjoyed: the pandas, the set-piece events, and the friends I made along the way. (I enjoyed the WSFS Business Meeting even less than usual, so I won’t write about that.)

The thing that gave me the most unexpected joy was the love for Doctor Who shown by the Chinese fans. I have to give huge credit here to Yan Ru, 晏如, an English Chinese teacher from Wuhan, who may well be the leading Doctor Who fan in China. We had made contact before the convention, and had a lot of conversations about our shared passion.

(2) TRIANGULAR TRADE.  “The Flatiron Building Will Be Converted Into Condos” in the New York Times. Not so long ago New York fans knew it as the headquarters of Tor Books but I suspect they will resist the temptation to buy condos and live there around the clock.

The Flatiron, the storied office building in the heart of Manhattan that has recently fallen on hard times, will be converted into luxury housing, its owners announced on Thursday.

The proposed redevelopment by the new owners is aimed at starting a second life for the Flatiron — its sole office tenant, Macmillan Publishers, departed before the pandemic — and moving past a dramatic period in which its fate seemed uncertain. In March, a little-known buyer won an auction for the building, only to disappear without paying.

The building’s future as housing began to take shape this week when the Brodsky Organization, a residential developer, bought a stake in the 22-story, triangular-shaped tower on Fifth Avenue. Brodsky will lead the conversion, carving out units — either for sale as condominiums or as rentals — from the notoriously awkward space….

(3) THE GOALS OF BLACK HORROR. The Atlantic’s Hanna Rosen found out “What Scares Jordan Peele?” And N.K. Jemisin, too.

…Since then I’ve learned a lot more about how race worked in that movie. But for a Black kid interested in horror, the subtext might have been a little more obvious. Jordan Peele grew up writing horror stories in his journals, and occasionally scaring his classmates with them on school trips. In 2017, after a successful sketch-comedy career, he wrote, produced, and directed Get Out, the critically acclaimed horror film. He says the movie “felt very taboo” and “un-produceable” at the time. “I don’t know if you noticed, but Get Out doesn’t have any good white people in it,” he told me. I did notice.

After Peele made that movie, and several others, he says, Black creators started telling him that they too had a horror story to tell, but they had never thought to tell it publicly. Classic horror always seemed to be speaking to white people’s fears about the menace of “the other,” made manifest as dark and sinister forces. But Black people of course saw different monsters….

(4) UPHILL CLIMB. “Fantasy, sci-fi books by Latinx authors need more support, authors and agents say” at The 19th News.

Romina Garber had always been an avid reader of fantasy stories, especially Harry Potter, but something ate at her: She could never find another Latina in the stories.

“I couldn’t find someone that reflected me or represented me, and that always really bothered me,” she said.

So Garber wrote the story of a young girl who discovers she’s a lobizona, a werewolf of Argentine folklore. But when Garber began looking for literary representation for the book that would eventually be “Lobizona,” 15 years ago, no one wanted it.

Garber remembers one agent telling her that “no one cared about Argentine immigrants.” There was no American market for the title, and it’s not what people wanted to read. Garber felt her identity, not just her book, being rejected. 

“He was talking about me, he wasn’t talking about my characters,” Garber said. “It really crushed me. And after that, I just realized I can’t write about myself.”

So she began writing allegorical science fiction instead, creating a world where everyone is divided up by their zodiac sign. Garber found an agent with this new concept and finished publishing the four-book series in 2017. But Garber’s mind drifted back to the first book she tried to sell about an undocumented immigrant lobizona. It felt more urgent than ever: The news was filled with stories of immigrant children being detained in cages during the Trump administration’s border crackdowns.

Now armed with an agent from her science fiction series, her book was sold to a publisher. “Lobizona,” the first in the Wolves Of No World Duology, was released in 2020. Garber regrets that she ever shelved the story in the first place. “I should never have stopped fighting.”

There have been a few standout successes for Latinx authors in the realm of speculative fiction — which includes fantasy, science fiction and dystopian stories — and many are written by women and LGBTQ+ authors. Books such as Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Mexican Gothic” and Aiden Thomas’ “Cemetery Boys” have been New York Times bestsellers. Moreno-Garcia’s “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau” is up for the genre’s prestigious Hugo Award.

Publishers have backed a few bright stars, but that doesn’t translate into broader support. Publishing, both the industry and the authors, are overwhelmingly White. For Latinx authors, that can mean an industry that flattens cultural nuances, tokenizing and misrepresenting the speculative worlds they are dreaming into existence….

(5) THE WEB NOT SPUN. [Item by Steven French.] David Fincher’s take on Spider-Man: “’Who doesn’t think they’re an outsider?’ David Fincher on hitmen, ‘incels’ and Spider-Man’s ‘dumb’ origin story” in the Guardian.

…He pitched his idea for a Spider‑Man movie in 1999. Fincher’s version skipped the whole “bitten by a radioactive spider” part and focused on Peter Parker as a grownup. “They weren’t fucking interested,” he says with a laugh. “And I get it. They were like: ‘Why would you want to eviscerate the origin story?’ And I was like: ‘’Cos it’s dumb?’ That origin story means a lot of things to a lot of people, but I looked at it and I was like: ‘A red and blue spider?’ There’s a lot of things I can do in my life and that’s just not one of them.” The gig went to Sam Raimi….

(6) SECOND FIFTH. “Fantastic Beasts: JK Rowling franchise has been ‘parked’, director says” – the Guardian took notes.

… The Secrets of Dumbledore netted just $407m at the international box office, compared with the first film in the franchise, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which grossed $814m, and the second movie, 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald, which took $654m.

The franchise has also been dogged by controversy arising from its stars and writer. JK Rowling, the Harry Potter creator who received the sole screenwriting credit for the first two Fantastic Beasts films and was co-writer on the third, has been widely criticised for her outspoken views on transgender issues.

Johnny Depp, who played Grindelwald in the first two Fantastic Beasts films, was in 2020 asked to resign from the franchise days after he lost his libel case against the Sun, which had referred to the actor as a “wife-beater” following accusations of domestic violence made against him by his ex-wife Amber Heard.

And Ezra Miller, another of the franchise’s stars, made headlines in 2022 after they were arrested multiple times; Miller eventually pleaded guilty to unlawful trespassing and revealed they were seeking treatment for “complex mental health issues”.

Yates revealed to the podcast that the franchise’s five-film plan had not initially been on the cards.

“The idea that there were going to be five [Fantastic Beasts] films was a total surprise to most of us,” he said.

“Jo just mentioned it spontaneously, at a press screening once. We were presenting some clips of FB1 [Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them]. We’d all signed up for FB1, very enthusiastically. And Jo, bless her, came on … and Jo said, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s five of them.’ And we all looked at each other because no one had told us there were going to be five. We’d sort of committed to this one. So that was the first we’d heard of it.”…

(7) A “MONSTER KID” REMEMBERS. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Cosmic dreams (and provocative nightmares) of tantalizing journeys through time and space … infinite, conceptual exploration of the stars … alien creatures … Hammer Films … Universal Pictures … “King Kong” … Ray Harryhausen … Ray Bradbury … George Pal … Robert Bloch … Peter Cushing … Veronica Carlson … Buster Crabbe … John Agar … Frank Capra … John Williams … Miklos Rozsa … Forrest J Ackerman … and Famous “Monsters” of all shapes, sizes, and creeds, both conceived and lovingly chronicled in books, magazines, journals, tabloids, and on line for over half a century, inspired this affectionate, deeply personal, if slightly “Monstrous,” remembrance of a life in “horror” by a gray haired, unabashedly child like, Monster “Kid.” “Vertlieb’s Views: A Monster Kid Remembers” at The Thunder Child.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 27, 1926 Takumi Shibano. Teacher, Writer, Editor, and Fan from Japan. He co-founded and edited Uchujin, Japan’s first SF magazine, in 1957. He was a major figure in the establishment of Japanese SFF fandom, and he founded and chaired four of the first six conventions in that country. In 1968 the Trans-Oceanic Fan Fund (TOFF) brought him to a Worldcon for the first time, in the U.S., where he was a Special Guest. He wrote several science fiction novels starting in 1969, but his work translating more than 60 science fiction novels into Japanese was his major contribution to speculative fiction. From 1979 on, he attended most Worldcons and served as the presenter of the Seiun Awards. He was Fan Guest of Honor at two Worldcons, in 1996 and at Nippon 2007, he was given the Big Heart Award by English-speaking fandom, and he was presented with a Special Hugo Award and a Special Seiun Award. (Died 2010.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 27, 1940 Patrick Woodroffe. Artist and Illustrator from England, who produced more than 90 covers for SFF books, including works by Zelazny, Heinlein, and GRRM, along with numerous interior illustrations, in the 1970s. He was also commissioned to provide speculative art for record album cover sleeves; his masterwork was The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony: The Birth and Death of a World, a joint project with the symphonic rock musician Dave Greenslade, which purported to be the first five chapters of an alien Book of Genesis, consisting of two music discs by the musician and a 47-page book of Woodroffe’s illustrations. It sold over 50,000 copies in a five-year period, and the illustrations were exhibited at the Brighton UK Worldcon in 1979. Hallelujah Anyway, a collection of his work, was published in 1984, and he was nominated for Chesley and BSFA Awards. (Died 2014.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 27, 1943 Les Daniels. Writer of a series concerning the vampire Don Sebastian de Villanueva. During the Seventies, he was the author of Comix: A History of Comic Books in America with illustrations by the Mad Peck — and Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media. Later on, he’d write myriad histories of DC and Marvel Comics, both the Houses and individual characters. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson. Artist and Illustrator, whose credits include dozens of comic books and fiction book covers, and more than hundred interior illustrations, as well as a number of accompanying works of short fiction. His first comic book story, “The Man Who Murdered Himself” appeared in the House of Mystery No. 179 in 1969. With writer Len Wein, he later co-created the muck creature Swamp Thing in House of Secrets No. 92. In the 70s, he spent seven years drawing approximately fifty detailed pen-and-ink illustrations to accompany an edition of Frankenstein. And in the 80s, he did a number of collaborations with Stephen King, including the comic book adaptation of that author’s horror film Creepshow. In 2012, he collaborated with Steve Niles on Frankenstein Alive, Alive! for which he won a National Cartoonists Society’s award. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, was honored with an Inkwell Special Recognition Award for his 45-year comics art career, and received nominations for Chesley Awards for Superior and Lifetime Artistic Achievement and for a Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Illustrated Narrative. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 53. Writer from England who produces speculative genre literature for children and young adults. The Bartimaeus Trilogy, winner of Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature, is set in an alternate London, and involves a thousand-year-old djinn; Lockwood & Co. is a series involving ghost hunters in another alternative London. I’ve read a few of the latter – they’re fun, fast reads.  Netflix made the latter into a series and promptly cancelled it after one season.
  • Born October 27, 1973 Anthony Doerr, 50. Author four novels, two of which are genre — About Grace and Cloud Cuckoo Land. The first is straightforward, the latter is really complex storytelling. He’s won four Ohioana Awards (Literature by writers from Ohio and about Ohio), not an Award I’d heard of before now.  He’s written one piece of genre fiction, “The Hunter’s Wife” which is only in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror: Fifteenth Annual Collection which means it was commissioned for there. 

(9) HOOPLA COMICS KINGDOM 1-WEEK BINGE PASSES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As I wrote in “Reading Daily Comic Strips Online” (File770.com, March 23, 2022) a lot of current and classic comic strips are available online, primarily through ComicsKingdom and GoComics, for modest annual subscription prices — and
both offer free try-it access.

If you’re curious about Comics Kingdom’s offerings but don’t want to pony up a payment method just to try, Hoopla (hoopladigital.com) (access available through participating libraries) Binge Passes include a week’s access to a selection of the full site: Comics Kingdom Binge Pass.

(10) THIRD HELPING OF OMENS ON THE MENU. “Good Omens to Reportedly Be Renewed for Season 3, But With A Catch” — and Comicbook.com knows what it is.

Good Omens is reportedly looking at a Season 3 renewal by Amazon Prime Video and the BBC – but reportedly there is a catch. It’s now looking like Good Omens showrunner, director and executive producer Douglas Mackinnon will not be returning for Season 3 (likely the final season) – although lead actors Michael Sheen and David Tennant and the main cast of the show have reportedly all been locked-in to return.

(11) THE BLOB. “Spacewalking cosmonauts encounter toxic coolant ‘blob’ while inspecting leaky radiator” reports Space.com.

Two cosmonauts conducting a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday (Oct. 25) got an up-close view of a coolant leak that was first observed flowing from an external radiator earlier this month.

Oleg Kononenko came so close to the growing “blob” or “droplet” — as the pooling ammonia was described — that one of his tethers became contaminated, necessitating it being bagged and left outside of the space station when the spacewalk ended.

Kononenko and his fellow Expedition 70 spacewalker, Nikolai Chub, also of the Russian federal space corporation Roscosmos, began the extravehicular activity (EVA) at 1:49 p.m. EDT (1749 GMT) on Wednesday, knowing that one of their first tasks was to isolate and photo document the radiator, which was first observed leaking coolant on Oct. 9. Used as a backup to a main body radiator that regulates the temperature inside Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module, Kononenko and Chub configured a number of valves to cut off the external radiator from its ammonia supply….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George introduces us to “The First Guy To Ever Trick or Treat”.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Gary Farber, Steven French, Steve Vertlieb, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

“The FBI Story” of “Killers of the Flower Moon”

By Steve Vertlieb: Forgotten with the inevitable passage of time, as well as the entirely justified praise for Martin Scorsese’s epic masterpiece, Killers of the Flower Moon, is the fact that the tragic true story of the wholesale slaughter of Osage Indians from 1921 to 1926 in Osage County, Oklahoma was documented nearly sixty-five years earlier in another American motion picture.

I was just thirteen years old when I first saw The FBI Story at The Benner Theater in Philadelphia upon its initial release in 1959 but I was so moved by, and thrilled at, the heroic exploits of Jimmy Stewart and Murray Hamilton as courageous young FBI agents in director Mervyn Leroy’s Warner Bros. production that five years later, at the tender age of eighteen, I wrote a letter to Mr. Hoover expressing my somewhat naive, impressionable admiration for the Director and for his historic agency, then known simply as The Bureau of Investigation. 

Having seen Martin Scorsese’s epic masterpiece, Killers of the Flower Moon in theaters, featuring brilliant performances by Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Lily Gladstone, in a profoundly heartbreaking performance as Molly Burkhart, I was reminded of the FBI’s investigation into the heinous murdering of Osage Indians at the time, and its first screen remembrance in that earlier film, while recalling my own personal interaction with its controversial director.

While there is no question whatsoever that this newest adaptation of the grizzly events occurring in the American Midwest during the 1920s is a brilliantly realized cinematic creation, conceived by the cultured genius of one of this country’s most acclaimed film directors, it must also be remembered that the story was told once before by yet another legendary film director as a chapter in an earlier historical epic, The FBI Story, created for the screen by director Mervyn Leroy, with a stirring musical score by legendary composer, Max Steiner, and a supporting “cast of thousands.”