Reel Infatuation -Crushing on Elwood P Dowd of Harvey (1950)

 

I can’t remember the first time I watched the fantasy comedy film Harvey. I first began watching classic films in the days before Turner Classic Movies made them readily available and easier to access.

But somehow I stumbled across Harvey, this film about Elwood P. Dowd and his pooka best friend, a very tall white and invisible rabbit. I watched it many times during my childhood and since. It has never failed to lose its’ wonder or to make me laugh. Part of the reason for that is an affinity for Elwood P, as he calls himself.

Every time I view this film, I am struck by how much I admire and in some ways even wish to be like the easy-going Elwood played by James Stewart. Even though he is a chronic drinker and his sister and niece wish to commit him to a sanitarium thanks to the havoc his friendship with the invisible Harvey causes them, still he has so many exemplary character traits.

It is alluded to that Mr. Dowd used to be a man of position and some influence before this unusual friendship changed his life. But although now he has neither of these, he is happier and contented with his life. Elwood P. Dowd never meets a stranger and greets everyone as a friend, immediately inviting them into his inner circle and listening attentively to the stories of their lives.

” Dowd’s my name. Elwood P. Here, let me give you one of my cards. Now if you should ever want to call me, call me at this number. “

He is extremely considerate of others, particularly of his best friend, but also of those who don’t have his best in mind. He accepts people as he finds them, making no assumptions or demands, taking everyone at their word and trusting in their innate goodness.

“I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.”

Elwood also pays the loveliest compliments while giving the receiver, a beautiful nurse, his full attention.

“Miss Kelly, you know, when you wear my flower you make it beautiful.”

He sees the world through rose colored glasses and with the wonder and innocence of a child. Although it may seem he is ignorant to others’ thoughts and responses of his eccentricities, I believe he genuinely doesn’t worry about their opinions, glossing over anything which would create conflict.

“Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she’d say “In this world, Elwood, you can be oh so so smart, or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart… I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

He is calm and accepting even when faced with the loss of his best friend. He respects Harvey’s right to make his own choices even if it isn’t what he would wish. He is a man of grace and kindness who believes the best of others even if they don’t deserve it.

Dr. Chumley: “This sister of yours is at the bottom of a conspiracy against you. She’s trying to persuade me to lock you up. Today, she had commitment papers drawn up. She has your power of attorney and the key to your safety box, and she brought you here!”

Elwood P. Dowd: “My sister did all that in one afternoon. That Veta certainly is a whirlwind, isn’t she?”

In the end, despite opinions that he might be a crazy drunk, he proves that love and kindness win over even the hardest, most skeptical heart.

“Well, thank you Harvey! I prefer you too.”

This is my contribution to the 2017 Reel Infatuations Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings and Font & Frock

Top Ten Tuesday – Series to Start & Finish

Don’t you love a good series? It means that even when you finish a great story, you know it will continue with familiar characters you’ve grown to love.

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt regards book series. It is supposed to be a list of series that I haven’t started yet, but I also decided to include some series I have started but haven’t finished.

SERIES TO START

Elite Guardians by Lynette Eason

Although i enjoy romantic suspense it is not my go-to genre. But I keep reading amazing reviews and recommendations for this series and it has me intriuged. With a focus on a female bodyguard agency and comparisons to author Dani Pettrey (whose books I love) I think I will enjoy this one.

The Jacobite Chronicles by Julia Brannan

Although I read tons of historical fiction, I don’t often find a series set during the years of the Jacobite rebellion. Although I have yet to read a book by this author, with the first title Mask of Duplicity currently free on Kindle I have no excuse not to check it out.

Mended Heart Series by Varina Denman

I have heard amazing things about this contemporary women’s fiction series set in my home state of Texas. The setting alone interests me and since I already own two of the three titles I have no excuses.

Southern Heart Series by Janet Ferguson

I love southern fiction and this is another series I keep hearing great things about.

Vikings of the New World by Heather Day Gilbert

I don’t run across a lot of Viking fiction. It is a time period and culture which intrigues me and this series is based on real historical figures. The sad thing is I actually own both of the books in this series and haven’t yet read them.

SERIES TO FINISH

I have started each of the following series, but have made it no further than the first book.

The Everstone Chronicles by Dawn Crandall

I read the first title of this American historical series and loved it. I keep hearing from reviewers how much they love the heroes of this series, so I really need to keep reading so I can meet them!

Drew Farthing Mysteries by Julianne Donaldson

As a fan of the classic film series The Thin Man, this book series is right up my alley. I love the idea of a new Nick and Nora expanded to include a friend to form a threesome sleuthing trio. And it’s set in 1930’s upper class England so, you know, it’s pretty much my perfect world. With all the recent historical murder mystery adaptations showing on Amazon and Netflix someone needs to bring this one to the small screen.

Penned in Time by Pepper Basham

Ya’ll. I’ve read the first title of this series and Basham’s other books as well. I love her writing and I am kicking myself for not having read the remaining two books in this series.

What’s in a Name by Eryn Scott

I discovered Eryn Scott last year when I read A Chance for Sunny Skies which ended up on my end of the year best books list. If the remaining two stories continue with the quirky characters I’ve grown to love, then this series may become a favorite.

The Chancellor Fairy Tales by Poppy Lawless

I loved the whimsical slightly mystical feel of the first book in this series. Plus, who doesn’t love re-imagined fairy tales?

Do you have a favorite book series you would recommend?

Book Review – Gilt Hollow

SUMMARY

Shortly after the death of her father, Willow Lamott also loses her lifetime best friend Ashton Keller. Although Ashton has been convicted as a killer and locked up in juvie for four years, Willow continues to stand by him and defend him to a town which is eager to believe the worst of their founder’s grandson.

When Ashton is released early, he returns to Gilt Hollow determined to prove his innocence and exact revenge if not justice. Ashton, who was convicted on the testimony of former friends, believes he has been abandoned by everyone who loved him including his best friend Willow and treats her with contempt. Willow resents and is angered by his attitude towards her, wondering if she has been wrong about her faith in Ashton all along.

Ashton’s quest for vengeance and Willow’s weakness for the boy she grew up loving, eventually draws them together in a reluctant partnership to find out the truth of the night that ruined both their lives.

REVIEW

I’ll be honest. I chose to read Gilt Hollow because the cover grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. Although, the Young Adult genre is one I am slowly exploring and learning to love, it is not generally my first choice for reading material. This book also fits well within the genre of romantic suspense which I delve into occasionally, but not often.

Still Gilt Hollow is a book that I couldn’t put down!  One thing I do love in fiction is a gothic mystery and this definitely had the atmosphere of one, despite being a contemporary tale. From the rundown, somewhat eerie Victorian mansion abandoned by Ashton’s family when they also abandoned him, to the malevolent, anonymous actions threatening Ashton and Willow,  this story definitely has a spooky feel about it.

Gilt Hollow is a quirky, artsy town, which I really enjoyed visiting despite the darker undertones and secrets brewing beneath its surface. Having grown up in the Bible Belt it’s hard for me to imagine a place where yarn-bombing trees, dreadlocks and hippie culture would be the norm. Besides her staunch defense of Ashton, Willow stands out in her school because she is more traditional in nature, with a classic preppy style and a serious, studious personality.

Usually in stories like this the misunderstood, potentially dangerous boy or girl is from the wrong side of the tracks. I liked how the author did the unexpected by making Ashton the scion of a wealthy family with deep roots in the community who is nurtured by and bonds with Willow’s average American family.

Despite both of them feeling abandoned and rejected by each other, I loved how Willow and Ashton’s former bond and understanding of each other brings them back together. In some ways, their story breaks my heart because they each suffered from the dual tragedies of her father’s death and Ashton’s conviction, neither of which they had any control over. When they needed each other the most, they were torn apart.

I also experienced anger at how Ashton was convicted and the way the town treated both of them considering they were fourteen at the time of the initial events.  This anger allowed me to understand and empathize with Ashton’s desire for revenge, even if I didn’t agree with it.

Overall, this is a book that transported me to another world and also stirred a lot of emotions in me. These are a few of the markers of what I believe makes a good story and this is one which will haunt me for a while. After I finished this book, I realized that it is written by an author I have heard of before, but never read. After finishing Gilt Hollow, I will be checking out Lorie Langdon’s much lauded co-authored Doon series.

For images which inspired this novel check out the author’s Pinterest page. And don’t pass up the chance to read this unusual story!

 

Foreign Film Friday -Dear Zindagi (2016)

SUMMARY

Kaira is a talented, young cinematographer who is waiting for her big break. Luckily she has a good friend in Raghu, a fellow co-worker, who encourages her and looks out for her at work.

She also has a successful, loving boyfriend and a close-knit group of loyal friends. However, in spite of all of this, Kaira is a self-absorbed, emotionally distant woman who sabotages her relationships.

After dumping her boyfriend with the news that she slept with Raghu, she is given the opportunity to travel with Raghu to New York to work on a major film. But once again, her inability to trust and commit interferes with her life.

On a trip home, to visit her estranged parents in Goa, she overhears a speech by an unconventional therapist which prompts her to seek out help to deal with a past which has emotionally crippled her.

MY THOUGHTS

If you are under the mistaken impression that Indian films are all Bollywood musicals and women draped in saris, then Dear Zindagi will prove you wrong.

I watched this film with my sister and we both commented on how much it felt like an American film. Although it portrays the generational clash between the young, ambitious and modern Kaira and her more traditional parents, the viewer will be hard pressed to find any other traditional Indian stereotypes.

Although the first forty minutes of this film set me up to believe Kaira’s romantic relationships, or lack thereof, would be the focus of Dear Zindagi, it was actually only the impetus for the rest of the film. In actuality, this is a story about a woman whose childhood trauma has emotionally damaged her. Kaira’s fear of rejection makes it difficult for her open up and to trust others. Her unusual therapy sessions with  the creative Dr. Kahn, opens her eyes to the truth about her life. Through this process of self-discovery, Kaira is forced to step outside of her comfort zone and confront some difficult truths. I do love that this film surprised me in this way. Instead of a romantic dramedy, I ended up watching a film with pearls of simple wisdom and a life-affirming message.

Although I am no expert and cannot argue the finer technical points of film, I loved the cinematography of Dear Zindagi, which is appropriate since Kaira herself is a cinematographer. Some of my favorite shots are those filmed in the beach town of Goa, which gives this film a light, airy, clean feel even while it explores deep issues. Although India has never been at the top of my travel list, the shots of Goa may have changed that for me.

One of my few complaints with this film is that I feel it would have benefited from some editing. The run time is just too long at two hours and thirty minutes. There were several scenes where the movie dragged a little bit, that could have been cut for a tighter film.

Also, for the first hour or so of this movie I had a really hard time liking Kaira. She came across as a selfish, spoiled brat who doesn’t deserve the loyalty of her friends. She makes excuses for her behavior and refuses to acknowledge that her actions have consequences. I almost gave up on her several times but I’m glad I stuck with her story, because I came to learn and understand the pain behind her behavior, even if I didn’t agree with it.

Although Dear Zindagi is an Indian film with English subtitles, many times the characters are also speaking English, switching back and forth between the two languages. This can take a bit of getting used to, but also makes it easier to watch if you have never seen a foreign film before.

Otherwise Dear Zindagi is a film which I recommend and not just because it is a foreign film. I really appreciated the message of this movie about dealing with the issues that cripple us and learning to forgive others and love one’s self.

 

Ten Great Father Figures in Books

It’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme is a Father’s Day related freebie.

I have been blessed to have loving, supportive men in my family, including my dad, grandpa, uncles and cousins. So in honor of the wonderful men in my life and Father’s Day, I am sharing ten of my favorite fathers and father figures from stories I have read.

FATHERS

Major Reginald Aubrey & Stone Thrower of The Pathfinder’s Series

These two fathers broke my heart. They are bound together by the reckless act Major Aubrey commits when he steals the infant son of Stone Thrower and passes him off as his own. Aubrey loves his adopted son as his own but is tortured by his awful secret. Indian warrior Stone Thrower wrestles with rage, bitterness and unforgiveness and longs to be reunited with the son he never met. Both are fathers with heavy burdens that do not lessen as years pass. When Stone Thrower’s other son forms a connection with Aubrey’s adopted daughter everyone all their secrets are brought to light.

General Seamus Ogilvy of The Mistress of Tall Acre

Seamus Ogilvy has been away fighting for America’s independence. But he misses his home and his young daughter. When he returns he contracts a marriage for the sake of convenience to give his daughter a mother. Seamus may not always know how to connect with his young daughter, but oh how he wants to. With the help of his new wife he works hard to show Lily Cate how much he loves her despite his absences.

Case Walker of The Walker Family Series

Case Walker is a wise sage and the patriarch of the close knit Walker clan. He dispenses wisdom, compassion and understanding so easily and his grown children honor and depend on him. He is a widower who acts as both father and mother and is actively involved in his community. Everyone should have a Case Walker in their life and I really hope that he gets his own love story.

Oscar Marshall of The Covered Deep

Although Bianca Marshall’s father has very little “face time” in this book, his understanding and encouragement is pivotal to her ability to pursue her dream and the adventure that follows. He is a father who knows how to let his daughter spread her wings.

Richard Duvall of the Cheyney Duvall, M.D. Series

Richard Duvall is a man of wealth and privilege, but that doesn’t prejudice him against his only daughter becoming a doctor to the underprivileged in the years following the Civil War. Not only is he a loving, supportive father, but he is also an exemplary husband and human being which gives any man interested in Cheyney very high standards to live up to.

Jake Phillips of the Savannah Series

Another man of comfortable wealth and privilege, poor Jake is often caught between a wife and daughter who constantly misunderstand each other. He love his high-maintenance, image conscious wife, but also encourages and smooths the way for his daughter to pursue her dreams of being a journalist.

STEPFATHERS

Oliver Stewart of Baroness

Although Oliver appears in the first book of the Daughter of Fortune series, it is not really until the second, Baroness, that we see his fatherly instincts exhibited on behalf of a step-daughter who resents him. When his wife and Lilly’s mother dies, he works even harder to reconcile with the only remaining woman in his family.

Jake Finley of The Charmed Life Series

When Bella’s mother marries, she is uprooted from her privileged life in Manhattan and thrust into the foreign world of small town Oklahoma. Poor Bella has extreme difficulty adjusting and resents her mother’s new family, but her step-father is patient and kind while not being afraid to set boundaries for this spoiled girl.

FATHER FIGURES

Jack Sloane of The Red Door Inn

Widowed Jack Sloane only wants to fulfill his wife’s dream of opening a Bed & Breakfast on Prince Edward Island. But when he runs across a woman who looks in dire need of help, he offers her lodging and a job decorating his B&B. His nephew and contractor isn’t at all pleased and highly suspicious, but Jack insists on acting as a father figure for both.

Jack Cornwall of Prairie Fire

This Jack has been grievously misunderstood, but that’s partly due to his own poor choices and behavior. In reality, he only wants to protect his young nephew from the brother-in-law he never liked and also offer a stable home to his mother and sister who have been traumatized by the long years of the Civil War.

 

Author Spotlight -Amy Leigh Simpson

I love discovering authors who I’ve never read before. If they happen to be indie publishing their debut novel then I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.

Amy Leigh Simpson was such a discovery for me. I can’t even remember how I first found her, but after reading her first title I knew I had found an author who would have a permanent place on my auto-buy list.

Simpson writes adrenaline pumping, heart rate raising, romantic suspense stories. I can’t determine which element is the most intense and surprising, the romance or the suspense. If you are one who usually guesses the villain in a mystery, you will find it isn’t so easy in Simpson’s novels. And if you like a clean but passionate romance then you won’t be disappointed.

She currently has two books published and a third one in the works for her Girl Next Door series. Learn more about this author at her Amazon author page or her Facebook author page.

When Fall Fades

Sadie Carson is an expert on unfinished business. Five years after the derailment of her dreams she’s just barely existing, using her job as a hospice nurse to give others the one thing she can’t seem to find-closure. So when her elderly neighbor Charlie, a brilliant conspiracy nut known for harassing the FBI, is murdered, Sadie suspects Charlie might’ve been onto something and intends to make sure someone solves the mystery of her friend’s death, even if it’s her.

The feisty little blonde may have found the victim’s body, but FBI Special Agent Archer Hayes has no intention of letting some nosy civilian interfere with his investigation. The guilt he feels is bad enough. The last thing Archer needs is another distraction to haunt him. Especially one as beautiful and beguiling as the girl next door.

But throw in a mountain of hoarded evidence and suspiciously coded journals and the case takes a puzzling turn toward a decades old conspiracy cover-up from World War II-one only the victim’s closest confidant can help untangle. Sadie and Archer reluctantly join forces to decode the riddle of secrets Charlie carried to his grave. Or did he? Someone is after a dangerous truth. But to uncover it or bury it is a question that leads the unlikely pair on a quest for redemption that lands Sadie in the cross-hairs of a desperate killer. And when the dangers of the past and present collide Archer must fight to save the life of the woman he’s falling for . . . only to discover he might be the one in need of saving.

From Winter’s Ashes

Hopelessly unlucky in love and a target for tragedy, Joselyn Whyte hardly leads the charmed life you’d expect of an heiress. When she becomes the mark of an arsonist, the last person she expects to ride to her rescue is her nemesis—the man who sealed her fate as a frigid and lonely “Snow Whyte.”

Firefighter Finn Carson might talk a big game, but behind the swagger and the dimples is a man tormented by a mistake that cost a life. When a force stronger than his stubbornness pulls him off the bench and into a 5-Alarm fire for a miraculous save, Finn decides the key to his redemption lies with the Ice Princess he loathes. But the price to freedom from the guilt and nightmares might be too steep if it means bartering with Joselyn’s father by posing as her boyfriend—her safety and the ruthless billionaire’s senatorial campaign hanging on the combustible edge of a decade old grudge.

When secrets from the past resurface, the ruse and reality collide and threaten to thaw their heated rivalry—turning hate into something that terrifies them even more than the cunning predator with a bent sense of justice.

Eight Reasons I Adore The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015)

I have so many favorite films (and books for that matter) that the word favorite seems in danger of losing it’s impact and meaning. But I can’t help that I genuinely love so many of the stories I watch and read that I want to re-visit them over and over again.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is one of my many film loves. I never get tired of watching it and often use it as a cheery tonic when I am having a bad day. It’s just so much fun.  Instead of doing a review, I thought I would mix things up a bit and tell you why I adore it so much.

  1. HENRY CAVILL – This is one of the few movies Cavill is in that I love. And it’s not because he can’t act, but for some reason he is cast in films which I just don’t think are very good. Still, even when he played Superman in Man of Steel, a film which was so convoluted that I didn’t know what was going on half of the time, I enjoyed watching him during its long running time. Honestly, I would watch him paint a wall. And yes, I’m just shallow enough to admit, that sometimes a movie can be saved by its’ eye candy. Of course, that is not necessary in this film. And thankfully, Cavill for once, ends up with a really fun role as American former thief turned playboy spy Napoleon Solo.

2. ARMIE HAMMER as ILYA KURAKIN -Here’s another piece of eye candy I enjoy, but unlike Cavill, in The Man from U.N.C.L.E I actually watched him for the role he played. Maybe it’s because I’m always drawn to Russian characters in any film, but I genuinely loved the reticent, loner, Russian spy. Cavill’s Solo, may appear to be the main character, but I think it is really Ilya who grounds this film and its story,  keeping it from becoming ridiculous. 

3. A RELUCTANT BROMANCE -I love a good bromance and this is one of my favorites. The fact that Solo and Ilya are spies for Cold War enemy nations who are then forced by their superiors to work together adds a nice spin to the somewhat unwilling friendship that develops between them. Maybe friendship is too strong a word. Thanks to their profession, both men are used to working alone, are highly suspicious and unwilling to trust anyone. But they do develop a fun rapport and mutual respect as they learn to rely on each other while still maintaining loyalties to their countries and keeping a wary eye on each other.

From a rocky start…
…to a reluctant partnership.

4. QUICK & WITTY DIALOGUE – One of my laments about modern film is that it often lacks the snappy, smart dialogue I appreciate in classic film. That is certainly not the case with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. There are one line zingers, combative repartee, serious conversation hidden behind a blase manner, all the things that make a dialogue driven film so enjoyable for me.

Napoleon Solo: I absolutely hated working with you, Peril.

Illya Kuryakin: Your a terrible spy, Cowboy.

5. THE 60’s FASHION -Since this film is actually based on the original television series of the same name, it retained its original time setting in the 1960’s. Both of the main female characters get to wear amazing clothing pieces and accessories inspired by this decade. Alicia Vikander, who plays Gabby, gets to wear the most fun, colorful items. When I watch this film, I like to pretend that I’m her parading around in that awesome wardrobe. Our villainess, Victoria Vinciguerra also benefits from this film wardrobe, becoming the mannequin for sleeker yet still gorgeous styles.

Channeling Jackie O

6. A FEMALE VILLAIN! -Film villains are usually men. I like to see a female “bad guy”, but I believe they are really hard to get right. Many times, they tend to overcompensate and can come across as a caricature or they act so bitchy that you can’t even enjoy watching them on-screen. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. avoids these pitfalls and delivers a cold, calm, calculated villainess with the power and smarts of a male villain while still displaying her femininity. Actress Elizabeth Debicki, makes Victoria so much fun to watch as she slinks around the screen. Even though you know you should hate her, you also kind of want to applaud her guts and determination.

Dressed to kill

7. THE 60’s AGAIN -I love how this movie is very much like the caper films of this decade. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, accomplishing the result of being downright entertaining. And although I already mentioned the fashion, the rest of the film has a very 60’s feel as well, from the European settings, colors, tongue-in-cheek humor and more. I enjoyed seeing the use of split screens which is something you rarely see in modern films but was pretty prevalent in the 1960’s.

8. FUN SCENES – I love when a film has memorable scenes which stick with you and help you remember the film long-term. This one has at least two and I honestly can’t choose which one I like best, but if you watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. keep an eye out for the hotel wrestling scene between Ilya and Gabby. The escape scene with Solo and Ilya, with Ilya using his motor boat skills and Solo calmly sitting in a truck watching Ilya trying to lose the armored guards is also a lot of fun.

Just a little drunken midnight wrestling

If you haven’t seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E then you are in for a real treat. There are so many things to love and discover about this film. (And did I forget to mention Hugh Grant has a small role??) It was left open-ended for a potential sequel, which after a mediocre showing upon its initial release didn’t seem likely, but may still happen. At least it hasn’t been ruled out and I for one am keeping my finger crossed. So check out this guilty pleasure and let me know what you think. (Trust me, you’ll thank me later!)

Our oddly matched, yet intrepid trio.

Watch: On DVD, Amazon, or with a Cinemax subscription.

Foreign Film Friday -A Tale of Love and Darkness

A Tale of Love and Darkness is a film based on the book of the same name written by Jewish author Amos Oz. It is an autobiographical story of the author’s younger years growing up in Jerusalem in the years prior to and directly after the formation of the state of Israel.

SUMMARY

Young Amos lives with his parents in Jerusalem during a tumultuous time. WWII had ended recently. Many Jews moved to the British occupied area of Palestine which is tenuously shared with Arab residents. His mother, in particular, seems haunted by her past memories of the destruction of her privileged life in Poland. Amos’ mother Fania does her best to show her love to her son and husband, but those memories make it difficult for her to connect with them. While reconciling herself to her new and challenging present in Jerusalem, Fania shares stories, both fact and fiction, to help distract herself and her son from the struggle of their daily lives.

Please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review to see my complete review of this film.

Book Review -From Sand and Ash

SUMMARY

When young Angelo’s mother dies, his father sends him to live with his grandparents in Italy who are employed by a wealthy Jewish businessman. Still grieving, Angelo is befriended by the precocious daughter of the house, Eva Roselli. Eva and Angelo grow up together much like a brother and sister, but they both know the feelings between them run deeper. However, Angelo is determined to be a priest and Eva is set on a path to be an accomplished violinist, so despite occasionally betraying their feelings for one another, they each pursue their chosen vocations.

Everything changes when WWII breaks out and Italy allies itself with Germany. Angelo’s duty to God and the priesthood are challenged by his mission to keep not only his beloved Eva safe, but also their shared loved ones. Things only become more complicated when they both get involved in the Italian underground working to save and rescue Italy’s Jewish population.

REVIEW

I recently read and reviewed my first book by Amy Harmon and was blown away. I didn’t expect that she could write another story I would love even better, but she has done so with From Sand and Ash. Honestly, no words I could give you would do justice to the beauty and poignancy of Eva and Angelo’s story. I have read other WWII stories, but none quite like this one. The setting in Italy and the perspective of the war from the Italian perspective is unique. Particularly since many Italians were not in favor of the war and were dragged into it by bad leadership. Also, the fact that Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943 which then made their former ally Germany, their new enemy, gives an interesting twist to the story. Even though they expected to be liberated, they experienced the opposite as the Germans moved in, occupied the country and then began oppressing and torturing the Italian people. War stories can become a little too dark for me sometimes, but Harmon does a great job of balancing the horror with hope.

I also loved the uniqueness of Eva and Angelo’s inter-faith relationship. Harmon took an unlikely handicapped man, ordained to be a priest and turned him into a romantic hero. Not only that, but the usual dynamic is turned upside down, because Eva and her family are wealthy Jews with Angelo’s Catholic family acting as both employees and surrogate family. I liked how Eva acted as the aggressor many times, fighting for their love to have a chance, with Angelo taking the path of strong resistance and self-sacrifice.

This is such a beautiful story not only of romantic love and denial between a couple of different faiths, but also of the depths and strength of the human spirit in times of extreme fear, chaos and horror. Sometimes, the agony of the world can seem overwhelming and it is hard to know what to do, when every action seems so small. But From Sand and Ash demonstrates that although we cannot save the whole world, we do what we can to offer hope, to save one at a time. Every life matters and the sacrifices that Eva and Angelo make for their loved ones and strangers shows the depths of their courage and the true cost of love.

Though very religious types might find things to quibble with in this book, I thought the author did an excellent job of weaving in the history and meaning of both the Jewish and Catholic faiths without becoming preachy.  I learned new things about both faiths that I had never known before. It is particularly interesting, that according to the author’s notes, the survival rate of Italian Jews was 80 percent, thanks to the work and sacrifice of Italian citizens and the Catholic church who hid and protected them. Contrast that with the 80 percent mortality rate of other European Jews.

CONCLUSION

I feel so inadequate in reviewing this story that so seriously impacted me. Even the title has unsuspected depths and meanings which I am still meditating over.

My big takeaway from this story is the power and diversity of love. The love of family for which we willingly sacrifice, the love of life and righteousness that forces us to act on behalf of others even at great risk to self and the purity of love which motivates self-sacrifice and denial and also overcomes enormous differences and great evil. I believe this is a story that I will have to read multiple times to experience and to learn its’ total depth and impact. And I won’t mind that one bit.

From Sand and Ash is available on Amazon. Don’t forget to check out the author’s inspiration board on Pinterest for images relating to this story.

Classic Film Review -Pillow to Post (1945)

SUMMARY

Idle Jean Howard wants to do her part for the war effort. Since there is a shortage of men, her father’s oil company has no salesmen. Jean volunteers for the job and despite her father’s resistance heads out onto the road to try to save some company accounts.

Although she gives it her best efforts in her cross-country sales tour, Jean has no success. She finally lands at the Black Hills Oil Co. where Earl “Slim” Clark agrees to listen to her pitch. But only if she wines and dines him first. Of course, Slim’s motives are suspect as it is clear he finds Jean extremely attractive. Jean agrees and heads out to look for a place to stay for the night

Unfortunately, Jean finds herself looking for accommodations in an overcrowded army base town. There is absolutely nothing available until a last minute cancellation secures Jean a reservation. The only problem is, the room available is in a motor court which only caters to married couples. So Jean, manages to coerce a lieutenant from the local base to register with her as her husband with the plan being that he can leave once she has checked into the room.

The Lieutenant and Jean discuss arrangements.

But of course, as usual in this type of movie, nothing goes according to plan. Lieutenant Don Mallory’s commanding officer is staying at the same place and happens across Don and Jean as the bellboy is taking them to their room. Things go from bad to worse and hijinks ensue as more misunderstandings arise and Slim arrives to take Jean to their “business” dinner.  Being fake-married to a stranger can be challenging enough, but never has it been so hard to keep up appearances as the motor court is full of female busy bodies and both Don and Jean’s parents eventually show up unexpectedly.

Will Jean manage to land the sales account Slim is dangling before her? Will Don get kicked out of the army for breaking the morals clause by lying about the fake marriage?

MY THOUGHTS

Pillow to Post is a sweet little romantic comedy, that borders on ridiculous sometimes, but is still so much fun. Ida Lupino plays Jean Howard with a slightly scatter brained but determined air. Lupino generally starred in drama films and is a good actress but not one I typically choose to watch. However, she manages to play this comedic role well taking it almost to the edge of obnoxious but not quite. It doesn’t hurt that she slightly resembles an adult Shirley Temple which lends her an air of innocence as she juggles two men and a complicated situation.

Don & Jean contemplate their predicament.

I’m unfamiliar with the two actors who played the male leads, but I have no complaints with their acting skills.

One of the highlights of this film for me is seeing one of my favorite character actors Sydney Greenstreet play Don’s commanding officer, Colonel Otley. Greenstreet was known for being fat and several of his films would reference his weight as a joke in their dialogue. This film is no exception as it shows the Colonel on a strict diet to prepare him for being shipped overseas. He also gets the rare chance to play a comedic role as he often played the “bad” man in films.  I prefer him in comedies because he has such a jolly laugh and often comes across as a devious little boy.

Don explaining his “wife” to his commanding officer.

There is a running gag about one of the service man staying at the motor court, who is constantly on the search for avocados for his pregnant wife. The end of the film has her giving birth to multiples and he blames it on the avocados.

There is also a cameo appearance by musician Louis Armstrong who not only plays his trumpet but briefly sings in a scene where Jean, Don and Slim are at a dinner club.

Pillow to Post is not a groundbreaking film but it is a fun one to watch with a run time of just over 90 minutes. It is available on DVD and occasionally makes an appearance on TV.