Guns of Navarone Theme

 

Something for the weekend.  Guns of Navarone Theme (1961).  I recently rewatched the film.  A fine action film although filled with absurdities.  One of the first major war flicks where a specially chosen team has to accomplish an impossible mission.  The team is ridiculous.  We have a British and Greek pair where the Greek office, Anthony Quinn, has pledged to kill the British officer, Peck, after the War.  The demolitions expert, played by David Niven, who had an immense amount of actual combat experience with a special Signals unit in the British Army during the War and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, is a corporal who refuses to be commissioned and has zero interest in either the War or the mission. James Darren as a Greek-American killer with a gangster background who is, conveniently, the son of the local Greek resistance leader, etc.  The mission makes little sense as the Nazis, at immense cost I assume, have installed radar controlled guns on the island of Navarone which prevent the evacuation of some 2000 British troops, a fairly minor tragedy in a world at war in a sideshow theater of a sideshow theater.  There is some rubbish in the film that if the Nazis can do this Turkey might join the Axis.  Not a chance by 1943 when the film is set.  However, these are quibbles.  The film is well acted and delivers enough thrills and chills, even today, to make watching the film an enjoyable experience.

 

Bonus:

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on July 16, 2022 at 7:05 am  Comments Off on Guns of Navarone Theme  
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Top Ten Civil War Movies For Memorial Day

 

 

Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.

Shelby Foote

It is fitting that Memorial Day arose out of our bloodiest war, our war without an enemy.   Films to watch over the weekend:

10.    Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)-The showcase of this film biopic of Lincoln is the above depiction of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.   The debate portrayed has remarks culled from all the debates,  is an excellent recreation of the main arguments made by each of the men, and is evocative of their speaking styles.

Ironically neither of the actors portraying Lincoln and Douglas were Americans.  The actor portraying Douglas was Gene Lockhart, a Canadian.  If his voice sounds vaguely familiar to you, it is probably because you recall him as the judge in Miracle on 34th Street.  His daughter June Lockhart, of Lassie and Lost in Space fame, carried on the thespian tradition of the family.

Lincoln was portrayed by Raymond Massey, also a Canadian.  Massey was one of the great actors of his day and bore a strong physical resemblance to Lincoln.  Massey served in the Canadian Army in both World War I, where he saw combat on the Western Front as an artillery officer, and World War II, becoming a naturalized American citizen after World War II.  Like Lincoln he was a Republican and made a TV ad for Goldwater in the 1964 campaign.

The film helps explain why the Civil War happened.  A nation like America could not endure forever denying freedom to millions of Americans on the basis of race.  That we did not free the slaves peacefully led to the most terrible war in our history.

9.    Friendly Persuasion (1956)-Starring Gary Cooper as Jess Birdwell, the head of a Quaker family in southern Indiana during the Civil War, the film is a superb mix of drama and comedy as the Quakers have to determine whether to continue to embrace their pacifist beliefs or to take up arms against General John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry during his Great Raid of the North in June-July of 1863.  When the oldest son of the Birdwell family, portrayed by Anthony Perkins in his pre-Psycho days, takes up arms, his mother, played by Dorothy McGuire is aghast, but Cooper, as Jess Birdwell, defends him.  Although he remains true to his pacifist convictions, Birdwell understands that his son is acting in obedience to his conscience, and, as he tells his wife, “A man’s life ain’t worth a hill of beans except he lives up to his own conscience.”

8.    Major Dundee (1965)-Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers, and Confederate prisoners, who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.

7.    The Horse Soldiers (1959)-In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid.

Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavalry raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg.

John Wayne gives a fine, if surly, performance as Colonel Marlowe, the leader of the Union cavalry brigade.  William Holden as a Union surgeon serves as a foil for Wayne.  Constance Towers, as a captured Southern belle, supplies the obligatory Hollywood love interest.

Overall the film isn’t a bad treatment of the raid, and the period.  I especially appreciated two scenes.  John Wayne refers to his pre-war activities as “Before this present insanity” and Constance Towers gives the following impassioned speech:

“Well, you Yankees and your holy principle about savin’ the Union. You’re plunderin’ pirates that’s what. Well, you think there’s no Confederate army where you’re goin’? You think our boys are asleep down here?   Well, they’ll catch up to you and they’ll cut you to pieces you, you nameless, fatherless scum. I wish I could be there to see it.” (more…)

News of the World

 

 

 

Saw this yesterday with my Bride.  A grand evocation of post Civil War Texas, Kansas and Missouri.  A deep exploration of the meaning of home and family.  Tom Hanks gives a superb performance as Jefferson Kyle Kidd, late Captain in the 3rd Texas Infantry, CSA, who earns a precarious living as a traveling news reader, regaling crowds who pay a dime a head to hear him read the news from newspapers he carries, with entertaining commentary.  In his travels he encounters a little German girl, whose immigrant parents were slaughtered by a Kiowa warband, and now considers herself Kiowa, speaking only that language with bits and pieces of half-remembered German.  Child actress Helena Zengel is stunningly good in the role.  A German native, she apparently knew little English when the film was being made.  This is a throwback to a time when films were meant to be entertaining with characters we grow to care about during the course of the tale.  Highly recommended.

Published in: on November 28, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on News of the World  
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Juxtaposition

 

In the last century before the birth of the new faith called Christianity, which was destined to overthrow the pagan tyranny of Rome and bring about a new society,

the Roman republic stood at the very centre of the civilized world.  “Of all things fairest “sang the poet “first among cities and home of the gods is golden Rome. “

Yet even at the zenith of her pride and power the Republic lay fatally stricken with a disease called human slavery.  The age of the dictator was at hand, waiting in the shadows

for the event to bring it forth.

Spartacus, Screenplay (1960)

(I posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

A great example of juxtaposition from the film Spartacus (1960).

Great art, bad history.  No, Crassus was not a proto-Fascist;  no, Spartacus was not a proto-Communist.  The idea of a world without slaves would have struck both men as bizarre as a suggestion today of a world without farms.  Slavery, and slavery equivalents, were well nigh universal institutions, with the influence of Christianity making Europe an exception during the Middle Ages until colonization, with Christianity and mechanization largely eliminating it in the West in the Nineteenth Century.  It endures today in parts of the globe under other names.  In the last century it had a huge revival under the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, Red China, etc.  With the waning influence of Christianity in the West, unless that is altered, I have no doubt it will recur here.

The film gets the late Republic atmosphere correct:  old Roman morality being forgotten, a growth of decadence fueled by ever more wealth from foreign conquests, endless amounts of slaves flooding into Italy from the same foreign conquests, factions in the Senate engaging in what amounted to a cold civil war between bouts of hot civil war, the Roman Republican government teetering on the brink of military dictatorship, the movie presents all of these elements more clearly than any  classroom lecture could.  It is too familiar to our own day to make completely comfortable viewing.

Our sources on the Third Servile War, the first two were slave revolts in Sicily in the Second Century BC, are not very good and tend to be written centuries after the events.  My favorite of a poor lot is this excerpt from Plutarch’s life of Crassus:

8 1 The insurrection of the gladiators and their devastation of Italy, which is generally called the war of Spartacus,​11 had its origin as follows. A certain Lentulus Batiatus had a school of gladiators at Capua, most of whom were Gauls and Thracians.  Through no misconduct of theirs, but owing to the injustice of their owner, they were kept in close confinement and reserved for gladiatorial combats.

 

2 Two hundred of these planned to make their escape, and when information was laid against them, those who got wind of it and succeeded in getting away, seventy-eight in number, seized cleavers and spits from some kitchen and sallied out. On the road they fell in with wagons conveying gladiators’ weapons to another city; these they plundered and armed themselves. Then they took up a strong position and elected three leaders. The first of these was Spartacus, a Thracian of Nomadic stock,​a possessed not only of great courage and strength, but also in sagacity and culture superior to his fortune, and more Hellenic than Thracian. 3 It is said that when he was first brought to Rome to be sold, a serpent was seen coiled about his face as he slept, and his wife, who was of the same tribe as Spartacus, a prophetess, and subject to visitations of the Dionysiac frenzy, declared it the sign of a great and formidable power which would attend him to a fortunate issue. This woman shared in his escape and was then living with him.

9 1 To begin with, the gladiators repulsed the soldiers who came against them from Capua, and getting hold of many arms of real warfare, they gladly took these in exchange for their own, casting away their gladiatorial weapons as dishonourable and barbarous. Then Clodius the praetor was sent out from Rome against them with three thousand soldiers, and laid siege to them on a hill which had but one ascent, and that a narrow and difficult one,  which Clodius closely watched; 2 everywhere else there were smooth and precipitous cliffs. But the top of the hill was covered with a wild vine of abundant growth, from which the besieged cut off the serviceable branches, and wove these into strong ladders of such strength and length that when they were fastened at the top they reached along the face of the cliff to the plain below. On these they descended safely, all but one man, who remained above to attend to the arms. When the rest had got down, he began to drop the arms, and after he had thrown them all down, got away himself also last of all in safety. 3 Of all this the Romans were ignorant, and therefore their enemy surrounded them, threw them into consternation by the suddenness of the attack, put them to flight, and took their camp. They were also joined by many of the herdsmen and shepherds of the region, sturdy men and swift of foot, some of whom they armed fully, and employed others as scouts and light infantry.

4 In the second place, Publius Varinus, the praetor, was sent out against them, whose lieutenant, a certain Furius, with two thousand soldiers, they first engaged and routed; then Spartacus narrowly watched the movements of Cossinius, who had been sent out with a large force to advise and assist Varinus in the command, and came near seizing him as he was bathing near Salinae. 5 Cossinius barely escaped with much difficulty, and Spartacus at once seized his baggage, pressed hard upon him in pursuit, and took his camp with great slaughter. Cossinius also fell. By defeating the praetor himself in many battles, and finally capturing his lictors and the very horse he rode, Spartacus was soon great and  p341 formidable; but he took a proper view of the situation, and since he could not expect to overcome the Roman power, began to lead his army toward the Alps, thinking it necessary for them to cross the mountains and go to their respective homes, some to Thrace, and some to Gaul. 6 But his men were now strong in numbers and full of confidence, and would not listen to him, but went ravaging over Italy.

It was now no longer the indignity and disgrace of the revolt that harassed the senate, but they were constrained by their fear and peril to send both consuls into the field, as they would to a war of the utmost difficulty and magnitude. 7 Gellius, one of the consuls, fell suddenly upon the Germans, who were so insolent and bold as to separate themselves from the main body of Spartacus, and cut them all to pieces; but when Lentulus, the other consul, had surrounded the enemy with large forces, Spartacus rushed upon them, joined battle, defeated the legates of Lentulus, and seized all their baggage. Then, as he was forcing his way towards the Alps, he was met by Cassius, the governor of Cisalpine Gaul, with an army of ten thousand men, and in the battle that ensued, Cassius was defeated, lost many men, and escaped himself with difficulty.

10 1 On learning of this, the Senate angrily ordered the consuls to keep quiet, and chose Crassus to conduct the war, and many of the nobles were induced by his reputation and their friendship for him to serve under him. Crassus himself, accordingly, took position on the borders of Picenum, expecting to receive the attack of Spartacus, who was hastening thither; and he sent Mummius, his legate, with two legions, by a circuitous route, with orders to follow the enemy, but not to join battle nor even to skirmish with them. 2 Mummius, however, at the first promising opportunity, gave battle and was defeated; many of his men were slain, and many of them threw away their arms and fled for their lives. Crassus gave Mummius himself a rough reception, and when he armed his soldiers anew, made them give pledges that they would keep their arms. Five hundred of them, moreover, who had shown the greatest cowardice and been first to fly, he divided into fifty decades, and put to death one from each decade, on whom the lot fell, thus reviving, after the lapse of many years, an ancient mode of punishing the soldiers. 3 For disgrace also attaches to this manner of death, and many horrible and repulsive features attend the punishment, which the whole army witnesses.

When he had thus disciplined his men, he led them against the enemy. But Spartacus avoided him, and retired through Lucania to the sea. At the Straits, he chanced upon some Cilician pirate craft, and determined to seize Sicily. By throwing two thousand men into the island, he thought to kindle anew the servile war there,​12 which had not long been extinguished, and needed only a little additional fuel. 4 But the Cilicians, after coming to terms with him and receiving his gifts, deceived him and sailed away. So Spartacus marched back again from the sea and established his army in the peninsula of Rhegium. Crassus now came up, and observing that the nature of the place suggested what must be done, he determined to build a wall  p345 across the isthmus, thereby at once keeping his soldiers from idleness, and his enemies from provisions. 5 Now the task was a huge one and difficult, but he accomplished and finished it, contrary to all expectation, in a short, running a ditch from sea to sea through the neck of land three hundred furlongs in length and fifteen feet in width and depth alike. Above the ditch he also built a wall of astonishing height and strength. 6 All this work Spartacus neglected and despised at first; but soon his provisions began to fail, and when he wanted to sally forth from the peninsula, he saw that he was walled in, and that there was nothing more to be had there. He therefore waited for a snowy night and a wintry storm, when he filled up a small portion of the ditch with earth and timber and the boughs of trees, and so threw a third part of his force across.

11 1 Crassus was now in fear lest some impulse to march upon Rome should seize Spartacus, but took heart when he saw that many of the gladiator’s men had seceded after a quarrel with him, and were encamped by themselves on a Lucanian lake. This lake, they say, changes from time to time in the character of its water, becoming sweet, and then again bitter and undrinkable. Upon this detachment Crassus fell, and drove them away from the lake, but he was robbed of the slaughter and pursuit of the fugitives by the sudden appearance of Spartacus, who checked their flight.

2 Before this Crassus had written to the senate that they must summon Lucullus​13 from Thrace and Pompey from Spain, but he was sorry now that he had done so, and was eager to bring the war to an end before those generals came. He knew that the success would be ascribed to the one who came up with assistance, and not to himself.

Accordingly, in the first place, he determined to attack those of the enemy who had seceded from the rest and were campaigning on their own account (they were commanded by Caius Canicius and Castus), and with this in view, sent out six thousand men to preoccupy a certain eminence, bidding them keep their attempt a secret. 3 And they did try to elude observation by covering up their helmets, but they were seen by two women who were sacrificing for the enemy, and would have been in peril of their lives had not Crassus quickly made his appearance and given battle, the most stubbornly contested of all; for although he slew twelve thousand three hundred men in it, he found only two who were wounded in the back. The rest all died standing in the ranks and fighting the Romans.

4 After the defeat of this detachment, Spartacus retired to the mountains of Petelia, followed closely by Quintus, one of the officers of Crassus, and by Scrophas, the quaestor, who hung upon the enemy’s rear. But when Spartacus faced about, there was a great rout of the Romans, and they barely managed to drag the quaestor, who had been wounded, away into safety. This success was the ruin of Spartacus, for it filled his slaves with over-confidence. 5 They would no longer consent to avoid battle, and would not even obey their leaders, but surrounded them as soon as they began to march, with arms in their hands, and forced them to lead back through Lucania against the Romans, the very thing which Crassus  also most desired. For Pompey’s approach was already announced, and there were not a few who publicly proclaimed that the victory in this war belonged to him; he had only to come and fight and put an end to the war. Crassus, therefore, pressed on to finish the struggle himself, and having encamped near the enemy, began to dig a trench. Into this the slaves leaped and began to fight with those who were working there, 6 and since fresh men from both sides kept coming to help their comrades, Spartacus saw the necessity that was upon him, and drew up his whole army in order of battle.

In the first place, when his horse was brought to him, he drew his sword, and saying that if he won the day he would have many fine horses of the enemy’s, but if he lost it he did not want any, he slew his horse. Then pushing his way towards Crassus himself through many flying weapons and wounded men, he did not indeed reach him, but slew two centurions who fell upon him together. 7 Finally, after his companions had taken to flight, he stood alone, surrounded by a multitude of foes, and was still defending himself when he was cut down.

But although Crassus had been fortunate, had shown most excellent generalship, and had exposed his person to danger, nevertheless, his success did not fail to enhance the reputation of Pompey. For the fugitives from the battle​14 encountered that general and were cut to pieces, so he could write to the senate that in open battle, indeed, Crassus had conquered the slaves, but that he himself had extirpated the war. 8 Pompey, accordingly, for his victories over Sertorius and in Spain, celebrated a splendid triumph; but Crassus, for all his self-approval, did not venture to ask for the major triumph, and it was thought ignoble and mean in him to celebrate even the minor triumph on foot, called the ovation, for a servile war. How the minor triumph differs from the major, and why it is named as it is, has been told in my life of Marcellus.

The differences between our time and the time of the fall of the Roman Republic far outnumber their similarities, but in both periods we see institutions which have endured for centuries working poorly due to the fact that no institutions can make up for a lack of character in those at the helm of the institutions.

 

Published in: on September 28, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Juxtaposition  
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A Great Film for a Labor Day Weekend

 

Probably the most powerful sermon ever placed on film, Father Barry speaks of Christ and his crucifixion on the docks.  The best performance Karl Malden ever gave.  Elia Kazan’s masterpiece, On the Waterfront  (1954) was also his response to the criticism he received for naming names before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952.

The character of Father Barry was based on the actual work on the docks of a hardbitten Irish-Catholic Jesuit Priest, Father John Corridan.  From 1946-1957 he waged a one man crusade in New York against the gangsters who controlled the International Longshoreman’s Association.  One of the bosses who controlled the union was “Tough” Tony Anastasia,  a brother of Albert “The Madhatter” Anastasia, one of the former bosses of Murder, Inc.

In the face of these murderers, Father Corridan, son of a New York cop who had died when Corridan was nine, was completely fearless.  Teaching longshoremen Christian principles in labor\management relations at the Saint Francis Xavier Labor School, Father Corridan faced down a union thug sent to disrupt his class:  “If anything happens to the men I’m trying to help here, I’ll know who’s responsible, and I’ll personally see to it that they are broken throughout this port. They’ll pay and I’ll see that they pay.”

Father Corridan compiled information which eventually filled sixteen filing cabinets on the mobsters who controlled the ports and who made life miserable for honest longshoremen.  He shared this information freely with reporters, including Malcolm Johnson of the New York Sun who won a Pulitzer for his series in 1948 on “Crime on the Waterfront”.  Father Corridan realized the pressure that could be exerted on the mob and the crooked politicians who protected the mob by such stories, and he used every opportunity to expose them in the press.  He wrote scorching articles himself for America and other publications.  Gradually the public began to become aware of the problem of mob domination of the docks.

A turning point came in 1951 when a faction of the longshoremen rejected a union negotiated contract and went on a wildcat strike.  Father Corridan supported them to the hilt.  The strike shut down ports in New York and New Jersey for twenty-five days.  To refute a claim by the mob dominated union that the strikers were communists, Father Corridan held a public prayer service with the strikers.  He also successfully pressured Governor Dewey of New York to address the issue of mob control of the docks.

Father Barry in the movie had his sermon on the docks.  Father Corridan preached many of them and one of them had this memorable statement:  “I suppose some people would smirk at the thought of Christ in the shape-up. It is about as absurd as the fact that He carried carpenter’s tools in His hands and earned His bread by the sweat of His brow. As absurd as the fact that Christ redeemed all men irrespective of their race, color, or station in life. It can be absurd only to those of whom Christ has said, ‘Having eyes, they see not; and having ears, they hear not.’ Because they don’t want to see or hear. Christ also said, ‘If you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me.’ So Christ is in the shape-up.”

The shape up was the system by which the mob completely controlled which longshoremen would work and which would not.  Father Corridan succeeded in having the shape up banned by the time that he left the docks in 1957, and a New York\New Jersey commission was in place to regulate the harbors.

Father Corridan went on to teach economics at LeMoyne College in Syracuse , theology at Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City and was a hospital chaplain in Brooklyn until his death at 73 in 1984.  It is said of Father Corridan that he could swear like a longshoreman himself at the sight of injustice.  If true, then I imagine his language is pure in his final abode.

Published in: on September 6, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on A Great Film for a Labor Day Weekend  
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Eliot Ness and The Untouchables

I have forsworn myself. I have broken every law I have sworn to uphold, I have become what I beheld and I am content that I have done right!

Eliot Ness, The Untouchables (1987)

Something for the weekend.  The soundtrack suite from The Untouchables (1987).  Hard to believe it is 34 years since The Untouchables (1987) movie was released.  My bride and I saw it in Joliet that year and we both loved it.  A year or two later and I was sitting next to one of the last of the surviving members of Al Capone’s gang.  A truck driver for Capone, he had invested in Central Illinois farmland and by the time I knew him he was a grey headed and kindly great grandfather.  I never worked up the courage to ask him if Capone had asked him to bury some gangland slaying victims in the ground he purchased, as local rumor indicated.

The film was magnificent with the screenplay by David Mamet and the haunting, and period appropriate, musical score by Henry Mancini.  De Niro gave the performance of his career as Capone and Sean Connery, who won a best supporting Oscar for his performance, was completely believable as honest cop Jimmy Malone, joining Ness in his crusade against the corruption that sickened Malone.  Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness was superb as an innocent who learns the terrible cost that is sometimes demanded when evil is confronted. (more…)

Published in: on July 24, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Eliot Ness and The Untouchables  
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Patton Musical Score

You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, “Well, your Granddaddy shoveled sh– in Louisiana.” No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, “Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a Son-of-a-G——ed-B—-h named Georgie Patton!”

General Patton, Speech to troops of the Third Army (1944)

Something for the weekend.  The musical score from Patton (1970).  My Bride and I watched the film  on Thursday evening of this week.  I long ago lost track of how many times I have viewed this masterpiece, the first time being with my brother in its theatrical release in 1970.  The film is as close to a perfect film as I think it is possible to get.  A warts and all portrayal of Patton, it captures the essence of the man.  In the title role the late George C. Scott gives the performance of his career, never making a false step.  The supporting cast is brilliant, especially Karl Malden as Omar Bradley.  The musical score is unforgettable and greatly aids the telling of the story of Patton in World War II.

Patton tends to be remembered for his flamboyant stunts, like the ivory handled six shooters he wore, but Patton was a solid, professional officer with a large streak of military genius running through him.  His command of an army was like watching a Stradivarius being played by a maestro.

Patton was an interesting mixture of contradictions in his spiritual life.  Foul mouthed even by the standards of an army known for profanity, and much too fond of war for a Christian, he also read the Bible and prayed each day.  A firm Episcopalian, yet he also firmly believed in reincarnation.    While in command in Sicily he began attending mass, initially largely for political reasons to build a bridge to the Catholic population, but then found that he enjoyed worshiping at Mass.

In the film a German officer, Captain Oskar Steiger is depicted as being the expert on Patton.  His closing observation on Patton is prophetic:

The pure warrior… a magnificent anachronism. The absence of war will destroy him.

Published in: on July 10, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Patton Musical Score  
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Top Ten Patriotic Movies For the Fourth of July Weekend

For those of you who want some patriotic movies to watch over the long  Fourth of July weekend, here are some suggestions for viewing.  Feel free to suggest additional movies in the comboxes.

10. National Treasure (2004)-Sure it’s cursed with a ridiculous plot involving the masons and a treasure, it is still a lot of fun and calls us back to the foundation document, the Declaration of Independence, that is the cornerstone of our Republic.

9. Hamburger Hill (1987)-Content advisory: very, very strong language in the above video clip.  All the Vietnam veterans I’ve mentioned it to have nothing but praise for this film which depicts the assault on Hill 937 by elements of the 101rst Division, May 10-20, 1969.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the American troops who served their country in an unpopular war a great deal better than their country served them.

8.    Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)-James Cagney in perhaps the greatest film bio of them all, a salute to George M. Cohan, the legendary composer, playwright and patriot.

7.      Saving Lincoln (2013)-  Overshadowed by the Lincoln film of 2012, this rendition of Lincoln’s years as President is first rate.

The human cost of the War is always at the core of the film, as we see in the delivery of the Gettysburg Address where some of the members of the crowd hearing Lincoln are holding pictures of soldier relatives who have died.

Lincoln in the film comes to believe that he will die in office and accepts his fate, hoping that God will spare him until his work is accomplished.

6.    Gettysburg (1993)-The movie that I think comes the closest to conveying to us the passions of the Civil War.  You really can’t understand America unless you understand the Civil War.  As Shelby Foote, one of the greatest historians of the war, said:  “Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.”

5.    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)This movie came out at a time when fascism and communism seemed to be the wave of the future.  In the face of that dark reality, Mr. Smith is a brilliant paean to American democracy, and the idealism and devotion to the principles of the Founding Fathers that constantly battles against political corruption.

4.    Glory (1989)-The tale of the 54th Massachusetts in the Civil War, and a long overdue salute to the black troops who fought for the Union.  A superb film in every regard, and a model of  how history should be recreated on film.

3.     Lincoln (2012)-Daniel Day-Lewis is simply magnificent in the role of Lincoln. He captures well both Lincoln’s role as a far-seeing visionary and a master of mundane nuts and bolts politics.  Day-Lewis portrays Lincoln as he was: a very humane man waging the bloodiest war in our nation’s history and trying to lance the boil of slavery that had poisoned and embittered American life for a quarter of a millennium. He conveys well the human toll that all this imposed upon Lincoln.

The film takes place near the end of the War. Lincoln has been reelected and is now attempting to have Congress pass the Thirteenth Amendment. Lincoln is concerned that if the War ends before the Amendment is passed through Congress, the impetus behind it will fade away since it will no longer be regarded as an essential war measure. He is worried that his Emancipation Proclamation, taken as a war measure, might not hold up in peace time, once the former Confederate States are back in the Union, with laws still allowing slavery on their books. The film centers on his efforts to convince enough Democrat Congressmen, by fair means and by foul, to vote for the Amendment.

2.  Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)-Raymond Massey gives the performance of a life time as the greatest President this nation has ever had, save, perhaps, for George Washington.

1. 1776  (1972)-Singing and dancing Founding Fathers!  What’s not to love?  The film does a good job of depicting what a leap of faith the Declaration of Independence was.  For all the Founding Fathers knew, they could have all ended up dangling from British nooses, and cursed by their posterity.  They banished their fears and went boldly forward with their revolution, the most successful revolution in history, and which is still underway.

Honorable Mentions:

Independence Day (1996)-Invading aliens run into the buzzsaw of American know how and grit.  The speech from the film has received an updating for 2021.

Red Dawn (1984)-An alternate history depiction of high schoolers taking up arms in the aftermath of a Soviet invasion, it seems over the top, until I recall the ages of partisans who fought in the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)-An English butler reminds Americans of one of the high points of their history.

Sergeant York (1941)-A masterful look at both religion and patriotism.

Meet John Doe (1941)-Frank Capra’s flawed masterpiece, it evinces his faith in American democracy at a time when it was under threat.

They Were Expendable (1945)-John Ford’s salute to the American PT boat sailors in the Philippines  who fought to buy us time in the Pacific.

Rocky (1976)-A good film to come out during the American bicentennial, it evinces two great American characteristics:  Optimism and a fondness for underdogs.

The Wind and the Lion (1975)-Brian Keith captures perfectly Theodore Roosevelt, the man who in most ways represented the best in the American spirit.

Give Me Liberty (1936)-A fine salute to Patrick Henry, perhaps the most eloquent American who ever lived.

One, Two, Three (1961)-Billy Wilder’s hilarious Cold War spoof which showed why the Soviets were going to ultimately lose their contest with the US.

Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)-John Ford’s celebration of young Mr. Lincoln and a young America.

The Lost Battalion (2001)-Chronicles the story of Maj. Charles W. Whittlesey and his men who held out from October 2-October8, 1918, completely surrounded, until they were relieved by American forces.  I have always treasured this bit of dialogue from the film:

Maj. Prinz: You Americans, you always have so much of everything. No matter. Eventually you have to surrender.

Lt. Leak: I don’t think so.

Maj. Prinz: Are you officers so callous? You’re surrounded. You have no chance of relief. Every night you send out patrols, and every night we kill them. We can hear the cries of your wounded Lieutenant. There is no dishonor in surrender.

Lt. Leak: Maybe for you, but my guys are different.

Maj. Prinz: What do you mean?

Lt. Leak: What you’re up against Major, is a bunch of Mick, Pollack, Dago, and Jew boy gangsters from New York City. They’ll never surrender. Never.

The Red Badge of Courage, (1951)-I am struck by what a forgotten masterpiece it is.  Filmed in stark black and white, the film has almost a documentary feel to it, as if a World War II era newsreel camera had magically transplanted itself to the Civil War.  The combat scenes are highly realistic depictions of Civil War combat, and the actors speak and act like Civil War soldiers and not like 1951 actors dressed up in Civil War costumes.

As one critic said at the time, watching the film is like watching a Matthew Brady photograph of the Civil War come to life.

It was a stroke of genius for director John Huston to have as star of his film Audie Murphy, as the youth who, in Stephen Crane’s unforgettable novel, has his first taste of combat in the Civil War.  Murphy looked like a typical Hollywood “pretty boy” but he was anything but.  From a family of 12 in Texas, Murphy had dropped out of school in the fifth grade to support his family after his father ran off.    His mother died in 1941.  In 1942 he enlisted in the Army at 16, lying about his birthday, partially to support his family and partially because he dreamed of a military career.  By the end of the war, before his 19th birthday, he was a second lieutenant and had earned in hellish combat a Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit, a French Legion of Honor, a French Croix de Guerre, a Belgian Croix de Guerre, two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts.  He was the most decorated soldier of the US Army in World War 2.

Murphy’s co-star in the film was also an Army combat veteran, Bill Mauldin, the famed cartoonist who drew the Willie and Joe cartoons in Stars and Stripes, the Army newspaper, during World War II.

The film is absolutely stunning to watch, especially when we recall that Huston was forced to cut the film to 70 minutes and to add a narration, both decisions taken over his bitter protests.   The making of the film, and the conflicts that ensued, are given masterly treatment in Lillian Ross’ book on the making of the film, Picture (1952).  The film was a box office failure, but critics hailed it.  I think audiences are often right and critics usually wrong, but in this case I side with the critics.

The Patriot (2001)-There is a lot wrong historically with Mel Gibson’s Revolutionary War opus, but he captures well the war to the knife fighting in the Southern theater of the War and the desperate courage of Patriot partisans who turned the tide.

The Rough Riders (1997)-  A superb recreation of the time and the place, the film is a fitting tribute to the valor of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War.  Tom Berenger gives an uncannily on target performance as Theodore Roosevelt.  The miniseries may be viewed on YouTube.

 George Washington miniseries (1984) (1985) Barry Bostwick as George Washington?  Patty Duke as Martha Washington?  Sounds like history as told by Mad magazine?  That is what I thought initially back in the Eighties, and I was very happy to be proven totally wrong.  Bostwick and Duke are completely believable in their roles.  The film, originally two separate miniseries, covers the life of Washington from his early twenties to the completion of his second term as President.  I found every second riveting, especially the section on the American Revolution which was an incredibly accurate depiction of why we would have lost that war but for Washington and a hard-core of Continental troops.  It is a crime that this masterpiece still has not been released on DVD.  (However, hint, hint, if you peruse YouTube you should be able to find the whole thing!)

John Adams– (2008) Paul Giamatti gives an astoundingly good performance as John Adams in this film which covers the span of Adam’s life from 1770, when he courageously risked his career by defending the British soldiers accused of murder in the Boston “Massacre”, to his death, along with Thomas Jefferson, on July 4, 1826.  Everything about this effort is superb:  the acting, the script, the musical score, the faithfulness to the historical record.  This is how history should be dramatized on film.  I hope the success of this miniseries will inspire similar efforts on other Founding Fathers.

Published in: on July 1, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Revolutionary War for the 21rst Century

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

Interesting fan remix of the movie The Patriot (2000) focusing on Lord Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson).  The film got endless historical facts wrong, but it captured well the mixture of guerilla war and conventional war, the hallmark of the war in the South, the forgotten theater of the American Revolution, which decided the outcome of the Revolution.  There is much to learn by our contemporary military from close study of these campaigns:  Guerilla warfare, atrocities, dealing with hostile and/or divided populations, great power interventions, indigenous peoples (Indians), the breakdown of law and order, the key role of political organization, militia free lancers, the use of propaganda;   it is all there and more for those with the wit to see it.  The war in the South from 1778-1782 is extremely, one might say painfully, relevant in this year of grace 2021.

 

Bonus:

Cornwallis laments the 18th century equivalent of “the deplorables” as his world is turned upside down:

 

 

Published in: on February 16, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Revolutionary War for the 21rst Century  
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The Leper Colony

 

 

 

The movie Twelve O’Clock High (1949) is an interesting study of command techniques in war, and the film has been used in the military to examine what works and what doesn’t work.  I have been intrigued by the the Leper Colony strategy of putting all your bad eggs in one basket:

 

General Savage I take it you don’t really care about the part you had in breaking one of the best men you’ll ever know. Add to it that as Air Exec you were automatically in command the moment Colonel Davenport left – and you met that responsibility exactly as you met his need: you ran out on it. You left the station to get drunk. Gately, as far as I’m concerned, you’re yellow. A traitor to yourself, to this group, to the uniform you wear. It would be the easiest course for me to transfer you out, to saddle some unsuspecting guy with a deadbeat. Maybe you think that’s what you’re gonna get out of this, a free ride in some combat unit. But I’m not gonna pass the buck. I’m gonna keep you right here. I hate a man like you so much that I’m gonna get your head down in the mud and tramp on it. I’m gonna make you wish you’d never been born.

Lt. Col. Ben Gately If that’s all, sir…

General Savage I’m just getting started. You’re gonna stay right here and get a bellyful of flying. You’re gonna make every mission. You’re not air exec anymore. You’re just an airplane commander. And I want you to paint this name on the nose of your ship: Leper Colony. Because in it you’re gonna get every deadbeat in the outfit. Every man with a penchant for head colds. If there’s a bombardier who can’t hit his plate with his fork, you get him. If there’s a navigator who can’t find the men’s room, you get him. Because you rate him.

In a bombing group I think it made a lot of sense.  A shock treatment leading to redemption, or all the bad eggs go down in flames together.  Rough, but no rougher than the risks everyone else was taking.

 

In the film, predictably, redemption resulted:

 

 

Leadership is a tough skill to master.  It is even tougher in a war where effective leadership sees good men going to their deaths.  However, you can almost be certain that if the leadership is poor the death toll will be higher.

Published in: on January 25, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Leper Colony  
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