“West to Laramie” [PG] – 2/4

Part 2 – The second part in a series of letters from a Philadelphia matron and her companion during their journey to the Pre-Civil War West.

 

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“WEST TO LARAMIE”

Chapter 2

April 28, 1860

Mrs. Adelaide Middleton Taylor
231 Green Street
Philadelphia, PA

Dear Addie,

Nearly twenty-four hours after you and Harold had deposited Patricia and myself aboard the train for New York City, we finally arrive in Chicago. Despite a delay in Princeton, we managed to make our connecting train for Chicago in time. The basket of food that you had insisted upon giving to me proved to be most fortuitous.

The trip to Chicago provided no complications, I am happy to say – aside from the boorish behavior of our conductor. An unpleasant man with a sour face, the conductor had insisted that Patricia leave the first-class coach and sit in the car reserved for colored passengers. Patricia became irritated by his manner and an argument ensued between the two. I must say that man conducted himself in the most ridiculous manner! At least Patricia did not carry on like some hysterical child. I had to firmly insist that she stay with me, claiming I would require her services at all time. I doubt that the conductor believed me, but he had no proof to doubt my word. Patricia remained in my company throughout the entire trip. The conductor obviously must have been the type who was too cowardly to make further scenes. Especially with a white woman.

The basket of food proved to be more than fortuitous. It was God-sent. Both Patricia and I discovered in Pittsburg how atrocious the food served in these railway dining depots can be. One bite of a smoked pork chop had sent us both scurrying back to the train for your basket.

We finally arrived in Chicago covered in dust and soot. The station master informed us that the next train for St. Joseph, Missouri was due to leave tomorrow afternoon. Patricia and I shared a room at a local boardinghouse located near the railway station. A plump, cheerful woman named Lenora Clarke owned the place. We had assumed that she would raise a fuss regarding Patricia’s presence. Unlike some of her fellow citizens of Illinois, Mrs. Clarke turned out to be a very tolerant woman. In fact, she and Patricia took to each other like ducks to water.

Chicago struck me as being a thriving city with great vitality. Within two decades, it has become the railway center of the West and the major stockyard for the entire country. Mrs. Clarke informed us that the city is preparing for the Republican convention for the next presidential election. There is talk that Illinois will push for one of its prominent citizens – an attorney named Abraham Lincoln from Springfield – as a potential candidate. He was the fellow who had ran against Stephen Douglas for the U.S. Senate seat, two years ago. He had made that famous “house divided against itself” speech.

After supper, I had hired a local cab to drive Patricia and myself on a little evening excursion along Lake Michigan. We stopped briefly to stretch our legs and encountered a Mr. McPherson, a local businessman and congenial companion. When I informed him of our travel plans, he assured us that unlike the stagecoaches here in the East, the Western coaches were the latest models built in Concord, New Hampshire. They should prove to be very comfortable. Patricia remained silent, but there seemed to be a “wait and see” expression in her eyes.

Dearest Addie, I do hope that you and Harold will take care of yourselves. I hope to meet the third member of your little family by the time Patricia and I return to Philadelphia.

I love you always,

Mother

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May 3, 1860

Mrs. Elizabeth Evans
64 Anderson Road
Falmouth, MA

Dear Cousin Elizabeth,

How is Samuel and the rest of your family? And how is my favorite cousin, Charlotte? Is she still working as an assistant for the town’s doctor? I cannot say that I approve of her working for him. After all, nursing is an inappropriate profession for a young lady from a respectable family. I hope, for her sake that she is happy.

As you know from my last letter, Mrs. Middleton and I are on our way to Fort Laramie to attend her son’s wedding to the daughter of an Army major. We had finally reached St. Joseph in Western Missouri, two days ago. Frankly, I still find this little metropolis rather uncomfortable and cannot wait to leave. Do not misunderstand me. St. Joseph, I must admit, is a pleasant-looking community. There seem to be a large number of emigrants waiting to form trains for the trek west. It is situated directly north of the Missouri River and just east of the Missouri-Kansas border. Because it is a jump-off spot for westbound travelers, St. Joseph has grown quickly in size over the past decade.

Mrs. Middleton and I stayed at a hotel situated across the street from the Russell, Major and Widdell office of the Pony Express. Unlike a pleasant woman we had met in Chicago named Mrs. Clarke, the proprietor of the Hatten Hotel had at first refused to allow me to share a room with my employer. Claiming he did not want any “free niggers” in his place, he bluntly suggested that I find another place to board or sleep in the stables. Frankly, I would have preferred another hotel or boarding house than stay under the same roof with the narrow-minded fool. But Mrs. Middleton lied by informing him that I was her “bond servant” (Dear God!) and lacked extra money to pay for a room elsewhere. How humiliating! Mrs. Middleton’s ploy only reminded me that the North still practiced indenture servitude. The proprietor did not mind my new . . . “status” and allowed me to remain. However, I was forced to eat in the kitchen with his slaves.

During our tour of the town, we stopped at the Central Overland Stage Line office. The clerk assured us that we will have a comfortable trip. He added that the Indians would be no trouble. Apparently, the Army is keeping them away from “civilized” settlers and back on their lands. It amazes me that so many people have insisted that we had nothing to worry about the trip by stage. I feel that the Government and private businesses seem bent upon inducing people to settle in the West. And for some reason, my doubts regarding this journey have increased.

As I had stated before, the headquarters for the Pony Express is located across the street from our hotel. This postal service delivers mail and small packages between St. Joseph and San Francisco on the West Coast, using orphan boys and young men as dispatch riders. These young fellows travel hundreds of miles across the wilderness to deliver the mail in record speed. The Pony Express service has been in operation for only a month so far. I do not think it will last very long. Already, there is word of telegraph lines scheduled to be erected in the near future.

Yesterday afternoon, I came face to face with a very unsettling scene. It not only made me more than anxious than ever to leave this town, it reminded me that St. Joseph is part of Missouri – a slave state. Upon finishing my supper, I stepped outside for some air and spotted a gang of slaves shackled together and being herded toward the local slave mart. The sight of the ragged prisoners slowly making their way down the street, accompanied by a white man driving a wagon, sent chills down my spine. Not only did I remember that I was presently in a slave state, but that said state has sent hundreds of men into Kansas in order to turn that territory into a slave state.

At the moment, Mrs. Middleton and I are at the stage depot, waiting for the horses to be harnessed to our coach. All of the passengers were given two blankets (in May?) and a canteen of water for the journey. Four other passengers wait with us to board the coach. I will write to you when I can. Give my love to your family.

Your loving cousin,

Patricia North

“Irrelevant Bashing”

 

“IRRELEVANT BASHING”

I am another moviegoer who is getting sick and tired of the regarding Marvel/Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films and Warner Brothers/D.C. Comics’ D.C. Extended Universe (DCEU) films. I have come across articles in which fans of both movie universes have accused the other of excessive bashing. 

I never understood this rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics movie franchises. To be honest, I find it unnecessary. And I believe today’s audiences are getting too caught up in this so-called rivalry, thanks to the media, the studios and the two comic book conglomerates. I have seen both DC Comics and Marvel since “SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE” first came out in 1978. Why do certain films from one comic book company need to be better than those from another one? I have seen films from both that I found very impressive. And I have seen films from both that left me feeling disappointed. For me to decide whether the Marvel films or the DC films are better strikes me as ridiculous.

Some fans have claimed that since the MCU films perform better at the box office, they are without a doubt, the superior series of films. One major problem with this reasoning was the box office performance of the five major comic book movies released in 2016. Marvel’s “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE CIVIL WAR” proved to be the second (or third) biggest box office success of that year. Yet, D.C. Comics’ “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” proved to be that year’s fifth biggest box office success. Although both the DCEU’s “SUICIDE SQUAD” and the MCU’s “DOCTOR STRANGE” never reached those heights in terms of box office, both were successful and ironically, the DCEU movie proved to be a bit more successful.

However, I believe that box office performance is not a true reflection of a movie’s worth. No one knows the true reason behind the critics’ current and more positive reaction to the Marvel films. Not really. True, some film critics might honestly believe they are better. Then again, it is possible that some film critics were bribed to praise the Marvel films to the sky and/or bash the D.C. Comics movies. Personally, I had stopped regarding their opinion as fact a long time ago. After all, their opinions are dictated by personal tastes, or . . . other means, just as the opinions of moviegoers are dictated by personal tastes. – Yes, there might be more people who believe that the current Marvel films are better. But I have encountered a great number of opinions that favor the current DC Comic movies. And I cannot help but wonder if the MCU fans are simply the loudest. Also, judging a film based upon box office success or the number of fans for a certain franchise strikes me as irrelevant. There are a lot of fans of the “TRANSFORMER” films. A lot. Which is why those movies generated a good deal of money. In the end, it is all subjective.

I am fans of both the MCU and the DCEU. I have been aware of some bashing of the MCU films by certain DCEU fans. However, their bashing seemed to be minor in compare to the consistent and excessive stream of criticism and bashing directed toward the DCEU films … and I believe this bashing is getting out of control.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that a lot of Marvel fans (or perhaps I should say the Marvel/Disney company is threatened by the three movies released by DC Comics between 2013 and 2016. These three movies signaled the end of the Marvel/Disney’s monopoly on a series of comic book movies based upon a collection of titles. The bashing for the DCEU has become utter ridiculous and excessive. I am also beginning to wonder if those who had accused Disney/Marvel of paying off the critics to bad mouth ALL THREE DCEU movies that have been released so far … had been right after all. Because this criticism has become over the top. It has now extended to both “WONDER WOMAN” and “JUSTICE LEAGUE” and they have yet to be released. Has bashing the DCEU movies become the “in” thing to do? Just as bashing the “STAR WARS” Prequel films is still a popular past time? I hope not. For I had almost bought it myself.

When “MAN OF STEEL”“BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” and “SUICIDE SQUAD” first hit the theaters, I was reluctant to see all three, because I had stupidly accepted the bad opinions about them. Yet, I overcame my reluctance and went to see them, anyway. And when I finally saw those three movies, I enjoyed them. All of them. Very much. In fact, I regard “BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE” as one of the best comic book hero movies I have ever seen. And that was when I finally realized that a film critic’s opinion was worth dog shit. No more. I am simply going to form my own opinion of any movie I am interested in seeing. And I refuse to be some mindless drone and accept the views of others simply because it is the in-thing to do.

The idea that we are supposed to be accept that the Marvel or MCU films are better than the DCEU films, because many film critics or movie fans say so is irrelevant. It is irrelevant, because their views are matters of opinion. Preference. I do not accept this view “numbers matter” regarding the artistic quality of a film, because I do not share it. I have watched a lot of comic book movies in my time. From my perspective, only my opinion of an individual movie count. I do not care whether any those movies are based upon the titles of Marvel, DC Comics or any other comic book company that exists. And considering that art and entertainment are subjective in the end, what is the point in declaring that MCU films are better or that DCEU movies are better? It seems like a waste of time to me. I think we all should focus on which individual movies that appeals to us and not bother on which company makes the better films.

Warner Bros./DCEU is scheduled to release two movies in 2017. Disney/MCU has scheduled three to be released. I plan to see all five movies this year. And I will be damned if I pay attention to any film critics or moviegoer . . . until after I have seen these movies. Regardless of who performs better at the box office, I am the one who will decide which films I want to see and which ones I want to buy, regardless of whether they came from DC Comics or Marvel.

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” (1931) Review

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” (1931) Review

Adultery is rarely treated with any kind of maturity in fiction – whether in novels, plays, movies and television. I am not saying that adultery has never been portrayed with any maturity. It is just that . . . well, to be honest . . . I have rarely come across a movie, television series, novel or play that dealt with adultery in a mature manner. Or perhaps I have rarely come across others willing to face fictional adultery between two decent people with some kind of maturity. 

If one simply glanced at the title of the 1931 movie, “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN”, any person could assume that he or she will be facing one of those salacious tales from a Pre-Code filled with racy dialogue, scenes of women and men stripping to their underwear or morally bankrupt characters. Well, “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is a Pre-Code movie. But if you are expecting scenes and characters hinting sexy and outrageous sex, you are barking up the wrong tree.

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is about a young railroad engineer named Bill White, who seemed to have a drinking problem. When he gets kicked out of his boarding house, after falling back on his rent, Bill is invited by fellow engineer and friend Jack Kulper to stay with him and his wife Lily. All seemed to be going well. Bill managed to fit easily into the Kulper household. He stopped drinking. And he got along very well with both Jack and Lily. In reality, his relationship with Lily seemed to be a lot more obvious than with Jack. And this spilled out one afternoon, when in the middle of one of their horseplays while Jack was out of the house, Bill and Lily exchanged a passionate kiss. Realizing that he was in love with Lily, Bill moved out and left Jack wondering what had occurred. Matters grew worse and eventually tragic, when Jack finally realized that Bill and Lily had fallen in love with each other.

From the few articles I have read, there seemed to be a low regard for this film. Leading lady Mary Astor had dismissed it as “a piece of cheese” and praised only future stars James Cagney and Joan Blondell. Come to think of it, so did a good number of other movie fans. Back in 1931, the New York Times had described the film as “an unimportant little drama of the railroad yards”. Perhaps “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” was unimportant in compare to many other films that were released in 1931 or during that period. But I enjoyed it . . . more than I thought I would.

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is not perfect. First of all, this is an early talkie. Although released in 1931, the film was originally shot and released to a limited number of theaters in 1930. And anyone can pretty much tell this is an early talkie, due to the occasional fuzzy photography. Also, director William Wellman shot a few of the action scenes – namely the fight scene between Bill and Jack, along with Bill and another engineer named Eddie Bailey – in fast motion. Or he shot the scenes and someone sped up the action during the editing process. Why, I have no idea. There were a few times when members of the cast indulge in some theatrical acting. And I mean everyone. Finally, I found the resolution to the love triangle in this film a bit disappointing. Considering that divorce was not as verboten in the early 20th century, as many seemed to assume, I do not see why that the whole matter between Bill, Lily and Jack could have been resolved with divorce, instead of tragedy. In the case of this particular story, I found the tragic aspects a bit contrived.

Otherwise, I rather enjoyed “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN”, much to my surprise. Repeating my earlier statement, I was impressed by how screenwriter Maud Fulton, with the addition of William K. Wells’ dialogue; treated the adulterous aspects of the love triangle with taste and maturity. What I found even more impressive is that the three people involved were all likeable and sympathetic. I was rather surprised that this film only lasted 70 minutes. Because Wellman did an exceptional job with the movie’s pacing. He managed to infuse a good deal of energy into this story, even when it threatened to become a bit too maudlin.

Wellman’s energy seemed to manifest in the cast’s performance. Yes, I am well aware of my complaint about the performers’ occasional penchant for theatrical acting. But overall, I thought they did a very good job. Future stars James Cagney and Joan Blondell had small supporting roles as Bill’s other friend Eddie Bailey and his girlfriend, Marie. Both did a good job and both had the opportunities to express those traits that eventually made them stars within a year or two. I was especially entertained by Blondell’s performance, for she had the opportunity to convey one of the movie’s best lines:

Marie: [taking out her compact and powdering her face] Listen, baby, I’m A.P.O.

Railroad worker at Lunch Counter: [to the other railroad worker] What does she mean, A.P.O.?

Marie: Ain’t Puttin’ Out!

I noticed that due to Cagney and Blondell’s presence in this film, many tend to dismiss the leading actors’ performances. In fact, many seemed to forget that not only was Mary Astor a star already, she was a decade away from winning an Oscar. Well, star or not, I was impressed by her portrayal of the railroad wife who finds herself falling in love with a man other than her own husband. She gave a warm, charming and energetic performance. And she portrayed her character’s guilt with great skill. I could also say the same about leading man, Grant Withers. He is basically known as Loretta Young’s first husband. Which is a shame, because he seemed like a first-rate actor, capable of handling the many emotional aspects of his character. Whether Bill was drunk and careless, fun-loving, romantic or even wracked with guilt, Withers ably portrayed Bill’s emotional journey. I also enjoyed Regis Toomey’s performance as the emotionally cuckolded husband, Jack Kulper. I mainly remember Toomey from the 1955 musical, “GUYS AND DOLLS”. However, I was impressed by how he portrayed Jack’s torn psyche regarding his best friend and wife.

I am not going to pretend that “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is one of the best films from the Pre-Code era . . . or one of director William Wellman’s best films. Perhaps that New York Times critic had been right, when he described the film as “an unimportant little drama of the railroad yards”. But I cannot dismiss “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” as a mediocre or poor film. It is actually pretty decent. And more importantly, thanks to the screenplay, Wellman’s direction and the cast, I thought it portrayed a love triangle tainted by adultery with a great deal of maturity.

“LOUISIANA” (1984) Review

 

 

“LOUISIANA” (1984) Review

Thirty-four years ago, HBO had aired a three-part miniseries about the life and travails of a nineteenth century Southern belle named Virginia Tregan. The miniseries was called “LOUISIANA” and it starred Margot Kidder and Ian Charleson. 

Directed by the late Philippe de Broca, “LOUISIANA” was based upon the “Fausse-Riviere” Trilogy, written by Maurice Denuzière, one of the screenwriters. It told the story of Virginia’s ruthless devotion to her first husband’s Louisiana cotton plantation called Bagatelle . . . and her love for the plantation’s overseer, an Englishman named Clarence Dandridge. The story begins in 1836 in which she returns to her home in Louisiana after spending several years at school in Paris. Unfortunately, Virginia discovers that the Tregan family plantation and most of its holdings have been sold to pay off her father’s debts. Only the manor house remains. Determined to recoup her personal fortune, Virginia manipulates the breakup of the affair between her wealthy godfather, Adrien Damvillier and his mistress, Anne McGregor in order to marry him and become mistress of Bagatelle. Virginia also becomes frustrated in her relationship with Clarence Dandridge, who refuses to embark upon a sexual relationship with her.

During their ten-year marriage, Virginia and Adrien conceive three children – Adrien II, Pierre and Julie. Not long after Julie’s birth, Adrien dies during a yellow fever epidemic. Virginia hints to Clarence that she would like to engage in a serious relationship with him. But when he informs her that they would be unable to consummate their relationship due to an injury he had sustained during a duel, Virginia travels to Paris for a year-long separation. There, she meets her second husband, a French aristocrat named Charles de Vigors. They return to Louisiana and Virginia gives birth to her fourth and final child – Fabian de Vigors. Virginia and Charles eventually divorce due to his jealousy of his wife’s feelings for Clarence and his affairs. Fabian, who feels left out of the Damvillier family circle, accompanies his father back to France. During the next ten to fifteen years, Virginia experiences the death of her three children by Adrien, the Civil War and Reconstruction. The story ended in either the late 1860s or early 1870s with Virginia using a trick up her sleeves to save Bagatelle from a Yankee mercenary, whom she had first encountered on a riverboat over twenty years ago.

If I must be frank, “LOUISIANA” is not exactly “GONE WITH THE WIND” or the “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy. But the 1984 production does bear some resemblance to both the 1939 movie and the 1985-1994 miniseries trilogy. I noticed that the character of Virginia Tregan Damvillier de Vigors strongly reminded me of Margaret Mitchell’s famous leading lady from “GONE WITH THE WIND”, Scarlett O’Hara. Both characters are strong-willed, ruthless, charming, manipulative, passionate and Southern-born. Both had married at least two or three times. Well, Scarlett had acquired three husbands by the end of Mitchell’s tale. In “LOUISIANA”, Virginia married twice and became engaged once to some mercenary who wanted Bagatelle after the war. Both women had fallen in love with a man who was forbidden to them. Unlike Scarlett, Virginia eventually ended up with the man she loved, despite losing three of her children. Apparently, the saga’s original author felt that Virginia had to pay a high price for manipulating her way into her first marriage to Adrien Damvillier.

“LOUISIANA” also shared a few aspects with another famous Civil War-era saga – namely John Jakes’ “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy. Both sagas were based upon a trilogy of novels that spanned the middle decades of the 19th century – covering the antebellum period, the Civil War and Reconstruction. Mind you, “LOUISIANA” lacked the epic-style storytelling of the television adaptation of Jakes’ trilogy. Not even Virginia’s journey to France and her experiences during the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848, along with another journey to France during the first year of the Civil War could really give “LOUISIANA” the epic sprawl that made the “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy so memorable. However, the miniseries, like “NORTH AND SOUTH”, did depicted the darker side of the Old South’s plantation system. It did so through the eyes of four characters – Clarence Dandridge; one Bagatell slave named Brent; another Bagatelle slave named Ivy, and Virginia’s French-born servant/companion, Mignette.

Like both “NORTH AND SOUTH” and “GONE WITH THE WIND”“LOUISIANA” suffered from some historical inaccuracies. I found it interesting that Bagatelle did not suffer the consequences from the Panic and Depression of 1837, which lasted until the mid-1840s. Especially since it was a cotton plantation. This particular economic crisis had not only led to a major recession throughout the United States, it also dealt a severe blow to the nation’s Cotton Belt, thanks to a decline in cotton prices. Unlike the 1980 miniseries, “BEULAH LAND”“LOUISIANA” never dealt with this issue, considering that the story began in 1836. I also found the miniseries’ handling of the Revolution of 1848 in France and the California Gold Rush rather questionable, as well. Gold was first discovered by James Marshall in California, in January 1848. But news of the discovery did not reach the East Coast until August-September 1848, via an article in the New York Herald; and France became the first country to fully experience the Revolution of 1848 on February 23, 1848. Yet, according to the screenplay for “LOUISIANA”, Charles de Vigors first learned about the California gold discovery in a newspaper article in mid-June 1848 . . . sometime before France experienced the first wave of the Revolutions of 1848. Which is impossible . . . historically.

If there is one aspect of “LOUISIANA” that reigned supreme over both “NORTH AND SOUTH” and “GONE WITH THE WIND” are the costumes designed by John Jay. The costumes lacked the theatrical styles of the John Jakes miniseries trilogy and the 1939 Oscar winner. But they did project a more realistic image of the clothes worn during the period between 1830s and 1860s. And fans of “NORTH AND SOUTH” would immediately recognize the plantation and house that served as Bagatelle in “LOUISIANA”. In real life, it is Greenwood Plantation, located in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. Aside from serving as Bagatelle, it also stood in as Resolute, the home of the venal Justin LaMotte in the first two miniseries of the “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy.

The story for “LOUISIANA” seemed pretty solid. It seemed like a Louisiana version of “GONE WITH THE WIND”, but with an attempt to match the epic sprawl of “NORTH AND SOUTH”. But only in length . . . not in style. Margot Kidder, Ian Charleson, Andréa Ferréol, Len Cariou, Lloyd Bochner, Victor Lanoux, and Hilly Hicks all gave pretty good performances. Kidder and Charleson, surprisingly managed to create a strong screen chemistry. The miniseries indulged in some of the romance of the Old South. But as I had earlier pointed out, the miniseries also exposed its darker aspects – especially slavery. When the story first began with Virginia’s arrival in Louisiana with her maid, Mignette; the entire production seemed like a reflection of the “moonlight and magnolias” myth of the Old South, until the story shifted to the cotton harvest fête held at Bagatelle. In this scene, slavery finally reared its ugly head when the plantation’s housekeeper becomes suddenly ill, while serving a guest. Slavery and racism continued to be explored not only when Virginia’s conservative beliefs over slavery clash with Clarence’s more liberal ideals; but also with scenes featuring encounters between Bagatelle slave Brent and a racist neighbor named Percy Templeton, Mignette’s Underground Railroad activities, and a doomed romance between one of Virginia’s sons and a slave named Ivy. Yet, despite Virginia’s conservative views regarding slavery, the miniseries allowed audiences to sympathize with her through her romantic travails, the tragic deaths of her children and her post-war efforts to save Bagatelle from a slimy con artist-turned-carpetbagger named Oswald.

If you are expecting another “GONE WITH THE WIND” or “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy, you will be disappointed. But thanks to Maurice Denuzière’s novels and the screenplay written by Dominique Fabre, Charles E. Israel and Etienne Périer; “LOUISIANA” ended up as an entertaining saga about a woman’s connections with a Louisiana plantation during the early and mid 19th century. For anyone interested in watching “LOUISIANA”, you might find it extremely difficult in finding the entire miniseries (six hours) either on VHS or DVD. And it might be slightly difficult in finding an edited version as well. The last time I had seen “LOUISIANA”, it aired on CINEMAX in the mid-1990s and had been edited to at least three hours. If you find a copy of the entire miniseries or the edited version, you have my congratulations.

1

R.I.P. Margot Kidder (1948-2018)

“West to Laramie” [PG] – 1/4

”WEST TO LARAMIE”

Summary: A Philadelphia matron and her companion travel west by stagecoach to attend the wedding of her son, an Army officer, in pre-Civil War West.
Rating: PG

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”WEST TO LARAMIE”

Chapter 1

November 14, 1859

Mrs. Anne Middleton
63 46th Street
Philadelphia, PA

Dear Mother,

I am sure you will be happy to learn of the latest fortune to be bestowed upon me. I have the pleasure to announce my engagement to Miss Penelope Hilland, the only daughter of Major and Mrs. Ronald Hilland of Akron, Ohio.

Penelope and I have agreed to have our wedding on June 3 of next year at the fort’s chapel. I will be granted a three-month furlough between June and September. Unfortunately, Major Hilland will be unable to attend any ceremony held in the East, due to military duties. Penelope and I have decided to make the trip east as part of our honeymoon. Since Major Hilland is unable to travel, we hope that you and Addie will make the trip west to attend the wedding. I would not dream of getting married without my family in attendance.

I understand that the new Central Overland Stage Line between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California has recently opened. You and Addie can travel from Philadelphia to St. Joseph by train. From there, you can reach Fort Laramie by stagecoach. From what I understand, traveling by stage should be more comfortable that it would in the East. A new type of coach is now in use. You should not have to worry about Indians. Our boys are keeping them busy and making sure they cause no trouble for the white settlers here on the plains.

Please try to make the trip. Nothing would please me more than to have my family witness my beginning with the most wonderful girl in this world. Tell everyone – especially Addie – hello for me. I hope to see you both next spring.

Your loving son,

Robert

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February 7, 1860

First Lieutenant Robert Middleton, U.S.A.
Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory

Dear Robert,

My heart glowed at the news of your upcoming marriage to Miss Hilland. It is wonderful to hear that you have finally met a young lady with whom you can share the rest of your life. I also have news to share. Addie and her husband, Harold, are expecting a child sometime in July. This means that Addie will be unable to make the trip. Instead, my companion – Patricia North – will accompany me. I am sure it will be nice for you to finally meet her. I informed her that we will travel by train and stagecoach. She merely implied in her usual pessimistic manner that the trip might not be as comfortable as you had described in your letter.

We will depart from Philadelphia during the last week of April. We should arrive at Fort Laramie within a week-and-a-half. Please convey my greetings to your fiancée and her parents. I anticipate in finally seeing the West for the first time . . . and you after so many years.

I love you always,

Mother

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”

Below is an article I had written about the Season Six episode of “CHARMED” called (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”

”CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”

For the past five or six years, I have never hesitated to express my scorn toward Seasons Five to Eight of ”CHARMED”. Granted, I would never consider the series’ first four seasons as examples of television excellence. Yet, in compare to the last four seasons, Seasons One to Four might as well be considered masterpieces. However, ”CHARMED” did managed to air a few noteworthy episodes during its latter seasons. And one of those episodes happened to be Season Six’s (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”.

Penned by Cameron Litvack and directed by Joel J. Feigenbaum, ”Chris-Crossed” features a story in which the Charmed Ones’ new whitelighter, Chris Perry aka Chris Halliwell (Drew Fuller) faces a love from the future who is determined to jeopardize his current mission – namely to prevent Wyatt (Wes Ramsey) from embarking upon a path of evil- in order to save his life. Chris’ mission nearly unravels when his fiancée from the future, a Phoenix witch/assassin named Bianca (Marisa Nichols) appears in order to bring Chris back to the future by whatever means necessary.

”Chris-Crossed” marked another example of how the series in its latter years managed to derive its energy from memorable supporting characters or guest stars. This episode not only bridled with energy, thanks to an intriguing narrative penned by Cameron Litvak; but also from the on-screen dynamics between Drew Fuller and Marisa Nichols. Wes Ramsey made an impressive villain as the future, evil Wyatt Halliwell. And I have to say the same for Rebecca McFarland, who portrayed Bianca’s 2003 mother, Lynn. In fact, I have to give kudos to both Nichols and McFarland for portraying Bianca and Lynn as a complex and fascinating mother/daughter pair. The regular cast – Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan and Brian Krause – all gave solid performances. But I certainly did not find their performances as impressive as Fuller or the episode’s guest stars.

Litvack’s script did have its flaws. One, I could not conceive future Wyatt using his family’s home to be used as a museum in honor of his mother and aunts. Especially since Chris had made it clear that Wyatt murdered Phoebe, following Piper and Paige’s deaths. Two, the idea that Chris’ reason for traveling to the past seemed to contradict his original concerns from the Season Five finale, (5.22 & 5.23) “Oh My Goddesses!” – namely to prevent the Titans from destroying the Whitelighter Realm and killing Paige.

My final complaint centers around Wyatt’s Halliwell museum again. How on earth did Piper’s oldest son got hold of the mermaid fins that Phoebe wore in (5.01 & 5.02) “A Witch’s Tail? And how did he get his hands on the super heroine costumes that the Halliwell sisters wore in (5.05) “Witches in Tights”? The mermaid fins should have disappeared completely once Phoebe changed back to a mortal. And the super heroine costumes worn by the sisters had been a figment in the imagination of a young witch named Kevin, who possessed the ability of though projection. I also had problems with Piper and Paige’s visit to the home of Bianca’s mother, Lynn. How did they plan to deal with her, when they surreptiously (if you can call it that) let it known to Lynn that they knew she was a Phoenix witch? What were they planning to do? Kill her and leave five year-old Bianca as an orphan, after getting some information? Kill the five year-old Bianca, as well?

Thankfully, the episodes’ virtues outweighed the flaws. Litvack penned a first-rate script that gave the Halliwells the opportunity to discover that Chris might be more than what he seemed. He also provided a poignant romance between Chris and his loving witch/assassin Bianca. Viewers were even able to witness an interesting confrontation between Bianca and the Charmed Ones. Bianca proved in that scene that she could be just as formidable (or perhaps a little more) than the Power of Three, using her brains and skills. Most importantly, ”Chris-Crossed” gave viewers a detailed peek into one possible future for Piper’s two sons. A future filled with violence, chaos, secrecy, love and loss. A future that Chris is determined to alter via the fate of his older and more powerful brother.

As I had stated earlier, I have an extremely low opinion of Seasons Five to Eight of ”CHARMED”. Yet, due to some miracle, producer Brad Kern and one of his writers – Cameron Litvack – managed to create a “diamond in the rough”, namely ”Chris-Crossed”. Not only did the episode proved to be a rare gem in an otherwise dismal period in the series’ history, I believe that it might be considered – on my part – as one of the best episodes of ”CHARMED” period.