#199: TV and Movie Picks…

199.1  This week, a couple of interesting bits from the screen, large and small…starting with Charles Bronson in The Magnificent Seven.

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199.2  His character was named Bernardo O’Reilly, and when it was suggested that with that moniker he must have been adopted, he famously responds: Yeah, that’s my real name. Irish on one side…Mexican on the other…and me in the middle.

199.3  Bernardo O’Reilly has always been a favorite of Russian film fans…easy to understand since Bronson, born in Pennsylvania coal country, was the son of Lithuanian immigrants with Tatar lineage…as a child, he spoke both Lithuanian and Russian to family members. His surname was Buchinsky…his father changed it from Bunchinski, on the theory that the former sounded more “American”…Charles took it one step further with Bronson.

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199.4  And it’s hardly a stretch to think that the character’s name was inspired by Chilean freedom fighter Bernardo O’Higgins, above left. And here’s a parallel in baseball, above right. Recall that a typical Spanish name consists of a Christian name, the father’s surname, and the mother’s surname in that order. The Alou brothers are famous for a discrepancy: they were actually Rojas Alou, and in their home country of the Dominican Republic, the family was, and still is, known as Rojas. Somehow, they got their mother’s surname when they played in the US…see Related How Again? #176. 

199.5  Now the Alous are the best known example, but this has happened to a smattering of other Latin ballplayers as well. Unfortunately, standard references are inconsistent in the way they differentiate such double surnames…we assume Vince’s father was Gonzales, his mother O’Reilly, but I can’t honestly say for sure. I can tell you his career in the Bigs was brief…one game, 2 innings, ERA of 27.00…don’t ask.

199.6  Next, a tantalizing question…on The Mod Squad did Pete Cochran once date his cousin? Watch the second season episode “Call Back Yesterday” and it’s easy to get that impression.

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199.7  It opens with the Squad arriving at police headquarters just in time to witness an argument between Mark Goddard (Doug Allen) and Margot Kidder (Claire Allen)…Pete says he knows them, they’re his cousins. The dust-up concerns why she isn’t being allowed to see her father Bob…Bob Allen and his brother Howard, Doug’s father, run a chemical company. As the plot unfolds, it appears Howard and Doug are trying to kill Bob…turns out that isn’t the case…they’re actually trying to prevent Bob from killing himself…his son Dave, Claire’s brother, died in Viet Nam from exposure to a chemical that the Allen Company manufactures…and the guilt has send Bob over the edge.  

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199.8   But even before the opening credits, we learn that Claire is, as Linc says to Pete, “your  Claire”…that is, they used to be an item. OK, the show takes place in Los Angeles, and 1st cousin marriage is legal in the state of California…was it in March of 1970 when the episode first aired? So as  I’m watching it today, I’m also wondering…his cousin?

199.9  Pete finds out that Claire, back from a trip to Europe, is staying with his wealthy parents…he goes to see his mother…his father, whom we met 2 episodes earlier, is away on the business trip “up north.” Pete asks why Claire is staying there and his mother replies “She doesn’t need a reason…the Allens are still our very best friends.” Well, she didn’t say the Allens are family… presumably she isn’t an Allen, which would have fit the 1st cousin scenario, so that’s one thing.

199.10  But later, when Pete holds a get-together for family and friends, to search for clues as to what’s happening with Claire’s father, Claire calls Pete’s mother “Aunt Grace”…so there’s that. The episode moves along…car chases, fist-fights, the revelation that all is not as it seems, and eventually Pete rescues Bob by pretending to be his dead son Dave, who was Pete’s best friend…a little weird maybe, but that’s what the writers came up with. And will Pete and Claire get back together? That’s the underlying plot element, and in the final scene we discover they will not…just as well for Pete…Claire is cute but squirrelly, thanks to Kidder’s scenery-chewing portrayal. Still…cousins?

199.11  Like I said, that’s how the show played out, at least to me. But something clearly wasn’t right…so I went back to that opening scene…and what Pete says exactly is: “I know those two…they’re cousins.” Aha! Those two, Doug and Claire, are cousins…Pete didn’t mean they were his cousins…altho that’s the way I took it the first time around, especially his tone of voice when he said it. And Claire’s saying  “Aunt Grace” simply meant Pete’s mother was a close family friend of Claire’s parents, that’s all. Mystery solved, altho they sure had me going for a while, boy!

199.12  And you know, upon further reflection…I can see why I was so quick to grant Pete the benefit of cousins. I’m watching the 5 seasons of the series in order, and in the first season episode “Love.” Pete does have a cousin, Karen Westphal, played by Diane Ewing. Her parents are Arthur and Virginia. Pete calls her “Aunt Jenny,” and from their one scene together, it sure seems as if she would be Pete’s father’s sister…but who knows? BTW, Harrison Cochran is in insurance…they all live in Beverly Hills.

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199.13  And finally…there has never been a brand of cigarettes called Brenda, Joanne, Maureen, Dolores, or Nancy…trust me on this, tobacco history is one of my specialities. So why should there have been a Shirley? That’s an easy one…because it wasn’t meant as a girl’s given name, but as a surname or family name. It’s from a British place name and dates back to the 7th century…derived from “scir” meaning bright and “leah” which was a glade or clearing in the woods, later a field or meadow. Early forms included Sirelei, Shyrley, Shirleye, and Sherley.

199.14  In English, middle names began not as a second Christian name, but as a way to preserve a maternal family name. Eventually, such surnames became given or first names…originally for males, then for females as well…hence Shirley Povich, Maury’s father, a famous sportswriter…and Shirley Temple, who could have very easily been Temple Shirley in a parallel universe.

 199.15  For those who are interested….Shirleys were made by Larus and Brother, which operated from 1877 to 1974 and was one of the more prominent of the “small” cigarette manufacturers, outside of the Big Six*. Their factory was along the famous Tobacco Row in Richmond, Virginia, and they were successful enough to sponsor a radio station that exists to this day. Their main product was known world-wide, House of Edgeworth pipe tobacco, but they also made such cigarette brands as Domino, Holiday, Alligator, Lords, and Yukon…garnering a minuscule but apparently still profitable share of the market into the early 1960s. Shirleys date back to the mid-1930s…seen here as as 70mm “straight”…altho one reference says they also came as an 85mm, so perhaps they lasted into the filter era of the 1950s.

* American Tobacco Company, R.J. Reynolds, Liggett & Myers, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, and Philip Morris, just so you know…

199.16  And yes, I did check the Larus family backwards and forewords from the tobacco brothers Charles Dunning Larus and Herbert Clinton Larus. They were descended from a dentist who came to America with Lafayette, one Phillippe Larrusse…”the Russian”…and their father was named Pleasant Crump Larus…whew! Other surnames associated with the Larus family include Archer, Baldwin, Black, Cherry, Harris, Keen, Morris, Nutting, Reed, Sanders, Skinner, Traylor, Word, and Yarbrough. No Shirley…doesn’t mean there wasn’t one somewhere…altho realistically, the smokes in question were likely named after the Shirley Plantation in Hopewell, Va, about 15 miles southeast of Richmond.

199.17  Till next week, smoke ’em if you got ’em…and it’s still legal!

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Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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