Sunday, July 28, 2019

Pastor Frank Hogan: Why he took the "heart" from When Calls the Heart when he left

I find myself being very suspicious now, about Mark Humphrey's elimination from When Calls the Heart in the role of Pastor Frank Hogan. Now that my trust in Lori Loughlin (should any of us have trusted her to begin with?) is gone, I'm starting to feel that it was her idea to get rid of him.

I remember when she put out the call to "Save Pastor Frank," long after the decision had already been made to release him from the show. She would have known his contract wasn't being renewed, so why even bother asking the fans to fight for him? Except to give the impression that his going wasn't her idea and that she was upset that he wasn't staying.

We all know that Lori Loughlin wanted Abigail to be a strong, independent, single female. Just like almost every other woman in Hope Valley. I guess the logical thing then would be to get rid of one of the men who had "set his cap" for her, so to speak. I dislike thinking that she might have had even more devious intentions about removing the faith element from the show, but it's always possible that was her motivator too.

Keep in mind, I have no proof. This is just my theory, but right now, it sounds good to me.

I haven't watched When Calls the Heart this last season. 

Some might dislike me for jumping ship at the end of season 5, but I just can't continue. Some of it is probably due to Daniel Lissing leaving. You can't have your romantic lead die off like that and expect all of the fans to stay faithful. So by the time the Lori Loughlin debacle hit the news, I was already long gone. While I felt for the fans of the show and was horrified at her behavior, I wasn't invested in When Call the Heart anymore.

Why, you might ask?'

Because when Pastor Frank left so too did my love of Hope Valley.

Yes, all right, I liked Abigail and Frank more than Abigail and Bill, but that was never my main reason for liking the character. Frank was so much more than just a love interest for Abigail. He was the spiritual leader of the town. Without a pastor, that building Jack put together is just a school, not a church with a school in it during the week. 

I got tired. Tired of pretending that it was okay for there to be a church with no pastor and no Sunday service. Tired of pretending that I was okay with Pastor Frank leaving when his departure was so full of unanswered questions. Tired of feeling like the producers were avoiding giving us straight answers. 

I read Janette Oke's books growing up and they left a lasting impression on me. But there is so little of her books and her faith left in When Calls the Heart that, in a way, I'm distraught that the show is still running. We were promised a replacement pastor when Frank left. Where is he? I may not be watching the show this season, but I've kept up with the news about it and I know that church stands empty on Sunday.

Why? Why do I have to pretend that it's perfectly fine for a Christian television show to have all vestiges of its faith stripped away until all you're left with is a "clean" production?

I will always miss Pastor Frank. I miss his wisdom. I miss his experience. And I miss his redemption arc that made him feel so real and genuine. Christians aren't perfect. That's never the message of Jesus. Who does he approach? The hurting, the broken, and those desperate for a new way of life. That was Pastor Frank, a man with a past who had a hope for the future because of his faith in God.

Could When Calls the Heart eventually incorporate a new pastor? Maybe. But I'm not holding my breath anymore. After almost 2 seasons without one, I just don't have enough faith anymore. I'd rather watch a secular program that at least is honest with me about its motivations then one that pretends to be Christian but whose faith is such a thin veneer I can pass my hand right through.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Radio Theater: Orson Welles as the Count of Monte Cristo (10/1/1939)

No, you're not looking at a bizarre facsimile of Leonardo Dicaprio. Although I do find it strange that in their youth and based solely on appearance, Orson and Leo could have been brothers.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Orson Welles.

Most people probably know him for Citizen Kane and The Third Man, the latter of which his role lasts no more than 20 minutes and the former being a film I've not yet watched.

Instead, Orson Welles is my radio theater champion.

If you know of Orson but don't ever recall him playing the Count of Monte Cristo, you would be right, in a sense. He never performed as Edmond Dantes on the screen, but instead lit up the airwaves in a vastly abridged yet brilliant hour long radio play of The Count of Monte Cristo.

Performed October 1, 1939, Orson had yet to advance to the silver screen. He wouldn't move from New York to Los Angeles until November of 1939 when he began his work on what is, arguably, his most famous role in Citizen Kane

Instead, he's still in New York, performing every week for radio audiences.

There's nothing quite like the radio of the early Hollywood years. These performers were artists, really. Regardless of your opinion of Orson Welles as a person, no one can deny his epic, masterful voice. 

And he puts all of his skills to work in the role of Edmond Dantes.

I have never read the book. I admit it. I've seen the Jim Caviezel film and been struck by its morbid tragedy, but the book has always seemed daunting somehow. To have Orson Welles pare it down into an hour long performance staggers the imagination.

The story begins as a young and foolish Edmond Dantes trusts the wrong people in his life, young men he thought were his friends. Orson would have been 24 when he played Dantes, a little older than the youthful character, but if there's one thing Orson had, it was mastery of his voice,. He plays young Dantes as an eager to please, hopeful youth who simply wants to marry his sweetheart and live his life.

Of course, the next phase is the betrayal of Edmond by his so-called friends. It is suspected that he is a supporter of Bonaparte and he spends the next 20+ years imprisoned in the Château d'If, a prison island off southeastern France.  There's nothing more haunting than hearing a young man who has done absolutely nothing wrong, scream that he is innocent as the guards lock him away to be forgotten in solitary confinement.

After 6 years of utter silence, Dantes spends the next 6 months attempting to starve himself to death. At least, until a prisoner known as the Mad Priest, digs his tunnel into Dante's cell. The two spend the next 14 years in each other's company, saving Dantes from the sin of suicide.

When the Mad Priest dies of illness and supposed old age, Dantes switches himself with the body and when tossed over the side of the Château d'If, cuts himself free of the shroud and swims off to collect the treasure of Monte Cristo that the Mad Priest had essentially bequeathed to his young friend.

I'm prone to loving Orson when he plays supremely young characters. He imbues a certain whimsy into his lines that is just extremely attractive and charming. But there is nothing more terrifying than Orson as a vengeful Edmond Dantes, recently escaped from 20 years in a French prison.

You would almost think that the time spent in the Château d'If might have tamed the character. But not the way Orson plays him. Instead, Dantes is masterful, a man in his late 30s, performing a convincing masquerade as the wealthy Count of Monte Cristo.

Revenge, of course, is enacted.

I suspect that the last half of the play might be the most condensed since we never know what happens to the villains who betrayed Dantes all those years ago. There's an intense, snarling confrontation when Dantes casts off his mask as the Count of Monte Cristo. But there is nothing after this point, which is probably good because I think one of the men commits suicide, another gets captured by bandits (maybe?), and the third goes insane. At least according to Wikipedia.

I do know that H. H. Holmes (the infamous devil of the White City), read The Count of Monte Cristo during his time in prison, but unlike Dantes, Holmes was GUILTY!


Orson's ability to move from youthful, wistful Edmond Dantes to the avenging devil Dantes is remarkable.

Think of it.

This is radio.

You don't have facial expressions or sweeping gestures to help you. The audience can't see them. All you have is your voice. And that has to be perfect, every time, if radio theater was your career.

If you get a chance, Audible has a 60 hour collection of Orson Welles' radio plays. I've listened to most of them half a dozen times now, and not all of them are classics, but contemporary plays, well, what would have been contemporary during the 1930s. But each of them gives a much more complete view of Orson Welles as a performing artist. Yes, he was excellent on the silver screen. So much so that I wish he'd gone to Hollywood sooner and acted during the 1930s. But if he'd done that, we wouldn't have his radio plays, and that is a sacrifice I'm thankful he didn't have to make.

More reviews of his radio plays to come.