Politically Re-Active :: Nikki Giovanni
An interview with the legendary poet Nikki Giovanni. If you listen to only one podcast this week, make it this one
Hub History :: Literal Nazis
Before and during World War II, a group called the Christian Front operated in Boston and carried out anti-Semitic violence in the city. While I’m not particularly surprised by this dark stain on Boston’s history, I nevertheless had never heard of these Nazis operating in the city..
Throughline :: What Happened After Civilization Collapsed
A history of the ancient Bronze Age and what caused those civilizations to collapse, and what we can learn from that today.
Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021
Title: To Be or Not To Be
Release Date: February 19, 1942
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Production Company: Romaine Film Corp
On the eve of a Presidential inauguration that is under the shadow of a white supremacist insurrection us two weeks ago, it seems unfortunate that a movie that makes light of Nazis would come up next on my list. Except, once I started watching this movie I found it so compelling I let my misapprehensions go. Set in 1939, the movie depicts a theatre company in Warsaw who support the Underground by using disguises and get themselves in and out of trouble. Despite being a very funny comedy this film makes the threat of the Nazis all the more menacing.
In this earlier version Jack Benny and Carole Lombard portray the married stars of a Warsaw theatre company named Josef and Maria Tura. A very young Robert Stack (but his distinguishing voice is recognizable) plays the Polish airman Lt. Stanislav Sobinski who inadvertently gets them caught up in a Gestapo plot. Benny is absolutely hilarious as the arrogant and hammy actor playing a part in everything he does. Lombard, in her last role before dying in a plane crash, is equally majestic as the quick-witted Maria.
I remember seeing at least parts of the 1983 remake with Mel Brooks (and more frequently, the unfortunate “Hitler Rap” music video) as a kid, but didn’t remember much about the movie. I can see why it would appeal to Brooks though as it has some of his dark, satiric humor as well as the willingness to be seen as doing something in “bad taste.”
Release Date: September 6, 1946
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures
I never knew how much I needed to see a drunk Ingrid Berman angrily cuss out a cop, but this movie satiates that desire. And that’s only the prologue!
Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, an American socialite whose father is convicted as a Nazi spy. Federal agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) recruits her to help infiltrate a group of fugitive Nazis operating out of Rio de Janeiro. Much like The Stranger, the issue of Nazis continuing to operate was clearly a concern in the immediate aftermath of WWII, but I’m still impressed that entire films of fictional Nazi fugitives were written and produced so soon after the war. One odd thing about this movie is that while it primarily takes place in Brazil, I don’t think we see a single Brazilian character.
En route to Brazil and as they establish themselves in Rio, Huberman and Devlin fall in love. This leads to a racy-for-1946 scene where the couple kiss for over two minutes. Of course, considering that most human beings would like to kiss Bergman and/or Grant, this is also wish fulfillment for the audience. Like Hitchcock’s Spellbound, the romance leads a character to act unprofessionally, but this time it’s the male character Devlin, whose jealousy will ultimately put Huberman’s life in peril.
Huberman is tasked with getting acquainted with her father’s friend Alex Sebastian (Hollywood supervillain Claude Raines), a financier of the German war engine, and find out who he’s associating with and what the Nazis are plotting. The movie is a slow burn as secrets are revealed one by one and the steps that Huberman takes to gain access further strain her relationship with Devlin. It all leads to a satisfying denouement.
Title: The Stranger
Release Date: July 2, 1946
Director: Orson Welles
Production Company: International Pictures
This atmospheric film in the film noir style tells the story of a Nazi war criminal hiding among the unsuspecting citizens of a Connecticut town. As someone who grew up in Connecticut, I’m surprised that so many of these classic films I’m watching are set there, particularly one with Nazis. The film begins with Edward G. Robinson (who I liked so much in Double Indemnity) Mr. Wilson of the War Crimes Commission releasing a low-level Nazi named Konrad Meinike (Konstantin Shayne) in hope of leading him to one of the Nazis most notorious masterminds.
In Harper, Connecticut, Franz Kindler (Orson Welles) has taken the identity of Professor Charles Rankin, a teacher at a boys academy, and marrying Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young), the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice. Rankin murders Meinike so that his past identity will not be revealed and attempts to bury his body in the woods. Wilson stays in the town for several weeks hoping to catch Rankin in a mistake that reveals himself, as well attempting to shake Mary’s faith in her new husband. The thrill of the movie is less of a “whodunit” than a “how is this going to shake out?”
Billy House is featured in a prominent role as Mr. Potter, the gossipy druggist who comments on the goings-on in the town while playing checkers with his customers (including Wilson and Rankin). House provides comic relief but his character is also oddly unsettling. Storywise the script is fairly predictable and dialogue unnatural, but it’s worth watching for the acting, and Welle’s use of light and shadows and long takes. It’s also remarkable that a fictional film about a Nazi war criminal was completed so soon after the end of the war. Additionally, it is the first film to include documentary footage of the liberation of concentration camps.
Author: Lance Parkin
Title: Just War
Publication Info: London : Doctor Who Books, c1996.
The Seventh Doctor makes frequent visits to World War II: The Curse of Fenric on tv, Colditz on audio, Timewyrm: Exodus and this book in the Virgin New Adventures. We begin this book with one of this Doctor’s great manipulative plans. Roz and Chris are working with British intelligence in London, Benny is undercover with the Resistance in Guernsey, and the Doctor is seeking a particularly genius Nazi scientist. Things go horribly wrong, of course, and as happens all to often in the New Adventures, it leads to a companion getting tortured. The book features a strong narrative though, one of the most easily readable New Adventures, with great character moments for Benny, Roz, and Chris. It’s also close to being a pure historical, with The Butterfly Effect and the Doctor’s hubris being the main antagonists outside of the Nazis.
Afropop Worldwide :: globalFEST 2019 at the Copacabana
Every year I hear the great music from globalFEST and think I’ll need to go to New York for the festival next year, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Memory Palace/Radio Diaries :: When Nazis Took Manhattan
The story of the year Hank Greenberg hit 58 homeruns, the strongman The Mighty Atom performed to captivated audiences, and 20,000 Nazis rallied at Madison Square Garden.
99% Invisible :: Beneath the Ballpark
Chavez Ravine was a tight-knit Mexican-American community, one of the few places in Los Angeles where Hispanic people could own homes. It was destroyed in the name of progress, but instead became home to Dodger Stadium. The scars still remain.
Throughline :: The Forgotten War
A short history of the division of the Korean peninsula, the continuing war between the two Koreas, and the role of the United States in all of this.
Decoder Ring :: Baby Shark
Everything you need to know, and then some, about this year’s viral sensation, “Baby Shark” (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo).
Radio Boston :: W.E.B. Du Bois Turned Data Into Art, And Used It To Humanize The Black Experience
Data visualization seems to be a current trend, but W.E.B. Du Bois used it to illustrate the African-American experience in the United States at a showcase at the Paris World Fair in 1900.
The Truth :: The Other Fran
Going to a school reunion can feel like “reminiscing with strangers,” and this fictional drama takes that to the next level.
Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances: