The cultural ripples of the fight of the century

First Ali-Frazier fight was surrounded by name calling and racial strife, with political overtones

The cultural ripples of the fight of the centuryIt was 50 years ago this month – March 8, 1971 – that Madison Square Garden, in New York, hosted what was billed as the fight of the century. Or as it’s otherwise known, Ali-Frazier I. Previous generations might’ve begged to differ. Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney in the 1920s or Joe Louis-Max Schmeling in the 1930s…

Digging deep into John Wayne’s western films to find gems

Digging deep into John Wayne’s western films to find gemsJohn Wayne (1907-1979) is best remembered for his western movies. And he made scads of them, ranging from mediocre to excellent. Indeed, three Wayne vehicles appear on the American Film Institute’s list of the top 10 westerns of all time. No other star has more than a single entry. So if any actor can be…

Understated George Shultz left a lasting legacy

As Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, he played a key role in bringing about the end of the Cold War

Understated George Shultz left a lasting legacyGeorge Shultz, who died on Feb. 6 at the age of 100, was an important 20th-century figure. He was one of the good guys. An economist by profession, Shultz was born in New York in 1920. He graduated from Princeton in 1942, served in the Marine Corps during the Second World War and subsequently earned…

If you like medieval drama, The Last Kingdom fits the bill

While not scrupulously accurate, it is still quite engrossing

If you like medieval drama, The Last Kingdom fits the billAn electrician in to do some wiring work a couple of months ago ran his eye over the media shelf, noticed the Vikings DVD set and announced that The Last Kingdom was better. So in the midst of a pandemic winter, we tracked down the extant four seasons and gave it a whirl. The series…

Boris Johnson: the man who got Brexit done

Boris Johnson: the man who got Brexit doneIn December 2019, I wrote a column arguing that United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson was shaping up as a genuinely consequential politician. And the recent announcement of a new trade deal between the U.K. and the European Union bears that out. First, though, a clarification of terms. Declaring someone as consequential isn’t necessarily an…

Eisenhower was cagey but Kennedy rushed in

In 1961, as a young president prepared to take over from an aging one, their perspectives on military responsibility were starkly different

Eisenhower was cagey but Kennedy rushed inIn the third week of January 1961, two American political figures made important speeches. One was the outgoing president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. And the other was the new guy, John F. Kennedy. Eisenhower was first up with his Jan. 17 farewell address. Aged 70, he was at that time the oldest president in United States…

Cary Grant was a complicated, brilliant creation

Cary Grant was a complicated, brilliant creationScott Eyman’s new biography of Cary Grant starts at the end. On Nov. 29, 1986, Grant – the personification of Hollywood’s Golden Age – died in Davenport, Iowa, just over seven weeks shy of his 83rd birthday. The death certificate ascribed his passing to a “massive intracerebral hemorrhage.” If Davenport seemed like an unusual place…

Ruth Ellis the last hanged woman in Britain

Ruth Ellis' beauty and glamour couldn't save her from the gallows for the murder of her boyfriend

Ruth Ellis the last hanged woman in BritainWhen I was growing-up in Ireland, the Dublin newspapers were very fond of British murder trials. By their nature, the stories were luridly dramatic, particularly those that ended with the perpetrator going to the gallows. And perhaps the most dramatic was the case of Ruth Ellis, the last woman executed in Britain. Ellis was 28…

Christmas pantomime a charming holiday tradition

There’s no requirement to stick to the details of the original story. The entertainment imperative trumps ‘authenticity’ every time

Christmas pantomime a charming holiday traditionPeople raised in North America aren’t usually exposed to the phenomenon of the Christmas pantomime. Some might even think it has something to do with mime, which it most assuredly doesn’t. But those who grew up in Britain or Ireland will have an entirely different perspective. Pantomime – panto for short – is an integral…

Father Brown is G.K. Chesterton’s most durable creation

He was an early and vocal critic of Nazism., an unapologetic opponent of eugenics and derisive towards the concept of racial purity

Father Brown is G.K. Chesterton’s most durable creationG.K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton was born in 1874 and died in 1936, just two weeks into his 63rd year. During his lifetime, he was one of England’s most notable writers. His output was truly prodigious, including novels, poems, short stories, newspaper columns and such. Today, it’s probably fair to say that he’s best remembered for…

Three political dramas worth watching

Think of them as a form of therapy, a way of easing back to everyday life while still experiencing the atmospherics of the political arena

Three political dramas worth watchingIf you’re suffering withdrawal pangs from the wind down of the American election, here are three political dramas to assist your transition. Think of them as a form of therapy, a way of easing back to everyday life while still experiencing the atmospherics of the political arena. Subject matter aside, the films have two things…

What did Germans really think of Hitler?

The Nazi approach rested on three pillars: popularity, tradition and coercion

What did Germans really think of Hitler?The question of what Germans really thought of Adolf Hitler has been kicking around for as long as I can remember. Were Germans hoodwinked, intimidated or broadly supportive? Or was it perhaps some combination of all three? Robert Gellately is a Canadian historian who has written extensively on Nazi Germany. And his latest book, Hitler’s…

Margaret Thatcher and the end of apartheid

The Thatcher-Nelson Mandela relationship is a reflection of how very different people can evolve a respectful, albeit wary, understanding

Margaret Thatcher and the end of apartheidMargaret Thatcher isn’t a name most people associate with the end of South African apartheid. But Thatcher biographer Charles Moore begs to differ. And he devotes a lengthy chapter in his third volume about the former British prime minister to making his case. As Moore tells it, Thatcher’s goal was to convince the white South…

Adolf Hitler’s fateful mistake

If Hitler had declared war on Japan in support of the U.S., he might have kept the U.S. out of the European war. And that would have changed history

Adolf Hitler’s fateful mistakeAdolf Hitler began 1941 in a commanding position. He had 10 European conquests under his belt and just one active foe – beleaguered Britain and the members of the Commonwealth, like Canada. But by year-end, he’d added the Soviet Union and the United States to his slate of antagonists. And the declaration of war against…

Diving into man’s complicated relationship with war

Diving into man’s complicated relationship with warOn Remembrance Day, as chance would have it, I was reading Margaret MacMillan’s latest book, War: How Conflict Shaped Us. MacMillan is a Canadian historian most famous for two works connected to the First World War – Paris 1919 and The War That Ended Peace. Her new book builds on a series of lectures she…
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