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tv   Michael Korda Alone  CSPAN  November 25, 2017 11:00pm-12:02am EST

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>> >> for your membership and
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thrilled to have you here. if you're not a member i say let's get the wonderful exhibitions in programs we have coming up so please pick up a brochure but tonight's program is part of the distinguished speaker series which is the heart of our public program so thanks for all love the support. [applause] he has done so much for us and we are thrilled. also i'd like to recognize and think the executive committee chair and trustees
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and all the chairman's council members with us this evening for all of their wonderful support as well. [applause] the program will last an hour including the q&a session and staff members can come up and down the aisle to paean to a card to write your question than later they will collect it and our speaker, ed michael korda will be happy to me answer them. his book "alone" will be in the store and he will sign the book as well so please don't -- joined michael korda after the program for the book signing. we are thrilled to welcome
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michael korda back to the historical society, editor in chief emeritus of simon and schuster read began his career as the assistant editor over nearly five decades working with the wide range of authors including president carter, reagan, nixon, kissi nger, david mccullough, a tennessee williams and among the of many, laurence olivier. he could do a whole program on him. the author of several books including the latest "alone" which is why we are here tonight came before i begin if you have an electronic device please turn off the now please join me to
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welcome the well -- the wonderful michael korda. [applause] >> good evening. i want to make sure that i am not the one the cell phone rings. [laughter]
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i am so used to speaking here that i find myself constantly looking up at the screen that something will happen. why dunkirk now i am sure you are wondering as i do? i saw christopher nolan is stunning film at 3:00 in the afternoon on a weekday. expecting the theater to be empty. instead it was packed. in fact, was lucky to have arrived it earlier than intended. by the time the pitcher started every seat was taken down to the front row. not a sound from the
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audience during the picture. no popcorn or coughing and nobody got to go to the bathroom and the audience was totally absorbed. when it ended to my astonishment though whole audience rose to their feet to applaud with tears streaming down there face. with their british military calamity that took place in 1940. i said to myself, why? a small part of me also last silently where the hell were you when we needed you may 1940? it was not a young audience but hardly anybody beside myself was alive and they would be foolish to blame america for not entering the war in tall
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japan bombed pearl harbor december 1941 nearly a year and a half later forcing america into a war it was trying to avoid. though given a choice to stay out would not have taken it? the british were not eager to come to the defense september 1939. only 21 years that was still called the great war. with casualty's that saw beyond our imagination over 700,000 handbills british casualties on the first day
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in 1915. over 1,350,000 were dead in 2 million french leave -- wounded it caused a worldwide total of 41 million mines and all of them for nothing and accepted the need to repeat that one generation later. facing the unapologetic war in germany. more sobering still of the data taken the combined effort of france, the united kingdom, russia, united states, belgium, italy, and japan to defeat germany the first time around.
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and even then by the thinnest of margins. nobody in france or the united kingdom could imagine the germans would be defeated by france and britain alone. nor anybody imagine the catastrophic events to drive the expeditionary force over a quarter of million men back to a strip 12 miles long and a few hundred yards wide. how? or why did it happen is the subject of my book. may 10th, 1940 in just over three weeks, hitler won the great victory he dreamed of against france and lost the war. the phony war for every
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would-be at the polls for the dean's in the of norwegians britain and france and the venture me - - germany's ally were neutral thinking that the war could be settled by negotiation and old-fashioned and diplomacy or even a coup against hitler on the part of the german army of the conservative politicians rather than fighting to the bitter end as it happened in 1914 and 1918. the chief problem of the allies was boredom. nearly half a million men of the expeditionary force including the staffing
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contingent sat idle in france well over 3 million frenchmen were guarding the french frontier almost one-third of them in or behind the world-famous built in the '30's that a cost of 3 billion french francs the enormous sum today. the british expeditionary force represented the bulk of britain's regulars of soldiers who needed to be provided the backbone as it was formed very slowly in deed the french would take
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every able-bodied frenchman two years since uniform intended to produce a mass army to deterred german aggression. keeping a large army immobilize for eight months is never a good idea. a defensive strategy easily degenerates. as napoleon pointed out that defense's strategy is defeat. a large army composed of civilians in uniform all eager to get home is particularly prone to lose whatever edge that it possessed. this unfortunately perfectly describes the french army in
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the spring of 1940. they devoted its time to make itself as comfortable as possible. the british army devoted itself to the occasional entertainment with the british equivalent of the united states and the occasional visits from members of the royal family and politicians. neither army from modern warfare contrary to the present day assumptions had more and better tanks than the germans by relegated to infantry support even though the relatively unknown charles de gaulle had published a controversial book 1934 advocating just
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the tactics the germans would used to defeat poland and france, the blitzkrieg. it sold less than a thousand copies in france but it sold many times that number in germany where it was read out loud to adolf hitler became the bible of the officers who would command the german armed forces. as for the anti-tank weapons with the field gun adopted 1897 with its flat trajectory and potential for rapid fire was more than capable to destroy any tank the german army possessed little thought was given to using it although the french army had more than 4500 used
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for conventional infantry support instead. the rapid driven success against france is usually hear pivoted touche superior mechanization the german artillery was forceful as it was in 1914 and germany was fast on its feet. with company commanders over half a million forces in the german army in 1940. what the german army had was a bold strategy together with the dive bomber and the use of radios to coordinate combined air and armor and infantry attacks. blitzkrieg was a state of
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mind intended to prevent the repetition of a static warfare on the western front in the first world war. the allies were further hampered as in 1914 by the determination to respect the neutrality of belgium and tell the germans fought in by that commitment of the french army through the elaborate system of defense as weeks turned into months it seemed that hitler would never attack and it was that a mother french and british policy not to provoke him into attacking so limited tune dropping propaganda rather than bombs. when it was suggested to the british secretary of state
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that the royal orphan -- air force should bomb that they thought was the initial and dumps he replied to say that is private property. the next thing you ask me is to bomb essex. on may 10th, all that came to the abrupt end. the debate in the house of commons over a the conduct of the campaign in norway left to the unexpected resignation of neville chamberlain with circumstances of extraordinary job -- trauma and with political intrigue to bringing churchill to power as prime minister instead of lord halifax that
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chamberlain and most of the conservative party and the king would have preferred to this so-called rogue elephant as churchill private secretary called him. churchill's long political career was marked by tremendous ups and downs. he was widely disgusted by his own party and the royal family. he was stubbornly wrong about a whole range of things including, but not limited to independence for india, finance, the gold standard, of the strength of the french army and king edward the eight. but from 1933 on he was right about the one and only thing that mattered. adolf hitler.
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churchill was against hitler in favor of rearming britain and constantly pointed out the dangers of nazi germany and the armament which that was more than people wanted to hear the only voice of alarm to cry out alone in the wilderness and now was proven right everything he foretold with such eloquence had come to pass. for people he remarked as he returned from buckingham palace after accepting the field of office from the king. i can give them nothing but disaster for quite a long time. he left the car to go up the
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steps where he was living in tears. in fact, he would give them only 24 days later the most astonishing of good news. that the british expeditionary force cut off and surrounded by the adjournments the sudden surrender of belgium and the defeat of the french army on the right to fought its way to dunkirk the only port remaining the germans had not captured and from there very back to britain by a 1100 ships ranging from light foot votes captained by their owner to the destroyers and pleasure steamers with a grand total of 336,266 men.
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the net to preserve the core of the british regular army to ensure their presence if the germans ever attempted to invade. wars are not won by evacuation he warned the british people but this one was. hitler with their british army within his grasp had the final attack on dunkirk by today's to allow the enemy to escape. it was is his first and biggest mistake of the war snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the famous words about general mclellan failure to pursue the army.
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in the same speech after the british soldiers evacuated and returned to be read clothed and rearmed he added the words that would define the moment for all time. even though large tracts of europe many old and famous states have fallen into the grip and a the apparatus we shall not seem more fatal and fight in france and on the seas and oceans with the growing strength in the air to defend whatever the cost may be and on the beaches and on the landing grounds and in the fields and in the streets and in the hills and
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shall never surrender. and even if i do not believe this island was starving and armed by the british fleet would carry on the struggle until the new world with all of its power and might would step forth for the rescue and the liberation. after he finished that broadcast the prime minister was sure that the transmitter was turned off said when they reach of beaches we will hit them over the head with beer bottles because i don't know what else we have to fight them with. [laughter]
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but the french had given the shrug to the success of the evacuation of the expeditionary force. and those that remarked the moment the first thing that he thought of was the quickest route to. but the british by contrast experienced a sharp rise of moral. that was increased by the energy and self-confidence of the prime minister who not only warda of the battles ahead but looked forward to them. un like chamberlain whose spirit was of reputation churchill not only had the
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overflowing demands and suggestions by land and sea and air but more fiat -- far reaching strategic goals is son randolph home on leave recorded a brief conversation with his father about how he intended to fight the war. and in randolph's words, i went up to my father who was standing shaving with an old-fashioned razor he had a tough year and as usual was hacking away. sit down dear boy and read the paper while i finish dressing. and i did is i was told. after two or three minutes t half turned to me and said i
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think i see my way through and resume shaving. i was astounded and said you can avoid defeat? he flung his razor and swung around to see darr at me intently of course, i mean we will beat them i said i am all for it but i go see how you can do it to. by this time he had spun to turn around to say to me with great intensity we will fight on and i will bring in the flag of the united states. [laughter]
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that was a year and a half away which seemed an even more remote possibility as the japanese bombed pearl harbor the only thing that could be the allied victory but the conversation with randolph captured his intensity and his grasp that the british have to hang on somehow their own army and able to defeat the germans depending on grit the air force and the royal navy until such time as history with diplomacy and by his handling of president roosevelt finally brought the united states into the war. from september 1939 through
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december 7th 1931 churchill corded roosevelt and then expertly soon to the of the others over many differences. this despite his comment after pearl harbor and now that the united states is in the harbor we shall talk to her quite differently. [laughter] churchill's persona is very much at the center of this book and there is much that we can learn from it. he said famously that it is better to draw them to war.
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that is part of his nature and his strategy that is seldom remembered his wise advice to pursue negotiations of diplomacy as long as there's still hope remains true today. but he also said the old school which he detested as a child never give them. never never, never. great to or small large your petty over honor or good sense never yield to force. in the balance between the statements lies though whole
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art of statesmanship of governing which saved britain in 1940 when she was alone to mark that leadership alone and abroad today. the months of may 1940 crash many illusions but it was a huge turning point. france was defeated the british army was rescued and winston churchill assumed power exerting his full authority and history and personality over the british war effort making it clear as he was in the house of commons that hitler would have to break us or lose the war. that which was not lost by hitler or fdr which gave the
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british now that they were all alone and the last day period of some real confidence best expressed by king george the sixth in a letter to his mother queen mary today france surrendered i feel happier now that we have no allies at all. he spoke to the whole nation. and perhaps with bresxit he still does. [laughter] [applause]
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>> i have to read these questions. i don't have to answer them. [laughter] what is your favorite ocean pitcher?. >> -- motion-picture. >> this is not what i expected it is difficult my eight uncles made his first movie august 1940 when he was 20 and never stopped all of his life until his death in 1956 at the age of 62. i think there are many movies but there is a big difference between the movies that he produced and those he produced and
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directed and those that had the contribution that they were produced by my uncle alex as my father or the art direction. it was a smaller slice of the up side i like to think of the movies of which all three brothers worked out of which i would pick my favorite. but having said that and allowing for my father's work i 8m8 enormously admirer of things to come that of three brothers were involved and is an amazing futuristic film with is an
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enormous range of extraordinary performance is of great actors. i am always delighted to see dating from 1933 because of three brothers worked on it so i feel that is a particularly familiar picture. if i had to pick the all-time movie which i would most like to see again i think either the thief for which my father won the oscar for the jungle book and are directed by my father but i do not spend a lot of my time reviewing
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films of my family. that is a strange thing to do. [laughter] but every once in awhile i will pull out one and generally speaking i am astonished how much i like them and particularly by this sense of humor that runs through the script because my a local alex had a wicked sense of humor and through the shrewd use of campaign goal cutting that he did this almost alone it is extraordinary in most important that give sidney
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poitier his first role in films so i cannot see any of those in some way without seeing something of a pre-brothers reflected. >> what duetting was the most significant battle of world war ii? i suppose the logical answer of stalingrad from 1943 which is the largest land battle and the largest tank battle in the history of the second world
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war between the history of those two battles it became clear that germany would lose the war. on the other hand, they think the most significant moment of a the second world war was june 5th, 1944 when eisenhower made his final decision that the invasion would take place despite the weather. i think that remains to be the most courageous decision of the war and the one that came the nearest failure if he had not come home for his wife's birthday and if he was near the beach of normandy and willing to
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release to him those divisions that were kept in reserve invasion makes -- might have been stopped and the war would have taken on a different path and have gone on very much longer so i have to say that the most important battle of stalingrad but my heart tells me was the invasion of 1944. >> what effect did churchill scholarship have on his leadership capacity?. >> i think that's eloquence and a scholarship have the enormous effect on every able politician in every
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culture and every language. [applause] the ability to synthesize and to tell us frankly what we're facing and going to face is what we want from any major political figure and they usually managed should deliver on that like fdr was one of them. i always thought that bill clinton's ability was almost of libel law among living american presidents and these qualities have been lacking from british leadership and may be american leadership. [laughter] but they are important
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scholarship is also important because frankly if you have not studied the past and learn from it are condemned to repeat that and we know that the yet strangely america produces one president after another who cannot look backwards to understand what happened in the war. those think that life might be better if somebody had read before plunging into warfare would probably feel with me that it helps if the president at least knows what happened previously because then there is some possibility he may not repeat it.
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but not much. [laughter] >> don't a thing the producer of the current phnom was remiss to refer to the germans as the enemy?. >> has a natural function of my own age ones as say young man i attended day briefing on maneuvers given by the commanding general of the british army whose name i have forgotten he was
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demonstrating of what we would do and i must say he was shakespearean in his view of what we demonstrated but that battle would be like if it took place. but whenever he pushed the pointer to a the russian attack would be expected he would say whatever you do they will attack here. [laughter] one of the aids would say i'm sorry the russkies. [laughter] so for certain generations
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bolden's or dutch but i think dunkirk as the family as space of four films that also different and a breakthrough that it shows the events through the eyes of those people who never know each other and they don't know the others even exist. to the fighter pilot, the senior naval officer, a young british soldier and an aunt a middle-aged man whose son and best friend ed attempting to steal the family boat.
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that is all that we see. they telesat the beginning there are hundreds of thousands and then we see them. i found refreshing the movie does not grind to a halt with the officers looking at maps to say he is here we are here the german armored divisions are here yet can see what these people saw and from that you get the impression of a whole event and not saying it is the only way to make a movie necessarily backed by fount what that captured for me what it was like without
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ever descending into the docudrama or have the producers say somehow we need to show alexander. by? you can see what was happening as those sought by a was a refreshing way maybe not for every battle but certainly for dunkirk it is said that his mother a liar the british empire does that explain why he did not invade?. >> there are two answers. it is complicated. yes yes mire the british empire with the sense of
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them exercise of power i am not sure how much she in understood the yes honestly he did admire it and also think the british would come to their sense is so that was ruthlessly reinforced by his foreign minister whose understanding of britain's condition as a german ambassador presented to the team gave the king a nasty salute the startled king george six and complainecomplaine d
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bitterly he did not give the nazi salute so it wasn't to be taken seriously but from those upperclass people and the conservative politicians that wanted to make a deal with germany anyway. so there for -- so thereby to develop the opinion. it is? [laughter] that is very disturbing because it is supposed to be off. [laughter] he thereby i developed the mistaken opinion that had a
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tremendous effect because chamberlain was always regarded as the man with a tiny bowl the umbrella but he was forceful and strong and smart very powerful and unforgiving politician in to try to imagine to give back the character of neville chamberlain so turn that over in your mind. [laughter] so he gave way over czechoslovakia's because he thought that was right and nobody was prepared to go to war in 1938 to say
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czechoslovakia in the advice of the ones that happened in became a world class hero "the new york times" of lavish praise to save us from more of 1938 to dave day guarantee from poland even though it was apparent that was on his list and hitler was convinced that chamberlain would never go to war if he attacked poland he said once in between discussions that he talks
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about dry fly fishing that he favors the interest of chamberlain not that he cared. and he came back because of that natural connotation? with the difference between dry fly fishing or fishing as it were but he was wrong about chamberlain. even more disturbed because of ward howe facts in 1937 of levying in berlin that
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his official residence. but then he started to hand over his hat and overcoat only with great difficulty when he finally explain to lord halifax that this was the fear. [laughter] heller therefore convinced himself because all politicians are good at convincing themselves that the british would not attack if he attacked poland. and the french did not want to attack but chamberlain's view was different he had given a promise to the polls and the checks that they
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were eager to run out of and we all along with them. not just a promise with a written document to say that great britain would go to war if poland was attacked and when poland was attacked , however eager chamberlain maybe to discuss or negotiate he went to war. and i think that was probably the first great deception for hillary he always assumed that was the one thing then he broke up to find that germany was at war with france just as in 1914. event in the end of the results turned out to be the same. as for the invasion, nothing from any document would
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convince anyone that hitler took seriously the prospect of invasion he was willing to prepare and discuss it is notable although he had a knack for moving things around as if he were a general he never took interest in the plans for the invasion of great britain. he was willing to go halfway the entire battle was the attempt to bomb them into position rather than the attempt to prepare them for invasion by the germans and then the fleet that he assembled reluctantly is the
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one you could put confidence in and. but he believed the british would come to their senses and again river of churchill and peace could be made on the basis based on their empire iran to move on but once that battle of october 1940 that whole notion if there really was entirely taken seriously that the british took it
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seriously and is one of the main goals that provoked the bright flavors of resistance in the summer of 1940. that any moment the germans would plant because if there was one thing whenever they bader that political party to the left door to the right and whatever class that they belong to we could guarantee they would be united nothing would be more guaranteed then the german invasion.
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>> how did church although hillary was a menace before anyone else?. >> will honor could not have a magic and? i think other people's eyes were clouded by the desire for peace, not to have to read fight the first world war that is understandable bias the very strong feeling among a the middle-class that stalin could be worse than in
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hiller but anybody who followed the events of the preoccupapreoccupa tion of the rhineland to the german rearmament our following those events looking at heller with common sense in the cold light of day recognized he was a dangerous man in deep and very clever you probably don't have that understanding retroactively because the holocaust for example, had not yet occurred at that point was not a threat to react.
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so we tend to exaggerate the demonic qualities as it appears schwartz sharply -- appeared more sharply when the holocaust was in full gear but to see that he was of menace as opposed mass murderer on that scale all is something that everybody should have foreseen had it not been for that passionate desire that if he does of mattis two peas did you want to fight the first world war all over again? the answer to that was a resounding no.
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most loudly from the united states the one country that we needed. [laughter] servo yes. we have answered enough questions. [applause] >> michael korda thanks so much. and for joining us. we want to remind everyone that michael korda will sign the copies in the museum store and me want to lose they can again for a great talk. [applause]
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if you are interested in more of michael korda in the film that he mentioned things to come we will present that as part of our classic film series. . . . . and that's one of the favorite authors. she will be with us. the senior curator of the center for media o ron steinman who ofn does wonderful film's wil will h us.
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and i will moderate. i don't know who is going to be doing most of the talking that night. [laughter] but you ought to come just to find out. so thank you again, and good night. [applause] [inaudible conversations]

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