Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Reflections of America, I still see you.
Well today I had a couple hours to fiddle around on the computer, so I installed / downloaded LimeWire and am typing to swing music. Caleigh returns from school and enters the farm house to the sound of Glenn Miller and his orchestra playing “Take the A train”, Her reaction, “You actually took the time to download this stuff.” This generation, wow, but I find the music appropriate to our location.
I imagine a different time, a few score years past, 1944. I think of the men, boys really, from the U.S. on transport ships steaming over. There didn’t seem to be much of a decision, to the point where 4f’s were traumatized not to be able to join in their crusade. On those journeys across the cold Atlantic, below decks for most of the trip, just playing these songs, in the smoky confines of a troop ship. It might have been the last song, a lot of them heard. Landing on foreign beaches, laying down their lives for an ideal. I listen to “Somewhere beyond the sea” with a tear in my eye, imagining some G.I. writing a letter referencing this tune, to a sweetheart and never seeing her again. We are empowered by the honesty of their deaths, our country’s great reputation was greatly added to by the wholesale courage of those men. All I really know of them, aside from what history has recorded, is the movies; before, during, and after their time.
That was my childhood, watching them on the big screen. That’s one of the things I miss the most, my movies. All alone in my home waiting for me to return, Cary (Archibald Leech) Grant, Errol Flynn, Audrey and Katherine Hepburn, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, Olivia De Havilland, Humphrey Bogart, Rosaline Russell, Sidney Greenstreet, Gary Cooper (I literally had to think for fifteen minutes for Gary Cooper’s name to come to mind, Come on Hank!… Private York) and a ton of others to numerous to enumerate.
My earliest memories of real film enjoyment was simple, for a kid, Errol Flynn, Basel Rathbone, Alan Hale Sr., Olivia De Havilland. In Robin Hood, maybe in retrospect it’s a bit campy, but in that time period it was as good as any blockbuster today, in my opinion even better. Then as I got older my tastes matured to classics like, It’s a wonderful life, Jimmy Stewart, Barrymore, and Donna Reed. Then onto The Philadelphia Story, with the all star cast, Cary Grant, Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Ruth Hussey. Movies of the Frank Capra, John Ford, George Cukor and David O. Selznick era
Life wasn’t easier or better, memories were, you had the same problems then as you have now, money, communication, and politics. We as a people always cope with problems, pull together to solve them, and move on, so looking back, sure there were problems, but maybe we look back and naturally, objectively remember the solving of the problems, and growing together helping each other clear obstacles. Movies reflect the time period, world war two was tragic, so many good innocent men lost to thwart a madman’s plan of world and genetic domination. Believe me I didn’t share the political ideology of John Wayne, but buddy you touch his men on Iwo Jima and you better pack a lunch because we’ll all get behind him, even though I was sitting at home some 25 years after it happened. Then for me Hitchcock was my next lesson, I think part of the reason I really wanted to stay in France for a while was due to “To catch a thief“, what American male or prince from Monaco couldn’t imagine driving along the upper cornice overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in a convertible being driven by Grace Kelly. Alfred Hitchcock was such a scamp, I love how he makes a cameo appearance in most every movie he ever made. Then growing into the Stanley Kubrick movies with Peter Sellers “ Dr. Strangelove, Lolita. Followed by the great writings of Edward Albee in, “Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” Reminded me of my family life. What my ramblings are trying to convey is as I look in the direction of home, I see visions of the feeling that I have of the U.S.A. They are best thought of as a vignette of film imagery, kind of like the ending of “Cinema Paradiso “ When the little boy watches all the forbidden parts of the movies, pieced together, the local Priest has deemed unsuitable for his flock to witness. The images of all the embraces, and laughter, kissing and caressing.
But for me the montage of images of my America would be:
The famous Red, white, and blue shot in “North by northwest “ Where Cary Grant is lecturing Leo G. Carroll, the C.I.A. director in front of Mount Rushmore, about the strengths of American, and how our country doesn’t do the bad things, it’s the one that protects the right and chases down the bad.
The airplane diving down at Cary Grant in the amber waves of grain, well corn in the same movie. An innocent man, mistaken for an agent, and being hunted by spies.
John Wayne fighting off waves of Japanese Infantry in Iwo Jima. One of those movies where the decision of who’s right isn’t even up for debate, a war that had to be fought.
Henry Fonda in “Mister Roberts“, as a ships doctor wanting to get off a backwater naval vessel and get into the fight in the Pacific.
Cary Grant as the beleaguered Captain of a submarine in “Operation Petticoat“, Or as “Father Goose“, the do-right kinda, captain of leisure with Leslie Carol as the straight edged school marm .
These movies have polished up the image of us, as a country of interesting individuals, who form a great conscience. We have always stood up for the little guy, fought on the side of the right and just. An image we earned, and recently one we’ve not polished. Don’t for one second take this as me taking a pot shot at America, like the child of my own youth, you bring injustice to our shore and John Wayne and I will be there to ensure that we, together, as a tide will turn evil away from our shore.
I now think of our country as a whole and not parts, It’s time “Mr. Smith goes to Washington“, Wouldn’t it be nice to have life imitate film for once. Fade to see Jimmy Stewart standing in the senate with thousands of letters from kids all across the country, sending in nickels and dimes…..that’s my America.