The early Oscar years of Capra, Gable and more

This is the second part of a multi-part series on the Academy Award best picture winners, reviewed chronologically.


“Cavalcade,” 1932-1933, directed by Frank Lloyd

Before this writer first watched “Cavalcade,” he had no idea what a great film this is. When it was released, it was regarded as a highly innovative film. In the late 20th century, a critic called it, “A truly remarkable film.” Adapted from Noel Coward’s London stage play, the film is richly textured with nostalgic and atmospheric elements along with an anti-war message. The movie is a story of two families from the eve of the 20th century until the 1930s and how their way of life changes.



“It Happened One Night,” 1934, directed by Frank Capra

This comedy was the first of Frank Capra’s films to win the Oscar for best film. It also features the first of several movies starring Clark Gable that won the best picture. What really makes this film work is the chemistry between Claudette Colbert, starring as an heiress running away to avoid a marriage, and Gable, a newspaper reporter running after a story.

Claudette Colbert shows Clark Gable in “It Happened One Night” her successful hitch-hiking technique.

“Mutiny on the Bounty,” 1935, directed by Frank Lloyd

This was director Frank Lloyd’s second best picture Oscar honor and the second consecutive movie starring Clark Gable that won the honor.The story regards a mutiny against tyrannical Capt.Bligh, played by Charles Laughton, and a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian, Gable’s role. It is the best of the multiple version of the story.

Capt. Bligh and Fletcher Christian confer.

“Great Ziegfeld,” 1936, directed by Robert Z. Leonard

This bio-pic about the colorful showman Florenz Ziegfeld is an immensely entertaining movie despite the downturn Ziegfeld faces. The outstanding cast includes William Powell, Myrna Loy, Fannie Brice, Luise Rainer, Frank Morgan and Ray Bolger.

“The Life of Emile Zola,” 1936, directed by William Dieterle

You could call this powerful film a bio-pic, but it’s much more than that. The New York Times critic in 1937 wrote, “Rich, dignified, honest and strong, it is at once the finest historical film ever made and the greatest screen biography.” The movie focuses on French writer Emile Zola’s crying out against the injustice that caused Capt. Dreyfus to be exiled. Paul Muni stars as Zola.


Emile Zola, played by Paul Muni, takes the stand in a French courtroom.

And in the beginning: First Academy Award best picture winners

This is the first part of a multi-part series on the Academy Award best picture winners, reviewed chronologically beginning with “Wings,” the first winner.

“Wings,” 1927, directed by  William Wellman

Unlike some later best picture winners, “Wings” was truly deserving. It was the only silent picture to win the honor until 2011 when “The Artist” (except for a single scene of dialog and a dream sequence with sound effects in the  2011 film) won the Oscar. “Wings” aerial scenes are still impressive 90 years later. Stars Charles “Buddy” Rogers, who would marry Mary Pickford a decade later, and Clara Bow, the “it” girl, were part of cast. In a brief appearance as a doomed pilot,  future star Gary Cooper had one of his first significant roles. What helped make all of this work was a  director who had been a pilot and was a wing-walking stunt pilot before his movie career took off.


The Broadway Melody,” 1929, directed by Harry Beaumont

It was a surprise to at least some later day critics that this film won the best picture trophy. Referred to as the prototype of backstage musicals, “Broadway Melody” was described by one critic as suffering from “stolid acting and awkward sound techniques.” Film aficionados will note, however, that this was the first MGM movie featuring a “Singin’ in the Rain” number.

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” 1930, directed by Lewis Milestone

This drama is listed in the “New York Times Guide to the Best Movies Ever Made.” Based on a book by Erich Maria Remarque, “All Quiet on the Western Front” drew praise from the opening night reviewer for The Times who wrote, “Truth comes to the fore when the young soldiers are elated at the idea of joining up, when they are disillusioned, when they are hungry, when they are killing rats in a dugout, when they are shaken by fear, and when they, or one of them, becomes fed up with the conception of war held by the elderly man back home. …Often the scenes are of such excellence that if they were not audible one might believe that they were actual motion pictures of activities behind the lines, in the trenches and in No Man’s Land.”

Cimarron,” 1931, directed by Wesley Ruggles


This is the worst movie to win the best picture honor, in this writer’s opinion. It’s a well intentioned movie with an interesting story based on the novel by Edna Farber. The story is about a newspaper editor who moves to a booming town in 1889 with his wife and what happens over the next 40 years. It is a western/soap opera that suffers from awful acting, huge plot holes and racist overtones. It also tells us how much our tastes have changed over the years.  The movie does star popular actors Richard Dix and Irene Dunne.

“Grand Hotel.” 1932, directed by Edmund Goulding

Originally a stage play, this is a truly great movie featuring such stars as Greta Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford and Wallace Berry. This is a tale regarding strangers whose lives cross during their stay at the Grand Hotel in Berlin.

The Grand Hotel is supposedly a place where nothing ever happens but by the time the guests have checked out, the audience will see manslaughter, gambling, a baron seeking to steal pearls, love affairs, business dealings and more.

Garbo Grand Hotel
Greta Garbo and John Barrymore











Academy Award best picture history preview

Within the next few days, this site will feature brief reviews and descriptions of every winner of the Academy Award for best picture beginning with “Wings” through “How Green Was My Valley, “Gentleman’s Agreement,” “Ben Hur,” “My Fair  Lady,, ” “The Godfather,” “Chariots of Fire,” “The King’s Speech” and ending with “Moonlight,” last year’s winner.Pop corn with soda and movie shows

This include references to some controversies, what made the winners special. It will be  a great way to get ready for this March’s presentation and generate a good bit of conversation.

The writer has collected every movie that has won this top award and is a self proclaimed movie junkie.

Waiting to discover more about new Trek series

Two episodes aren’t enough to determine whether one should continue to buy “Star Trek: Discovery” from CBS All Access for $5.99 per month, but there are several indicators that make watching at the least next few episodes an attractive idea.

The first two episodes show promise, but also raise serious issues for some Trek enthusiasts such as at least one major variance with Star Trek canon.

While the first episode aired on CBS’ broadcast outlets, the second is only available from CBS All Access online service. In addition to Star Trek, nearly the entire catalog of old and new CBS programming is available through the subscription service. This writer didn’t sign up for the service for the other programming, only the exclusive online availability of the new Star Trek.

Probably the first thing that viewers will notice is that they won’t see the Discovery in either of the first two episodes. The action occurs outside the spaceships and  inside the U.S.S. Shenzou and a Klingon ship. You will see a multitude of Federation and Klingon ships in battle scenes, but they are part of the ensemble in support roles for the central antagonists.

From the first,scene, it appears Klingons will play a major if not dominant role in the new series. The new series begins with a fierce speech by a Klingon chieftain trying to rally the other tribes, getting ready to deal with the humans. In his words (translated in subtitles), the most dangerous words are, “We come in peace.”

The Klingon ship is inside Federation territory.

While patrolling Federation space, the Chenzou encounters an object of unknown origin in the same vicinity. Commander Michael Burnham, a human raised by Vulcans, persuades her captain to let her take a space walk to find what the object is.

While on the surface of this object, Burnham encounters a Klingon and the result is a death. That death leads to a violent conflict between the two enemy empires.

Upon her return to Chenzou, Burnham is treated for exposure to massive levels of radiation. She, however, runs from her bed to warn the captain that the Klingons are coming and the Federation ship should attack before it is attacked, employing a strategy referred to as “The Vulcan hello.”

A conflict develops between Burnham and the captain, longtime friends on the starship, and Burnham is sent to the brig.

As the battle ensues, Burnham finds herself in deeper trouble. By the second episode, Burnham is tried and convicted and locked up.

If you haven’t seen the first two episodes, I’ve already given you several spoilers, but I will hold back on sharing other tidbits.


There are other items of note. One is the clear violation of Trek canon by the use of holograph technology. This show takes places before The Original Series and in the Trek timeline follows Star Trek Enterprise. On the timeline, the Next Generation followed the Original Series.

There was no use of holography by the Federation before the Next Generation. If one checks out the relatively new “Star Trek Encyclopedia” by Denise and Michael Okuda, there are lots of listings for various types of holographic imaging.

There are, however, no uses of that technology by the except by the Romulans in two Enterprise episodes. In “Babel One” and “United,” the Romulans used holographic projectors to create skins for ships  that would make them appear of any design. And that’s it until  Next Generation. …

The technical prowess of the new series is undeniable. Yet, many questions remain that need to be answered.

One concern about the new series is the role of Klingons. Michael Dorn, who starred as the Klingon Worf, reportedly had pitched a series idea to CBS about Klingons.

I certainly hope this series isn’t just about the conflicts with the Klingons. There is so much to explore and discover in the universe before the Original Series.

I guess we will start to discover that as we watch the future episodes.



There goes the sun — Aug. 21, 2017

Do you know where you will be when the sun disappears from the sky on the afternoon of Aug. 21, 2017?

If you don’t know, don’t worry: this is just a temporary event to be seen across the United States for just a few minutes from Lincoln Beach, Ore., to Charleston, S.C., as the path of the total eclipse of the sun follows an eastern route.

It will be the first total eclipse in the the United States in 37 years.  The thin path of the totality will pass through portions of 14 states.

The significance of the event will draw millions of people from around the world. Small cities such as Hopkinsville, Ky., will become big cities while serving as prime places to view (with protective glasses) the rare, awe-inspiring sight.

During a total eclipse, the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s tenuous atmosphere, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The first point of contact will be at Lincoln Beach, Ore., at 9:05 a.m. PDT. Totality begins there at 10:16 a.m. PDT, the NASA website states.  Over the next hour and a half, it will cross through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.  The total eclipse will end near Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT.  From there the lunar shadow leaves the United States at 4:09 EDT.  Its longest duration will be near Carbondale, Ill., where the sun will be completely covered for two minutes and 40 seconds.

During a recent presentation at the Mooresville Public Library, Link Observatory Space Science Institute Executive Director/CEO Greg McCauley discussed what the eclipse experience will be like. He presented several videos.


Avon Beatles exhibit open; presentation set for Sept. 13

20170801_151114The new RDH Great Stories Beatles Memories and Memorabilia exhibit at the Avon-Washington Township Public Library, 498 Avon Ave., Avon, Ind., is now open and will be on display throughout August. The theme is “The Continuing Magic of the Beatles.”

On Sept. 13 in that library, Ronald Hawkins will give his next Beatles’ presentation. This one will be on the continuing magic theme and will begin at 5:30 p.m..

The event will include videos, live music, a discussion of items Hawkins’ collection, and a trivia contest with prizes. The live music will be provided by Martinsville High School student Tyler Russell.

The event is free, but advance registration is required. To register go to  20170801_150950

AYNL delivers powerful version of Lennon’s Working Class Hero

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.