October 14th, 2015

Short Subjects

Wauwatosa Tour of Homes

Saturday, October 3rd, we took the annual Wauwatosa Historical Society tour of homes. This year, the neighborhood for the tour was Washington Highlands, with six houses open on Washington Circle, Upper Parkway North, and West Washington Boulevard. All the homes were very gracious and handsomely appointed. The two we liked best happened to be the first two we visited. One was a nicely remodeled and finished “Milwaukee Bungalow” on Washington Circle, and the second an “American Tudor” on West Washington Boulevard. An “American Tudor” is based on Tudor design, but is a bit modernized and streamlined as compared to a classic English Tudor home. This house backs onto parkway land along Schoonmaker Creek and Martha Washington Drive, which gives the effect of having a sizable scenic estate.

The Wauwatosa Historical Society does a good job of organizing these tours, and all the docents were friendly and informative. Thanks to the generous residents that opened their homes to us!

West Allis Car Show

Sunday morning, October 4th, we took a quick pass through the annual West Allis Car Show on Greenfield Avenue between S. 70th and S. 76th Streets. As ever, the show included a wide variety of classic, vintage, and collectible cars, with emphasis on later-model American “muscle cars”. Unlike the “Milwaukee Masterpiece” show which covers mainly historically correct restorations, at West Allis there are a lot more custom cars and “hot rods” which are interesting to see.
It’s always a pleasant time if the weather is good. A DJ will be playing classic rock through the speakers that cover the district streets, various charities will be selling snacks, and the people-watching is almost as good as the car watching.

Dining at Sanford

On Tuesday, October 6th, we went to Sanford restaurant for dinner. For starter, we split an order of duck breast, which was excellent. For main course, I had the “Lacquered Quail and Crisp Veal Sweetbread with Grilled Peach and Braised Collards, Peach Kernel Gastrique“. Lacquered Quail has been grilled and glazed, which gives it a shiny finish. Mine was quite delicious, and the veal sweetbreads, lightly breaded so that they had a dumpling-like appearance were excellent also, with a very light flavor. The grilled peach and collards were a fine accompaniment.

Georgie had the “Spiced Paillard of Salmon* with Bulgar Pilaf, Cilantro and Tomato”, which was part of the monthly ethnic menu, in this case, Lebanese. The salmon was perfectly prepared, moist and delicious, and the bulgur pilaf was good with it. The only drawback was the drizzle of tomato sauce, which contained some very hot spice that was too sharp for our taste.

For desserts, I chose the wickedly rich Banana Butterscotch Toffee Tart, while Georgie had the Blueberry Clafoutis. These are both variations on classic Sanford desserts, and were up to expectations.

Service at Sanford was as usual excellent. We were pleased to see that, although it was early on a week night, business was brisk, perhaps due to Sanford being rated number one in the Journal-Sentinel annual review of restaurants that came out recently. The rating is well deserved.

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Focus Film Society, “Chimes at Midnight”

On Saturday evening, October 10th, we went to the Church in the City on North Hackett Avenue for the FOCUS Film Society showing of Orson Welles’ 1965 film, “Chimes at Midnight.”

FOCUS (Films: Old, Classic & Unknown on Saturdays) is basically a two-man operation, led by film experts Henry Landa and Dan Guenzel, who track down films of interest that can be run on 16mm projector. This involves renting movies from archives across the country and even overseas.

The description of “Chimes at Midnight” is: “Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kenosha born Orson Welles, The FOCUS Film Society presents Welles' last important film, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, his take on Shakespeare's Falstaff stories. Plagued by money problems and filming logistics in Spain Welles nevertheless created something extraordinary and, we might add, entertaining. Supporting Welles are such artists as Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, Fernando Rey and Sir John Gielgud. Great visuals, beautifully-spoken dialog and an exciting battle scene (filmed on a shoestring though you wouldn't know it) highlight this forgotten masterpiece.” That is a pretty good run-down. This is Welles’ centenary year, but the tenth of October was also the 30th anniversary of his death.

Welles of course plays Falstaff, the raffish knight who accompanies Prince Hal (Keith Baxter) through the events of Shakespeare’s plays “Henry IV, Part One,” and “Henry IV, Part Two,” with some dialog lifted from “Merry Wives of Windsor”. Welles is the iconic Falstaff, and Baxter stands up to him very well as the Prince. John Gielgud is aloof and distant as the disapproving King Henry IV, who, knowing the questionable legitimacy of his reign hopes to leave a secure crown to his son, and that his son will be worthy and capable of holding on to it.

The film does a good job of following the royal politics as the rebellion of Northumberland, his cousin Worcester, and his son, Hotspur, ferments; meanwhile, Falstaff and his ragged gang of bandits, whores, and ambitious commoners, surf the waves of unrest as best they might, looking out for any advantage.

Distilling two lengthy plays into one two-hour movie requires a lot of cuts, and quite a few characters familiar to Shakespeareans, such as Douglas, Glendower, Scroop, Mortimer, and Lady Mortimer do not appear.

All the acting is notable, with Welles leading as Falstaff. After his long run as the buoyant and seldom at a loss reprobate, his devastation at Hal’s final rejection of him is powerfully done (as is Hal’s blistering rebuke when Falstaff interrupts his coronation procession). In the scene in which Falstaff and Hal take turns mocking the King, it is discernible that the voice they are “doing” is Gielgud’s. Norman Rodwell as Hotspur is big, handsome, and loud, the proper captain of the team, likable as a man and for his enthusiasm, and unlikable for his stubborn cocksureness. Welles is ably supported by Margaret Rutherford as innkeeper Mistress Quickly, and Alan Webb as Justice Shallow, his annoyingly cheerful friend.

The sequence of the Battle of Shrewsbury is surprisingly long given the length of the movie, but, unlike some films, not tediously so. It is amazing, not least in its frank depiction of war as dirty and brutal. I appreciated the fact that many poor foot soldiers, such as Falstaff’s levy, are armed with nothing more than clubs, with which they are still deadly.
The settings, exteriors shot in Spain, are perfect, and the film is dramatically lit and very artistically shot. One area where the poverty of the budget unfortunately manifests is in the sound, with some of the otherwise “beautifully-spoken dialog” getting lost, but not so much that you lost the gist of what was going on.

Recommended for fans of Shakespeare, Welles, or historical dramas. The film is available on DVD.

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