Kazan Redux: Elia Kazan’s Sixteenth Film: “America America”

Today, as part of our “Kazan Redux” series, we’re going to re-review director Elia Kazan’s sixteenth film, “America America.”* The review below was first posted on October 25, 2017 and has been slightly revised.

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America America
Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring Stathis Giallelis, Lou Antonio, John Marley, Paul Mann, and Linda Marsh
Warner Bros., 1963, 168 minutes

5 Stars

After directing fifteen films based on the ideas and scripts of others, Kazan worked up the nerve to write the screenplay of “America America” by himself. The movie loosely chronicles the immigration of Kazan’s uncle to America.

Plot

With the Armenian and Greek minorities facing increasing intolerance and persecution in 1890’s Turkey, the Greek Topouzoglou family sends their eldest son, Stavros (Giallelis), from their small village to Constantinople in the hope that he can establish the family in the relatively safer environs of the city. But Stavros secretly dreams of immigrating to the mythical America, with its promises of security and prosperity. Along the journey to the city, the naive and trusting Stavros is robbed of his family’s cherished possessions by a comical Turkish rascal (Antonio) and arrives at his cousin’s rug store with only the clothes on his back. Stavros balks at his cousin’s scheme to marry a wealthy merchant’s unattractive daughter and begins working as a lowly hamal (porter) to buy passage to America. After months of back-breaking toil, he is robbed of his savings by a prostitute. Stavros associates with a group of anarchists and is nearly killed in a government ambush. He returns half-dead to his cousin and disingenuously agrees to marry the daughter of merchant Aleko Sinnikoglou (Mann). Stavros has feelings for the plain Thomna (Marsh) and is tempted by the comforts of domesticity, but won’t be swayed from his goal. The middle-aged wife of one of Sinnikoglou’s wealthy customers takes a shine to young Stavros and arranges for his ocean passage to America as her “traveling companion.” When her husband learns he’s been betrayed, he tries to have the young Greek returned to Turkey, but Stavros takes the identity of a deathly-sick Armenian friend (Gregory Rozakis), who voluntarily jumps overboard so that Stavros may realize his dream. Stavros arrives at Ellis Island and kneels down to kiss American soil. He shines shoes in New York City with a passion, saving his hard-earned coins in order to eventually bring his entire family to America.

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Above: Stavros (Stathis Giallelis) is tempted by Thomna (Linda Marsh) and her family to remain in Constantinople and enjoy the pleasures of domesticity

Comments

Kazan based his novel, “America America” (1962), and the subsequent film adaptation on the journey of his uncle, Joe Kazan, who had a cameo in one of Kazan’s early films; “Boomerang.” Kazan moved the filming to Greece because of Turkish censorship. The exquisite black and white cinematography was done by the legendary Haskell Wexler. Newcomer Giallelis’ performance at times borders on the amateurish and his broken English is occasionally undecipherable, but his facial expressions are wonderfully dramatic. The 22-year-old Greek actor had to learn English for this role. Kazan employed a large number of weathered native non-actor extras who sharply contrast with the professionals of Kazan’s Actor’s Studio. Linda Marsh breaks your heart as the rejected bride-to-be and deserved an Oscar nomination. Paul Mann is outstanding as the domineering but big-hearted future-father-in-law. The film won an Oscar for Best Art Direction and was also nominated for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.

“America America” was Kazan’s favorite film. It’s extremely long at almost three hours, but I would have a hard time deciding which scenes to cut. This is a wonderful movie, an epic testament to the courage and determination of our immigrant ancestors who sought the freedoms of America. They pined for an America where they heard the streets were literally paved with gold and where they would be “redeemed” and washed clean of the injustices of the old homeland, as Stavros says in the film. However, after they arrived in America, many immigrants found the conditions in the late 19th and early 20th-century urban sweat shops and tenements to be as oppressive as conditions in the “old country.”

Warner Bros. finally released this film on DVD in 2011. Film historian, Foster Hirsch, provides an informative and infectiously enthusiastic commentary. Kazan would go on to complete the trilogy of Stavros’ epic tale with the novels, “The Anatolian” (1982), and “Beyond the Agean” (1994). Spoiler alert: In his later years, Stavros becomes disillusioned with America and yearns for the old homeland.

See one of the trailers for “America America” here.

Additional thoughts from a believer

Kazan directed “America America” when he was 54 years old. Once the celebrated “golden boy” of Hollywood and Broadway, the despised, friendly-witness of the 1952 House Un-American Activities Committee would direct only three more films. Like “America America,” they would all be commercial failures. Kazan had felt uncomfortable as a Greek immigrant “outsider” in Hollywood’s illusory world of fabricated glamour. With this movie, Kazan embraced his ethnic roots and, to a certain degree, tried to come to terms with his strained relationship with his deceased father, a theme he would deeply explore in his next film, “The Arrangement.”

Everyone who doesn’t know the Lord has a spiritual void they seek to fill. When I walked away from the Lord for many years, I tried to fill the vacuum by reading many books about my ethnic heritage. It became an obsession (see here). Millions of Americans log into Ancestry.com every day to try to determine exactly who they are in this rootless society. In the end, it doesn’t satisfy. The only Rock and sure foundation is the Lord, Jesus Christ. If He is not your personal Savior, you don’t have anything.

*Grammar note: Nope, that’s not a typo. Kazan did not include a comma in the title of “America America.”

Next up: Kazan’s seventeenth film: “The Arrangement”

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 5/29/21

Progressive pope Francis has made climate change/ecology one of his top priorities. I’m all for protecting the environment as well, but whether the pope is riding in a gas guzzler or an eco-friendly, all-electric vehicle, the gospel he peddles of salvation by sacramental grace and merit is still a false gospel.

The factual pedophile Catholic clergy and cover-up scandal of the past twenty years has done more to damage the reputation of Catholicism than any fictional movie script. Why are these Indian Catholics getting upset about a movie when their “celibate” prelates and priests have left behind a long line of victims?

There has been a spate of anti-Catholic vandalism reported in the news recently and I imagine some of that was prompted by the Vatican’s March 15th announcement banning the blessing of same-sex unions.

Progressive pope Francis has made several calculated moves with the aim of changing the RCC’s all-male diaconate to the eventual ordination of women, with the ultimate goal of ordaining women as priests. But Francis realizes this is a very controversial issue and is treading slowly.

Unlike with other aberrant (c)hristian sects and cults that use official media materials to brainwash and control their membership, very few Roman Catholics take time out of their day to view RC media.

Notre Dame (“Our Lady”) Catholic University in South Bend, Indiana isn’t exactly known for promoting pre-conciliar, conservative Catholicism, BUT the college views the current “wafer wars” feud over the possible denial of communion for pro-abortion politicians as too much of a hot potato.

Speaking of the “wafer wars,” it will be interesting to see if the U.S. Catholic bishops defy pope Francis at their upcoming meeting and mandate the denial of the Jesus wafer to abortion-supporting Catholic politicians like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.

The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on Christian churches, but the SBC seems to have been hit particularly hard. Perhaps there’s also some disenchantment with the SBC’s overall drift towards loosey-goosey liberal theology.

Speaking of loosey-goosey theology, Baylor University in Waco, Texas was founded way back in 1845 and is the largest “Baptist” college in the world, but it embraced liberal theology decades ago. This is another example of how the LGBT steamroller is making its way into “Christian” colleges.

Both Gibson and Wahlberg are dedicated Roman Catholics committed to propagating Rome’s false gospel. Unwary evangelical fans of Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) overlooked the Mariolatrous elements (Mary as co-Redemptrix and co-Mediator) included in the film.

Throwback Thursday: Five reasons why I cannot pray to the Virgin Mary

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 26th, 2016.

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Why I do not pray to Mary: Five reasons why I cannot pray to the Virgin Mary
By Will Graham
Evangelical Focus
2/20/16

Mary. What a wonderful woman of God. Her faith, her obedience and her wholehearted submission to the will of God never cease to amaze me.

Down and throughout the ages few saints have been as sorely tried and tested as she was; and yet through it all, she remained faithful to the God of Israel and to the Son she so problematically bore. No Bible loving person can fail to be moved by Mary’s God-centered love; but at the same time, no Bible reader could ever fall into the trap of turning Jesus’ mother into a quasi-Savior-like figure to whom we must pray and intercede earnestly (and through whom we have access to the Father). Such thinking is a blatant distortion of New Testament faith. So do I pray to Mary? No, I don’t. Why don’t I pray to her? Let me offer you a bouquet of reasons.

1.- Mary isn’t God
One, I don’t pray to Mary because Mary isn’t God. The Bible makes it crystal clear that prayer is to be directed to God and God alone. The Bible strictly prohibits the deification of any creature in the stead of God. I can’t help thinking how horrified mild Mary would have been had she realized that so many billions of biblically ignorant ‘believers’ would use her name to usurp the authority of the Almighty.

See the rest of the article via the link below:
http://evangelicalfocus.com/magazine/1379/Why_I_do_not_pray_to_Mary

UPDATE: Observations from an old guy: Androgynous names and gender confusion

UPDATE: Sometimes timing can be strange. Last week, I wrote the post below bemoaning the fact that the decades-old and very popular practice of naming babies with gender-neutral names has been contributing to the rising tide of gender confusion. This past Monday, I learned that my lesbian niece (who was herself given a gender-neutral name at birth four decades ago) delivered a baby girl and that she and her lesbian partner gave the baby girl the masculine name of D*****s. Wikipedia reveals that the name was surprisingly used as both a boy’s AND a girl’s name in 17th and 18th-century Northern England, but has been used exclusively as a masculine name since then. Absolutely NO ONE thinks of a girl when they hear the name D*****s. The parents are using the child as a pawn in their ideological crusade.

Note: I did not provide specific details in this post because I do not wish to start a family feud. Click on the unnamed name for details.

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday Sermon Series, #85

It’s Two-fer-Tuesday, my friends, which normally means two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas.

Brother Wally didn’t upload a sermon from Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City for whatever reason, but we do have Pastor Roger Copeland of Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, preaching from Exodus 2:1-10 on “Raising Champions for Christ.” This sermon was delivered on Sunday, May 9th.

Pastor Roger Copeland – Raising Champions for Christ

Separation? How far?

God’s Word says believers are to separate themselves from sin and from worldliness.

15 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. – 1 John 2:15-17. See also 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

But that doesn’t mean we should become like hermit monks and withdraw from the world.

15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. – John 17:15-19

We need to be ambassadors for the Lord and the Gospel in this world, but not get enmeshed in worldly sinfulness. Christians interpret separation from worldliness differently. The independent fundamental Baptist church that I attended back in the 80s and 90s had a very long list of verboten activities and at the top of the list were drinking, smoking, dancing, cardplaying, watching Hollywood movies, and listening to rock music. But the pastor was a karate blackbelt and conveniently bent the rules when it came to watching martial arts action movies.

One believer may think some thing or some activity is okay while another may not.

Let’s take a look at General Mills’ “Lucky Charms” cereal. The mythical leprechaun character on the box cover touts the “magically delicious” cereal inside, which includes some dehydrated marshmallowy thingys in the shapes of pagan good luck charms such as stars, horseshoes, clovers, and blue moons.

Some believers would be absolutely appalled at the idea of a box of Lucky Charms in their cupboard. Other believers would say, “Meh. It’s just a box of cereal. No need to get bent out of shape about it.”

We need to find a discerning balance in these matters. At one extreme are Christians who expound great energy on these separation issues and who develop a pharisaical “circle-the-wagons,” straining-at-gnats, bunker mentality. Being the “separation police” is the overriding theme of their Christian walk. At the other extreme are Christians who are totally enmeshed in worldly thinking and behavior. Each Christian needs to follow the Lord’s leading in these matters as they understand them and accept that not everyone will have the exact same understanding.

Question: What are YOUR thoughts on buying “Lucky Charms” and serving that cereal to your children? Me? I wouldn’t buy “Lucky Charms,” but I wouldn’t refuse to eat them if I was a guest at someone’s house and that’s what they served for breakfast (Yech!). It would be a good opportunity to share the Gospel!

Bonus question: The movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” premiered at movie theaters way back in 1939 and was first broadcast on television in 1956. The film features a wizard, a “bad” witch, a “good” witch, spells, and magical ruby slippers. Should Christian parents not allow their children to watch this movie or can they use it as a tool to teach discernment?

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 5/22/21

Wafer Wars Update: Last weekend, I reported that progressive pope Francis had fired a shot across the bow of U.S. Catholic bishops, warning them not to formally ban Catholic politicians who support pro-abortion legislation from receiving the Jesus wafer, including Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi subsequently told reporters she was pleased by the pope’s intercession.

PBS’s documentary on Billy Graham premiered Monday, May 17 and can be viewed in its entirety here. Graham (d.2018) was an enigma. He continues to be held in irreproachable high-esteem in evangelical circles as perhaps the most impactful evangelist since the apostle Paul. However, it was Graham who blazed the pathway for evangelical ecumenism with Roman Catholicism and its false gospel. In cooperation with local Catholic bishops, Roman Catholics who came forward at Graham’s crusades were referred back to Catholic workers. In his later years, Graham endorsed semi-Universalism (see here). The subtitle to this documentary is apropos: “Prayer. Politics. Power.” I’ll be posting a review down the road.

As COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted across the country, U.S. Catholic bishops are rescinding “dispensations” that allowed the Catholic laity to miss mandatory Sunday mass during the pandemic without penalty of mortal sin. This article reports that Thomas J. Tobin, bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, has formally restored the obligation for the Catholics of his diocese to attend Sunday Mass, effective June 6. This is a blatant example of Catholic legalism. Prior to the pandemic, slightly less than 40% of U.S. Catholics adhered to the mandatory weekly mass attendance rule.

This informative article explores how some Catholic parishes are reacting to post-Vatican II liberalism and the reforms of progressive pope Francis by returning to pre-conciliar “rad-trad” (radical traditionalist) militantism.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) is NOT evangelical and it’s not in accordance with the genuine Gospel preached by Martin Luther.

My introduction to Pentecostalism was back in my early-teen years via the TV set and televangelist Ernest Angley’s hokey “Be healed” theatrics. What a charlatan!

A week after German Catholic priests “blessed” same-sex “marriages” comes this Catholic and (nominal) Protestant intercommunion event in Frankfurt.

Rick Warren deviates from Biblical truths and standards on multiple levels. The Southern Baptist Convention is a big tent, which includes many apostate pastors. How can faithful pastors remain in the SBC?

The C-19 pandemic was a challenge of historic proportions, but many people responded by reading the Bible and that’s a great thing. Hopefully, more than a few unbelievers trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone.

Throwback Thursday: Where are the Lloyd-Jonses and Spurgeons of today?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on May 26, 2016 and has been slightly revised.

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These days, messages about correct doctrine generally won’t be received by evangelicals with any measure of enthusiasm. That applies not only to WordPress blogs but also to evangelical pulpits. Sermons at seeker-sensitive mega-churches are largely written with the goal of not offending anyone. Doing so would negatively impact the numbers. What we now have in evangelicalism is a watered-down brand of Christianity that’s long on feel-good emotionalism, but short on theological content. “We all ‘believe’ in Jesus and that’s good enough,” is the message people want to hear. More often than not, that’s what they get. I understand there are many secondary differences among evangelicals that won’t be resolved this side of glory, but the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone should never be compromised. Religious error that opposes or confuses the Gospel of grace should never be accommodated or cooperated with. It should, in fact, be exposed. But that message doesn’t play in Peoria.

The article below examines the similarities between Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, two men of God from the past who weren’t afraid to point at heresy (like Roman Catholicism’s salvation system) and call it heresy. Where are the Spurgeons and Lloyd-Joneses of today?

Lord, raise up pastors and Christian leaders who are faithful to You and Your Word rather than crowd pleasers.


10 similarities between Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones: What do Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Charles Spurgeon have in common?
By Will Graham
Evangelical Focus
January 23, 2016

Against all odds, two deceased British preachers are coming back into fashion in our days, and not just in the English-speaking world. Thanks to a great resurgence in the Protestant faith throughout the Hispanic world, the nineteenth-century “Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon and the twentieth-century “Prince of Expositors” Martyn Lloyd-Jones are selling hundreds of thousands of books every year. Due to the renewed interest in these two defenders of the Gospel, this article will draw out ten similarities between Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones so that we may know them better and follow their example of faithfulness to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…

To read the rest of the article click on the link below:

https://evangelicalfocus.com/fresh-breeze/1307/10-similarities-between-charles-spurgeon-and-martyn-lloyd-jones


For Spurgeon’s and Lloyd-Jones’ views on Roman Catholicism, see my relevant posts here and here.

Observations from an old guy: Androgynous names and gender confusion

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27

We’re all dismayed by the rise of transgenderism, the belief that gender is not decided by biology, but is self-determined. How did this madness start? Well, you may have actually contributed to the current “confusion.” How so?

People hate it when a soap box soliloquy begins with “Back when I was a kid…,” but back when I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, boys were given traditional boys’ names like William/Bill and Michael/Mike and girls were given girls’ names like Karen and Ellen. Of the 60+ children in my split grammar school class, all had gender traditional names. At some point, parents began naming their newborns using androgynous, gender-neutral, unisex, gender-fluid, non-binary names like Madison, Dylan, Morgan, Taylor, Logan, Mackenzie, Parker, Skyler, Carter, etc., etc. A quirky exception gradually caught on and became a VERY popular trend. Christian parents weren’t immune and they also jumped on the gender-defying bandwagon when it came to naming their children. It’s now reached a point where children with traditional masculine and feminine names are in the minority. It occurs to me that when today’s schoolteachers review the list of their students’ names at the start of each new school year, many/most will have little clue which kids are female and which are male. Some parents of newborn girls aren’t content with just “gender-neutral” names, but will defy “norms” even farther by naming their daughter with a traditional masculine name, intending that she grows up to be as assertive as any male. Defiance of the norm has now become the new norm.

Does having an androgynous name contribute to gender confusion in the mind of a child while growing up, if only a little bit? Their non-visual encounters with others will always begin with the question, “Is this person a male or female?,” and that will continue throughout their lifetime. And women with masculine names will have even more yarn to constantly unravel.

Yup, many Christian parents have unwittingly contributed to this current gender “confusion” and gender “fluidity.” Okay, okay. I’m NOT suggesting that naming your baby “Mackenzie” is akin to bank robbery, but these unisex names have helped advance this growing gender-confusion malaise.

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday Sermon Series, #84

It’s Two-fer-Tuesday, my friends, which means two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas.

First, we have Pastor Roger Copeland of Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, preaching from Luke 9:23-27 on “The Duty of Disciples.”

Next, we have Pastor Cody Andrews of Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City preaching from Jeremiah 6:16 on “Take the Old Path.”

Both of these sermons were delivered on Sunday, May 2.

Pastor Rodger Copeland – The Duty of Disciples

Pastor Cody Andrews – Take the Old Path