Zulu!

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.
    [Coming]
    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”:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/14/movies/blasphemy-or-artistry.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/04/movies/l-second-thoughts-on-last-temptation-011488.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/04/movies/l-second-thoughts-on-last-temptation-013788.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/04/movies/l-second-thoughts-on-last-temptation-377488.html

    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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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.

    http://Www.occidentaldissent.com
    http://Www.northwestfront.org

    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.

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  • 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.

The Caine Mutiny: A Review

Friday, August 16, AD 2013

(I originally posted this in 2009 when the blog readership was much smaller.  The Caine Mutiny has always been one of my favorite films and I am taking the excuse of my vacation from the blog to repost this review.)

For my sins, perhaps, I have spent my career as an attorney.  Over the past 31 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.

What I admire most about the film is the realistic way that the defense is depicted.  A legal case consists of the facts, the law and people.

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3 Responses to The Caine Mutiny: A Review

  • Would not the crew also be charged with mutiny?

    Here s the best navy movie speech I ever heard.

    “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 llves. 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.”

    From the movie, “The Sand Pebbles”, CO Collins addressing the crew.

    Never could sit through that movie.

    PS: I found this US Navy ship with a near-mutiny. True events that came close to “The Caine Mutiny” occurred aboard Vance, a destroyer sent to Vietnam in December 1965. Captain Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter, was alleged by his crew to have instituted a program of inspections, etiquette lectures, and mandatory religious services led by himself; kept a hoard of liquor; and allegedly ordered one officer to act like a “pompom girl.” Arnheiter supposedly told subordinates to falsify reports, shelled a Buddhist pagoda and nearly grounded the ship while shouting at ricochets from the ship’s guns, junior officers passed word to HQ and the captain was relieved of command. He accused his offficers of mutiny, but a naval hearing upheld his removal and no mutiny charges were filed.

  • The war at sea produced three noteworthy novels; Monsarrat’s ‘The Cruel Sea’ (1951), Wouk’s ‘The Caine Mutiny’ (1952), and Buchheim’s ‘Das Boot’ (1973). Of the three, I rate Wouk’s book the highest.

  • I watched the movie years ago. What I remember the most is that Queeg was mentally unbalanced. I cannot imagine the despair of fighting men who are serving in war under a commanding officer who has gone nuts.

    Ferrer’s performance was nothing short of awesome. McMurray’s character really was a skunk.

Saving Lincoln: A Review

Wednesday, July 10, AD 2013

 

In the past year three films on President Lincoln have been released:  the truly odious Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, the superb Lincoln and now the low budget, funded by Kickstarter, Saving Lincoln.  I am pleased to report that I think Saving Lincoln is much closer in quality to Lincoln than Vampire Hunter.  The film has an intriguing take on Mr. Lincoln and I was both amused and moved by it.  My full review is below.  The usual caveat regarding spoilers ahead is given.

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Top Ten Patriotic Movies for the Fourth

Wednesday, July 3, AD 2013

(This post originally ran in 2010.  The movies listed would make excellent viewing tomorrow and any day.)

 

 

Last year I listed here my top ten picks for movies about the America Revolution for the Fourth.  This year here is my list of patriotic movies for the Fourth.

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.    The Alamo (1960)-“The Republic” scene from The Alamo, a film which was basically John Wayne’s love note to America.

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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Fortnight For Freedom: Top Ten Movies For The Fourth of July

Monday, July 1, AD 2013

 

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

 The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

 

 

This is a repeat from a post last year, with some 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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Report From the Aleutians

Thursday, June 13, AD 2013

If there is a forgotten theater where American troops fought in World War II, it is most definitely the Aleutians.  The Japanese took Attu and Kiska, islands in the Aleutian chain,  in June of 1942, to forestall the Aleutians being used as a base for a move on the Japanese Home Islands from the Aleutians.  Due to the rugged weather conditions, the US had never seriously entertained using the Aleutians as a staging area for future offensives.  However, Attu and Kiska were American territory, and national pride, as well as alarm from the Alaskan territorial government, made inevitable an American campaign to take back the strategically worthless islands.

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2 Responses to Report From the Aleutians

  • The film mentions that Attu and Kiska were uninhabited. This is incorrect.

    Technically Kiska was, for the only people there were the members of a U.S. Navy meteorological station. Attu, on the other hand, had about 880 residents. The Alaskan government had imposed a mandatory evacuation before the Japanese arrived, but 47 residents were still present on the day of the invasion, and 42 survived the summary executions that day. These 42 were taken to a camp in Japan, and only 26 survived to the end of the war.

    It is a real shame that we forget the suffering of these Americans, and that of the U.S. citizens of Guam. These were the two places where Americans directly faced the enemy in World War Two in their homes. Other atrocities happened in the massacre of the U.S. contractors and Marines on Wake and of course in the Philippines. We should always remember.

  • My wife’s late grandfather, Elmer Pulaski, was in the Navy during WWII and was in the Aleutians. Didn’t like talking about it.

Screen Pilates: Stephen Russell

Thursday, March 28, AD 2013

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas and Frank Thring may be read here, here, here, here  here and here.

Stephen Russell portrays Pilate in The Gospel of John (2003) which is a straight forward no frills presentation of the Gospel of John.  As in the Gospel of John Pilate is shown in the film as first curious about Jesus and then sympathetic to Jesus.  He attempts to save Jesus by giving the mob a choice between Jesus and the bandit Barabbas.  When that fails he presents Jesus after He has been beaten and utters the phrase Ecce Homo, Behold the Man.

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5 Responses to Screen Pilates: Stephen Russell

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  • I would like to place a challenge to you — analyse the portrayal of the Procurator in the TV adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita.” It’s quite different from the Gospel standard, but well known to Russians, as it’s arguably the greatest Russian-language novel of the 20th Century. The Pilate in Vladimir Bortko’s Rossiya TV version was Kirill Lavrov, a top Russian actor (the entire cast was “A-list” of Russian TV and movie actors) A complete playlist of the TV version starts at this link, and Pilate’s first appearance in this version is at this link. It has English subtitles, and the text of those titles was cribbed from one of the leading English translations of the work.

    Anyway, it’s a unique portrayal of Pilate. Take a look at it. What do you think?

  • I read the novel the Master and Margarita when it was first translated into English. Magical Realism Russian style! A beautiful satire on Stalinist Russia, a la a combination of Faust, The Grand Inquisitor with some Thirties Slapstick tossed in. I hadn’t seen the film version before and the interplay between Christ and Pilate is interesting although it has nothing to do with the Gospels. Pilate plays the role of the Grand Inquisitor in an homage to that great section from The Brothers Karamazov. The world weariness and the cynicism I suspect is probably an accurate reflection of the historical Pilate. Mr. Lavrov did a fine job, and it is a pity that I haven’t had the time to explore Russian cinema much beyond the forties.

  • Stephen Russell’s Pilate shows reasonable wonder, and fear, accurate to the gospel account. (Now where’d the evangelists get inside info? Hard to believe a Roman governor wearing his emotions on his tunic sleeve.) This Pilate does feel very much like “us,” more so, imo, than the sneering, haughty, noxious versions. Thankfully most of “us” don’t have to worry about our families being slaughtered if we tick off our employer.

  • Thanks for sharing this information and video too.

Red Badge of Courage

Wednesday, March 20, AD 2013

He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man.

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

I recently was watching The Red Badge of Courage, (1951) and I was struck yet again by what a forgotten masterpiece it is.  Filmed in stark black and white, the film has almost a documentary feel to it, as if a World War II era newsreel camera had magically transplanted itself to the Civil War.  The combat scenes are highly realistic depictions of Civil War combat, and the actors speak and act like Civil War soldiers and not like 1951 actors dressed up in Civil War costumes.

As one critic said at the time, watching the film is like watching a Matthew Brady photograph of the Civil War come to life.

It was a stroke of genius for director John Huston to have as star of his film Audie Murphy, as the youth who, in Stephen Crane’s unforgettable novel, has his first taste of combat in the Civil War.  Murphy looked like a typical Hollywood “pretty boy” but he was anything but.  From a family of 12 in Texas, Murphy had dropped out of school in the fifth grade to support his family after his father ran off.    His mother died in 1941.  In 1942 he enlisted in the Army at 16, lying about his birthday, partially to support his family and partially because he dreamed of a military career.  By the end of the war, before his 19th birthday, he was a second lieutenant and had earned in hellish combat a Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit, a French Legion of Honor, a French Croix de Guerre, a Belgian Croix de Guerre, two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts.  He was the most decorated soldier of the US Army in World War 2.

Murphy’s co-star in the film was also an Army combat veteran, Bill Mauldin, the famed cartoonist who drew the Willie and Joe cartoons in Stars and Stripes, the Army newspaper, during World War II.

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Films While Waiting for the White Smoke

Sunday, March 3, AD 2013

This is a joint post with commenter Dr. Peter Dans.  Pete has written a fine book which I will be reviewing, Christians in the Movies, A Century of Saints and Sinners, and he has given suggestions about films to watch while we are waiting to shout Habemus Papam.  Here are the films in Chronological order of the Pope depicted:

1.  Quo Vadis (1951)-The historical spectacle film to end historical spectacle films, it brings to the screen the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz of the persecution of Christians under Nero.  The film is a great work of Art with inspired performances by Peter Ustinov as Nero, Robert Taylor as the tough Roman legate Marcus Vinicius who finds himself, very much against his will, becoming a Christian from his love of the Christian Lygia, portrayed by Deborah Kerr, and Leo Genn, as Petronius, the uncle of Vinicius and Nero’s “arbiter of taste”, who wounds Nero to the core with the following suicide note:

To Nero, Emperor of Rome, Master of the World, Divine Pontiff. I know that my death will be a disappointment to you, since you wished to render me this service yourself. To be born in your reign is a miscalculation; but to die in it is a joy. I can forgive you for murdering your wife and your mother, for burning our beloved Rome, for befouling our fair country with the stench of your crimes. But one thing I cannot forgive – the boredom of having to listen to your verses, your second-rate songs, your mediocre performances. Adhere to your special gifts, Nero – murder and arson, betrayal and terror. Mutilate your subjects if you must; but with my last breath I beg you – do not mutilate the arts. Fare well, but compose no more music. Brutalize the people, but do not bore them, as you have bored to death your friend, the late Gaius Petronius.

Peter in the movie is portrayed by Finlay Currie.  Here is the classic scene from the film that depicts Peter informed by Christ that He is going to Rome to be crucified a second time:

In the film he goes to the arena where the Christians are being murdered for the amusement of the crowds and cries out, “Here where Nero rules today, Christ shall rule forever!”  The film movingly depicts Peter’s martyrdom, crucified upside down since he had stated that he was not worthy to have the same death as Christ.

2.  Sign of the Pagan (1954) -Jack Palance, a great actor who was consistently underrated throughout his career, portrays Attila the Hun. Here we have depicted the meeting between Attila and Pope Leo the Great, portrayed by Leo Moroni, which convinces Attila to spare Rome.

3.  Becket (1964)-A masterful, albeit heavily fictionalized retelling of the life of the “holy, blessed, martyr”.  Here we have Archbishop Becket, Richard Burton,  in exile having an interview with Pope Alexander III, Paolo Stoppa:

4.  Francis of Assisi (1961)-A film biography of Saint Francis, ably acted by Bradford Dillman.  Go here to see the depiction of the interview between Saint Francis and Pope Innocent III,  the role assayed by Finlay Currie who was Peter in Quo Vadis.   Dolores Hart had the role of Saint Clare in the film.  She went on to become a nun.  Pete has some information in regard to that:

It has the extra added attraction of an interesting  backstory involving Dolores Hart, the actress who played Clare and  later became a nun.  She is now the Prioress of Regina Laudis Abbey  which itself has an interesting backstory connecting back to the 1949  film Come to the Stable.

By the way, I sent her a copy of the book and she sent me a  delightful note in 2009 saying that the documentation of the abbey’s  founding and her journey was “absolutely on target” and that it made her  want to read the whole book. Then she added “Said like a real actress.”  I  was especially touched when she said that she would keep me in her “heart and  prayers.”  I’m sure that has been a big help to me along the  way.

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7 Responses to Films While Waiting for the White Smoke

  • Thanks for finding that Leo and Attila scene; I didn’t know anything about it!

    May I commend you, also, for including Anno Domini in your dates; but will you forgive me if I suggest you put Anno Domini first? If you think about it in English, “In the year of our Lord 2013” makes more sense than “2013 in the year of our Lord.”

    Best wishes!

  • The amusing bit is that Msgr. O’Flaherty is basically “that Resistance guy that all the other Resistance guys were afraid to let in their group,” because he was so flamboyant. So the total for his group was pretty good, but the main smuggling groups (pretty much every parish and convent, coordinated by the Pope and select members of the Curia) smuggled out and hid tons more. O’Flaherty ended up being cover for everybody else, because everything got blamed on him!

    But it’s actually a good idea for not all Resistance groups to be coordinated, because if somebody important gets captured, not all the groups will be set in disarray or rolled up by the enemy.

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  • Wow! This is a very good list. Thank you for sharing this. My personal favorite is “Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II”. It was very inspiring and I also picked up a lot of life lessons in it.

  • Another goo portrayal of John XXIII is The Good Pope:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_inqIAnUGdk

    It has a much different (and more accurate?) version of the rescue of Jewish children in Turkey from the one in A Man Whose Name Was John.

  • “A Man for all Seasons”. I don’t think it depicts a Pope, but the story of St. Thomas More is relevant now. Just any excuse to tell people to watch “AMfaS”.

  • It would be in the top five of my favorite movies Claire, and if it had an appearance by a pope it would have made this list a round ten. My favorite scene:

    http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/279160/Man-For-All-Seasons-A-Movie-Clip-Pray-By-All-Means-.html

Theme From Lawrence of Arabia

Saturday, February 16, AD 2013

Something for the weekend.  In the middle of winter it is no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that I have chosen for our musical selection the theme song from Lawrence of Arabia (1962).  One of the last great historical epics, the film tells the tale of Colonel T.E. Lawrence’s involvement in the Arab uprising.  It is largely historically inaccurate, although a magnificent story.  One reason for the historical inaccuracy, other than the usual transmogrification of history in the hands of filmmakers, is that it relied too heavily on Lawrence’s war memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  Lawrence was a brilliant writer and a talented leader of guerrilla forces, but he never let a little thing like truth stand in the way of a good yarn. 

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18 Responses to Theme From Lawrence of Arabia

  • Colonel T. E. Lawrence died in a car crash when his brakes failed two years after his return to England.

  • He died in 1935 when he was riding a motorcyle and swerved to avoid two boys riding bicycles. He lost control, crashed and died six days later from his injuries.

  • When (May 1935) he died, he was serving, under an assumed name (T. E. Shaw), as an aircraftman (enlisted man) in the RAF.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/1935/may/19/fromthearchive

  • He had actually left the RAF two months prior to his death.

  • Ah, the Arab Revolt and the subsequent screw-job. But no, all Arabs/Muslims hate the West because they hate freedom.

  • Meh, that was off-topic and deliberately provocative (not necessarily “compelling” but liable to provoke something). Delete it if you’d like.

  • Arab nationalism, such as it is, has never had much to do with Democracy. The dynasty founded by Faisal ended with his grandson Faisal II being murdered in the July 14, 1958 rebellion in Iraq. The House of Saud of course ousted the Hashemites from what became known as Saudi Arabia. The Hashemites, miraculously, still rule in Jordan. The brief period of Western rule that some parts of the Arab world experienced, after centuries of domination by the Turks, is routinely used in the Arab world as an excuse for Arab cultural pathologies and the inability of the Arabs to produce stable democratic regimes. It has as much historical validity as Hitler blaming the problems of Germany on the Jews.

  • Donald,

    I think Arabs/Muslims are wary of democracy as it is articulated in the modern West because it has become, unfortunately, conflated with liberalism of the Enlightenment variety. Muslims, much like the Church, are skeptical of modernity, and I think they have good reason to be. Rejecting democracy is (mistakenly) perceived as necessary in the rejection of liberalism and modernity, forces that will invariably lead to the destruction of traditional values and cultural norms, as they most certainly have in our country and in the West (world?) at large. The Arab would is hampered by the belief that accepting democracy means becoming like America– but indeed, they can hardly be blamed. The conflation of these terms is pretty pervasive. I think the world would be wise to remember that the originators of democracy were anything but liberals and anything but modern.

    I don’t necessarily think Sykes-Picot, the TPAJAX Project, and ongoing Western economic and cultural penetration are necessarily legitimate reasons as to why democracy hasn’t worked in the Middle East, but they are certainly are a basis for understanding why many in the Arab world have much resentment for the West. It’s obvious that Qutb was an extremist and a radical, and his prescriptions are certainly detestable, but it’s also clear that his critique of American culture was in many ways legitimate, as was his fear of the exportation of such values.

  • and I realize Iran=/=Arab. Arabs still frequently cite the Mossadeq coup as an example of Western meddling in the Middle East.

  • “I think Arabs/Muslims are wary of democracy as it is articulated in the modern West because it has become, unfortunately, conflated with liberalism of the Enlightenment variety.”

    I doubt if that argument has any currency outside of a small group of Arab intellectuals, considering the popularity of variants of fascism, communism, socialism and other authoritarian isms throughout the Arab world. Arab nationalism itself is a hot house import from the Enlightenment. I rather suspect that Arab antipathy to democracy has far more to do with the Arab world having almost no experience with the concept of a loyal opposition. As was said about the Tsars could be said about most Arab polities throughout history: despotism tempered by assassination. As for resentment of the West, it is as I indicated a handy excuse, and we are of course infidels in their eyes. The Arabs have dealt poorly with modernity, and seem to specialize in copying our vices and ignoring our virtues. Crashing demographics throughout the Arab world will give the Arabs yet another challenge they are ill-adapted to deal with.

  • Hi Donald,

    “As for resentment of the West, it is as I indicated a handy excuse, and we are of course infidels in their eyes.”

    I am not sure what you’re saying here. Are you literally saying that Western engagements in the ME, be they economic, military, cultural, or political, and the negative consequences they have induced have played NO role in the radicalization of Islam over the past century, and are simply “excuses?”

    Most Muslims consider us infidels in the same way that Catholics consider Protestants to be heretics–with indifference.

    “The Arabs have dealt poorly with modernity,”

    As certainly have we, but in a different way and, perhaps, to a worse extent. Let’s not forget what country murders 1.2 of its most innocent civilians a year, is on the brink of eliminating religion from the public square, and is the pornography capital of the world.

  • “I am not sure what you’re saying here. Are you literally saying that Western engagements in the ME, be they economic, military, cultural, or political, and the negative consequences they have induced have played NO role in the radicalization of Islam over the past century, and are simply “excuses?””

    The Arabs have hated the West since the time of Mohammed. They would hate the West if there had been no involvement by the West in the Middle East. A good example of what I am talking about is the Crusades, something that now bulks large in the Arab grievance list, but was largely forgotten in the Arab world until it became a handy stick to raise against Westerners. Bernard Lewis in his many tomes is quite convincing on the use by Arab leaders of the West as a convenient scapegoat for failures of the states they run. The Arabs only need to look in the mirror to find the cause of most of their problems, but such an examination is far harder than blaming the West and the Jews.

    “Most Muslims consider us infidels in the same way that Catholics consider Protestants to be heretics–with indifference.”

    If that were only true, or perhaps I have missed Catholic mobs howling for the blood of Protestants?

    “As certainly have we, but in a different way and, perhaps, to a worse extent. Let’s not forget what country murders 1.2 of its most innocent civilians a year, is on the brink of eliminating religion from the public square, and is the pornography capital of the world.”

    One will never confuse the West with Utopia, although we possess the freedom to critique our societies and to take political action to correct evils. Would that one could say the same about the despotisms that largely make up the Arab world. In regard to modernity one has only to examine the grinding poverty of most Arab states, along with their backwardness in regard to science and industry, not to mention their appalling records on human rights, and the fact that they almost always have hostile relations with any non-Arab states luckless enough to share a border with them, to see that the Arab world and modernity are not even on speaking terms.

  • “The Arabs have hated the West since the time of Mohammed. They would hate the West if there had been no involvement by the West in the Middle East.”

    You are either ignoring my question or I did not ask it properly. Hating someone in a detached and abstract way is one thing, but devoting your life to killing someone you hate is something entirely different. Do you deny that Western meddling in the Middle East has played a more than insignificant role in the radicalization and mobilization of Islamic terrorists? If you do, then how do you explain the fact that these types of groups (completely and utterly distinct from imperialistic or militaristic ventures) were practically non-existent prior to the past century?

    “If that were only true, or perhaps I have missed Catholic mobs howling for the blood of Protestants?”

    Oh, we’ve certainly had our fair share of that over the years. If anything, the fact that we don’t in a world of fallen men is perhaps a testament to the fact that religion isn’t taken seriously in most Western countries. Certainly not something worth fighting over.

    And by saying “if that were only true,” are you actually challenging my assertion that most Muslims don’t hate the West in a way that manifests itself meaningfully? How many Muslims do you know, Donald? How many Muslim countries have you been to?

    “One will never confuse the West with Utopia, although we possess the freedom to critique our societies and to take political action to correct evils. Would that one could say the same about the despotisms that largely make up the Arab world. In regard to modernity one has only to examine the grinding poverty of most Arab states, along with their backwardness in regard to science and industry, not to mention their appalling records on human rights, and the fact that they almost always have hostile relations with any non-Arab states luckless enough to share a border with them, to see that the Arab world and modernity are not even on speaking terms.”

    I do not condone any number of Muslim customs and practices that I find oppressive and unjust. However, there’s something to be said for resisting the temptations of pleasure and wealth that modernity offers for the sake of preserving the integrity of tradition and religious observance. If only the West had had a similar approach to modernity.

  • Donald McClarey: I read or saw what I posted. After seeing Lawrence of Arabia a half century ago, I have carried this with me and am glad to be relieved of my misinformation. T. E. Lawrence was truly a greater man than I believed him to be, in avoiding the injury to other human beings.

  • “Do you deny that Western meddling in the Middle East has played a more than insignificant role in the radicalization and mobilization of Islamic terrorists? If you do, then how do you explain the fact that these types of groups (completely and utterly distinct from imperialistic or militaristic ventures) were practically non-existent prior to the past century?”

    Yes I do think Western involvement in the Middle East is fairly insignificant in regard to Arab hatred of Westerners. In the nineteenth century the Arabs were a subject people ruled mostly by the Turks, except for the Brits in Egypt. Scapegoating of the West, and the manipulation of traditional Arab hatred of the West, became useful to Arab elites once they were jockeying for political power. The Arab elites did learn from the West the utility of grievance politics, and they have become masters of it, not only with their populations but with gullible Westerners.

    “Oh, we’ve certainly had our fair share of that over the years.”

    Please try not to be deliberately obtuse. There is nothing in Catholic and Protestant relations today to come within shouting distance of the visceral hatred of Christians and Jews that is so easily mobilized throughout the Arab world.

    “are you actually challenging my assertion that most Muslims don’t hate the West in a way that manifests itself meaningfully?”
    Public opinion polls in those nations normally reveal a fairly broad animosity to the West. Political groups manifesting a hostility to the West normally do quite well in what passes for elections in that part of the world.

    “How many Muslims do you know, Donald? How many Muslim countries have you been to?”

    Five personal acquaintances and zero countries traveled to, although I keep pretty close tabs on developments throughout the Arab world and I have read a great deal of the history of the groups that make up the Arab states today.

    “However, there’s something to be said for resisting the temptations of pleasure and wealth that modernity offers for the sake of preserving the integrity of tradition and religious observance.”

    If that was what was going on in the Arab world you might have a point. However, the Arab world for generations has been the home of a particularly virulent and degrading form of pornography, pederasty has traditionally been common throughout the Middle East, the Islamic prohibition against alcohol is routinely violated, and where the Arabs have money they seem to be eager to copy the vices of the West.

  • “Yes I do think Western involvement in the Middle East is fairly insignificant in regard to Arab hatred of Westerners.”

    Donald, that wasn’t the question, and now I am honestly beginning to believe that you are avoiding it on purpose. I am not asking about the source of “hate,” I am specifically limiting this discussion to the emergence of such groups as Al-Qaeda, such figures as Sayyid Qutb and Osama bin Laden, and such tactics as terrorism and suicide bombings. I repeat: Do you deny that Western meddling in the Middle East has played a more than insignificant role in the radicalization and mobilization of Islamic terrorists? If you do, then how do you explain the fact that these types of groups (completely and utterly distinct from imperialistic or militaristic ventures) were practically non-existent prior to the past century?”

    “The Arab elites did learn from the West the utility of grievance politics, and they have become masters of it, not only with their populations but with gullible Westerners.”

    What a truly bizarre conflation you make! How have you gone from terrorist groups to Arab elites, as if they’re the same thing? I’m not even sure how to address this…

    “Please try not to be deliberately obtuse. There is nothing in Catholic and Protestant relations today to come within shouting distance of the visceral hatred of Christians and Jews that is so easily mobilized throughout the Arab world.”

    I said over the years, Donald. That implies over the course of time. You know, centuries of religious wars, the Troubles, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, etc.

    “Public opinion polls in those nations normally reveal a fairly broad animosity to the West. Political groups manifesting a hostility to the West normally do quite well in what passes for elections in that part of the world.”

    If you flipped those same questions and asked them of Americans about the Middle East you’d probably get similar percentages. I guess that means most Americans hate Middle Easterners. And last time I watched a GOP primary debate, mentioning your plans to drop bombs on any number of countries in that part of the world earned you a pretty raucous applause.

    Your last line was the best, considering several of the ME’s most ruthless dictators and suppressors of the political process were propped up unabashedly by the US, Mubarak in particular.

    “Five personal acquaintances and zero countries traveled to, although I keep pretty close tabs on developments throughout the Arab world and I have read a great deal of the history of the groups that make up the Arab states today.”

    I’m not holding it against you, but that’s a small sample size. Anecdotal evidence is somewhat overrated, but I will share mine. I have lived and traveled extensively in the Middle East. I never encountered any manifestation of hate, at least not the kind that would cause someone to lay down his life and blow me up (the most heated exchange occurred at a McDonalds when some Egyptian teens were egging me and my friends on as the US lost to Ghana in the 2010 World Cup). Aside from the tourist trap merchants that resort to all types of deception, my experience with Arabs was that they are a hospitable and kind bunch. In fact, the Syrians of Aleppo stuck out in my mind as particularly open and inviting.

    Donald, the fact is that people are people. I imagine that many Middle Easterners do talk hatefully of the West in their coffee shops and at their dinner tables, much as Americans do of the Muslim world and many of the comboxers of this site do about our president. However, I can also say that it is patently absurd to suggest that anything but a tiny fraction of these people are motivated by this animosity to do something like throw away their lives and crash a plane into a building.

    “If that was what was going on in the Arab world you might have a point. However, the Arab world for generations has been the home of a particularly virulent and degrading form of pornography, pederasty has traditionally been common throughout the Middle East, the Islamic prohibition against alcohol is routinely violated, and where the Arabs have money they seem to be eager to copy the vices of the West.”

    No, I think it accurately conveys exactly why the Middle East is doing its strange and sloppy two-step with modernity.

  • Much of the resentment of the Arabs as a civilisation is driven by their realisation that they cannot match the material achievements of the West. Other civilisations which encountered the West, the Indians, the Chinese do not harbour the same levels of resentment as they like the Japanese have been able to climb the ladder of material progress. It has little to do with the alledged spirituality of the East. Pacific Islanders do not care to challenge the West in the domain of material progress and may therefore lead a bucolic life, but for the Arab ideologues of the measure has always been military strength which requires a technical base, in which they’ve had no success for hundreds of years now. The Arabs should spend some time to reflect that had it not been for the advances in health and agriculture pioneered in the West and brought to them by the same empire buiilders and adventurers, with the best of intentions, perhaps half of us alive today would not be around. Having said this I have to say that Arabs I knew were invariably hospitable and courteous.

    Just like the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Travels in Arabia Deserta by Charles Doughty is a rousing read and is supposed to be a model for its writing.

  • “Much of the resentment of the Arabs as a civilisation is driven by their realisation that they cannot match the material achievements of the West. ”

    This is an interesting theory, but, again, it fails to address what I have been asking. Namely if Arabs have resented the West since the time of the Crusades, why have we only seen the type of radicalism by non-state actors, embodied by a group like AQ, over the past century? Continuing to rely on the simplistic slogan that they simply “hate us” is really disconnected from a pretty evident relationship of causes and effects.

    Furthermore, although I don’t know if you were attempting to apply your theory to the explanation of the motives of Islamist terrorists, the case is actually the opposite. These factions hate the west not because of any jealousy of our material might, but because they are resentful that Western materialism has been forced upon them. Sayyid Qutb is considered by many to be the inspiration of AQ and his thoughts are a clear indication of this. In particular, an extended trip to the US in the 50’s shaped his views on the decadence of Western culture, and gave rise to the notion that Islamists should not only attack “the near enemy” (faux-Islamic governments in the ME), but the “far enemy” as well.

    “Should I travel to America, and become flimsy, and ordinary, like those who are satisfied with idle talk and sleep. Or should I distinguish myself with values and spirit. Is there other than Islam that I should be steadfast to in its character and hold on to its instructions, in this life amidst deviant chaos, and the endless means of satisfying animalistic desires, pleasures, and awful sins? I wanted to be the latter man.”

    “The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs—and she shows all this and does not hide it.”

    “Qutb concluded that major aspects of American life were primitive and “shocking”, a people who were “numb to faith in religion, faith in art, and faith in spiritual values altogether”. His experience in the U.S. is believed to have formed in part the impetus for his rejection of Western values and his move towards Islamism upon returning to Egypt.”

    I don’t understand why people who claim to be interested in history and have a desire to understand the motives of historical actors don’t just bother to look up the books that these people write or the statements that they issue. The cause of the rise of radical Islamist terrorism directed at the West is pretty clearly articulated.

Film and Faith

Sunday, January 13, AD 2013

Film, at its best, can convey a hint of the overwhelming impact of religious faith on those who believe.  For me, the best example of this is Jesus of Nazareth (1977), as amply demonstrated I think in the video clip above.  When we read about Jesus in the Gospels it requires a leap of imagination to conjure up the scenes depicted.  Some people are better at doing this than others.  A good film can provide us with the emotional impact of the Gospels without the necessity of our providing the imagination to bring the event alive for us.  The Church has long understood this.  Hymn singing can also accomplish this, as do Passion Plays, as does the Rosary.   God appeals to our souls, our hearts and our minds, and we make a mistake if we ever forget this.

The History Channel in March will have a miniseries that dramatizes portions of the Bible.  Below is a trailer.

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16 Responses to Film and Faith

  • I watched “Jesus of Nazareth” shortly after I first came to belief. You hit the nail on the head. Nothing can be compared to this movie, although “The Passion of the Christ” certainly did, some 30 years later. Beautifully filmed, excellent acting, orthodox Christianity.

    I’m a fan of the older biblical movies but “Jesus of Nazareth” is certainly unlike all of them. What’s astonishing to me is that I can still watch it today and there’s barely a hint of ‘datedness’ to it like many movies from decades ago. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this since my first time ~ always during Lent every year.

    Thanks for the clip!

  • It’s ordained. You will reflect His light in dark places. Believe.
    God is with us.
    Your movie is in production.
    Make it count.
    Souls are depending on your faith, your virtues and your love.

  • The History channel has been known to take liberty with religious truth on occasion. We shall see. I support the Douay-Rheims Bible.

  • The Douay-Rheims is a translation of a translation. And that translation is the Latin Vulgate which has itself been revised and updated under Pope JP II as the Nova Vulgata:

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/bible/nova_vulgata/documents/nova-vulgata_index_lt.html

    Late last year I ordered my hardcopy from Paxbooks (it was my Christmas gift to me – selfish, I suppose). But of course the most accurate is the original Koine Greek New Testament and the Hebrew and Aramaic Old Testament. I can’t do the right to left script of Semitic languages, and can manage Greek only fitfully with lots of internet help and Strong’s Concordance. Personally, for English Editions, I prefer in the following order:

    Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
    New American Bible Revised Edition
    English Standard Version with Apocrypha
    King James Version with Apocrypha

    But I do have a hardcopy of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate / Clementine Douay-Rheims side by side, and I do use Father George Haydock’s Douay-Rheims Catholic Study Bible of the 19th century in my apologetics classes.

    I guess we all have preferences. For prayer devotional I like the Nova Vulgata and for study the RSV CE, and I don’t so much like the Douay-Rheims because of its inaccuracies.

  • I’m liking the King James w/Apocrypha these days. After that I like the Douay Reims.

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  • For New Testament study, I like the Catholic Comparative New Testament, which provides, in a side-by-side format, the text of the Douay-Rheims, RSV-CE, New American Bible, NRSV Catholic Bible, Jerusalem Bible, Good News Translation, New Jerusalem Bible, and Christian Community Bible.

  • The Douay is solid, but I’ll quibble with Paul’s “translation of a translation”: in the most commonly available format, it’s a translation of a translation of a translation.

    The brilliant Bishop Richard Challoner revised the Douay in the 1700s, and he was not afraid to borrow from the King James Version.

    I think every Catholic family with English as a native tongue ought to have a Douay to hand as a reminder of what English-speaking Catholics once went through.

  • Thanks for providing the link to the Catholic Comparative New Testament, Paul. I should have done so in my comment. I think it should become clear to anyone who uses it that the Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition ought to be the preferred modern translation for Catholics.

  • @Jay: That’s a matter of taste, don’t you think? Personally, I don’t care for the RSV. It’s certainly a far cry better than the New American for instance, but I find it bland. Comparing various passages, the KJV’s beautiful language far surpasses the RSV, let alone that in some random passages I’ve checked, the meaning seems to be quite different. Off the top of my head, here’s a good example:

    KJV: (Genesis 11:1) “And the whole earth was of one language, and
    of ONE SPEECH.”

    RSV: (Genesis 11:1) “… one language and few words.”

    That seems striking, doesn’t it? There’s more examples I could give but this is an example.

  • Key words in my comment: “modern”. I actually prefer the older translations.

  • Elizabeth,

    Please go here for Genesis 11:1: http://interlinearbible.org/genesis/11.htm

    Verse 1 actually says: “and the same words same language earth now the whole used.”

    Sounds weird, right? We moderns certainly don’t speak that way. Even Latin that came 2000 years afterwards has odd word order and no articles. Traslating the Vulgate like this would sound equally weird. However, to get precise word for word meaning regardless of how jarring it is, go to an interlinear OT / NT: http://interlinearbible.org/.

    For approximate word-for-word meaning, the RSV CE is great and so is the ESV with Apocrypha. So are the Protestant NASB and NKJV, but they lack the Deuterocanonicals. For sense of meaning, go to the NIV (which again lacks the Deuterocanonicals) or NAB RE. Every single translation has problems. None are perfect. Only the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek are “inspired.” But the Church does authorize translations because God gave the Church such authority, a lesson Wycliffe failed to understand, much to his doom. 🙁 That said, the Protestants have done wonderful translations as well.

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  • My thoughts on Jesus of Nazareth mirror yours. Did you ever get a chance to read my book Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners which looks at the treament of Christians in about 200 films from 1905 to 2008? It sold out its hardback at $49.95 and is now in paperback at $24.95. I know you are a film aficianado. If you haven’t seen it, I’d be happy to send you a copy.as payback for your many intersting posts. Just let me know where to send it.

  • E-Mail sent to you Pete, and I thank you!