Editor & Publisher of the St. Croix Review.
The mission of The St. Croix Review is to end the destruction of America by reestablishing the family as the center of American life, restoring economic prosperity to an independent middle class, and reviving a culture of tradition.
The Big Lie
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
There is so much distortion, deception, and perversion in the American media that cynicism toward the news is justified. It is sensible to be skeptical and suspicious of most corporate reporters, media personalities, activists, and government officials.
Americans know we are being lied to and misled. The problem is that we are polarized and bitterly divided against each other. There is little common ground upon which we can agree, once we become committed to ideologies that are designed to foment hatred for opposing views. We are set in our opinions, and closed off from each other. The tragedy is that too few of us recognize what is true and false.
Jake Tapper of CNN recently interviewed Rep. Ayanna Pressley, (D) Massachusetts, about a looming government shutdown. The controversy of the southern border came up. Pressley claimed that the “southern border is secure.” Tapper, to his credit as a journalist, repeatedly challenged Pressley, citing the millions of illegal immigrants who have come into America since Joe Biden became president. Pressley repeatedly reaffirmed that “the border is secure.” She was finally pushed into the position of saying “. . . that is a subject for another day.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s stance is a blatant lie. On Fox News, Americans see illegal migrants streaming into America at the southern border. We hear Mayor Adams of New York City and Governor Hochul of New York State (among many other officials nationwide) complain about being inundated and overwhelmed with the burden of housing and caring for people who are here illegally.
There have been a million deaths of Americans by drug overdoses since the year 1999, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS). It is commonly reported that since Biden became president there have been about 100,000 deaths per year due to fentanyl poisoning. According to the NCDAS, drug overdose deaths were three times that of the number of homicides since January 2021. Fentanyl is entering America through the porous southern border.
During the entirety of the Vietnam War, more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers perished. Since Biden became president many more Americans are dying of drug overdoses each year than the sum total of soldiers who died in Vietnam. The war in Vietnam tore American society apart, and the divisions created then have yet to heal. Yet the loss of American life due to Fentanyl is ongoing, and is hardly acknowledged by the American media.
According to the House Judiciary Committee and data from the Department of Homeland Security, there have been between 5 to 7 million illegal immigrants encountered at the southern border — the number reported is constantly changing. Nobody knows how many “gotaways” entered the country. Ninety-nine percent of the migrants encountered are released into the U.S., according to the Department of Homeland Security.
It is shameful that Ayanna Pressley on a national broadcast would blatantly lie about the true state of the southern border — because millions of Americans will believe her, while millions will recognize the truth. This is how we Americans become bitterly divided. The animosity created by the Big Lie is discouraging and disheartening. One overarching lie creates suspicion that transfers to the entire spectrum of political issues. One colossal lie is demoralizing, because it is a hammer blow to truth and integrity — and the cohesion of American society is severely wounded.
Another topic that recently divided America is the Bud Light Beer fiasco, involving the transgender activist/influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Bud Light chose to put Dylan Mulvaney’s image on cans of Bud Light beer, thus alienating its customers who are normal people who don’t want transgenderism imposed on them.
The UK-based, LGBTQ+ publication Attitude magazine declared Dylan Mulvaney “Woman of the Year.” This is another blatant lie because, presumably, Dylan Mulvaney retains his penis, and is in fact a man. Dylan Mulvaney is a symbol of the disparagement of genuine femininity. The American feminist movement is turned upside down to satisfy the dictates of a radical agenda. Biological fact, which five years ago was not an issue, has been undermined. Across the nation public schools from kindergarten onward are imposing gender ideology on children, against the will of parents. Americans are polarized as to the difference between biology and “gender identity.” When pressed during her confirmation hearings, our newest Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, could not define what a woman is — which is an absurdity.
Many Americans can no longer distinguish with confidence the difference between men and women. This new confusion is a pathology that threatens the well-being of who knows how many American school children and young adults. How many children will come to regret digesting hormone blockers and undergoing irreversible gender surgery because of the Big Lie that they were born with the “wrong gender”?
There are some Big Lies that are ancient, that have poisoned generations of world history. One of my most harrowing memories of junior high school was of watching a film. A machine using large reels of film that projected grainy grayscale images onto a screen. We watched the scenes of Nazi concentration camps. We saw the bones inside crematory ovens, heaps of dead skeletons wearing skin, piles of human hair, gold-capped teeth, shoes, lampshades made of human skin, and emaciated survivors. We saw the rooms where the people were gassed. I had seen nothing in my life to compare with those images. There was a moral clarity of the presence of evil about them. I remember that Dwight Eisenhower decided to film the camps because he believed some day people would deny that the Holocaust happened.
The moral clarity among Americans about the presence of evil has significantly dissipated between the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, and the October 7 assault on Israel. Hamas terrorists murdered 1,400 Israelis, and injured 3,400 more on October 7. Hamas now holds 222 hostages.
Between 9/11 and October 7, we have witnessed the emergence of the apologists for terrorism, and the condemnation of Western nations and Israel. We saw Reverend Jeremiah Wright deliver his “God Damn America” sermons after 9/11. After October 7, we saw more than two dozen student organizations at Harvard university sign a letter declaring that Israel was “entirely responsible” for the Hamas attacks. On university campuses throughout America, and in big cities such as New York City, there have been rallies in support of the depravity of the massacre of Israelis. In reporter interviews, the people at the rallies denied that babies and children were murdered in the most gruesome manner. There was raw hatred spewed — unabashed, vile vitriol was expressed toward innocent Jewish people.
Our universities have become breeding grounds of a one-sided history that focuses hatred on Western Culture, free speech, competency, meritocracy, decency, civil rights, and pursuit of the truth. The idea that the Gaza Strip is an “open air prison” created by Israel is a blatant lie. Hamas created the prison. Palestinians elected and brought into power Hamas to be their prison guards.
A significant number of Americans now believe the Israelis are guilty of being too powerful, aggressive, and competent. Some Americans believe that Israel should submit to coexistence with a people who want all of them dead. People who hate Israel are blind to the fanatical, genocidal intentions of Hamas.
This is the blatant lie: That the Israelis deserved to be murdered, and that the nation of Israel should be obliterated. The thought that we would live to see the day when the palpable presence of evil, in the form of the Nazi Holocaust, would be supplanted in some Americans by a determined antisemitism and a hatred for Western culture, is horrible and dispiriting.
I have depicted only several Big Lies that are afflicting American culture. One could make an exhaustive list of colossal falsehoods from any single day of media commentary. Integrity, honesty, love of country, respect for the dignity of human rights, the law, and simple, good-hearted decency are vanishing from public discourse. We easily note how Donald Trump and his supporters are persecuted with novel and harsh interpretations of law enforcement, while at the same time Hunter Biden and the Biden family are given the most passive treatment possible by the justice system. The corruption is obvious for informed Americans of unclouded vision. When Attorney General Merrick Garland goes before a congressional committee under oath and asserts that there is one standard of justice for all Americans, he is perpetrating the Big Lie. Government officials who purport to be honorable, when in fact they have no integrity, do grave damage to America.
The rot of Marxist ideology, in the guise of Progressivism, has enflamed America. We decent Americans are burdened with the task of seeking the truth and of persevering in the fight to save our nation. Each American who is decent, good-hearted, and truth-seeking is a warrior in the battle to save America. *
The following is a summary of the October/November issue of The St. Croix Review.
Barry MacDonald, in “The Big Lie,” cites several examples of how colossal and blatant lies are destroying the cohesion of America.
Michael S. Swisher, in “The Law — as It Was and Is,” makes the case that the separation of powers that was established by our Founders has broken down, and that we are being governed by a vast bureaucracy. He writes that Congress has shirked its duties and has surrendered its regulatory power to the “administrative state.” The federal judiciary has also given greater power to the bureaucracy through its rulings.
Derek Suszko in “The Fall of the Roman Republic: A Narrative and Analytical Comparison with the Contemporary Conditions of the United States of America — (Part 6 of a Series),” searches for a faction of American society with tremendous untapped power, because it is a faction without which the nation cannot survive. He asserts that married, child-bearing women — who are not dependent on the reigning American elite — have enough latent power to overturn our entrenched elites.
Paul Kengor, in “This Sept. 11 Let’s Also Remember the Abraham Accords,” he credits President Trump for his accomplishments in moving Arab nations toward the recognition of Israel’s right to exist; in “The Dodgers of Perpetual Indulgence Strike Out” he gloats over the fate of Los Angeles Dodgers this season after they pledged their allegiance to the Woke agenda.
Allan Brownfeld, in “The Palestinians: Victims of a Complicated History,” details commentary by Jewish writers at the time of the displacement of the Palestinians, when the nation of Israel was established; in “Crime Is Escalating While Many Prosecutors Look Away,” he cites incidents of out-of-control crime and violence throughout the nation; in “Identity Politics Assaults Hollywood — from Leonard Bernstein to Oppenheimer,” he discusses the current uproar over the casting of non-Jewish actors in the roles of Jewish figures.
Mark Hendrickson, in “Climate Activists Have Exploited Our Children,” shows how effectively climate change propaganda has alarmed and depressed young people in America; in “Green Elites Are Attacking American Lifestyle,” he details the exploits of President Biden’s “climate envoy,” John Kerry, in leading the charge against American agriculture, internal combustion engines, air conditioners, water heaters, gas stoves, and incandescent lightbulbs. Hendrickson also questions the premise that CO2 is the driver of climate change.
Timothy S. Goeglein, in “For a Lifetime of Happiness Two Is Better than One,” writes about the central importance of marriage to a happy life, and about how a life without marriage is a lonely existence.
Robert DeStefano, in “Lichen Fence,” as a master botanist, explains the joys of lichen.
Francis P. DeStefano, in “Indoctrination,” uses insights from Communist China and Nazi Germany to conclude that elite totalitarian rulers are the most completely indoctrinated people in their nations.
Francis P. DeStefano, in “Two Russian Films,” reviews two films on Russia (one by the Japanese Director Akira Kurosawa) that reveal the character of the land and of the Russian people.
Jigs Gardner, in “Writers for Conservatives 8: Huck Finn and Friends,” shows how Mark Twain, with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, altered the course of American fiction and influenced the work of Americans writers Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway, Ring Lardner, and many others.
Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Let’s Teach About Slavery, But Let’s Get It Right
On both the Left and the Right we have seen irresponsible partisan rhetoric about how the history of slavery is taught in our schools. Some on the Left refer to slavery as America’s “original sin.” The authors of The New York Times 1619 Project argue that the American Revolution was fought in large measure to maintain slavery. This is clearly untrue, since the advocates of revolution were strongest in New England, where opposition to slavery was also strongest.
Some on the Right seek to downplay the evils of slavery. Florida’s new standards on the teaching of black history include a statement that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” The idea that slavery somehow benefited its victims has come under widespread criticism. Another of the new Florida “guidelines” includes one that cites examples of “violence perpetrated against and by African Americans after the Civil War,” arguably suggesting an equivalency despite the overwhelming prevalence of lynchings, terror, and mob violence against black Americans in those years.
It was not so long ago that segregation was the law in large parts of the country. When I was in law school, interracial marriage was illegal throughout the South. I lived in Virginia, where segregation was strictly enforced. I wrote a law review article about Virginia’s law against interracial marriage, a law which was favorably cited by Hitler when the Nuremburg laws were being written. It was not until 1967, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, that the Supreme Court unanimously found laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional.
Those who downplay the evils of racism in our history do the teaching of our history a disservice. Consider the experience of singer Tony Bennett, who recently died at the age of 96. It was Thanksgiving Day 1945 in Mannheim, Germany, when Bennett was part of an occupation force in a conquered city that had been leveled by Allied bombing during World War II. Bennett unexpectedly met a fellow student and old friend with whom he had sung together a few years earlier in a music group at their high school in New York City. They spent the day together and attended a church service. They then planned to have a turkey dinner together with other U.S. troops. The problem was that Bennett’s old high school friend was black.
A U.S. Army officer blasted the two soldiers with a hate-filled rant for being together in public. In the segregated military of the day, the two men were not allowed to socialize. The punishment for black and white soldiers associating with one another was more severe than for fraternizing with civilians in occupied Germany. In his 1998 autobiography, The Good Life, Bennett wrote:
“I couldn’t get over the fact that they condemned us for just being friends, and especially while we served our country in wartime. There we were, just two kids happy to see each other, trying to forget for the moment the horror of the war, but for the brass it just came down to the color of our skin.”
Later, Tony Bennett would march with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, Alabama.
We misunderstand the evil of slavery if we view it as America’s “original sin,” as so many now proclaim. Sadly, it has been the way of the world until the 19th century. When the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, slavery was legal throughout the world, and had been throughout history. The Greco-Roman world, the Old Testament, the teachings of the Apostle Paul, and the Theology of the Patristic Fathers all supported the idea of slavery — and called it a just institution.
Our teaching of history, sadly, is so limited that those who proclaim that slavery is, somehow, a uniquely American evil are rarely challenged. But even a brief look at history shows that this is not the case.
Slavery played an important part in almost all ancient civilizations. Most people of the ancient world regarded slavery as the natural condition of life, one which could befall anyone at any time. It had no racial component. It has existed almost universally through history among peoples of every level of material culture — it existed among the nomadic pastoralists of Asia, hunting societies of North American Indians, and sea people such as the Vikings. The legal codes of Sumer provide documentary evidence that slavery existed there as early as the 4th millennium B.C.
Aristotle, in Politics (Book 1, Chapter 5) writes: “The lower sort are by nature slaves, and it is better for them, as for all inferiors, that they should be under the rule of a master.” None of the Greek schools of philosophy called for the emancipation of slaves. The respected British historian of classical slavery, Moses I. Findlay, writes that, “The cities in which individual freedom reached its highest expression — most obviously Athens — were cities in which slavery flourished.” At the time of its cultural peak, Athens may have had 115,000 slaves to 43,000 citizens. The same is true of Ancient Rome. Plutarch notes that on a single day in the year 167 B.C., 150,000 slaves were sold in a single market.
Race was not necessarily an element in slavery, even when different peoples were involved. The Romans enslaved other Caucasian peoples, and some black Africans enslaved other black peoples. Racial differences became closely connected with slavery only when European colonial powers were expanding into world areas whose inhabitants were of different racial groups.
Both the Old and New Testaments endorse slavery. In Leviticus (XXV: 39-55) God instructs the Children of Israel to “enslave the heathen and their progeny forever.” In the New Testament, St. Paul urges slaves to obey their masters with full hearts and without equivocation. He wrote, “Slaves, give entire obedience to your earthly masters.” St. Peter orders slaves to obey even unjust orders of their masters:
“What credit is there in fortitude when you have done wrong and are beaten for it? But when you have behaved well and suffer for it, your fortitude is a fine thing in the sight of God.”
If we taught history properly, it would be understood that slavery was a continuous reality in Western life throughout the entire history which preceded the American Revolution. In England, 10 percent of the persons enumerated in the Domesday Book (A.D. 1086) were slaves, and these could be put to death by their owners with impunity. During the Viking age, Norse merchant sailors sold Russian slaves in Constantinople. Venice grew to prosperity and power partly as a slave-trading republic, which took its human cargo from the Byzantine Empire and sold some of the females for harems of the Moslem world. The Italians organized joint stock companies and a highly organized slave trade. In the colony of Cyprus, they established plantations; by year 1300 there were black slaves engaged in working them. By the middle of the 16th century, Lisbon, Portugal, had more black slaves than whites people.
The complex history of slavery seems not to have interested the authors of The New York Times 1619 Project, and seems to be of little interest to those designing our school curriculums, as in Florida. Slavery was not an American creation, even in colonial America. From the 1500s to the 1800s, Europeans — from France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands — shipped 10 million slaves from Africa to the Western Hemisphere.
Slavery was an extraordinary evil, as were the years of segregation which followed. Let’s teach all of our history, the negative as well as the positive. But let’s get it right!
Moving Toward a Genuinely Color-Blind Society
The U.S. Supreme Court held in June that race-conscious affirmative action admission programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.
The decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, declared that:
“The student must be treated based on his or her experience as an individual — not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built or lessons learned, but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
Roberts noted that the rules called for by the Court’s decision are already the norm in the majority of American universities:
“Three out of every five American universities do not consider race in their admissions decisions. And several states, including some of the most populous (California, Florida and Michigan) have prohibited race-based admissions outright.”
Beyond this, Roberts wrote that:
“Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, or otherwise.”
As a member of President Ronald Reagan’s transition team at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1980-81, which was headed by my good friend and longtime colleague, J. A. Parker, one of the earliest black conservatives, I believe that the Supreme Court has moved us in the direction of a genuinely colorblind society. This is what the civil rights movement always endorsed. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., declared that men and women should be judged on the “content of their character,” not “the color of their skin.”
If minority students are lagging behind academically, we must improve the quality of the elementary and high school education they receive, not lower the academic standards of our colleges and universities. In our report about the future of the EEOC, our transition team, which included Clarence Thomas, who was later appointed to the Supreme Court, advocated an end to race-based programs. Civil rights leaders like Thurgood Marshall always advocated for a genuinely colorblind society. Now, let us hope that our society will move in this direction.
What is not well known to many Americans is that there has always been a significant group of respected black opponents to race-based affirmative action programs. Clarence Pendleton, Jr., for example, was chairman of the Civil Rights Commission under President Reagan. He called affirmative action “divisive, unpopular, and immoral,” and opposed federal set-aside contracts for minority-owned businesses. He argued that all Americans, white and black, must succeed on the merits of their own abilities, without any special preference. It was, he believed, the height of racism to think that an individual’s political philosophy should be based on the color of his skin rather than his study of history, his concept of right and wrong, and his notion of what constituted a just society.
Legalized quotas on the job market, Pendleton argued, form a crutch on which minorities must not lean.
“Would Hank Aaron be the home run king if they had moved the fences in 10 feet every time he came to bat? Would Walter Payton have all those 100-yard games if they changed the rules when he carried the ball? . . . I don’t want my progress demeaned any more. Let me be free . . . free to achieve.”
In 1978, my old friend Anne Wortham, a leading black academic at Illinois State University, wrote an important article in The Freeman discussing a Supreme Court decision at that time upholding the California Supreme Court ruling that Allan P. Bakke, who was white, should be admitted to medical school at the University of California, Davis, on the basis that ethnic and racial quotas are unconstitutional according to the 14th Amendment.
Wortham, author of the widely praised book The Other Side of Racism, noted that:
“It seems that the Justices hold the widespread opinion that one is demeaned or insulted only when he is discriminated against because of race; but there are those of us who are insulted, if not demeaned, when we are discriminated in favor of because of race or other equally irrelevant classifications. As a member of both the racial and gender groups so favored, I reject the opinion that preferential treatment of racial minorities should be allowed if it serves a social good. There is nothing humanitarian in a policy that uses racial classifications to ‘further a compelling government purpose,’ as the Justices put it. Any government purpose which must be served in such a manner may be suspect as having sinister motives.”
In the view of black economist Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University:
“What affirmative action has done is destroy the legitimacy of what had already been achieved, by making all black achievements look like questionable accomplishments, or even outright gifts.”
Anne Wortham recalls seeing her father work long hours, sacrificing to provide for the education of his children, determined:
“. . . that he would do so despite Jim Crow and without outside assistance. I hear this self-educated man telling us that our education was his investment in the future. . . . The society he was preparing me for was one in which merit was the basis of achievement. It was also one in which racial discrimination was prevalent. But in addressing this issue, black fathers like mine taught their children a rule of thumb taken from the words of Booker T. Washington: ‘Any individual who learns to do something better than anybody else — learns to do a common thing in an uncommon manner — has solved his problem, regardless of the color of his skin.’”
Some years ago, the widely read black journalist Juan Williams wrote a book entitled, Enough, with the subtitle, The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America — And What We Can Do About It. Those who proclaim themselves leaders in the black community, Williams argues, refuse to articulate established truths about what it takes to get ahead: strong families, education, and hard work.
“Where is strong black leadership to speak hard truth to those looking for direction. . . . The strong focus on self-determination has faded, at a moment when its impact could have been the most powerful. In its place is a tired rant by civil rights leaders about the power of white people — what white people have done wrong, what white people didn’t do, and what white people should do. This rant puts black people in the role of hapless victims waiting for only one thing — white guilt to bail them out. The roots of this blacks-as-beggars approach from black leaders are planted in an old debate that is now too often distorted.”
The most prominent voice for black liberation after the Civil War, Williams points out, belonged to Frederick Douglass, a former slave who secretly taught himself to read, then became a skilled worker in Baltimore’s shipyards before escaping to freedom in the North:
“It was Douglass who first called on black people to do for themselves when he wrote an editorial titled ‘Learn Trades or Starve.’ By the end of the 19th century, as the government’s many promises to help former slaves turned out to be mostly empty words, a new black leader emerged. Booker T. Washington picked up on Douglass’ legacy by proposing defiant black self-determination as the best strategy for black advancement. . . . His idea was that black people should capitalize on the skills and knowledge they had gained as slaves. People who had worked the land for others now had the chance to own that land and take the profits of their work for themselves.”
Black success in the future, Williams argues, does not lie in government race-based programs but, he states, in young people finishing high school and college, taking a job and holding it, marrying after finishing school and while holding a job, and having children only after you are 21 and married.
The Institute for American Values issued a report showing that in the past 50 years, after segregation came to an end, “the percentage of black families headed by married couples declined from 78 per cent to 34 percent.” In the 30 years from 1950 to 1980, households headed by black women who never married jumped from 3.8 per thousand to 69.7 per thousand. In 1940, 75 percent of black children lived with both parents. By 1990, only 33 percent of black children lived with a mother or father.
The path to a better life is to be found not in race-based affirmative action programs which, as the Supreme Court declared, violate our Constitutional rights, but in the lessons learned by such thoughtful black Americans as J. A. Parker, Clarence Pendleton, Thomas Sowell, Anne Wortham, Juan Williams, and so many more. Martin Luther King’s goal of a genuinely colorblind society is one toward which Americans of all races should work.
Can We Restore the Old Idea of Free Speech for a Variety of Ideas?
There was a time in living memory when Americans of all points of view believed in free speech — not only for ideas with which they agreed, but for those with which they disagreed, even strongly, as well.
When I was a student at the College of William and Mary, I was a member of the school’s debate team. We traveled around the country engaging in debates on a given subject. My memory is failing me when it comes to the subject college debate teams were debating in my freshman year, but what I remember very well is that we all had to be prepared to argue either side of the question. You never knew when a debate began which side you would be asked to defend.
A bit later, when I was teaching at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Alexandria, Virginia, I served as debate coach. Just as when I was in college, students had to prepare themselves to debate either side of the question. You never knew which side you would be asked to defend until the debate began. This gave students an understanding that many public issues were complex, and the right and wrong answer was not always clear. Most important questions are usually not so easily resolved.
Later, when I worked in the U.S. Senate during the Vietnam War, I engaged in many debates about the war. I was in support of the war, and my opponents were opposed to it. After our debates, we often went out for a drink and continued the discussion. In retrospect, I think many of the points my opponents made had a lot of validity. Many important issues are complicated. There is often a bit of truth on both sides. For a democracy to thrive, respect for divergent viewpoints is a necessity. Consider the debates at the Constitutional Convention. If the delegates did not have respect for the men and ideas with which they disagreed, and a willingness to compromise, our country would never have been established.
At the present time, sadly, there is growing intolerance of divergent viewpoints, particularly at some of our institutions of higher learning. A Princeton University alumni group in favor of free speech polled current students and found that 76 percent thought it was acceptable to shout at a speaker, and 16 percent supported the use of violence to stop a talk by an unpopular speaker. More than three-quarters of the Princeton students said it was sometimes acceptable to stop a campus speaker by shouting over them. Some 83 percent said it was acceptable to block other students from attending talks they deemed disturbing.
Princetonians For Free Speech was founded by Princeton alumnus, journalist, and lawyer Stuart Taylor, Jr., in 2020 “with the mission of promoting free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity.” In the 2022 College Free Speech Rankings, by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), Princeton was the lowest-ranked school in the country.
In March, Stanford Law School made headlines after students berated Kyle Duncan, a federal appeals court judge, who had come to give a talk. Tirien Steinbach, the school’s Dean of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity, intervened, ostensibly to instill calm, before launching into an impassioned six-minute speech, which she had written down, condemning the judge’s life work. She was accused of ambushing Judge Duncan, and put on leave.
Stanford Law School Dean Jenny Martinez issued a 16-page open letter explaining why she and Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne rose above what many viewed as the judge’s own reaction, including profanity aimed at students. The letter went beyond university policy and the First Amendment to articulate values which underlay them, specifically, the relationship between reasoned discourse, on the one hand, and learning, civility, “and the special role of lawyers in our system of Justice,” on the other. She argued that there is no contradiction between free expression and diversity, equity, and inclusion. And she notified students that the school is planning a mandatory half-day training session to reinforce these concepts.
Dean Martinez wrote:
“There is a temptation in a system, in which people holding views perceived by some as harmful or offensive are not allowed to speak, but history teaches us that this is a temptation to be avoided.”
Throughout the country, we see efforts to stifle speech with which some disagree. After the campus newspaper at Wesleyan University published an article critical of Black Lives Matter, students tried to defund the newspaper for failing to create “safe places.” At Yale, 42 percent of students and 71 percent of conservatives say they feel uncomfortable giving their opinions on politics, race, religion, and gender. Self-censorship becomes more common as students progress through the university: 61 percent of freshmen feel comfortable speaking about their views, but the same is true of just 56 percent of sophomores, 49 percent of juniors and 30 percent of seniors.
According to The Economist:
“University administrators, whose job it is to promote harmony and diversity on campus, often find the easiest way to do so is to placate the intolerant. . . . The two groups form an odd alliance. Contentious campus politics have been a constant feature in American life for more than fifty years. But during the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the 1960s, students at Berkeley demonstrated to win the right to determine who could say what from administrators. Now the opposite is true. Student activists are demanding that administrators interfere with teaching, asking for mandatory ethnic-studies classes, the hiring non-white or gay faculty, and the ability to lodge complaints against professors for biased conduct in the classroom. This hands more power to administrators.”
At different times in our history, different groups have done their best to stifle free speech. When I was a college student, I was an officer in a campus group, the Political Science Club. In the years of segregation in the South — this was in 1958 — we decided to invite the first black speaker to the College of William and Mary. The president of the college called me into his office. At that time, I wrote a column in the campus newspaper, which took a generally conservative position. The president asked me, “You are a conservative, why are you doing this?” I responded that, “Racism is not one of the things I want to conserve.”
The speaker we invited was Alonzo Moron, the president of the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), who would later become president of the American Red Cross and Governor of the Virgin Islands. His talk proceeded with no difficulty — but our group was then thrown off campus. I asked the ministers of the various churches in Williamsburg if we could meet in their facilities. All expressed support for what we had done, but said their congregations would oppose such a move. Only one minister opened his doors to us. He was the minister of the United Methodist Church, a recent refugee from the Hungarian Revolution. I had promised the president of the college that our next speaker would be an advocate of segregation. He was James J. Kilpatrick, then editor of The Richmond News Leader. Even he later turned against segregation.
Given my own experience with free speech, it is sad to see its serious decline at the present time. Liberals and conservatives should join together to make sure that we continue to have a free marketplace of ideas, something which seems to be diminishing. And the political life in which I remember working in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives was one in which Republicans and Democrats did not view one another as “enemies” but as fellow Americans engaged in the common enterprise of government. Our free society cannot endure without it. *
The mission of The St. Croix Review is to end the destruction of America by reestablishing the family as the center of American life, restoring economic prosperity to an independent middle class, and reviving a culture of tradition.
A Cornucopia of American Scandal
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
It has been the practice of this editorial to address one or two topics impacting America during the current two-month period. There is so much to write about today that the task seems overwhelming. The fabric of America is unraveling. The flash mobs that storm into high-end retail stores, like Nordstrom’s in California, to despoil and loot without negative consequence to themselves, are definitive symbols of social disintegration. The homeless encampments and street violence that plague the metro areas of California, Oregon, Washington, and elsewhere, are the destructive result of the negligence and dereliction of duty on the part of incompetent, progressive governance.
We are not living in merely “interesting” but rather “confounding” times. We faithful, good-hearted Americans, during these perplexing months, must seek and rely on the guidance and strength that only comes from a divine source. Let us gain as much strength from each other as we may.
The following is a summary of the August/September issue of The St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in “A Cornucopia of American Scandal,” touches on the horrific wildfire in Maui, amid an absence of American leadership; the continuing affliction of Marxist propagandistic news; the downgrading of American credit, and the profligacy of federal spending; the lawfare being waged against President Trump; and the blind eye being turned toward Biden family corruption.
Derek Suszko, in “The Mission of The St. Croix Review,” presents “. . . a future restoration platform that will go beyond the means and ambitions of the vacillating conservative movement of the previous decades.”
Allan Brownfeld, in “Let’s Teach About Slavery, But Let’s Get It Right,” reminds us that, far from being America’s “original sin,” slavery has persisted throughout most of history; in “Moving Toward a Genuinely Color-Blind Society,” he cites the words of black scholars and of black historical figures to uphold Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideal of a color-blind society; in “Can We Restore the Old Idea of Free Speech for a Variety of Ideas?” he chronicles the historical difficulty in practicing and the present endangered condition of one America’s highest ideals: that of free speech.
Paul Kengor, in “Edward Teller: Remembering the Other Father of the Bomb” writes of the last interview that the legendary physicist ever gave before his death; in “Joe Pesci, Sinéad O’Connor, and the Lousy Liberal Media,” he shows how the humorless, agenda-driving media are relentlessly bitter.
Mark Hendrickson in “Adam Schiff, Hunter Biden, and the Congressional Democratic Mob,” reveals the shameless behavior of the Democratic members of the House on the occasion of the censure of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for lying before Congress and the American people; in “It’s Time We Update Labor Union Laws,” he writes of a recent Supreme Court ruling that finally outlawed sabotage, vandalism, and violence on the part of labor unions.
Timothy S. Goeglein, in “Why Faith and Family Are the Cure for Loneliness,” notes the deadly affliction of loneliness that is spreading in America, and he proposes a solution.
Tyler Scott, in “This Place I Call Home,” waxes poetic about why she loves being from and living in the American “South.”
Tyler Scott, in “Majesty,” presents a short story about romance in a retirement home.
Francis P. DeStefano, in “‘Ninotchka’: Garbo Laughs,” reviews the career of Swedish-born actress Greta Garbo, and her role in “Ninotchka,” a comedy, in which she plays a Soviet Agent sent to Paris; in “More Film Noir Favorites,” he reviews eight classics.
Jigs Gardner, in “Letters from a Conservative Farmer — The Land of Cockaigne,” writes about the phenomena of Yuppies and their “Community Supported Agriculture” projects (CSPs), ideological outposts in Vermont, that were unable to support themselves.
Jigs Gardner, in “Writers for Conservative: 7 — Jonathan Swift,” considers three of Gulliver’s four voyages in Gulliver’s Travels.
The mission of the St. Croix Review is to end the destruction of America by reestablishing the family as the center of American life, restoring economic prosperity to an independent middle class, and reviving a culture of tradition.
Transgenderism Is a Wrecking Ball
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
Has something happened to the water Americans are drinking to change us so fundamentally? Or has the weight of oppression and suppression lifted sufficiently so that inhibition as to sexuality is dissolved, and so Americans are newly liberated?
After a pivotal majority of the American people decided to accept and sanctify gay marriage as a humane institution, one wondered at the time what further innovation would Progressives propose next. Now we know that transgenderism is the new shiny object. As one of our writers, Paul Kengor, observed: The Left doesn’t have fixed principles — they have direction — always further left.
Remember previous points from these editorials: The issue is not the issue. Accusation is a trick that draws attention away from the accuser, and focuses the vitriol of the nation upon the target. The targets are the norms of society, and the people who uphold them.
Is it plausible that human nature has transformed? In human history the vast majority have been satisfied living with the gender into which they were born. But recently, something miraculous happened. New paths of discovery have opened! A revolution was gifted to us by Progressive ideology!
The Left is diabolically clever. It has ladened and skewed the entire educational systems of America, starting in kindergarten, away from prosperity-affirming skills like reading and writing, toward the perversity of gender ideology. Progressives are driving a wedge between parents and children with drag queen celebrations. Children are being sexualized as they enter public schools. “Educators” intend to keep secret from parents the gender transition of children. The FBI was tasked by the Attorney General of the United States to investigate and intimidate parents who protested against gender ideology at school board meetings. On the one hand, the Left denies that gender ideology is being taught in schools. On the other hand, when presented with evidence, they make the accusation that traditional gender roles are oppressive and evil.
The point needs be hammered home. The issue is not the issue. The issue is power and revolution.
The Progressive movement can be divided into two groups. The majority of Progressive Americans are true believers. These Americans accept wholeheartedly Progressive narratives: That America is an awful nation with an evil history; that white men are the source of injustice; that all American institutions need to be upended; that Christianity is a tool of patriarchy; that the American Right is consumed with hatred, manifesting in racism, sexism, and all manner of bigotry.
The other group of Progressives consists of the gang that is running the movement. These are the true revolutionaries who know what they are doing. They create the narratives. They are the pied pipers leading the tribe of true believers. One imagines them having a good, self-satisfied, laugh behind the scenes, reveling in their success. Look at their accomplishments! They have been able to dupe a sizable portion of people in Western democracies that human souls could and should reconsider their birth gender. They have upended the sanctity of marriage, the family ties between parents and children, masculinity, femininity, education, fair play in athletics, corporate governance, and the norms of millennia.
The guiding obsession of the gang controlling Progressives is the worship of political leverage. It is a simple formula. Pick a target. Surround, encumber, mock, and demonize the target with daily mass media assaults. Elevate and repeatedly stress the narrative. Employ the educational systems and the entertainment industry. Play on victim mentality. Never admit to doubt or qualms. Keep the pressure up.
The Progressive gang does not care about the welfare of innocent children who are caught in the net of propaganda. It does not care about the ruination that comes when transitioned students realized they made a tragic mistake. These children submitted to gender “affirming” mutilation surgery, and their lives have been damaged forever. The gang is using innocent children as cannon fodder in service of their revolution.
The gang is creating narratives as a means to an end. Some individuals in the gang may want utopia, while others cynically aim to enrich themselves through power.
American society is shot through with the rot of Progressive ideology. People distrust all of our major institutions. We are disoriented and confused as to what the truth is. Having been divorced from traditional American ideals, we are hungering for something genuine to believe in and support.
It is more than likely that the politicos and media hacks who run Washington, D.C., pridefully know that their messaging is full of sham and deceit. There is a discernable feel of sliminess about their propagandistic pronouncements. Most of the daily narrative is a lie, and everyone who is spinning the news knows it.
It is not easy to distinguish the gang from the true believers. Hint: The gang are adept and brazen liars.
Transgenderism is a wrecking ball. Its societal impact reveals the raw power of propaganda. Watch a movie filmed 20 years ago and take note of how much American culture has changed in such a brief time — how much our underlying suppositions have shifted.
For insight into the vicious heart of Progressive intentions, consider the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” — grown, burly men with beards, masquerading as drag queen nuns. Their events are worse than minstrel shows with characters in blackface. They aren’t merely men aping women. The “sisters” are shock troops involved in a Marxist/Leninist revolution, in a pitched battle, assaulting the moral sensibilities of traditional America. They target the Catholic Church with “Hunky Jesus” and “Foxy Mary” contests. The Los Angeles Dodgers franchise provided the “Sisters” with a major league stadium as a theater for their spectacle — with mockery and arrogance toward what is sacred. *
The following is a summary of the June 2023 issue of The St. Croix Review.
Barry MacDonald, in “Transgenderism Is a Wrecking Ball,” exposes the sham and evil of gender ideology.
Allan Brownfeld, in “Remembering an Act of Christian Love During the Holocaust,” tells the story of Padre Niccacci, of Assisi, Italy, who saved 300 Jews during the Nazi occupation; in “What Is Meant When We Speak of Making Education Relevant?” while many universities are phasing out majors in English, history, philosophy, mathematics, and theology in favor of more “relevant” studies, he offers a timeless vision of “higher” education; in “Americans Ignore the Fragility of Our Democracy — and Its Current Disarray — at Our Peril,” he presents us with ancient wisdom and a thorough grounding in Founding principles.
Paul Kengor, in “Mary Ball Washington,” brings to life the character of George Washington and his mother, who raised America’s first president, thus becoming the First Mother; in “The Book of Acts Is Not Communism,” he forcefully reveals the bottomless hatred of Communism for Christianity and all religions.
Mark Hendrickson, in “Degrowth: The New Fad in the Climate Change Movement Is Socialist Central Planning,” exposes the irrational, haphazard, and absurd qualities of the latest leftist talking points that would lead to less prosperity.
Kenneth G. Elzinga, in “Capitalism and Democracy,” looks at common terms, like “Capitalism,” “Cost,” “Monopoly,” and “Democracy,” and filters them through an economic lens to reveal the profound truths that characterize American society.
Paul Suszko, in “World Wisdom in Verse,” offers a poem with a synthesis of historical wisdom.
Derek Suszko, in “The Fall of the Roman Republic: A Narrative and Analytical Comparison with the Contemporary Conditions of the United States,” comes to some conclusions.
Francis P. DeStefano, in “Humphrey Bogart: ‘High Sierra,’” profiles the one actor who has appeared in the most top-ranked films; in “The Demise of the DVD Mailing Service on Netflix,” he details the end of a service that provided easy access to the Golden Age of Hollywood, including commentary and video biographies of the people involved in the films — directors, producers, musical composers, and even costume designers.
Jigs Gardner, in “Writers for Conservatives: 6 — Michael Gilbert,” reviews the stalwart craft of the British writer of crime fiction.
Derek Suszko reviews Gordon L. Anderson’s Integral Society: Social Institutions and Individual Sovereignty.
The mission of the St. Croix Review is to end the destruction of America by reestablishing the family as the center of American life, restoring economic prosperity to an independent middle class, and reviving a culture of tradition.
The Curse of Accusation
Barry MacDonald — Editorial
To the extent that people form their political opinions in reaction to fear and anger, their minds drift toward morbidity and tribalism. Progressives cleverly use the dark tendencies of people as leverage.
It takes hard work and mental discipline to go about one’s business with optimism. One needs the assurance that what one does is useful, worthwhile, and helpful to others. I rely on a power much greater than I am from which I gain courage, strength, and guidance. One of the principles of The St. Croix Review is to assert the necessity of relying on spiritual faith to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves — to find the courage hidden within us.
We must realistically face and understand the mendacious, malevolent, avaricious, chaotic, and irrational forces arrayed against wholesome government. The politics practiced in America today — driven by the progressive movement — is the politics of accusation. It is a very simple trick. The attention of the public, framed by the media, is saturated in accusation. The motives and character of the accuser are ignored, and remain hidden. The target of the accusation suffers the full force and weight of the nation’s demented hatred.
This pattern of accusation and demonization is rampant in America, infecting the entire spectrum of issues. Activists, journalists, progressives, entertainers, and scholars are masters of the art. They accuse others of the turpitude that they themselves are guilty of. Accusation is a double whammy — it casts innocent people under a cloud of disrepute, and at the same time it provides a shield for the accusers, who take advantage of being evil and free of scruples.
It is frustrating to recognize that the accusers themselves are depraved and guilty. There is an element of sadism practiced by accusers. The accused are burdened with disproving charges, while it is difficult to expose the mendacity of accusers as they hide behind their accusations.
Ordinary Americans are assaulted daily with a barrage of dispiriting accusations in the media. We must recognize the toxicity of these attacks. We must emulate the valor of parents at school board meetings throughout America. And we must place our trust in our religious faiths, because the battle to reclaim and reestablish decency in American institutions will necessitate a sustained and determined effort for an indeterminate length of time.
Please recognize the sad, excruciating irony of our predicament, suffering as we are hammer blow after hammer blow of accusation from the Left. The Left accuses good-hearted, decent Americans of being bigots and haters, while they themselves are radiating shock waves of hatred and bigotry. The Left is casting a spell over our children, insinuating that their souls were born into the bodies of the wrong gender, and that a sensible remedy is irreversible genital mutilation, which is styled “gender affirmation.” Progressive activists don’t care about the welfare of children. They are indifferent to the lives of American children. They are using children as cannon fodder to advance a totalitarian agenda.
To regain the health of American society, a determined segment of clear-eyed, patriotic Americans needs to expose and counter the wickedness of the progressive movement. We must not fall prey to disarming guilt over the blemishes of American history. The progressive movement has nothing good to offer America. They intend to burn and raze America.
We ordinary Americans are not the “haters” we are made out to be. The genuine “haters” are those who are fanatically casting these vicious accusations. We should not be afraid to say so. *
The following is a summary of the April/March issue of the St. Croix Review:
Barry MacDonald, in “The Curse of Accusation” exposes the malignancy of current American politics.
Allan Brownfeld, in “In the Search for Bigotry, Karl Marx’s Racism Has Been Ignored,” exposes the well-documented hatred Marx held for those who he supposed were “inferior” peoples, and for his eagerness to see such peoples eliminated; in “Confronting Social Media’s Often Negative Impact on American Children and Teenagers,” he shares studies that demonstrate the harmful effects, especially on girls, of sustained exposure to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram — the harms include lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies; in “Is There a Retreat from Excellence in Education to Protect the Feelings of Non-achievers?” he cites lowered admission standards to Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette High Schools as evidence that meritocracy is giving way to equity in America.
Mark Hendrickson, in “Yuri Maltsev (1950-2023)” tells the heroic story of a Soviet citizen and economist who rose through the ranks of Soviet bureaucracy, knowing as he did the folly of centrally planned economics. Yuri Maltsev seized an opportunity to defect to America and become a U.S. citizen. He went on to became a stalwart defender of American free enterprise.
Paul Kengor, on the occasion of Black History Month, has written “My Top 10 Black Conservatives,” which include Eldridge Cleaver and Malcom X.
Gary Scott Smith, in “Remembering Jackie Robinson,” praises the outstanding Brooklyn Dodgers player who broke through the racial barrier in major league baseball, and who thus opened the way to greater participation for Blacks in American society.
John Sparks, in “The 10-Year Fight of a Courageous Baker: Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop,” explores the ongoing legal harassment of Jack Phillips because of his refusal to perform a service that conflicts with his religious beliefs and his right to freedom of speech.
Timothy S. Goeglein, in “Two Giants Celebrate 100 Years with Humility and Grace,” writes of the lifetime accomplishments of James Buckley and Henry Kissinger.
Derek Suszko, in “The Fall of the Roman Republic: A Narrative and Analytical Comparison with the Contemporary Conditions of the United States of America — (Part 4 of a Series),” continues his analysis by looking at the justifications the elites espouse for their right to rule, and he divides the societies of the Roman republic and the American Republic in factions, thusly, to clarify how the balance of power operates.
Francis P. DeStefano, in “Barbara Stanwyck: ‘Ball of Fire,’” reviews the movies and career of the actress who many critics believe is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, actress in Hollywood history.
Robert DeStefano, in “Dandelion,” offers a charming and insightful poem, followed by an informed essay on a commonly disliked weed.
Jigs Gardner, in “Letters from a Conservative Farmer: Christmas Memories,” summons memories of a vanished America of the quality of “a door in the vine-covered wall” that he thought was lost.
Francis P. DeStefano
Jane Austen on Film
I must confess that I’m a big fan of Jane Austen, one of the great, if not the greatest, English novelists. I’ve read her novels as a young man and still enjoy them now as a senior citizen. One critic said about her perennial popularity:
“It’s no crime to be a lover of Jane Austen. . . . Apart from her gorgeous sense of humor, her vision is so fairly and evenly adjusted that you don’t have to get distracted all the time by the author’s own prejudices and neuroses subconsciously creeping in and distorting the whole thing . . .”
I believe that her novels should be required reading in schools today, especially for young men. It’s not just that they will gain insights about the way women think, but also, they may learn how to behave. Who can ever forget Elizabeth Bennett’s reproval of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice: “If you had only behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.”
I also enjoy film adaptations of Austen novels. I’m not a snob or purist about film adaptations. Actors and film directors can tell in an instant what it took for even the best author’s pages to convey. Casting directors are equally important. Jane Austen’s novels are all about character. The right person in the right role can make a world of difference. Another critic noted:
“The initial magic, or call it her peculiar genius, is to create three-dimensional characters, characters in the round, living, speaking, faulty human beings whom you remember and enjoy forever . . .”
Who can forget these characters? It is not just the leading couples like Eliza Bennett and Mr. Darcy, but a whole host of others that make up their world. A good casting director will flesh out these character that bring family life in England to life. Of course, some film adaptations don’t work well, but here are brief reviews of four that stand out for me.
“Pride and Prejudice” — Austen’s greatest novel has received many film adaptations ranging from feature length movies to BBC miniseries. My favorite is the 1980 BBC miniseries starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. In this series the casting director has done a fine job. Garvie and Rintoul are perfect as Eliza Bennett and Mr. Darcy. She is young, witty, sprightly, and fallible. He is handsome, serious, intelligent, and proud — as one character notes, “He has the right to be proud.” But as the five-part series enrolls, his humanity comes through.
The supporting cast is magnificent. Eliza’s parents are the best I have seen, and her sisters are perfect, from the beautiful Jane to the pedantic Mary. However, I particularly favor this series because of Malcolm Rennie’s portrayal of Mr. Collins, one of the great comic characters in all literature. Mr. Collins is a minister who will eventually inherit the Bennett estate because there is no male heir. Jane Austen’s father was a minister and she often portrayed them in her novels: the good, the bad, and the ordinary. Mr. Collins is an ass, and no one has ever played him better.
“Sense and Sensibility” — I much prefer the 2008 BBC three-part miniseries of “Sense and Sensibility” over the 2008 Hollywood film that starred Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Kate Winslet. It is not only that the extra length gave more room for development of the story, but also the casting seemed much more realistic and true to the novel. Younger actresses like Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield give outstanding performances. Indeed, it is a real pleasure to just hear them speak the English language.
Jane Austen wrote Sense and Sensibility in 1795 at the age of 20. She was well aware of the dawning Romantic movement that would engulf the 19th century, and the film adaptation does a very fine job of contrasting the two sisters who represent practicality and prudence on one hand, and the feelings and emotion that would characterize the new era on the other. Elinor, the eldest, is constantly holding her emotions in check. At one point, she insists that it is not our feelings that matter, but what we do or fail to do. Her sister is just the opposite, and must be chastened by life’s bitter lessons.
“Emma” — Two versions of Austen’s 1815 novel appeared in 1996. The first, a Hollywood feature film, starred Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role, while a British made-for-TV film starred a young Kate Beckinsale. Originally, I enjoyed both but now for some reason I can hardly bear to watch the Hollywood version, while I can and have viewed the British version over and over again.
Beckinsale is perfect as Emma. She is young and pretty but not gorgeous. There is a naturalism about her appearance and performance. Moreover, while charming, she comes across as a sheltered, inexperienced, know-it-all whose mistakes and foibles are nevertheless easily forgiven. The film includes a fine supporting cast including Samantha Morton as Miss Smith and Bernard Hepton, who gives an outstanding performance as Emma’s hypochondriac father.
The aptly named Mark Strong plays Mr. Knightley. Jane Austen took great pains in naming her characters, and Mr. Knightley is the perfect lord of the manor. While fully aware of his wealth and status, he also recognizes that his position brings great responsibility to his tenants and their families. He is no idle aristocrat, but a gentleman farmer who works diligently to maintain, improve, and work the land for the benefit of all. The film does a fine job of portraying his manor as an idyllic paradise. In other words, Mr. Knightley is Jane Austen’s ideal man, and Mark Strong does him justice.
“Persuasion” — I highly recommend the 1995 British made-for-TV version of Persuasion that starred Amanda Root as potential spinster Anne Eliot, and Ciarán Hinds as a dashing but socially backward naval officer, Captain Wentworth. The two are fine as the lovers who have long been separated by ill advice and war, but the supporting cast is also outstanding. Her self-centered family members are skillfully portrayed in what is essentially a Cinderella story. Corin Redgrave, in particular, is superb as the foolish baronet whose extravagance forces him to lease out the family estate.
Published shortly after Jane Austen’s death at the age of 40, the novel and Amanda Root’s portrayal of Anne Eliot in this film adaptation contain what I believe to be Jane Austen’s self-portrait.
Short Reviews of American Film-noir Classics
In the past few years, I have become a big fan of a certain kind of American film from the 1940s and ’50s. They are primarily black and white, dark, crime dramas that French film makers and critics called “film-noir,” when they rediscovered American films after the liberation of France in 1945. The term film-noir refers not only to the dark themes of these movies but also to the nighttime settings and the often-startling contrasts between light and dark, black and white.
Originally, these films were low-budget productions often designed to be seen as the second feature on traditional Hollywood double bills. Nevertheless, today many are regarded as ground-breaking classics. They featured great directors, actors, writers, and film craftsmen and craftswomen. To fill the insatiable demand for movies in America, Hollywood even imported talent from abroad. In my opinion, film-noir represents a short-lived American film renaissance that came to an end with the advent of television and technicolor.
Below, find brief descriptions of some of these films that I have viewed this year. Not only are they gripping, extremely well-told stories with masterful directing and acting, but, they also bring me back to the days of my childhood. In the background I can see a world that is no more: the dark dingy streets, the small apartments, the old telephones that people always answer, and the incessant cigarette smoking. I can imagine my parents sitting in crowded theaters, and wonder what they thought as they watched these gripping dramas.
“Where the Sidewalk Ends” — Dana Andrews and the beautiful Gene Tierney star in this 1950 film noir directed by Otto Preminger. A few years earlier, the three had collaborated on the screen classic “Laura,” but now we find them in the underworld. Andrews plays a rogue cop who mistakenly kills a suspect and tries to cover up his mistake. The black and white cinematography, artful direction, and camera work make this the epitome of film noir.
“CrissCross” — Burt Lancaster and Yvonne DeCarlo star in this 1949 heist drama directed by noir specialist Robert Siodmak, with his typical beautiful dark photography. Dan Duryea plays the hoodlum villain. One critic calls this film, which deals with obsessive love and betrayal, the second-best film noir of all time. Especially notable are the plot’s many twists and turns, a noir characteristic.
“Dangerous Crossing” — Jeanne Crain, one of Hollywood’s most beautiful stars ever, plays a new bride setting out on a transatlantic honeymoon cruise in this dark suspense thriller from 1953. When her husband vanishes, she discovers that not only can’t he be found, but that there is no evidence that he was ever on board. Joseph LaShelle’s black and white cinematography adds to the suspense, as well as the soundtrack that consists mainly of a repetitive foghorn.
“He Ran All Way” — John Garfield and Shelley Winters star in this gripping 1951 hostage drama directed by John Berry. Garfield, in his last movie before his untimely death at the age of 39, plays a hoodlum who takes a family hostage after a botched robbery. Filmed in stunning black and white by the legendary cinematographer, James Wong Howe.
“Human Desire” — Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame star in a 1954 film of love, lust, and greed. Ford plays a Korean war veteran who returns to his job on the railroad but gets involved with the boss’s wife, played by sultry Grahame. Based on a story by Émile Zola, and directed by Fritz Lang in stark black and white, the pace never lets up.
“Pushover” — This 1954 film stars Fred MacMurray and Kim Novak in her film debut. It is easy to see why Novak went on to become a big star. A police detective falls for a gangster’s moll that he has under surveillance. Hugh Carey and the lovely Dorothy Malone also appear in supporting roles.
“Vicki” — Jeanne Crain and Jean Peters star in this 1954 mystery about a glamorous model (Peters) whose murder has all New York buzzing. Equally beautiful Jeanne Crain plays Vicki’s grieving sister, who herself comes under suspicion by an obsessed police detective played by Richard Boone of later Paladin fame.
“Drive a Crooked Road” — Mickey Rooney stars in this 1954 story of an innocent mechanic and amateur race car driver who gets involved with a gang of bank robbers. Late in his career, Mickey Rooney turned to serious dramatic roles and this is one of his best performances. Dianne Foster plays the irresistible femme fatale who lures him on.
“Mystery Street” — Ricardo Montalban stars in this 1950 film that was one of the first to employ forensics in solving a crime. Montalban plays a police detective who turns to a professor at a newly formed forensics lab at Harvard to identify the remains of a body washed up on a Cape Cod beach and help find the killer. Bruce Bennett plays the professor, with Sally Forrest, Jan Sterling, Elsa Lanchester, and Betsy Blair in supporting roles.
“Nightmare Alley” — Tyrone Power stars in this 1947 tale set in a world inhabited by shady small-time carnival characters and conmen. Colleen Gray, Joan Blondell, and Helen Walker play the women in his life. Power plays against type in this film that is now regarded as one of the gems of film noir.
“Out of the Past” — Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer star in this 1947 film that some consider to be the greatest film noir of all time. Mitchum plays a private eye forced to track down a gangster’s runaway girlfriend, played by femme-fatale Greer. Kirk Douglas and the beautiful Rhonda Fleming are featured. Directed by Jacques Tourneur.
“Body and Soul” — John Garfield and Lili Palmer star in a 1947 film that became the prototype for all the great boxing films that followed. Anne Revere and William Conrad are featured in this film directed by Robert Rossen. The magnificent fight photography is by the legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe, who sometimes used roller skates to follow the boxers around the ring.
I prefer to watch these films on DVD rather than streaming. The DVDs often come with commentaries by film historians and other special features that are well worth viewing. Also, most DVDs come with close captioning for the hearing-impaired. *