It’s Juneteenth. It marks the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned that they’d been freed two years earlier. It’s been a Texas holiday for decades and just became a federal holiday over the objection of 14 Republican congresscritters.
The featured image is a photograph by Dorothea Lange when she worked for the WPA documenting the ravages of the Great Depression. The number at the top is its Library of Congress reference number. I’m not quite sure that I get the title, but the picture was taken in Texas.
This week’s theme song was written in 1969 by Glenn Martin and Dave Kirby. I’ve always associated it with Doug Sahm, but it was first recorded by Charlie Pride.
We have three versions of Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone for your listening pleasure: Charlie Pride, Doug Sahm, and the Texas Tornados.
Since I mentioned Galveston, let’s run this Glen Campbell-Jim Webb song up the flagpole and see who salutes:
Now that we’re done saluting, let’s jump to the break.
I’m not through with San Antonio songs. Here are two more:
We begin our second act in earnest with some revisionist history.
Forget The Alamo: The Alamo myth is sacred to Anglo Texans and profane to Texicans aka Latin Texans. John Wayne’s 1960 movie The Alamo is the myth put on film. Most of it is nonsense. In this case it’s not Hollywood that’s at fault it’s Texans. The Duke just followed their lead. He also looked ridiculous in that fakakta coonskin cap.
The first time I encountered Alamo revisionism was in Gore Vidal’s Burr. Davy Crockett made an appearance. The Vidalized Crockett’s favorite epithet was “Mexican cornholer.” In the end, they got him.
There’s a new book out by three Texans: Bryan Burrough, Jason Sanford, and Chris Tomlinson. Its title gave this segment its title: Forget The Alamo.
Enough titleism, there’s a swell excerpt from the book at Vanity Fair. Don’t forget it, y’all.
The last word of the segment goes to the Bee Gees:
Remembering Mudcat Grant: In 1965, Jim Grant was the first Black 20 game winner in American League history. It was the year that the Minnesota Twins first appeared in the World Series. They lost to the Dodgers, but won the pennant despite star slugger Harmon Killebrew missing 49 games.
Mudcat Grant died last week at the age of 85. He was a baseball pioneer and a “race man.” He fought racism before during and after his baseball career.
There’s terrific tribute to this fine man by Peter Dreier and Robert Elias at TPM Cafe: Remembering Mudcat Grant, Baseball Rebel Against Racism. It actually lives up to its title.
I name checked Mudcat earlier this year in my tribute to Fritz Mondale:
I knew that he loved the Minnesota Twins, so I mentioned meeting Jim (Mudcat) Grant who was one of the stars of the 1965 team that lost to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers in the World Series.
WM: Great nickname. Great guy. Did you know that he was a heckuva singer and had a nightclub act called Mudcat and the Kittens?
Me: I did not know that.
I lied to one of the most honest men in American public life because I didn’t want to slow his roll.
I lied to the former Veep, but Jim Mudcat Grant was the real deal. He even hit a homer run in the 1965 World Series:
The Book Report:
Kati Marton is an outstanding writer whose own biography is almost as interesting as her books. Her parents were Hungarian journalists who escaped Hungary after the Soviet invasion in 1956. She was married to two interesting and distinguished men: newsman Peter Jennings and Richard Holbrook, the best secretary of state we never had.
Enough gossip. On with the book report.
True Believer is the story of Noel Field who was recruited by Soviet intelligence in the 1930’s. As the title indicates, he was not a hard get. He was a hardcore Stalinist who excused Soviet oppression as excesses and mistakes.
Field came from old American Quaker stock, which made him an ideal agent in theory. He did too much job hopping to be as big an asset as his friend Alger Hiss, but he did his best to further the cause of the Red Tsar.
I had heard of Noel Field before reading Kati Marton’s outstanding book, but I unaware of his fate as a scapegoat. He was scapegoated not by the McCarthyites but by his fellow communists.
True Believer is well-written and concise befitting Marton’s status as a non-academic historian. She keeps the narrative short and snappy and the book clocks in at 249 pages.
I give True Believer 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A-.
The last word of our second act goes to Spandau Ballet.
We begin our third act with our favorite stolen feature.
Separated At Birth Casting Edition: Orson Welles was an enfant terrible who never became an elder statesman. He died long before the movies in which he was a character were released.
Orson is flanked below by Vincent D’Onofrio who played who him in Ed Wood and Liev Schreiber who played Welles in RKO 281.
The next segment requires some musical foreshadowing.
Movie List: Graham Greene was one of my favorite 20th Century novelists. I loved how Greene incorporated elements of genre fiction into literary fiction. It was inevitable in Graham Greene’s case: he spied for Britain during World War II and was even friends with infamous Soviet double agent Kim Philby. He continued to dabble in spying long after he left the British Intelligence Service.
I’m currently reading a fine biography of Greene by Michael Sheldon. It inspired this list.
All of the films below are based on a Greene book or story. I’ve noted the ones for which he wrote the screenplay and dated the movies that were made more than once. In two instances, I prefer the remake. Go figure.
My Top Ten Favorite Graham Greene Movies
- The Third Man (screenplay)
- The Fallen Idol (screenplay)
- The Quiet American 2002
- Our Man In Havana (screenplay)
- Brighton Rock 1948 (screenplay)
- This Gun For Hire 1942
- Ministry Of Fear
- The Comedians (screenplay)
- The Human Factor
- The End Of The Affair 1999
The last word of the segment goes to Roy Orbison singing an Elvis Costello song:
Saturday GIF Horse: We’re sticking to our Graham Greene theme with a GIF from The Third Man.
TCM Clips Of The Week: I never get sick of either Noir Alley or The Third Man. Eddie Muller screened it recently on TCM, so I had to watch even though I have it on DVD.
Here are Eddie’s intro and outro:
Let’s close down this virtual honky tonk with some more music.
Saturday Classic: We’re circling back to our Juneteenth introduction with this 2007 album by Mavis Staples. We’ll Never Turn Back is a concept album about the Civil Rights movement. It was produced by Ry Cooder whose stellar playing can be heard throughout.
That’s all for this week. The last word goes to John Wayne as Davy Crockett and Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie in The Alamo.