Monday, January 4, 2016

Theresa Kaminski's "Angels of the Underground"

Theresa Kaminski is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where she teaches courses in American women’s history. She is the author of Citizen of Empire: Ethel Thomas Herold, An American in the Philippines and Prisoners in Paradise: American Women in the Wartime South Pacific.

Here Kaminski dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Angels of the Underground: The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II:
I can’t decide if Angels of the Underground needs to be a movie or a miniseries--maybe a miniseries that becomes so popular its fans demand a feature movie.

Whether translated to big screen or small, Patricia Clarkson must play Margaret (Peggy) Utinsky. A nurse by profession, Peggy organized the Miss U underground network in Manila, masking her true nationality to avoid internment. She was clever, stubborn, and temperamental. Clarkson and Peggy are visually similar, both blonde and fair, petite but strong, with interesting, attractive faces. Clarkson, queen of indie movies (Pieces of April, The Station Agent, and Lars and the Real Girl), shimmers in any role she takes on, and she would be particularly good at capturing Peggy’s inner fire.

Julianna Margulies would take the role of Claire Phillips, the Manila nightclub singer who became the spy known as High Pockets. Claire could be self-contained when she needed to be, but she was garrulous by nature, with a daring streak that led her to flirt with danger. It was the character Margulies played on The Sopranos that convinced me she would be the perfect Claire: smoldering and secretive with all the glamour of a 1940s film star.

After I saw Allison Janney in a comedic role on the TV series Mom, I realized she is the perfect Gladys Savary. The owner of a popular Manila restaurant, Gladys was as fond of cocktails as she was her friends and customers. She disguised her nationality, too, and defied occupation authorities to help civilian and military prisoners. Janney, best known as C.J. Cregg on the fabulous West Wing, does bold and brash brilliantly, always with sharp intelligence and a heap of style.

For Yay Panlilio, I’d propose Natalie Mendoza. Yay, a bit younger than the other women, was a smart, head strong American-Filipina. She threw herself into the war effort, giving up journalism to join Marking’s guerrillas to fight against the Japanese. Mendoza is not as well known in the United States as the other actors (she may be recognized for her role as Jackie Clunes on the BBC’s Hotel Babylon), but she has the right attributes, both in terms of physical features and attitude.

Because of this female cast, and especially if Angels was being developed as a series, I would have Rosemary Rodriguez direct. She’s worked on The Good Wife, Jessica Jones, and Manhattan, some of my favorite shows that feature strong women. If Rodriguez was unavailable and/or Angels was headed only for the big screen, I would have no objection to Kathryn Bigelow. I also think Sofia Coppola would have an interesting vision for the story.
Learn more about Angels of the Underground at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Angels of the Underground.

Writers Read: Theresa Kaminski.

--Marshal Zeringue