The Scene in “The Right Stuff” That Makes You Love John Glenn

John Glenn phone

John Glenn passed away today on December 8, 2016 at the age of 95.  The former NASA astronaut and Senator is one of the few people who could accurately be described as an American hero.

An American Hero

Glenn served his country well in a number of ways.  He left college to join the service after Pearl Harbor, eventually serving in the Navy and then the Marines. He served in the Korean War and later as a test pilot and as an astronaut.

As a Marine Corps pilot, he broke the transcontinental flight speed record.  In 1962, he became the first American to orbit the Earth.  In 1998, at age 77, he became the oldest man in space as part of the crew of the shuttle Discovery.

In politics, Glenn represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate for 25 years.  During that period, he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination and was often considered for a place on the ticket as vice president.

The Right Stuff

But of all his accomplishments, one scene about his life stands out for me.  In the movie The Right Stuff (1983) about the original Mercury 7 astronauts, Ed Harris plays Glenn as a somewhat moralizing goody two shoes, who still comes across as admirable.

One scene in the film centers on events from January 27, 1962 after Glenn’s flight is postponed due to weather conditions.  Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and the press are outside Glenn’s house wanting to talk to Glenn’s wife, Annie.  Annie, upset and not wanting to meet with the press or the vice president, talks to Glenn on the phone.

In the scene, Glenn is aware of the political and media pressure on the space program.  And he is pressured to tell his wife to talk to the vice president.  But instead, he backs his wife “100%.”  The other astronauts also come off well in the scene, putting aside any diffenences to back up Glenn.

The incident and Glenn’s response is a true story, even if a bit stylized with a humorous take on LBJ for the big screen. Johnson and the media were pressuring Annie, and Glenn backed up his wife all the way.

Glenn later explained, “She said she was tired, she had a headache, and she just wasn’t going to allow all those people in her house … I told her whatever she wanted to do, I would back her up 100 percent.”

There would be a few more delays due to a fuel leak and weather problems.  But of course, Glenn did get off the ground on February 20, 1962 in Friendship 7, becoming the first American to orbit the earth. But he was already a hero to those who knew him.

Godspeed John Glenn.

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    Jim Stafford and the “Wildwood Weed”

    Wildwood Weed The changing attitudes toward marijuana, with states legalizing medical marijuana or legalizing it outright, reminded me of a 45 rpm record I had as a kid. I had never seen or smelled pot at that time, but I just liked a funny song called “Wildwood Weed.”

    Jim Stafford recorded the song, which is really more talking than singing. If you had a TV in the 1970s, you probably know who Jim Stafford is. Like Paul Williams (and to some extent John Denver), he was one of those singer-performers who for a period seemed to be on every television show before suddenly seeming to disappear.

    Stafford was a country-singer-comedian who often appeared on The Tonight Show. He had his own summer variety TV show in 1975 called, appropriately, The Jim Stafford Show. You might also remember him as a co-host of Those Amazing Animals from 1980 to 1981. Or you might recall his appearances on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour ‘Revival Show.’

    But before all of that, I knew Stafford from a 45 rpm record playing in my bedroom where he sang a story about “Wildwood Weed.” Below Stafford performs “Wildwood Weed” while hosting Nashville Now. But first he explains how the song was controversial at the time.

    “Wildwood Weed” went to number seven on the U.S. charts in 1974. One of his other songs that I recall from that same year was “My Girl Bill,” which is a little more serious than “Wildwood Weed.”

    Stafford was one of the most likable people on television in those days, and he always seemed to be smiling. So I was glad to hear that he is still performing even if the shows are not on national TV. Since 1990, he has performed at The Jim Stafford Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

    What is your favorite memory of Jim Stafford? Leave your two cents in the comments.  Photo via public domain.

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    What Are The Mamas & the Papas Singing About in “Creeque Alley”?

    mamas papas
    One of the great songs by The Mamas & the Papas is the song “Creeque Alley,” which was released in April 1967. It is a fun song that clearly is telling some kind of story, but one may find it hard to follow.

    In this video below, posted by RollingStones50yrs, a performance of “Creeque Alley” by The Mamas & the Papas is inter-cut with photos illustrating the references in the song.  “Creeque Alley” is about the band’s early years and some of their friends in the folk scene in the 1960s. The video also includes some interviews about the song.

    So, to learn more about John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, and Michelle Phillips (as well as some of their friends), check out this video of “Creeque Alley.”

    Of course, it is a lovely song whether or not you catch all of the references. But it is still interesting to know a little more about it.

    For a more detailed analysis of “Creeque Alley,” check out this website. For example, the website explains how the final lyrics describes the band members’ journey to the Virgin Islands in 1965, Cass Elliot’s vocal range, and the group’s return to the U.S. and relocation to California.

    Broke, busted, disgusted, agents can’t be trusted,
    And Mitchie wants to go to the sea.
    Cass can’t make it; she says we’ll have to fake it –
    We knew she’d come eventually.
    Greasin’ on American Express cards;
    Tents low rent, but keeping out the heat’s hard.
    Duffy’s good vibrations and our imaginations
    Can’t go on indefinitely.
    And California dreamin’ is becomin’ a reality.

    Of course, that last line is a reference to the band’s hit “California Dreamin’,” released in December 1965.

    In fact, the name of the song Creeque Alley (pronounced like “creaky”) comes from “a narrow area of alleys that spiderweb the docks which historically carried ship cargo and pirate booty to the warehouses lining the waterfront on the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.” Another website with analysis of the song is here.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    All of the Harry Potter Films Condensed Into One Movie

    Harry Potter One Film

    A Harry Potter fan has taken the eight Harry Potter films and edited them to create one film that tells the story of Mr. Potter’s adventure in less than 80 minutes. Tim Stiefler has entitled his creation Wizardhood, in a reference to the movie Boyhood (2014), where we similarly watched the actors age in real life.

    So, if you do not have time for all of the films, you may track Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) across the years in one film (at least for now while it is still available). Check it out. [December 1, 2016 Update:  Unfortunately, it appears that the video is no longer available online.]

    The Harry Potter films were released from 2001 to 2011. And they are Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001); Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002); Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004); Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005); Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007); Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009); Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010); and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011).

    What scene from the eight movies would you add to Wizardhood? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Analyzing Actors’ Accents in Films

    movie dialect

    One of the more challenging aspects of acting is when an actor must speak in a dialect or with an accent that is not native to the actor. Sometimes the actor does a great job, and sometimes they don’t.

    In this video from Wired, dialect coach Erik Singer analyzes 32 different accents from actors such as Brad Pitt, Kate Winslet, Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Heath Ledger, and many more.

    Singer is generally generous in his criticisms, noting how difficult it is to get the correct accents on everything. He points out several times where actors get some things right and some things wrong. And he has strong praise for others.

    Check out Erik Singer giving us a nice lesson in accents in Movie Accent Expert Breaks Down 32 Actors’ Accents.

    What is your favorite movie accent? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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