Monday, June 29, 2020

Album Review: Tessy Lou Williams (Self-Titled)

All us country music fans have heard somebody say one of the following. "Real country music is dead." "Country music just isn't country anymore." "Where did real country go?" The truth is traditional country music did not go anywhere. What you hear on country music radio today is just what is mainstream, but if you go outside of the mainstream there are plenty of great artists carrying on the traditions of classic country artists. If you want any proof simply listen to Tessy Lou Williams' debut album (which came out this year) is proof that the type of country music that you and I fell in love with is still alive and well. With a great artist like Tessy Lou Williams, it is in good hands.

To get away from the simple fact that this is traditional country music, and to discuss the quality itself, this is an incredible debut album. She has one of the most beautiful sounding voices in country music today. In many ways the voice reminds me of Alison Krauss, but she never copies Alison. Her voice also perfectly conveys every emotion in the songs. This is perfect as this type of country music is about telling the truth and there is not a false note in her singing. The songs themselves are excellent. The lyrics all tell little stories that ring as true as her voice. While there are some things that have become country music clichés mentioned here (drinking, heartbreak), they are not used as clichés. They are treated in a very mature and real way, never once talking down to the album's audience. The music is beautiful perfectly blending in with Tessy's lovely voice. Since most of the songs are ballads the much music is soft and doesn't call attention to itself. Still when a faster paced song comes up (Such as Round and Round), the music is as energetic as you could want.

This is top notch traditional country music in every way possible. If you are a country music fan (even if you don't like what is currently mainstream), this is highly recommended.     

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Cowboy Church #63

Hello my friends and welcome to another service of Cowboy Church.

Today's musical selection begins with Gene Autry reminding us that There's No Back Door To Heaven. This song reminds us that being a Christian is not simply attending church but living life according to God's word as close we can. We shouldn't say that going to Church on Sunday means we can sin all we want on Monday. This recording was from 1956 and was one of his last for Columbia records. He would leave to form his own record label. He planned to call it Champion after his equine co-star in all his movies, but discovered that name was taken and he changed the name to Challenge. This is followed by Ransomed Bluegrass performing the old southern gospel classic, I'll Fly Away. Next comes The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1941 recording of What Wonderful Joy. This is followed by Tennessee Ernie Ford singing Somebody Bigger Than You and I. This song was written in the early 1950's by Johnny Lange, Hy Heath, and Sonny Burke. Johnny Lange and Hy Heath had previously worked together on writing the cowboy song, Mule Train. The first known recording of Somebody Bigger Than You and I was by The Ink Spots in 1951. Next is the bluegrass duo Reno and Smiley performing He Will Set Your Fields on Fire. Afterwards The Charlie Daniels Band do their rocking version of the old gospel classic There's Power in the Blood. This comes from their 2003 album How Sweet the Sound: 25 Favorite Hymns and Gospel Greats. This album won the Grammy for Best Southern, Country Or Bluegrass Gospel Album. You can tell from this album that CDB are just as passionate about gospel music as they are about southern rock or bluegrass, and this may be so far the best 21st Century album the band has put out. Following is Johnny Cash singing I'm Bound For the Promise Land from his 2003 album My Mother's Hymn Book. As I have mentioned before on this blog, this album was a collection of hymns that Johnny had been singing since his childhood in Dyess, Arkansas. John's liner notes for this song state, "Yeah even through the dark times, I always felt like I was bound for the promised land, especially singing these songs. They take you to the promised land. I remember Jerry Lee Lewis back in the Sun Record days saying we were all doing the Devil's work and we were all going to Hell. Did that scare me? No, I'd heard all that before. I just kept my eye on him (laughs) and everything worked out all right. He became a good friend." This song was written by Samuel Stennett and first appeared in John Rippon's collection A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, in 1787. Last is Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing The Lord is Counting On You.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:4-5

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.  2 Chronicles 7:14-15

LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. Isaiah 33:2

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:6

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. Matthew 9:35

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say. Luke 14:1-6

 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. Proverbs 17:27-28

Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction. Proverbs 17:19

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.
Proverbs 17:14

Evil will never leave the house of one who pays back evil for good. Proverbs 17:13

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Thanks for joining me come back next week for another round of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #77

Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again it is time for some classic cartoons.

Though not the most popular cartoons from the studio, I personally really enjoy the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies that Cal Dalton and Ben Hardaway directed. While they are clearly inspired by the work that Tex Avery and Friz Freleng, they aren't quite either and have a style all their own. Their films are often wacky, and smart alecky, but don't defy film conventions like Tex Avery cartoons and don't have the focus on timing and music that is present in the work of Friz Freleng. One of my favorite of their cartoons is Bars and Stripes Forever (1939) 

Film Daily, 1936
Film Daily 1936

Next comes a highly enjoyable Columbia cartoon, Booby Socks (1945). This movie manages to be a cartoon of this era parodying Frank Sinatra yet not featuring a single skinny joke. This is the Columbia cartoon department at its best with lots of fast paced gags and character animation. The ending is a very funny joke, I will not ruin here.

While in the early 1930's every American cartoon studio made some films with characters that looked and acted more than a little like Mickey and Minnie Mouse (that is how popular those cartoons were at this time), no more obviously did this than the Van Beuren Studio which made some cartoons with a boy and girl mouse team that were often indistinguishable from their Disney counter parts (except for the the fact that the Disney films had more refined animation and more consistently on model (the mouse here gains a lot of weight by the end of the cartoon). In fact Walt himself set out legal action against the Van Bueren studio for these films. Up next is one of the movies featuring these mice characters in all their ripped off glory, Circus Capers (1930). By the way this has one of the most pre-code gags to ever be in a pre-code cartoon.


Next is the excellent Donald Duck cartoon, Donald Applecore (1952).

The last cartoon for today is a delightful Yugoslavian animated short film, Uzbudljiva ljubavna priča (1989) (The English title being Exciting Love Story).

Come back next week for more animated treasures, until then peace love and cartoons.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Silent Films on TCM This July

Hello my fellow Silent film lovers and TCM fans. To make sure you don't miss anything here is a list of silent films that will be on TCM this July.

Sunday, July 5th

Black Oxfords
(1924) Director: Del Lord. Starring Vernon Dent and Sydney Smith. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

 Super-Hooper-Dyne Lizzies (1925) Director: Del Lord. Starring Billy Bevan and James Donelly. 9:20pm Pacific. 12:20am Eastern

Ten Dollars or Ten Days (1924) Director: Del Lord. Starring Grover Ligon and Harry Gribbon. 9:38pm Pacific. 12:38am Eastern.

The Dare-Devil (1923) Director: Del Lord. Starring Gordon Lewis and Andy Clyde. 9:58pm Pacific. 12:58am Eastern.

Lizzes of the Field (1924) Director: Del Lord. Starring Billy Bevan and Barbara Pierce. 10:18pm Pacific. 1:18am Eastern.

Sunday, July 12th
The Idle Class (1921) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin  and Enda Purviance. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

The Kid (1921) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan. 9:33pm Pacific. 12:33am Eastern.

Pay Day (1922) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance. 10:31pm Pacific. 1:31am Eastern.

Friday, July 17th
West of Zanzibar (1928) Director: Tod Browning. Starring Lon Chaney and Lionel Barrymore. 4am Pacific. 7am Eastern.

Sunday, July 19th 
The Red Kimona (1925) Director: Walter Lang. Starring Priscilla Bonner and Theodore von Eltz. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

Wednesday, July 22nd
Spring Fever (1927) Director: Edward Sedgwick. Starring William Haines and Joan Crawford. 6am Pacific. 9am Eastern.

Sunday July 26th
Sadie Thompson (1928) Director: Raoul Walsh. Starring Gloria Swanson and Lionel Barrymore. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

"Jumping Jive" From Stormy Weather (1943)

Though Stormy Weather certainly has its faults as a movie, the big finale musical number is one of my favorite musical numbers in the history of movie musicals. There is so much energy and talent on screen that I can not look away from the screen. From Cab Calloway and his orchestra giving their all to the music to the Nicholas Brothers doing things that should not be humanly possible, I love every second of it.


-Michael J. Ruhland 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Showing The Birth of a Nation in 1938

With all the debate about whether of not a lot of old movies are racist, I think most people can agree on one movie. The Birth of a Nation (1915) is racist and in a way that is much more horrifying than anything you would see in any other movie. Don't get me wrong I believe that modern audiences should be able to see this movie because as horrifying as it is it is still part of our history and there is a lot you can learn about both movie history and the culture of the world at the time it was made. Also despite its horrifying depictions of black people and the glorification of the KKK, the filmmaking and storytelling our excellent. This is not a film that is just controversial today, but one that received a lot of controversy when released. The following article from a 1938 issue of The Motion Picture Herald discusses the reaction to this film receiving a theatrical release that year. 

"The pages of history were turned back this week in East Orange, N.J, in the vicinage of Thomas Edison's pioneerings in motion pictures, where the local courts are to rule on the complaints of a group of Negros against the racial implications of 'The Birth of a Nation,' old Griffith film which has been resurrected and restored by Stone Film Company and is to be reissued immediately in New York and New Jersey. The picture during its early expositions in 1915 and thereafter was the subjects of attacks by Negros, particularly in Chicago and Boston who charged that it stirred race hatred. The Negros would have the authorities censor the picture on the same grounds.

"Adolph J Retting manager of the Ormat Theatre in East Orange was summoned to appear before Police Recorder Albert L. Vreeland to answer to a charge that he violated a New Jersey statute by showing 'The Birth of a Nation.'

"Mr. Rettig was arrested and paroled in custody of his counsel Edward R McGlynn of Newark. Mr. Retting is a former big league baseball player.

"The  complaint was signed by two local Negro physicians, Dr. Theodore R Inge and Dr. Harry W. Mickey. The two alleged that Mr. Retting violated Chapter 151 of the laws of 1935 which makes it a misdemeanor to show 'any picture, photograph or representation which in any way incites, counsels, promotes, advocates or symbolizes hatred, violence or hostility against any persons or group by reason of race, color, religion or matter of worship.' 

"The exhibitor waived examination and the case was referred automatically to the Essex County grand jury. His counsel said he intends to ask D.W. Griffith to testify.

"Dr. Inge said the picture had been prohibited in California, Kansas, West Virginia and Ohio.

"The film was shown at the Ormont from May 8th through May 11th. On May 9th Negro leader submitted a protest bearing 609 signatures to the city counsel. The manager deleted those parts which he understood were considered particularly objectionable.

"East Orange authorities said that as far as they know, this case was the first in which the 1935 statute had been invoked. The act provides for a fine of $200 to $5000 and 90 days to three years imprisonment or both.

"'Birth of a Nation' also meet with opposition in Hartford, Conn., where two negro ministers, the Reverend C.A. Moody and the Reverend C.A. Jackson, succeeded in having exhibition halted at the local state theatre."

I am curious as to what the cut version looked like as the whole second half of this film can be considered objectionable easily.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Don't Take Silent Slapstick for Granted

There is no period of film comedy more beloved than the silent era. While many writers at the time were often apprehensive to slapstick comedy, even some of them would come around by the 1920's. Case in point is this 1923 article from Picture-Play Magazine. If you have trouble reading click the pages and use your touch screen to zoom in.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Cowboy Church #62

Hello my friends and welcome back for another service of Cowboy Church.

Today's music selection begins with Gene Autry's 1949 recording of  Bible on the Table. After this is Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass boys with a lively version of the gospel classic, I'm Working on a Building. It is unknown what the origin for this song is, but it is believed to date back to the 1920's and it is possibly originally an African American spiritual. What can be said is that thanks to The Carter Family and Bill Monroe's recordings of this song overtime it has become  bit of a bluegrass standard. This is followed by Sonny James singing If I Have Wounded Any Soul. This recording comes from his 1966 gospel album Til The Last Leaf Shall Fall. This song reminds us of the responsibility all of us Christians have. We are supposed to be representations of who God is to those who don't know him. We are supposed to live as Godly as we can so that others may see Christ in us. This is something many of us struggle with and I admit there are times I fall far short of what I should be. Still I strive to be the type of person who people can look at and see God's work in me. This song should challenge us and make us check and make sure we are doing all we can in this respect. Johnny Cash certainly saw Jesus in Sonny James as John would ask Sonny, how he managed to be a Christian despite the temptations of the road. Sonny responded that he was a Christian first and an entertainer second. These words would stick with John and although he let these temptations rule him for many years, he would eventually overcome them and be able to say the same thing Sonny told him. It is important to remember that what ever else we are, we should be Christians first. Next comes Johnny Cash singing God Ain't No Stained Glass Window. Despite the silliness of the title this song has a great message about how God is always there for us no matter what. Next is The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet (Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones, Kenny Price) singing Angel Band. The lyrics were written in 1860 by Jefferson Hascall as a poem entitled My Latest Sun Is Sinking Fast. The tune was later written by William Batcher Bradbury who also wrote the tune to Jesus Loves Me. Overtime it has become a southern gospel standard. This is followed by the king of the cowboys. Roy Rogers, the queen of the west, Dale Evans and the finest cowboy band of all time, The Sons of the Pioneers performing The Place Where I Worship. Today's musical selection ends with The Statler Brothers singing How Great Thou Art. This song started off as a poem by the Swedish pastor Carl Gustaf Boberg. He was taking a walk when all of the sudden there was a thunderstorm. After the storm ended he looked and saw that the bay was completely clear and then heard a church bell. The words immediately came to him and he wrote them down. The poem was first published in 1891. In 1949 it was translated into English by Stuart K. Hine.

  I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. Thessalonians 3:13
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jerimiah 29:11

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:14-15
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26

You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. Leviticus 19:17

 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  John 16:24

He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he. Proverbs 16:20

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. James 15:13

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4
Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Proverbs 30:5

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:9

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. Proverbs 13:10

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Album Review: Addy & the Banjo Days (Self-Titled)

Newcomer Addy & The Banjo Days (AKA Adam S.) shows us that after all these years traditional folk music is still in good hands. True this first album of his breaks no new ground staying in the spirit of folk music greats like Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger (both of whom he covers here) but this album has such love and devotion put into it that these songs not only work but they work fantastically. He puts great emotion into each song he sings and his skill on the banjo and fiddle is incredible. He makes these old songs sound fresh and exciting even when playing them in his own style.

That said this album is much too short containing only 8 songs the longest of which is only 3 minutes. The album is over before you know it and I feel that he could have fit more music on this album and given it a greater impact.

I hope that Addy's music will get more attention as his career goes by and he introduces those unfamiliar with traditional folk music with all the power it still has to this day.

If you want to listen to or download this album you can do so by clicking here.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #76

Hello my friends and happy Saturday Morning. Once again it is time for more classic cartoons.

First is what I consider one of Friz Freleng's best cartoons, Yankee Doodle Daffy (1943). This is also one of his fastest paced efforts. From start to finish this movie simply never lets up on gags and while the gags are often quite funny, it is this sheer sense of energy that makes this film so special. One exhibitors review (From the Motion Picture Herald) stated "YANKEE DOODLE DAFFY: Looney Tunes Cartoons—Good cartoon, but where does it get its name? —Raloh Maspa, State Theatre, Rivesville, W. Va"  As you can guess from that this is not a patriotic film and is not a parody of Michael Curtiz's Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) released the previous year. My guess that someone at the studio liked the pun and therefore just put it as the movie's title, but then again that is just a guess. Another exhibitors review (also from the Motion Picture Herald) was shockingly harsh for such a great cartoon stating "Yankee Doodle Daffy: Looney Tunes Cartoons - This studio's cartoons lately seem to be either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. This is downright terrible. - W. Varick Nevins, III, Alfred Co-op Theatre, Alfred, N.Y."

My first reaction to the Columbia Krazy Kat cartoons of the 1930's was one of disappointment. I was sad that they hardly resembled the comic strip I love so much, but overtime, my feelings change as I accepted and enjoyed these films for what they were instead of what they weren't. Though The Bill Collector (1933) seems extremely tame today (even compared to what we see in family movies today), an exhibitor's review (from the Motion Picture Herald) at the time stated " BILL POSTER, THE: Krazy Kat Cartoons—Krazy Kat cartoon with some vulgarities.—Harold C. Allison, Baldwin Theatre, Baldwin, Mich. Small town patronage." This is probably referring to scenes like the one where the dog sniffs his own rear end. It is hard to think of much else that could be considered objectionable.

Now cartoons that really did get away with a lot for their time were the early Betty Boop movies. Case in point up next is Mask-A-Raid (1931). This cartoon not only features jokes that are as pre-code as possible but also the wild imaginative gags that made the early 1930's Fleischer cartoons so unique and amazingly entertaining. I believe this is the first cartoon in which Betty is human instead of a dog.

Paramount's 20th birthday jubilee 1931
Now for some exciting sports action with that incredible athlete Goofy.

Thanks for joining me come back next week for more animated treasures. Peace, love and cartoons.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, June 19, 2020

Album Review: Rough and Rowdy Ways - Bob Dylan

One thing that is very important for any Bob Dylan fan is to always except the unexpected. After a trilogy of albums in which he covered old pop standards (his last album of original songs was 2012's Tempest), no one excepted him to unleash such an incredibly moving and haunting piece of songwriting on the world as Murder Most Foul with no prior notice and in a time where it seemed like the world had been put on hold. Before we knew it two more great original songs came out back to back and then we learned, this songs were going to be part of a new album of original songs coming out in no time of all. Truth is we didn't even have time to fully gather the excitement for this album that is so rightly deserves. This is not only an excellent album but one of Bob's finest in decades. He shows here that even 79 years old, he is still a master.

Truth be told this is a very dark album at times. This is of course best shown in the quickly infamous Murder Most Foul, which relates not only JFK's assassination but how America lost much more than one man with his death. Yet this album is far from a collection of dirges. Humor has been an important part of Bob's music as far back as his acoustic days in the early 1960's and it is seen all throughout this album. Black Rider even contians a penis joke relating to the grim reaper. Though a lot of these songs are slower paced blues songs, Bob still shows that he can still rock and roll with the best of them with such songs as False Prophet and Goodbye Jimmy Reed. The slower songs reflect much of the style Bob has embraced since the late 1990's. First off Bob has become very much a blues man since then, which is in no small part due to his aging voice having a true blues feeling to it. This is most shown in Crossing the Rubicon, an electric blues number with a real Muddy Waters feel to it. Secondly much of this album features very limited and sparse musical accompaniment which creates a real haunting feeling that stays with you long after the album is through. This causes you to reflect more on the lyrics and the mood of the songs. The lyrics certainly show Bob at his best. There are times when these songs give a straight forward but thought provoking message, while at other times they have the sense of mystery only Bob can do so well. In the later, one doesn't need to fully "get" the lyrics as what is important is the beautiful way they are constructed and how well Bob phrases each word (while Bob's voice has often been criticized, few singers can phrase words better). While you can listen to this album in the background while doing something else, you would be missing out on so much. If you give this album your full attention, it will reward you more than you could ever except.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, June 15, 2020

Where Garbo is Alone

There are few figures in film history more mysterious but utter captivating than Greta Garbo. She has fascinated and delighted movie fans since the silent era and continues to do so today.

The following is a 1930 article from The Modern Screen Magazine talking about Garbo's home life. If you have any trouble reading click on the pages and use your touch screen to zoom in. 

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Cowboy Church #61

Hello my friends and welcome back to another service of Cowboy Church.

Today's musical selection begins with the king of bluegrass, Bill Monroe with his 1954 recording of A Voice From On High. This song perfect captures the high lonesome sound that makes Bill the master of the genre. No one else sounded like this before, then or now. Turning to some more modern bluegrass this will be followed by Southern Raised singing What a Day That Will Be. This is a very important song for all of us believers. When we go through trails and hard times (and we will), remember that this is but a brief part of our existence as we will somebody spend eternity with our Lord separate from all the troubles of this world. So never let the world bring you down because God is with us and he has overcome the world and he will give us peace and rest. Next comes Johnny Cash performing In The Garden on his last (not including the ones after his death) and personal favorite album, My Mother's Hymn Book. This album features just John and his guitar performing hymns that John grew up with as a child and which still meant a lot to him. In the booklet accompanying the Unearthed box set John stated "That's a nice slow song, a beautiful, peaceful song about a beautiful peaceful place. I hope I'll see it some day but I'll leave the timing up to God." This song was written in 1912 by C. Austen Miles. Miles later told the story of how the song was written stating "One day in March, 1912, I was seated in the darkroom  where  I  kept  my  photographic equipment  and  organ.    I  drew  my  Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20 .    That meeting of Jesus and Mary had lost none of its power to charm.  As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene.  I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary's life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, "Rabboni!" . . . Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared.  That same evening I wrote the music." Next comes one of favorites to share on these posts, The Sons of the Pioneers' 1937 recording of Power in the Blood. Leonard Syle (better known as Roy Rogers) sings lead on this song but the highlight is the beautiful harmony when they are sing together. Gospel means good news, so it makes sense the gospel music should be joyful and this is a joyful as it gets. This should remind that a Christian walk isn't limited to hardships (though there will be those) or following rules (though we should follow what God has commanded us), but it is also something joyful that will bring us happiness in a way this world never could. This song was written in 1889 by Lewis Edgar Jones while at a camp meeting taking place at Mountain Lake Park, MD. This is followed by Tennessee Ernie Ford singing the gospel classic What a Friend We Have in Jesus on his 1961 album Tennessee Ernie Ford Sings From His Book Of Favorite Hymns. This song reminds us of one of the most amazing things about Jesus. He is not just a lord and master, but a friend, who truly cares about and watches over each of us. Next is Cowboy Copas with his 1961 recording of Almost Home. Today's musical selection ends with Waylon Jennings singing Precious Memories from his 1976 Are You Ready For the Country album. Recordings like this make you sad Waylon didn't record more gospel songs, his beautiful voice is perfect for them. I honestly don't think anyone has ever sung this song better.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. Daniel 11:32

A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things. The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. Proverbs 18:9-10

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. Proverbs 13:11

Therefore he [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21

 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:10

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Acts 3:19

Than you for joining me and come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #75

Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again it is time for another round of classic cartoons.

Today's first cartoon stars that old friend of both you and me, Scrappy. The film is Treasure Runt (1932) and is everything I could want from a Scrappy cartoon. This movie is full of creative and silly gags that come one after another with all the surreal-ness that us film lovers enjoy about cartoons of the early 1930's.

 Next is another cartoon from Columbia, Mother Goose in Swingtime (1939). As you can guess from the title this movie brings Mother Goose characters into the modern day. This is done through both swing music and through the characters being turned into caricatures of celebrities of time. The music is very fun and the caricatures are of course fun for us old movie buffs. The following is an exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald, "Mother Goose in Swingtime: Color Rhapsodies - Some interesting caricatures of movie stories, but outside of that very "ho-hum"-ish. The smell of burnt flesh was noticeable as my goose was cooked by the comments on it later. Running Time Seven Minutes. - W. Varick Nevins, III, Alfred Co-Op Theatre, Alfred, N.Y. Small college town and rural patronage."

Next comes another cartoon based off of old fairy tales. This time it is a Terrytoon titled The Last Mouse of Hamelin (1955).

Last is a very funny Bugs Bunny cartoon directed by Bob Clampett, The Wacky Wabbit (1942). Bob Clampett's version of Bugs was quite different from the Bugs other directors used. Truth is that every Warner Brothers director had their own version of Bugs. Unlike the Bugs you see in say a Chuck Jones cartoon, the rabbit is not fighting for self defense nor is he getting any sort of revenge. He is instead torturing Elmer Fudd only for the reason that he finds it fun. This Bugs is not only a prankster but a bit of a bully and if he weren't so darn funny he would be the villain of the picture. You may notice Elmer is a bit bigger here than you are used to. This is due to a brief experiment to make him look more lie his voice artist Arthur Q. Bryan. The following is a review from The Film Daily, "Fourteen carrot entertainer this 'Wacky Wabbit.' There's a laugh in every foot. The wise guy rabbit in this instance tries his trick on a gold prospector. He drives the poor guy crazy confounding him and keeping him constantly on the jump. Bugs Bunny grows in stature with every new Merry Meoldie release. He bids fair to become as funny as any character now in animated cartoons. The smart showman should grab this short." 

Thanks for joining me come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then peace, love and cartoons.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, June 12, 2020

Summertime With Movies With Michael

You can tell by the heat that is starting that summertime is upon us once again. While this summer isn't the one many of us hoped for, this can't stop us from enjoying it.

To start off, what symbolizes the start of summer better than The Beach Boys.

Summertime is often referred to as swimsuit season, so I feel it is the perfect time to watch some of Mack Sennett's Bathing Beauties.

Now for some summer themed cartoons.

 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isiah 41:10

et the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Red Foley: The Family Man

One thing I love when looking through old (1910's-1950's) entertainment magazines is that the stories they tell about celebrities are often so positive. I get tired of how today most journalism is very downbeat. You hear only depressing stories about what is happening in the world, whenever you pick up a newspaper, turn on the news or read any political writings. Entrainment magazines and websites are hardly more happy and simply serve as mostly negative gossip and stories of stars misbehaving or going through hard times. While life is not completely happy and we need to acknowledge and accept the sad parts of life (we can't live in complete denial), we can't live life in complete depressing-ness. There are many happy things about life as well.

Here is an upbeat 1953 story from Radio TV Mirror talking about the great country singer, Red Foley. If you have trouble reading you can click on the pages and use your touch screen to zoom in.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sergeant Gene Autry

Hello my friends as many of you like me love Gene Autry. Why wouldn't you? He is both a movie cowboy and a country music legend. Unlike many others who have had both a movie and music career, Gene was able to stay at the top of his game in both fields at the same time. As many of my fellow Gene Autry fans know, Gene also joined the army during World War 2 and received the title of sergeant. This following 1943 article from Screenplay magazine discusses that part of his life. If you have any trouble reading click on the pages and use your touch screen to zoom in. 

If you wish to watch Gene Autry movies legally for free click here.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Cowboy Church #60

Hello my friends and welcome back to another service of Cowboy Church.

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing May the Good Lord Take a Likin' to You. Next is Johnny Cash singing At the Cross. This song was written by Issac Watts. Issacs was a church pastor in the 1700's and often wrote hymns and poems to go along with his sermons, and some of the hymns (including this one) are still known today with the most famous being Joy to the World. Though little is know about the origins of these songs, we do know that Issac was an influence on another one of the great hymn writers, Fanny Crosby (Blessed AssuranceDraw Me Nearer), who after hearing one of Issac's hymns at a revival meeting in 1851 gave her life to the Lord and began writing her great hymns. This version of At the Cross comes from Johnny Cash's 1975 album, Johnny Cash Sings Precious Memories. The album was dedicated to Johnny's brother Jack, who died at the age of 14 in a saw mill accident. Jack would always remain a major influence on John's life. Johnny often stated that he would have dreams where would talk to Jack and the Jack would always age in these dreams just like he was still alive. The notes on the back of the album say "This album is I was twelve years old. Some of these songs were the songs we sang at your funeral. When you were dying you gave us a description of heaven and singing angels. Could these be some of the songs the angels were singing? See you later. Your little brother, J.R." Afterwards comes The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet  (Buck Owens, Grandpa Jones, Roy Clark and Kenny Price) singing Unclouded Day. This song was written by Josiah Kelley Alwood in 1879. Josiah would later describe the origin of this song saying “It was a balmy night in August 1879, when returning from a debate in Spring Hill, Ohio, to my home in Morenci, Michigan, about 1:00 a.m. I saw a beautiful rainbow north by northwest against a dense black nimbus cloud. The sky was all perfectly clear except this dark cloud which covered about forty degrees of the horizon and extended about halfway to the zenith. The phenomenon was entirely new to me and my nerves refreshed by the balmy air and the lovely sight. Old Morpheus was playing his sweetest lullaby. Another mile of travel, a few moments of time, a fellow of my size was ensconced in a sweet home and wrapped in sweet sleep. A first-class know-nothing till rosy-sweet morning was wide over the fields. To awake and look abroad and remember the night was to be filled with sweet melody. A while at the organ brought forth a piece of music now known as 'The Unclouded Day.' A Day and a half was bestowed on the four stanzas.” Willie Nelson is of course everybody's favorite hippie-cowboy and up next is a very hippie-cowboy style song, The Troublemaker. This song points out that Jesus didn't simply fit the way many people conform him to be to support or views and to remember that hatred of those we don't agree with is something very unchristian, even if we hate their sin. Though this song is in many ways very much of its time, there are ways in which it is still relevant to us today. Afterwards comes Skeeter Davis singing Do You Know My Jesus. Next is a Sons of the Pioneers original, The Seawalker written by one of the group's founding members Tim Spencer. Today's musical selection ends with The Million Dollar Quartet (Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins) singing Just a Little Talk With Jesus. For those of you not familiar with The Million Dollar Quartet, this was a legendary jam session. It was not planned as the four just all wound up in Sun Studios on the same day and ending up playing and singing together. Jack Clement was also in the studio and felt that he simply had to record this. The session consisted mostly of old gospel songs and country tunes. Marty Stuart would later refer to the four as "misplaced preachers." I agree with this, the four all had the charisma that simply demanded attention and when any of them stopped to talk about God or sing a gospel song everybody listened. The song was written by the preacher Rev. Cleavant Derricks in 1936. 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. Thessalonians 3:13

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13

The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. Proverbs 6:10-11

For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster. Proverbs 1:32-33

Psalm 121
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself. Proverbs 11:17

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. Proverbs 29:2

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #74

Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again it is time for some more classic cartoons.

Today’s selection begins with one of Walt Disney’s silent Alice Comedies, Alice’s Day at Sea (1924).  This is an early entry in the series and like other early Alice films, this combines cartoon sequences with fully live action sequences similar to the Our Gang movies. The later Alice Comedies would minimize the amount of live action even regulating the live action Alice to minor roles, while these early movies would be just as much live action comedies as they would be cartoon shorts.

Most of you are familiar with the spot gag pun filled Merrie Melodies that Tex Avery directed. However during that time period other directors did similar cartoons. Case in point is Friz Freleng’s Sport Chumpions (1941). While I enjoy this film for what it is, it did not impress exhibitors of the time. The following are some exhibitors reviews from the Motion Picture Herald. "Sport Chumpions: Merrie Melody - This is not up to the Merrie Melodies standard. There are very \few laughs in this one and nothing makes sense. They've made better ones than this. Running Time7 minutes.-Peter Cavel, Campau Theatre, Hamtramck, Mich. General Patronage." "Sport Chumpions: Merrie Melodies Cartoons - I didn't think much of this. Just something to fill out the program. Running time 7 minutes. -J.M. Thomsen, Center Theatre, Running time 7 minutes, Marelette, Mich. Rural Patronage."

Next is the introduction to two of the Goofy Gophers and one of their best films, The Goofy Gophers (1947). This cartoon is as fast paced and funny as anyone could want from a Looney Tune. A review in The Film Daily called this "a definite laugh-getter with plenty of appeal." I agree.

Before Mr. Magoo or Gerald McBoing Boing, UPA made various industrial films for various companies. The following movie was made for United Auto Workers and was made to help
with race relations in the factories. The film is Brotherhood of Man (1946) and was loosely based off of a pamphlet  called Races of Mankind and addresses how many racial myths are simply myths. 

Thanks for joining me come back next week for more animated treasures. Peace love and cartoons. 

-Michael J Ruhland

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Please Donate to Old Town Music Hall

Old Town Music Hall, in El Segundo, California, is an incredible place, a 1920's style movie theatre with a full Wurlitzer pipe organ. This is the best place to go to see old movies and listen to vintage music live. One of the great joys is when you get to see a silent film with live musical accompaniment, this is something everyone should do in their lifetime. They have been closed due to the current lockdown and are trying their best to survive, but it is hard for them. The best thing you can do is to donate. As I know all of those who read this blog are fans of classic film, I hope many of you will be interested in helping preserving such an important place to so many old movie buffs as well as fans of vintage music.

To donate click here.

Thank you all and God bless.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Fight Against Birth of a Nation

If you are a silent film fan like me you have probably heard that The Birth of a Nation (1915) is not only controversial today, but was also so when released. When I first heard this, my mind immediately wondered just how controversial was the movie at the time and what the backlash was like. These following articles should give you somewhat of an idea, even if they don't answer all your questions. If you have any trouble reading these, click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in.

Motion Picture News, 1916
Motion Picture News 1915
-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, June 1, 2020

Silent Film of the Month: Battling Butler (1926)

Run Time: 77 minutes. Studio: Buster Keaton Productions. Director: Buster Keaton. Writers: Paul Gerard Smith, Al Boasberg, Charles Henry Smith, Lex Neal. Producers: Joseph M. Schenck, Buster Keaton. Main Cast: Buster Keaton, Snitz Edwards, Sally O'Neil, Walter James, Bud Fine. Cinematographers: Bert Haines, J.D. Jennings.

Usually I try to dedicate my silent film of the month post to a more obscure or forgotten movie and would not do a Buster Keaton silent feature. While Battling Butler is not obscure or forgotten, it is often overlooked. It is probably the least talked about of all of Buster's silent feature films. However this is a bit unfair as it is a hilarious movie.

The story is one of simple mistaken identity. Alfred Butler (Buster Keaton) is a pampered rich man, who has always had everything in life handed to him on a silver platter. He falls in love with a woman (Sally O'Neil), whose family considers him a wimp. His butler (Snitz Edwards) finds out that Alfred Butler is also the name of a boxer, so to put him in good with his girlfriend's family the butler tells them that he is the famous boxer. This leads to Alfred having to actually fight in the boxing ring.

This movie was surprisingly based off a British stage musical of the same name, yet Buster was perfectly able to make this a Buster Keaton film and not simply an adaption.

This movie has just as many laughs as anyone could want from a silent Buster Keaton feature. There are so many laugh out loud funny moments here. I love Buster's version of "roughing it" and Buster's training are Keaton comedy at its finest and funniest. The final shot is also Buster's humor at his best. The plot while simple is beautifully woven together showing that Buster was just as great a filmmaker as a comedian. With all the broad slapstick. Buster also puts some subtle but masterful bits of filmmaking here.

One of the most surprising parts of this film is the climatic fight. Throughout most of this movie, slapstick comedy reigns supreme. With this you may expect a slapstick boxing fight similar to what Charlie Chaplin did in City Lights (1931), but we get a more dramatic and intense final sequence. However it works perfectly, by this point in the film we have learned to care about Buster's character and plight, making this a great suspense sequence. Yet we don't feel cheated because the training sequence gave us boxing related slapstick at its best. Both the slapstick scene and the more serious scene of course feature Buster doing all his own stunts and while quite different from the stunts that he performed in say. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), they are just as impressive.  

This was a very popular movie and was a major Boxoffice success. Buster himself would refer to this as his favorite of his films. For some reason unknown to me though it is often written off as a lesser Keaton film. However this does not change how great of a movie this really is and how it will still delight audiences today.

The following are some exhibitors reviews from Exhibitors Herald (in 1927)

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - 70% Not as good as I excepted, but it pleased all the children and the majority of the adults. Should have been put in five reels instead of seven and it would have made a far better comedy. Had a good turn out for this on New Years day, so I am satisfied. Seven Reels. - Rfeiffer, Princess theatre, Chilton, Wis. - Small Town Patronage."

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - 50% Fairly entertaining and in places quite funny, but in my estimation it was far from being an outstanding comedy. Everybody laughed and seemed to enjoy it but didn't receive one compliment on it or any particular knock. Played January 4-5. Homer P. Morely, Princess Theatre, Buchman, Mich. -Small Town Patronage."

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - Very good. Have seen Buster in better ones. Do not think that it pleased s well as 'Go West' but very good. Played December 28-29. Six Reels. Mrs. Fay Clark, Capital theatre. Hillsboro, Ia. Small Town Patronage."

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - 80% Keaton is always good and in 'Battling Butler' he is great. Not as many comedy situations as perhaps 'Go West' but he certainly is great in all the scenes of 'Battling Butler.' Our crowd yelled, giggled, laughed and applauded. What more can a comedy do? Played December 5-6. Six reels. A.D. Stanchfield, Rae theatre, Ann Arbor, Mich. -General patronage."

"Battling Butler: Buster Keaton - Good Buster Keaton, but not up to 'Go West,' which was his best according to our patrons. -J.J. Hoffman, Plainview theatre, Plainview, Nebr."  

The following is a brief article in Moving Picture World.

"For his advance on 'Battling Butler,' Charles H. Amos, of the Carolina theatre, Greenville, S.C., used a pair of clever youngsters as a perambulator.

"First he showed them the film to let them get ideas for comedy stunts, and then he put them on a truck on which a ring had been built. The truck perambulated the streets, stopping every little while to pull off a fast and funny round.

"The same boys were used for a novel prologue. Their gloves faces, hats and shoes were treated with luminous paint and after they had been introduced the house was darkened and only the painted objects could be seen. A two minute round ended in a knock out just as the main title come on the screen."

Picture-Play, 1926
If you want to watch this movie it is on YouTube.

-Michael J. Ruhland