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Forget Lincoln. How About the Tragic Saga of President James Garfield As a Major Movie? (Scorsese, Spielberg, Harvey: Are You Listening?)

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"Here's a cautionary word from me to you, dear reader: I hope it is without any offending ideologies of either persuasion.

"Some of you have already voted; some others are about to vote on November 6th. Think of it this way. It's your great privilege as an American. And this is not really about your preferring Romney or Obama. The nation will stumble on, no matter who is elected.

"What this contest is really about -- is whether you want a super conservative Supreme Court whose effect will rule this nation for at least the next 20 years.

"Or, whether you want a more liberal Supreme Court whose rulings may not be so Draconian. Because whoever the president may be, whatever he tries unsuccessfully or successfully to do -- our next chief executive will decide who to appoint to the Supreme Court and that action will have a truly important effect for a long, long time to come."

So says Liz Smith, who isn't trying to tell you how to vote.

  • OUR FAVORITE redeemed conceptual artist, pop star, cultural icon, Yoko Ono, will be honored at the 10th annual Women in the Arts luncheon on November 15th.

    Yoko, who suffered a hell of a lot of abuse just for being in love with John Lennon, being an inspiration to him, being a woman and being Japanese. Yoko has enjoyed a great revival and re-interest in her music in recent years. She's on the charts! She has had six consecutive dance hits, topping such artists as Britney Spears and Lady Gaga.

    Of course she is also an artist, a filmmaker and a woman who has endured the worst -- her husband shot dead in front of her -- and, she has survived. Not just survived, but she carved out her own life, all the while supporting and celebrating the accomplishments and legend of her late husband. (I wonder now, did she and Jackie Kennedy Onassis ever meet?) We saw Yoko perform earlier this year, with her son, Sean Lennon, and she was aggressively, joyously marching to the beat of her own drummer, as ever. And she looks great. Yoko also is one of New York's most charity-minded denizens.

    This event happens at the Brooklyn Museum. Call 718-501-6589. Proceeds benefit the educational programs offered at the museum.
  • I was thinking just recently of a book I've read that should be made into a movie. And seeing trailers for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, this has been pressing on my mind.

    Why couldn't this master movie-maker film, the James Garfield saga, the failed assassination attempt only days before this sterling character (who didn't want to run for president) let himself be turned into the chief executive against his will?

    The book, Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard, is one of the most brilliant and heart-rending ever. I don't think the average American even knows much about this story beyond knowing that Garfield was shot before he could even begin his days in office. Three horrible, painful months passed before he died of infection -- wrought by the narrow-minded doctors who were refusing the new idea of antisepsis from Lister in England.

    Garfield's shooter was an idiotic, self-willed, deluded kind of lunatic that we encounter through the ages in history -- people who think they should be "famous" and select assassination as their route to the top. In this attempt, which eventually succeeded because of the president's stubborn doctor, the would-be killer was finally hanged.

    Garfield's doctors went right on tormenting the infected president, plunging their fingers and instruments into his wound, searching for the bullet. The story of how Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell tried to use science to help is just riveting.

    Garfield might have made a very great president. He was certainly a remarkable man in all ways, and his incredible courage, uncomplaining, after months of torture is a grueling read -- and enough to bring one to tears.I n fact, much of the book is emotional, dealing as it does with our still new country and its still-new great dreams.

    Garfield's inept and retiring vice president, Chester A. Arthur, at first a total failure, finally rose to the occasion and did a good job in the office he inherited. This was only 16 years after the actor John Wilkes Booth had killed President Lincoln.

    The story of Garfield, his election against his will, his happy marriage cut short, his suffering unbelievable, his death a tragedy for U.S. history, really would make a great compelling movie.

    So -- would Spielberg, Weinstein, Scorsese, Geffen or Tom Hanks consider this suggestion? Of course not.
  • New York magazine offers plenty of juice and political thought this week but the thing that caught my eye was Dan Wagner's photograph of the Noah's ark that Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky is shooting for the year 2014. The ark is going up on Long Island near Oyster Bay.

    Moving off from weird ballet, Aronofsky takes on the Old Testament story of what happens when God warns he is sending a flood to wipe out an unworthy mankind. Russell Crowe will play Noah and Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson are also going to be seen in this movie.

    The ark has been built large enough to house two of every kind of animal and it is built to Biblical proportions. There is said to be no CGI involved and what they are building is what we will get -- and what Noah got -- if indeed there was a Noah. They brought in tree stumps to make it appear that Noah's sons were cutting down nearby trees.

    But photographer Wagner says, "There is no way Noah and his sons could have built such an enormous structure themselves. That would have taken 500 years."

    Well, the Old Testament is full of miracles, isn't it?

    People who believe that every word of the Bible is true are going to meet with a conundrum. But then, they don't trust Hollywood, even when it has moved to Oyster Bay.