Private Mohammed Kahn: Civil War Soldier

Wow, this is an AMAZING (and rare) discovery!

NARAtions

Today’s post comes from Kate Mersiovsky, National Archives Technician

Since I’ve become an archives technician in the Innovation Hub Scanning Room at the National Archives, I’ve seen my fair share of interesting records. Researchers have digitized the pension of presidential widow Lucretia Garfield, the pension of Harriet Tubman, and the Supreme Court cases In Re Gault and U.S. v. Edith Windsor. Recently one of my fellow technicians, Jesse Wilinski, found another unique record- the pension file for Mohammed Kahn, a Muslim soldier who served in the Civil War.

It is rare to find records of Muslim Civil War soldiers in our holdings. So far, Jesse has only encountered two pensions, and historians know of only about 250 Muslim Civil War soldiers in all. This record, therefore, sheds light on a unique perspective that is often overlooked. As a Muslim immigrant serving in a white unit, Kahn…

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A Face in the Crowd (1957) starring Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal & Walter Matthau

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We became acquainted with a community of strangers – it was not like a work experience, it was a life experience, a thing that affects you very deeply. We became a part of that Arkansas community settling down in new homes there. It was a terrific experience, right from the beginning, the people we met, the insights we got, the privilege we had of being inside a society that otherwise we would never have touched.  -Andy Griffith

Larry Rhodes (Andy Griffith, in his 1st movie role- VERY far from Sheriff Andy and Matlock) is in a small-town Arkansas jail when the niece of a radio station owner, Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal- always great in every role), interviews him and has him sing an impromptu song for a weekly radio program.  She even names him “Lonesome, ” much to his surprise and amusement.

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You put your whole self into that laugh, don’t you?  -Marcia asks

Marcia, I put my whole self into everything I do.  -Lonesome replies

Lonesome quickly proves to be quite popular with his homespun humor/song lyrics. He soon has a radio show of his own (in Memphis).  An opportunistic/ambitious office worker, Joey DePalma (Anthony Franciosa) lands Lonesome a contract for a TV show (in NYC) thanks to support of Vitajex, a new dietary supplement.

A Face in the Crowd (1957) Directed by Elia Kazan Shown from left: Patricia Neal, Andy Griffith
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Directed by Elia Kazan
Shown from left: Patricia Neal, Andy Griffith

I was totally taken by surprise by this edgy, brilliant movie. I was also mesmerized by the beautiful and fabulous Patricia Neal. …she just smoked in this movie.  -IMDB comment

They love his voice, they love his guitar, they love his ideas… they should know some of his ideas.  -Marcia says re: Lonesome

Lonesome becomes SO popular that he gets his own television show.  He brings his “Girl Friday” Marcia w/ him to NYC.  Their working relationship gets complicated, BUT you need to watch it to find out how!

A FACE IN THE CROWD, Andy Griffith, 1957
A FACE IN THE CROWD, Andy Griffith, 1957

The portion of the film where [Lonesome] “reinvented” the marketing message of the pill was like a precursor of current Viagra commercials, particularly the blonde in bed talking about how the pill helped her “boyfriend.”  -IMDB comment

Didn’t you know? All mild men are vicious. They hate themselves for being mild, and they hate the windy extroverts whose violence seems to have a strange attraction for nice girls. You should know better.  -Mel comments re: men like him

Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) is one of the writers who works on this show; he develops feelings for Marcia. In no time, Lonesome attracts the attention of a retired general, who introduces him to an aspiring politician.

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I’m not just an entertainer. I’m an influence, a wielder of opinion, a force… a force!  -Lonesome exclaims re: his power over the masses

A comparison to the fictional Lonesome and the too real Donald Trump can’t be avoided. Art imitating life or is it life imitating art?  -IMDB comment

Did you know Marlon Brando (a frequent collaborator of director Elia Kazan) was considered for the lead role?  One of the hosts at TCM pointed this out after the film ended; it was shown in early October. Brando refused, probably b/c he knew that would’ve been woeful miscasting! 

On Twitter, a viewer noted that the dinner scene in Lonesome’s spacious penthouse was styled like the one in Citizen Kane.  Director Spike Lee noted that A Face in the Crowd film was a BIG inspiration for his film, Bamboozled.   

Recent Hits: TV, Film, & Theater

All the Way (now showing on HBO)

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Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad; Malcolm in the Middle) TOTALLY transformed himself into LBJ- vocally and physically!  It was also a treat to see Melissa Leo (who plays Lady Bird) after a LONG time; I’ve been a fan of hers since her days on Homicide: Life on the Street.  I saw the play (Arena stage production) about 2 mos. ago; the film is V true to that, though there are changes made (as you can do more w/ cinema).  Anthony Mackie (who has NOT aged by much) has a meaty role as MLK, Jr.  Wingnuts (fans of The West Wing) will be happy to see Bradley Whitford (who portrays liberal Democratic senator- Hubert Humphrey).    

 

The Man Who Knew Infinity (now in select theaters)

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I went to go to a free screening about 3 wks ago; I had no expectations.  Well, I really liked it- and NOT just b/c of Jeremy Irons, the music, or cinematography!  Toby Jones (who often plays baddies) is just SO sweet/delightful as G. H. Hardy’s (Irons’) BFF/fellow mathematician.  Jeremy Northam has a side role as charming philospher Bertrand Russell; it was a nice surprise to me.   This is in the time just before WWI- that conflict also affects the lives of the Oxford community.

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British-Indian actor, Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionnaire; The Newsroom), does a FINE job as S. Ramanujan, a devout Brahmin Hindu math whiz who went from Southern India to Oxford U. at the age of 26.  Patel, who is still in his 20s, has a penchant for wide-eyed/innocent/eager characters; it works well here.  Ramanujan left behind his strong-willed widowed mother and lovely new wife, Janaki (Indian-American actress Devika Bhise). It’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen a modern/Western young woman portray a traditional/demure Indian housewife in SUCH a convincing manner! 

 

The Taming of the Shrew (STC: MAY 17-JUNE 26)

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I just saw this last SAT (preview matinee) w/ a gal pal (who luckily got free tickets online)- it was FABULOUS!  This production, directed by Chinese-Indonesian Brit, Ed Sylvanus Iskander, has a beautiful/intricate set and songs (by Duncan Sheik) which are performed by characters (who were NOT given monologues in Shakespeare’s original play).  

Yes, ALL the actors are male, BUT diversity is built into the show!  Indian- American actor Maulik Pancholy (Weeds) plays Kate, Sri Lankan-American veteran actor Bernard White (Silicon Valley) plays Baptista and Dutch/Mexican-Brit, Peter Gadiot (Tut), plays Petruchio.  Chinese-American actor, Telly Leung, has the best singing voice in the cast; he recently appeared as one of the leads in Allegiance (opposite George Takei). 

Get more info here!