Retired televangelist Oral Roberts died on December 15th. He was 91 years old.
When I was a child, I knew Oral Roberts as simply the old guy who came on after the cartoons. Later, in 1987, Roberts contributed to one of the defining moments of my cynical adolescence when he announced that if he didn't raise 8 million dollars by a set date, God would kill him (or "call him home.")
Roberts ended up raising 9.1 million dollars but, in the end, his statement did far more harm than good to the American evangelical community. His claim that God was blackmailing him managed to discredit every other televangelist in the country, regardless of whether they practiced Roberts' style of ministry or not. Certainly, it added fuel to a fire that would, later that year, turn into an inferno as both Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker saw their ministries collapse.
It's not for me to say whether or not Roberts sincerely believed he would be killed for failing to raise enough money to please God. All I can say for sure is that the death threat doesn't sound like something that the God I was raised to worship would have anything to do with.
Roberts was semi-retired when he died. To be honest, I was initially surprised to discover that he hadn't died years earlier. Oddly enough, his death was not greeted with any jokes about being called home. Then again, Americans always have been a forgetful group of people.
Perhaps the only thing positive thing that Bernacke has brought to this year is evidence that occasionally, Republican senators can find common ground with Bernie Sanders. Sen. Sanders, the only self-acknowledged socialist in the U.S. Senate, has recently joined with conservative Republicans Jim Bunning and Jim DeMint in opposing Bernacke's nomination to another four years in charge of the Fed.
Honestly, the person of the year was Michael Jackson. His death and the subsequent circus that has surrounded it has come to represent the current state of the world. If 2009 played like a heavy-handed satire, nothing was more heavy-handed than the death of Michael Jackson.
I went and saw Me and Orson Welles earlier today. It's a sweet, if rather breezy, film that is distinguished by Christian McKay's outstanding performance in the role of Orson Welles. McKay, in his first major role, dominates with such confidence and style that it's somewhat surprising to realize that he's really only in a very small portion of the finished film.
The same, of course, can be said of Welles' legendary turn in The Third Man, a film that almost everyone thinks of as being a movie starring Orson Welles despite the fact that Welles is only on screen for 15 minutes.. Meanwhile the film's actual star, Joseph Cotten, appears in every scene.
In other words, McKay dominates Me and Orson Welles by giving a truly Wellesian performance. It's hard to think of anything more difficult than bring to life an icon but McKay does just that.
In many ways, Orson Welles is the patron saint for frustrated artists everywhere. His well-documented "bad" behavior gives us justification for our own habits. His subsequent destruction by a film industry threatened by his genius gives us justification for our own paranoia. And the fact that, more than anyone, Orson Welles changed the language of film gives us justification to continue creating even when the rest of the world seems to be more concerned with destroying.
With President Obama more interested in giving speeches than governing, an out-of-control Democratic Party forcing it's will on the American people, and a splintered Republican Party that cannot seem to do anything right, there's been a spurt of talk about the need for a populist "third party."
As attractive as all that sounds, I still find it hard to believe that all of America's troubles can be solved by a second coming of the Reform Party.
The Irish-born Todd served in the British Army during World War II and twice took part in D-Day -- once as a soldier and once as an actor when the entire day was recreated and filmed as The Longest Day (1962).
A stage actor even before joining the army, Todd branched out into film following the end of war. He made his film debut as a dying soldier in The Hasty Heart(1948) and, for that performance, he received an Oscar nomination for best actor.
(The Hasty Heart is also notable for being one of future President Ronald Reagan's better films.)
Todd went on to have a somewhat sporadic film career, establishing himself as a dependable character actor and occasional leading man. Rumor has it that he was Ian Fleming's first choice to play James Bond in Dr. No. And while it is true that everyone from Roger Moore to David Niven to Hoagy Carmichael has been identified as being Fleming's first choice, it is easy to picture Todd in that role.
Todd spent the later part of his career on television and quite a few people of a certain age (myself included) remember him best as the oddly sympathetic buffoon Sanders in the classic 1982 Dr. Who serial Kinda. An old school, stiff-upper lip military man, Sanders suffers from an alien-induced nervous breakdown and, over the course of the 4-episode serial, proceeds to transform into a little child in an old man's body. It's a transformation that Todd captured perfectly and his performance -- and, admittedly, quite a few other things -- helped to make Kinda one of the defining stories of the far too brief Peter Davison era of Dr. Who.