8 Responses to America: A Review

  • God often does not chose the virtuous and the holy to bring a message. Sometimes the person is very self-destructive. Jonah comes to mind. Maybe after D’Souza has spent some time in the belly of the whale that is the Federal Penitentiary, he will straighten up and fly right. Oh what a pun for right he flies! 😉

  • IIRC, d’Souza’s adulteries were subsequent to being tossed aside by his 1st wife Given what we’ve seen over the last year re the IRS, I would not buy it if the Justice department were to assert that his (selective) prosecution were not politically motivated.

    D’Souza has a talent for producing entertaining political propaganda that makes a profit. He may eventually have as much impact

    He’s 55. I recall seeing his name in print when I was in high school 30+ years ago. His old confederates at the Dartmouth Review have gone into various other occupations while d’Souza has worked as an opinion journalist. I tend to doubt a man his age will have all that much more impact than he has to date.

  • We enjoyed the movie. The importance of “Americanism” committees on school boards came up inout discussion afterwards. Maybe those committees who check textbooks for anti American propaganda in textbooks are a thing of the past. We still had one at our kid’s school in Nebraska in the 80’s, 90’s and ’10s.
    Zinn and his ilk have been very successful in forming youngsters in this country. Proverb 22:6 “Train the young in the way they should go;even when old, they will not swerve from it.” Trying to talk with some of our younger relatives over the Fourth we found just how much they have been led away from a positive view of America.

  • I hope that he will use his time in the slammer for prayer and reflection. God has given him many gifts, but his self destructive behavior, if it continues, will in time eclipse them all.
    Very well put and a cautionary tale for us all.
    Review, that’s well and good, but where is America now headed?
    From her current path, it appears that she is determined to share in The Fate of Nations Forgetful of God [cf. Ps 9]

  • In the case of conquest, we must distinguish between possession, which is a fact and ownership, which is a right.
    According to the Institutes (2:1 ”ea quae ex hostibus capimus iure gentium statim nostra fiunt” [“by the law of nations, what we take from the enemy at once becomes ours] The reason is obvious enough; ownership, or any other right, can only exist within the context of a legal order, but there is no legal order common to enemies. Now, to conquer means to give laws, superseding those that exist, except insofar as the conqueror chooses to continue them.

    Property laws can differ greatly; the Classicist, Charles Rollin (1661-1741), reminds us, “Theft was permitted in Sparta. It was severely punished among the Scythians. The reason for this difference is obvious: the law, which alone determines the right to property and the use of goods, granted a private individual no right, among the Scythians, to the goods of another person, whereas in Sparta the contrary was the case.”

    Mirabeau, speaking of property, by which he means ownership and its derivatives, says rightly, “Property is a social creation. The laws not only protect and maintain property; they bring it into being; they determine its scope and the extent that it occupies in the rights of the citizens” This accords with St Thomas’s teaching, “the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above (57, 2,3) Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.” [ST IIa IIae Q66, II,obj 1]

  • An interesting footnote about this movie. My cousin, heavy metal rocker Dave Mustain sings and plays the national anthem in America.

  • I would like to see the movie, but won’t with two little boys at home.

    First, “we” didn’t steal land from any Indians. There was no United States to steal land when the English, French and Spanish were colonizing. If anyone “stole”, it was them. Given that the Indians usually fought each other, they had the misfortune to come across an adversary with superior technology, economics and military might. Thus has it always been in our world.

    Cortez and his Tlaxcalan Indian allies, without which he had no hope of success, took on and defeated the Aztec empire and their human sacrifice practices.

    Illegal immigration is due to the failed nations to our South. Mexico has intermittently been a basket case since it achieved independence from Spain. The USA offered money for the land lost in the Mexican-American War (certainly a shameful episode in US history) and in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, payment for territory that was sparsely populated or controlled by Mexico (who took it from Spain just a few decades earlier) was made.

    The US bought Florida from Madrid. It is a shame that Madrid did not sell Cuba to Washington as well.

  • I just saw the movie and thought it was quite good. In all my meager Civil War studies I had never read anything about black slave owners! I don’t remember it being in Kens Burns’ documentary either . . .

    Stephen E Dalton – I usually can’t stand it when a singer showboats the national Anthem, I’d prefer they just sing it straight (its not about them etc), but your cousin’s rendition was Wonderful!!!

Top Ten Patriotic Movies For the Fourth

Thursday, July 3, AD 2014

For those of you who want some patriotic movies to watch over the long Fourth of July weekend here are some suggestions for viewing.  Longtime readers of this blog will see that this differs somewhat from earlier lists of top ten patriotic movies with some additions and deletions.  Feel free to suggest additional movies in the comboxes.

10. National Treasure (2004)-Sure it’s cursed with a ridiculous plot involving the masons and a treasure, it is still a lot of fun and calls us back to the foundation document, the Declaration of Independence, that is the cornerstone of our Republic.

9. Hamburger Hill (1987)-Content advisory: very, very strong language in the video clip which may be viewed here.  All the Vietnam veterans I’ve mentioned it to have nothing but praise for this film which depicts the assault on Hill 937 by elements of the 101rst Division, May 10-20, 1969.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the American troops who served their country in an unpopular war a great deal better than their country served them.


8.    Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)-James Cagney in perhaps the greatest film bio of them all, a salute to George M. Cohan, the legendary composer, playwright and patriot.


7.      Saving Lincoln (2013)-  Overshadowed by the Lincoln film of 2012, this rendition of Lincoln’s years as President is first rate.

The human cost of the War is always at the core of the film, as we see in the delivery of the Gettysburg Address where some of the members of the crowd hearing Lincoln are holding pictures of soldier relatives who have died.

Lincoln in the film comes to believe that he will die in office and accepts his fate, hoping that God will spare him until his work is accomplished.


6.    Gettysburg (1993)-The movie that I think comes the closest to conveying to us the passions of the Civil War.  You really can’t understand America unless you understand the Civil War.  As Shelby Foote, one of the greatest historians of the war, said:  “Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.”

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5 Responses to Top Ten Patriotic Movies For the Fourth

Top Ten Civil War Movies for the Fourth

Monday, June 30, AD 2014

Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.


Shelby Foote


I agree with historian Shelby Foote that it is impossible to understand the United States without understanding the Civil War, and it is “therefore fitting and proper” that over the Fourth Civil War movies come to mind.  This is a repeat of a post I originally did in 2011, with changes to some of the video clips.


10.   Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)-We begin with a non-Civil War movie with the video clip at the beginning of this post.  In 1908 English Bulter Charles Ruggles, well played by actor Charles Laughton, comes to work in the American West.  It is a hilarious fish out of water comedy, as Ruggles, with his culture and British reserve comes face to face with the Wild West.  While living in America, Ruggles becomes interested in American history, and becomes a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln.  When he recites the Gettysburg Address, the impact on his listeners is obvious, and reminds us that for Americans the Civil War will never be a matter simply relegated to books or memory, but is something that still has a vast impact on us to this day.



9.    Friendly Persuasion (1956)-Starring Gary Cooper as Jess Birdwell, the head of a Quaker family in southern Indiana during the Civil War, the film is a superb mix of drama and comedy as the Quakers have to determine whether to continue to embrace their pacifist beliefs or to take up arms against General John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry during his Great Raid of the North in June-July of 1863.  When the oldest son of the Birdwell family, portrayed by Anthony Perkins in his pre-Psycho days, takes up arms, his mother, played by Dorothy McGuire is aghast, but Cooper, as Jess Birdwell, defends him.  Although he remains true to his pacifist convictions, Birdwell understands that his son is acting in obedience to his conscience, and, as he tells his wife, ” A man’s life ain’t worth a hill of beans except he lives up to his own conscience.”



8.    Major Dundee (1965)-Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.



7.    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.

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13 Responses to Top Ten Civil War Movies for the Fourth

  • Thanks so much for these titles. We are living overseas this 4th & I appreciate the suggestions for some real American movies!

  • Thank you Pam! An American rarely appreciates being an American more than when they are living abroad.

  • Gone With the Wind is only one of two movies to which I have had multiple conflicting reactions. It depicts idealism, arrogance, chivalry, racism, stupidity, and many other virtues and sins. Every time I see it I walk away with different feeling than I had before. The only constant is admiration for Mammy as the moral center of the O’Hara family.

    The other movie? Dr. Strangelove

  • Runners-up:
    Shenandoah A fine story, just a little fluff, but a bit constrained by its roots in theater.
    Lincoln had a few historical inaccuracies, and Daniel Day-Lewis hammed up a couple of scenes, but a pretty good movie nonetheless.

  • If I were redoing the list both Lincoln (2012) and Saving Lincoln (2013) would have places of honor on the list.

  • Just asked my wife, a big movie fan, to guess what was on the list. She got only three of them (I think she had blocked out The Horse Soldiers because of the amputation scene – that was the first thing she said about that movie when I named it). She mentioned my two runners-up, along with a third I have not seen: Cold Mountain.

  • I don’t know, I just read the Wikipedia synopsis of Cold Mountain and the plot seems pretty bizarre. I better tell her gently…

  • How could there even be a Civil War, when “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”?
    The citizens enjoyed their hard won freedom, but refused to share their freedom with others, like the rich man in the Gospel who refused to share his wealth with Lazarus.

  • I didn’t care for Cold Mountain, but it’s depiction of the Battle of the Crater during the siege of Petersburg makes it worthy of honorable mention.

    And if Major Dundee is a Civil War movie, then so is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
    Anybody remember The Blue and the Gray? It was a TV mini-series, so I understand why it’s not on the list.
    But it should be.

  • “And if Major Dundee is a Civil War movie, then so is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

    The War was a strong theme throughout the movie, as typified by this brilliant piece of dialogue:

    Major Dundee: Do you expect me to believe these Apaches
    will turn against their own families?
    Track down their own people?

    Samuel Potts: Why not?
    Everyone else seems to be doing it.

  • “Anybody remember The Blue and the Gray? It was a TV mini-series, so I understand why it’s not on the list.
    But it should be.”

    If it hadn’t been a miniseries it would have had a place, if only for Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Lincoln:

  • Major Dundee was not only a great civil war themed movie. It was also a brilliant allegory of the US in general. Complicated. Diverse. Mixes of loyalties, strengths, and failures. Perhaps too optimistic about our ability to pull together against a common enemy.

    I have not seen the movie in a long time, but if memory serves, the survivors of Dundee’s unit cross back into Texas in April 9, 1865, right after Lee’s surrender

  • Yep, after they unite to fight the French, short circuiting a long anticipated show down between the Union and Confederate troops.

Fortnight For Freedom: Top Ten Movies for the Fourth of July

Tuesday, June 24, AD 2014

Fortnight For Freedom 2014



Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.

John Adams




This is a repeat from a post last year, with some very slight modifications, but I think the logic behind the post still holds true.  As we are embroiled now in a struggle to preserve our religious liberty, I think the Fourth of July is a good time to recall the price paid to establish our liberties.  It is trite to say that freedom is not free, but it is also true.  A people who forget this eternal lesson will not remain free for long.



A number of feature films and miniseries have been made about the events of the American Revolution.  Here are my top ten choices for Fourth of July viewing:

10.  Ben and Me (1953)- Something for the younger patriots.  Disney put to film the novel of Robert Lawson, Ben and Me, which related how many of Ben Franklin’s bright ideas came from his mouse Amos.  Quite a bit of fun.   Not a classic but certainly an overlooked gem.

9.  The Crossing (2000)-A retelling of Washington’s brilliant crossing of the Delaware on Christmas 1776 and the battle of Trenton.  This film would rank much higher on my list but for Jeff Daniels’ portrayal of Washington as sullen and out of sorts throughout the movie.  Washington had a temper, and he could give vent to it if provoked, although he usually kept it under control, but the peevish Washington portrayed here is simply ahistoric and mars an otherwise good recreation of the turning point of the Revolution.

8.  John Paul Jones (1959)  Robert Stack, just before he rose to fame in the Untouchables, is grand in the role of the archetypal American sea hero.  Bette Davis is absolutely unforgettable as Catherine the Great.  The climactic sea battle with the Serapis is well done, especially for those pre-CGI days.  The only problem with the film is that many of the details are wrong.  This is forgivable to a certain extent since scholarship on Jones was badly skewed by Augustus Buell in a two-volume “scholarly biography” which appeared in 1900.  Buell was a charlatan who made up many incidents about Jones and then invented sources to support his fabrications.  Buell was not completely exposed until Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard professor of history, and an Admiral in the Navy, wrote his definitive biography of Jones. Here is a list of the fabrications of Buell compiled by Morison.  Morison’s book appeared after the movie, which is to be regretted.

7.  The Patriot (2000) Finally, a film which depicts the unsung contribution of Australians to victory in the American Revolution!  Actually not too bad of a film overall.  Heath Ledger is quite good as Gibson’s oldest son who joins the Continentals at the beginning of the war against his father’s wishes.  Jason Isaacs is snarlingly good as the evil Colonel Tavington, very loosely based on Banastre Tarleton, commander of Tarleton’s Raiders during the Southern Campaign.  The film of course allows Gibson to carry on his over-the-top vendetta against all things English.  No, the British did not lock up American civilians in churches and burn them alive.  However, the ferocity of the partisan fighting in the South is well depicted, and Banastre Tarleton  at the Waxhaw Massacre earned a reputation for slaughtering men attempting to surrender.  The final battle of the film is based on the battle of Cowpens where General Daniel Morgan decisively defeated Tarleton.

6.  Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)-A John Ford classic starring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert.  Through the eyes of a young newlywed couple, Fonda and Colbert, the American Revolution on the frontier is depicted in the strategic Mohawk Valley.  Full of the usual Ford touches of heroism, humor and ordinary life.

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Top Ten Movie Battle Speeches

Tuesday, June 17, AD 2014

Not a bad list, although I would have had Patton at number one and I would not have included The Great Dictator.  Shakespeare of course has set the standard for all pre-battle speeches:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

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9 Responses to Top Ten Movie Battle Speeches

  • I definitely agree Patton’s speech should be at or near the top of the list. I’m surprised there are no John Wayne speeches in the list. Frankly, I can’t think of one of the top of my head but it’s hard to imagine a Wayne movie without one. 🙂
    IIRC, Travis’ Alamo speech was pretty good. So was the one in We Were Soldiers. I’m sure there are plenty others that would at least beat out Independence Day and the Great Dictator.

  • Glory, on the beach, before the charge of Fort…Wagner(?).

  • Good pick Jonathan. I have always liked the sequence where the white Union troops yell out “Give ’em hell 54th!”

  • “Frankly, I can’t think of one of the top of my head but it’s hard to imagine a Wayne movie without one.”

    I have always liked these sequences from the Sands of Iwo Jima which captures the spirit of every DI I have ever known:

  • Me too, Donald. And, I find that I cannot imagine any scene in that movie without Horner’s score.

  • I keep meaning to comment on this thread. Shakespeare owns this category, but Branagh doesn’t pull it off. He’s doing Robin Hood, not Henry V. Too impish, too sentimental.

    Mel is great in that one. There’s something so realistic about the dynamics of that speech. And Bill Pullman has never done a better job in a movie. As for 300, technically, the whole movie is a battle speech.

  • Delivering that speech in 1944 must have felt redundant.

  • Most of the extras were British commandoes who would soon be fighting in France for real. On D-Day many of the Brits in the landing craft had read to them portions of the Band of Brothers speech.

Seven Days in May

Friday, May 9, AD 2014

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

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

Ironies abound when the film is compared to reality:

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7 Responses to Seven Days in May

  • I remember reading the book as a teenager. One thing that struck me about it was that it seemed to not regard American society as very resilient. As I recall, the conspirators set up a secret base in the New Mexico desert and train a unit there to take over the five locations on American soil that will allow them to impose a military government. Five!

    The novel too was set in the 1970’s. It totally missed the Sino-Soviet split (Allen Drury’s novel Advice and Consent was a much more accurate predictor in this regard), and so it did not predict the end of the U.S. opposition to Korean-Vietnam ‘wars of liberation’. As I recall a North Iran – South Iran war was just winding down in the novel; it was presented as a fact of life.

    Don, I don’t think that LBJ really received much opposition from his generals on Vietnam, not in the sense that they wanted to avoid it. My recollection of the history is that Matt Ridgeway did a study at the time of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu which showed that victory in Vietnam would take the allocation of 2 million men for 20 years. Eisenhower read the study (he knew how to, after all) and thus resisted pressure to intervene. Ten years later the only military misgivings were over White House decisions on Laotian and Cambodian sanctuaries, slow bombing escalations, and micromanagement (in all of which the military was correct, BTW).

    I think that a liberal society (and we are that in the classical sense of the word) does need to once in awhile to engage in this fantasy, as long as we realize that is what it is. There is a good scene in the novel which I don’t think made it into the movie, where General Scott has been confronted by the President and admits to the conspiracy, and justifies it due to the latest Soviet treaty-breaking. The president asks the general what he would do as president, the general takes charge and creates a list of action items, and then the president shows the general his list: it is virtually the same. This exchange was perhaps the major factor in getting the general to back down.

    In the novel the generals are not fascists, they are just classical liberals gone bad, good conservative men made desperate by seemingly desperate times. Rewrite for today’s deranged audiences and you would get fascists, and the commies would probably be the good guys in cloaks. It is still possible to see the novel with a certain nostalgia.

  • “Don, I don’t think that LBJ really received much opposition from his generals on Vietnam, not in the sense that they wanted to avoid it.”

    Typical of the skepticism of the generals was Lyman Lemnitzer who was chairman of the joint chiefs until 1962. He did not want to commit ground troops to Vietnam unless all assets were on the table including nukes.


    Many generals suspected that Vietnam would be a half hearted effort as it turned out to be. While they were fighting it they fought to win, but most of them had few illusions that the administration back in Washington was willing to do what it would take to win.

  • I recall that Admiral Arthur Radford wanted nukes on the table for the possible 1954 intervention. Matt Ridgeway didn’t think much of it. The JCS went through a similar debate during the Chinese intervention in Korea, with Omar Bradley saying “what if they just keep coming?” Properly dispersed, mass infantry units would have not been particularly affected by the blast effects of the early atomic weapons, and such units would still have been combat effective until the delayed radiation effects set in. Of course, this all changed with thermonuclear weapons, so Lemnitzer was more justified than Radford was. But there was still an element in the U.S. military that viewed nuclear weapons as a terror weapon that was closely tied to the Japanese experience, and this element was afraid that if the weapons were used in different settings with different results the fear of them among U.S. adversaries might diminish.

    Another interesting story is General George Marshall’s reaction to the immediate aftermath of the Nagasaki bombing. Marshall concluded that the first two bombs had been wasted because the Japanese government had still not surrendered. He advised against dropping the third bomb (the core was being readied for shipment) on a city and favored saving them for tactical use in the invasion. A week later, of course, events proved Marshall’s judgment to have been premature. See http://www.usni.org/store/books/ebook-editions/hell-pay for more details.

  • Don

    The quote I remember from the novel, the guard refusing entrance to an unauthorized person. “PFC is not a policy level position.”

    The plot is rather hackneyed, but presented a place for starting discussions.

    The way the US military is set up, except for self selection, officers are recruited form all across the political spectrum. While there would be little support anywhere, my unscientific observant ones who would be most likely to object strongly to a coup attempt are politically conserative.

  • “ones who would be most likely to object strongly to a coup attempt are politically conservative.”

    They would tend to be the ones who take an oath to the Constitution most seriously. In addition everyone in the military has the concept of civilian control of the military drummed into them. I remember in Army ROTC training that was part of lesson one on the first day.

  • What I could perceive happening is that Obama could invent a self-inflicted coup against himself and his administration and then use the honest American citizen to raise him up.

  • There is a story that Nixon met with the Joint Chiefs a few weeks before he resigned, and in a very roundabout way attempted to feel them out on supporting him in office in a post-impeachment trial situation, which in effect would have been a passive coup. Apparently the Chief’s commitment to civilian rule plus Nixon’s evasive language caused the comments to go right over their heads. One Chief did pick up on the feeler and later, outraged, brought it up with his fellows. The rest said, no, Nixon never said such a thing. It’s hard to say whether there is much truth to this story, but if true it again shows the U.S. military’s true commitment to the American constitutional order. They couldn’t even see a coup plot unless their noses were rubbed in it.

Jesus The Water of Life

Saturday, April 12, AD 2014

Something for the weekend.  One of the most powerful depictions of Christ on film from the movie Ben Hur (1959).  A wonderful melding of music and dialogue as Christ goes silently to the aid of Ben Hur and gives him water.  The wordless encounter between Christ and the Centurion was amazing, as the Centurion’s face registers bewilderment, shame and curiosity as he has a totally unexpected encounter with the Divine.  Whatever the actor who played the Centurion was earning that day, it wasn’t nearly enough.

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8 Responses to Jesus The Water of Life

  • Very moving clip.
    The centurion telling Jesus; “No water for him”…and the look, the double take. Very moving.
    “God help me.” Amen.

  • Wonderful. I’ve never seen that movie – that scene blessed me. Movies are such a powerful way to teach- and D. McClarey seems to be able to find the best stuff.

  • “WHO” is the only designation to be assigned to the sovereign person. Otherwise, all human rights and immortality are denied, since the immortal human soul is denied. Use of “which” or “that” as designation of the sovereign person is the denial of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. (John 4: 28, 29)

  • Ben-Hur may well be the greatest movie of its genre, the gorgeous, cinematic movies set around the background of the Roman Empire, that no one seems able to make anymore.

  • The other encounter between Jesus and Judah Ben Hur that I’ve always found moving is when they’re looking at each other across the valley as the crowd gathers for the Sermon on the Mount. The camera starts behind Ben Hur looking across the valley at Jesus on top of the hill, then, as he starts to walk away, the camera cuts to behind the head of Jesus, Who follows Ben Hur as he walks across the screen. And you just know the He knows what’s in Ben Hur’s heart at that moment.
    One of my all time absolute favorite movies. Not even Gore Vidal could ruin it for me.

  • The author of the book “Ben Hur”, Gen. Lew Wallace, was an avowed atheist whose original intent in going to the Holy Land and investigating was to prove that Jesus was a fraud. He instead discovered the Risen Christ, a division surrendered to Him.

  • Charlton Heston was a great actor and a good man, His performance in that scene is unforgettable and the depiction of Christ wonderfully reminds us He is always there when we need Him, ever there at our side, at our right and left before us behind us, ever all around us.

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Gravity and God

Saturday, March 22, AD 2014

 I mean I’d pray for myself, but I’ve never prayed—nobody ever taught me how.

Dr. Ryan Stone, Gravity

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.

Sir Isaac Newton


Something for the weekend.  The Hank Williams, Jr. tune Angels Are Hide to Find from the movie Gravity (2013).  I picked up a copy of the movie Gravity, not expecting much, and assuming that I would probably quickly resell it on e-bay.  Somehow I had managed to read nothing about the film.  I was astonished at how much I enjoyed the film and how much it had to say about the human condition.  My review is below and the usual caveat about spoilers apply.

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3 Responses to Gravity and God

  • Gravity was an excellent film. My beloved Filipino Bride and I went to see this while I was courting her.

  • Writer Andrew Klavan had much the same reaction.

  • To be accurate LT USN would be the equivalent of Capt USA. Both O-3s. I don’t recall any USN LTJGs, or USAF and USMC 1Lts in my husband’s Navy Test Pilot School class. There were however Army Chief Warrant Officers and Capts in the class.
    Good call, Don as the Clooney character would be a bit junior in rank to have gone through flight training, a fleet squadron tour, test pilot school and NASA training. Sounds like Gravity is a worthwhile flick to view. I always think that one must feel very close to our Creator whether in the cockpit on a very high altitude flight or on a space mission. Myself I’ll have to settle for the serenity of a silent snowfall in the countryside.

Major Dundee

Saturday, March 8, AD 2014



Something for the weekend.  A musical medley from the movie Major Dundee (1965).  Sam Pekinpah’s flawed, unfinished masterpiece, the film tells the fictional account of a mixed force of Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners who join forces to hunt and ultimately defeat an Apache raider, Sierra Charriba, in 1864-65.  Charlton Heston gives an outstanding performance as Major Amos Dundee, a man battling his own personal demons of a failed military career, as he commands this Union-Confederate force through northern Mexico on the trail of the Apache, with fighting often threatening to break out between the Union and Confederate soldiers.  Use of Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers in the West was not uncommon.  Six Union infantry regiments of Confederate prisoners, called “Galvanized Yankees”, served in the West.   The final section of the film involving a battle between Major Dundee’s force and French Lancers, the French occupying Mexico at the time, has always struck me as one of the best filmed combat sequences in any movie.

Here is a fan made trailer for the restored edition that was released in 2005 that included much of the footage that was cut over Pekinpah’s protests:


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4 Responses to Major Dundee

  • Sadly, the studio (or whomever it was –I don’t have a copy of the restoration) went and wrecked the restoration with a new score that in my opinion is inferior to the original.

    I love the director’s cut of The Wild Bunch. The extended edition of Major Dundee, not so much.

    Having said that: Charlton Heston at his monotone staccato best. “I have three orders of march….”

  • I have the restored version and I agree that the new score is a waste. Fortunately you have the option of playing it with the original score which is what I did when I viewed it for the umpteenth time last Friday night.

    The dialogue is brilliant throughout the film. I greatly enjoy this exchange between Heston and Jim Hutton, portraying Lieutenant Graham, the archetype of eager young shavetails everywhere and everywhen:

    Maj. Amos Dundee: Lieutenant Graham?

    Lt. Graham: Yes, sir.

    Maj. Amos Dundee: I gave you a specific order, and you failed to carry it out.

    Lt. Graham: No, sir, you gave me a command. I gave the orders from then on.

    Maj. Amos Dundee: You surely did, Lieutenant. Have a cigar.

  • (sin of omission identified and repented) (Major Dundee placed into Netflix queue) Here’s hoping for an enjoyable penance.

  • 1965 was a busy year, moving from New Jersey to New Hampshire, I missed the movie. Somewhere, I have an old “Charlton Heston is my President” bumper sticker. He died April 5, 2008, with Lydia, his wife of 64 years, by his side, a favorite actor and a decent man. Rest in Peace.

Battle of the Siler River

Saturday, March 1, AD 2014

Something for the weekend.  The battle of the Siler River sequence from the movie Spartacus (1960).  I have always marveled at the skillful use of music as we see the Romans marching in their checkerboard formations.

The culminating battle of the Third Servile War, Crassus and ten legions, about 32,000 men, confronted the remnants of the slave army under Spartacus, approximately 50,000 men.

Our sources for the battle of the Siler River, like most of the Third Servile War, are poor and contradictory.  That the battle was bloody and that the Romans won are two of the three facts that we can be sure of.  The remaining fact that we can be certain of is that Crassus took the 6,000 survivors and crucified them from the site of the battlefield, up the Via Appia, to the gates of Rome.  Crassus probably viewed this as a publicity stunt to gain the consulship and it worked, Pompey, home victorious from a long war against revolting Roman settlers in Spain, being the other consul.  However, perhaps even some members of the Senate viewed Crassus’ cruelty to the survivors as excessive.  Crassus was denied a Triumph in Rome and had to settle for an Ovatio, very much a second class military honor.

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2 Responses to Battle of the Siler River

  • Under Romulus, the legion consisted of 3,000 foot and 300 horse. Thereafter, the number varied, until the reforms of Gaius Marius, who fixed it at 6,200 foot (61 centuries, the Headquarters century being a double one) and 700 horse.

    Of course, a legion was not always at full strength, and would often have only 50 or 60 men to a century.

    The cohort was primarily an administrative unit and the smallest to be detached for garrison duties &c It had its own cavalry wing, engineers, signallers and artificers. The tactical unit was the maniple of two centuries, three to a cohort.

    The Romans had no stirrups (a Mongol invention) and, accordingly, their cavalry were lightly armed and used to “cover and discover.” The tallest skeletons discovered are about 14 hands and the canon bones suggest a weight of no more than 500 kg. Contrast that with the mediaeval charger of 17 or 18 hands and weighing upwards of 1,100 kg. Their modern descendants are the Percheron, the Belgian and the Clydesdale.

  • “Of course, a legion was not always at full strength, and would often have only 50 or 60 men to a century.”

    Correct. I assume that disease would take a goodly toll of newly raised legions even before they got into combat, something that happened in all armies until the onset of modern medicine. Under the Republic new legions tended to be raised rather than replacements sent to veteran legions, since this opened up more positions for officers and ambitious politicians.


Saturday, January 4, AD 2014

A prayer’s as good as a bayonet on a day like this.

Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne, Zulu



Tony Rennell at the Daily Mail Online has a grand salute to one of the greatest war flicks:  Zulu:

Yet Zulu thankfully avoids taking sides in this moral morass. It doesn’t play on manufactured guilt, or lecture and hector us from some anachronistic ethical high ground. It avoids self-righteous, self-serving politics and pays pure and simple tribute to human endeavour.

The moment that, for me, elevates it into a different dimension is when a young British soldier stares open-mouthed at the huge enemy  army encircling Rorke’s Drift. The situation looks hopeless, and death — skewered agonisingly in the dust — a certainty.

‘Why does it have to be us?’ he wails. ‘Why us?’

The handlebar-moustachioed colour sergeant next to him, erect and unflinching, could have replied with windy patriotic zeal and flag-waving imperialist grandeur.

Instead, this paragon of British backbone — played incomparably by Nigel Green — says calmly: ‘Because we’re here, lad. Just us. Nobody else.’

His is the authentic voice of  soldiering through the centuries — as true today for our troops in Afghanistan as it was for Queen Victoria’s footsoldiers. Men doing their duty, facing death because that’s their job. No hint of glory. No pleasure in killing.

British grit holds out against  hopeless odds, and defeat is turned to triumph of a sort. But war, we   conclude, is always terrible, an evil — if sometimes a necessary one.

And there is a price to pay for the victors as well as the defeated. As the smoke of guns disperses over the final battle scene, the British  soldiers stare in horror at the piled-up bodies of Zulu around their  sand-bagged last redoubt.

They are not triumphant but appalled at the ‘butcher’s yard’ — as Lt Chard  (Stanley Baker) puts it — which they have inflicted. ‘I feel sick,’ says Lt Bromhead (Caine), ‘and ashamed.’

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4 Responses to Zulu!

  • To read Lt Chard’s account, we find that the movie very accurately conveys the sense that they were better off than they might have first thought with the desertions that occurred before the Zulus engaged.
    Fine movie!
    Good advice for all in these difficult times, from the Colour Sergeant:
    “Look to your front!”
    and “Nobody told you to stop working.”

  • “Look to your front!”
    and “Nobody told you to stop working.”

    Words to live by!

  • Dieu et mon droit. Things are rarely as bad as they seem nor as good.

    Despair is a sin against Hope.

    “An’ a Zulu impi dished us up in style:” from “Fuzzy Wuzzy” (in the Sudan Fuzzy Wuzzy broke a British square!) by Rudyad Kipling.

    Less than 24 hours before the Rourke’s Drift fight, a main column of Brit regulars and auxilliaries were massacred at Isandlhwana. The reports show that the regulars were spread too thin and could not be sufficiently supplied with cartidges to keep at bay the cold steel wielded by (relatively) huge numbers of brave athletes.

    That was worse than the Litte Big Horn.

    I have the excellent book, The Washing of the Spears, which details the war.

    The generals finally figured out how to beat the Zulu mobile assegai men. Years later, the Boers (“The Boers knocked us silly at a mile,” again Kipling) similarly roughed up the vaunted sassenach regulars.

    “The Three Feathers ” is also a good Brit (Khartoum/Omdurman) war movie.

  • The uniforms are wrong. The soldiers are dressed as if for a parade and Chard and Bromhead look as if they have just stepped out of a military tailor’s circa 1900. Rank badges were different in 1879, and worn on the collar. On campaign the sun helmets were stained brown with tea and had no plate, and the soldiers would be wearing a red serge “frock”. Most were bearded – a photograph of Chard shows him looking like an Old Testament prophet. Officers tended to wear blue patrol jackets, but at Rorke’s Drift Chard was wearing a short RE shell jacket and Bromhead an ordinary soldier’s tunic.

    Some 1960s sentiments and assumptions strike a false note. The soldiers would not have been horrified by the slaughter, in fact they went out after the battle and cheerfully despatched the wounded Zulus with bullet or bayonet. Surgeon Reynolds’s outburst: “Damn you Chard! Damn all you butchers!” would not have been uttered in that or any other war. Both Chard and Bromhead were regarded as mediocre officers; the latter was almost totally deaf and was described as “a capital fellow in everything except soldiering”. The real hero of Rorke’s Drift was Acting Assistant Commissary James Dalton, aged 45 in 1879. It was he who persuaded Chard not to abandon the post and who organized the defence. He was, incidentally, a Catholic.

    There are similarities between Isandhlwana and Little Big Horn. Both Chelmsford and Custer underestimated the number of their opponents; both divided their forces. However, the greatest defeat inflicted on a European army by native troops was at Adowa in 1896 where a large Italian force was routed by the Ethiopians. Italian casualties were 11,500 (including 7,000 killed). By the way, Mr Shaw, the Scots and Irish who made up a large part of the British regular army would not have appreciated being referred to as “sassenachs”.

Review of the Hobbit Trilogy

Saturday, December 28, AD 2013

(Language advisory for the video;   apparently the first film made the reviewer extra grumpy.)

The above video shall serve as a review for the entire Hobbit trilogy.  I saw part II last week and I was certain, perhaps in what felt like the fiftieth hour, that time had ceased and eternity begun.  You know a movie based on The Hobbit is bad, when by the end you are rooting for Smaug to be unleashed on Peter Jackson and his merry band of let’s-see-how-much-money-we-can-flog-out-of-this-dead- Hobbit!  Ah, well, we will always have The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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7 Responses to Review of the Hobbit Trilogy

  • Have to agree with the sentiment – it got boring watching more of the same in Lord of the Rings.
    But I have a nephew who is a real purist and he has been to see this second release three time already.
    But its not a bad thing sitting and watching the unrolling panorama of some of the spectacular scenery of Godzone 🙂 Just makes you wanna get here, don’t it? Even then, I suppose, the continued repetition of the same beauty can become boring – after all, its not REAL heaven, y’know – just looks like it. 🙂

  • Ah, well, we will always have The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

    As long as you’re aware that by putting Eomer’s words in Theoden’s mouth, Jackson et. al. completely subverted Tolkien’s intention for the Rohirrim at Pelennor, I guess.

    I’ll admit I get a thrill, nevertheless, every time I watch that particular scene.

    Maybe now we have a sense of how the Battle of the Hornburg would have played out had fear of the fans not given pause. Too bad Jackson lost it.

  • A slight correction Don. Central Illinois is God’s Country, Satan, of course, having staked a claim to Cook County. 🙂

  • The first of the “”Hobbit”” (double “s used deliberately) was so chock-full of emendations, edits, changes, shifts, additions, subtractions and tomfoolery that they should very much emphasize the “Based” on Tolkien’s novel, and add the term “Loosely” in front. I have been debating whether to see the second.

  • Husband’s review: nice movie, shame there’s no book for it.

    We do now know why they wanted Aragorn to be there, though– so he could fall for the Mary Sue.

    When you tell a movie maker to have a kid look at the movie, it’s supposed to be to find plotholes, not to help insert “romance” or write dialog.

  • Making There And Back Again, The Hobbit, just another version and theme of the Trilogy Lord of the Rings was a huge disappointment and unfortunately almost guarantees that a good version will never be made. Alas poor Bilbo, I knew him well.

  • There’s one place on the American map where being an Orc-at-heart is a “survival skill.” Driving on Massachusetts’ busiest and highways east of Worcester County is where you’ll find more Orcish creatures this side of New Zealand.

The Bishop’s Wife

Thursday, December 19, AD 2013

Continuing our look at Advent and Christmas movies:  The Bishop’s Wife from 1947.    David Niven is an Episcopalian Bishop of a struggling diocese;  Loretta Young (ironically one of the more devout Catholics in the Hollywood of her time) is his wife;  and Cary Grant is Dudley, one of the more unimportant angels in Heaven, sent by God to lend the Bishop a hand.  The film is a graceful comedy which effectively and quietly underlines the central importance of faith in God as we see in this little scene:

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15 Responses to The Bishop’s Wife

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  • A good movie, enjoyable, although I was a little creeped out by the angel’s attraction to the wife of the bishop. It’s not something that ruins the movie though. The movie also reaffirmed for me how prudent it is to have celibate clergy.

  • I don’t think Dudley was really attracted to the Bishop’s wife. He allowed her to be attracted to him as part of his mission to show the Bishop that his priorities were fouled up, which included him neglecting his wife and taking her for granted.

  • Andre,
    Christ is born! Let is glorify Him!
    I’ve not seen the movie, so I have no comment about the content. I did want to mention, however, that ordaining married men to the priesthood is a longstanding & legitimate tradition (small “t”) of the Eastern Catholic Churches. God bless —

  • Oops, that should say…”Let US glorify Him!” Sorry for the typo.

  • Well noted, Patricia. I didn’t mean to imply that it is imprudent for clergy to marry, but it created (at least in this movie) a whole other set of issues, a divided heart, as our Lord stated. I don’t know how some men manage both.

  • Donald, I agree that the angel let her be attracted to him. And truly any heavenly creature, exuding the love of God, even if they weren’t Cary Grant would be considered attractive certainly by the goodness and holiness they radiate. But this passage from the movie, perhaps you interpreted it differently than I. (There was some novel theology in this movie…)

    (From IMDB🙂
    Henry Brougham: Dudley, if we should need you again, will you come back?
    Dudley: Not I. I shall ask to be assigned to the other end of the Universe.
    Henry Brougham: Is that because I was so difficult?
    Dudley: Oh, no. This difficulty was in me. When an Immortal finds himself envying the Mortal he is entrusted to his care, it’s a danger signal. Take her in your arms and hold her tight.
    Dudley: Kiss her for me, you lucky Henry!

    Dudley envies the bishop for being married to this woman, so much that there is a “danger” that he needs to be “assigned at the other end of the universe”.

  • A good point Andre, unless the statements are also part of Dudley’s plan to make the Bishop realize what a treasure he has in his wife. It is interesting that all the females in the film, the maid, the Bishop’s secretary, the wealthy benefactress, in addition to the Bishop’s wife, are attracted to Dudley. The main emotion that is usually elicited when angels appear in the Old Testament is one of fear, unless they are in disguise. Then again, those angels were not portrayed by Cary Grant!

  • The author of Hebrews suggests we are higher than the angels in Christ, who is highest of all. I wonder if the angels envy us. We know the fallen ones did. Angels watch us. They have greater powers, but they quite significantly lack humanity.

  • Well, it’s light, heart-warming entertainment. I doubt that Hollywood screenwriters were ever your go-to people when it came to the finer points of theology 🙂

    I watched this movie about a week ago, and the suave, charming Cary Grant “angel” made me think of Clarence, the chubby, not-so-suave angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Clarence was hardly the smoothie Grant was, but he managed to earn his wings by keeping the Jimmy Stewart character from succumbing to despair and suicide.

    As enjoyable as Grant was to watch (and, being female, I have always greatly enjoyed watching and listening to Grant 🙂 bumbling old Clarence is still my favorite movie “angel.”

  • PS: I recently read an article about Grant, who was born poor and always joked that when he spoke his native dialect, he sounded like Eliza Doolittle before she met Professor Higgins.

    He was no angel in his personal life, but what struck me about him (and many of the stars and entertainers of that time) is how many of them, born in wretched circumstances, aspired to have “class” and sound educated and refined. That was the cultural ideal then. Quite different from today, when many from upper and middle class homes aim for trashy behavior. I was reading that Obama’s “pajama boy” is from the posh Chicago suburb of Willmette (I believe the garbage-mouthed mayor of Chicago hails from the same wealthy ‘burb). Pajama boy is quite proud of the fact he has “no morals.”

  • No, Hollywood never gets it right. And when it comes to the finer points, they’re completely off the mark. As inspiring as their stories often are, they usually entail implausable elements if viewed from an orthodox perspective. But I guess Hollywood has to sell a story that appeals to everyone, even when it revolves around Christian themes.

  • Jon, Re “The author of Hebrews suggests we are higher than the angels in Christ, who is highest of all. Angels watch us. They have greater powers, but they quite significantly lack humanity.”
    Several years ago our parish priest in a homily said that humans are higher than angels, which surprised me. With the Son of God being human and divine we have a connection that the angels do not. Thank you. I will read Hebrews.

  • To paraphrase a Cary Grant quote about his screen persona, “Everyone wants to be like Cary Grant, even I want to be that Cary Grant.”
    Re Donna’s comment on middle to upper class (I would use “income” vice class”)households: I have seen this so often in teens from comfortable suburban homes who talk, dress, and act like they are from the ghetto. Of course they don’t have a clue how hard life is in those real circumstances, but they sure get attention from their parents. It’s some attention even if it’s negative.

  • Cherished this movie the first time I ever saw it on TV late one night as a young man. Very eclectic cast. It addresses personal loss (Mrs. Hamilton) and family and the Great Gift.

Brother Orchid

Tuesday, December 17, AD 2013

Brother Superior: When the heart speaks, Brother Orchid, other hearts must listen.

Brother Orchid (1940)

Interested in seeing a screwball-comedy-film noir gangster-western-religious flick?  I am always on the lookout for oddball films for Advent and they don’t come odder, or more heart warming, than Brother Orchid (1940).  Starring Edward G. Robinson with a fantastic supporting cast including Humphrey Bogart, Ann Southern, Ralph Bellamy and Donald Crisp, it is a trip back to the Golden Age of Hollywood when literate, thoughtful films were considered mass entertainment.  It also is a fine exponent of a facet of the human condition that is not much commented upon today:  the seductive power of goodness.  A review of the film is below with the usual caveat as to spoilers.

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7 Responses to Brother Orchid

A Review of Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners

Friday, November 1, AD 2013

 Christians in the Movies


As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a film buff.  I therefore was pleased when Dr. Peter Dans, a friend of mine and commenter on the blog, brought to my attention his book Christians in the Movies:  A Century of Saints and Sinners.  Peter is a medical doctor and a former professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins.  Go here to learn about his professional activities.  He is also a faithful Catholic, a skilled writer and an all around good guy.  However, I am here to review the book and not to review the author!

Published in 2011 by Sheed & Ward, the book is a fairly comprehensive look at how film has portrayed Christians and Christianity from 1905-2008.  The book proceeds chronologically with chapters devoted to films of the silent era, films of the forties, etc.  The chapters open with a general overview of the film period being discussed and then a look at selected films.  The films are not limited to those self-consciously religious, but also those in which religion is a major plot element.  Thus the Oscar winning film Sergeant York (1941) is included because of its examination of the religious conflict that World War I hero Alvin C. York had to resolve before he could in good conscious fight for his country.  Dr. Dans also looks at the impact of the films examined, for example in regard to Sergeant York he mentions that the film was denounced by the isolationist Senator Nye as propaganda to get America into World War II.  Some of the facts that the author discusses were news to me.  For example I have watched the film Song of Bernadette (1943) about Bernadette Soubirous and Lourdes but I was unaware that it was based on a book written by Franz Werfel, a Jew, who made a vow to write a book about Bernadette  when he and wife were hidden from the Gestapo by nuns and families at Lourdes.  In regard to Going My Way, 1944, Dr. Dans reveals that Pope Pius XII was so taken by the film that he granted a private audience to Bing Cosby and credited the film with helping to spur priestly vocations.  I like it when a book gives me information that I was unaware of, and this book accomplished that task.

The book is not limited to films that have become well known.  For example there is a section devoted to one of my favorite westerns, Stars in My Crown, 1950, in which Joel McCrea portrays a Union veteran who becomes a Protestant minister and his travails as he brings religion to a town and fights the Ku Klux Klan.

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14 Responses to A Review of Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners

  • Off topic, for which I apologize.

    Cancer screenings in our household today. Much obliged for any prayers.

  • Prayers on the way Art. My secretary of 28 years had a bout with breast cancer this year. She is doing well now but it was quite a struggle.

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  • Behold Wiki’s rather antiseptic rendering of Werfel’s experience at Lourdes:

    “Werfel left Austria after the Anschluss in 1938 and went to France. After the German invasion and occupation of France during World War II, and the deportation of French Jews to the Nazi concentration camps, Werfel had to flee again. With the assistance of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee in Marseille, he and his wife narrowly escaped the Nazi regime and traveled to the United States.[1] While in France, Werfel made a visit to the shrine of the Our Lady of Lourdes at Lourdes, where he found spiritual solace. He also received much help and kindness from the Catholic orders that staffed the shrine.[1] He vowed to write about the experience and, safe in America, he published The Song of Bernadette in 1941.”

    Prayers on the way, Art.

  • Art,

    May the divine assistance be always with you. You are on my list for daily prayers.

    On topic: In honor of All Saints, I will dig up and play our copy of the DVD of “The Boondock Saints.”

  • This was an enjoyable and thoughtful review, and I’m now interested in picking up a copy of the book. My only question is: how could you leave out any discussion of “A Man For All Seasons” (1966)? –I do hope it’s in the book!

  • It was in there. I have had many posts on A Man For All Seasons and Saint Thomas More on this blog and I did not want to get started on a subject that might well have dominated the review!

  • I think you’re being a little hard on “The Last Temptation of Christ.” I know it was savaged by evangelicals because of the idea that Jesus had doubts and was shown as a man with human frailties.

    I also considered it to be a prodigal son kind of story.
    Spoilers ahead.

    What I like about the story is that the most tempting thing the devil could offer was the life that we all have. To be a normal man, with a job and a family and not have the salvation of mankind on your back. More tempting than bread to a starving man and more tempting than all the power in the world.
    Kind of means we are already beating the devil.

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  • Excellent review. I will make a point of getting hold of a copy.

    Regarding “The Last Temptation of Christ”:





    I am very far from a wholehearted admirer of the late Fr. Greeley but I wholeheartedly agree with him here.

    Regarding “The Passion of the Christ”. I consider any work inspired by “The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich” (by Clemens Brentano) to be at least as problematic as “The Last Temptation”.

  • Art Deco.

    You and yours are in my prayers.

  • I remember the controversy over “Last Temptation”. I never saw it in the theater but my husband got me to watch it on video years later. His favorite part of the movie was… the soundtrack by Peter Gabriel!

    (Spoiler alert)

    The most problematic part of the film for me was NOT the one that was the focus of the most public outrage — the dream/vision sequence in which Jesus imagines being married to Mary Magdalene, with all that goes with it, if you know what I mean. That was clearly NOT presented as something Jesus actually did but as a “what if” dangled before Him by the devil.

    No, the most offensive aspect for me was the depiction of Jesus as making crosses for the Romans and as willingly taking part in crucifixions — because this was a depiction of Him as actually committing grave sin in an attempt to get God the Father “off his back,” so to speak. That, and Harvey Keitel portraying Judas with a definite Brooklyn Jewish accent (ok, that wasn’t so much offensive as just laugh out loud hilarious).

    Although the film overall is a tedious waste of time, I do have to give it props for portraying the actual crucifixion in a much more realistic, blood ‘n’ guts manner than most films up to that time had done. However “Passion of the Christ” now far surpasses it in this regard.

  • Elaine Krewer wrote:

    “No, the most offensive aspect for me…”

    Wholeheartedly agree. Although I suppose even this could be spun as an extreme form of “rendering unto Caesar”…? It has been many years since i last watched the film.And yes it is very tedious.

  • “…I do have to give it props for portraying the actual crucifixion in a much more realistic, blood ‘n’ guts manner…”

    The most terrible and beautiful crucifixion scene is in “Ben Hur”. Our Lord hanging dead on the cross is fleetingly illuminated by lightning flashes and then, again fleetingly, reflected in a bloody pool of rainwater. Reminiscent of Dali’s”Christ of Saint John of the Cross”. Stunning…

Twelve O’Clock High

Saturday, September 28, AD 2013

Something for the weekend.  The score from the movie Twelve O’clock High (1949).  A film shorn of any Hollywood glamor or heroics, it tells the story of the fictional 918th bomb group as it pioneers daylight precision bombing in the early days of the Eighth Air Force in England and suffers harrowing losses as a result.  Veterans of the Eighth Air Force applauded the film for its stark realism and its demonstration of the impact of war on the men called upon to fight it.  Anyone who has not seen this masterpiece should do so as quickly as possible.

Here is the opening of the film:

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3 Responses to Twelve O’Clock High

Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?

Saturday, August 24, AD 2013

Something for the weekend.  Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott by the Statler Brothers.  A 1974 lament of how tawdry the movies had become, it fastened on Randolph Scott, king of B-movie westerns, as an icon for a better day when kids could be taken to the movies without parents being concerned about what they would be exposed to.  I heard this song endlessly when it came out,  my parents’ radio blaring it most mornings in the kitchen in 74 in the hour before I and my brother got up to prepare for yet another day in high school.

Scott was born as far from the West as it was possible to be in Virginia and raised in North Carolina.  His family had money so he was educated in private schools.  During World War I he served as an artillery observer in France, a highly dangerous post.  (After Pearl Harbor, the 43 year old Scott attempted to enlist as a Marine, but was rejected due to his bad back.)

After his service in World War I, he worked for a time with his father in the textile industry in North Carolina.  In 1927 he moved to California to embark on an acting career with a letter of introduction from his father to Howard Hughes.  The next few years saw him develop his acting skills with bit parts and small roles.  In 1931 he had his first leading role in the film Women Men Marry. In the film Heritage of the Desert (1932) Scott played his first leading role in a Western, the first of ten films he would make based on Zane Grey novels.

Until the conclusion of World War II, Scott starred in a variety of film genres, but after the War he concentrated solely on Westerns.  Scott was a modest man and always underestimated his considerable skill as an actor.  He was comfortable in Westerns and decided to stick with them.  It was an inspired choice.  As he aged his handsome features took on a weathered, stoic look, and helped make him a Western icon.

Scott did not financially need to make films after the War.  Shrewd land purchases in California helped make him a multi-millionaire, and he increasingly looked upon his acting as a hobby.   By 1962 he was ready to retire, but he was convinced to make one last Western with his friend Joel McCrea.  McCrea and Scott had much in common:  both had become very wealthy through land purchases and neither needed to work in film, post World War II McCrea had gravitated to B Westerns, and both he and Scott were staunch Republicans.

The film that they made in 1962 is now regarded as a classic.   Ride the High Country was the second film to be directed by Sam Pekinpah.  It tells the tale of two former Old West lawmen who have fallen on hard times.  Steve Judd, Joel McCrea, has been hired by a bank in the early years of the last century to bring back 20,000 in gold from a mining camp.  Judd is elated because this is the first lawman like job that he has had in a very long time.  He runs into his old friend Gil Westrum, Randolph Scott, who is making a meager living running a shooting gallery in a circus.   Judd invites Westrum and his young friend Heck Longtree, Ron Starr, to join him in the job.  They agree, Westrum and Longtree planning to steal the gold.  As the film proceeds it becomes obvious that Judd still holds to the same code of honor and honesty that he upheld as a law man.  Westrum does not, having grown bitter with age and viewing the gold as his reward for his courage as a lawman, a courage that was not rewarded monetarily and has left him facing a hard scrabble old age.  Ultimately Judd realizes what Westrum is up to and disarms both him and Longtree, planning to put them on trial for attempted robbery.   The plot is complicated by Elsa Knudsen, Mariette Hartley in her screen debut, who the trio rescue from a miner she has just married who plans to have her serve not only as his bride but also as the “bride” of his four brothers.  Longtree grows to admire Judd for his courage and stubborn honesty while Westrum escapes, only to ride to the rescue at the end of the film to help Judd.

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7 Responses to Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?

  • Great article. I was born in 1961, was seven years old to experience the cultural Marxist anarchy of Chicago 1968 Dem convention, Black riots etc. I never knew the safe, wholesome world of Randolph Scott, except through old movies, old songs, kind of….

    Gone with the wind

    I’m back in my Chicago SS University neighborhood, Obama and Bill Ayers are neighbors. Jessie Jackson and his Operation PUSH (people united to save humanity) are close. Most things never change here, it’s still 1968 and Jessie Jackson never worked a real job. His son was my US Congressman, but he is now in jail for using campaign funds to buy personal luxury items like a mink cape.

    I tried to work with traditional , good Catholics, but it’s getting very tough. Chicago still has a few good, traditional Catholic high schools, but Church leadership seems to be going Liberation Theology, gay this and that. Also, Catholic Church is now pushing heavily for another mass amnesty of 11-20 million illegal aliens.

    Internet is full of bad rumors that the current Pope is working to flood Europe with millions of poor Black and Arab Muslims.

    Anybody, got any good Catholic news, not just nostalgia for Statler Brothers and Randolph Scott?

    I write at Occidentaldissent.com – it’s a Southern traditionalist sight, and folks are honestly talking about secession II as Washington, Hollywood, Harverd/Yale, the Supreme Court and sadly all Christian denominations including the Catholic Church can not be saved, or reformed.

    There is also an Independence movement growing in the Pacific Northwest. Please stop by and share your ideas.


    We live in dark times, but interesting times.

    Keep the faith for our people, civilization.

    Jack Ryan
    Occidental Dissent
    [email protected]

  • Brilliant! I was 37 when that song came out and was not an aficionado of country music so I missed it. I’ll add it to my favorites I am a big fan of Ride the High Country and appreciated your recap. The closing with the clip from Blazing Saddles was inspired.
    I would however disagree about whether it’s the best Joel McCrea performance. Also up there are Foreign Correspondent, The More the Merrier, Sullivan’s Travels, Palm Beach Story and a personal favorite which I ran across in writing my book on Doctors in the Movies with the wonderful title Internes Can’t Take Money. It was the first Doctor Kildare Movie.
    I also liked an offbeat,albeit lesser movie that I came across in writing Christians in the Movies, Stars in My Crown.
    McCrea married Farnces Dee in 1933, a marriage that lasted till his death in 1990. He shunned the Hollywood lifestyle and always retired to his ranch between films. All in All, an impressive life.
    Thanks for this. It made my weekend.

  • Thank you Pete. Sullivan’s Travels is a first rate movie and I highly recommend it:

  • I love Randolph Scott; and Ride the High Country deserves the accolades.

    But, I much prefer Seven Men From Now. De gustibus non disputatem est.

  • Don’t you know it’s illegal to make clean, moral films. Everything has to be for degenerates or small children. The leftist rating system makes sure of that.

  • Pingback: Randolph Scott vs. John Wayne | The American Catholic
  • Great tribute, Donald. With older films and shows (esp. from 50s and early 60s) I can watch 80-90% of them w/o worrying about what my kids see. Now the ratio is inverted. We own some of the Scott movies, but still have plenty more to see, apparently! I see that the “infamous” Warren Oates is the lead bad guy here. Well known from many TV westerns. If you want the same entertainment in smaller doses, get hold of Gunsmoke, Wanted: Dead or Alive, and The Rifleman. They are never boring, often nuanced but never ambiguous and full of outrageously traditional, two-fisted, blazing barrel moral and political lessons.