The Library of Congress website is a source of vast information. One of the latest posts involves translating Mayan documents.
Here’s a portion of that story:
On March 13 and 14, an international team of linguists visited the Library of Congress to transcribe and translate, for the first time, the “Guatemalan Priests Handbook,” a rare and important manuscript in the Library’s Jay I. Kislak Collection.
Dating from the early 16th century, the manuscript is written in several indigenous Mayan languages. The visiting linguists, experts in the earliest Christian theologies written in the Americas, were Saqijix Candelaria Lopez Ixcoy of Guatemala’s Universidad Rafael Landivar, an authority on the manuscript’s ancient k’iche language; Sergio Romero of the University of Texas, Austin; Frauke Sachse of the University of Bonn; and Garry Sparks of George Mason University.
The veritable explosion of great films beginning in the late 1930s earned that era the “golden age” of Hollywood tag. And many of the great films from that time wouldn’t be truly recognized for their artistry until many years later. The next five Oscar best picture winners described below are what was regarded as the cream of the crop.
“You Can’t Take it With You,” 1938, directed by Frank Capra.
A great comedy with tremendous cast directed by Frank Capra was the second best picture Oscar he won. The tremendous cast included Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Mischa Auer, Ann Miller, Spring Byington, H.B. Warner and Dub Taylor. It was adapted from a George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart play. Part of that adaptation included changing the play to allow Lionel Barrymore, who had a broken hip, to perform in a wheelchair. The highly entertaining film is about a man from a family of uptight, rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.
The competition for the 1938 honor was considerable-. It included “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Boy”s Town,” and the French classic “Grand Illusion.
“Gone with the Wind,” 1939, directed by Victor Fleming
“Gone with the Wind” is more than just the third movie Clark Gable starred in that won the best picture honor in the 1930s. It was a landmark film with some flaws that are rarely discussed.
This sweeping drama was the first Oscar winner released fully in color and it makes spectacular use of that palette. It would be several years before another movie in color won the best picture honor. At nearly four hours long, the film included an intermission and that was the case when this writer took a field trip while in high school to a downtown Louisville, Ky., (when downtowns still had theaters) movie theater and decades later at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
In case you haven’t read or heard, “Gone with the Wind” is the story of how the lives of southern aristocratic, slave-owning, plantation owners changed from the pre-Civil War days, during the war and after it. It’s a story of troubled romances, suffering and a change in lifestyle that some suspected would never happen.
The problem is the strong anti-union sentiment, the phony portrayal of the supposedly fine lives for slaves, a sympathetic nod to the Ku Klux Klan and terrible negative stereotypes of blacks.
That’s not to detract from the power of the film nor its great cast that includes Gable, Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel and Thomas Mitchell.
The competition for the 1939 honor was top notch. Those other films included “Dark Victory,” “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Ninotchka, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Wuthering Heights.”
“Rebecca,” 1940, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Despite his tremendous influence on film and the great library of films he created, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” was his only movie that won the best picture Oscar. That same year another of his films, “Foreign Correspondent,” also was nominated for best picture.
The extraordinary cast included Lawrence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson, and Nigel Bruce. The story involves an unsophisticated, self-conscious bride who is tormented by the memory of her moody and prominent country gentleman husband’s dead first wife. In addition to Hitchcock’s other film, the competition in 1940 include “The Grapes of Wrath,” Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” and “The Philadelphia Story.”
“How Green Was My Valley,” 1941, directed by John Ford.
One of great director John Ford’s greatest motion pictures, “How Green was My Valley” may be one of the most underappreciated winners of the Academy Award for best picture. In 1941, a New York Times critic called the movie “a picture of great poetic charm and dignity, a picture rich in visual fabrications and in the vigor of its imagery.” The movie is a story about a group of Welsh mining people, their families’ lives and a few sturdy leaders. It’s a story about how black coal darkened the lives of those who mined it and the destruction to the verdant valley in which they live.
The cast includes Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp and Roddy McDowell. Once again in this golden era, there were several outstanding films that lost out to the winning film. Those competitors included “Citizen Kane,” regarded by many critics and cinematic enthusiasts as the greatest picture of all time; “Here Comes Mr. Jordan;” “The Maltese Falcon,” “Sgt. York” and “Suspicion.”
“Mrs. Miniver,” 1942, directed by William Wyler
Starring an always impressive Greer Garson, “Mrs. Miniver” was made during World War II. It shows the cruel effect total war has upon civilized people. The New York Times critic wrote in 1942, “It is the finest film made yet about the present war and a most exalting tribute to the British people who have taken it gallantly.” Garson is magnificent as Mrs. Miniver whose family lives in a small English town before the war sends members away. Her character’s strength even shines when she encounters a German flier in her home. In addition to Garson, the cast includes Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, Reginald Owen and Henry Travers, The other competitors for the 1942 Oscar included “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “The Pride of the Yankees,” “Talk of the Town” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
During Friday’s Abbey Road on the River in Jeffersonville, Ind., the great Canadian-based All You Need is Love performed a powerful version of John Lennon’s R-rated (for language) “Working Class Hero.” Video by Ronald Hawkins of RDH Great Stories.
The deadline is getting near for those proposing panels or wishing to participate on panels at InConJunction. Panel suggestions are accepted until April 25, Tuesday, panel suggestions until April 25 and signups to participate on existing panels until May 1.
Here’s a special treat for you this weekend if you’re attending Starbase Indy in the Wyndham Hotel: InConJunction members will be the hosts of A Game of Books in-room party at 9 p.m. Saturday in Room 255 of the hotel. Have fun and learn about what’s being planned for 2017 InConJunction.
If you are interested in possibly meeting John Barrowman, the former star of Torchwood, you may have that opportunity Sept. 23-25 at Cincinnati Comic Expo in the Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Cincinnati.
Barrowman is one of several significant guests with SF and fantasy backgrounds scheduled to be at the three-day event. Adam Baldwin of Chuck and Firefly, Billy Dee Williams as well as Peter Mayhew,
Ray Park and David Prowse of Star Wars are on the guest list.
The headliner among the guests, however, is scheduled to be 93-year-old Stan Lee, the writer and genius behind many of Marvel’s comic creations. The event is being billed as the “Final Midwest Signing by Stan Lee.”
If you can’t make it to Cincy, I will be bringing reports back.