Uncovering the myths and celebrating the reality of André the Giant

Bertrand Hébert and Pat Laprade’s book, The Eighth Wonder of the World: The True Story of André the Giant, helped unlock this Giant mystery

Uncovering the myths and celebrating the reality of André the GiantProfessional wrestling has had many great performers with athletic prowess and an ability to engage – or, at times, enrage – audiences. Yet one pro wrestler was always in a class of his own: André René Roussimoff, better known as André the Giant. Inside the ring, André was a massive, near-invincible foe with seemingly unlimited…

Cary Grant was a complicated, brilliant creation

Cary Grant was a complicated, brilliant creationScott Eyman’s new biography of Cary Grant starts at the end. On Nov. 29, 1986, Grant – the personification of Hollywood’s Golden Age – died in Davenport, Iowa, just over seven weeks shy of his 83rd birthday. The death certificate ascribed his passing to a “massive intracerebral hemorrhage.” If Davenport seemed like an unusual place…

Margaret Thatcher and the end of apartheid

The Thatcher-Nelson Mandela relationship is a reflection of how very different people can evolve a respectful, albeit wary, understanding

Margaret Thatcher and the end of apartheidMargaret Thatcher isn’t a name most people associate with the end of South African apartheid. But Thatcher biographer Charles Moore begs to differ. And he devotes a lengthy chapter in his third volume about the former British prime minister to making his case. As Moore tells it, Thatcher’s goal was to convince the white South…

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 duo  Laurel 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…

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.…