Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Remember Pearl Harbor

By Walter Haan,

In nine days, on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day will be remembered. The infamous attack that took America by surprise (except perhaps for those in the White House) stunned and rallied the nation. Within 3 days, we were officially at war with Japan, Germany and Italy.

Hollywood's reaction to the equally surprising attacks on September 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington, DC by Muslim extremists and the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese were quite different. Hollywood treaded carefully after 9/11 and didn't release any dramatizations about the attacks right away.

The Pearl Harbor attack was handled quite differently by movie studios. They were stumbling over themselves to get movies made about Pearl Harbor. Republic Studios won the race for the first film about the attack because it already had a film in production about Japanese agents doing dastardly deeds in the Philippines. After Pearl Harbor, the studio simply rewrote portions of the script and renamed the picture, Remember Pearl Harbor. The film was released on May 18, 1942. The final plot was that on the eve of Pearl Harbor, an American soldier/airman in the Philippines gets mixed up with a group of Japanese agents. When he learns of the attack, he changes his behavior and exposes the espionage ring, and then gives his life for his country by crashing his plane into a Japanese troopship. The Philippines was an American territory at that time.

The film starred Donald Barry who later became known as Don "Red" Barry because of his starring in Red Ryder westerns. The picture, in black and white, naturally, was 75 minutes long and directed by Joseph Santley. The poster for the film is shown here. --Copyright 2007 by Walter Haan,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Museums failing as educators

By Walter Haan,

Museums, along with publishers, schools and colleges are on the front lines as educators. But I think that museums are failing in their role in educating the public.

I was visiting the Autry National Center in Los Angeles a couple of months ago. It is currently running an exhibit entitled "Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007." As a western movie buff, particularly of B -westerns, I was looking forward to seeing the exhibit, which runs through to January 13, 2008.

I wasn't into the portion about Gene's movie career for long when I realized I was angry about what I was seeing on the walls. There is a generous amount of movie posters from Gene's movies, both from Republic Pictures and Columbia, on display. But none of them, although framed, were restored. Looking fragile, they were obviously going to look more fragile as time goes by. The generally accepted method to restore movie posters is to mount them on linen and restore them by painting over scratches and piecing together patches of paper to seamlessly fill in holes and rips. None of this was done.

But what bothered me the most was the actual mistakes in the text mounted on the walls that explained the exhibits. One of the exhibits was a large painting of Herbert J. Yates, the president of Republic Pictures from 1935 to 1959. Yates and Autry and their first wives knew each other well, had sailed across the Atlantic at least once in the late thirties together, and Yates had made Autry the movie cowboy star he was. But the text explaining the painting was incomplete about the production of Republic Pictures and the four types of productions produced by the studio. But what really got me hopping was the declaration at another exhibit that Monte Hale was the last singing cowboy.

Rex Allen was the last singing cowboy. His Republic Pictures were released from 1950 to 1954. Looking into this error, I discovered the Hale had been a very good friend of Autry's and had assisted his widow in establishing and running the Autry National Center. So I guess the next step was to make Monte Hale look better than he was by making him the last singing cowboy on film. Didn't seem to matter to get the facts straight.

A couple of years ago I took my young nephew to the Museum of Natural History in New York City. I thought a little culture and educational exhibits would be a nice way to spend the time of day.

Until, as part of some exhibits in the basement, I found a large life size display of Peter Stuyvesant in a full-length window with colonial New Amsterdam behind him. The explanation on the wall identified Stuyvesant as a Governor of colonial New York.

Stuyvesant must have been turning over in his grave in The Bowery. He was the Dutch governor-general that had been forced in 1664 to surrender New Amsterdam and New Netherland to an English fleet aiming their guns at New Amsterdam. The city and colony were subsequently renamed New York.

In the incidents I described above, I complained about the inaccuracies found, but the museums didn't seem to care. I wrote down the inaccuracies for the Autry National Center and talked by phone to writers for the exhibits at the Museum of Natural History. Nothing happened.

Nothing that is, except misinformation continued to be spread by museums disguised as educational institutions. Copyright 2007 by Walter Haan,

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bibles printed in China not allowed back in China for 2008 Olympics

By Walter Haan,

Organizers of the Beijing Olympics are attempting to explain news reports that Bibles would be prohibited at the Games in 2008, saying today that personal religious texts are welcome.

Reports in the Catholic News Agency and European media touched off an outcry prompting calls to Chinese embassies for explanations. Christian athletes protested vigorously both here and abroad.

The Beijing Olympics committee has explained that the published reports are incomplete.

"There is no such thing. This kind of report is an intentional distortion of truth," said the director of the Beijing Olympics media organization. He said texts and items from major religious groups that are brought for personal use by athletes and visitors are permitted, with one exception.

"We just don't want athletes to bring with them Bibles and other religious texts that are printed in China. We worry that there may be contaminates, such as lead, in the inks and bindings that may harm the participants' performances." Plastic Jesus and Buddha figures made in China for export are also prohibited back in China because these were made to sicken overseas populations only, not citizens of China. Lead in the paints used on the figures is the issue here again.

The official Beijing Olympics website explained the entry procedures for Bibles into the country as "each traveler is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China." Preferably not printed in China, and leave little Jesus and Buddha home too. Copyright by Walter

Saturday, November 03, 2007

WW II soldiers running in waves through the waves on the beaches

By Walter Haan --

As next weekend is Veteran's Day Weekend, I've been reflecting on a number of things about veterans. One of the more obvious things is the courage that our veterans of the armed forces have exhibited on the job. Right now we're privileged to have veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm and the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan among us.

Regarding veterans from World War II, I came across a great book that illustrates profusely their courage, sacrifices and can do attitude: Historic Photos of World War II--North Africa to Germany (ISBN: 978-1-59652-398-2). Text and captions for the 2007 book are written by Bob Duncan and the book is published by Turner Publishing Company. The 10 1/4" x 10 1/4", 216 page coffee table hardcover book is filled with full page photos from World War II. Most of the photos are of our troops on the job, firing their weapons, marching forward, leaping across ditches, seeking protection behind tanks in fire fights, airborne troops getting ready to jump and soldiers in prayer.

Photos of our Army Air Force in action, of the Navy delivering the goods, whether it be jeeps driving through watery, rocky shores from LSTs or soldiers running in waves through the waves from the LSTs that delivered them to in harm's way, the composition of the photos takes my breath away. There's a wonderful shot of a sole American soldier holding his rifle on captured German soldiers with their arms up and clasped behind their heads. An unusual shot from the top turret of an A20 Havoc medium bomber that is operating as a flight leader and escort for a wave of C-47 transports loaded with paratroopers is wonderful for its perspective.

My one disappointment with the book is that most of the photos, all black and white, have not been enhanced to highlight contrast, leaving many of them very gray. But that still doesn't take away from, for example, the photo of two American paratroopers rushing forward amidst a German artillery barrage, with the ground exploding into pieces all around them.

A wonderful book, a perfect gift for World War II buffs this coming holiday season. Retail price is $39.95 and worth it. I didn't publish this book but wish I had. Another thing I like is that this picture book, which are so often printed in China these days, is printed in the