The rise and fall of a legendary Hollywood duo

Comedy masters Laurel and Hardy are the subject of a new biopic that tells a story of triumph and despair

The rise and fall of a legendary Hollywood duoLaurel and Hardy’s Hollywood heyday was before my time. I started going to the movies in the early 1950s, by which point their cinematic status had been eclipsed by other comedy duos like Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis. Still, the new biopic Stan & Ollie strikes nostalgically resonant notes. One of the more…

Harry Truman completely unprepared for his accidental presidency

The inauspicious heir to the White House had planned to play poker the night Roosevelt died. Instead, he became president

Harry Truman completely unprepared for his accidental presidencyVice-President Harry Truman’s life changed on Thursday, April 12, 1945. That was the day Franklin D. Roosevelt died and Truman became the 33rd president of the United States. To virtually everyone, including himself, Truman was an inauspicious heir. Journalist A.J. Baime’s The Accidental President nicely captures the general bemusement. Born in small-town Missouri in 1884, there…

When an intellectual cozies up to dictators

Is it feasible to separate political views and private behaviour from artistic merit? George Bernard Shaw is a perfect case study

When an intellectual cozies up to dictatorsTo most Canadians, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) may be a quaint figure whose primary distinction is having a popular southern Ontario theatre festival named after him. However, he was a big wheel during the first half of the 20th century. A self-described “downstart,” Shaw was born into an impecunious Protestant Ascendancy family in Dublin, Ireland. Leaving…

America’s first ethnic working-class hero

An Irish-American Catholic, champion boxer John L. Sullivan rose to popularity from modest roots

America’s first ethnic working-class heroBefore inclusiveness became a social mantra, newly arrived immigrant groups invariably went through a period of being viewed warily by society’s established mainstream. Irish-American Catholics were no exception to this probationary process. Indeed, it wasn’t until John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential victory that acceptance was fully sealed. Along the way, the process got a boost…

John F. Kennedy: an anglophile for all seasons

The storied president was more English than Irish, despite being seen as the ultimate symbol of Irish-American success and social acceptance

John F. Kennedy: an anglophile for all seasonsJohn F. Kennedy is often seen as the ultimate symbol of Irish-American success and social acceptance. And there’s much truth to that. Irish by ancestry and Roman Catholic by religion, Kennedy’s election to the U.S. presidency represented a breakthrough in status and prestige for an ethnic group that had once been viewed with suspicion. But…

Political “wobbles” prove politics really is a blood sport

Theresa May's recent political "wobble" brings to mind Margaret Thatcher and the 1987 British election, which she won in spite of herself

Political “wobbles” prove politics really is a blood sportBritish Prime Minister Theresa May’s hapless performance in the recent United Kingdom election brought to mind another British prime minister’s voting travails. Although her ultimately decisive victory pushed the unpleasantness into the shadows, Margaret Thatcher – the Iron Lady, no less – had a serious wobble en route to winning a third consecutive mandate in…

The Road to Camelot offers fresh insights into JFK mythology

2017 is John F. Kennedy’s centenary year and a new book offers a deep dive into the details of his successful 1960 U.S. presidential campaign

The Road to Camelot offers fresh insights into JFK mythologyThis is John F. Kennedy’s centenary year – he was born on May 29, 1917. And the books keep coming, the latest being Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie’s The Road to Camelot. For those who fancy a deep dive into the details of Kennedy’s successful 1960 presidential campaign, the book fits the bill quite nicely.…

Patti Smith tracks rock heroes’ slide into ‘careerism’

Too many of today's music stars have strayed into careerism and away from the revolutionary values that many of them began with

Patti Smith tracks rock heroes’ slide into ‘careerism’POWELL RIVER, B.C. Sept. 11, 2016/ Troy Media/ – It would be difficult to find an icon of the early 1970s punk rock scene in New York, Paris and London who was more legitimately its artist’s muse than Patti Smith. A young woman from the swamps of New Jersey strayed to New York and found countless friendships…

Christmas books for the history buff

Pat Murphy's shopping suggestions to satisfy the history buff on your list

Christmas books for the history buffIf your Christmas shopping list includes a history buff who hasn’t yet been provided for, don’t panic. Here’s a handful of 2015 titles that might solve your problem. The English and Their History (Robert Tombs) At almost 900 pages of text followed by copious notes, this certainly qualifies as a doorstopper. But that shouldn’t put…

Nixon in love

The new biography by Evan Thomas gives us Nixon in the round, talented and tortured, ambitious and insecure

Nixon in loveDownload this column on Richard Nixon for your publication or website. Price starts at $8 Terms and Conditions of use TORONTO, ON Aug 5, 2015/ Troy Media/ - In Being Nixon – the new biography by Evan Thomas – erstwhile speechwriter William Safire is quoted as joking that “The boss has fallen in love again,”…