One of the greatest American classic musicals – Yankee Doodle Dandy – about one of the greatest American stage play auteurs – George M. Cohan – played by one of the greatest American actors – Jimmy Cagney.
WHO CAN WATCH:
Anyone and everyone!
It’s hard for an old screen movie buff like me to talk about George M. Cohan without bringing up Jimmy Cagney. Cagney was to Cohan in the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy what George C. Scott did for General George S. Patton in the movie Patton. But for those born closer to the turn of the last milennium than I was, a brief history lesson might be in order.
George M. Cohan was a prolific Broadway song and dance man. Beginning in vaudeville with his family he went on to write over 300 songs, many which would ring a bell even today: “You’re a Grand Ole Flag”, “Yankee Doodle Boy”, and “Give my Regards to Broadway,” among many others. With his long time partner Sam Harris, Cohan wrote the stories, lyrics and music performed in more than 50 plays. They helped create Broadway at the turn of the previous century and were the first to incorporate songs and dance numbers into musicals, not just for razzle dazzle but to further the story. Cohan encouraged and promoted a pure clean patriotism and love of country which, like now, was sorely needed in the face of world challenges – at that time the World Wars.
He was the first artisan of any kind to win the Congressional Gold Medal, bestowed upon him by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for boosting American troop morale with his songs, particularly with “Over There”. His songs and stories helped reinforce and unite Americans throughout two World Wars, delighted Broadway attendees for decades and added to the heritage of Americana just as Norma Rockwell did with painting, Aaron Copeland did with music, and John Wayne did with movies.
Jimmy Cagney was an actor whose length and breadth of performances spanned from gangster to comedian. He established the bad boy thug in The Public Enemy, White Heat and Angels with Dirty Faces so thoroughly and forcefully that many people do not know he was an accomplished “hoofer” right up there with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.
Yankee Doodle Dandy is an old school heartwarming slice of American apple pie, the likes of which is lacking in our lexicon of cinema today. This song and dance banquet is a lighthearted and often intimate portrait of this American hero and brilliant raconteur who epitomized the American spirit as much as Patton did the American will to win and sacrifice in the name of worldwide freedom.
Yankee Doodle Dandy follows Cohan from his days with his family on the vaudeville stage, his partnership with Sam Harris, his marriage to his devoted wife and stage partner Mary, and his indefatigable devotion to his family and his country.
Movies like Patton, The Patriot, 1776, Sergeant York and The Longest Day are brilliant films whose legacy is in honor of blood spilled by our self-sacrificing soldiers for the establishment and continuation of our Independence. But also give a thought to Yankee Doodle Dandy, a gentler movie about a gentler time whose strength of character, patriotic resolve, firmness of character and courage manifested itself in songs intended to comfort, inspire and honor those same brave American battle field heroes.
I finally figured out what bugs me about Captain Marvel. Not the movie, the character. The movie, as I pointed out in my post on Captain Marvel, is flawed but good and not really deserving of most of the negative hype it got. My problem is with the CHARACTER of Captain Marvel as it manifests itself, not just in the origin story, but in other movies as well – like Endgame.
It’s not the alleged anti-male bias in her origin story, which I mostly disabused in my post about Captain Marvel, that bothers me. It’s not Captain Marvel’s snarky attitude – I love Rocket’s acerbic comments in Guardians of the Galaxy, the sarcasm of Tony Stark, the quips from Nick Fury and even the defensive banter from Marvel’s version of M.J.
It’s not the fact she is a woman in a lead action adventure role – even though her origin movie (while rather fun) is no where near as good as Wonder Woman was or Black Widow’s will be (OK I’m just a teensy bit biased but B.W. is SUCH a great character).
I don’t even mind arrogance if it is earned, as it is with Iron Man or Loki, especially when they occasionally allow themselves to be the butt of humor.
And yes, I DO mind that the character of Captain Marvel HAS no sense of humor. That takes a bit of edge off of every scene she is in. BUT that is NOT what really BUGS ME!
It suddenly occurred to me when lines of dialogue popped into my head from Avengers: Endgame which nailed her entire persona and shone a light on the major flaw with this character, which crops up in everything she does, everything she says and all of the relationships, or lack of them, she has with the other characters in this Marvel Universe. Danvers is talking to the group of grieving super hero survivors, and Rhodey, rightly, asks where she has been all this time (the last 5 years) and she replies: “There are a lot of other planets in the Universe. And unfortunately, they didn’t have you guys.”
OK, I can accept that and she’s right. It’s almost complimentary to the Avengers. But it’s what she DIDN’T say that rankles. Danvers is from Earth. She was born in America and used to be American military. So she understands loyalty. But her comment, or lack of it, reflects a (literal and disturbing) “universitality” to her mindset; a comment that speaks volumes in what is unspoken about where her allegiances lie. Sure, she was brainwashed, but she remembered her best friend Maria and Maria’s little girl, so her memories were and are resurfacing.
What she should have said, and did NOT say was: “I’m sorry. I wish I could have been here helping AT HOME, but you must understand that …..” Along with a grounding of Danvers’ place in the galaxy it would have afforded her a more three-dimensional personality, a vulnerability which every other character displays at one time or another – from Drax to Thor. But not ice queen Captain Marvel and without it she is a two-dimensional cardboard cut-out.
What she does reflect is a distance and sort of condescending entitlement attitude, wherein she will not deign to show up on Earth unless she determines we are worth the effort. There is no attachment, no sense of gratitude to the place of her birth, no expression of affiliation to the rest of her species even.
Instead, Earth to her is not the exceptional place of her birth, nor America the exception country of her upbringing, but just another rock in the cosmos with beings that need her help.
Well thanks loads and we’ll grovel later, but I’m sorry – maybe she should consider that without the nurturing she received on Earth, in America, there would not have BEEN a Carol Danvers. She is, after all, SUPPOSED to be human.
Superman, (D.C. but we’re talking creative writing and what works, not affiliation with a particular franchise), has endured (despite some admitted egregious mistakes) and is easy to like, in part because he has shown tremendous gratitude and affection to the species into which he was adopted. He’s not even FROM here and he protects Earth as owning a special place in his heart.
Dr. Who (again irrelevant to franchise or universe but only to the creation of character) has declared dozens of times that Earth is under his special protection – not just because he finds traits in humans that are noteworthy – our capability for great good, our resilience – but because we sheltered him in a time of need during the third doctor’s series.
In Star Trek (TOS) an empath described humans: “Your will to survive, your love of life, your passion to know … Everything that is truest and best in all species of beings has been revealed to you. Those are the qualities that make a civilization worthy to survive.” Lai the Vian, “The Empath”.
But there was NONE of that respect and affection for the human race reflected anywhere in the Captain Marvel movie or in her character in other movies, as it written by four women – Anna Boden, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve – and one man – Ryan Fleck. (Reminds me of the aphorism self-describing the flaws in an unchecked raw “democracy”: that it is four wolves and one lamb deciding what to have for dinner. Poor Ryan.)
I have a tough time imagining Marvel throwing herself between danger and a small child – rather she’d weigh the importance of the child against what she perceives as her own value and – well, good bye kid.
Apparently it was far more important to these writers to bow to a politically correct: “I am woman, hear me mewl”, than create a fully compelling story and hero. It is her lack of gratitude, absence of humility and vacuum of appreciation for her home planet that makes Captain Marvel the least of the Marvel heroes (or even anti-heroes) despite her amazing “powers”. As a result I find Groot, a talking tree with a rather limited English vocabulary, far more admirable and far more relatable, not to mention lovable, than li’l Miss C. Marvel.
Incredible acting can not save this tedious and pseudo-“reality TV show” style rewriting of history aimed at devaluing American exceptionalism, American accomplishments and American heroes.
WHO SHOULD GO:
No sexuality, a handful of mild profanities (and one quite vulgar but understandable cuss word muttered off screen by someone feeling very ill) and a lot of visually disturbing images including prolonged scenes of extremely violent shaking and people trapped in a fire in an enclosed space. Were this an accurate inspiring portrayal of the space race I’d say it was worth it, but as it is there’s really NO POINT.
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I was 10 years old when the first man – an AMERICAN – walked on the moon. I remember it being late in the day – 9:56 pm CST to be precise – where we were, so I had my P.J.s on. And when Neil Armstrong uttered those now amazing words for the first time: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” I SAW it on TV. Then everyone in the house – Mom, Dad, my brother and sister and her fiancé all ran outside. I was barefoot, so my future brother-in-law swept me up and carried me outside with our group and we all just stood near Metairie Road, because nearer to our house the view of the sky was obstructed by trees – and we just looked and waved to Neil Armstrong. And we were not alone. People all over the WORLD cheered and cried and laughed and were simply amazed at the INCREDIBLE event that AMERICA had accomplished, putting the FIRST MAN – an AMERICAN man – on the moon.
America was the FIRST country, and to date the ONLY COUNTRY, to make an extraterrestrial manned landing, was AND IS the FIRST AND ONLY country to have a man step out ONTO extraterrestrial property, and frankly is the FIRST and ONLY country in the world or in HISTORY to legitimately lay CLAIM to an extraterrestrial piece of land. In a fit of historic re-engineering to downplay the obvious American exceptionalism in such a feat, First Man pointedly neglected to show the planting of the American flag – a symbol as synonymous with our achievement as the image of the booted human footprint or Lieutenant Armstrong’s step off the module.
Their excuse is that they think Armstrong didn’t see himself as an American hero but that it was an accomplishment of the world…..NO! The world didn’t pay for it. The world didn’t chip in men or time or money or blood or industry or lives in plenty for our AMERICAN space program. No one but AMERICAN men died in our test planes and shots and explosions. The UN had nothing to do with it. And I don’t really care what the filmmakers think Armstrong’s opinion was. This was ENTIRELY an American adventure against which we were in competition with other countries. And even if I bought into the vacuous “world accomplishment” POV – which I do not – the fact is the flag was planted. Our AMERICAN flag was visible in places and photos where the director – Damien Chazelle – deliberately chose, in an act of sheer arrogance, to inauthentically, blatantly and unilaterally eliminate our AMERICAN flag from the picture. And yet they CLAIM to be historically accurate emphasizing its FALSE historicity with the documentary style footage. This is an affront to every man who died, to every widow who had to raise their children without one of the men who perished in a test plane or capsule, to every man, woman and child who devoted their prayers, tax money, sweat, enthusiasm and attention to this DISTINCTLY AMERICAN program.
Before I went to see First Man I had heard about this flagrant insult to the memories and sacrifices of our country. I had been concerned I would have to chide what I had been sure would be an otherwise excellent movie about the space program.
I needn’t have been concerned.
There are PLENTY of other egregious flaws with First Man. Insulting the planting of the American flag by ignoring it was just one of many.
To start, however, the acting was excellent. In Claire Foy I think we’re seeing the making of a British Meryl Streep – a woman who can so artfully immerse herself in character that you don’t recognize her from one performance to the next. She is a true actor – as defined by Alan Swann in My Favorite Year when he explains in comic desperation that he is “…not an actor, I’m a MOVIE STAR!” (For more examination of this point please see the first paragraph of my blog Operation Finale). Whether the Swedish Girl in the Spider’s Web, the crazed American in Unsane, Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown or as Janet Armstrong, Foy nails it. There is a scene at the end, brilliantly performed, of almost complete silence, visually emphasizing Armstrong’s inability to connect with anyone, where Gosling and Foy say more in subtle looks and gestures than most movies do in pages of script.
Unfortunately, while Ryan Gosling is excellent too – he expends his talent creating an extremely unpleasant person.
Were I Neil Armstrong’s descendants I would be thoroughly perturbed at the portrayal of the famous astronaut in First Man. It is also just poor script writing. We all know the outcome of the story: It took years, there were a number of Gemini shots which made sure we could safely get a man into space, dock with another vehicle and return him home alive. Then Apollo 1 blew up, Apollo 11 made it to the moon and there were a number of successful Apollos in between. In order for such a pervasively well known story to work you have to care about the characters. And the Neil Armstrong in First Man is not only unlikeable, he is unapproachable. Cold, distant, unfeeling, harsh, abrasive even to his best friends, his wife and his sons, the writer chalks his personality issues down to his inability to overcome the death of his toddler daughter by brain tumor. He flees the funeral of a fellow astronaut, to run away home, without a word to his wife, ignoring the fact she is in pain as well, and leaving her, humiliated, having to beg a ride from a friend. He shuns his friend’s offers of counsel, as he stands staring into space in his backyard with: “Do you think I came out here because I wanted to talk? Do you think I left the funeral because I wanted to talk?” He not only refuses to answer his worried wife’s inquiries when he returns home bloodied and burned after an almost fatal crash, but immediately runs away claiming to have “forgotten something at the office”. Janet has to bully, berate and throw things to get him to say goodbye to his own children, for possibly the last time, before he goes to the Moon. He seems immune to the agony of his dead friend’s widow. And the flashbacks of his dead daughter, which cripple him into apathy, become redundant in their predictability at crisis moments. I’ve seen serial killers, devoid of empathy, portrayed as more emotionally engaged than poor Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong. It is difficult to believe NASA would put someone so emotionally and psychologically damaged in charge of THE one and only first ever in all of human history – moon landing.
The retro historians were out to trash an established American hero. Basically they portray Neil Armstrong as a body part reserved for proctologists. And even if this were true, the story of the First Man, who was landed on the moon by AMERICA, was NOT the place to put it. If you want a tell-all, soap opera bio pic of Neil Armstrong, then by all means, go ahead. But don’t pretend this tortured portrait of an American hero is a reflection of the American Spirit or play fast and loose with history while claiming to be accurate. Don’t make a psychologically crippled version of Neil Armstrong the center of a movie about the space race.
Either show Armstrong’s whole life warts and all or put the uplifting endeavor that was and is the AMERICAN space program in the correct light. The only reason to have it “both” ways and put it ALL in a negative light is because you wish to undermine and treat with dismissiveness the AMERICAN moon walk in particular and AMERICA in general.
Nowhere in the entire movie is the joie de vivre, the enthusiasm, the sheer joy of exploration and discovery that was and is the American space program, not even in the more realistically portrayed Gus Grissom (Jason Clark) or Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll).
Where is the camaraderie from The Right Stuff? Where is Ed Harris’ John Glenn who exemplified that genial excitement or Dennis Quaid’s cocky and arrogant but infectiously confident Gordon Cooper in the movie about the lead up to the moon shot?Harris and Quaid’s Glenn and Cooper, respectively, personified why charting the unknown was worth the trials and terrors and tears that it cost us.
By contrast First Man makes it look like the space program was the unwanted chore of a beleaguered group of government bureaucrats with which we foolishly burdened the American taxpayer. Chazell even rudely shoehorned in “Whitey on the Moon,” an anthem against the space program. Playing it along with scenes of racially inspired protest marches, the film makers tried to make it appear as though this bitter song was a reflection of the “popular” sentiment during the years leading up to the moon shot. This song, with all its resentment and anger, was neither a representation of the mood of the country concerning the space program NOR even published until AFTER the first landing on the moon took place. Its anachronistic insertion was amateurishly spliced in, as though from an entirely different movie and had no bearing on the outcome of the story.
The obvious intent of First Man was to make it appear as though the American public was against the program, when, in fact, the approval for the space program was enthusiastically positive along all the —isms you can imagine because it was a uniquely AMERICAN program of which every AMERICAN could be proud! In the end the entire WORLD was rooting for AMERICA and these three AMERICANS to get to the moon, land and return alive – which AMERICA accomplished FIRST.
Instead of the exciting, energizing program that created jobs, inspired innovations and injected new levels of patriotism across our country, First Man tried to portray the space program as a draining, painful, horror movie. The audience has to sit through interminably long, difficult to endure, near real-time length scenes in the capsule, including the deafening roar from inside of the relatively primitive Gemini 1 and the monster-like screaming of the exploding rocket fuel and distressed metal as it strains to not come apart in Apollo 11. The director’s choice of near home movie found-footage semi documentary-style makes the movie feel even more harsh and barren, especially as we walk often through dated, sparsely adorned versions of the military housing where these men and their families lived.
And slow! Oh my goodness! It was as though Stanley Kubrick became enamored of The Blair Witch Project, and insisted on the acting techniques of HAL from 2001 to make a sequel to The Right Stuff.
First Man is yet another obvious attempt by the intelligentsia to target and try to downplay, trivialize and sully the achievements that highlight America’s genuine and unique exceptionalism. They emphasize the space program’s problems and failures without celebrating their successes and astonishing one-of-a-kind accomplishments.
And – guess what – when last we looked “…our flag was STILL there!”
Poland should be rightly proud of Madame Curie’s discoveries. The world should be grateful to France for producing Louis Pasteur. The world admires and loves Mother Teresa, a native of Skopje (now Macedonia). Humanity is better for the beautiful music of Russia’s Tchaikovsky. Japan’s Kurosawa’s movies are considered classics. All these countries love their native sons and daughters and take every opportunity to extol them to the world.
What is WRONG with some Americans?! The country of their birth, which has given them and the world so many blessings through the grace of God is unappreciated by many whose thriving is owed to the freedoms for ingenuity and success that America affords. Other countries seem to appreciate and respect our flag more than do some of her native peoples, and it is infuriating. If you do not appreciate the many many blessings of living in America and being an American then, as another blessing of living in America, you are free to go to some other country for which you have more respect. If you wish to make movies about American history then I don’t expect perfection or for it to be shown without mistakes, for no human endeavor can be done without them, but I do expect that it would be created with respect.
In short First Man is the LAST place you want to go for a good uplifting (pun intended) movie about the space race. Instead, just go watch The Right Stuff again!!
While contemplating my favorite Memorial Day weekend appropriate movies I thought of: my Dad, some movies I didn’t see on anyone else’s list, and some classic favorites, in that order.MEMORIAL DAY – MY DAD, THE PATRIOT
When contemplating Memorial Day and patriotism I do so, unabashedly, through my father’s eyes. Billy Ashton Weisfeld was a radarman on the destroyer Breckenridge during World War II back in the day when radar was so top secret just talking about it outside of their classrooms could land them in Portsmouth Naval Prison. He was very proud of his service and I have always been proud of him. And I see patriotism through the filter of his definitions. He was the one who risked his life for four years. He earned that right.
He taught me to stand during the pledge of allegiance and during the Star Spangled Banner. I remember, sometime during junior high we had a choir teacher who refused to instruct us to stand while we practiced the Star Spangled Banner. I remember being very upset about this and making an impassioned plea on behalf of the men and women who were currently fighting and dying in Vietnam. My arguments fell on deaf eras. (Ironic for a choir teacher.) However, when I approached my parents with my dilemma my Dad took me for an appointment with the principal. I made my case and thereafter we stood for the Star Spangled Banner – whether in performance or practice.
On a more humorous note my Dad and I went to see Poltergeist at the theater in 1982. I don’t know if any of you will remember this but it starts with the TV actually “signing off” for the day as stations were wont to do back then. The end of the programming day was heralded with – The Star Spangled Banner. Not even realizing it was the beginning of the movie – not that it would have made much difference – when the Anthem began, my Dad immediately stood up and I stood with him —– by ourselves —– because it was just the beginning of the movie. I can’t help but chuckle to this day. But, funny as that was, I was and am so proud of him for that. It is one of my favorite memories.
Now, while my Dad, thankfully, did not lose his life during the war – obviously, given these recollections from events which took place in the early ’60’s and ’80’s – he did lose his hearing. His radar station was beneath the big guns which classically blast out during every sea based World War II movie, booming noises rattling your seats even before Extreme Digital was a thing. Though he was fully entitled to disability from the government he refused to apply, saying that his service had been a privilege. Again, I was very proud of my father for his attitude.
I know Memorial Day is to honor those who died fighting for our country and her ideals. My father would have been the first to shy from comparing his efforts to those who never got a chance to offer decades to America, but much like the white martyrs of the Catholic church, my Dad gave his entire life in the service of the ideals of his country by the way he lived and by inculcating those ideals to his children. In return I and my siblings and our spouses have tried to pay it forward to our children.
MOVIES – THE UNSUNG HEROES
There are a plethora of really good patriotic movies. There are a handful on my list which I did not find on anyone else’s.
Now an advisory. There are some well done movies about war which do not deserve to be placed on this list. They are movies which I admit are creative, artistic, fascinating, even literary masterpieces. But they do not deserve a place with these better brethren because they do not respect America, her ideals or the reasons for which we went to war. America fights not to conquer but to free. We are the only major power who has not colonized as victors. Instead of taking Kuwait as a territory we freed it. Instead of laying claim to the areas we won during World War II we asked only, as General Powell notably said, for enough ground to bury our dead. America protects the innocent, feeds the hungry, heals the broken, adopts the homeless, and helps our enemies to get back on their own feet. This philosophy was even immortalized in an affectionate jab of political satire called The Mouse That Roared wherein a small destitute country attacks America just to be defeated so she can receive much needed aid. The movies that do not recognize or respect that distinctly American tradition and morality do not deserve a place with this group any more than does the coward who Patton famously slapped belonged in the military hospital, demoralizing the wounded soldiers. So —- I won’t mention them here, but I suspect you know the ones to which I refer.
This first group of Memorial Day-worthy movies are ones which I did not find on many, if any, prominent list, because of political correctness, age of the film, or plain old quirkiness. The Green Berets – A classic old John Wayne movie about the Vietnam War – likely the ONLY movie which extolled the virtues of why we went there in the first place, made at a time when we were told the plan was to win. Liberal reporter David Janssen and patriot John Wayne as Green Beret Colonel Kirby face off in an in-country expedition to explore our original mission: to defeat the cancerous brutal totalitarian political structure of Communism then creeping into Southeast Asia, and to provide humanitarian aid to Communism’s indigenous victims.
The Scarlet and the Black – Based on the actual account of Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty, Gregory (To Kill a Mockingbird) Peck portrays this brave priest at the Vatican during World War II who aids in the sequestration and rescue of thousands of Jews under the nose of the reigning Nazis who surround it and infest Italy.
Victory – another based on a true story – starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine and real life soccer legend Pele, the story is about the soccer game between an international group of POWs and German soldiers. The intent, much like the 1936 Berlin Olympics, was to prove German “superiority” by publicly humiliating the non-German losers. Needless to say, like their Olympic failure to Jesse Owens, it backfired spectacularly.
The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming – comedy this time. At the height of the Cold War, a Russian submarine Captain, (Theodore Bikel, who later became known as the Klingon Worf’s adoptive human father from Star Trek: The Next Generation) runs aground off Gloucester Island. The Captain just wanted to get a look at America to satisfy his own completely non-political curiosity and got a little…too…close. Stuck on a sandbar, the Captain and his crew faced American imprisonment as spies on one hand and lethal Russian retribution if suspected of trying to defect on the other. So to prevent an international incident, not to mention his own capture, extradition and likely execution, he sends a team out headed by Alan Arkin as Lt. Rozanov, to find a way to pull the sub free before the submarine is discovered. This hilarious, and warm-hearted comedy also stars Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters and Carl Reiner, along with a plethora of familiar funny faces. I picked this one because it is a demonstration, albeit done in an affectionate parody, of how average American citizen-patriot/soldiers, willing to die to protect America and her ideals, are also willing to extend friendship, show common ground, and offer protection to the helpless when the opportunity arises, even to our enemies. 1776 – A musical – WAIT! THAT MAKES THIS ONE LITERALLY A SUNG HERO – or, at least singING ones – if you can believe it, about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Paraphrasing the last sentence of the Declaration, these 56 men, with hope in the protection of Divine Providence, pledged to support that Declaration with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Many saw their homes burned, their families abused, their children vanished. Some died in poverty or from wounds or torture. Some lost sons on the battlefield. Thomas Nelson, Jr., (who does not feature in this movie but whose sacrifice deserves mention) just as an example, discovering Cornwallis had encamped in his palatial home, fired the cannon to destroy it himself – and died a bankrupt. 1776 concerns who these Founding Fathers were and why they came together to so devote themselves – only they do it in song. 1776 mostly focuses on John Adams (William Daniels), Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) and Benjamin Franklin’s (Howard DeSilva) efforts to acquire unanimous consent on breaking with the British Empire. One of the most charming aspects of this little known film is the conversations the otherwise “obnoxious and disliked” John has with his wife Abigail (Virginia Vestoff). Lifted from the pages of the letters between the real John and Abigail, these interchanges manifest themselves in bittersweet duets wherein they engage in playful banter and loving longing, unable to touch because they are really only conversing by written exchange.
Kelly’s Heroes – OK I hesitated to include this movie, because it rides right up to the line of being one of those anti-war films, BUT I do not think crosses that line. This is one of my favorite movies. A comedy-drama starring Clint (directs everything & cut his teeth on about a million spaghetti westerns) Eastwood, Donald (Hunger Games) Sutherland in one of the quirkiest roles you will ever see him in, Carroll O’Conner, and Don Rickles, about a group of exhausted soldiers near the end of World War II who find out about an enormous cache of German gold in a bank deep behind enemy lines. They plan to steal the gold the Germans have stolen. In the process, a general, played by Carroll O’Conner believing they are a gung-ho troop, decides to honor their apparent courage and follow them right into the heart of the offensive, breaking the German front line.
The ones in this next group are, and deserve to be, on just about everyone’s list of movies that exemplify the best of American courage and ideals in battle.
Patton – Brilliant portrayal by the unequalled George C. Scott of the ultimate patriot and complexity that was American General George S. Patton during the pinnacle achievement of his battlefield career. The movie follows Patton’s astonishing and irreplaceable contribution to winning the European theater during World War II for the Allies as well as the egotism which was almost his undoing. Brilliant military strategist and tank commander, inexhaustible commander who led from the front, never asking his men to go where he would not. Known as Old Blood and Guts he unabashedly prayed and wept openly for wounded soldiers, stood in open battle, fiercely loved and fought for America – he was probably our greatest American soldier.
The Longest Day – an ensemble accounting of D-Day starting with the preceding days waiting desperately for a break in the weather – with a cast which included some of the biggest stars of the time, including Sean (James Bond) Connery, Red Buttons, Henry Fonda, Richard (West Side Story) Beymer, George Segall, (THE) John Wayne, Kenneth More, Jeffrey (Captain Pike from the first Star Trek pilot) Hunter, Robert Wagner, Rod Stieger and Richard Burton!!! and more! If the names don’t ring a bell, look them up in us.imdb.com and if you are at ALL a classic movie afficionado I guarantee you will recognize at least one of the movies in which they have featured. The movie covers beach landings and straffings, the French resistence, parachute drops, hand to hand combat, a battle inside the town of Sainte-Mère-Église, the Normandy advance. It combines beautiful individual moments as well as grand sweeping action about the turning point of the European portion of the war.
Guns of Navarone – very loosed inspired by the real Battle of Leros during World War II and starring David Niven and (again) Gregory Peck, the story revolves around a covert Allied mission to sabotage massive German battleship-killer guns on the Greek Island of Navarone. Classic heroism.
Battle of the Bulge – based very loosely on the Counteroffensive of Ardennes, it condenses months of preparation and campaigning into a few days. Starring Henry Fonda, Robert (Jaws) Shaw, Telly Savalas & Charles Bronson, it is another classic.
Schindler’s List – Heart breaking, and deeply moving drama about Oscar Schindler, an opportunist, Nazi collaborator and war profiteer who, in one brief shining Divinely inspired period of his life decides to risk his life, manipulate his Nazi connections and spend his life’s fortune saving over 3,000 Jews destined for the gas chamber. While neither American nor a soldier, Schindler risked everything for same ideals for which our American soldiers risk, as well as sabotaged his own military’s bombs, which in turn protected our soldiers.
American Sniper – directed by Clint (Kelly’s Heroes) Eastwood, tells the story of the military career of Chris Kyle, the decorated and deadliest American sniper in military history, and his heroic commitment to his fellow soldiers during the Iraqi War. A stand out, not only for telling Kyle’s story, but for the astonishing performance by Bradley (voice of Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy) Cooper. Cooper transforms himself from a nerdy accountant physique with a hyperactive personality in A-Team to looking like Dwayne Johnson’s little brother with the “gentle giant” demeanor to go with the size. He did, I think, Navy Seal Kyle proud.
The Great Escape – one of the best war movies ever made. Starring, among others: Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Richard (Jurassic Park) Attenborough, and Charles Bronson. The screenplay is based on the book about the biggest mass escape from any German POW camp ever – Stalag Luft II in Sagan, Poland during World War II. The Germans made the critical mistake of putting the most ingenious serial escapees in a single prison, reasoning they could keep them all more closely guarded. What they did not consider was that together they made a formidable escape army. 600 men planned the tunnel escape of 200 men, none expecting to acquire permanent freedom but primarily to cause confusion and chaos behind enemy lines. These men succeeded in creating the most time expensive, personnel consuming recapture plans the Nazis ever required. This movie is a distinguished and honorable tribute to these internationally mixed heroes.
The Hunt for Red October – Cold War era defector Sean Connery sneaks a game changing silent submarine out of Communist Russia. Although not an American soldier, he and his men risked their lives to protect our country, as well as the world, from the brutality of Communist Russia.
There are many more, but let me leave you with the names of others which should definitely be on your bucket list:
Black Hawk Down
We Were Soldiers
If you can’t find a really good inspiring movie highlighting patriotism and the American spirit to watch this week – then you’re not really trying.