Monday, February 20, 2012
The mission was not without danger. The Atlas rocket type, which launched him to fame, had exploded many times on the pad. And during the orbits, the heat shield began signalling failure. Luckily for Glenn, it held and he survived the reentry.
He was instantly a hero for being the first American to do so. The Kennedy administration quietly had NASA block him from further space travel, as they did not wish to risk him. But in 1998, at the age of seventy-seven, he made it happen, after which he was banned from it by his wife of sixty-nine years.
Glenn, a long time Senator for Ohio, ran for President in 1984, without success. He mourns that his United States no longer mounts it's own space missions. In which he is not alone, Buzz Aldrin, second man to walk on the moon, also rails against that, even writing on why we should be heading towards Mars.
Out recently on DVD is The Count of Monte Cristo, the epic and much-filmed story of a wrongly imprisoned man’s plan for revenge, which he dispenses in great doses and in grand fashion after gaining possession of a prison mates’ fortune. This is the best classic (1934) version of the tale, efficient and simply structured with a great performance by Robert Donat, a perfectly sensitive, charming and intellectual style of swashbuckler.
An epic of this genre in terms of screen chemistry and personality is on TCM Tuesday 3:45pm: Captain Blood. As swashbucklers go (and there were many great ones, both movies and men) Errol Flynn probably ranks highest, and figuring in to that assessment was great material like this and a perfect co-star in Olivia DeHavilland, a maiden fair and fiery for any era. After the success of the aforementioned The Count of Monte Cristo, Robert Donat was meant for Captain Blood but turned it down, leaving the way clear for a new discovery, the impossibly vital, lively and roguishly charming Flynn, who up till that point just had the odd bit part. He was doing the screen tests along with the actresses trying out for the movie, when the studio spotted the undeniable and powerful chemistry between him and another newcomer, DeHavilland. What Warner’s and cinematic fate hath brought together the public ate up and demanded more of; the glorious pair were one of the screen’s greatest, most magnetic and captivating couples and went on to make eight films together.
Also new to DVD is The Man in the Iron Mask with Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett. Go way back in time, beyond the version you might have seen with Leo DiCaprio, or if you’re of another generation, the one with Richard Chamberlain, back, back, to 1939 and this version of the Alexandre Dumas story directed by the great James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Showboat). If you’ve seen the remakes you know about the twin brothers, one the King of France and the other unaware of his shared birthright, and the older Three Musketeers (plus a great performance by Warren William as their leader). Fun and lively with a great cast and super action scenes.