Collision Course

The things that you find on the internet.  I recently found on You Tube a television movie from 1976, Collision Course, which deals with the conflict between Douglas MacArthur and Harry Truman over Korean War policy.  I had seen the movie when it was first broadcast, and was delighted to watch it again.  Go here to watch the entire movie.  The late Henry Fonda stars as MacArthur and the late E.G. Marshall portrays Truman.  The Truman MacArthur conflict is often seen as a vindication of the right of the President to call the shots when it comes to foreign policy and waging war, but the conflict was actually caused by an abdication of presidential responsibility.  Truman viewed Korea as a potentially dangerous annoyance, and he wanted this “police action” wrapped up as soon as possible.  No planning was made about what to do if the Chinese intervened.  A sensible policy would have been to order MacArthur to form a defensive line north of Pyongyang and across to Wonsan.  The Korean peninsula narrows to a hundred miles at this point and would have been quite defensible with American firepower in the event of Chinese intervention.  Instead MacArthur, who was convinced that the Chinese would not intervene, was left free to conduct a helter-skelter advance to the Yalu, secure in his misguided belief that the Chinese would not intervene, and that if they did, he could easily defeat them.  MacArthur was guilty of military malpractice and Truman was guilty of presidential nonfeasance.

Bitter Harvest

 

On one side, millions of starving peasants, their bodies often swollen from lack of food; on the other, soldiers, members of the GPU carrying out the instructions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They had gone over the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away everything edible; they had shot or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages; they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert.

Malcolm Muggeridge – British foreign correspondent, War on the Peasants, Fortnightly Review, 1 May, 1933 

Eighty-five years too late, a movie on the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in the Soviet Union is being released tomorrow.  Some six million people were murdered by starvation in Stalin’s man made famine, and almost all of these people died in the most agriculturally fertile areas of the Soviet Union, especially the Ukraine.  This was Stalin’s way of imposing collectivization on the recalcitrant farmers of his empire, while eliminating the opposition to Communist rule in the countryside.  For Stalin the mass deaths were a feature not a bug.  While all this was going on most Western journalists in the Soviet Union actively attempted to conceal the existence of the famine.  Only a few brave journalists like Malcolm Muggeridge, then a partisan of the left, had the courage to speak out and tell honestly what they had seen with their own eyes.  Walter Duranty, who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his reports from the Soviet Union,  of the New York Times denounced journalists who reported on the famine.  “Fake news” has a long pedigree on the left in this country.

Published in: on February 26, 2017 at 3:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Video Clips Worth Watching: Wayne v. Marvin

 

 

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), perhaps the greatest of Westerns, contains this gem of a scene with John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jimmy Stewart, Strother Marvin, Lee Van Cleef and Woody Strode.  Marvin as Liberty Valance is the archetypal mercenary gunslinger, his days, and the days of his kind, about to come to an end.  Wayne as Tom Doniphon, rancher, is the obverse of Marvin, a man just as tough as Valance, if not tougher, but no bully.  However, his time is also closing.  Their destroyer?   The almost clown like figure of Ransom Stoddard, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart.  He knows nothing about guns, but he knows a lot about law, and law and civilization are fast coming to the range.  This is John Ford’s eulogy to the Old West, and to this type of Western. (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Video Clips Worth Watching: Wayne v. Marvin  
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February 8, 1915: Birth of a Nation Debuts in Los Angeles

The film Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s masterpiece, was  controversial at its release and remains so.  At three hours the film was a pioneering effort using then cutting age technology to produce a movie that stunned viewers by its cinematic quality.  Its viewers had seen nothing like it in film entertainment before.  At the same time the film, based on the pro-Ku Klux Klan novel the Clansman by Thomas Dixon, a friend of President Woodrow Wilson, drew outrage from Grand Army of the Republic Union Veterans and black groups with its depiction of the Klan as noble heroes attempting to fight against evil Unionists and its depiction of blacks as little better than beasts who walked erect.  Race riots broke out in cities where the film was shown.  President Wilson viewed the film in the White House and was reported to have said, “It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true”.  The White House denied the remark, and in the wake of continuing protests, Wilson eventually condemned the “unfortunate production”.  The film used quotes from Wilson’s scholarly works to buttress its negative depiction of Reconstruction and its positive depiction of the Klan.  Considering the fact that Wilson imposed segregation on the Civil Service it is difficult to discern what he found to be “unfortunate” about the film.

(more…)

Published in: on February 8, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 8, 1915: Birth of a Nation Debuts in Los Angeles  
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Seven Days in May Redux

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

What is it with liberals and coups?  Recently several liberals, including entertainer? Sarah Silverman, and Obama era Pentagon bureaucrat Sarah Brooks, have  been calling for/predicting a military coup against the Trump administration.  Such fools have no concept of our military where the officers are trained from day one of their careers in the essential fact of civilian control of the military.  If the impossible ever happened and some rogue faction of the military ever did move against Trump, the shots fired in such a coup attempt would merely be the opening shots in Civil War II.  Liberals have often fantasized about a conservative military coup against the government of the United States, perhaps most famously in the novel and film of the Sixties entitled Seven Days in May.  From current calls for a military coup emanating from the portside of our politics, such concerns about a conservative coup apparently were a case of the left projecting upon the right what the left would be tempted to do if confronted by a civilian government they viewed as a menace.

Hard to believe that it is more than half a century since the film Seven Days in May (1964) was released.  Directed by John Frankenheimer with a screenplay by Rod Serling based on a novel published in 1962, the movie posits a failed coup attempt in the United States, with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General James Mattoon Scott, played by Burt Lancaster, being the would be coup leader.  Kirk Douglas plays Scott’s aide Marine Corps Colonel Martin Casey who, while agreeing with Scott that President Jordan Lyman’s nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets is a disaster, is appalled when he learns of the proposed coup, and discloses it to the President, portrayed by Frederic March.

The film is an example of liberal paranoia in the early sixties and fears on the port side of our politics of a coup by some “right wing” general.  The film is unintentionally hilarious if one has served in our military, since the idea of numerous generals agreeing on a coup and keeping it secret, even from their own aides, is simply ludicrous.  Our military leaks like a sieve, and general officers almost always view each other as competitors for political favor, rather than as co-conspirators.

Ironies abound when the film is compared to reality: (more…)

Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Seven Days in May Redux  
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Review of Hacksaw Ridge

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard,
that the everlasting God, the Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth,
fainteth not, neither is weary?
There is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faint;
and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
and the young men shall utterly fall:
but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.
Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

William Tecumseh Sherman, address to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy (June 19, 1879)

 

My bride and I went to see Hacksaw Ridge last Saturday, Mel Gibson’s tribute to conscientious objector Desmond Doss who earned a Medal of Honor for heroism on Okinawa, and I was bowled over by it.  It wrenched more emotion from me than any film I have ever seen, except for Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.  My review is below the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in effect. (more…)

Published in: on November 21, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Review of Hacksaw Ridge  
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J. Edgar Hoover in The FBI Story

The 1959 movie, The FBI Story, was a project near and dear to the heart of J. Edgar Hoover, founding director of the FBI, who ran it with an iron fist from 1935 until his death in 1972.  Based upon the best selling authorized history of the FBI, The FBI Story, Hoover wanted the FBI to be portrayed in heroic mode, with no controversial spots.  A squad of special agents supervised the film and everyone associated with the film, no matter how humble, had to be vetted by the FBI.   (more…)

Published in: on September 26, 2016 at 3:25 am  Comments Off on J. Edgar Hoover in The FBI Story  
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Sully: A Review

 

My bride and I last Saturday saw the movie Sully, Clint Eastwood’s take on airline Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s amazing landing of a distressed Airbus A320, US Airways Flight 1549, on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew on board.  We both loved the picture and my review is below the fold.  The usual warning as to spoilers is in full force.  (more…)

Resquiescat in Pace: Gene Wilder

 

 

One of the great comedic talents of his day, Gene Wilder passed away last Monday at age 83.    Like so many in Hollywood, Wilder was a political liberal.  Unlike so many in Hollywood, he remembered that his function was to entertain, and that people did not come to his films to hear him spout of on politics.  I will miss him.

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Resquiescat in Pace: Gene Wilder  
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Sermon of Father Mapple

 

 

 

 

John Huston’s film Moby Dick (1956) is a true work of genius.  The only film version worthy of the novel, the screenplay was written by Ray Bradbury who in 10,000 words  got to the essence of the 206,052 word novel.  (Bradbury confessed when he was approached by Huston to do the screenplay that he had never been able to get through the novel.)  A deeply religious film that asks questions about God and the human condition that still  jar us, the most striking scene is the sermon on Jonah by Father Mapple, portrayed unforgettably by Orson Welles.  Enoch Mudge who served as the chaplain of the Seaman’s Bethel in New Bedford and Father E.T. Taylor who served as the chaplain of the Seaman Bethel in Boston, served as the real life models for the fictional Mapple. (At the time of Melville any clergyman of age or authority was often accorded the title “Father” by his parishioners in Protestant churches, a distinction retained today only by Catholics, the Orthodox and a few Protestant churches.)

Welles suffered from a bad case of stage fright just prior to the scene and John Huston produced a bottle to help Welles fortify himself.  Welles then did the scene letter perfect in one take.  Here is the text of the sermon as written by Bradbury for the film:

 

 

 

And God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. Shipmates, the sin of Jonah was in his disobedience of the command of God. He found it a hard command, and it was, for all the things that God would have us do are hard. If we would obey God, we must disobey ourselves.
But Jonah still further flouts at God by seeking to flee from him. Jonah thinks that a ship made by men will carry him into countries where God does not reign. He prowls among the shipping like a vile burglar, hastening to cross the seas, and as he comes aboard the sailors mark him.
The ship puts out, but soon the sea rebels. It will not bear the wicked burden. A dreadful storm comes up. The ship is like to break. The bo’s’n calls all hands to lighten her. Boxes, bales and jars are clattering overboard, the wind is shrieking, the men are yelling. “I fear the Lord!” cries Jonah, “the God of Heaven who has made the sea and the dry land!”
Again, the sailors mark him. And wretched Jonah cries out to them to cast him overboard, for he knew that for his sake this great tempest was upon them.
Now behold Jonah, taken up as an anchor and dropped into the sea, into the dreadful jaws awaiting him. And the great whale shoots to all his ivory teeth, like so many white bolts, upon his prison.
And Jonah cries unto the Lord, out of the fish’s belly. But observe his prayer, shipmates. He doesn’t weep and wail, he feels his punishment is just. He leaves deliverance to God. And even out of the belly of Hell, grounded upon the ocean’s utmost bones, God heard him when he cried. And God spake unto the whale, and from the shuddering cold and blackness of the deep, the whale breached into the sun and vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
And Jonah, bruised and beaten, his ears like two seashells still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean … Jonah did the Almighty’s bidding, and what was that, shipmates? To preach the truth in the face of falsehood! 
Now, shipmates, woe to him who seeks to pour oil on the troubled water when God has brewed them into a gale. Yeah, woe to him who, as the pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself a castaway! But delight is to him who against the proud gods and commodores of this Earth, stands forth his own inexorable self, who destroys all sin, though we pluck it out from under the robes of senators, and judges. And eternal delight shall be his who, coming to lay him down, can say “Oh father, mortal or immortal, here I die. I have striven to be thine, more than to be this world’s or mine own, yet this is nothing. I leave eternity to thee, for what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?

 

Here is the much, much lengthier version from the novel  (Too bad that time prevented Ray Bradbury from serving as Melville’s editor!) (more…)

Published in: on August 28, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Sermon of Father Mapple  
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