Over There

Saturday, April 8, AD 2017

 

Something for the weekend, Over There, the anthem of the American war effort in World War I.

My friend and co-blogger Darwin Catholic at The American Catholic put together the above video, which I believe is one of the best videos I have seen on World War I.  George M. Cohan of course wrote Over There, the song which became the battle hymn of the American war effort in World War I.  George M. Cohan was immortalized by James Cagney in the 1942 film biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Dying on November 5, 1942 of stomach cancer, Cohan saw the film shortly before its release in a private screening.  I do not know if the ending of the film in the clip below brought tears to his eyes, but it always does mine:

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4 Responses to Over There

  • “And we won’t come back ’til it’s over over there.”

    General Pershing was finally able to “unify” the AEF under his command and led 1,200,000 Americans in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (26 September to 11 November 1918) which beat up the Germans and helped seal the armistice. The objective was to cut the railways supplying the Hun at the front. Casualties were 120,000 KIA/WIA (10%). The actions were notable for dashing open-field tactics and liberal employment of the bayonet. Sergeant York made his name during this fight.

    Book recommendation: The Doughboys by Laurence Stallings. Pershing was highly aggressive and he demanded the same from his officers.

  • What brings tears to my eyes is the fact that US involvement in World War I insured the demise of what was left of Christian Europe. That involvement also led to a profound change for the Catholic Church in the USA as Cardinal Gibbons made a point to throw the support of the Church behind Wilson and his desire for war instead of supporting the peace efforts of the Pope as Christopher Manion and others have written about elsewhere. That lockstep of Church and State has continued to the present day when many people consider the Catholic Church the Democratic Party at Prayer.

  • “What brings tears to my eyes is the fact that US involvement in World War I insured the demise of what was left of Christian Europe.”
    How? The Bolsheviks would have come to power in any case in Russia. The German offensive in March 1918 prior to many US troops being on the ground in Europe failed, so the Central Powers were almost certainly going to lose even if the US had not intervened, although the War likely would have continued into either 1919 or 1920 with millions more dead. Viewing either Imperial Germany or Imperial Austria-Hungary as champions of Christendom in the nineteenth and twentieth century up to 1914 is simply mistaken. Both entities were fully affected by the forces that modernity was unleashing throughout Europe.

  • WW I was the most senseless, useless and in the long term, damaging war in European history. It is the root cause of everything that has gone wrong on that continent since. US involvement, while arguably necessary because of German predation on our shipping, could have been handled much differently and better. Does anyone seriously think that had Teddy Roosevelt won the election in 1912 that Germany would have dared to commit the acts of war against the US? And when we were finished joining in the destruction of Europe, we were cast aside like a used rag doll. Members of my family who stayed while the rest of the family emigrated to the US, fought on both sides of the conflict and were never heard from again. Having begun the insanity, Europe and the world would have been better served had all parties been allowed to collapse from sheer exhaustion and we could have avoided our share of responsibility for the debacle.

You’re A Grand Old Flag

Saturday, June 18, AD 2016

 

 

Something for the weekend.  You’re A Grand Old Flag sung by James Cagney in the film biopic of George M. Cohan Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).  Cohan wrote the song in 1906 after an encounter with a Union veteran of Gettysburg who was carrying a torn American battle flag.  The old soldier smiled at Cohan and said the flag was “A grand old rag!”

 

I cannot have a post that mentions the film Yankee Doodle Dandy without showing the scene of Cagney as Cohan tap dancing down the White House steps.  Cagney did the scene completely impromptu.

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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

Thursday, June 9, AD 2016

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

Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 11, AD 2015

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

  • T Shaw.

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

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

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

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

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2011/02/27/cardinal-newman-on-lying-and-equivation/

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

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

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

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

    https://books.google.com/books?id=VEfapZnRm9AC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=fake+baptismal+certificates+jews&source=bl&ots=pbVtC1LZ6v&sig=sYYZcwaMVz5yrCsI_6gLQ6bR90w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CFYQ6AEwCWoVChMI1uv8pqa7yAIVTDM-Ch1MNwsf#v=onepage&q=fake%20baptismal%20certificates%20jews&f=false

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

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

    http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/is-lying-ever-right

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

  • Janet Baker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • “many of remarkable ingenuity.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortnight For Freedom: Yankee Doodle

Saturday, July 4, AD 2015

Fortnight For Freedom 2015

Something for a Fourth of July weekend:  Yankee Doodle.

 Originally sung by British officers to disparage American troops who fought beside them in the French and Indian War, it was seized upon by Patriots, given endless lyrics, and cheered the patriot troops and civilians during the eight long years of the Revolution.  After Lexington and Concord it was reported by Massachusetts newspapers that the British were suddenly not as fond of the song:

“Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — ‘Dang them,’ returned he, ‘they made us dance it till we were tired’ — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears.”

James Cagney did an immortal riff on Yankee Doodle in the musical biopic of composer and actor George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942):

Yankee Doodle plays in the background as Cagney at the end of the film, entirely impromptu, dances down the White House staircase:

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Fortnight For Freedom 2013: Yankee Doodle

Saturday, June 22, AD 2013

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.

Something for the weekend.  Yankee Doodle.  Originally sung by British officers to disparage American troops who fought beside them in the French and Indian War, it was seized upon by Patriots, given endless lyrics, and cheered the patriot troops and civilians during the eight long years of the Revolution.  After Lexington and Concord it was reported by Massachusetts newspapers that the British were suddenly not as fond of the song:

“Upon their return to Boston [pursued by the Minutemen], one [Briton] asked his brother officer how he liked the tune now, — ‘Dang them,’ returned he, ‘they made us dance it till we were tired’ — since which Yankee Doodle sounds less sweet to their ears.”

James Cagney did an immortal riff on Yankee Doodle in the musical biopic of composer and actor George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942):

Yankee Doodle plays in the background as Cagney at the end of the film, entirely impromptu, dances down the White House staircase:

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One, Two, Three

Monday, April 30, AD 2012

Tomorrow is Victims of Communism Day and I will be having a post on that subject.  In a lighter vein on the same subject is the hilarious Cold War comedy One, Two, Three (1961), starring James Cagney and directed by Billy Wilder.  It actually foreshadowed the trajectory of the Cold War fairly better than many a serious study.  As the film indicates the Soviets simply were unable to produce consumer goods of a high enough quality to keep their people satisfied, and the failure to do so, along with the lack of freedom, ultimately led to the rapid fall in the eighties of the last century of regimes that looked on the surface to be rock solid.

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13 Responses to One, Two, Three

  • The hypocrisy of communism. How interesting it is that this movie clip and the Victims of Communism Day comes on the heels of Paul Ryan and Catholic Social Teaching, as though America has journeyed to the center of the earth and Paul Ryan is pointing the way back to the surface.

  • That good Catholic man, Jimmy Cagney. An American Catholic.

  • “Originally a very left-wing Democrat activist during the 1930s, Cagney later switched his viewpoint and became progressively more conservative with age. He supported his friend Ronald Reagan’s campaigns for the Governorship of California in 1966 and 1970, as well as his Presidential campaigns in 1980 and 1984. President Reagan delivered the eulogy at Cagney’s funeral in 1986.”

    Cagney would probably have said with Reagan that he didn’t leave the Democrats, they left him.

  • the Democratic party left me too… I thin other Catholics this very moment, even this Monday morning are making that same painful break.
    But where to go? I wish the GOP would show some of Cagney’s humor and optimism about the nature of our American people and the democratic ( lower case) and republican (lower case) ideals I am not a bit happy with the way the GOP has acted lately; I feel like we have been force-fed Romney. I wonder what Reagan and Cagney would say about that.

  • Well I know what Reagan would say. Reagan supported Ford in 1976 after losing the primary to Ford, viewing Ford as far preferable to Carter. Reagan was right.

  • “This is a crummy cigar.”

    “Don’t worry. We send them crummy rockets.” 🙂

    The great Leon Askin… General Burkhalter……..”KLEEEEEEEEEEENK! Off to the Russian Front!”

  • ” Tomorrow is Victims of Communism Day……..

    All Americans, weep.
    You are all victims of the nearest thing to communism in your history – Obama.

  • Don,

    We brought it on ourselves. Barack Obumbler’s politics and policies are nauseating to any clear thinking person. The American education system sucks up trillions of dollars and produces pinheads. The entertainment-media complex keeps them stupid. I do a lot of the grocery shopping for our family. The drivel sold at checkout lines appeals to those who believe their brains are fully engaged when reading about some floozy Kardashian….and these people are eligible to vote.

  • I think RWR today would say the same thing about the GOP that he said about the Dems a half-century ago.

  • WK Aiken

    Which was??

  • The drivel sold at checkout lines appeals to…

    females.

    Females are almost the exclusive consumers of that trash, one of the female-preferred forms of pornography. And it’s sold openly in plain view of children. Is this the fault of capitalism or Mom-ism?