February 27, 2009

Weekly Meredy.com E-book - Random Harvest

I love reading the books on which many classic flicks are based. In fact, I collect them. I thought you might like to read them, too. So, I'm starting something new. A link to a free classic movie-related e-book will be featured weekly on my blog.

For today, I've chosen an old favorite of mine: Random Harvest by James Hilton.

Click here to read Random Harvest and to listen to the Lux Radio Theater version.

February 20, 2009

Weekly Meredy.com E-book - Magnificent Obsession

I love reading the books on which many classic flicks are based. In fact, I collect them. I thought you might like to read them, too. So, I'm starting something new. A link to a free classic movie-related e-book will be featured weekly on my blog.

I've chosen to begin with an old favorite of mine: Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas.

Click here to read Magnificent Obsession, listen to the Lux Radio Theater version starring Robert Taylor and Irene Dunne, and listen to the Screen Directors Playhouse version of Magnificent Obsession starring Irene Dunne.

February 16, 2009

No. 4 Pittsburgh beats No. 1 Connecticut 76-68

HARTFORD, Conn. — It wasn’t just a game between No. 1 and No. 4. It was a game between two of the Big East’s most physical teams. And it was played just the way it was expected to be.

“That was the most physical game I ever played in my entire life,” DeJuan Blair after getting 22 points and 23 rebounds in No. 4 Pittsburgh’s 76-68 victory over No. 1 Connecticut on Monday night, the Panthers’ first win over a top-ranked team. “There were elbows flying, bodies flying. We just went after each other the whole game.”

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun referred to the games played in the conference over a decade ago.

“The Big East games in the 90s were like this,” he said after having his team’s 13-game winning streak stopped. “They came in here and played a style of basketball we haven’t seen this year and it was effective against us. … They made big plays and we didn’t. It was a hell of a basketball game.”

The biggest of those plays were 3-pointers from Levance Fields, who scored all 10 of his points in the final 3:09. His first 3 gave the Panthers (24-2, 11-2) the lead for good at 64-61 with 3:09 left. His second 3 with 2:21 left made it 67-61, and he added four free throws in the final minute.

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon kidded around that if he knew Fields had missed his first eight shots, he might not have called plays for him.

Those misses didn’t faze Fields, a senior point guard who leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio.

“I think every shot I take is going in so it didn’t matter how many I had missed,” he said. “It didn’t matter that I missed the first eight, I got the biggest two.”

A.J. Price had 18 points for the Huskies (24-2, 12-2), who started their third week at No. 1 earlier Monday.

Sam Young had 25 points for Pittsburgh, which lost all 13 games it had played against No. 1 teams, the last three against Connecticut over the last 11 years.

The game was expected to be physical down low and it was with the 6-foot-7 Blair flipping 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet over his back in the first half, sending him to the bench for about 4 minutes. Blair got a dose back in the second half when he had to leave the game for almost 3 minutes after taking an elbow to the face.

“It seemed like a typical game to us, big bodies, good players, playing hard on a national stage,” Dixon said. “It didn’t seem too much of a change for us.”

Calhoun felt it was quite a change for his team.

“We haven’t played in that sort of game since the early 2000s, the 1990s,” he said. “That was what was going to be allowed tonight and Pittsburgh played that way. They outrebounded us and we left a man open on two big plays. We were in a foreign land a bit. I’m very proud of the 13-game wining streak and hopefully we’ll get back to boxing out.”

Thabeet, coming off a 25-point, 20-rebound, nine-block effort against Seton Hall, finished with five points on 1-for-5 shooting and had four rebounds and two blocks.

“We played Pittsburgh before and it’s always a battle,” Thabeet said. “I’m glad we get to play them again. We just couldn’t hang in there.”

The teams meet again on March 7 in Pittsburgh and there could be another matchup in the Big East tournament.

Pitt took a 36-33 halftime lead behind Blair’s 15 points and 13 rebounds and Young’s 12 points.

Connecticut, which leads the Big East in scoring defense (60.5) and field goal percentage defense (37.3) held Pittsburgh to 7-of-25 shooting and led 56-51.

The minutes leading up to Fields’ big shots were as intense as college basketball gets. The lead changed hands four times and there was a tie in the 2 1/2 minutes leading up to those shots.

Both his 3-pointers were wide-open shots when Connecticut couldn’t switch fast enough on screens, and they seemed to take the wind out of the Huskies, who came up empty on both possessions around the 3s.

“I thought we were taking good shots and I said we would hit some shots down the stretch and Levance did,” Dixon said. “He’s hit big shots his whole career at Pitt and those were among the biggest.”

Pittsburgh finished with a 48-31 rebound advantage, the first time the Huskies were outrebounded this season.

Connecticut fell to 40-8 as a No. 1 team and the loss kept them from the best start in school history. The Huskies remain tied with the 1995-96 team at 24-1.

February 06, 2009

Versatile actor James Whitmore dies at 87

LOS ANGELES – James Whitmore, the many-faceted character actor who delivered strong performances in movies, television and especially the theater with his popular one-man shows about Harry Truman, Will Rogers and Theodore Roosevelt, died Friday, his son said. He was 87.

The Emmy- and Tony-winning actor was diagnosed with lung cancer the week before Thanksgiving and died Friday afternoon at his Malibu home, Steve Whitmore said.

"My father believed that family came before everything, that work was just a vehicle in which to provide for your family," said Whitmore, who works as spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "At the end, and in the last two and a half months of his life, he was surrounded by his family."

His long-running "Give 'em Hell, Harry," tracing the life of the 33rd president, was released as a theatrical movie in 1975. Whitmore was nominated for an Academy Award as best actor, marking the only time in Oscar history that an actor has been nominated for a film in which he was the only cast member. His Teddy Roosevelt portrait, "Bully," was also converted into a movie.

He later became the TV pitchman for Miracle-Gro plant food, and used the product in his large vegetable garden at his Malibu home.

While not known for his politics, Whitmore was an early supporter of President Barack Obama. He stumped for Obama during a 2007 rally at the Gibson Theatre at Universal Studios, telling the crowd that Obama had the wisdom "to deal with a very, very confused and complex country, and the world." Whitmore also appeared in TV commercials in 2008 for the "First Freedom First" campaign, which advocates religious liberty and preserving the separation of church and state.

Whitmore had regularly attended an Oscar night bash, Night of 100 Stars, and had sent in his RSVP for this year, said Edward Lozzi, a spokesman for agent Norby Walters' gala.

Whitmore started both his Broadway and Hollywood careers with acclaimed performances, both as tough-talking sergeants. In 1947, discharged a year from Marine duty, he made his Broadway debut in a taut Air Force drama, "Command Decision." He was awarded a Tony for outstanding performance by a newcomer.

Two years later, Whitmore was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe as supporting actor in the war movie "Battleground."

He followed with memorable performances in scores of films, refusing to be typed. Besides war movies, he appeared in Westerns ("The Last Frontier," "Chato's Land"), musicals ("Kiss Me Kate," "Oklahoma!"), science fiction ("Planet of the Apes," "Them"), dramas ("The Asphalt Jungle," "The Shawshank Redemption") and comedies ("Mr. O'Malley and Mrs. Malone," "The Great Diamond Robbery.")

Shirley Jones, a teenager when she starred in "Oklahoma," said she came to know Whitmore during months of filming in Nogales, Ariz., and recalled being impressed by her good-humored and highly disciplined colleague.

"He told me, `If you're going to be in this business, you better learn your craft,'" Jones recalled. "And he never stopped learning."

His favorite film was "Black Like Me" (1964), a true story about a white reporter who used medication to blacken his skin to experience life as an African-American in the South.

Another of his rare starring roles was "The Next Voice You Hear" (1950), in which a family hears the voice of God via the radio. He played opposite Nancy Davis, the future Mrs. Ronald Reagan.

Whitmore often appeared on television, starring in the series "The Law and Mr. Jones" (1960-1962), "My Friend Tony" (1969) and "Temperatures Rising" (1972-1973). He received an Emmy in 1999 as guest actor in a series for "The Practice."

Jones recalled seeing him in a 2007 episode of the TV drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and marveling at his still-sharp talent. "I was absolutely blown away by that. He had a huge role, playing a lawyer, and it was phenomenal," she said.

A student of history, Whitmore delighted in portraying famous American personages. He toured in the play "The Magnificent Yankee," about Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. He played Ulysses S. Grant in a 1960 TV movie, Adm. William F. "Bull" Halsey in the Pearl Harbor attack spectacle "Tora! Tora! Tora!", and Walt Whitman in a dramatic reading, "A Whitman Portrait."

The monologues of Harry Truman, Will Rogers and Teddy Roosevelt brought Whitmore his greatest success. In 2000, he appeared in "Will Rogers, U.S.A." at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., his eighth engagement in the show at Ford's over a 30-year period.

President Ford attended a performance of "Give 'em Hell, Harry" at Ford's Theater after Richard Nixon resigned. Whitmore worried about Ford's reaction to Truman's crusty words about Nixon.

The actor recalled: "I was three feet from Gerry Ford when I said to the press as Truman: `Nixon is a no-good lying (expletive); if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he'd tell a lie just to keep his hand in.' After the show, (Ford) came up on stage and put his arm around me and said, `That was a pretty good blocking back.'" Ford had been line coach when Whitmore played football at Yale.

His movie and television careers continued into the 21st century, but he admitted that he preferred the stage.

"I find the process of making movies absolutely boring," he told a reporter in 1994. "It's so fragmented. You wait and wait and wait and then, look, as Jack Lemmon says, `It's magic time.' In the theater, once the curtain goes up, the actor is in charge."

Born in 1921 in White Plains, N.Y., Whitmore was active in school sports and acted in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, though his strict Methodist family disapproved of the profession. After a year at an Ivy League prep school, Whitmore in 1939 enrolled in prelaw at Yale University, where he had won a football scholarship. Two knee injuries ended his football career, and he devoted himself to dramatics.

After graduating from Yale, he enlisted in the Marines and served in the South Pacific. "I had a lot of time to think in the Marine Corps," he recalled, "and so I decided it wasn't the law I wanted but the theater."

In New York he studied at the American Theater Wing under the G.I. Bill, living on $20 a week and rooming with another hopeful actor, Jack Warden. After a season in summer stock in New Hampshire, he returned to New York and won the role of Sergeant Harold Evans in "Command Decision." Rave reviews started his career in motion.

He married Nancy Mygatt in 1947, and the couple had three sons, James, Steven and Daniel. They later divorced, and in 1971 he married an actress, Audra Lindley. They often appeared in plays together, even after their 1979 divorce. He remarried his first wife in the 1980s, but another divorce ensued. Nearing 80 in 2001, Whitmore married actress-writer Noreen Nash.

Whitmore is also survived by eight grandchildren.

February 01, 2009

Holmes goes from drug dealer to Super Bowl MVP

TAMPA, Fla. — He once sold drugs on a street corner. Now he’s MVP of a most remarkable Super Bowl.

Santonio Holmes, who overcame his gritty childhood in rural south Florida, made a brilliant catch with 35 seconds left to give the Pittsburgh Steelers their record sixth Super Bowl title, a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.

After a pass to the left corner went through Holmes’ hands, Ben Roethlisberger lofted the ball toward the right corner, over the hands of not one, not two, but three Arizona defenders. Holmes leaped to get it—and somehow managed to drag both feet in bounds, his toes barely scraping the grass before he tumbled out of bounds.

The official threw up both arms—touchdown!—and Holmes sat out of bounds for several seconds, looking down at a ball he didn’t want to give up. His teammates piled on top of him, celebrating a game that will go down as one of greatest in Super Bowl history.

Amazingly, Holmes’ catch came at exactly the same point—35 seconds remaining—as Plaxico Burress’ 13-yard touchdown catch in last year’s Super Bowl, giving the New York Giants their upset of the unbeaten New England Patriots.

That finish was a classic. This one was even better.

Holmes was so good—nine catches for 131 yards, four of them on the winning 78-yard drive—that he actually managed to outshine teammate James Harrison, who seemed to be a shoe-in for the MVP award through three quarters.

“Santonio is a guy who just loves to deliver,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

Harrison, the NFL’s defensive player of the year, returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half. The longest play in Super Bowl history gave the Steelers a 17-7 lead heading to the locker room, and they stretched it to 20-7 after three periods.

But Kurt Warner and the Cardinals rallied, going ahead 23-20 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining on Larry Fitzgerald’s 64-yard touchdown catch.

Then it was Holmes’ turn to shine. Earlier in the week, he used the Super Bowl stage to acknowledge selling drugs in Belle Glade, Fla., hoping his story would persuade other youngsters growing up in tough surroundings to turn their life around, just as he did.

Now, he’s given them another compelling reason to follow his path.

Before the final drive, Holmes told Roethlisberger to look his way. They hooked up four times, including a 40-yard pass that gave the Cardinals first down at the Arizona 6.

On the first throw into the end zone, Holmes couldn’t hang on. He slapped the ground after the ball slipped through his hands, then headed back to huddle.

Roethlisberger didn’t lose confidence in his third-year receiver. He looked that way again. Holmes came through.

“I said to him that I wanted to be the guy to make the plays for this team,” Holmes said. “Great players step up in big-time games to make plays.”

They don’t get any bigger than this.
Steelers rally to beat Cardinals 27-23

TAMPA, Fla. – Their Steel Curtain shredded, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense ended a Super Bowl of incredible swings with a final-minute touchdown for a historic victory.

Santonio Holmes made a brilliant 6-yard catch deep in the right corner of the end zone with 35 seconds remaining Sunday night, lifting the Steelers to a record-setting sixth Super Bowl win, 27-23 over the Arizona Cardinals.

"Scramble right, scramble left, find someone open," Roethlisberger said.

It was one of the most thrilling finishes to the NFL title game, certainly equaling last year's upset by the New York Giants that ended with Plaxico Burress' TD catch — with 35 seconds left, too.

But this one was even wilder.

The Steelers (15-4), winning their second Super Bowl in four seasons, led 20-7 in the fourth quarter, only to see Kurt Warner and the Cardinals stage a remarkable rally to go in front 23-20 with 2:37 remaining.

Warner hit All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald in stride for a 64-yard touchdown with 2:37 left. Already owning a slew of postseason receiving marks this year, Fitzgerald sped down the middle of the field, watching himself outrun the Steelers on the huge video screen.

Fitzgerald could only watch from the sideline as Roethlisberger engineered a 78-yard drive to win it in what resembled Heinz Field South. With waves of twirling Terrible Towels turning Raymond James Stadium into a black-and-gold tableau — Steelers fans supporting their beloved team, the economy be damned — Pittsburgh's offense rescued the title.

Holmes was selected the game's MVP.

"Great players step up in big-time games to make plays," Holmes said. "I kind of lost a little composure, you know, but I knew our defense would give us a chance to make it back."

The stunning swings overshadowed Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison's record 100-yard interception return for a touchdown to end the first half. That looked like the signature play until the final quarter, when both teams shook off apparent knockout punches to throw haymakers of their own.

Big Ben and Holmes struck the last blow, and when Warner fumbled in the final seconds, the Cardinals' dream of winning their first NFL crown since 1947 were gone.

"I said it's now or never, I told the guys all the film study you put in doesn't matter unless you do it now," Roethlisberger said. "I'm really proud of the way they responded."

The Cardinals (12-8), playing in their first Super Bowl and first championship game of any kind since 1948, lost their composure after Harrison's heroics. They had three penalties to keep Pittsburgh's 79-yard drive going, a 16-play march that ended with Jeff Reed's 21-yard field goal for a 20-7 lead.

And they couldn't get Fitzgerald free until very late. But boy did he get free.

The All-Pro who already had set a postseason record for yards receiving and had five touchdowns in the playoffs was a nonentity until an 87-yard fourth-quarter drive he capped with a leaping 1-yard catch over Ike Taylor. He made four receptions on that series on which Warner hit all eight passes for all the yards.

And then he struck swiftly for the 64-yarder that put Arizona within minutes of a remarkable victory.

A victory that didn't happen because the Steelers are as resilient as they come.

"I'm disappointed for our team," said Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh when the Steelers won the 2005 title. "This is a group of men that I'm very proud of. They played very hard in circumstances where nobody believed in them.

"We learned a lot about our team, it's just unfortunate it had to come out that way."

Pittsburgh looked like the offensive juggernaut to open the game, smoothly driving 71 yards in eight plays. But the 72nd yard that would have given the Steelers a touchdown never came.

It seemingly had when Roethlisberger's short run was ruled a TD. Whisenhunt challenged, and the score was overturned, leaving Tomlin his first difficult decision.

He took the points, Reed's 18-yard field goal, the shortest in a Super Bowl since 1976.

After forcing a punt, the Steelers kept the ball the remainder of the first quarter — 11:28 in all, outgaining Arizona 140-13, getting seven first downs to one for the Cardinals. As Warner and the usually potent Cardinals' offense watched, frustrated, from the sideline, Pittsburgh plowed it in on Gary Russell's 1-yard run to make it 10-0.

When Arizona finally got the ball back, it suddenly put the Steelers off-balance with short passes — and one huge play.

Warner had enough time to shine the NFL Man of the Year trophy he received just before kickoff, then hit Anquan Boldin streaking from left to right. He was upended at the Pittsburgh 1, and Warner's lob to Ben Patrick got Arizona on the board. It was the tight end's first touchdown this season.

Arizona's defense then emulated the Steel Curtain with a big play. Bryan Robinson tipped Roethlisberger's pass high into the air and Karlos Dansby corralled it at the Pittsburgh 34. The Cardinals got to the 1, then, perhaps jealous, the Steelers' D asserted itself — magnificently.

Harrison, the defensive player of the year, stepped in front of Boldin at the goal line, picked off Warner's throw and began a journey down the right sideline to the longest play in Super Bowl history.

Harrison ran past or through most of the Cardinals, nearly stepped out of bounds at one point, and was dragged down by Fitzgerald as he fell to the goal line. The play was reviewed as several Cardinals knelt on one knee, exhausted from the chase and disheartened by the result.

"I didn't see him around my offensive line," Warner said. "He made a great play and a great run to get them a touchdown."

The previous longest play was Desmond Howard's 99-yard kickoff return for Green Bay in 1997.