JAMES EARL JONES: The Great White Hope makes Jones a “great actor”

YES, 1967 WAS A BIG YEAR FOR JAMES EARL JONES. HE STARRED AS JACK JEFFERSON, THE PRIZE-FIGHTER WHO IS PREPARING FOR A CRACK AT THE TITLE. IT WAS 1908. WHEN THE FIGHT CONCLUDES, JEFFERSON BECOMES THE FIRST NEGRO HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD. THIS REVIEW WAS WRITTEN BY MARTIN GOTTFRIED.

Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

THE FIRST: JAMES EARL JONES, AS JACK JEFFERSON, WHO BECAME THE “FIRST NEGRO” HEAVYWEIGHT OF THE WORLD. IT WAS A STAGE PART THAT WENT ON TO MAKE HIM THE GREAT MOVIE ACTOR HE TURNED  OUT TO BE. Below: A MATURE ACTOR, JAMES EARL JONES. Below: JEFFERSON WAS BASED ON JACK JOHNSON WHO WAS THE FIRST CHAMPION BACK IN 1908.

WASHINGTON, DC – Howard Sackler had written an extraordinary play. The tremendous production (is) both spectacular and sensitive.

The Great White Hope is probably the most important new American play ever to come out of any resident theatre; and is certainly the most impressive one that I have seen anywhere in a very long time.

It is based … on the career of Jack Johnson, who became the first Negro heavyweight champion of the world on 1908.

Mr Sackler begins the play with Jack Jefferson due to have a crack at the title. The boxing world, the press and the United States are outraged at the likelihood … the retired champion will re-enter the ring to prevent it.

Jefferson is easy-going about the prospective fight. “Been a whole lot of mean talk around here but I’m glad it came down to a plain old scuffle,” Jefferson said.

EPIC WORK

He resents the Negro community’s insistence that a victory will give the race self-respect. “If you ain’t there already, all the boxing in the world ain’t gonna do it for you.” he said.

The play’s episodic structure is as unfortunate as it is necessary. It causes unavoidable moments of blackness, during which momentum is lost. Yet, there are so many scenes – all necessary -- in a long three and a half hour epic work that a director could hardly avoid them.

As for Sackler’s writing, it is regularly magnificent. It ranges from perfect dialects of all kinds of heroism or romance, and is practically always poetry.

A GREAT ACTOR

The humour is high, sometimes giddy, sometimes mocking; and the use of vaudeville techniques … tied the whole thing together with a special sense of high-stepping tragedy.

Sherin handles the enormous cast … with astonishing control and gave James Earl Jones whatever assistance he needed to make Jefferson a figure both heroic and personal -- an awesome task.

In this performance, Jones passed over the line from being a very good actor to being a great one. Though there are no actual boxing scenes, his training ones were powerful.

Shaving his mannerisms as he did his head … he worked with every acting tool under inspired control – vocal technique, physical sense and intellectual understanding.

So the result was great theatre despite whatever weaknesses there are in it.

<< Based on the real-life bout between Jack Johnson and Canadian Tommy Burns that took place in Sydney in 1908. James Earl Jones’ opening night in The Great Hope, Washington DC, in December, 1967. It was soon to appear on Broadway, New York. Women’s Wear Daily, December, 1967.


TIMES PAST: Christmas luxuries: The Emperor Antonius speaks out

I ASK YOU?: WHY WAS HE READY TO SPREAD SUCH CULTURE OUT OF OUR KITCHENS?

This is 1908. The Emperor Antonius reckoned a cucumber is no good if it is bitter, a morning newspaper said. He also asserts to avoid that Christmas turkey if it’s too dear.

Many a frugal housewife would be wondering why some stoic philosopher “would spread this culture” to the kitchen? “For it seems the holiday commodities are to be even more expensive than usual, “opined the morning newspaper.

Poultry, we learn, has risen with too great alacrity to the occasion. The trouble is, we’re told, a shortness of supply. – Frank Morris, using subject matters from SMH.


THE PINBALL GAME: Earliest reference made was to Charles Dickens!

COLOUR-SPLASH PINBALLS, INTRODUCED IN 1931, HAVE BEEN A NATIONAL SENSATION.

HERBERT B. JONES          Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

FURORE: THE NEW PINBALL MACHINES CAUSED MODERN DAY PANIC IN SIDE ONE OF THE ARCADE. Below: TWO BEAUTIES TOGETHER. BUT -- YOU CAN PLAY BALLY’S WIZARD ON THE RIGHT.

The origin in of pinball is lost in antiquity. The earliest known reference to a similar amusement device is in Chapter 14 of Pickwick Papers, published by Charles Dickens in 1836. The narrator describes the Peacock Tavern, where members of the Pickwick Club stopped.

“(They) beguiled their time chiefly with such amusement as the Peacock afforded, which were limited to a bagatelle-board on the first floor.”

The game probably resembled the board, illustrated, which is generally regarded as the ancestor of pinball.
In early 1929, John J. Sloan, an advertising solicitor for Billboard – a magazine which caters for vendors, circuses, carnival and coin-operated machines – observed an adaptation of bagatelle in the basement of his apartment.
The device had been built by the janitor for the amusement of his friends.

The unknown, the unsung inventor of modern pinball utilised the traditional scoring objective of bagatelle – holes or cups in a plain surface with the score-value of each hole prominently displayed.

The basement bagatelle was not coin-operated.

Intent on developing a new source of advertising revenue he put his new discovery into a company to market several coin-operated bagatelle or pinball games.

INTO DEPRESSION

Probably it was because the games were too large for the average location, and too expensive, he was part of an economy already drifting into the depression.

His companies were not successful and soon vanished from the amusement scene. But not before other entrepreneurs shrewdly appraised the enormous potential of coin-operated bagatelle.

“On a gloomy day in October of depression-clouded 1931,” writes a veteran coin-machine historian, “a young businessman, Raymond T. Maloney, persuaded his senior partners to join him in a bold venture. This was, admittedly, after hours of stubborn argument.

A nickel’s worth of cheer

“As result of their decision, a simple but fascinating, colour-splashed pinball game was introduced in America in 193l. By the time 1932 had dawned, under clouds of creaking, dark depression, the rain-bow bright game Ballyhoo was a national sensation.

“Just on 50,000 Ballyhoo were sold in seven months.”

GAVES BRIGHTNESS

The historian continues: “In 1932, the lexicon of locations did not include taverns, but barber shops, restaurants, gasoline stations and other miscellaneous stores and – ‘wherever people congregate’, said the Ballyhoo advertisements – it gave brightness to the otherwise sombre scenes.

“It gave Americans a penny’s worth of escape from worry, a nickel’s worth of cheer in a grim world.”

The slot-machine operators constituted the first market for Ballyhoo. But they were joined by throngs of other citizens on the unemployed list who risked their small savings to invest in Ballyhoo. They decided to embark on a new career of self-employment.

Anyone who could scrape together US$16 or US$160 for a10-game Ballyhoo could be in the market.

Indeed, the slot-machine boom was a mild event compared to the pinball boom a quarter of a century later.

<< Coin-Operated Amusement by Herbert B. Jones. Published by Bally Manufacturing Corp Chicago, USA.


VALE: A period of adventures, devotion and a series that stood out from them all!

FINAL: PENNY COOK – FROM A COUNTRY PRACTICE TILL NOW.

BILL THE BASTARD, the horse that is widely considered one of the finest of Australia’s bred equines to be exported to World War 1. This year, he will be enshrined as an Anzac legend with a life-size bronze statue. We dips our lid.

PENNY COOK, who starred as “Vicky the vet” from the series A Country Practice, died at 61 of cancer. She became the sweetheart of the nation. A Country Practice was said to command a weekly audience close to 8 million people. Of the series she has done, ACP “stood out from the pack.”

THE ONLY ONE: REMEMBERING BILL THE BASTARD. COMMENTATORS HAVE TOLD US HE WAS AUSTRALIA’S ”GREATEST WAR” HORSE.


HAPPY NEW YEAR! COME ON EVERYBODY LET’S DANCE!

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 03 January 19

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