Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thoughts of Renewal and Rebirth on Easter Sunday

Today is Easter Sunday. Have you ever wondered how it is determined which Sunday this joyous celebration occurs?  Here's the answer.  Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21st.  This year, Easter takes places at the same time as the Jewish Passover which began on Monday March 25th  and ends on Tuesday, April 2nd.  This is quite fitting because Judaism and Christianity are forever linked. It should always be remembered that the Last Supper was a celebration of the Passover.

During Easter and Passover, the two greatest feasts of two of the world's great faiths, renewal and freedom are celebrated by Christians and Jews around the globe..  That is why Number 16 presents to you some thoughts and reflections on the themes of renewal, rebirth, freedom and triumph.

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), American author
From The Great Gatsby

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of desires.

- Nelson Mandela (1918- ), South African leader and statesman

Mandela is saying that we have to go through the wilderness before reaching the promised land.  There can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.

Every single cell in the human body replaces itself over a period of seven years,  That means there's not even the smallest part of  you know that was part of you seven years ago.

- Steven Hall (1975- ), British author
From The Rare Shark Texts

The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings.

Dave Weinbalm, American business owner and talk show host

I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth: the first heaven and first earth had disappeared now, and there was not longer any sea.  I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem . . .

- Revelation 21

Then from those profound slumbers we awake in a dawn, not knowing who we are, being nobody, newly born, ready for anything, the brain emptied of that past which was life until then.  And perhaps it is more wonderful still when our landing at the waking point is abrupt and the thoughts of our sleep, hidden by a cloak of oblivion, have no time to return to us gradually, before sleep ceases. Then, from the black storm through which we seem to have passed (but we do not even say "we"), we emerge prostrate, without a thought a "we" that is void of content.

- Marcel Proust (1871-1922), French novelist, critic and essayist
From Sodom and Gommorrah

All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renenwed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.

- J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), English writer, poet
From The Lord of the Rings

If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self, I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company.

- Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), English clergyman, author

I love people.  I love my family, my children . . . but inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that's where you renew your springs that never dry up.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973), American writer, activist
As quoted in The New York Post (April 26, 1959)

- Joanne

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Toronto and Chicago: A Tale of Two Cities



This is a tale of two magnificent cities, Toronto, Ontario and Chicago, Illinois, which recently engaged in some friendly and not-so-friendly rivalry over their respective populations.  This all came about because Toronto proclaimed itself as the fourth largest city in North America (after Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles), relegating Chicago to fifth place.

Full disclosure: I was born and raised in Toronto and I have never lived anywhere else.  So yes, I'm biased and I'm not going to pretend otherwise.  I will, nevertheless, attempt to be as fair and factual as possible.  I refuse to disparage the Windy City because although Chicago can never have the same place in my heart as my beloved T.O., it really is my kind of town.

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada released census data showing that as of July 1, 2012, Toronto's population was 2,791,140 compared to Chicago's 2,707,120, a difference of about 84,000. This prompted Toronto economic development staffers to declare that the largest city in Canada is now the fourth largest metropolis in North America.  It may not seem like a big deal, but it seams to be a point of civic pride between the two sprawling urban centres.

Chicago's mayor, Ralm Emmanuel did not comment on the Statistics Canada findings.  Neither did the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.  A Chicago Sun-Times columnist, however, come out swinging.  Columnist Neil Steinberg. remarked, perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that the mere comparison of Toronto to Chicago is "an insult to our city," meaning his city, not T.O.  He sarcastically congratulated Toronto on its extra 84,000 who will be able to sit in the slush.  He then proceeded to further denigrate the Canadian city by listings its prominent features as Tim Hortons outlets, the monument to multiculturalism and the “nondescript skyline whose only noteworthy element is a TV antenna.”  Nasty! Nasty! Nasty!

Certainly the greatness of a city can not only be measured by its population.  Culture, art, architecture, the environment, transportation, poverty, crime and other factors must be taken into consideration when assessing the quality of  It's true that there aren't many well known films set in Toronto, although even if there were, most American would be unaware of them because they don't watch Canadian movies or television.  Nevertheless, there is an outstanding array of Canuck talent as evidenced by the large number of Candian entertainers working south of the border.  It's no secret that they move there for economic reasons and greater exposure.  The U.S. is a huge market and there are obviously more opportunities there.  Unfortunately, only Canadian patriots such as the late Stompin' Tom Connors, are willing to stay in Canada and are prepared to pay an economic price for their patriotism.

Speaking of Stompin' Tom, who passed away very recently, he sang scores of songs about people and places in Canada.but, aside from "The Hockey Song,," his music is largely unknown in the United States.  The fact is that the vast majority of Americans are not interested in Canadian themes. That is why Canadian authors usie American settings in their books.  If they want to attract the gigantic American market, they often have no choice but to play down any Canadian elements in their stories.

Take for example the film that won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture, Ben Affleck's Argo.  It's really a Hollywood version of the Canadian Ambassador to Iran's rescue of six American diplomats in late 1979.  Back then, it was dubbed "The Canadian Caper" and Ambassador Ken Taylor was the real hero.  Although Affleck and Co. have attempted to credit Taylor and the Canadians, the CIA still comes across as the hero of the rescue.  It doesn't matter if history is distorted.  American audiences want to see American heroism, not Canadian.  That's the way Americans are and they will never change. In terms of representation in popular culture and music, therefore, it is almost pointless to compare an American city with a Canadian one.

Toronto and Chicago are sister cities.  In September of 2012, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, accompanied by a large contingent of Toronto business leaders, travelled to the Windy City. During his thee-day visit, Ford resigned the 1991 Sister City Agreement between the two cities along with his Chicago counterpart, Rahm Emmanuel.  The agreement now includes a promise to form "a more business-oriented partnership.  According to Mayor Emmanuel, he and and Ford discussed opportunities to learn from each other regarding such matters as city management and municipal infrastructure.

I have had the pleasure of visiting Chicago twice in my life, my most recent visit having been last summer.  I truly hope to return in the future, especially if the Toronto Blue Jays play the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.  Now wouldn't that be something!  For the record, on October 14, 2003, the Chicago Cubs were leading the Florida Marlins by a score of 3-0 in the eighth inning, only five outs away from winning their first World Series since 1945.  Disaster struck when a fan at Wrigley Field tried to catch a ball about to be caught by Cubs' outfielder, Moises Alou.  The Cubbies argued fan interference but the umpire ruled against them.  They never recovered from the incident and lost the Series to the Marlins in the seventh and final game.  The Lovable Losers have not won a World Series championship since their back-to-back victories in 1907 and 1908. The Blue Jays have only been in existence since 1977 and they won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993.  They have not made post-season play since then, but are expected to be much improved this season.  U.S. President's Barack Obama's favourite baseball team, the Chicago White Sox of the National League, won the World Series in 2005.  It was the franchise's first World Series championship since 1917.

Both cities have great museums, great restaurants and a lively cultural life.  There is some excellent theatre in Toronto.  It attracts the third-largest theatre-going audience in the English-speaking world, after New York City and London.  Toronto is also home to the Royal Ontario Museum and the redesigned Art Gallery of Ontario.  The redesign is the work of Frank Geary, the Toronto-born world-renowned architect who created the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.  Chicago has the Field Museum of Natural History and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Toronto doesn't have a planetarium while Chicago boasts the impressive Adler Planetarium.  A new aquarium is scheduled to open by the Roger's Centre in Toronto this year and it will be called Ripley's Aquarium of Canada.  Chicago is already home to the beautiful Shedd Aquarium.

Although Toronto is on the shores of Lake Ontario, one barely notices with all the ugly condos blocking the lake.  What a mistake!  What a sell out to developers!  It's irreversible too.  All that concrete is not coming down any time soon.  The Chicago waterfront, on the shores of Lake Michigan, is marvellous to behold.  This is where Toronto really falls short of Toronto.

Both cities are very cosmopolitan but multiculturalism is one of Toronto's greatest assets.  It is among the most diverse cities in the world and half its population was born outside Canada.  "Diversity is Our Strength" is the city's motto. Over 140 different languages and dialects are spoken here and 30% of Toronto residents speak a language other than English or French at home.

The biggest difference between Toronto and Chicago can be seen in the homicide statistics.  The City of Toronto recorded  54 homicides in 2012 while Chicago recorded an appalling 506 murders last year.  Mayor Emmanuel has expressed deep concern about the proliferation of automatic weapons and wants to strengthen gun control laws.  Poverty and unemployment are definitely root causes that must be dealt with.  Chicago's South Side  is where Barack Obama worked as a community organizer and it is the birthplace of First Lady Michelle Obama.  They are keenly aware of the difficulties there. Toronto has had its own problems with guns and gangs but the city has never had anywhere near the number of murders that Chicago has had.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Carl Sandburg, who worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News,  immortalized the city of Chicago in his poetry, describing it as "City of the Big Shoulders." and "Hog Butcher for the World, " a reference to the fact that Chicago used to be the centre of  America's meat-packing industry.  Companies such as Swift and Oscar Meyer opened plants in the city.  In 1865, after acquiring acres of swampland in southwest Chicago, a consortium of railroad companies opened a centralized processing area known as the Union Stock Yards.  The Yards, which closed on July 30, 1971, was the meat processing district in Chicago for over a century.

Ironically, one of Toronto's nicknames is Hogtown.  According to Toronto historian Mike Filey, the reason for the nickname could be that the William Davies Company once operated the second largest pork processing plant in North America in Toronto back in the 1860s.  It was located on Front St. East near the mouth of the Don River.  In 1927, the William Davies Co. was absorbed by Canada Packers, which is now known as Maple Leaf Foods.

Pen of hogs, William. Davies Co., Toronto. circa 1920

Union Stock Yards, Chicago, 1947

Chicago Nicknames: The Windy City, Second City
Toronto Nicknames: T.O., Hogtown, The Big Smoke

Some Chicago Historical Events

* Great Chicago Fire destroys the city - October 8-10, 1871
* The Jack Dempsey-Tunney "long count" heavyweight boxing championship fight takes place at Chicago's Soldier Field - September 22, 1927
* Shootout in a garage in North Chicago between Al Capone's gang and a rival gang led by Bugs Moran, known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre - February 14, 1929
* Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger shot dead by federal agents after attending a movie at Chicago's Biograph Theatre- July 22, 1934
* Richard Speck murders eight student nurses in a townhouse in Chicago's Southeast side - July 13, 1966
* Riots at the Democratic Convention and the trial of the Chicago Seven - August, 1968
* The Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower) opens on the western edge of downtown Chicago.  At the time of its completion, it was the tallest building in the world, surpassing New York City's ill-fated World Trade Centre towers - May 3, 1973   (Note: The Willis Tower is still the highest building in the United States).

Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), Chicago

Some Toronto Historical Events

* Mary Pickford, silent film star (known as America's Sweetheart), is born at 211 University Avenue, current site of the Hospital for Sick Children - April 9, 1892
* 19-year-old Babe Ruth hits his first professional home run at Hanlan's Point Stadium in the Toronto Islands while playing for the visiting Triple A Providence Grays - September 15, 1914
* Insulin discovered by Frederick Banting and a team of researchers at the University of Toronto - winter of 1921-1922
* Pablum becomes available in Canada after being developed by a team of doctors at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children - 1931
* Marilyn Bell becomes the first person to swim across Lake Ontario - September 8-9, 1954
* Hurricane Hazel wreaks havoc on Toronto, especially  with  heavy flooding in the  October 16, 1954
* The CN Tower, a concrete communications and observation tower, opens in downtown Toronto and becomes the city's most prominent landmark - October 1, 1976 (Note: At the time of its opening, the CN Tower was the largest tower and the largest free-standing structure in the world. (It remains the largest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere).

CN Towr  (Attribution: Vladyslaw)

Note to Readers:  I would especially like to here from Chicagoans - by the way, can we trade your mayor for our mayor?  Rob for Rahm?  (Just kidding, I think).

- Joanne

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Quiet Man on St. Patrick's Day

I have often said that The Quiet Man is my personal favourite of all the pictures I have made.  It is the one I am most proud of, and I tend to be very protective of it. I loved Mary Kate Danaher. I loved the hell and fire in her. As I readied to begin playing her, I believed that my most important scene in the picture was when Mary Kate is in the field herding the sheep and Sean Thornton sees her for the very first time. It's a moment captured in time, and it's love at first sight. I felt very strongly that if the audience believed it was love at first sight, then we would have lightning in a bottle. But if they didn't, we would have just another lovely romantic comedy on our hands. The scene comes off beautifully.
- Maureen O'Hara

On St. Patrick's Day, I have a tradition.  Every March 17th, I watch The Quiet Man, the 1952 film starring John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara and Barry Fitzgerald.  Although I am not a big John Wayne fan, I like his performance in this romantic comedy/drama, perhaps because it's a departure from his usual cowboy role.  As for Maureen O'Hara, she is wonderful as his love interest, the feisty, red-headed Mary Kate Danagher.  Wayne and O'Hara made five movies together over the years, including Rio Grande (1950), and they had great on-screen chemistry.

The Quiet Man is an unabashedly sentimental and nostalgic tribute to the Emerald Isle, filled with almost every Irish stereotype imaginable.  It spoofs those stereotypes in a good-natured and comical manner.  It's a long movie, over two hours, with Wayne as Sean Thorntorn, the American from Pittsburgh, who returns to the land of his birth, and O'Hara's as the strong-willed and fiery Mary Kate.  Their romance and Sean's painful past, provide the background for the film.  As the story unfolds, the couple must face several bumps along the road to happiness.

Thornton, a former boxer, is captivated by the mercurial Irish lass but, unfamiliar with Irish customs, he doesn't understand Mary Kate's desire to have the dowry denied her due to her brother, bombastic landowner "Red: Will.Danagher (Victor McLagden). Will initially disapproves of Sean's involvement with his sister because Sean outbid him for the land adjacent to his property and he sneeringly refers to the Irish-born American as "Yank."  He finally approves of the marriage after being tricked by several of the locals into believing that the town's wealthy widow wants to wed him provided that Mary Kate leaves the house.  After learning the truth at Sean and Mary Kate's wedding, Will angrily refuses to give his sibling her full dowry.   Meanwhile, Mary Kate is unaware that Sean caused the death of an opponent in the boxing ring and that he is haunted by the tragedy.

The Quiet Man, is based on a 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story by Maurice Walsh entitled Green Rushes.  Directed by John Ford and distributed by Republic Pictures, the film takes place in the 1920s and is set in the fictional Irish village of Innisfree. The name of the village was inspired by the song "Isle of Innisfree" about an exile reflecting nostalgically on his Irish home.  The movie, however, was actually filmed in the village of Cong in County Mayo in the summer of 1951.  It was shot in technicolor and the lush Irish countryside is strikingly beautiful.  The pastoral greenery alone is worth viewing.

Cong is located on an island surrounded by streams.  One of Ireland's most renowned hotels, Ashford Castle, can be found in Cong.  Ashford Castle was built by the Guinness family and much of The Quiet Man was filmed on its grounds.

Quiet Man Cottage and Museum

Cong is also home to The Quiet Man Cottage and Museum.  The ground floor of the thatched-roof cottage is an exact replica of the "White-o-Mornin'" Cottage that Mary Kate cherished so much in the movie. In 2011, people from all over the world converged on the village for a festival celebrating the 60th anniversary of the filming of The Quiet Man.


* John Wayne died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1979 in Los Angeles.  He was 72 years old.

* Maureen O'Hara (birth name Maureen FitzSimons) was born on August 17, 1920 in the Dublin suburb of Ranelagh.  During an appearance on Larry King Live, she told host Larry King that she plans to live until the age of 102.  In 1999, O'Hara was selected to be the grand marshal of New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade.  She is now 92 years old.and resides in County Cork, Ireland. After the death of her third husband, Charles F. Blair, in a plane crash in 1978, Maureen decided to make Ireland, rather than Hollywood, her main base.  She settled in the picturesque village of Glengarriff on Bantry Bay in West Cork. O'Hara has one child, a daughter named Bronwyn, who is the mother of her only grandchild, Conor.  Both Bronwyn and her son live in the United States.

Sadly, Maureen was terribly shaken last year by a dispute with her trusted personal assistant, Carolyn Murphy, over control of the film star's foundation.  In July of 2012, accompanied by her lawyer and her grrandson, Conor, she announced that Murphy no longer had power of attorney over her affairs.  She stated that she was "heartbroken" over the matter.

Maureen O'Hara

*  Barry Fitzgerald, who played Michaeleen Oge Flynn, the local taxi driver, bookmaker and matchmaker in The Quiet Man, died in Dublin, Ireland on January 14, 1961.  The leprechaun-faced actor was 72 years old at the time of his death.  Fitzgerald (born William Joseph Shields) won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as "Father Fitzgibbon" in Going My Way (1944).

* Victor McLaglen, who portrayed Mary Kate's brother, "Red" Will Danagher, was an English boxer and World War I veteran who became a successful actor.  McLagden died of a heart attack in California on November 7, 1959.  He was 72 at the time of his passing.

* The great Irish-American director John Ford died on August 31, 1973 in Palm Desert, California at the age of 79.  He and John Wayne were good friends and Wayne appeared in over 20 Ford films including Stage Coach (1939), They Were Expendable (1945), Fort Apache (1948). 3 Godfathers (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), The Long Voyage Home (1940), The Searchers (1956), The Wings of Eagles.(1957), The Horse Solders (1959), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), How the West Was Won (1962) and Donovan's Reef (1963).

* The five films John Wayne made with Maureen O'Hara are Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), The Wings of Eagles (1957), McLintock (1963) and Big Jake.(1971). Three of the films, Rio Grande, The Quiet Man and The Wings of Eagles, were directed by John Ford.  It is also interesting to note that
Big Jake, a comedy Western, was directed by Andrew V. McLagden, son of Victor McLagden.

* The Quiet Man was nominated for a total of seven Academy Awards and won two.  John Ford, at age 57, won his fourth and final Best Director Oscar.  Winton Hoch and Archie Stout won Oscars for Best Cinematography.

-  Joanne

Monday, March 11, 2013

An Evening with Diane Dupuy and The Famous People Players

Diane Dupuy 

On Saturday night, I had supper at the Famous People Players Dine and Dream Theatre and enjoyed a circus-themed  show called "Under the Big Top."  The black light dinner theatre is located in the west end of Toronto at 343 Evans Avenue in the Sherwood Industrial Mall.  I've been a fan of the Famous People Players since I first watched them perform around 1989.

The Famous People Players is a non-profit charitable organization and can be described as a unique Canadian treasure.  FPP employs people with intellectual and physical disabilities.  The internationally-acclaimed black light theatre company was founded by Diane Dupuy in June of 1974. Diane was born in Hamilton, Ontario and raised in Toronto.  As a youth, she was labelled a slow learner and she was bullied.  Her mother encouraged her to work with puppets.  She founded the Famous People Players because she believes that the disabled should be blended into society.

The original group consisted of Diane, an assistant, 11 performers and Diane's mother, Mary Thornton, who designed and built the life-sized puppets and props.  The great entertainer and showman, Liberace, discovered the Famous People Players back in 1975.  He invited them to perform with him in Las Vegas as his opening act.  For a decade, they toured with the flamboyant pianist.  In 1982, FPP was invited to perform in the People's Republic of China

Paul Newman was also an avid supporter of the troupe.  When FPP opened its first restaurant in 1984, the late actor underwrote the payment with sales of his Newman's Own Salad Dressing. That is why the salad at the Famous People Players Dream Theatre is always served with Newman's dressing.

Another strong supporter of the Famous People Players is British singer Phil Collins who saw the troupe perform in Toronto.  The sound system of the FPP theatre, called the Phil Collins Performance Workshop, was funded through Collins' generosity and proceeds from the sales of Newman's Own products.

Diane Dupuy has travelled throughout the world as a motivational speaker and is the author of three best-selling books: Dare to Dream, Your Heart Over the Fence and Daring to Dream.  She has also written a children's book entitled The Little Girl Who Did . . .What?!!!.  On December 20, 1982, Diane became a Member of the Order of Canada for her contribution to theatre arts in this country.

On Saturday evening, I spoke to Diane and her wonderful 97-year-old mother.  Al I can say is that if I reach that age, I hope to be as energetic and look as healthy as Mary Thornton.  She chatted briefly with my husband and me and another couple while we were having dessert (after dinner and the show, customers return to the restaurant for coffee and dessert).

Below are some photos of the restaurant that I took.  I could not photograph the stage show as photography is prohibited during performances.

I hope that I have made more people aware of this special theatrical troupe.  For more information on the Famous People Players go to its website at

- Joanne

EDITOR'S UPDATE (November 5, 2015):  Diane's mother, Mary (Gioberti) Thornton, will be turning 100 years old in the New Year.  There will be a birthday bash for her on February 3, 2016.

EDITOR'S UPDATE (January 4, 2020):  Mary (Gioberti) Thornton passed away on December 10, 2019 at the age of 103.  Mary was born on February 3, 1916.  She died just short of her !04th birthday.  

Mary's life was an inspiration and she was the head of the Visual Arts Department of Famous People Players.  It was she who designed the company's brightly-coloured props.