Tag Archives: Brian Brennan

Rachel Notley was born to lead Alberta NDP

Photo Dave Cournoyer via Flickr, Creative Commons

Alberta’s newly-elected NDP premier, Rachel Notley Photo Dave Cournoyer via Flickr, Creative Commons

Alberta is once again the New Jerusalem, writes historian, author and F&O columnist Brian Brennan. An excerpt of his dispatch:

Alberta, the home province of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been viewed for 80 years – ever since the right-wing Social Credit Party was elected in 1935 – as Canada’s bastion of rock-ribbed conservatism. Or, as Alberta author Aritha van Herk put it, Alberta has been stereotyped as a province defined by such terms as “redneck, intolerant, racist, conservative, neo-Christian, suspicious of anything new, home of white supremacists, gun lovers, and not a few book-banning school boards.” Until now, after Albertans went to the polls to elect a new provincial government and change that image.

 Click to read Alberta once again the New Jerusalem.

~~~

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. 

 

 

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Brian Brennan: a Brief Encounter with Sophia Loren

 

Brian Brennan interviewing Sophia Loren in 1987.

Brian Brennan interviewing Sophia Loren in 1987.

Arts columnist Brian Brennan was told he couldn’t ask Sophia Loren about the sentence she served in a Naples prison for tax evasion. But he went ahead and asked anyhow, and received a surprising answer. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, Absolutely Fabulous: Sophia Loren:

 

Sophia Loren hardly ever talked to reporters, and hadn’t planned to do so when she came to Canada in 1987 to promote some beauty products. But after I talked to her publicity people, I was told I could interview her as long as I didn’t ask her about two things:

1. How was she getting along with Carlo Ponti, her much older (by 24 years) director husband? There were repeated rumours of a rift and of extramarital affairs by both, but Miss Loren would not be speaking about such matters.

2. How did she end up spending 17 days in a Naples prison in 1982 for income tax evasion? Couldn’t she have paid a fine or come to some other kind of arrangement with the Italian judicial authorities, given that she was one of the country’s major film stars? Again, Miss Loren would not be speaking about such matters.

She would, however be happy to talk to me about the jasmine-and-roses Coty perfume to which she had lent her famous name in 1980… log in to read Absolutely Fabulous: Sophia Loren (subscription required*)

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Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

 

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A brief encounter with Brian Moore

At age 60, Irish writer Brian Moore decided to switch from novels to plays. However, as Arts columnist Brian Brennan reports, it was an experiment not destined to be repeated. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, A Prolific Novelist on Diverse Themes: Brian Moore (subscription needed):

After 25 years of writing novels, Brian Moore was trying his hand at playwriting when I met him in Edmonton in 1981. He had adapted his novella Catholics for television in 1973 and now was preparing it for its Canadian stage debut at the Citadel Theatre. He was enjoying the experience of working with a theatre group, not least because it got him out of the house “As one goes on writing novels, one spends more and more time alone,” he said wistfully. 

Brian Moore

 
Moore had been living in North America for more than 30 of his 60 years, first in Montreal and more recently in Malibu, in California. You could still hear the unmistakeable sound of his native Belfast in his speech. While he often had to correct people’s pronunciation of his first name, Moore still pronounced it the way his Gaelic-speaking mother had sounded it out when he was a child: “Bree-ann.” 
Moore told me that being around actors and other theatre people gave him a welcome opportunity to recapture the kind of camaraderie he had enjoyed as a young reporter in Montreal when he moved to Canada in 1948. After sharpening his skills by writing pseudonymous thrillers, Moore settled into the life of a full-time novelist following the publication of what he considered his first serious literary work, Judith Hearne, in 1955. From that point on, Moore missed “the normal sort of working relationship that other people have” because novel writing kept him “divorced from ordinary day-to-day life.” 
But he didn’t want people to see Catholics – set in a remote island monastery off the coast of Ireland – as a metaphor for the isolated life of the writer. … log in* to read  Prolific Novelist on Diverse Themes: Brian Moore.

*You’ll find lots of great free stories on our pages, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support – a day pass is a buck and a monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

 

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Vera Lynn: “It was simply my duty to keep on singing.”

Vera Lynn singing for workers in a UK munitions factory in 1941. Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London.

Vera Lynn singing for workers in a UK munitions factory in 1941. Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London.

Vera Lynn achieved international fame with the songs she made popular on the radio during the Second World War. Arts columnist Brian Brennan reports in his new time capsule piece that she wanted to try other kinds of music after the war. But the fans wouldn’t hear of it. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, There’ll Always Be An England: Vera Lynn:

For thousands of Allied soldiers who served in the Second World War, Vera Lynn was the most popular singer on the radio. No matter that Bing Crosby and Judy Garland sold more records. Lynn was the troops’ favourite because, as one wounded soldier said at the time, “She makes you think of your wife, not of her.”

When I interviewed her in 1983, this beloved Sweetheart of the Forces was 66 years old, still singing the old wartime favourites, and still making old soldiers think fondly of their wartime brides. She was in Calgary to perform the first major concert at the Saddledome, a hockey arena built both for the 1988 Winter Olympics and as a new home rink for the NHL’s Calgary Flames.

“At school they thought I had a terrible voice,” Lynn told me. “But they always put me up in front because I opened my mouth so nice and wide.” Encouraged by her father, a London plumber, and her mother, a dressmaker, she gave her first public performances in working men’s clubs at age seven. … log in to read There’ll Always Be An England: Vera Lynn (paywall*)

*You’ll find lots of great free stories on our pages, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support – a day pass is a buck and a monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

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Brennan: Tom Lehrer’s common sense gave him a cult following

Although musical satirist Tom Lehrer had not been active as a performer and recording artist for 15 years when Arts columnist Brian Brennan met him in 1980, he still had a cult following of enthusiasts who fondly remembered his trenchant observations of 1950s’ American life and politics. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, The Media-shy Satirist: Tom Lehrer:

A photo of Tom Lehrer signed, "To everyone at the Theatre Royal - with thanks and sincere best wishes - Tom Lehrer." Image provided by the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.

A photo of Tom Lehrer signed, “To everyone at the Theatre Royal – with thanks and sincere best wishes – Tom Lehrer.” Image provided by the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.

The Associated Press called him the J.D. Salinger of musical satire. Tom Lehrer was a brilliant American songwriter with a sardonic wit who scored big with the college crowd in the 1950s, only to walk away from it all in 1960 when at the height of his fame.

There were rumours for a while that he was dead. Lehrer admitted encouraging them, hoping they would cut down on his junk mail. There were also rumours that he quit show business because Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. Those too were false. Kissinger received the Nobel in 1973, eight years after Lehrer finally stopped performing professionally. But Lehrer did acknowledge telling a reporter once that political satire became obsolete when Kissinger was awarded the Nobel.

The rumours persisted because Lehrer had vanished without a trace. He didn’t do television appearances (“the only thing I would prefer more is to have my eyes gouged out with steel needles”) and he only gave newspaper interviews on the very rare occasions when he had something to promote. … read more (log in first –paywall*)

 

*You’ll find lots of great free stories on our pages, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support – a day pass is a buck and a monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

 

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Brian Brennan’s time capsule on Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford in 3-10 to Yuma (1957) Publicity photo

Glenn Ford in 3-10 to Yuma (1957) Publicity photo

It was the classic “hurry up and wait” situation when, as Arts columnist Brian Brennan watched, Glenn Ford filmed a brief scene for the 1978 movie, Superman. Part of the problem, Brennan reports in his new time capsule piece, was that Ford couldn’t remember his line. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, Out of the Saddle, Playing Papa to a Super-baby: Glenn Ford:

John Ford with Rita Hayworth, in 1945. Publicity photo

Glenn Ford with Rita Hayworth, in 1945. Publicity photo

The line was, “Martha Clark Kent, are you listening to what I’m saying?” It was scripted for Glenn Ford, playing a Kansas farmer named Jonathan Kent in the 1978 movie Superman. A spaceship containing the baby Superman had just crash-landed in the Kent wheat field and the farmer’s wife – played by Phyllis Thaxter – was suggesting they keep the apparently orphaned boy as their own. After a brief exchange about the pros and cons of doing this, the farmer put his foot down.

Ford kept forgetting the words. By the time director Richard Donner got to what felt like the 10th or 11th take, those of us watching the scene from behind the cameras were mouthing the line along with the 61-year-old actor, silently cueing him: “Martha Clark Kent, are you listening to what I’m saying?”

Afterwards, Ford praised the director for his patience. A good director, he told me, is one who gives an actor “the luxury of imperfection.” Things rarely unfolded as planned when a movie was being shot. If the match failed to light the first time, you didn’t stop the scene, you lit another one. If the car failed to start, you didn’t say, “Cut!” “Cars don’t always start the first time anyhow.”

Nor, apparently, did they always stop  …. log in to read more (paywall*)

 

*You’ll find lots of great free stories on our pages, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support – a day pass is a buck and a monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.

 

 

 

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Brian Brennan on Richard Harris, of Camelot and Hogwarts

Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 2001. Promotional photo via Flickr

Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 2001. Promotional photo via Flickr

Richard Harris was off the booze and missing it when he starred as King Arthur in a touring production of Camelot. He told Arts columnist Brian Brennan that going back to his native Ireland and not having a drink was like “going to church and not saying a prayer.” An excerpt of Brennan’s new Brief Encounters column: From King Arthur to Dumbledore: Richard Harris

There was no booze in the star’s dressing room when Richard Harris came to Canada to star as the the once and future King Arthur in a touring production of Camelot. The one-time roaring boy from Limerick, Ireland – former drinking buddy of Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton and Dylan Thomas – told me he hadn’t touched a drink in more than four years.

“It makes my life extremely boring and probably very dull,” he said. The cultured singsong accent still betrayed Harris’s Irish upbringing. “I can’t even drink a thimbleful of wine nowadays. I’d go into shock because of the sugar in it.”

He suffered from hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), a condition that in severe cases caused the sufferer to lapse into a coma. Harris still remembered the day, even the hour, when the condition forced him to quit drinking. …  log in to read From King Arthur to Dumbledore: Richard Harris (paywall*).

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support – a day pass is a buck and monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Leon Uris bristled when accused of historical distortion

 

Leon Uris with a patrol in the Negev Desert, in the 1950's. Image from the Doubleday book cover of Exodus via Wikipedia.

Leon Uris with a patrol in the Negev Desert, in the 1950’s. Photo scan from the Doubleday book cover of Exodus via Wikipedia.

Leon Uris prided himself on being a popular historian who did his homework, as well as being a bestselling novelist. However,  Arts columnist Brian Brennan dared to question the accuracy of his historical research. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column: From High School Dropout to Brand-name Novelist: Leon Uris:

I must admit I came loaded for bear when I went to interview bestselling American author Leon Uris. Earlier, I had written a negative review of Trinity, his 751-page novel dealing with Northern Ireland’s politics of violence. After spending the first 23 years of my life in Dublin, I figured I knew a thing or two about Irish history. I said in my review, and repeated it when I met Uris, that the book offered a simplistic and distorted view of history because it castigated the British as oppressors and portrayed the forerunners of the Irish Republican Army as valiant freedom fighters.

“I think you’re mistaken and you’re trying to bait me,” responded Uris. “Every responsible scholar I know has said that this book follows very accurate historical lines.”

When I offered him the name of one scholar, Wayne Hall, who begged to differ, Uris dismissed the criticism on grounds that Hall “must be an Englishman.” (Hall was actually American, then teaching Irish literature at the University of Cincinnati.) Baltimore-born Uris had a thing about the English, it transpired. They hadn’t liked his blood-and-thunder novel Exodus, about the birth of Israel, because he described Great Britain as a “tired colonial power sitting between two warring communities.” …  log in or subscribe* to read From High School Dropout to Brand-name Novelist: Leon Uris.

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support – a day pass is a buck and monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Time Capsule: Brian Brennan meets Chuck Berry

In 1979 Chuck Berry was sentenced to four months for income tax evasion. Part of his sentence was 1,000 hours of community service. While serving his sentence at the Federal Prison Camp in Lompoc, California, he performed a concert at the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc.  Photo by Kevin Schraer via Flickr, Creative Commons

In 1979 Chuck Berry was sentenced to four months for income tax evasion. Part of his sentence was 1,000 hours of community service. While serving his sentence at the Federal Prison Camp in Lompoc, California, he performed a concert at the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc. Photo by Kevin Schraer via Flickr, Creative Commons

Chuck Berry stopped talking to reporters after they wrote about him being jailed in America during the 1960s for transporting an under-age girl across U.S. state lines for “immoral purposes.” But he made an exception for  Arts columnist Brian Brennan. An excerpt of Brennan’s new Brief Encounters column, Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll: Chuck Berry (paywall):

Chuck Berry was cranky. He hadn’t seen a contract for his scheduled nightclub appearance, and he wasn’t about to step out of the airport limo that had brought him to the club. The club had sold tickets for two dinner shows, but Berry wasn’t going to do even one show until he saw that contract. The club manager was in a panic. He had two sold-out shows on his hands and the possibility of refunds loomed.

The crisis was averted when the manager phoned the agent’s office in Los Angeles, found to his great relief that the agent was burning the midnight oil, and had the contract faxed to him pronto. There it was in black-and-white: Two one-hour shows starting at 10:00 p.m., with a 45-minute break between them. Berry had one more condition. He would have to be paid in cash, American cash. He didn’t trust that Canadian play money.

I don’t know if the manager was able to round up the needed American cash. Likely not, given the hour of the night and the fact that banking machines had yet to be rolled out nationally in Canada. But Berry was ready to rock and that was all that mattered. … log in to read Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll: Chuck Berry (day pass or subscription required*)

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support — a day pass is a buck and monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Time capsule: Duddy, Mordecai Richler’s theatrical dud

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Mordecai Richler had never written for the stage before but really wanted to see his adaptation of his beloved novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz make it to Broadway as a musical.  Arts columnist Brian Brennan reports in his new time capsule piece that the musical had a very rough ride. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column: The Musical Travails of Duddy Kravitz: Mordecai Richler (paywall):

In 1974, Mordecai Richler’s great comic novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, about a young Jewish hustler from Montreal who connives, cheats and pushes his way to the top, had been turned into a movie that was a hit in Canada and the United States. And 10 years after that, it was being turned into a stage musical that the backers hoped would be a hit on Broadway. Montreal impresario Sam Gesser had so much faith in the musical, titled simply Duddy, that he was putting up $500,000 of his own money to finance the $1.4 million production. With a libretto adapted by Richler from his novel, and songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller of 1950s’ rock ’n’ roll fame (Hound Dog, Kansas City, Jailhouse Rock), how could it miss?

The schedule called for the musical to premiere at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre in April 1984, run for four weeks, and then play nine other Canadian cities before heading to New York. Richler, who had been criticized by Jewish groups for his unflattering portrayals of Montreal’s Jewish community in his novels, told me jokingly that he always wanted to open Duddy in Alberta because “it’s the most anti-Semitic province in Canada.” But he was quick to add, before anyone could get the wrong impression, that he didn’t consider Duddy an anti-Semitic work.

“I find these charges of anti-Semitism highly objectionable,” said the 53-year-old novelist. “For the most part, they come from people who never read the novel. Duddy Kravitz is not a metaphor for the Jewish people. It’s the story of a working-class boy with his eye on the main chance. The kind of Jewish people who accuse me of anti-Semitism are rather ashamed of their own background. They call their children Byron, Nelson and so on. They contemplate the world through a wrong-ended telescope.”

Richler had written the screenplay adaptation for Duddy Kravitz and earned an Oscar nomination for it … log in* to read The Musical Travails of Duddy Kravitz: Mordecai Richler (subscription*).

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Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

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