J. Edgar Hoover in The FBI Story

Monday, September 26, AD 2016

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. 

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One Response to J. Edgar Hoover in The FBI Story

  • As a child I was taught to respect the FBI. I seemed to recall an Efrem Zimbalist series that dramatized FBI cases. My parents knew some agents. Now that the FBI seemingly has been politicized I wonder how the recruiting is going?

Sully: A Review

Monday, September 12, AD 2016



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.  

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Florence Foster Jenkins

Friday, August 19, AD 2016


One of the more curious cultural artifacts in the history of this country is the very odd musical career of Florence Foster Jenkins.  A rich heiress, she loved music.  She was a talented pianist in her youth but stopped taking lessons when she married in 1885 at age 18 Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins.  The marriage was a rocky one, characterized by her contracting syphilis from him.  They parted after three years.  He passed away in 1917, but she retained her married name for the remainder of her life.  Moving to New York with her mother in 1900, she founded the Verdi Club in 1917, to share her love of music.  It was through this venue that she embarked upon her career as a singer, giving recitals to small groups of fans, with musical critics carefully excluded.  Jenkins was convinced she was a great singer.  In truth she was an an appallingly bad singer, with virtually no sense of rhythm or pitch.  She was a generous patron of various causes, most of them musical, and her audiences treated her with kindness, any titters being drowned by applause.

She would be forgotten today but for a memorable concert she gave for charity at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 1944.  The tickets for the event sold out immediately and about 2000 people were turned away the night of the performance.  Ticket prices were $20.00, the equivalent of $274.00 today.  (Privates in the US Army, with combat pay, earned $50.00 per month in 1944.)  Many celebrities attended.  As in her past outings, her fans covered over laughter during her performance with applause.  Alas music critics were among the crowd and their reviews were scathing.  She passed away a month and a day later of a heart attack.  She had been crushed by the bad reviews but, considering that she was in the tertiary stages of syphilis her death may well have had nothing to do with her reaction to the reviews.

Remarkably, in the past two years there have been two films about Jenkins, one in French and the other in English, Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep in the title role.  I saw this film last Saturday with my family and the Godmother of my children and my review is below the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in full effect.

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2 Responses to Florence Foster Jenkins

  • She was a great singer because she sang with the gift of the voice that God gave her, God Don’t Make No Junk, and she shared His gift with many people; as we are all called to share the gifts He has given each of us to help Him bring others to Him forever, happy in Heaven. God bless all in this house, eveyone. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

  • Guy your comment is wonderful.
    I am touched and lifted to hear those earnest people singing near me who have no musical ear, but obviously a heart for God.
    I think of a saying – “how silent the woods would be if only the best birds sang”

5 Responses to Review: Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

  • I see myself purchasing multiple copies of this great Americans work, D’Souza.

    Great review Don.
    I can’t wait to see it.

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  • What is it about the far right that insists on using “democrat” as an adjective? It is and always has been the Democratic Party, not the “democrat party.” I can understand uneducated figures like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity not knowing any better, but the author of this piece purports to legal qaulifications, which presuppose an undergraduate degree as well as law school

  • I do it James because it bugs Democratics. That and the fact that there is nothing democratic about the Democrat Party. Republicans have been referring to the Democrat party as long as there has been a Republican party. Of course Democrats have used the term Democrat party on occasion over the years. As for me being “far right” that is only true if you view Obama as a moderate.

  • Grammar Nazism….always the bellow of frustration that one wanted hidden has been exposed.

John Wayne Films For the Fourth of July

Thursday, June 30, AD 2016


This Fourth of July long weekend is made for a trip down American history courtesy of John Wayne films.  Wayne was an American original.  Thirty seven years after his death, in the annual Harris poll of favorite actors, he ranks number four overall, and number one among men voting.  In his day he was never shy about declaring his love of country, and he did so when patriotism was fashionable and when it was unfashionable.  An American icon, the deathbed convert to the Catholic Church is a symbol of this nation, instantly recognizable around the globe.  Here are some of his films set in the history of this land.





  1. Allegheny Uprising (1939)-The film tells the true story of the Black Boys Rebellion against the British in 1765, with Wayne portraying James Smith the leader of this proto-American Revolution.




2.  The Fighting Kentuckian (1949)-John Wayne costars with Oliver Hardy, yeah, that Oliver Hardy, in a tale of veterans of the War of 1812 helping French settlers battle land swindlers in Alabama.   Very loosely based on actual events.  In one scene Wayne explains that his family never had money due to his father’s health being ruined after he spent a winter at a place called Valley Forge.






3.  The Alamo (1960)-The epic story of the battle for Texan Independence.  Wayne’s love note to America and freedom.








4.  The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958)-One of the more successful American diplomats of the Nineteenth Century, Townsend Harris, a native of New York City, became wealthy in the China trade in the early part of the century.  He then turned to public service, serving as the President of the New York City Board of Education from 1846-1848.  He founded the Free Academy of the City of New York, later renamed as the City College of New York, in order to provide college educations to low income people in New York.

In July 1856, Franklin Pierce named him the first American consul general to the Empire of Japan.  He opened the first American consulate in Japan in the city of Shimoda.  Overcoming enormous difficulties, in two years he negotiated what has become known as the Harris Treaty, which established full diplomatic and trade relations between Japan and the US.

On the hundredth anniversary of the treaty in 1958, John Wayne, in one of the oddest films of his career, starred as Townsend Harris in the film The Barbarian and the Geisha.  Few men could have been more unlike John Wayne than Harris, and Wayne appears uncomfortable in the role of the diplomat to me.  The film played up an alleged romance between Harris and Okichi, a 17 year old housekeeper, which has long been a tale told in Japan.  Unfortunately, this aspect of the story is untrue.  Harris fired Okichi after she worked for him for three days due to the fact that he considered her to be an incompetent housekeeper.  However, the look of the film is splendid, even if the film is the usual Hollywood mix of lies and half-truths.




5.  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 cavaly 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.

Both scenes ring home with authenticity.  Not a bad effort from the usual history manglers of Hollywood.(Although there are still errors enough, including Union soldiers worrying about being captured and sent to Andersonville prior to the POW camp being constructed by the Confederates in 1864.)




6.  The Searchers (1956)-Set in Reconstruction Texas, John Wayne gives the performance of his career as embittered Confederate veteran Ethan Edwards and his vengeance ride against Comanches who slaughtered his family.








7.  True Grit (1969)-Set in Reconstruction Arkansas, True Grit is the only film for which Wayne won an Oscar.  An accomplished actor, Wayne throughout his career made it all look so easy that he was always badly underestimated.  In this film, a skillful mixture of comedy and drama, Wayne was able to give life to Rooster Cogburn, one of the great literary creations of the last century.







8.  Rio Grande (1950)-The final installment in Ford and Wayne’s cavalry trilogy was picked for inclusion due to the above rendition of Down by the Glenside.  The song of course would not be written until 1916, but any viewer with a drop of Irish blood will forgive the historical anachronism.

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6 Responses to John Wayne Films For the Fourth of July

  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of my all time favorites…..nuanced and full of symbolism….a true work of art.

  • I would also like to cite ‘Fort Apache’ and ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,’ both spectacular films about the American cavalry in which Wayne gives home run performances, especially in the latter. The scene where he says good-bye to his men is a standing rebuke to anyone who doubts his acting chops.

    One of my favorite bits in ‘Yellow Ribbon’ comes when one of the cavalry officers is killed in an Indian raid and Wayne has one of the camp ladies sew a Confederate Flag for the ex-rebel to be buried under; a glorious moment of honor among soldiers.

  • The actor who portrayed Trooper “Smith”, erstwhile Confederate general, Rudy Bowman, was a friend of Director Ford. He had a throat injury from a shrapnel wound during World War I which made speaking very difficult for him and which made this scene a major achievement for the actor:


  • I was unaware of the Allegheny Uprising movie or the story it is loosely based on. It turns out that much of the original story took place in central Pennsylvania. Western Pennsylvania was, in the mid 18th century, claimed by Virginia. Colonel Bouquet led his troops on the Forbes Road, the predecessor of today’s US 30, to take Fort Duquesne, as the previous attempts led by Generals Braddock and Washington were unsuccessful. There were no significant settlements in the Allegheny Valley at that time. George Washington owned land very close to my house.

    Another movie that is an entertaining period piece is Unconquered, with Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard. See http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039931/ for more.

  • Unconquered is one of my favorites PF!

  • Mr. McClarey, it’s one of my favorite old movies, too. It is entirely fictional, and Gary Cooper’s character covers more territory on foot than a dozen UPS truck drivers would today. I love the part of the film where Ben Franklin argues with the Virginia contingent over who owns Pittsburgh. Still, it’s a better movie than what Hollywood usually produces today.

Quotes Suitable for Framing: Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

Thursday, June 9, AD 2016

There are no great men, there are only great challenges, which ordinary men like you and me are forced by circumstances to meet.

Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

Earlier this week I was watching the movie The Gallant Hours (1960), starring James Cagney as Admiral William Halsey, Jr.  (Halsey hated the nickname “Bull” that the press fastened upon him during the War.)  The film focuses on the time in late 1942 to 1943 when Halsey was theater commander during the Guadalcanal campaign.  This was in tandem with my reading of the latest bio of Halsey, Admiral Bill Halsey:  A Naval Life, by Thomas Alexander Hughes.

Halsey is an interesting figure partially because his public image is so at odds with the reality.  During World War II Halsey was the “Patton of the Pacific”, a fighting Admiral who swore as he viewed the carnage of Pearl Harbor on December 7,  that by the time the US was done the only place that Japanese would be spoken was in Hell.  Halsey in the popular perception was a rampaging bull in a Japanese china shop.

The reality was different.  Halsey, who got his wings at the advanced age of 52, was an inspired commander of carriers.  Strike quick and run was his method in the early days of the War, when his daring carrier raids on Japanese held islands in the Pacific gave a very badly needed boost to national morale.  (“I hauled ass with Halsey” was a fond remembrance of veterans of those raids for decades after the War.)   However, unlike his unwelcome “Bull” image, Halsey was a thoughtful and careful planner, who paid close attention to such un-glamorous, but essential, topics as logistics and intelligence as he plotted every move his forces made.  He was also an officer beloved of his men because of his reputation of making sure that they were taken care of regarding food, leave and mail.  Throughout his career Halsey was known as a sailor’s officer who always looked out for the enlisted men under his command.  (A typical story told about Halsey by his sailors.  On board a carrier sailors were waiting in line for some prized ice cream.  An Ensign decides to cut to the head of his line.  He suddenly hears a stream of profanity directed at him.  He turns around to chew out the sailor cussing him.  He finds out that the man yelling at him is four star Admiral Halsey who has been patiently waiting his turn in the line with his men.)

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One Response to Quotes Suitable for Framing: Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

  • I saw that gerdunk story in a Naval Institute publication. In that account it was two Ensigns, and they only saw Halsey when they demanded “Who said that?” and the Admiral stepped out of line and said “I did!”. The two then ran off.

Risen: A Day Without Death

Monday, February 22, AD 2016



My bride and I saw the movie Risen in Kankakee, Illinois on Sunday at the Paramount Theater in downtown Kankakee.  The Paramount Theater is a well maintained movie palace that was built in 1931.  Sitting in its wide seats and viewing its art deco adornments, one is transported back to the Golden Age of Hollywood when attending movies was an event, and people did not expect to see films in cramped, one size fits all characterless shoeboxes.  By popular request, this review of the movie Risen will contain only minor spoilers, below the fold.  I highly recommend the film, and I thought that I would give the film some historical background that may enhance the enjoyment of viewers.

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7 Responses to Risen: A Day Without Death

  • My husband and I were blessed by this movie – the residual impression being that of the real mystery of Jesus ! The greatness of the film was not in the “who done it” type of mystery, but in the Mystery and Hope that is Jesus. Elusive, known by His effects on people’s lives, showing up unexpectedly though He was expected. His appearance not accompanied by heavenly drum rolls, but quiet.

  • That’s kind of why I want to see it. Oh not that there’s no place for the grand, sweeping epic, but because there’s ordinary, quiet lives most of time and in telling the stories we can forget that back then, they were all people too.

    Though something impossible happened back then and I was kind of hoping this movie would be an examination of that article. But I’ve heard the spoiler from another reviewer so I know I’ll have to temper my enthusiasm a little it may end up one of my film faves.

  • On your other thread, I noticed somebody had said Metacritic only gave it a 53. I have noticed that Christian movies seldom get good reviews. I thought Cristeros was excellent but it was mostly panned. Roger Ebert had to give it credit, but said that it was too focused on Christians. I thought that was hilarious because of the plethora of movies in the past few decades that focused on other mistreated religious groups. So I take reviews of Christian movies with a grain of salt.

  • “So I take reviews of Christian movies with a grain of salt.” Indeed:


    Roger Ebert is dead now and I hope that in his last moments he came back to the Catholic Faith in which he was raised.

  • I was moved by this different angle on the death and resurrection of Jesus. The acting was superb, and the expressiveness of Clavius spoke volumes. A must see easter treat!

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  • This is one film that can not be described as heavy handed and preachy. Although dramatic, it simply tells a story. You can believe in the faith that came from these events or not. An honest unbeliever can view the film and simply say that it was well set forth but still come to no conclusion. This is no different that the film made about Mohammed almost 40 years ago and would be little different if a film was made about Buddha.

Hail Caesar!

Saturday, February 13, AD 2016


My bride and I saw this film yesterday and vastly enjoyed it.  I often appreciate “quirky” and no film makers today are quirkier than the Coen brothers.  This film is an homage-spoof of filmmaking in Hollywood circa 1951.  The main character is a devout Catholic, a good family man, and, wonders of wonders, he is not depicted either as a hypocrite or a bigot, the de rigueur depictions of faithful Catholics in most films these days.  We found the film endlessly hilarious.  Some knowledge of the Golden Age of Hollywood is helpful but not essential to the enjoyment of the film.  Those of you who have seen the film let me know what you think in the comboxes.  I am not going to do a full review, because I think spoilers would really spoil this film.

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Chain of Memory

Wednesday, October 14, AD 2015


My wife and I were watching the movie The Way Ahead (1944), shown as Immortal Battalion in a truncated version in the US, last night, the story of the transformation of a grumbling group of British civilians into soldiers, and I was struck by this speech given by the platoon commander after his unit intentionally messed up on maneuvers:


“When this regiment was formed our country was doing pretty badly. Napoleon’s armies were just across the channel getting ready to invade us, we’d had defeat after defeat, and a great many people thought we were finished. We weren’t… But, not because we were lucky.

When the first battalion of this regiment marched it was against Napoleon… Talavera, eighteen hundred and nine, that was the first battle they made their own, and they marched 42 miles in 24 hours of a Spanish Summer, and every man jack of ’em carried a sixty pound pack. Talavera, look at your cap badges, you’ll see the name on it, and the other battles too… Barrosa, Sabugal… At Sabugal, together with four companies of riflemen, they defeated five times the number of Napoleon’s troops… Salamanca, Orthez, Waterloo, Alma, Sebastopol, Tel el-Kebir, Mons, Ypres, Somme… Those are battle honours!

You’re allowed to wear that badge with those names on it to show that you belong the the regiment that won them, and that when the time comes you’ll do as well as they did. Last year that badge was in France, this year, in Libya. It hasn’t been disgraced yet… Now you’re wearing it.

I know what went wrong today, it so happens that Captain Edwards doesn’t. You needn’t worry, I’m not going to tell him, he’s quite depressed enough as it is to think that it was his company that let the whole battalion down. But, I just want to tell you this… If you ever get near any real fighting… I don’t suppose you’ll ever be good enough, but, if you do… You’ll find that you’re looking to other men not to let you down. If you’re lucky, you’ll have soldiers like Captain Edwards and Sergeant  Fletcher to look to. If they’re lucky, they’ll be with another company!”

The actor delivering the speech was the late David Niven.  It is a brilliant evocation of history to remind members of a unit that they are part of a chain stretching through time and it is up to them not to dishonor by their actions those who came before in that chain.   As we make our way through this Vale of Tears it is something to remember since we all belong to such chains:  family, church, nation, fraternal organizations, bands of friends, etc.   Our actions do not impact only ourselves.

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2 Responses to Chain of Memory

  • One of the many reasons your blog is my first read every morning. Thank you Donald. I have a son at the Air Force Academy and, while there, he has heard much about his responsibility to those who have gone before. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard this. He was raised to understand he was part of something bigger than himself and he owed his best, at all times, to others who were counting on him.

  • Agreed. Great post Donald.
    Life chain was two weekends ago.
    Our chain of silent soldiers stretched form the west end of our town to the eastern side.
    As long as the battle for the unborn is still being fought, we have 56 million reasons to speak up and defeat the barbarians of liberal thought. Until they respect life, the sanctity of life, we will be present and accounted for.
    Thank you for the reminder that nothing is lost as long as we stay together and March forward with the banner of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, indeed, have mercy on us.

Angels With Dirty Faces: Fake Cowardice, Real Courage and Redemption

Sunday, October 11, AD 2015


A profoundly Catholic movie, Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) is usually not perceived as such.  The tale of two slum kids, Jerry Connolly, Pat O’Brien, and Rocky Sullivan, James Cagney, who attempt to steal fountain pens from a train.  Sullivan, who can’t run as fast as his friend, is caught after the robbery.  Connolly wants to share in the blame for the theft, but Sullivan tells him not to be a sucker and takes all the blame.  Sentenced to a brutal reform school he embarks on a life of crime while his friend becomes a priest, assigned to the same slum parish which he and Sullivan attended as boys.


The priest and the gangster renew their friendship with Sullivan quickly becoming the idol of the slum boys that Connolly is trying to keep from a life of crime.  Connolly embarks on a crusade against the local gangsters, including Sullivan.  Sullivan murders his partner Jim Frazier, Humphrey Bogart, and Mac Keefer, George Bancroft, to save Connelly who they were planning to have killed to stop his anti-crime crusade.


Sullivan, who tells the authorities all he knows about the local criminal operations, is tried for these murders and sentenced to death.

The ending of the film is a powerful look at courage and redemption:


Father Jerry:  We haven’t got a lot of time.
I want to ask one last favor.
Rocky:   There’s not much left that I can do, kid.
Father Jerry:  Yes, there is, Rocky.
Perhaps more than you could do
under any other circumstances.
If you have the courage for it,
and I know you have.
Rocky:  Walking in there?
That’s not gonna take much.
Father Jerry:  I know that, Rocky.
Rocky:  It’s like a barber chair.
They’re gonna ask, “Anything to say?”
I’ll say, “Sure, give me a haircut, a shave
and one of those new electric massages.”
Father Jerry:  But you’re not afraid, Rocky?
Rocky:   No. They’d like me to be.
But I’m afraid I can’t oblige them, kid.
You know, Jerry, I think to be afraid,
you gotta have a heart.
I don’t think I got one.
I had that cut out of me a long time ago.
Rocky:  Suppose I asked you to have the heart, huh?
To be scared.
Rocky:  What do you mean?
Father Jerry:  Suppose the guards dragged you out of here
screaming for mercy.  Suppose you went to the chair yellow.


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19 Responses to Angels With Dirty Faces: Fake Cowardice, Real Courage and Redemption

  • Good post. As a kid in the late 1950’s in NYC we would watch these old movies and see it live in the streets. Thankfully, I could run just fast enough.

    I think this is an example of the “grace” we may choose to find in everything we encounter/experience,

    I don’t know if it was a written or unwritten rule. In the “good old days” Hollywood movies the bad guys had to be unattractive and had to lose and the heroic, good guys always won. Today, not so much.

  • T Shaw.

    Just goes to show what types of guys run Hollywood…. Bad guys or good guys?
    Money v. Virtue.

  • Just had a thought about Catechism or CCD curricula of these past few decades having not much influence over corruption of innocents. Lying, cheating, and selfishness running rampant could be better prevented by watching, for example, this movie so giving catechists a boost. For quite a time, as a sub for some of this inner city’s reprobates, showing movies was a path to communication – ‘Moonstruck’ being their favorite by the miles and it was , it seems, the family dynamics that won the day.

  • Not so teensy little problem here. Does it dawn on anybody that the priest asked the Cagney character to lie, that is, to commit sin against the Eighth Commandment? One may not do evil that good may come from it. The ends don’t justify the means. That has always been a tenet of Catholic moral theology. WIth movies like this (and the Crosby priest movies, too) Catholic understanding of moral theology is corroded, all in the name of “entertainment”.

  • I just knew that someone would bring that up. No Janet, I do not think that a lie under this circumstance was in any way evil, even assuming that pretending to be afraid when you are not is a lie, which I think is debatable. (How would we then deal with someone pretending to be brave when they are secretly afraid in a wartime situation? Rather than a lie and a sin is that not the epitome of courage and a great virtue?) I think it was a great good deed, attempting to spare boys that admired him from walking their own last miles, that would probably have saved the fictional Rocky Sullivan’s soul from eternal damnation. To understand the complexity of this area when it comes to morality read the post linked below:


  • Bad analogy. Courage truly exists in the face of the natural self-preservation instinct. It’s an act of will not emotion. A person is courageous because he/she decides to be, often in contradiction to their emotions.

    The portrayal of a priest lying, and even asking another to lie, is beyond the pale. I will say this for the Crosby “Fr O’Malley” movies; they did depict the lies backfiring in his face.

  • “Courage truly exists in the face of the natural self-preservation instinct. It’s an act of will not emotion.”

    Will controlling emotion is precisely what Cagney’s character did. Is it any less deceptive to say to an opponent that you will beat him to within an inch of his life if he does not surrender, when you know that if he attacks that you will run, than what Rocky Sullivan did? This type of pettifogging, “I would sooner give Jews up to the SS than tell a lie!”, something no morally sane person would even contemplate, only makes Catholicism look ludicrous. Thank heavens when push came to shove during the War tens of thousands of priests and nuns did engage in deception to save innocent lives.


    During the War many deception operations were engaged in to make the Nazis think that the Allies would land in Calais instead of Normandy. Anyone who says this was morally wrong, or lying to protect people who would be unjustly slain if discovered, I simply refuse to take seriously when it comes to examining moral questions.

    A good examination of the knots this question has produced over the ages due to Augustine and Aquinas:


  • Oh. I loved this movie. I thought the priest knew the inner fear that Cagney’s character felt, and which he had In fact been battling all his life with his bravado.
    That character knew good from evil in his last act. He was afraid although. He denied it. And in kindness the priest helped him find a way to seek the good of others rather than his own….his last act admits the recognition of good / evil. That means repentance and attempt at reparation.
    The priest cared for Cagney character soul as well as the boys. He helped him do good as the last outward act of his life.to express love for others. Love love love this movie and may others by that good Catholic man Jimmy Cagney.

  • Janet Baker.

    Fifteen years working in Memory Care units is gratifying. One of the heart breaking moments for care givers is the lie we tell when a client with Alzheimer’s repeatedly asks the whereabouts of his/her deceased spouse.
    If we tell the truth the client re-lives the moment of the loved ones death. It’s dehumanizing. The agony they go through at that moment is hell. If we lie and tell them she/he is out with family they accept that without the trauma. They forget moments later they were even looking for their spouse.

    Until you experience this you can’t fully appreciate the event.

    Will we suffer for our lies in our industry?
    I don’t worry about the judgement to come and the lies we tell our patient.

    BTW. Family is very appreciative of our lie’s.
    They have been witnesses of that trauma themselves, and rather a lie be told, than place their parent through that Hell, agian.

  • If the character, Rocky Sullivan did not know fear, then, Rocky Sullivan would not have known how to portray fear. George Bancroft was poorly cast and did not portray the gangster kingpin as well as he ought. Bancroft did not come across as a tough guy. Maybe too fat.

  • Janet Baker wrote, “Does it dawn on anybody that the priest asked the Cagney character to lie,..”
    No, there is no lie here, for there is no false statement.
    We may never lie, but, in appropriate cases, we may use evasion, equivocation or mental reservation (which is what this was) in order to mislead. It is no meore lying that wearing a disguise or using a nom de guerre is lying.
    The Salamanca School have wagon-loads of cases of conscience on the subject, many of remarkable ingenuity.

  • “many of remarkable ingenuity.”

    Indeed, and often they make a straight forward lie seem honest in comparison. There is a reason why casuistry has a bad reputation.

  • Donald R McClarey wrote, “often they make a straight forward lie seem honest in comparison.”
    Let us say they perfected the conjurer’s art of misdirection.
    That is why Talleyrand said of the Vatican diplomats of his day, “Watch the juggler’s eyes, not his hands.”

  • The Church’s precise understanding of the boundaries of the 8th Commandment has not been static and likely will continue to develop. Even the Catechism’s summary has meaningfully changed, even in recent years, and certainly orthodox theologians continue to debate those boundaries. My own view is that a moral obsession with Cagney’s selfless “lie” signals a flirtation with scrupulosity.

  • Looking back at my reactions (over the years) to the end scenes, I wasn’t sure that Cagney’s character was actually “yellow” or not.
    Anyhow, sanctimonious saints looking down your noses at the rest of us. the commandment is to not bear false witness, i.e., not harm your neighbor with a fabrication. If this movie charade (if it were such) hurt anybody, I don’t see it. In fact, it was meant to help youths avoid the near occasion and crime-ruined lives.
    Plus, we have no duty to be truthful with evil men committing evil acts.

  • “Looking back at my reactions (over the years) to the end scenes, I wasn’t sure that Cagney’s character was actually “yellow” or not.”

    Cagney when asked would never give his opinion, preferring the ambiguity that the scene presents. However, there is nothing in the rest of the movie that indicates that the Sullivan character, for all his moral failings, was not a very brave man.

  • I was going to point out that the 8th commandment says to not bear false witness against one’s neighbor, but T Shaw beat me to the punch, as it were. If one goes to hell for lying, then I suspect it won’t be for the kind of lie which that priest admonished the prisoner to make.
    “I will tell the truth no matter how many innocent people die because I self-righteously and Pharisiticly (is that a word?) kept my holier-than-thou conscience clean.” “Look at me, Lord, I am not like that publican….”

  • Being brave and being scared are not mutually exclusive. Being brave only happens when it overcomes fear.
    He was brave on two levels. Facing death as a person. And giving up his public persona for the young men he was truthful and so was the priest who saw the depth of rocky, who trusted the mercy of God, and helped Rocky to do the right thing.

  • Justice is predicated on intent. This does not mean that the end justifies the means if the means are evil. He who lives in the Lord is above the law.

D-Day on Film

Saturday, June 6, AD 2015



There have been surprisingly few movies on D-Day, as indicated by the fact that three out of the five videos looked at below are from television miniseries.  Here are the five best from  a scarce lot:

5. Ike: The War Years (1978)

Robert Duvall as Eisenhower gives his usual riveting performance.  The late Lee Remick  gives a good performance as Captain Kay Summersby, the British driver/secretary assigned to Eisenhower.  Unfortunately the miniseries centers around the relationship of Eisenhower and Summersby, a relationship which is subject to historical dispute.

4.  Ike: Countdown to D-Day (1995)

Tom Selleck gives a very good portrayal of Eisenhower in the days leading up to D-Day.  The video does a first rate job of portraying the problems that Eisenhower confronted:  getting prima donnas like Montgomery and Patton to work as a part of a team, concerns about the weather, the deception campaign to convince the Nazis that Calais would be the invasion site, etc.  The video also shines a light on the weight of responsibility which Eisenhower bore, especially when we see him write out a note just before the invasion taking full responsibility on his shoulders if it failed.

3.  Band of Brothers (2001)

The epic miniseries covering the exploits of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne, captures well the chaos of the parachute and glider operations behind German lines that were so critical a part of the Allied victory on D-Day.

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D W Griffith’s Abraham Lincoln

Monday, March 9, AD 2015

Abraham Lincoln, who padded up and down
The sacred White House in nightshirt and carpet-slippers,
And yet could strike young hero-worshipping Hay
As dignified past any neat, balanced, fine
Plutarchan sentences carved in a Latin bronze;
The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,
The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,
State-character but comparative failure at forty
In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,
Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,
Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,
And a self-confidence like an iron bar:
This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,
Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches
Which make the monumental booming of Webster
Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

Film pioneer DW Griffith is chiefly remembered today for the 1915 film Birth of a Nation which was the film version  of the 1905 novel The Clansman, a paean by Thomas F. Dixon to the Ku Klux Klan which, in his view, freed the South from carpetbagger and negro rule.  As history the film is rubbish, but from its technical aspects it is an important development in the art of filmmaking.  In response to his critics DW Griffith made the film Intolerance  in 1916 which condemned religious, if not racial, bigotry.

In 1930 he made the first sound film biography of Lincoln.  Several silent film bios of Lincoln had been made, but having Lincoln speak was going to be an added challenge. Walter Huston, the father of actor-director John Huston, portrayed Lincoln.  Tall and lanky, Huston looked a bit like Lincoln, but his deep resonant tones helped establish in the public mind that Lincoln had that type of voice, rather than the high pitched voice that the historical Lincoln possessed.

The film script was co-written by Stephen Vincent Benet, a poet who in 1928 wrote the epic Civil War poem John Brown’s Body.   The film takes considerable liberties with the life of Lincoln, but, like Benet’s historical poetry, it has a good feel for the period and gives overall a powerful impression of Lincoln.  It is well worth the viewing even today, after so many Lincoln films.  It is interesting that this son of a Confederate colonel opens the film with a scene aboard a slave ship and that the film is a celebration of the man who defeated the cause his father fought for.

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The Caine Mutiny: A Review

Sunday, February 15, AD 2015

(I originally posted this in 2009 when the blog readership was much smaller.  I posted this again in 2013, but the scene after the court-martial was not online.  That pivotal scene is now available, so I am reposting this with the scene include in the review.  The Caine Mutiny has always been one of my favorite films in that it examines two themes, the law and military service, that have ever fascinated me.)

For my sins, perhaps, I have spent my career as an attorney.  Over the past 33 years I’ve done a fair number of trials, both bench and jury, and I am always on the lookout for good depictions of trials in films, and one of the best is The Caine Mutiny.  Based on the novel of the same name by Herman Wouk,  who served in the Navy as an officer in the Pacific during World War II, the movie addresses the question of what should, and should not, be done in a military organization when the man at the top of the chain of command is no longer in his right mind.


The cast is top notch.  Humphrey Bogart, an enlisted man in the Navy during WWI and a member of the Naval Reserve, he tried to enlist again in the Navy after Pearl Harbor but was turned down because of his age, gives the performance of his career as Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg, the captain of the Caine.  In the hands of a lesser actor Queeg could easily have become merely a two-dimensional madman.  Bogart instead infuses Queeg with pathos and demonstrates to the audience that this is a good man who sadly is no longer responsible mentally for his actions.  Van Johnson delivers his usual workmanlike job as Lieutenant Stephen Maryk, the “exec” of the Caine, a career officer who does his best to remain loyal to an obviously disturbed CO, while also attempting to protect the crew of the Caine  from Queeg’s increasingly erratic behavior.  Robert Francis, as Ensign Willis Seward Keith, is the viewpoint character, too young and inexperienced to make his own judgment he relies on Maryk and Lieutenant Keefer.  Fred MacMurray is slime incarnate as Lieutenant Thomas Keefer, a reservist who hates the Navy, spends all his time writing a novel, and eggs Maryk on to take command away from Queeg.  Finally, in a typhoon, reluctantly and only, as he perceives it, to save the ship, Maryk, with the support of Keith, relieves Queeg from command.

In the ensuing court-martial of Maryk and Keith, lawyer Lieutenant Barney Greenwald,  portrayed with panache by Jose Ferrer, reluctantly agrees to defend them.

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2 Responses to The Caine Mutiny: A Review

  • Here is a Hollywood quote that relates the proper attitudes of “regulars.”

    From the movie, “The Sand Pebbles”, Captain Collins addressing the crew:

    “At home in America, when today reaches them, it will be Flag Day. For us who wear the uniform, every day is Flag Day. All Americans are morally bound to die for our flag if called upon to do so. Only we are legally bound. Only we live our lives in a day to day readiness for that sacrifice. We have sworn oaths — cut our ties.

    “It is said there will be no more wars. We must pretend to believe that. But when war comes, it is we who will take the first shock, and buy time with our lives. It is we who keep the Faith…

    “We serve the flag. The trade we all follow is the give and take of death. It is for that purpose that the people of America maintain us. Anyone of us who believes he has a job like any other, for which he draws a money wage, is a thief of the food he eats, and a trespasser in the bunk in which he lies down to sleep.”

    “Greet them ever with grateful hearts.”

American Sniper: A Review

Sunday, January 25, AD 2015

“I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins. “Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .” Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”
Chis Kyle
My wife and I, the kids are back in college and law school, saw American Sniper at a movie theater in Morris, Illinois on Saturday January 24.  It was the second performance of the day, beginning at 1:00 PM, and the theater still was almost full.  After seeing the movie, the one term that seems to me to apply is stunning, in every sense of the word.  Clint Eastwood has made a masterpiece, the finest of his movies as a director, a film biopic that perfectly captures the man Chris Kyle and his times.  It is not a film for kids due to intense combat scenes and frequent use of the f-bomb by troops.  My review is below and the usual caveat as to spoilers is in force.

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28 Responses to American Sniper: A Review

  • Man I can’t even read this review with a dry eye.

    At times I think that if Jesus was to update the pharisee & tax collector today it would be the [professor/commentator/blogger/many] & the soldier.

    Anyone got a link to Toby Keith’s American soldier? Seems fitting here.

  • . For those Christians horrified at the need to kill women and children if they are carrying bombs, let them peruse Jeremiah 7:18 whose point is that for God, it wasn’t just men that God held responsible for idolatry:
    ” 18 The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.”
    Now a sane sniper has no deep wrath for such children ( that’s God’s orbit only) but they must be killed before killing others.
    Tom Cruise’s film “Jack Reacher” has several sinful snipers and an initial scene of one of them framing another while shooting innocents back in the USA in order to really kill one of those victims for financial reasons. There’s two strong moral elements fostered within the investigation by Jack Reacher, a third sharpshooter, as violent character himself but that morality is mixed in with immoral aspects of the same man including a final extrajudicial execution by him which is wrong unless epikeia is applicable…which was possible. “American Sniper” sounds way better.

  • http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-01-23/im-so-ashamed-meet-drone-operator-who-helped-kill-1626-people-and-walked-away


    “sometimes i have to wonder what book modern Christians are reading cause I don’t see any where in the good book where the first century church is cheering on the Roman army and pining for them to invade the known world and put their boot up anyones a**”.

  • Sometimes I have to wonder about modern Christians who spit on those who preserve their right to live in freedom and peace.

  • Donald,
    Like our last three Popes, D. Black seems to have missed Rom.13:4 which perceptive Aquinas saw for both death penalty and war and which is as much Christ’s concept as are His earthly concepts from the mouth…the red letter ones.

    D. Black,
    You come home from work to find your spouse being attacked by a criminal built like a Jets tackle. The criminal is strangling your loved one to death. All you can see for a weapon is a long screw driver but that suffices if you have enough love for your spouse to plunge it through the criminal’s eye and deep into his brain. What is the Christian thing to do? The state deputes to you the right to kill in accordance with its right to kill in Rom.13:4 which God inspired. What are going to do?

  • The Iraq War did not Catholic Just War criteria. JP2 begged Bush not to go through with his decision. No Iraqi had a thing to do with 9/11 and Iraq did not attack the United States and certainly was no threat to our security. The WMD rationale was bogus, and even if they had existed it was no reason to invade the country, cause billions of dollars in damage and deaths of countless Americans and Iraqis. JP2 also told Bush exactly what would happen to the Christians in Iraq that had lived there for 2,000 years. Bush did not care. He boastfully said he went to work “with war on his mind”. If only Bush the Younger had the wisdom of his father, who had the chance to invade Iraq and passed because he knew the problems it would cost for this country and for the people of Iraq. Jesus weeps.


  • I disagree with you vehemently about the Iraq War d Black, but I am rather bemused by you bringing it up on this thread that had nothing to do with the merits of the Iraq War. Are you so enraged over the Iraq War that you cannot tolerate a movie celebrating an American who served there bravely? Are you so blinded by politics that you cannot respect courage shown by someone who fought for this country in a war you opposed? If that is the case there are many words to describe such an attitude, but Christian is not among them.

  • D Black,
    John Paul II warned the US not to dislodge Hussein from Kuwait in 1991 which Hussein had just invaded.
    John Paul II warned of dire consequences….but Iraqis surrendered in the thousands almost immediately in the desert. Post 1991 JPII was becoming a quasi or sporadic pacifist and in 1995 in Evangelium Vitae, he used the front and back of a death penalty couplet (Gen.9:5-6) to argue against man killing man in sect.39…. while never showing the reader the death penalty part of the couplet he was using. It’s hilarious to those of us who have many passages by rote memory.
    You avoided my question. Try to be truthful this time and not an ideologue. Would you kill a home invader out of love for your spouse? Here’s how nice they are as humans:


  • I am sick and tired of liberal progressive Democrat propaganda from the likes of people such as D Black. I will stop. Anything further will get me in trouble. May God bless our heroes like Chris Kyle, and may God bring the murdering Islamic Jihadists and the baby-murdering Democrats to the justice that they so richly merit. God save America!

  • I have to correct myself. D Black referenced a web link to a Lew Rockwell web page. He is libertarian and as isolationist as Ron Paul; he is not a liberal progressive Democrat. But both groups of people generate and disseminate the same anti-war propaganda, and both are wrong.

  • To the mind reader that called me a liberal I have never voted for a Democrat in my 65 years on this earth. I am also a veteran. No one who has served in the Middle East has defended me in any way shape or form. Chickenhawk talking points from cowards that never served but gladly send your sons and now daughters to far away lands to kill others. This whole hero worship of all things military is guilt for the despicable way Vietnam vets were treated before and after Vietnam. “War is a Racket”. – MajGen Smedley Butler, USM.

  • “Chickenhawk talking points from cowards that never served but gladly send your sons and now daughters to far away lands to kill others.”

    I served in the Army during the seventies D. Black. I suggest that you withhold insults from people you know squat about. If you do not think Jihadists are not a threat to you, you are delusional.

  • I was a Nuke Bubblehead, not a Chickenhawk. I will confess to having been cowardly in that I avoided serving in battlefield combat by having served as a reactor operator aboard a US Naval nuclear submarine instead. I preferred the instantaneous death of rapid implosion from torpedo impact to being wounded in the jungle or desert. I am not the hero that Chris Kyle clearly was.

  • PS, I served during the Iranian hostage crisis when that Democrat jerk Carter sat where Obama sits today. When Reagan won the election, all of us on the sub cheered. Reagan made us strong again.

  • D Black,
    Veteran too. Saw more action on the NY harbor streets through living wrong. Thanks for your service. Now I find you incomprehensible but I think you’d kill to protect within your house whatever you say with your lips….so I won’t worry about your loved ones. I sleep with a gun each night because I have a person who said they’d shoot me after losing a street fight to me after I tracked him down over his removing goods from our one city house. Figured he’d come during sleep hours with a pistol. On the street one night, I saw two hooded guys looking at me then at each other and arguing. One obviously wanted to move on me and it could have been him. The other was warning against it.
    One night months later, the motion detector went off. I get totally cool in that situation and waited with the gun for further noises. Must have been a mouse.

  • Excellent review of a great, if flawed movie (I speak of some of the hackneyed dialogue). I’ve never had the experience of exiting a theater to absolute silence as I did with the movie.

  • When I referred to chickenhawk I was specifically referring to the government officials that ran scolded dogs from serving during Vietnam. They are always the quickest to send others to do what they themselves thought they were too good to do. I also believed in the mission in Afghanistan. Iraq was a fools errand.

  • At the time I did not agree with invading Iraq, but I assumed Bush had access to better intelligence info than a mere civilian citizen like me. I was glad when Saddam Hussein – an evil and vicious man – was finally captured. And I believed that most of our service men and women were performing heroically in a land dominated by sickening and depraved Islamic feudalism. Personally, I think our nation should go all nuclear, use nuclear electricity to make liquid hydrocarbon fuel from coal, and tell all the Muslims to go drown in their oil. My only caveat to that is issuing a promise that any attack against Israel would be met with the annihilation of the attacker. But God thankfully has prevented me from ever acquiring power. 😉

  • I’m pretty certain that when Mr. Kyle made it to Heaven, he discovered that all his sins were wiped out at the Cross, and in His Baptism…and that God recognized him as one belonging to Christ and said, “what are you waiting for? Get in here!”

    …or something along those lines

  • “What haunts him (Kyle) are the American troops he was unable to save”.

    My guess is that the men and women who returned home from battles or conflicts had very similar hauntings.
    Replaying the horrific scenes over and over. No wonder self medications are abused as they struggle with the “what if’s”. My late uncle served in Patton’s 3rd Army. He barely was able to cope with the memories.

    God indeed welcomes them home.

  • I don’t know if how to comfort the survivors of war’s horror, but one phrase I heard from a soldier that I wish all those struggling could take to heart:
    “We survived so someone could tell the stories and lessons of war to the next generation.”

  • Philip & Nate, you both make great points. I know of two such men, who both fought in WWII. My grandfather, who never spoke of any bit of the war. He died 20 years ago. And an old family friend, who loves telling war stories & could talk your ear off for days — he’s still living.

  • HEY DRM – I owe you so much for all the wonderful, for me thrilling little snipettes you have given or reminded me and others of regarding our history especially but our lives in general here while being citizens of heaven. i have one for you……
    My theater was packed, and dead silent all thru the final frames of the movie; the regular citizen salute to Chris Kyles funeral is well summed up in an short tribute with pics on the interent entitled ‘ a texas farewell ‘ and i strongly recommend it, but back to the debt i want to repay and ‘ silence’.

    In Charles Bracelen Floods’ tribute to R. E. “Lee The Last years” , Houghton Mifflin Co. @1981- Boston…. Chapters 31 – 34 , especially 33 part II, he tells of Lee and daughter Agnes’ trip thru the deep south [early 1870, months prior to his stroke and death]. Very moving and inciteful. Nearly every line has a poignant, touching recollection of Lee, seeing his dad’s grave in Georgia [ Light Horse Harry Lee] his meeting former officers or being greeted with love and admiration by ordinary people. In Chapter 33, part II flood speaks of the great ferocity and fraternal love of the ‘hurricanes’ the 15,000 or so warriors in the Rebellion from florida. Especially at Cold Harbor. Many turned out families in tow, with the city of Jacksonsville to greet the General on his arrival. Savannas’ welcome had been deafening just a few days before. So many people came on board the boat began to dip – so Lee agreed to come to be seen by the crowds from the upper deck of the steamer early afternoon. Coming to the rail, hat in hand to greet the throngs that had gathered to meet and greet the Old General, Silence came over all. And remained. Rich, pregnant Celestial Deafening silence. The book and those chapters …. it is the only other time for me, in addition to “Bang the drum slowly” and now american sniper, where in the audience was respectful in their deafening silence. I fell silent the first time i saw Peter Grimes live but i digress.
    Thanks for all the history and life lessons… i wish life would allow us to share a few beers and some finger food in conversation, primarily with me listening. Perhaps in the next life. …… paul c

  • Ditto to all your comments, Don. This was a seminal movie for this conflict and this generation of American military personnel, in my view.

    Those opposed to our involvement are blind to the nature of the war we’re in, which is in reality the latest chapter of the 1,500 year war Islam has launched against the West and Christianity. Iraq was merely the latest venue for the contest between Islam and the West.

  • Most of my thoughts are flecked with “hackneyed GI dialogue.” The four-letter-words fly like geese in a gale.
    So, I go to Mark Hemingway for thoughts on the film, and the estimable Mr. Eastwood.

    “The film is primarily about the heroism of soldiers who, thrust into battle by larger forces, do their best to protect each other and innocent Iraqis. Clint Eastwood, often described as one of the few prominent right-wingers in Hollywood, opposed the invasion of Iraq and questioned the invasion of Afghanistan. Even so, the film’s lack of left-wing politics has been treated in some quarters as an unpardonable sin.”

    And, Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan), “[…] Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told. It tells a story of the stress that multiple deployments have on one military family, a family representative of thousands of military families. It helps to communicate the toll that the war on terror has taken on our defenders. Defenders and families who need our support. […]”

  • “For who is God but the Lord? Or what rock is there but our God? God who has girt me with strength and made my way secure, who has made my feet swift as the feet of deer, and set me on the high places, who has trained my hands for the battle, and my arms for bending the brazen bow. And thou hast given me thy saving shield, and thy great hand has sustained me, and thy care has made me great. Thou hast made the way wide for my footsteps, nor have my feet staggered. I pursued my enemies and I overtook them, nor did I turn back until I had slain them.” Mine was a brief, honorable but inglorious military career, and a proof that we are not tempted beyond our strength.
    Mr. Kyle, thy name is David.

  • Most of Clint Eastwood’s directed movies are amazing. I was disappointed with Million Dollar Baby because of its pro-euthanasia message, and recall feeling shocked by the conclusion, to what I thought was a great story. Looking forward to seeing American Sniper.

Seven Cities of Gold

Saturday, January 17, AD 2015

Something for the Weekend.  After hearing this week that Pope Francis plans to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the Apostle of California, while he is in this country later this year, the musical score to the heavily fictionalized account of the first missionary journey of Serra, Seven Cities of Gold (1955) seems appropriate.

In 1955 Hollywood told the story of the 1769 expedition to Alta California in the film Seven Cities of Gold.  Michael Rennie gave a very good performance as Father Serra and Anthony Quinn gave an equally fine performance as Governor Portolla.  Of course Hollywood could not remain completely faithful to history, and a fictional hunt for the Seven Cities of Cibola was given as the reason for the expedition.  A love story between an Indian girl and one of the Spanish officers was also grafted on to the story.  In spite of the usually Hollywood twisting of history, the film is accurate in its depiction of the goodness and charity of Father Serra and his zeal to spread the Gospel.  One scene from the movie has him denouncing the greed of the Spanish soldiers and their desire to exploit the Indians:

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2 Responses to Seven Cities of Gold

  • Mr. McClarey, As you can imagine the articles in the LA Times regarding Fr. Serra’s canoization are emphasizing the modern Indians’ negative reaction rather than the good the missionary did. Fr. Serra was a very accomplished man before he ever boarded a ship to the New World.
    Question: Why is the Pope waiving the second miracle in this cause and others?

  • “Question: Why is the Pope waiving the second miracle in this cause and others?”

    Eagerness to canonize people presumably.

    In regard to Father Serra he is above such criticisms. He was noted at the time for being mild and gentle to the Indians. By 18th Century standards he would have been regarded as perhaps overly indulgent to all he came in contact with. Modern controversies about him are just that, and have zero to do with the times in which he lived.

New Orleans Is Ready For Its Close Up Mr. DeMille

Sunday, January 4, AD 2015



American history tends to be ignored by Hollywood and therefore it is unusual for a battle to receive treatment in a Hollywood feature film. It is doubly unusual for a battle to be treated in two Hollywood feature films, but that is the case for the battle of New Orleans, the two hundredth anniversary of which is coming up this week on January 8, 2015. The 1938 film The Buccaneer was directed by the legendary Cecil B. DeMille and had Frederic March, an actor largely forgotten today but a major star in his time, as Jean Lafitte. Two future stars have bit parts in the film: Anthony Quinn and Walter Brennan. Hugh Sothern who portrayed Andrew Jackson would also portray Jackson in 1939 in the film Old Hickory.


The 1958 remake was also to have been directed by Cecil B. DeMille, but he was seriously ill at that time, and relegated himself to the role of executive producer, turning the director’s chair over to Anthony Quinn, his then son-in-law, the one and only film that Quinn ever directed. DeMille was unhappy with the film and it received fairly negative reviews, although I think the battle sequences are superior to the first film. Yul Brynner plays Jean Lafitte and Charlton Heston is a commanding Andrew Jackson. Like Hugh Sothern, Heston would portray Jackson twice, the first time being in The President’s Lady (1953), the tale of the great love story of Rachel Jackson (Susan Hayward) and Andrew Jackson. Future stars in this version include Inger Stevens, Claire Bloom and Lorne Green. Adequate coverage of the battle is given in each film, although not much detail. The battle of course is merely an adjunct to the romantic tale of Jean Lafitte. Without the pirate turned patriot, I am certain the battle of New Orleans would have likely received the same indifference that Hollywood has shown for most of American history.

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15 Responses to Unbroken: A Review

  • Although this man’s tail of survival is remarkable, I fail to see why he should be held up as a hero to Catholics. He turned his back on the Catholic faith and became a Protestant. I wonder what his family thought of his “conversion”?

  • A powerful movie. Your review and the clips have convinced me. Movie night coming up. Thanks. 🙂

  • Stephen, maybe you should be asking where the Church was when this man was hurting and trying to live. From Don’s description of his post-war life, there was plenty of time for Catholics to act as doctors, but it was the Protestant who actually did.

    Someone once said: “By their fruits you will know them.” Maybe you should be asking why one tree bore fruit and the other did not.

    Besides, you think the World cares one bit about the difference?

  • “Although this man’s tail of survival is remarkable, I fail to see why he should be held up as a hero to Catholics. He turned his back on the Catholic faith and became a Protestant.”
    Mark 9:38-41
    John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.

  • Let me make one thing very clear. This comment thread is not, and you can underline that not, going to be taken up in sectarian debates. Further comments along those lines will be deleted by me. I will not have discussion of the movie turned into that truly futile and acrimonious debate.

  • The opposite was the intent of my comment, Don.

  • My comment was not directed at your comment Paul. I want this thread to be addressed to the movie and the themes of courage, endurance and forgiveness raised by the film.

  • Thanks for the review. I’m pleasantly surprised that a film such as this can
    still be green-lit in today’s Hollywood. It sounds like this movie deserves
    all the support we can give it.

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  • A fair review, but a minor point with a major consequence. As any track person knows, a 5000-meter race is not a “dash,” since it’s roughly three miles long. Maybe, in part, Zamparini could do what he did precisely because he’d trained at long-distance endurance.

  • Good point NV, and as Zamperini demonstrated later as a POW, endurance was definitely his strong suite.

  • Apologies for earlier, Don.

    So when you say “epilogue” to the film, do you mean they actually put a “what happened next” over the credits or in text in the film or do you mean “what happened in real life after these events”?

    My mom read the book apparently and wants to go see the film but was worried if she would be able to stand the camp scenes. Thanks for letting me know those were toned down (even if doing so is a debatable choice).

  • The epilogue is in writing with still photos before the credits. I think a sequel on the events of redemption, conversion and forgiveness could be a masterful film if done properly. A subplot showing the different paths taken by Zamperini and The Bird after the War could be especially intriguing.

  • JMJ Praise God I was never a POW. Our POW training camps use methods reported to us by our repatriated POWs. What they endured at the hands the Koreans/Japanese. I was a combat crewmember on B-52s. I can identify with his B-24 time. The training I went through was frightening. Even though I was in training, I feared for my life. I kept focus on that Light at the end of the tunnel. Mel Gibsons The Passion comes to mind when I think of the torture and interrogation techniques with the Resurrection being the Light at the end of the tunnel. Viva Cristo Rey

  • Probably the best review I have seen of this film. The comments are also quite incisive. I would add only one matter, partially relevant to the film. My late wife and her family, Philipino, were forced to live in the back forest and jungle during the war because the Japanese put a price on their heads After the war, despite one million Philipinos killed by the Japanese, there was no wholesale revenge on the perpetrators of these crimes nor was a great number of judicial proceedings conducted by the allies to hold to account the war criminals. Result: Murders in great numbers by the communist Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese. A lesson that should be noted for the future. I would not think the present location of The Bird to be very desireable.