The Troublesome Time of England’s Dual King Henrys

This is one of my absolutely favorite parts of English history. The whole Plantagenet family needed a family counselor. Can you imagine the conversation? “Richard, you do NOT need an army to talk with your Dad.”

Last year I wrote about the tempestuous marriage of Henry II, the first Plantagenet king of England, and his headstrong queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Although they spent much of their relationship at loggerheads or estranged, the discordant duo were at least united in one goal: to found a dynasty to rule over their vast Angevin lands that now stretched from the Scottish borders all the way down to the Pyranees. In their four surviving sons they doubtless felt the future of the mighty Plantagenet empire was assured, but the ambitious king would not rest on his laurels. Instead, his obsession with the succession meant that in 1170, England was to bow to not one, but two kings, as Henry crowned his fifteen-year-old son, also called Henry, alongside him. But the throne wasn’t big enough for both of them, and as conflict erupted between father and son, spreading across the whole…

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One of a Kind Or Maybe Not …

When I first saw my bright orange Cardinal, I was sure I had seen something absolutely unique. Cardinals are red. That’s their thing. Their redness is their thing. Then  I discovered that other clusters of orange cardinals have been found, a bunch down in North Carolina. Now they are tracking them to see if this is change is an actual genetic change. I can tell them it is and it’s inherited. These orange Cardinals have had at least two sets of babies. One set of them are almost grey with shafts of orange in their tails and huge orange beaks. The next set is orange, but has a variety of other colors mixed in. This photo picked up the variety of colors very well. But I’m going to add a few other pictures so you can see the differences.

Some of these differences may be because these birds all have the same father. Cardinals are very possessive. They like to collect lady Cardinals and will fight any other male who flies into their territory. I suspect that most Cardinals are probably inbred, given the possessiveness of the males.

One of the first fledglings. Don’t you love that beak?
Mother and very big fledgling
I think this is mom.
Growing up – one of the early orange Cardinal babies

There may have been three nestings this season. It’s hard to tell. I think the mother of the most recent fledglings was part of the first batch of baby orange Cardinals. But we definitely have a cluster!


The new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, went into development in 2016. The often delayed project was set for release in April of this year but has been pushed back twice due to COVID-19. Under present circumstances, there can be no grand theater premiere or expectations of large box office success. The new release date is April 2021. Meanwhile, we look back at the very beginning of James Bond.

Casino Royale, By Rich Paschall

When Eon Productions, maker of all those James Bond movies, finally made a film based on the very first Ian Fleming novel, fans of the super spy may have wondered what took them so long. The novel, published in 1953, introduced us to the Cold War spy with a “License to Kill”, but why no movie? In the book as in the films (plural, follow along), Bond’s mission is to bankrupt the evil Le Chiffre of the Russian secret service by beating him at cards at the Casino Royale.

Original hard copy with dust jacket

Le Chiffre is desperate for the money but confident he will win. His own life will be at risk if he loses.

The book was a hit in the UK, but sales in the US were slow and this set into motion events that would keep a serious adaptation of the novel away from the big screen for over 50 years. In an effort to popularize his hero in America, Fleming sold the television rights for the novel to CBS to adapt to a live drama for the series Climax!

The program aired October 21, 1954, and probably would have been lost forever, if not for the eventual popularity of the novels and movies.

Casino Royale 1954
Casino Royale 1954

The television production starred Barry Nelson as James Bond, an American agent. Sometimes he is referred to as “Jimmy” which ought to make long-time Bond fans cringe. The American agent in the novel is now a British agent named Clarence Leiter (rather than Felix). For the live drama, parts are condensed or eliminated and the focus is on the card game. Since the game is baccarat, not poker as in the latest movie, a little time is spent explaining it for the American audience.

Le Chiffre is played by Peter Lorre, a veteran of the big screen, with just the right amount of evil. A film star of the 1940s and ’50s, Linda Christian, gets the honor of being the first “Bond girl.” You are left to wonder, at least at the outset, whose side she is really on. I guess for an early black and white television drama, it is not too bad, if you can get past Jimmy Bond as an American spy.

In 1955 Fleming sold the movie rights to film director and producer Gregory Ratoff for a mere 6 thousand dollars. Perhaps it was big money then. Unfortunately, Ratoff died in 1960, never having developed the story for the movies. Next up was the producer, attorney, and talent agent Charles K. Feldman who represented Ratoff’s widow and ultimately obtained the rights. By now, the Bond series was off to a good start, so how could Feldman possibly compete? Failing to negotiate an agreement with Eon, he decided to do something that may have been typical of the mid to late 1960s. He produced a “madcap” comedy, a spoof of the spy series.

There just is not enough space here to explain what the producers and various directors did to this film. Although they assembled what was meant to be an “all-star” cast, you can not say they got a lot of great performances from this crew. Various writers created sections that were to be filmed by different directors and all would be edited together. This allowed them to work with many stars doing different scenes at different locations and studios at the same time. A movie monstrosity ensued.

John Huston, who also appears in the movie as M, directed one segment and left. Five other directors worked on the project, one uncredited. David Niven is “Sir James Bond” who must be convinced by Huston, Charles Boyer, William Holden, and Kurt Kazner to come out of retirement to deal with Le Chiffre. Bond takes on the role of head of the spy agency upon M’s departure and they recruit Peter Seller’s (Evelyn Tremble), a baccarat expert, to impersonate Bond and play Le Chiffre at the Casino. Le Chiffre is played by Orson Welles.

Explanations are pointless. See it — or not. The temperamental Sellers left the project for a rest before his part was finished. He was asked not to return. Welles hated the unprofessional Sellers and they barely spoke to each other. A gaggle of stars performed cameos.  When all was said and done, it was a confusing mess.

Val Guest, one of the directors, along with the film editor, got permission to film additional scenes with Niven and Ursula Andress (Vesper Lynd) — a hopeless attempt to add some continuity to the script and deal with the missing David Sellers’ performance. Watch for un-credited stars, especially at the end. There is no sensible explanation for the final scenes.

The critically-panned film did well at the box office, as many of the crazy comedies of the 1960s did. At least it provided a great musical score by Burt Bacharach, including the hit song The Look of Love. The film rights next passed to Colombia Pictures, the studio that had put out this disaster. They held onto them until 1989 when Colombia was acquired by Sony. A legal battle followed, and the rights were used as a bargaining chip with MGM/UA for MGM’s portion of the rights to Spiderman. Spiderman was traded for the original James Bond in 1999.

Casino Royale was not next as there was one more Pierce Brosnan movie to be made. When Brosnan declined a fifth film, the opportunity to “reboot” the spy series was at hand.

Daniel Craig is James Bond

Back to the beginning.  Our hero becomes “007,” and the silver screen welcomes Daniel Craig as “Bond, James Bond.”


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Inside Your Home

I love the edges and reflections in the house and the angles. I love the little things. Books and clocks and dolls and toys.