It’s laugh-out-loud funny. Great performances. Definitely see it.
This is a wonderful, nostalgic, hilarious movie based on the “kids” who wrote the material for the “Show of Shows”, a live comedy show starring the great Sid Caesar. Among the many writers to emerge from this incubator of talent were Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Howard Morris, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Norman Lear, Larry Gelbart (creator of MASH, the TV series) and many others. The writer’s room group reads like the who’s who of comedy.
Much of the story is based on an actual event, the week that Errol Flynn (Peter O’Toole) came to town to guest star on the Sid Caesar show. Mel Brooks, the kid in the movie was really assigned to “babysit” Flynn and make sure he stayed sober and showed up for the broadcast. Although the character is a bit of a composite, he’s mostly Mel.
Richard Benjamin directed it. Joe Bologna as “King Kaiser” (Sid Caesar) is wonderful. And as far as I’m concerned, this is far and away Peter O’Toole’s best performance. You may prefer Lawrence of Arabia, but this movie really does it for me.
It’s one of Garry and my all time favorite movies. We know it so well that we laugh before the jokes and we never get tired of it. We watched it last night for maybe the 500th time and laughed as much as we always do.
You WILL enjoy it. You have my personal guarantee on that. Or double your money back!
(Not really 🙂 )
Note: This is supposed to be the weekly writing challenge. Video is not writing. I’m sure there are many bloggers fascinated by the potential uses of video, but is this the appropriate forum to present it? Just asking. I do not see a big response, so perhaps I’m not the only one who doesn’t understand how this became the writing challenge of the week.
Every nation revises history. They leave out the bad bits — slaughters of the innocent, unjust wars against minorities and civilians. They invent heroes, turn defeats into victories.
American history is no different. It’s relatively easy to make our history match our myths when such a large percentage of U.S. citizens haven’t learned any history since third grade. There’s some question about how well third grade lessons were absorbed. Recent studies show a troubling pattern of ignorance in which even the basics of history are unknown to most of our natural-born citizens. Ironically, naturalized citizens are far better educated. They had to pass a test to become citizens. The rest of us got a free pass.
College students don’t know when we fought the Revolution, much less why. They can’t name our first president (George Washington, just in case you aren’t sure). Many aren’t clear what happened on 9/11. I’ve been asked which came first, World Wars I or II — indicating more than ignorance. More like deep stupidity.
All over Facebook, morons gather to impress each other with the vigor of their uninformed opinions. They proclaim we fought the Revolution to not pay taxes and keep our guns. Saying that’s not how it happened is insufficient. I lack the words to say how untrue that is.
Why did we have a Revolution? How come we rebelled against England rather than peaceably settling our differences? Wouldn’t it have been easier to make a deal?
Yes, it would have been easier to make a deal and we tried. Unfortunately, it turned out to be impossible. We fought a revolution when we exhausted every peaceful option. Petitions and negotiations failed, but we kept trying, even after shots had been fired and independence declared.
We didn’t want war with England. There were lots of excellent reasons:
Our economy was entirely dependent on trade with England. Through English merchants, we could trade with the rest of the world. Without them, we were stuck with no trading partners or ships
We were ill-equipped to fight a war
We had no navy, no commanders. No trained army. We barely had guns
Our population was too small to sustain an army
We had no factories, mills or shipyards
We relied on England for finished goods other than those we could make in our own homes, including furniture, guns, clothing, cutlery, dishes, porcelain
We needed Britain to supply us with anything we ate or drank (think tea) unless we could grow it in North America.
All luxury goods and many necessities came from or through England. We had some nascent industries, but they were not ready for prime time. It wasn’t until 1789 we built our first cotton-spinning mill — made possible by an Englishman named Slater who immigrated from England and showed us how to do it.
Our American colonies didn’t want to be Americans. We wanted to be British. We wanted the right to vote in parliamentary elections as equals with other British citizens. The cry “no taxation without representation” (remember that?) didn’t mean we weren’t willing to pay taxes. It meant we wanted the right to vote on taxes. We wanted to be heard, to participate in government. Whether or not we would or would not pay a particular tax was not at issue. Everyone pays taxes — then and now. We wanted seats in Parliament and British citizenship.
King George was a Royal asshole. His counselors strongly recommended he make a deal with the colonists. Most Americans considered themselves Englishmen. If the British king had been a more flexible, savvy or intelligent monarch, war could have been averted. We would be, as the Canadians are, part of the British Commonwealth. There would have been no war. A bone-headed monarch thought a war was better than compromise. He was a fool, but it worked out better than we could have hoped.
We declared war which many folks here and abroad thought was folly. We almost lost it. We would have lost were it not for two critical things:
British unwillingness to pursue the war aggressively
French ships and European mercenaries.
Without French assistance and hired mercenaries from central Europe, we would have been squashed by the British who were better armed, better trained. They had ships with guns, trained seamen to man them. We didn’t.
Just as we considered ourselves English, albeit living abroad in a colony rather than in England, British soldiers and commanders were not overly eager to slaughter people they considered fellow Englishmen. They didn’t pursue the war with the deadly determination they could have … and if they had? Who knows?
Did we really win because the British were inept and couldn’t beat an untrained ragtag rabble army? That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. I doubt it. There is considerable argument on much this affected the course of the war. I side with those who think that the British found it distasteful to shoot people with whom a short time before they had been friends and with whom the hoped to be friends again. And of course, many British soldiers had family in “the colonies” and vice-versa. It was a painful fight, rather like a civil war.
Many British citizens sympathised with the colonists including a goodly percentage of troops. Sympathy ran high even in the upper echelons of British government. Many important people in England were none too happy with King George. So they did as they were ordered, but without enthusiasm. No one in the British government — or high up in the army — believe the colonies had any chance of winning. They were convinced we’d work it out by negotiations eventually. Many felt the fewer people killed in the interim, the fewer hard feeling would exist afterwards.
And then there was one huge miscalculation. The British did not expect the French to show up. As soon as the French fleet arrived, a few more battles were fought and the British went home. Had they pursued the war with vigor from the start, we wouldn’t have lasted long enough for the French to get here, much less save our butts.
The mythology surrounding the American Revolution is natural. Every nation needs heroes and myths and we are no exception. But as grown ups, we can apply a bit of healthy skepticism, read a couple of books. Learn there’s more to the story than the stuff we learned when we were eight. Like, the second part of the Revolutionary war known as “The War of 1812.” Part two of the Revolution which we lost fair and square when the British burned Washington D.C.
We did not win the Revolution. We survived it. Barely.
Andrew Jackson’s big win at New Orléans in 1814 kept the British from coming back. The battle took place a full 10 days after the war ended. Losing it would no doubt have encouraged the British to return, but the Battle of New Orléans was not decisive. The war was over by then. No one had a cell phone, so they didn’t know, which is why I contend the course of history would be really different if cell phones had been invented a few centuries earlier.
Only crazy people think guns and killing are the solution to the world’s ills. Guns and killing are the cause of most of the problems. It horrifies me such people gain credence. It used to be considered a normal part of good citizenship to have a basic understanding of history and government.
There is no better form of government than ours. There are others perhaps as good, but none better, none more fair, none that offers more protection to its citizens. Whatever is wrong with our system of government is wrong with the world, not just America. Intelligent people don’t throw away the good stuff because someone lost an election, or a jury brought in a bad verdict.
We have the good fortune to live in a nation of laws. They don’t always work the way they should, nor does justice always prevail, but the laws exist. We have elections. We transfer power from one administration to the next without battles, riots, bloodbaths.
An educated citizenry and a free press are our best defenses against tyranny. As long as you can complain openly and protest vigorously against your own government, and those people on TV and on the news can say what they will about the government — whether or not you or I agree with them — we are living in a free nation. That’s a rare and wonderful thing.
Ignorance is the enemy of freedom. It allows fools to rush in where angels would never dare. Support education. Encourage your kids to read. Let’s all read. Knowledge benefits everyone.
The year I was fifteen, I started my senior year of high school. That September (1962), while I was sitting and watching television, I found a rather big, hard lump near my right ankle. I checked the other leg. No lump there. It was a painless lump. Mom had me visiting a surgeon just a couple of days later.
It turned out to be non-malignant, what is called an osteochondroma. It was, however, pretty big. Big enough so in the short time between seeing the doctor and getting into the hospital, it more than doubled in size. It had thoroughly wrapped itself around my fibula and the surgeon had to remove a piece of bone and replace it with a pin. I was in no mortal danger, but I was going to be on crutches for at least half a year.
Jamaica High School was (is) huge. Five stories including the basement (swimming pool level) and top floor — the tower where the choir and chorus rehearsed. There were no elevators. No handicapped access. It was also extremely crowded, no place for someone on crutches.
Thus I came to be assigned a home tutor. I was not her only client and for reasons of her own, she decided to introduce me to another of her clients.
Mary was older than me, 18 years old. Which, at 15, seemed very mature from my perspective. She was a schizophrenic at a time when the drugs to control schizophrenia had not been invented. She was not at all violent. In fact, she was wonderfully sweet, a brilliant artist … and her view of the world was, to say the least, unique.
“Sure, why not.” I was always up for a movie. But this one, I didn’t much like. I still don’t. Just … not my cup of tea. Too creepy.
But my night of creepiness was far from over, because after the movie, Mary invited me to visit one of her favorite place … the local cemetery. Through which she happily danced, kissing each of the stones while declaring that these were the happiest of all souls.
Thus began my interest in cemeteries and tombstones. And the end of my brief relationship with Mary. I’m pretty strange in my own way, but that was a bit much for me.
We have great cemeteries here in New England. Old ones with wonderful tombstones, amazing old inscriptions. Come visit some time.
My father was not a really nice guy, but he was a salesman and spent a lot of time on the road. Consequently, he had an enormous repertoire of jokes. Some I can’t repeat, not because they are dirty, but because they were mostly in Yiddish and they don’t translate, but others are universal.
That’s the thing about ethnic humor. It really isn’t “Jewish” or “Italian” or any other group. It is human. From group to group, there is often more truth in the jokes we tell about ourselves than in any other form of communication.
The Nature of the Jewish Husband-Wife Relationship
So one day, a surveyor comes to the home of an Orthodox couple and asks if it would be alright if he asked a few questions about male and female roles in the household.
“Sure, why not?” says the Lady of the House.
“My first question is,” says the surveyor, “Which of you is in charge of making the important decisions about your family or do you split them up?”
“Oh,” says the wife. “We are very traditional. I do the unimportant decisions and he takes care of the really important ones.”
“What unimportant decisions do you make?”
“I decide how we will pay the bills, where to send the children to school, whether or not we need to move to a different neighborhood, how we will handle our healthcare, what we will eat, making sure the children learn about God and attend to their religious duties. That sort of thing,” she explains.
The surveyor is puzzled. “So what,” he asks, “are the important things your husband handles?”
The wife smiles. “He decides what relationship God has with mankind, how we achieve peace on earth, and the nature of righteousness.”
Twelve Jews are stranded on a desert island. They are there many years. When finally a ship comes by and they are rescued, the rescuers are surprised to discover that there are 13 synagogues on the island.
The ship’s captain is puzzled. “I can understand,” he says, “why you might have 12 synagogues, but what’s with thirteenth?”
Replies everyone in concert “That’s the one nobody goes to.”
(Note: Whether or not you find this funny depends on your ethnicity.)
An Israeli man who studied in Texas gets an email from his old school mate saying that he’s going to visit Israel and can they get together?
Avi is delighted and prepares to show his country to his Texan friend. But while he’s giving his friend “the tour,” every time he shows something to his friend, the friend says that his father owns, or has built something bigger and better in Texas.
He shows him the Old City in Jerusalem and his friend says “why we’ve got ghost towns on our ranch bigger than that.” When looking at the Sea of Galilee, the Texan comments that “there are puddles bigger than that on our ranch.”
Finally, in near desperation, Avi takes his pal to the Dead Sea.
“You see that?” he says, pointing at the body of water.
I haven’t really processed the news yet. That my leaky mitral valve has gone from no big deal to seriously deteriorated probably shouldn’t have surprised me. Nothing should surprise me. Maybe surprise is the wrong word.
Bummer. That’s the word. The heart seems to be pumping okay (the good news) but the leak is very bad (not good news). About that surgery? No, thank you. Did I ever mention that my first husband died of complications following valve replacement surgery? If not, yes he did and that long and horrible death included 9 months in a vegetative state. It was not pretty.
I have had so much surgery I can’t remember all of the operations anymore. I cannot list all of the body parts that have been remodeled, removed, renovated, revised or replaced. Last week they offered to remove a few small bones from my hands so they would work better and hurt less. Today, they offered to take my heart apart and repair that.
That’s it for me. I’m done. I cannot go through another major surgery.
I don’t know what this means for my future but since I’m mostly asymptomatic, I have nothing to lose by doing nothing. Wait, monitor, wait some more.
So how did my doctor’s appointment go? I never made it to the second one because I was so bummed by the first one. I needed an immediate infusion of best friend and some time hiding in my office playing mindless games which let me not think.
What ever original equipment I have left body-wise, I want to keep. I am not ready to deal with this. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
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