Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

Spartacus Reigns Supreme

Spartacus Reigns Supreme

by Henry Edward Hardy

Spartacus (1960) is one of director Stanley Kubrick’s best films. Starring a buff Kirk Douglas and darkly handsome Lawrence Olivier, this panoramic spectacular tells the fictionalized story of the Third Servile War of 73-71 BC, the last of the great slave revolts against the Roman Republic.

Douglas plays Spartacus, the leader of the slave rebellion, as a rather simple man who through ability and circumstance comes within a hairsbreadth of overthrowing the Roman slave system. There is a sweet love-story of his romance and marriage to Varinia as played by Jean Simmons, which contrasts to his rise from gladiator slave to a military leader who shattered legions.

It is not clear from the historical records of the real Spartacus that he had the ambition to overthrow slavery as a system, nor the Roman state. He may simply have wished to leave Italy with his followers in order to escape slavery and return to his home. However, in the movie there is a strong political subtext.

The script was written by Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo was a well-known author and Hollywood scriptwriter who was a member of the Communist Party USA. He had refused to give evidence against others to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947. In consequence, Trumbo had been blacklisted and unable to publish work under his own name for 13 years until Kubrick and Douglas, who produced the film, allowed him to put his name on Spartacus.

Trumbo’s Spartacus is a humanitarian, a revolutionary, and a communist who keeps the loot in a common treasury for all. The script, based on Howard Fast’s novel is scintillating, and contains veiled allusions and subtle dialog. Particularly risque and adroitly handled is the seduction scene between Crassus (Olivier) and the young Antoninus (Tony Curtis). Crassus discusses eating oysters or eating snails as a metaphor for sexual preference, indicating that it is merely a matter of taste, not of morality.

Spartacus makes great use of the wide screen. The composition of many of the shots is remarkable, and utterly brutalized by pan-and-scan versions. For instance, in an early scene at the gladiator school, the action takes place in the middle of the screen in the pit below, while from either side of the frame the sybaritic Roman elite look on and discusses the life and death struggles below in a cold and repellent, narcissistic manner.

Spartacus is a challenge to the mind, an inspiration to the spirit, a treat for the eye and a tug on the heartstrings. By all means see this great classic on the wide screen when you can.

A version of this review was published by Current.

Spartacus (1960) (IMDB)
Spartacus (wikipedia)
Spartacus (film) (wikipedia)
Spartacus (Rotten Tomatoes)

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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9 October, 2007 Posted by | 1960, blacklisting, communism, Dalton Trumbo, House Un-American Activities Committee, Howard Fast, HUAC, Jean Simmons, Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Olivier, media, movie, movies, politics, rebellion, review, revolt, revolution, Roman Empire, Rome, scanlyze, slavery, Spartacus, Stanley Kubrick, Third Servile War, Tony curtis | Leave a comment

I Dreamed I saw Joe Hill Last Night

Joe Hill’s Last Will

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide,
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan-
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”
My body? Ah, If I could choose,
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow.
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my last and final will,
Good luck to all of you, Joe Hill

Joe Hill was an IWW man. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was, and is a radical union dedicated to abolishing the wage system and replacing it with a democratic system of workplace organization.

Joe Hill was a migrant laborer to the US from Sweden, a poet, musician and union radical. The term “pie in the sky” is believed to come from his satirical song, “The Preacher and the Slave”.

Hill was framed for murder and executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 19, 1915. His last words were, “Fire!”

Just before his death he wrote to fellow IWW organizer Big Bill Haywood a letter which included the famous words, “Don’t mourn, Organize”.

The poem above was his will. It was set to music and became the basis of a song by Ethel Raim called “Joe Hill’s Last Will”.

A praise poem by Alfred Hayes became the lyrics of the best-known song about Joe Hill, written in 1936 by Earl Robinson. This was sung so beautifully by Joan Baez at Woodstock in 1969:

Joe Hill

words by Alfred Hayes
music by Earl Robinson

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

“In Salt Lake, Joe,” says I to him,
him standing by my bed,
“They framed you on a murder charge,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead,”
Says Joe, “But I ain’t dead.”

“The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
they shot you Joe” says I.
“Takes more than guns to kill a man”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”
Says Joe “I didn’t die”

And standing there as big as life
and smiling with his eyes.
Says Joe “What they can never kill
went on to organize,
went on to organize”

From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
where working-men defend their rights,
it’s there you find Joe Hill,
it’s there you find Joe Hill!

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

Written in reply to America, Tiger Lilies & and Politics: A Response to “America the Beautiful and Rabih Haddad”

see also: America the Beautiful and Rabih Haddad

Joe Hill (wikipedia)
Joe Hill mp3’s at emusic.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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4 February, 2007 Posted by | anarchism, audio, Big Bill Haywood, courage, history, IWW, Joan Baez, Joe Hill, labor, media, mp3, music, nonviolence, peace, poetry, politics, protest, radical, repression, revolution, scanlyze, socialism, strikes, Sverige, Sweden, unions | 4 Comments

America the Beautiful and Rabih Haddad

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

America the Beautiful
1st and 2nd verses,
Catherine Lee Bates
1913

I sang these verses in a somewhat quavery but fairly on-key voice to a high school auditorium full of people at a town meeting called by US Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-Mich) after 9/11. One brave lady in the crowd sang with me.

One of the panelists invited by Rivers, a moderate and well-respected member of the Ann Arbor Muslim community was Rabih Haddad. Mr. Haddad was taken from his Ann Arbor home by US officials on December 14, 2001, terrorizing and traumatizing his wife and young children in the process. Haddad was then held without charges, mostly in solitary confinement, for 19 months. The ranking Democratic member (and now chair) of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers (D-Mich), was refused admission to Haddad’s hearing in Detroit for purported reasons of national security. Following a great deal of public demonstrations, controversy, and criticism concerning the government actions, Haddad was then secretly deported. The Ann Arbor News withheld the information about his impending deportation from publication for several days at government request.

My Brother Rabih Haddad
Rabih Haddad Speaks Out

I was inspired to write this by:

I Love America by Shirley Buxton.

This is my response to Shirley:

Is this the America you love?

  • Secret trials and secret prisons?
  • Torture, rape and murder as instruments of state policy?
  • No more habeas corpus?
  • A Government which contemptuously disregards the Geneva Conventions?
  • No right to a lawyer, a trial by jury or even the right to know the charges against you?
  • A President who has utter contempt for the Constitution and the law?
  • A Nation that attacks without provocation, and lies about the putative reasons?

Shame on you, Shirley Buxton.

The patriots and ‘founding fathers’ you pretend to admire were, in fact revolutionaries who took up arms to overthrow a repressive government. That’s why we call it the American Revolutionary War! Furthermore, the original Pledge of Allegiance you quote was written by a socialist, Francis Bellamy in 1892, and did not include the words, “under God”. This phrase was added by Congress in 1954 during the height of the McCarthy repression.

Consider:

Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.

–Benjamin Franklin

The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.

–John Adams

Give me liberty or give me death!

–Patrick Henry

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.

–Sam Adams

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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3 February, 2007 Posted by | 9/11, America, America the Beautiful, Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor News, Bush, Conyers, democratic, essay, liberty, Lynn Rivers, Michigan, patriot, patriotism, peace, Pledge of Allegiance, politics, quotations, Rabih Haddad, repression, revolution, scanlyze, Shirley Buxton, US Constitution, USA | 3 Comments