Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Advice: The Princess Comes Across

Lesson 1:  Make friends with the accordion, because you'll hear it a lot
The Movie
   Fine, I'll do it!  I'll go topical just this once.  In honor of the royal hullabaloo tomorrow, here's the story of a (faux) princess, an escaped murderer, an international detectives' convention and an accordian player, all on board the Mammoth Cruiseliner bound for America.  In The Princess Comes Across (1936, directed by William K Howard), Carole Lombard is Wanda Nash, aka the Swedish Princess Olga, ready to con the movie studios into a contract.  The royal suite is nearly snatched from her at the beginning of the picture by the accordian player, Fred MacMurray, playing bandleader King Mantell.  My favorite gorilla from My Man Godfrey (Mischa Auer) plays a Russian detective, who, along with his international associates, is hot on the trail of the escaped criminal.  It's not a classic, but it is a bit of fun, and contains a wealth of advice for any princess...

Done!  Olga's ring (top), Kate's (bottom)

Advice For Kate
1.  (Above)
2.  'Princesses do not go around smacking young men in the kisser'
3.  Send yourself flowers from every prince in Europe - that'll fool them.
4.  A Princess cannot endure the concertina
5.  A Princess does not take drinks with a concertina-squeezer
6.  If a man is murdered in your suite, make sure you have a concertina player available to hide the body for you
7.  Get a sapphire ring with a diamond surround (above)
8.  Don't engrave your real name inside said ring in case you have to give it up to a blackmailer
9.  Keep your eye on the prize
10.  'No good ever came out of a concertina'

Give them the royal freeze


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rebuilding Berlin: A Foreign Affair


The Movie
   What a film!  A Foreign Affair (1947, directed by Billy Wilder) is a new instant favorite of mine.  Jean Arthur, in her best indignant 'bantam hen' mode, stars as Congresswoman Phoebe Frost, en route to Berlin with a fact-finding committee determine to root out immoral behavior in the servicemen stationed in the husk of old Berlin and to set them on the straight-and-narrow.  Soon after her arrival, she frees herself from the committee's canned tour and sets out to do some fact-finding on the side.  She ends up at the Lorelei, an underground nightclub headlined by Erika von Schlutow (Marlene Dietrich), a lady with not a few war-related secrets.  However, lucky for Erika, she has an American Lieutenant, John Pringle (John Lund), to protect those secrets for her.  But nothing can stop the Congresswoman from trying to ferret out the mystery with a little investigation of her own...

Billy Wilder's Berlin
The 'Kidney Killer', a sweet ride
   Samuel Wilder was born in a region of the Austro-Hungarian empire that is now a part of Poland.  After barely graduating from high school in the late 1920s, Wilder went to visit Berlin to cover a jazz concert and didn't leave.  As a resident of Berlin, he first made a living as a freelance crime writer for various tabloids (his 1927 series of undercover expose articles on the lives of male taxi-dancers was entitled 'Waiter, Bring Me A Dancer:  The Life of a Gigolo'),  then as a ghostwriter of screenplays.  It's worth picking up his biography to read the quick-thinking method he used to sell his first solo screenplay.  While in Berlin in this early period of his life, he met an aspiring actress named Marlene Dietrich.
  Wilder was Jewish, and the rise of Nazism led to his moving first to Paris, then to Hollywood in 1933.  The rest of his family remained behind; his mother and stepfather died in Auschwitz.


  Wilder also served in the US Army in WWII, and was stationed in Germany.  A Foreign Affair was actually made because he was granted funds from the government to make a movie about the situation in Berlin.  He took the opportunity to do research by talking to many of the residents in Berlin, and as a result, many of the little vignettes in the film are based on real conversations.  If Wilder could find comedy in the remnants of Berlin, he could find comedy anywhere.

A Bombed-Out Shell
The ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
   The Battle of Berlin was the final military offensive in the European theater in World War II, and was conducted primarily by the Soviet army.  General Eisenhower of the US had determined that joining in the fight might result in accidental casualties of the Allies involved, and served no strategic purpose for the US, since Berlin would be in the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union following surrender.  Prior to invasion by the Soviets, the city had been subjected to a bombing campaign that led to widespread destruction of civilian and military structures.  One of the earlier structures destroyed in the raids was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church where Marlene Dietrich had held her marriage ceremony - she cried when she saw it on her return after the war.
   Germany surrendered unconditionally on 8 May, 1945, just over a week after Adolph Hitler committed suicide in his private bunker.  Following the surrender, the city of Berlin was divided into four sectors, to be overseen by the US, Britain, France and the Soviet Union, following the dictates of the Potsdam Conference.  Much of the movie was filmed in the Soviet sector, rather than the American sector, as portrayed. Also of interest are the tactics of re-building portrayed in the film, such as using baseball as a de-Nazification tool to teach kids how to question authority but still play by the rules.  Millard Mitchell does an excellent job as the Colonel.

A Side Note...
  I have to confess that I really wanted to title this post 'Anti-Aging Techniques of the Classic Movie Stars:  A Foreign Affair', because these two dames in the picture at left are smokin', and they were 47 and 48, respectively, when this movie was filmed.  Ladies, we should all look so good when we are in our late 40s.


Links and Sources
shocking!
Billy Wilder, Wikipedia
Battle of Berlin, Wikipedia
Archival Discovery Reveals a Ruined Berlin, Der Spiegel
Yet another book I'd like to fully read, 'Some Like It Wilder:  The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder' has some amazing excerpts and detailed descriptions of many of his films, including the one above.

And just for kicks, Lilly Von Schtupp.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pith Helmets and the Central Plains War: Shanghai Express

The Notorious White Flower of China

The Movie
   Shanghai Express (1932, directed by Josef Von Sternberg) is quite a movie; an eventful railroad journey across a tumultuous China roiled by civil war, filmed on a studio lot.  An Oscar nominated film for picture and director, and an Oscar-winner for cinematography, with good reason.
   The opening scene begins with the boarding of the Shanghai Express, a steam train en route from Beijing to Shanghai.  Marlene Dietrich plays Shanghai Lily, a scarlet woman 'who makes a living by her wits along the China coast'.  Anna Mae Wong plays Hui Fei, another coaster; Clive Brook is Lily's love interest (and quintessential stiff-upper-lipper), Captain Harvey, one whose love she lost when she tested it too harshly years previously.  Other passengers on the train provide sympathy, snobbery and menace as the train rattles toward its final destination.

Pith Helmets:  Why
  Why pith helmets?  Because I like my movies to continue the way they began, and if I can't enjoy the romantic ending of a movie because the lead is wearing a ridiculous hat that appears two sizes too large and reminds me of Rick Moranis in Spaceballs, then I begin to ask questions like 'why!?' and 'is that even accurate?'.  So here it is.  Above right is a picture of the offending chapeau, worn by Clive Brook in the final scene.  (Incidentally, Clive Brook, while straight of nose and possessing a full head of hair, is possibly the least-compelling romantic lead I've seen in a movie in a while - what a grouch!) 

Pith Helmets:  When and How
Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia in pith
   According to Wikipedia, pith helmets (also known as safari helmets) were born around 1840 and used in the Sikh Wars in India as a sort of sun helmet.  The use of the helmets was, in general, limited to tropical countries.  'Pith' refers to the material the hats were originally made of; the pith is the central structural tissue of a plant.  The pith of a flowering bog plant from Southeast Asia, the sola, was most used in creation of the hats, useful because it was very lightweight. The hats were typically covered with white cloth material with a dark band.  After the British began to dye their helmets with tea to serve as a type of desert camouflage in the wars with the Zulu kingdom in South Africa, the standard color of the British pith helmet became beige.
   In later years the pith helmet was adapted for more modern settings, including use in World War I by several nations and eventually as the headgear of the British bobbies (called 'custodian helmets') - although here's where the pith helmet can get confused with another type of hat, the Pickelhaube (a Prussian spiked helmet).  These later versions of the pith helmet were more streamlined, lacking the loft and volume of previous versions, but having a double-brim.

The Central Plains War
   Shanghai Express is not specific in setting a time period, but China at the time prior to the release of the film was racked by a series of conflicts.  In 1930, the Kuomintang or Nationalist Part of China, was beset by infighting in a conflict that became known as the Central Plains War.  Over 300,000 people died in the civil war between Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai Shek and his former allies.  The movement of the bulk of Chinese forces away from Manchuria (Northeastern China) to battle on the plains indirectly led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria prior to World War II.

 Links and Sources:
Pith helmet, Wikipedia
Aeschynomene aspera, Wikipedia
Custodian helmet, Wikipedia
Pickelhaube, Wikipedia
Filming Shanghai Express, TCM
Kuomintang, SchoolNet 
Central Plains War, Cultural China

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Moment for Betty Garrett: Neptune's Daughter

Carne con frijoles...  You know, that's just the way I feel about you!

The Movie
   I am slow to post this - Betty Garrett, comedienne and musical actress extraordinaire, passed away in February of this year. Neptune's Daughter (directed by Edward Buzzell, 1949) may not be the most fitting tribute movie, but it is the film for which I remember her best.
   The set-up for Daughter revolves around Eve Barrett's swimwear design company, not a surprise when you know that Eve is played by Esther Williams -- a swimsuit just can't be far away.  Esther and Betty play sisters; Esther is the older sister with her life and business well under control, while Betty is the madcap, man-chasing younger sister.
   The plot turns on a case of mistaken identity between Jose O'Rourke, an Argentinian polo-playing lothario (Ricardo Montalban, apparently with Irish ancestry) and bumbling country-club masseuse Jack Spratt (Red Skelton).  Amidst the identity confusion, stay tuned for a swimwear fashion show, Xaviar Cugat production numbers, a love triangle involving Keenan Wynn, a swimming spectacular, an ensemble performance of a new Christmas carol in an un-Christmas-like setting and some hilarious bits involving a man trying to get on a horse.  I loved this movie when I was younger and still find it enjoyable; with so much going on, it's hard not to...
   And, yes, Neptune's Daughter is really an Oscar-winner.  Frank Loesser's tune 'Baby It's Cold Outside' won the Best Original Song Oscar in 1950, and is sung by all four of the main players:  Garrett, Williams, Skelton and Montalban.  In this film, Betty Garrett's talent for cheerful musical comedy is on full display in Loesser's tune and in an assist to Xavier Cugat.

Betty the Musical Star
  Betty had a somewhat peripatetic childhood, moving with her mother several times after her birth in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1919.  The family lived in Seattle several times, and while in her senior year of high school, a family friend connected Betty with Martha Graham who was touring with her dance troupe at the time.  On Ms Graham's recommendation, Betty received a scholarship to an acting academy in New York where Graham taught dance.  In between studying, she performed in summer-stock theaters in upstate New York.  After her schooling, Betty joined the last performance of Orson Welles' Mercury Theater company, performed in company at Carnegie Hall and sang at the Village Vanguard jazz club.
  Her Broadway debut was more of a series of short-lived roles, each leading to the next and sometimes to a touring show.  Her performance in Call Me Mister on Broadway led to awards and a one-year MGM contract in 1947.  Following her first MGM performance, the studio renewed her contract and she appeared in several musicals, including On The Town with Frank Sinatra, before taking some time to tour in England with her husband in a nightclub show.  When they returned, she was cast in another MGM musical, but the next 20 years would see Betty only occasionally working - on Broadway, TV and in film.
   Betty's career picked up again in the early 70s with the television show All in the Family, in which she played neighbor Irene Lorenzo, and on Laverne and Shirley, in which she played the neighbor Edna Babish (and won a Golden Globe).  She continued to guest on television shows until her death in 2011.

Betty Off-Stage
   Betty met her husband, Oscar-nominee Larry Parks, at an Actor's Studio workshop event in 1944 and immediately hit it off.  She proposed marriage to him after a few months dating, they were married, then did not live together again for two years while each worked in different places.
   In the early 1940s, both had joined the Communist party, and were later called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the mid-1950s.  Parks did testify that he had been a member of the party and was blacklisted.  Betty was not called to testify at the time, which she attributed to the late stage of her pregnancy, but she was 'grey-listed' and had difficulty working for some time.  Later, when they were performing in Vegas to avoid their notoriety in LA, former senator Joseph McCarthy showed up backstage one evening, and re-appeared the next day to attempt to teach their two boys to swim.  "They never understood why they had to take a bath right after getting out of the swimming pool," she said of her two sons that day.  Her husband's career was never to recover, and after some time as a housebuilder, he died at the age of 60 in 1975.  They had been married for 30 years.
  In her later years, Betty continued to perform, teach and to support Theater West in Los Angeles, which she had helped to start in the mid-1960s.

Sources and Links
Betty Garrett's 90th Birthday Bash edited by David Engel, YouTube (well worth watching!)
Betty Garrett, Wikipedia
Betty Garrett, Time Magazine
Betty Garrett, LA Times
Her Story is One of Luck..., LA Times 
Also, check out these great pics of the TCM screening of Neptune's Daughter with Betty Garrett and Esther Williams in 2010 over at Life

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Quakers: High Noon


The Movie
  High Noon (directed by Fred Zinneman, 1953) is an taut, suspense-filled western set in a small western town and stars Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Katy Jurado, and Lloyd Bridges in an early role.  This movie is placed high on many best-of-all-time lists, and won several awards, including several Oscars and Golden Globes.  It is an excellent portrayal of people faced with the toughest of choices between temporary safety and long-term security, illustrating how some rise to the occasion while many fail, and begs the question of an involved viewer:  what would you do if you were in the same situation?
   Gary Cooper plays the the small town marshal Will Kane.  The opening scene is set on the day of his retirement; he has married a Quaker wife, Amy (Grace Kelly), and is giving up the law, according to his pacifist wife's ideals.  On the day of their wedding, word is received that Frank Miller, an outlaw sent to prison years earlier, has received parole and is gunning for Kane.  Kane has only a few hours to convince the reluctant townspeople to form a posse to meet Miller, who is coming in to town on the train scheduled to arrive at high noon...

Practicing Religion
   The practice of religion in Quakerism is separate from the church building and only occasionally led by clergy.  Silent contemplation is a form of worship frequently employed in Quaker gatherings, where members sit in silent meditation on spiritual matters. Members will share their thoughts in these gatherings, if so moved.  Quaker churches, unlike many other Protestant denominations, are not led by a single ruling body, but are loosely affiliated with larger groups in the same geographical area, known as Yearly Meetings.  Faith and Practice books are often published during these meetings that denote the guiding principles of the group.
...o to be torn 'twixt love and duty...
   Together with the Amish and Mennonites, the Religious Society of Friends is known as one of the peace churches, because of their emphasis on non-violent practices and pacifism.  However, the history of the Friends church has been marked with compromises on this practice, as the group and individuals within it have sought to exist in the wider world.  A similar conflict can be seen in High Noon, when Amy gives Will an ultimatum, and the events that follow from there.  The history of the Pennsylvania colony is an excellent example of this give-and-take.
   Since their early history, Quaker groups have emphasized social justice and the equality of individuals.  This is reflected in their views of the equality of women, emphasis on simple clothing and the (now-uncommon) use of the thee and thou pronouns to avoid distinction by title.  The life of Quakers is defined by leading by example, trying to live by their own ethical code in daily activities, according to what they define as the inner light of Christ.

History of the Quakers
Charles I of England
   The Quaker religion is a version of Protestant Christianity, first formed around 1640 in Britain.  The beginnings of Quakerism were rooted in the social environment of Britain at the time. There was dissatisfaction with the church by several groups, which directly related to the political environment. England was under the rule of Charles the First (1600-1649) whose religious policies led to conflict between England and Scotland, and eventually ended in civil war, his own execution and the downfall of the monarchy until the Restoration in 1660.  The government responded to these upheavals with the Act of Uniformity of 1662, which in the sub-section called the Clarendon Code prohibited any public officer that did not take Episcopalian (Church of England) communion from serving in office.  Until the Clarendon Code was removed in 1828, its dictates prevented all non-Episcopalian citizens from holding public office.  Other groups besides the Quakers that were disenfranchised by the Act included the Presbyterian, Baptist and Congregationalist denominations; this driving upheaval fed emigration to American colonies by those persecuted because of their religion.
William Penn
   The leader and consolidator of the Quaker religion in its early days was George Fox, who felt that all earthly manifestations of religion were corrupt and that Christ and true religion could only be experienced directly by an individual.  In talking about his newfound ideals, he found others who were of the same opinion, and eventually became the recognized leader of these disparate groups.  He traveled Britain to spread his unique vision of Christianity, and met several times with England's Protector, Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s.  These meetings gave the Quaker religion its preaching technique of 'speaking truth to power', revived in the 1950s.  However, the Restoration was a time of great persecution of Quakers that led to a withdrawal from the political realm for a short time.
   A history of the Quakers would not be complete without a mention of William Penn's 'holy experiment' in the American colonies, founded in 1672 (Pennsylvania), lasting until the war with the Shawnee and Delaware tribes, when many Quakers stepped down from government.


Links and Sources
Religious Society of Friends, Wikipedia
Act of Uniformity 1662, Wikipedia
Non-conformism, Wikipedia
Charles the First, British Civil Wars
Quakers, British Civil Wars
The Ward Lecture, Quaker Pamphlets
Yearly Meeting, Wikipedia
Do Not Forsake Me..., The Senses of Cinema

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bobby Soxers: Little Red Riding Rabbit


The Movie (or Short Cartoon, whatevs)
   If you're like me and have read a few animation books or are an animation dork, you'll know that a favorite pastime of most rabid, slavering fans of the Rabbit (e.g. me) is to recount cartoons blow-by-blow, crafting descriptions of every single gag and anvil drop with loving detail.  If you are in to this type of thing, one of the best places to find your cartoons recounted with good humor and an insight into animation history is in Joe Adamson's 50 Years and Only One Grey Hare - I have had this book since I was pretty young and still consider it to be the best Bugs reference out there.  Anyway, I will try to avoid this bad and surprisingly common habit, but make no guarantees! 
    Little Red Riding Rabbit (directed by Friz Freleng, 1944) is a trove of war-era references, beginning with the opening scene where Red, who is pretty obviously a soxer, is skipping through the forest singing a song about her father working in the munitions factory.  Bugs Bunny is in her basket, being brought to grandmother 'ta have' for dinner.  After a longish detour set by the Big Bad Wolf, Red finds herself at grandma's door, only to find the note shown above.  The Big Bad has gotten there before them and, after shooing out four other wolves already in the bed wearing granny's other nightgowns, he has the place to himself.  He has only to wait for the knock at the door to get a nice rabbit dinner...

What Is A 'Bobby-Soxer' Anyway?
Oh, Frankie!  "On the opening day of his engagement the crowd waiting for admission early in the morning got out of hand; shop windows were smashed, police and ambulances had to be summoned." - The Guardian. 1.10.1945
   A bobby-soxer was a young girl distinguished by her clothes, interests and, above all, socks.  The term was in general applied to young girls with a characteristic fashion sense: skirts, sweaters, saddle shoes or penny loafers and short socks known as bobby socks (so named because they were shorter versions of the original knee socks).  She was your typical 'teenybopper' of the post-war time period, and the stereotypical female youth sitting in the soda shop wearing a poodle skirt in the 1950s.   The bobby soxer was part of the culture from the early-to-mid forties through the fifties, often portrayed as vapid youth only interested in pursuing inappropriate or unattainable men.  Analogs to bobby soxers in recent pop culture would be fans of the Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block and the Bieb.  A 1945 reference in The Guardian applied the term to early to mid-teen girls who were fans of Frank Sinatra, while a Time magazine from late 1946 also referred to a 20-year-old female Iowan parson as a bobby soxer, so it's clear that the term had some elasticity.    
   Other bobby soxer notes:  The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer was made by RKO in 1947, starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple as Susan the soxer.  Chuck Berry recorded Go Bobby Soxer in 1964, a bit late to really catch the height of the craze.  This song has one of my new favorite song lines (see end of first verse):

Bobby band a-rockin'
And the bobby soxer's doing the twist
It's a bobby soxer beat
And you can rock it any way you wish
Work out, bobby soxer, you can
Wiggle like a whimsical fish

Go, go, bobby soxer  (x 4)
When the weekend comes
You'll be right back rockin' some more, etc.

Links and Sources:
Only my favorite animation book by Joe Adamson:  50 Years and Only One Grey Hare
Frank Sinatra and the 'Bobby Soxers', The Guardian
'Bobby-Soxer', The Word Detective
And for those with a vintage-style aesthetic:  How to be a Bobby-Soxer, Queens of Vintage

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Hatfield-McCoy Feud: Our Hospitality

The Movie
In Buster Keaton's second movie, he mines the legendary Hatfield-McCoy family feud for comedic value, changing the names of the families to Canfield and McKay and leaving the backdrop as Appalachia in the 1800s.  It's a pretty quiet film by Buster Keaton standards, however, it's well-done and still carries the trademark humorous scenes.  This includes a bunch of gags involving the Stephenson's Rocket, an early version of the steam train, vintage 1829.
 Our Hospitality (directed by John Blystone and Buster Keaton, 1923) begins with two members of the rival families killing one another.  Buster Keaton's mother, left a widow, removes herself and her infant son to the rural outskirts of New York City , so that he can be free of the family history.   The story really picks up when Keaton's character, Willie McKay, now grown, moves back to Appalachia to take possession of his property...

The Feud:  A History
The fictional (top) and real Hatfields (bottom)
   The legendary Hatfield-McCoy family feud began with two families that lived near enough to one another to be called neighbors, but whose slight differences in geographical location and socioeconomic status was such that they were very different (does this remind you of any Congresses that you know?).  The Hatfields were higher in social class than the McCoys, and lived on the Kentucky side of the Tug Fork of the Sandy River, which was part of Confederacy territory during the Civil War.  The McCoys, lower in socioeconomic standing, lived on the West Virginia side of the Tug Fork and a few fought for the Union, although their sympathies were mainly with the South.  The leaders of the clans at the time right after the Civil War were 'Ole Ran'l' McCoy and Anderson 'Devil Anse' Hatfield.  (In a side note, 'Devil Anse' appears to have had this nickname to distinguish him from another Anderson Hatfield, known as 'Preacher Anse'.  The designator 'Devil' apparently came from an adventure where he kicked a hibernating bear to wakefulness then shot it for food.)

The Height of the Feud
  The first blood was shed with the killing of one of the McCoys, a returning Union soldier, by a local group of Confederates known as the Logan Wildcats.  Another killing by the McCoys some years later was directed at a judge, but began with a mini-feud between the two families over ownership of a pig.
Devil Anse Hatfield
   The real violence that was to catch the nation's attention began in 1880 with a tangled relationship between Rosanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield, son of Devil Anse.  Roseanna left her family to live with the Hatfields, then returned.  When she tried to go back again, the McCoys arrested Johnse on bootlegging charges.  Roseanna, concerned that the bootlegging charges were a mere pretense for murder, alerted the Hatfields, who rescued Johnse.  In the next year, Johnse would abandon Roseanna, who was pregnant, and marry her cousin, Nancy McCoy.  Years later, Nancy McCoy would divorce Johnse Hatfield and marry the special officer sent in to end the feud and who would eventually bring Johnse to justice.
   The next year, in 1882, Devil Anse's brother Ellison was murdered by three McCoys on election day.  He was stabbed 26 times and shot, but did not die immediately.  The local force arrested the three McCoys, but they were intercepted by Devil Anse's crew.  When Ellison died, the three McCoys were taken out back and shot.
  In the Midnight Massacre of 1888, the McCoy cabin was shot at, set on fire, Randolph McCoy's wife was beaten and two of their children murdered.

Returning Calm to Pike County
   In all, over 12 people were killed and 10 wounded during the long period of violence between the families.  In 1888, following the showdown at the McCoy cabin, eight members and colleagues of the Hatfield clan were arrested; 7 were sent up for life terms, one was hanged. Following the New Year's massacre, the McCoys moved to Pikeville, West Virginia to escape the violence.  In 1883, the families agreed to stop fighting and in 1901, the last trial, that of Johnse Hatfield, was over.
   Interestingly, members of the McCoy family have been found to have Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, which can be characterized in part by tumors of the adrenal gland.  The adrenal gland releases hormones that govern the 'fight-or-flight' reactions that we experience in times of high stress, and it has been postulated that this may have accounted for their heightened reactions to some incidents.  There is no similar explanation for the Hatfield reaction.

Links and Sources:
Hatfield-McCoy feud, Wikipedia
Roseanna: Juliet of the Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountain News
Von-Hippel Linau Syndrome and the Feud, MSNBC
Von-Hippel Lindau Syndrome, US National Library of Medicine
The making of Our Hospitality, Kino.com
Another great source (and yet another book I haven't fully read), appears to be 'The Hatfields and the McCoys' by Otis K Rice.  Excerpts from the book hint at the complex nature of the feud and how many factors may have played into its development.