Monthly Archives: September 2015

On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part I

Amicalola Falls 01.jpg





Amicalola Falls:  You can see these Falls hiking up to Springer Mountain, “southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail,” as seen in the 2015 movie, A Walk in the Woods


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September, 2015 – Last September 6, a Sunday afternoon, I went to see A Walk in the Woods. The “American adventure comedy biopic film,” based on the 1998 memoir by Bill Bryson. According to Wikipedia, Robert Redford plays Bryson, “now in his late 50s or early 60s.” The movie has Bryson decide to hike the whole Appalachian Trail in one fell swoop. (2,200 miles, and after living in Britain the past 20 years.)That in itself requires a hefty suspension of disbelief.

You see, in the film Redford – born in 1936 – looks to be all of his 79 years of  age. And he now seems to be “paying the price for all that ultraviolet glare on the ski slopes,” as one reviewer said.  (And noted below.) The same critic said of Nick Nolte – Redford’s hiking buddy in the film – that the “handsomely rough-hewn star of North Dallas Forty looks more like a ruddy-faced Yeti.”

But another critic put this positive spin on the film (also on September 6):

With its odd-couple cast and appeal to grown-up audiences, “A Walk in the Woods” has performed solidly at the box office since its debut on Wednesday.  As of Saturday morning [September 5] it had grossed about $10 million.

See Fact-Checking “A Walk in the Woods.”   The reviewer – John Jurgensen – then noted his personal interest in the movie.

In college he’d spent two summers on the Trail as a ridgerunner. (Someone hired to hike various sections of the trail, and/or “tally hiker traffic, monitor trail and campsite conditions, and generally help visitors navigate and understand the A.T.”)

So I suppose I should note my own personal interest in the movie.

Back in 1967 – I was 16 – my next-older brother and I hatched the idea of hiking the Trail from Springer Mountain to Gettysburg, where our aunt and uncle lived,   (Some 623 miles.  My brother was a year or two older.)  For some reason my parents didn’t bust out laughing. (And didn’t say “Are you serious?”  Or  slap their knees while wiping away tears of laughter…)

Instead they thought it was a great idea.  (Apparently.)

So in the early summer of 1967 my brother and I found ourselves dropped off at Amicalola Falls State Park, gateway to Springer Mountain.  (Dropped off by our oldest brother, a student at Georgia Tech at the time.)  Which brings up one key difference.  (To me anyway…)

Back in 1967 we didn’t seen any “magic archway” at our Amicalola Falls entrance to the Approach Trail.  (Nor did we see a paved path of any kind.)  The park at the time was extremely primitive…  But first, a note about my brother and quitting.  (Not unlike Redford and Nolte.)

The thing is, metal-frame backpacks were all the rage back in 1967.  But as we found out, they had a tendency to chisel great gouges of flesh in one’s lower back.  See also Why Internal Frame Backpacks, on the “shift away from external frame backpacks.”  The article added:

The downsides to externals are that, because they carry the weight high and away from your back, they don’t have the best stability.  So, you run the risk of feeling tippy and off-balance … climbing or descending dicey terrain [and] you’ll likely get hung up on branches and brush…  I can’t remember the last time I saw a new or innovative external.

But it was the “flesh-gouging” that caused my brother and I to reconsider our plans after a single afternoon.   On the other hand, our oldest “Tech brother” couldn’t come back and pick us up until the following weekend.  So we were stranded, but we ended up spending a quite pleasant – and isolated – week of tent camping, away from adult supervision.

I suppose there’s some kind of object lesson there.  (See also kismet.)

But we were talking about the “magic archway” featured in the movie, but not seen by us back in 1967.  Which is another way of saying that at least one entrance to the Approach Trail has become “all touristy.”  (Again, at least as seen in the film.) On the other hand, the 8.8-mile hike from there up to Springer Mountain is all uphill, as Redford and Nolte noted in the film.  (See AT Approach Trail … to Springer Mountain:  “The AT Approach Trail climbs solidly uphill, departing Black Gap to hike the lower elevations of Springer Mountain’s southern slope.”)

Which in turn could be a metaphor for the uphill battle the film faces at the hands of critics.

At best the film has gotten mixed reviews.  One site called it “amiable yet less compelling” than a movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte should be.  (Also, “ultimately a bit too pedestrian,” possible pun intended.)  And critic Susan Wloszczyna asked this musical question:

There is only one question that you need to ask yourself before deciding to see “A Walk in the Woods:”  Can you justify sitting through an utterly predictable and rather tame man vs. nature ramble in order to enjoy the affable odd-couple chemistry shared by Robert Redfordand Nick Nolte?

See A Walk in the Woods Movie Review (2015), at Roger  (Ebert himself died in 2013, of complications from his earlier papillary thyroid cancer.  See Wikipedia.)

One possible answer is that Ms. Wloszczyna is more into chick flicks. She compared the film negatively with “Reese Witherspoon in last year’s ‘Wild.’”  (As shown in the movie poster at left):

Witherspoon in her Oscar-nominated role struggled with her inner demons as much as she did the elements, [but] “A Walk in the Woods” is more about two unlikely acquaintances… Redford’s wry Bryson … tired of resting on his considerable laurels … is in a funk after attending a funeral.  That is when he spies a marker for the Georgia-to-Maine trail…   Against the wishes of his sensible British wife … Emma Thompson … he decides on a whim to attempt this marathon test of endurance and picks Katz to join him – primarily because none of his other friends are crazy enough to say yes.

“Tired of resting on his considerable laurels?”  (A metaphor perhaps?)  “Against the wishes of his sensible wife?”  “Decides on a whim?”  Ms. Wloszczyna could as easily have come out and said plainly – to Bryson and every other potential geezer over 65 – “Slow down.  Pack your manhood in cotton wool.  Smother your impulses.  Why don’t you just [expletive deleted] give up?

To be continued…

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The upper image is courtesy of Amicalola Falls State Park – Wikipedia.

Re:  “at the hands of the critics.”  Wikipedia noted:  “Walk in the Woods has received mixed reviews from critics.  On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 46%, based on 104 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10.  The site’s critical consensus reads, “Amiable yet less compelling than any road trip movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte should be, A Walk in the Woods is ultimately a bit too pedestrian.”  On Metacritic, the film has a score of 51 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews.”  On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of ‘B’ on an A+ to F scale.”

Re: Roger Ebert.  Wikipedia noted that Ebert himself “described his critical approach to films as “relative, not absolute”; he reviewed a film for what he felt it would be to its prospective audience, yet always with at least some consideration as to its value as a whole.”

The lower “give up” image is courtesy of

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On “A Walk in the Woods” – Part II

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Part I ended with film critic Susan Wloszczyna‘s take on Walk in the Woods. She said Robert Redford’s “wry Bryson” decided to walk the entire Appalachian Trail on a whim. (And he was “in a funk after attending a funeral.”)  She added that at the time he was “tired of resting on his considerable laurels.” (Which I thought a metaphoric zing!)  She said the whole idea was crazy, and “against the wishes of his sensible British wife.” Finally, she said the only reason “Bryson” got “Katz” to come along was that “none of his other friends are crazy enough to say yes.”

The unspoken message? “Why don’t you old geezer-men just give up?

She could have easily asked the same question of two other old geezers – aged 63 and 69 – who planned a canoe trip 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, off the Mississippi coast. (And well into the realm of sharks, drownings, and other potential catastrophes.)  That was us – my brother and I – last November, eight days of primitive camping on isolated offshore islands and the occasional salt marsh. (And against the advice of my older geezer’s sensible daughter…)

For one answer we can turn to John Steinbeck. He began Part Two of his book Travels with Charley by noting that most men his age get told – constantly – to “slow down.”  (The object being to “trade their violence for a small increase in life span.”) But that wasn’t his way:

I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage…  If this projected journey should prove too much then it was time to go anyway.  I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage.  It’s bad theater as well as bad living.

November 10, 2014 photo IMG_4329_zps7f7b5ddb.jpgFor the full answer see On canoeing 12 miles offshore, posted last May 23. (With the image at right, with the answer, “For moments like this!“)

That post included what Steinbeck said in Travels with Charley, and what Robert Louis Stevenson said in his 1879 book, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. The point being – to Ms. Wloszczyna and others like her – that the problem has been around a long, long time, and is not likely to go away any time soon.

It is true – as she notes – that “Nolte’s wheezy scalawag can barely stumble out of a small plane.” (Which made me wonder as well:  How could his character really hike as far as the movie said he did.)  It’s also true that there’s “an R-rated abundance of salty language, what with Bryson prone to expressing what a bear does in the woods and Katz’s committed embrace of the F-word.”  But her comment about the “lack of deep revelations or bouts of philosophizing along the way” suggested that she doesn’t know men very well.

(We have our flaws, but we are good for one or two good things around the house…)

On the other hand, she did get the connection with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

Oddly enough, there is a scene that briefly summons memories of Butch and Sundance when the guys [Redford and Nolte] are trapped on a ledge and peer over a harrowing incline to see a body of water below. I kept hoping they would jump in together.  But it was not to be.

Which brings us back to Wloszczyna‘s question:  “Can you justify sitting through an utterly predictable and rather tame man vs. nature ramble?” The answer – for me anyway, and others as well – is a hearty “Yes!”  (Especially true after having watched the definitely-creepy movie “The Gift” just the day before.)

A Walk in the Woods has flaws. I found myself asking – throughout the film – “Why in the world would he do that?”  (Or the variation, “Why would he do it that way?”) Why would the Redford character pick the Nolte character to tag along, when he would clearly be better off hiking alone?  (Having hiked portions of the Trail myself by now, I can say it’s definitely not “lonely.”)  And why would he commit to hiking the whole length of the Trail, without even considering a preliminary or test* overnight-hike or two?

Which is pretty much the same mistake my brother Tim and I made back in 1967.

Back then we were stupid teenagers.  (Or is that redundant?)  Plus, we had “sensible” parents who should have known better.  One answer is that life is fraught with flaws, so sometimes it’s “good theater” to show life as it really is, or will be if and when you make stupid mistakes. And Fact-Checking “A Walk” offered some positive things about the film.

For one, it’s about “novice hikers who attempt to complete the trail.” (In itself a recipe for disaster.)  For another thing it’s “a movie about nature’s majesty.”  (Not about “philosophizing.”)  And third:

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has said that additional ridgerunners will be hired in anticipation of an influx of hikers motivated by “A Walk in the Woods” to check out the famous footpath.

Fourth, the reviewer noted many “greenhorns” he met as a ridgerunner “were dangerously unprepared or ridiculously over-packed.”  Also, “the most common source of trail stress I encountered were people with blisters and other foot ailments caused by brand new boots or excessive mileage.”  Then too the director himself noted, “In our story it was important that Redford’s character doesn’t really know why he’s doing it.”

Which I suppose is an viable comment on men in general, and especially older men, on the verge or past the verge of “Geezer-dom.”  Sometimes we do things just for the hell of it.

(“Oh, and women never do things ‘they know not why?'”)

But the best part of the Fact-Checking review?  The part where the director – Ken Kwapis – said that he doesn’t pay any attention to – or even read – those negative reviews:

Didn’t read a one of those reviews.  As people say, if you’re going to believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones, so I ignore all of them…

Which provides another valuable lesson.  “Sometimes you should just ignore the critics.”

For all these reasons and more, A Walk in the Woods is definitely a film worth seeing.  If you’re into that sort of thing.  And even if – or perhaps because – “every female [in the film] exists to simply serve the needs of the central male characters.”  (As Ms. Wloszczyna alleged.)

But don’t just take my word for it.  Mi Dulce liked the film almost as much as I did…

 November 10, 2014 photo IMG_4332_zps47e076b9.jpg“Siesta at sea,” 12 miles offshore.  (An experience a “stay-at-home” will never have…)

The upper image is courtesy of Kristen Schaal Talks A Walk in the Woods: “Kristen Schaal is one of those trusted comedic talents who, whenever she pops up in a TV show or film, you know she’ll leave an impression…  [In “Woods” she] plays a fellow trail hiker who is also a know-it-all annoyance.”

And speaking of “every female [in the film] exists to simply serve the needs of the central male characters…”   It’s hard to see how the Kristen Schaal character fit into that stereotype

Re: director Ken Kwapis and what he learned.  He added that after “reading the book and making this movie, I came home and realized I could barely identify any of the trees in my own backyard.  So it has encouraged me to better see what’s right in front of my face.”

The lower image is courtesy of On canoeing 12 miles offshore.  Yours truly took the picture just after the dawn of a morning when we two geezer-canoeists got up at 3:00 a.m.  (The object was to negotiate the Gulf of Mexico before the wind stirred up the waves.)  We paddled 17 miles in 11 hours, in two separate canoes .  And aside from the occasional “siesta at sea,” the only break we took was a one-hour stopover on Cat Island, some seven miles off the Mississippi coast.

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 Which brings up the wisdom of doing “a preliminary or test* overnight-hike or two.”   (Something the Redford character failed to even consider in the film.)

Which is being interpreted:  My “failure” back in 1967 has always stuck in my craw.  But at this late stage of my life I know I’ll probably never hike the whole Trail, or even the 623-mile segment from Springer Mountain to Gettysburg.  On the other hand I am determined to hike segments of the Trail, one in each state it passes through, and preferably in three- or four-day segments.

To that end, I’ve done two three-hour hikes, one north and south of where U.S. 64 intersects the Trail near Franklin, North Carolina.  The second test-hike was “to” Springer Mountain, but from the other end.  (So to speak.)  That is, from the trailhead in Google Maps as “Three Forks USFS 58 4.3, Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge, GA.” (That would be “U.S. Forest Service Road.”)  And for both test-hikes I wore a 22-pound weight vest, for training purposes.

My next project is a 27-mile hike from where U.S. 64 intersects the Trail, up to Wesser NC.  The question is whether it’ll take two or three days.  

And a BTW:  My “canoe buddy” from 12 miles offshore is now proposing a 16-day canoe trip down the Yukon River, from White Horse to Dawson City.  (That‘ll be worth a blog-post!)

The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes

Lesley Howard – middle – played Professor Henry Higgins in the 1938 film Pygmalion.

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Leslie Howard was best known for playing Ashley Wilkes in 1939’s Gone with the Wind. (As the man Scarlett O’Hara was obsessed with.) At that point Howard was a mere 46 years old.  And – while no one could know at the time – he had only four more years to live. In June 1943 his passenger airliner was shot down over the Bay of Biscay, between Portugal and England. According to one theory, “he” got shot down because the Nazis thought he was a British spy.

Howard’s airliner did get “shot down by the Luftwaffe,” but we may never know if he was really a British spy or if this was a case of mistaken identity. Even so, the question itself is intriguing.

That airliner was shot down some nine months after the release of Howard’s 1942 movie Spitfire. (A poster is shown at left.) And his death did come about under suspicious circumstances.There’s more on that later, but first a word about how I learned about this mysterious death. In August 2015 I’d flown out to Utah for to visit my brother, and the night before I was to fly back we watched “Spitfire.” There’s more detail in the notes, but watching that movie got me on the path to learning about how Howard died so mysteriously.

Spitfire was originally called The First of the Few in Britain.  (The name was changed to “Spitfire” for American audiences.)  Howard played “R.J. Mitchell, who designed the Supermarine Spitfire.” The British title alluded to Winston Churchill‘s memorable speech, attributing victory in the Battle of Britain to “the few.”  (That is, the few men who piloted British fighters in the battle, and especially those who flew the Spitfire.)  As Churchill put it, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-363-2258-11, Flugzeug Junkers Ju 88.jpgThe film came out in Britain on September 12, 1942.  Less than nine months later – “on or about” June 1, 1943 – Howard’s airliner was attacked by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft.  The airliner – with 16 other passengers and crew – was attacked some 500 miles west of Bordeaux, France. The plane – or parts of it – came down in the Bay of Biscay, some 200 miles north of La Coruña, on the far northwestern tip of Spain.

As to why the Luftwaffe shot down the airliner, here’s what Wikipedia said of Howard:

He was active in anti-German propaganda and reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence, which may have led to his death in 1943[.  He] was shot down over the Bay of Biscay, sparking conspiracy theories regarding his death.

There was an alternate theory:  That the Germans were really after Winston Churchill.

During the early years of World War II, Churchill routinely flew over the Bay of Biscay.  By June, 1943, he was just finishing up a month-long trip to North Africa, including an inter-Allied conference in Algiers.  The North Africa Campaign was just ending, and Allied leaders were planning the invasion of Sicily and Italy.  The normal stop-over for such trips from North Africa to London was Lisbon, in ostensibly-neutral Portugal.  (Often via Gibraltar.)

But also during the war, Lisbon was a hotbed of “trade, conspiracy, and subterfuge.”  (Note that Lisbon was the destination of refugees and reprobates alike in the movie Casablanca.)

When Churchill took such flights – to and from London and/or North Africa via Lisbon – he was accompanied by a single bodyguard, Detective Inspector Walter H. Thompson.  Thompson was tall and slender, and looked much like Howard. But in a strange twist, when Howard took his flight from Lisbon, he was accompanied by a close friend and business manager, Alfred Chenhalls. And to some people, Chenhalls looked “Churchillesque.”  Which brings up this:

A long-standing hypothesis states that the Germans believed that Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was on board the flight.  Churchill, in his autobiography, expressed sorrow that a mistake about his activities might have cost Howard his life.

See also “Churchill’s Bodyguard,” the BBC television series that suggested German intelligence agents knew of Churchill’s comings and goings from the area.  On that note, Detective Thompson later wrote that Churchill often seemed clairvoyant about threats to his safety.  And according to Thompson, Churchill had a premonition about his proposed flight over the Bay of Biscay on June 1, 1943, and so changed his departure to the following day.

Thus because of a perceived threat to his safety, Churchill changed his planned flight home:

Full of confidence, the Prime Minister flies home.  And unwittingly causes a tragedy.  Aware of his presence in North Africa, the Germans have prepared a trap.  Their watchful agents in Lisbon report the departure of a thickset gentleman smoking a big cigar aboard a commercial aircraft leaving on a scheduled flight.  Shortly after take-off it is pounced on by a German fighter [sic] and shot down with ridiculous ease.  Among its fourteen passengers is film star Leslie Howard.  The innocent cause of their death is a brilliant accountant and amateur musician called Alfred Chenhalls, whose resemblance to Churchill is superficial merely.

Boeing 314 Clipper-cropped.jpg(TVY 186)  William Manchester‘s book The Last Lion added some telling details.  He indicated that on June 4, 1943, Churchill boarded an Avro York for the flight to Gibraltar, from Algiers.  He said Churchill planned to transfer at Gibraltar to a more-comfortable “Boeing flying boat [seen at left] for the final leg of the trip,” to London.  But bad weather forced him to transfer to a B-24 Liberator instead.  And there was some other confusion:

That day, a German spy at the Lisbon airport reported to his superiors that a thickset man smoking a cigar had been seen boarding a commercial flight, another flying boat, destination London.  Phone calls were made, German fighter aircraft scrambled.  The hapless aircraft was shot down over the sea, killing all fourteen passengers, including the popular screen actor Leslie Howard.

According to Manchester, when Churchill got back to London he noted the brutality of the Germans, as exemplified by the attack on Howard’s airliner.  But – he said – their brutality “was matched only by the stupidity of their agents.”

(Just as an aside, Manchester said this latest incident “unsettled Britons,” who “felt ill at ease” about Churchill’s being away from the country for a full month.  They were equally ill at ease about his taking such unprotected flights so close to enemy territory.)

Roy Jenkins made a similar point in his biography of Churchill.  He wrote that Churchill flew back to London “on the night of 4-5 June (1943),” and that the journey was without incident, except for bad weather.  That in turn meant that Churchill couldn’t transfer to a “more comfortable flying boat,” but had to continue by uncomfortable bomber.  (The B-24.)

Later that same day however another Pan American flying boat did take off from Lisbon for Plymouth and was shot down with the deaths of a full load of passengers, including Leslie Howard of Scarlet Pimpernel fame.  In the same month a Liberator bomber (a companion to Churchill’s plane) flying from Gibraltar to England was also shot down, with the death of General Sikorski, the head of the Polish forces, and two accompanying British MPs.

The point being that Churchill appeared to be taking unnecessary risks.  (Note also that the two “MPs” in this case were Members of Parliament.)

But there were other theories as well.  According to the “Churchill” theory, the German intelligence agents in and around Lisbon were really stupid.  But according to some alternate theories, those agents knew exactly what they were doing.

One such theory had it that Howard was on a top-secret mission – for Churchill – to persuade Spain’s Francisco Franco not to join the Axis powers, Germany and Italy.  (Spain was officially neutral at the time.) Howard’s go-between was said to be Conchita Montenegro (at right), with whom he’d ostensibly had a torrid love affair.

(Not to mention Tallulah Bankhead and Merle Oberon, two of his other leading ladies.   While he was said to be something of a ladies’ man at the time, Howard once quipped that he “didn’t chase women but … couldn’t always be bothered to run away” from them either.)

Other sources indicate that Howard’s successful anti-Nazi activities in the early years of World War Two “enraged Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who called Howard ‘Britain’s most dangerous propagandist,’” and that Howard also worked for British Intelligence.

Still other sources note another passenger on Howard’s airliner, “leading anti-Nazi activist Wilfrid Israel, who had helped Jewish refugees escape from the Holocaust.” You can see even more theories about this or these mysterious death(s) in the notes, but all of them lead to this thought: To think, some people thought those years were better and simpler times…

*   *   *   * Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind trailer cropped.jpg“Ashley Wilkes,” anti-Nazi agitator?

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The upper image is courtesy of Leslie Howard (actor) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  I changed to this image on January 5, 2016, after reviewing the post for a New Year’s “retrospective.”  That look-back showed a foul-up in the image-transfer, originally from The First of the Few – Wikipedia.  That’s where the image to the left of the paragraph beginning “His airliner was shot down” came from.

Note also that while some sources said Howard’s airliner was shot down on June 1, others give the date as June 4, 1943.  Thus the phrase “on or about” June 1, 1943.

Here’s what I wrote in the original post, back in 2015. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m back in the saddle after three weeks out of town. (Part of that time was spent on the Columbia River, near Astoria, on unfinished canoe-trip business…) And it was only during that three-week hiatus – from home and daily routine – that I found out there were mysterious circumstances around Leslie Howard’s death. (Aboard an airliner like the one below right.) That happened because my brother is more delightfully retro than [me…]

BOAC Flt 777.jpg“[T]he night before I took my own commercial flight back home to God’s Country – the outskirts of Atlanta – we watched an old black-and-white movie:  1942’s Spitfire, starring Leslie Howard… On VHS no less, while enjoying some of Utah’s famed 3.2 beers…” The “airliner” image is courtesy of BOAC Flight 777 – Wikipedia, noted further below.

Re:  “The film was released … 1942.”  See First of the Few (1942) | Inafferrabile [sic] Leslie Howard. The site said in the U.S., Spitfire was released on June 12, 1943, “a few days after Leslie’s death.”

Re:  3.2 beer.  See The Legacy of 3.2% Beer | The Society of Wine and Jurisprudence.  The site said such beer is a “relic” of Prohibition.  “In an attempt to limit the availability of higher-octane beverages, 3.2% is currently the only beverage allowed for sale at grocery stores in Colorado, Utah, and several other states.” (E.A.)

Re: “German fighters,” as to the Junkers Ju 88C6. As Wikipedia noted, a fighter aircraft is a “military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft.”  The Ju 88C6 was a “twin-engined multirole combat aircraft,” designed to be “too fast for any of the fighters of its era to intercept.”  It was used in roles including but not limited to “night fighterheavy fighter and even, during the closing stages of the conflict in Europe, as a flying bomb.”

That there were eight Ju 88C6s came from the article, List of airliner shootdown incidents – Wikipedia.

“Full of confidence … TVY.”  See Winston Churchill:  The Valiant Years, Jack Le Vien and John Lord, Bernard Geis and Associates (1962), at page 186.  Note also:

     1)   Manchester’s “Last Lion…”  See The Last Lion[:]  Winston Churchill Defender of the Realm 1940-1965, William Manchester and Paul Reid, Little, Brown and Company (2012), pages 688-89.

     2)  William Manchester – noted American author, biographer and historian – died in 2004, while still at work on Last Lion.  He chose his friend Paul Reid to finish the work.  As Reid himself noted, Manchester began this “third and final volume of his biography of Winston Churchill” in 1988.  Reid indicated that Manchester’s research on the book was complete but that he’d written only some 100 pages between 1988 and 1998, due to increasingly poor health.  After Manchester died, Reid began the process of completing the book.  See also Wikipedia:

Following the death of his wife in 1998, Manchester suffered from two strokes.  He announced that he would not be able to complete his planned third volume of his three part-biography of Churchill, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965.  He was also initially reluctant to collaborate with anyone to finish to work.  In October 2003, Manchester asked Paul Reid, a friend and writer for The Palm Beach Post, to complete the Churchill biography.

Re: Roy Jenkins.  See Churchill[:]  A Biography, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (2001), at pages 712-13. For what it’s worth, Jenkins put the “cumulative risk to which Churchill’s manifold journeys exposed him” at some 30 per cent.  

Re: “flying boat.”  The airliner in question was built by Boeing, flown by Pan American Airways and called the Clipper:  “Twelve Clippers were built; nine were brought into service for Pan Am and later transferred to the U.S. military.  The remaining three were sold to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) by Pan Am and delivered in early 1941.  (BOAC‘s 3 Short S.26 transoceanic flying-boats had been requisitioned by the RAF).” See Boeing 314 Clipper – Wikipedia.

As to other theories, including that Howard’s plane was shot down because another passenger was “leading anti-Nazi activist Wilfrid Israel: Israel was a “friend of Albert Einstein, the philosopher Martin Buber, and Chaim Weizmann, later the first president of the state of Israel.”  Wikipedia indicated that in the wake of Kristallnacht – the 1938 pogrom or “night of broken glass” in Germany – Wilfrid Israel took an active role, contacting among others “the Council for German Jewry in London, informing them that extraordinary measures must now be taken to save at least the children.” Regardless of such theories why this particular airliner was shot down, this fact remains:  The tragedy made Howard “the first cast member from Gone With The Wind to die.”

Misfits3423.jpgBut other cast members lived long and productive lives. For example, Vivien Leigh – who played Scarlett O’Hara) – lived on until 1967. Olivia de Havilland – who played Melanie Hamilton, Scarlett’s rival and the cousin Ashley married – is still alive and has been living in Paris since 1960.  And it was only in 1960 that Clark Gable died.

Gable played Rhett Butler in GWTW, but went on to numerous other movie roles including The Misfits, his final screen appearance.  That movie also starred Marilyn Monroe.  (At the time she was going through a “breakdown” of her marriage to writer Arthur Miller.  Miller wrote the Misfits screenplay, and “revised the script throughout the shoot as the concepts of the film developed.”)

Monroe herself died on August 5, 1962 – at age 36 – a little over a year after the release of Misfits on February 1, 1961.  The coroner listed the cause of death as “acute barbiturate poisoning” and/or “probable suicide,” but there were other theories here too:

Many theories, including murder, circulated about the circumstances of her death and the timeline after the body was found.  Some conspiracy theories involved John and Robert Kennedy, while other theories suggested CIA or Mafia complicity.  It was reported that President Kennedy was the last person Monroe called.

The “Conchita” image is courtesy of  Wikipedia added this:

Following a rare interview with Montenegro shortly before her death, Spanish author José Rey-Ximena claims that British actor Leslie Howard used her to get close to Spanish dictator Franco after being given the special mission by Winston Churchill.  She claimed that she used her husband’s influence to secure a meeting between the British actor and the Spanish dictator.  “Thanks to him … Spain was persuaded to stay out of the war.”  (E.A.)

Re:  Franco and Spain’s neutrality. See Francisco Franco – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediawhich noted that on “23 October 1940 Hitler and Franco met in Hendaye, France, to discuss the possibility of Spain’s entry on the side of the Axis.  However, Franco’s demands, which included food, military equipment, and Spanish control of Gibraltar and French North Africa proved too much for Hitler.”

Note that an agitator is someone who “actively supports some ideology or movement with speeches and especially actions.”  The term originally referred to elected soldier-representatives of “the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell, during the English Civil War.  They were also known as adjutators.”  See Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Other sources for this post include Leslie Howard (actor), Ashley Wilkes, and Gone with the Wind (film) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, as well as the following:


He was travelling with his tax adviser, cigar-smoking Alfred Chenhalls, who bore a resemblance to Winston Churchill – Churchill was at that time about to fly back from an Allied conference in North Africa.  Also on board was leading anti-Nazi activist Wilfrid Israel, who had helped Jewish refugees escape from the Holocaust.

See also BOAC Flight 777 – Wikipedia, which noted thatthe Douglas DC-3 lost in this attack had twice survived attacks by Luftwaffe fighters in November 1942 and April 1943.”

The Shootdown of Leslie Howard | Defense Media Network listed the date as June 1, and added:

Never entirely comfortable with Hollywood life, when war broke out, Howard, a Jew, decided to return to England and apply his fame and talent to a higher calling – helping his country fight the Axis.  Howard starred, directed, and produced anti-German war films [like Spitfire] and radio broadcasts, and conducted lecture tours.  His success enraged Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who called Howard “Britain’s most dangerous propagandist…”  What the public didn’t know, though the Nazis did, was that Howard also worked for British Intelligence.

Note also the critical British base at Gibraltar, which played a key role in Churchill’s travels to and from North Africa.  The base guarded the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, where the Strait of Gibraltar is a mere eight miles wide or less.  The base was “used primarily as a training area … and as a stopover for aircraft and ships en route to and from deployments East of Suez or Africa.” 

And finally see The actor, the Jew and Churchill’s double. – Eye on Spain, and also Churchill  A Photographic Portrait, by Martin Gilbert, Houghton Mifflin (1974):  

     1)  Photograph 292 in Portrait shows Churchill standing between U.S. General George Marshall and Field Marshal Montgomery, with the caption:  “While in Algiers, Churchill finalized the plans for the invasion of Sicily and Italy with the British and American leaders.  This photograph, taken on 3 June 1943, was annotated by General Montgomery.”  Montgomery later recalled, “Winston wanted me to say the Sicilian invasion would be all right.  But I wouldn’t.”  Despite Montgomery’s doubts, the Allied invasion liberated Sicily in some six weeks.  (July 10-August 17, 1943.)