With the just announced death of Fidel Castro, and the confused and confusing responses of world leaders, let’s ignore the politics and the law, and take a moment to consider the humanity. Oh, the humanity! (Where did I hear that before?). This is a true story, worth the telling, crying out for a screenplay and a star like Meryl Streep. I wrote it up on Wikipedia. Who needs fiction?

Mary McCarthy was the daughter of a St. John’s, Newfoundland, supplier of fishing supplies. Showing some musical talent, he sent his daughter Mary to Boston for lessons, and it is there she met a wealthy Spaniard named Pedro Gomez Cueto, who met her father and asked for her hand in marriage. Her father said come back in a year. He did, and so they were married, and he took her to live with him in Havana, Cuba, where he manufactured boots for the army.

He built his wife a white mansion in 1936 called Villa Mary, which became their home. It was filled with Napoleon III furniture and chandeliers, and a Steinway grand piano, becoming a gathering place for visiting artists and singers, such as Frank Sinatra (who had a house behind hers) and Nat King Cole. In those days, under the rule of President Fulgencio Batista, the island was known as “a millionaires’ paradise”. They became part of local society, and helped to found the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra and an orphanage for boys. Then in 1951 her husband died, and her life changed drastically under Fidel Castro’s revolution of 1959.

The US imposed a trade embargo against Cuba in 1962, causing her U.S. bank account of about 4 million dollars to be frozen. Unable to touch her money, things became worse when Castro confiscated her island holdings, and granted her a monthly pension of 200 pesos (about $15). While free to return to her native Canada, or the United States, she vowed never to leave the island, for Cuba was her home. And so this native Canadian continued to live there in poverty, a relic from days gone by. This is a documentary made a few years ago.

Her neighbors had left the island long before, and their mansions were converted into embassy residences. Peacocks continued to strut under the palm trees in her large garden. The abandoned mansion still retains the elegance and graceful atmosphere that Mary so carefully maintained for more than seven decades.  Screen Shot 2016-11-26 at 5.05.09 PM

In 2002 she broke her hip and used a wheelchair, but continued to wear a satin dress, silk blouse, chiffon scarf and lipstick to greet her visitors.

With the need for more money due to her medical problems, some measure of relief came in 2007 through a Canadian diplomat. Washington allowed her to draw from her inheritance $96 a month. “I don’t even want to buy candy,” she declared in her distinctive Newfoundland Irish accent.

Reminders of her long life were on the walls where framed telegrams hung from Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II, congratulating her on her 100th birthday, and photographs on the table showed her with the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham and the guitarist Andrés Segovia.

Asked whether she approved of Fidel Castro and his revolution, she did concede that poverty and illiteracy ended with his rule.

She died on Friday, April 3, 2009, just 24 days short of her 109th birthday, and was buried next to her husband in a white marble crypt in The Necropolis Cristóbal Colón, in Havana.

This film was shot in IMAX and released September 9, 2016.  It stars Tom Hanks as Captain Sullenberger, was filmed by Clint Eastwood, written by Todd Komarnicki, and edited by Blu Murray.  The event, now famous as “The Miracle on the Hudson”  took place on January 15, 2009, at around 3:30pm. The plane, an Airbus A320 of USAirways, hit a flock of Canada Geese, lost power, and after gliding was landed in the Hudson River’s freezing water off 50th Street Manhattan, with 155 passengers and crew, all of whom were saved.  Here is what it meant to me:

My interest in flying began with building model airplanes as a kid, and ended with my ownership of 2 planes which I flew until I was forced to sell them due to the ministrations of a lawyer, the judge, and my own experience of PTSD and loss of pilot license to fly.

While my aeronautical interest was thus curbed, it continues to this day online.  I like to follow the career of my son Benjy (Delta Captain, flying internationally)  who I’m glad to say I rescued from a waiter’s career at California Pizza Kitchen within a stone’s throw of LAX. I taught him to fly my plane, and sent him on his way to a flying school in Georgia, where he gained all his grades.

This film allowed me to come to grips with the sheer complication of flying, the attendant responsibility of the ship’s captain, and a better understanding and consequent admiration for the skills Ben has acquired.

I met with him recently at a local restaurant – here’s a picture – but a falling out ensued.  (He cancelled my parental courtesy free pass on Delta flights, because I wanted to visit my daughter Pema in Norfolk, and meet my grand-kids for the first time.IMG_3040 At my current age of 84, it becomes kind of important.)  He currently flies out of JFK to Africa, where he now lives.

Back to the film.

It’s full of the intricate detail of the world of flying under the watchful eye of the FAA , of enormous interest to me, but possibly above the curiosity of your average film-goer.

As a member of the Directors Guild of America, I get to see all the new releases which compete for my attention and so get to vote, culminating in the DGA Awards dinner which will be held in Hollywood February 4, 2017, and which I always attend. I shall most certainly cast my vote for this picture in different categories. But maybe I have too much of a special interest.

Post Election Day November 8, 2016:

I had been asked earlier this year what I thought of Donald Trump. That was like being asked what I thought of Adolph Hitler. But rather than going into the gory details, I decided to make a little comedy sketch with my two young talented friends Seth Garben and Jacob Grodnik. It was called “NAZI MAN!”, and showed a couple of American method actors complaining how the British have stolen all the good parts in Hollywood, before becoming confronted with Rudy, the idiot younger brother of Adolph, who has been hiding in a bunker for 70 years, emerging with the avowed intention of making Nazi Germany great again.

But the times they are a-changing, and it’s no longer de rigueur to make fun of the Donald, who is now our president-elect. Hey, he might come after YOU if you don’t straighten up. And you’d lose the chance to be part of his cabinet. So I’m taking down this spoof, to be on the safe side.

However, the story of how we made it on the sly is worth telling, so I’ll leave that up.


I don’t usually believe in revealing how movie magic is made, but progress says it’s old-fashioned to hold that view. These days everybody’s a movie maker, and wants to know. It seems that people are able to somehow suspend their disbelief when it suits them, so a little back story here.

We shot it on the sly, and the reason was that displaying the Swastika in public is, well, unwise. Illegal in most European countries, we’re told.

We went to Western Costume to get me be-garbed in the genuine Hitler uniform, which they have hanging on their racks.  It’s tan and very understated. Swastika, Iron Cross etc, and much medal bling. IMG_2916We paid their rent for a week, and then the manager came charging out and refused to let us take it off the premises! He said it was their policy to rent genuine Nazi uniforms only to big studio productions, and here we were, a tiny independent. A solution was quickly needed.

That’s how we came up with the fairly innocuous but genuine leather Lederhosen, which, though expensive, we bought. Then we shot on a Sunday and holiday when everything was closed, and – just lucky, actually – no cop cars were to be seen to check on whether we’d obtained permits and whatnot. We hadn’t.

Update: Producers renamed this spoof “Make America Great Again (parody)” There are several videos with similar titles, and runaway views in the millions. Ours not.

What shocks me for the future of the medium is that viewers are watching old copyrighted movies with the animated faces of Trump and Hillary and Obama simply pasted on.  Check out these hijacking examples: A “sword and sandals” epic along with “The Terminator”. I have to admit that “Making America Great Again (Donald Trump parody)” is very funny

and so is

but the law needs to be changed if the ownership of intellectual property is to mean anything. Every movie ever made could be used and abused in this way under the umbrella protection of “Parody”.  A “with apologies to . . .” would be helpful, but that’s presuming the cult of ethics still exists in its old form. Hence lawyers.

Members of the entertainment community have always marveled at the idiocy which brought about the downright willful destruction of much of the BBC’s television and radio history. It never made any sense that those old shows simply disappeared. Now we know part of the answer.

The Daily Telegraph last week reported on statements from Sir David Attenborough, who talked with Alan Yentob in front of an audience of the time he was the policy maker during the late sixties. This was the headline:

David Attenborough: my regrets over wiping Alan Bennett ‘dross’

Sir David Attenborough, the broadcaster, admits one “scar on his conscience” from his early days in broadcasting: sanctioning the wiping of priceless Alan Bennett sketches. Sir David, who was controller of the fledgling BBC Two from 1965 to 1969, said he could not “dodge” the blame for the mistake, after making an executive decision to cut costs.

“One of the scars on my conscience is that the Alan Bennett programmes, which were wonderful, are not recorded and were lost,” Sir David said. “I mustn’t dodge it. I can remember perfectly well someone coming to me and saying ‘look, we have to build another set of vaults and it’s going to cost x million pounds.
“‘We will need that if we’re going to keep everything, so can’t you please find a way to keep the jewels and get rid of the dross? It means how many episodes of What’s My Line?’ or whatever quiz do you want?’
“And of course when you’re faced with that you have to decide whether to put the money into new products, new people, or cherishing the old. I took the decision that I did take, which was to say to every department, if you’ve got a long-running series select one out of six – or whatever it was – and save that. But be strong and get rid of the rest.
“That doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t have kept some of the Alan Bennetts; we should. Why we didn’t have some of them, I don’t know.”
[Former Director General] Alan Yentob added other programmes had suffered the same fate in different periods of BBC history.
“I think we can say the same about editions of Monty Python and others which have somehow disappeared,” he told an audience.

I had to comment at the end of the article with my 2 cent’s worth. I said

Vaults do not cost millions of pounds. Choosing between products, people, and intellectual property, the property of others, does not fly or make sense. This man has no integrity whatsoever. He should be sued to the limit, class actions, for these crass decisions which he admits. No mercy! And, this cost the corporation (meaning us and the government) many millions from future sales.
I am reminded that I appeared with Eric Porter in a BBC Play of the Month. It was “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 1968. It disappeared. We were told that a technician had pressed a delete button by mistake. Now we know the truth. Thanks, Mr Attenborough.

As the father of a Delta Airlines captain, I have a travel pass that allows me to travel anywhere on their routes for nearly free. Or does it?

Used to be I could walk up to the counter, and check in. No more. Now I’m told I have to go through my son. Trouble is, he doesn’t want to talk to me, not since my wife Lynn Redgrave’s funeral. I think he’s upset that since his mother died, I remarried. Maybe there are other reasons too, but it’s his choice.

I called Delta’s corporate head office in Atlanta to ask where he was so I could contact him. No dice, I was told that all information on their employees is confidential. I pressed. I asked if he still worked for them. Silence. I asked if he was still alive. They hung up on me.

I have to be in London for this. I promised to be there. A tiny charity is London’s Cinema Museum. Celebrities go there to meet and chat with members, and there is no money involved whatsoever. Not even expenses.

I wish I had the money to make the donation of my costs to travel and stay a few days in London, but I don’t have it. Simple as that.

So, I am asking if there are any Delta pilots or crew out there who will contact me, and tell me if they know 1. if Benjy still works for Delta, and 2. if he does, give him a message that I need his approval of my passage to London and back. You can contact me in complete confidence (I’m a Notary Public, and know what that means) at my email john@johnclarkprose.com, or at my Facebook page.

And I’d thank you much, and over and out.

Nikke Finke has a free site which I rather like, it’s where you go for the latest breaking news on the Hollywood front. It’s called DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD.

Today, she informed her readers that the managers were at it again, pleading their cause before a federal judge, but were thrown out. Here, she can speak for herself:

Personal managers took it on the chin Tuesday in U.S. District Court when Judge Dean Pregerson wouldn’t touch California’s Talent Agencies Act. Instead the judge threw out an outrageously broad lawsuit filed by the National Conference of Personal Managers seeking to overturn the state’s ban on managers “procuring” employment. That provision has effectively allowed clients  to void their management contracts and not pay commissions even if the managers obtained a job for them. (Managers are unlicensed whereas talent agents must be licensed by the state to procure employment.) Pregerson rejected the managers’ claim that California has created “involuntary servitude” for them. “Not being compensated for work performed does not inevitably make that work involuntary servitude,” the judge ruled. “Plaintiff’s members have choices.” He also rejected claims that the Talent Agencies Act violated the Commerce Clause, the Contracts Clause and the First Amendment.

Well, that got my pulse going and my blood-pressure pointing north. A lot of managers made comments outlining ideas for future strategy, and I just HAD to chime in with my voice and MY comment:

John Clark says:

ACTOR HERE! Spoiler alert – rant ahead – listen up.
 We actors are entrepreneurs by instinct and training and dreaming. When we’re not working, we work out, honing our craft, and wait for the phone to ring. And wait and wait and wait. 
So, in frustration, we pick up the phone and call a casting director about a project we heard about, maybe from a writer friend, and a part we think we’re right for. She/he won’t take the call. We call the packager.  Same thing.
 We call Breakdown Services to ask for a reasonably priced subscription to their researched data-base of parts, characters, and jobs available day by day. They won’t sell to us.
 We’re SHUT OUT of OUR industry!

Remove all of us actors? What will be left is NOTHING…NOTHING…NOTHING.

Remove all of these agents and managers, then what’s left? Why, the world of entertainment and fantasy fulfillment for paying audiences happily humming away.

I’m eighty years old. I’ve been a part of our industry since I was a famous child star in England before the end of World War 2, and quite famous since (for all the wrong reasons.) I won’t be around much longer.
 And I say F**K Y*U to agents and managers for preventing me from making direct contact with my goals. [I used the actual words, which Nikke allows and my webmaster doesn’t.]

I pass this advice to the next generation of actors. “Get in touch with your own self, and make sure there are no degrees of separation between you, your soul, your spirit, your sense of creativity, your business sense, and any roadblocks in and to your ability to GET WORK!

Thank you judge, thank you SAG/AFTRA/EQUITY, and thank you Government for controlling the agencies by licensing them, and rejecting the “managers” of actors’ lives. If these “personal managers” really want to “represent” their clients, then they should marry them, and go all the way.
 And that is my rant for the day.”

There was an immediate response.

WTF are you talking about? Because CD’s won’t take your calls, Managers shouldn’t be paid for the work they do for you insecure, ranting, miserable actors?

Comment by Huh? — Thursday March 7, 2013 @ 2:22pm PST 

To which I said

If you had half of a brain, you’d have made sure that the client’s checks, contractually, were made payable to you, subtract your commission, and then net it off to the client. But then you’d be a fiduciary, subject to the laws of fraud, and actors are smart enough to see that, and won’t let you do it. Which makes YOU an insecure, ranting miserable ex-hairdresser manager. Boo hoo.

  • Comment by John Clark — Thursday March 7, 2013 @ 5:33pm PST

(Oh Lord, maybe I should not have said that. Now I’ll NEVER get a manager to represent me, nor an agent for that matter! Or maybe even a haircut .)

As I approach my eightieth birthday on November 1st (“All Saints Day”, thank you very much), I attended a party given by my oldest friends, Max and Suzy at their studio downtown.

Gee, what a party. I tried to email this clip to my kids, but the size is too big as an attachment. Use a web server, I’m told, so what the heck. Here it is.

Party time.

November 4, 2012

I’ve followed the horrors of Hurricane Sandy, and tried to check on the welfare of my 2 kids who live there, pilot Benjy by the Housatonic river in Connecticut, and photographer Annabel near the water in Brooklyn. I’ve noticed the crane hanging over my old apartment building the Osborne, and how West 57th street was evacuated and Carnegie Hall closed. And now another storm is headed there, a Nor’easter, and it’s only early November.

Continue Reading Winter Storms on the East Coast

This is a very narrow discussion centering on the accuracy of written biographies of this man, as publicized in Wikipedia, where it’s published that his first appearance in radio was with me. I am claiming that he did not appear in any of the radio series in which I starred as the first BBC William, and that I am right and they are wrong. They make their arguments to make me look a fool, and I don’t like that. However, since this is not the main thrust of this self-help legal blog, I shall tuck this discussion into a corner, and point to it for the attention of certain evil-doers at Wikipedia.

Here is a scan from the McCann book’s published reference page, showing that 1. his research on TV appearances was incomplete and 2. a claim that his first radio appearance was with me, and 3.  a scan of the Radio Times entry showing that he did appear with me on television in 1946, and also showing that the BBC did print entire cast lists. These editors claim the BBC did not.

Since it behooves me to research the accuracy of Mr. McCann’s entry for JLM’s first radio appearance, I am arranging for a volunteer researcher from the Just William Society to access the BBC’s internal files, not generally available to the public, in Reading. We shall get to the bottom of this. If I am wrong, I will be glad to say so, and make appropriate apologies. But regardless of that, those Wikipedia editors need to learn some manners. Jimbo Wales himself demands that they do under their stated rules attendant to editing, and I don’t see anything happening.

Incidentally, other editors at Wikipedia say that this kind of thing happens all the time, and that they just walk away and move on. That can’t happen with me, because they slagged my reputation, and short of suing, which I have promised not to do, I’m left with no choice but to show them up in this case, since the admins aren’t helping a whole lot.