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August 30, 2007
Wearing the Black Flag (4)By Greyhawk
We've discussed books quite a bit throughout this rambling narrative - but now the time has come to pause briefly for film study.
Hate to do it, but I'm going to put the test up front. It's just one question though, and if you get it wrong, no problem. Here goes:
The following films from 1946 were nominated for the 'Best Picture' Academy Award:
It's a Wonderful Life (Liberty Films; RKO Radio)
Which one won?
(I'll simplify - it wasn't Henry V. Sequels rarely win Oscars...)
(Yes, that last line was a joke.)
One of the obscene amenities available to us G.I.s lounging around over here in Iraq is a huge supply of DVD's available at (ahem) very reasonable prices from local vendors. In addition to just about every hot new movie released in theaters up to yesterday we can obtain disks with multiple older features. Some are conglomerations of Oscar-winners, and the other day for a whopping 2 dollars I picked up one that included Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and a few other gems - including the winner from the list above: The Best Years of Our Lives.
In fact, I bought it because it included that movie. I'd heard about it but never seen it - and I'll be damned if it didn't turn out to be as good as the rest of the films on the disc. Worth the cost by itself, I'm sayin'.
If you haven't seen it and want to read the entire plot, here it is. I would advise against it, however. In fact, I'd urge you to buy it and watch it for yourself - you probably aren't going to find this mostly-forgotten classic at your local rental store.
In the meantime, while I'm going to quote from the above link here, I'm not going to offer anything that will spoil your enjoyment of the movie - so read on without concern.
The film follows the lives of three servicemen returning to the same home town after World War Two, a soldier, an airman, and a sailor (the picture waves and blurs and fades, then)...
The film begins abruptly with a long interior shot of an airport terminal, where returning-from-overseas serviceman Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) lugs his belongings and crosses a map of America on the floor. The war hero inquires at a receptionist's desk about flights to his hometown of Boone City [supposedly patterned after Cincinnati], and is told rather curtly: "Three scheduled daily flights sir, but there's no space available right now...We could probably get you on flight 37 on the 19th." A businessman next to him (with a black porter handling his luggage and heavy bag of golf clubs) requests his airlines ticket which was pre-ordered and arranged by his secretary. The passenger is promptly handed his ticket and told he has sixteen pounds of excess baggage. He reaches for his wallet: "Oh, that's all right, how much is it?" Transportation shortages don't seem to affect everyday civilians as much as returning soldiers.We should pause here and note that this was an era long before "blue screen" technology, and that Harold Russell, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Homer, was actually a "disabled" veteran:
Harold Russell was born in Canada and moved to Massachusetts with his family in 1933. In 1941, he was so profoundly affected by the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor that he enlisted in the Army on the following day, December 8.I'm sure Hollywood would do the same today.
And now back to our feature presentation:
Homer: I didn't see much of the war...I was stationed in a repair shop below decks. Oh, I was in plenty of battles, but I never saw a Jap or heard a shell coming at me. When we were sunk, all I know is there was a lot of fire and explosions. And I was on the topsides and overboard. And I was burned. When I came to, I was on a cruiser. My hands were off. After that, I had it easy...That's what I said. They took care of me fine. They trained me to use these things. I can dial telephones, I can drive a car, I can even put nickels in the jukebox. I'm all right, but...well, you see, I've got a girl.Yes, that's right, 1946...
Later, after the three have made it home, Fred meets Al's daughter Peggy...
Peggy: What d'ya do before the war, Fred?
Lot's of foreshadowing in the first moments of the movie. Foreshadowing, we learn in film study, is where someone says something like that mere moments before they do this...
Fred revisits the drugstore where he was a fountain soda jerk - it looks unfamiliar to him because it was "sold out" to the Midway chain during his absence. He passes dozens of women shopping for perfume and other novelty counter items (rampant, crass advertisements and sale signs hang in the store) as he makes his way to the prescriptions section at the rear of the store. While Mr. Bullard (Erskine Sanford), the former owner and his former employer, explains the sell-out to the big chain, two other drugstore employees make contrasting comments about the typical serviceman's employment prospects in the post-war economy and marketplace:...it looks unfamiliar to him because it was "sold out" to the Midway chain during his absence... and you thought Wal Mart invented that last week, huh?
Al's prospects at his former place of employment are much more promising. At the Cornbelt Trust Company, Al is told that there is "considerable uncertainty in the business picture. Strikes, taxes still ruin us...Oh, things will readjust themselves in time. We want you back here in the saddle." Mr. Milton offers him advancement as Vice President in charge of a new department (small loans to veterans) at a salary of $12,000 a year:Later, a scene that probably nailed the Best Actor Oscar for Fredric March:
At the elegant welcome-home banquet attended by stuffy bankers and their wives, Al is honored by Mr. Milton as "one who has valiantly fought for that freedom" to have a "land of unlimited opportunity for all." Milly has been keeping track of her husband's drink count by making hash marks in the tablecloth with the tines of her fork. Already soused, Al delivers a two-faced, wartime parable to rectify himself in front of his astonished, skeptical audience about how battles and wars are not won by first demanding collateral from Uncle Sam. He asks his associates to show more tolerance and acceptance toward the less privileged veterans returning from the war:The film won other Oscars that year, Best Director, Editing, Screenplay, and Score. But unlike most films to garner that much recognition, this one is nearly forgotten.I'm sure you'll all agree with me if I said that now is the time for all of us to stop all this nonsense, face facts, get down to brass tacks, forget about the war and go fishing. But I'm not gonna say it. I'm just going to sum the whole thing up in one word. [Milly coughs loudly to caution him - worrying that he will tell off the boss.] My wife doesn't think I'd better sum it up in that one word. I want to tell you all that the reason for my success as a Sergeant is due primarily to my previous training in the Cornbelt Loan and Trust Company. The knowledge I acquired in the good ol' bank I applied to my problems in the infantry. For instance, one day in Okinawa, a Major comes up to me and he says, 'Stephenson, you see that hill?' 'Yes sir, I see it.' 'All right,' he said. 'You and your platoon will attack said hill and take it.' So I said to the Major, 'but that operation involves considerable risk. We haven't sufficient collateral.' 'I'm aware of that,' said the Major, 'but the fact remains that there's the hill and you are the guys that are going to take it.' So I said to him, 'I'm sorry Major, no collateral, no hill.' So we didn't take the hill and we lost the war.' I think that little story has considerable significance, but I've forgotten what it is. And now in conclusion, I'd like to tell you a humorous anecdote. I know several humorous anecdotes, but I can't think of any way to clean them up, so I'll only say this much. I love the Cornbelt Loan and Trust Company. There are some who say that the old bank is suffering from hardening of the arteries and of the heart. I refuse to listen to such radical talk. I say that our bank is alive, it's generous, it's human, and we're going to have such a line of customers seeking and getting small loans that people will think we're gambling with the depositors' money. And we will be. We will be gambling on the future of this country. I thank you.
And it shouldn't be.
Okay - one final look at our heroes returning to civilian life. (Turn the volume up a bit here...)
At the soda fountain in the drugstore, where Fred has returned to work from Butch's Place, Homer joins him at the counter.What? What happened?
Heh - I told you you'd want to get this for yourself
Okay - just because I'm a nice guy:
...Fred punches the customer in the mouth - sending him crashing into a glass case.I don't think we'd respond in the same manner now.
We'd get "rehabilitated" if we did.
Posted by Greyhawk / August 30, 2007 7:35 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com