Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cue the swarming insects

Actor Theodore Bikel plays a devious dictator in the 1968 "Mission:
Impossible" episode "The Cardinal." He's standing on the proscenium
in front of "Zolnar Monastery," 
aka Mary Chapel. 
FANS OF 'MISSION IMPOSSIBLE' notice the Mount in reruns all the time. One of our personal favorites is "The Cardinal," which first aired November 18, 1968, and was filmed at the College. Along with the Circle, Mary Chapel and other Chalon backdrops are some other campus props -- straight from the Biology Lab.

As we've noted before, Sister Gerald Leahy, CSJ, of the Biology faculty was an internationally renowned entomologist whose work with malaria-spreading mosquitoes took her all over the world. Since much of her research was performed at Mount St. Mary's, there were plenty of aedes aegypti caged in the science building.

The plot of "The Cardinal" involves infecting a bad guy with a high fever while smuggling a  cardinal out of the monastery where he is being held prisoner. To infect the bad guy, who is preparing to pose as the cardinal, the IM Force sends disease-carrying mosquitoes through a thin tube into his room.

According to Patrick J. White's The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier prop manager Bill Bates had everything he needed to create "Zolnar Monastery" but couldn't come up with the insects. One of Sister Gerald's CSJ colleagues came to the rescue, as White tells it:
 "One of the nuns told me, 'Oh, the Biology Department has lots of mosquitoes; they're doing some experiments.' She gave me a jarful," [said Bates]. On the set and about to shoot the scene requiring the mosquitoes, Bates got a frantic call from the college, urging him not to use the mosquitoes. "They'd given us the wrong bunch," Bates says, "and we had a jarful of malarial mosquitoes! She caught us just before we released them."
 That would have infected the bad guy, all right, and heaven knows who else.

We'd like to give a hat-tip to Gaile Krause of Campus Ministry and her husband, Chris, for tracking down the background on "The Cardinal" episode.  Oh, and if you'd like to read one of Sister Gerald's many published articles on mosquito breeding, click here for a copy of "Barriers to Hybridization between aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus (diptera: culicidae)" published in 1965.

For Sister Gerald's mosquitoes, that was more than 15 minutes of fame as a film extra.

Sister Gerald Leahy, CSJ, and her pet malarial mosquitoes in 1981.
(Mount St. Mary's College Archives.)

Postscript: We wonder if Bates recycled the nun's habit from "The Fugitive" episode filmed at Doheny: see the pictures on Facebook.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Honoring Therese

St. Therese of Lisieux, whose
feast day is Oct. 3, is usually
represented holding roses.
TODAY IS THE FEAST DAY of Therese of Lisieux, the saint known to millions as the Little Flower and one of the most popular saints of the 20th Century. Catholic Online describes her this way:
Therese died when she was 24, after having lived as cloistered Carmelite for less than ten years. She never went on missions, never founded a religious order, never performed great works. The only book of hers, published after her death, was an brief edited version of her journal called "Story of a Soul." ...  Within 28 years of her death, the public demand was so great that she was canonized.
Our shrine of St. Therese east of the Circle was first dedicated in 1946, built of local rock with a simple wood shelter by the groundskeepers. It was destroyed by fire in 1961 and rededicated in 1963 to the memory of a Mount student.

The original shrine to St. Therese,
at its dedication in 1946.
The Little Flower is immortalized in another way. Her tremendous fan base (as we'd call it today) was mirrored in the popularity of the name "Therese" among Catholics. Many Mount alumnae born in the early and middle 20th Century were named Therese or Terese (not to mention Teresa, after that other Carmelite mystic Teresa of Avila).

Among the Sisters on the faculty and staff of the Mount over the years, we count at least 13 Thereses -- Cecile Therese, Michele Therese, Catherine Therese, Miriam Therese, Eloise Therese, Daniel Therese, Therese Cecile, Therese, Marilyn Therese, Therese, Pauline Therese, David Therese, and Therese. (Surnames, in order, are: Beresford, Dumont, Knoop, Larkin, Mescall, Flynn, Pratt, Denham, Rudy, Donahue, Daries, McClean and Fassnacht.) That is quite a tribute!

St. Therese was canonized on May 17, 1925, just a few months before the Mount was founded. Perhaps that isn't just a coincidence. It's nice to think that the Mount has an important saint, one of just four women Doctors of the Church, remembering us in her prayers.