Friday, June 7, 2013

Film Friday: They Came To Cordura (1959)

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about cynicism and how the age of cynicism began at least as early as 1960 rather than after Vietnam and Watergate. They Came To Cordura adds a great deal of support to that argument. This film stars Gary Cooper as Major Thomas Thorn and it makes Platoon look like an Army recruitment film.

Gary Cooper makes me uneasy. I know he was a staunch Republican. I also know he testified against the communists before the House Un-American Activities Committee as a friendly witness. But when I see his films, something always “feels” wrong at a fundamental level. Indeed, his most famous role, that of Marshal Will Kane in High Noon, was written by communist Carl Foreman as an attack on the American people in light of the HUAAC. Foreman wrote Will Kane as a cynical takedown of heroism. He is a once-great man, who fights because he is now too afraid to run away. And the fact he won’t run away exposes the townsfolk as selfish, cynical cowards who don’t care about right and wrong. The message was clear: don’t be a hero, it’s not worth it and the American people don’t deserve you.

In fact, this meaning was so clear to John Wayne that he called the film “the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” and he and Howard Hawks produced Rio Bravo as a direct response. Said Hawks, “I made Rio Bravo because I didn’t like High Noon. Neither did Duke. I didn’t think a good town marshal was going to run around town like a chicken... asking everyone to help. And who saves him? His Quaker wife. That isn’t my idea of a good Western.”

Admittedly, the interpretation of High Noon has changed over time and people now see it more as an ode to the individual standing alone against great odds to do the right thing. So if that was the only time I questioned Cooper, it would be easy to dismiss my nagging feelings. But then you run into a film like Cordura – one of three films produced by Cooper’s own company.
Cordura is the story of Major Thomas Thorn (Cooper) of the United States Cavalry. The year is 1916 and the cavalry is fighting Mexican bandit Pancho Villa. As the story opens, the cavalry charges a ranch occupied by Villa’s troops. The charge is reckless and results in a lot of dead American soldiers, but Villa is routed because of the brave acts of four soldiers. These soldiers are observed by Cooper, who decides to put them up for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Cooper is then assigned to return with those four soldiers and a female prisoner to the Texas town of Cordura. Things go wrong along the way and the other soldiers turn on Cooper. That’s the basic plot and it doesn’t sound so bad, but just wait for the details.

Right out of the gates, we learn that Cooper is a coward. In a prior attack, he hid in a ditch. No one denies this and this isn’t some mistake you discover later in the film which redeems Cooper. Further, Cooper’s commander Col. Rogers knew about the cowardice and did nothing about it. Why? Because Rogers knew Cooper’s father and wanted to protect the father’s reputation. Further, Rogers knew it would come in handy because Rogers, who is 63, thought he could hold this over Cooper’s head so Cooper would recommend him for the Congressional Medal of Honor, which would get Rogers promoted to General. In fact, when Cooper refuses to put Rogers up for the medal, Rogers becomes irate, threatens Cooper and sends him away with the other soldiers as punishment.

Notice right away that the message here is that the U.S. Army, and by extension American society, is sick. Its leaders are cowards and opportunists. They ignore their duty to help friends, they hold each other to a lower standard than they do average people, and they turn on each other when they won’t return a favor. This will be reinforced by the other officer, Lt. Fowler, who also turns on Cooper when he won’t do a favor for Fowler. Fowler even tells Cooper, “an officer’s duty is to protect his own kind,” but he won’t help Cooper.

Adding to the negative critique, Cooper blasts the attack itself as disorganized and pure luck. He says the soldiers chased into the attack “like a gang of Don Quixotes” (meaning crazy, delusional and recklessly). He blasts the commanders for not having a plan and acting without intelligence or knowledge of the terrain, and he notes that if Villa had automatic weapons the cavalry would have lost. Essentially, the U.S. Army gets lucky.
As the journey begins, they take Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth) with them. She’s an American who has been helping Villa. At first, the film makes it clear that Rogers only arrests her because he’s angry with her. And when she demands to know what she’s charged with, Cooper tells her but she instantly proves how she can’t be charged under the law he cites. He doesn’t care. The implication is that the Army sees itself above the law and will fit the law to its needs. Then, as the story progresses, she proves to be smarter than all the soldiers about military matters. Meanwhile, we learn that Cooper is obsessed with finding out why these four men did such heroic acts. What he discovers is another kick in the teeth: these heroic men acted out of fear, ambition and racism. In effect, the film says that those are the things that drive bravery. Then it gets ugly.

Almost from the first step of the journey, the men snipe at each other and at Cooper. Once they learn that they are to receive the highest award the nation can give, three of the four want Cooper to take them off the list. Why? Because one is wanted for murder and doesn’t want to get spotted. One doesn’t want to help the Army; he wants a transfer away from combat to “let the young ones do the fighting.” Fowler thinks it will ruin his career to standout too early – he thinks it will make him a target for “jealous superiors.” Also, the one who does want the award only wants it because it means an extra $2 a month. Notice that these men are cynically held up as the example of heroes in the military, yet none of them are worthy - they are cutthroats, liars, cowards, opportunists and malingerers (we’re even told, “The Army don’t ask no questions,” when it recruits). And “held up” is the right way to say it because Cooper makes a point that, no matter how rotten these men really are, they need to be given these awards because the Army needs heroes to show everyone else “how to act.” Think about the cynicism here. The writer basically claims that the Army uses the fraud of phony heroism to inspire its soldiers, even when it knows the kind of rotten people it is propping up as heroes. Then it gets worse again.
No sooner do the troops start to rebel about being made heroes against their will than they decide to rape Hayworth. This forces Cooper to disarm them and he essentially takes them to Cordura as prisoners. As they walk (they lose their horses to the Mexicans), they keep wanting to quit and lie down and die. They keep attacking Cooper. They try to blackmail him and threaten him. They become increasingly murderous. Only Cooper’s gun keeps them going. One of the men even becomes ill with typhoid and Cooper must force them to carry the man - the others want to abandon him. This, by the way, is only a two-day walk.

Finally, as they near Cordura, Hayworth falls for Cooper and she declares him to be a great man. At that point, the film treats her as redeemed. Only, her version of redemption doesn’t involve renouncing her prior treacherous aid of the Mexican raiders; it just involves liking Cooper. And the reason she likes him is the “moral courage” he shows in being determined to get these men the Medal of Honor despite all they have done. That is twisted nonsense, that the coward is the hero because he blindly follows his orders, no matter how wrong. Adding insult to insult, she then has sex with one of the soldiers to distract him to help Cooper. Essentially, this representation of American womanhood is portrayed as someone with easily shifting loyalties who doesn’t think twice about using her body to get what she needs. She’s also a major alcoholic.
Films like this make me wonder about Cooper. This film characterizes the military, American heroes, and all aspects of American society as rotten to the extreme with no redeeming values. Our people are savages, held in check only by the guns of our leaders who are cynical hypocrites. There is no redemption. There is no moment where these rotten soldiers show they are better than they have behaved to that point. They don’t even help Cooper when they realize they are near Cordura after they tried to let him die. Cooper is never redeemed either. There is no moment where he shows that he can be a better man. He just does his nonsensical job like an obsessed bureaucrat or automaton. The closest we get to redemption is when the soldiers act surprised to see that Cooper wrote some nice things about them in his diary (which of course they should already know). Then Cooper writes, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” as if that makes it all better. So don’t judge the cowardly rapists or the guy who wants to turn them into false heroes because you’re probably just as bad? Do you see the cynicism? I don’t know how Cooper could have looked at this script and not seen all of this?

This is the kind of film I was talking about when I spoke of cynicism. If I described this film to you without the name of the actor or the year, I doubt anyone would have guessed this film was made in 1959. This is the sort of thing you expect from an Iraq film or a Vietnam film. Yet, here it is... with Cooper’s name on it.

36 comments:

goldvermilion87 said...

What I take away from this, though, is the lack of value in looking at an actor's personal life when looking at his roles. I assume a good actor will take on a variety of roles with inconsistent messages, because a good actor can. My favorite actor, for example, plays a REALLY wide variety of roles, so I could never imagine figuring out where he stands politically on that basis. And I haven't got the faintest idea of what he does on his own time. I've never acted, but I have written stories that I'd hate to be taken as a reflection of my own personal philosophy.

Does an actor have to always portray the kind of person he would like to be? Or play in a film that he agrees philosophically?

I'm a bit more sympathetic to cynicism as well. I think if that's your complete understanding of the world, you're missing a lot. But there is plenty to be cynical about. I think one of the most brilliant works of comedy is Blackadder Goes Forth (set in WWI). It's VERY cynical and very anti-war, but it's WWI. If there were ever a time to say that war was greedy people throwing away life for their overdeveloped national pride, that would be it. And that that is an element of any war is true. I'm still not anti-war, because I think there are very good reasons to go to war anyway. But I can appreciate the person being cynical about it.

AndrewPrice said...

goldvermilion, There is definitely a time to be cynical when confronted with facts that generate cynicism. Black Adder captured such a moment perfectly.

BUT there is also a point where cynicism stops being a rational state and instead becomes something twisted, a worldview based on a desire to tear down rather than any sort of examination of real facts. That was the point to my article the other day, that we've reached a point where a lot of people are essentially mentally ill because of their cynicism and they've become incapable of seeing anything or anyone except cynically... all good deeds are now evidence of evil to those people.

This film strikes me as WAY beyond a level of useful or fair cynicism. It would be one thing to be cynical about the way the Army works or about the political structure of the country. I can see that as a valid basis for cynicism because there certainly are things about which we should be cynical. But the presentation here is way beyond anything anyone could consider factual or a valid basis for cynicism.

Instead, this film presents a slander. It is about tearing down entire institutions (the Army, the officer corp, American leaders) and people (Americans and American mythos). This film tells us that all American soldiers are wanna-be-rapists, all officers are opportunists, the Army is full of criminals, cowards and liars, Americans abandon people to die just because they won't do them favors, women casually have sex with whomever to get what they want, etc. Those things are not a display of reasonable cynicism, they are a slander meant to attack whole groups of people just as presentations of racism, sexism or antisemitism are aimed at whole groups... it's just a different target.

In terms of what an actor does as a person and the roles they undertake, there is not necessarily a connection and certainly some actors do all kinds of roles that likely have nothing to do with their personal beliefs. But sometimes their choices do call into question their beliefs. There are two actors from this period who trouble me in their constant selection of roles that seem to undermine American values. One is Cooper and the other is Gregory Peck. Peck is an admitted leftist who tried to include leftist messages in films, so I expect it from him. Cooper, however, claims to be opposed to those things. Yet, I repeatedly find him playing roles like this that attack the fundamental values Americans hold dear. That is why I'm discussing this.

Tennessee Jed said...

we probably will never know why he chose this role. It is hard for me to say since I never saw it. You clearly feel strongly that in this case, a cigar is not just a cigar, and you are probably right. Still, if I look at his overall output, it is more favorable ... I am one who has interpreted High Noon more in ways you did not. And, I don't know enough about the screenplay writer for this story, but it seems to share a few similar, albeit shittier, themes with High Noon

Tennessee Jed said...

Ah, I looked up the director, and it was Robert Rossen who was a member of the Communist Party, but agreed to testify a second time and out some communists in the industry, ostensibly, because he didn't want his personal beliefs to jeopardize the security of the nation. Perhaps, Coop was giving him a little payback for that. The guy was talented. Interestingly, the wiki synopsis of the film indicates that Thom (Cooper's) character was trying to delve into what actually defines bravery. Any thoughts on that aspect of it?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, It strikes me that this cigar is more than a cigar because of the over-the-top approach it takes. It really must be intentional.

Yep, the director (and writer) was a member of the American Communist Party. I've tried to look into the author of the book upon which it was based and his politics are never mentioned, but some of his other books are described as "presaging" the anti-war movement and one of them was big with feminists.

The thing about Cooper is that there is just something I can't quite place my finger on. It strikes me that too often he does things like this. I've mentioned High Noon. He also did For Whom The Bell Tolls which is Hemmingway's ode to Spanish communism. Another movie he backed was The Hanging Tree, about hanging and power.

It's not enough to say anything definitive, but it just strikes me that somehow he's always sending the wrong messages.

AndrewPrice said...

In terms of Cooper's character delving into what actually defines bravery, they hit that a lot early on where he's constantly demanding to know what these men were thinking when they did their acts. But I would say a couple things about that.

1. As I say in the article, what he finds is that bravery is the result of ambition, cowardice and racism. So that's a strongly, negative, meant-to-demotivate message.

2. Cooper only seems interested in the negative parts really. At one point he even mocks the idea of one of these guys being inspired in the way heroism is usually described by heroes -- he slaps a guy and calls him a liar after leading him to say that he acted heroically because he saw the others were in danger and he wanted to save them.

3. The reason he's obsessed with bravery is to find away to explain away his own cowardice. So it's not an inspirational pursuit.

4. That aspect of the story is poorly written. Cooper's character asks stupid questions akin to "what were you thinking?" and then never follows up or even asks basic questions. So I think that while the story makes a point of this, it's really just meant to expose the other characters than it is to show an enlightened Cooper.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Welcome back! :) I hope everything went well!


P.S.S. Cordura is on heavy rotation on the Western Channel this month if you want to catch it. I suspect that if you do, it will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth as well.

Anonymous said...

Andrew- I've never seen this movie so I can't comment on it.I'm aware of the story behind High Noon and I knew about John Wayne's reaction to it. I think it's funny that High Noon missed.Most people now see it as a conservative film,with Cooper as the american hero and Grace Kelly realizing that you can't just sit through life on the idealism bench,that sometimes violence is the only solution to aggression.That must have Foreman rolling in his grave.
I found your comment on Cooper and Peck refreshing though.The other guy from that era that I couldn't stand is Henry Fonda.In 12 Angry Men Lee J. Cobb represents conservative society.Fueled by anger and bigotry he is slowly broken down by the liberal saint Fonda,through logic and reason,which we all know are the tools liberals use to make their points.(Just ask Sarah Palin)At the end Saint Henry the liberal walks over and puts his coat over the sobbing Cobb's shoulders. Failsafe just makes me sick.
It's refreshing to see someone take on actors from that era.
I haven't posted at Big Hollywood in a long time,but I remember that Nolte always seemed to believe that anyone who acted in the Hayes Code era actually lived a Hayes Code life offscreen.Then if anyone disagreed with him they got two dozen downticks and about 5 people called them trolls and douchebags. This is a nice site.

Anonymous said...

That was GypsyTyger,by the way. I hit publish and forgot to sign.

AndrewPrice said...

GypsyTyger, Glad you like the site! :)

I know what you mean about BH. They really did have rose-colored glasses for things they liked and there was no room for disagreement. I also found that they often misunderstood the politics of various films -- sometimes missing conservative films and sometimes latching onto things that were not at all conservative and trying to call them conservative.

I agree with you about Fonda and probably should add him to the list -- though I consider him a secondary star. Twelve Angry Men is a movie that really irks me for the very reason you mention. It's a liberal setup to the core.

I also agree about Foreman. Between the way High Noon came to be seen as an ode to the individual hero and the way Guns of Navarone came to be seen as rousing pro-war film, Foreman really must be spinning in his grave.

wulfscott said...

I had a different take on High Noon as an allegory of the entry into WWII - Cooper as England, his deputy as France, the bad guys as Germany and its allies, and the townspeople as the rest of Europe, including the League of Naions. Grace Kelly - the U. S., finally figuring out that you sometimes have to fight for your beliefs.
Cooper also did Alvin York, which I didn't like at first as I thought it didn't give enough time to York's motivation and made him look a little too simple. OTOH a film doesn't have a lot of time to explore complex motivations.
Finally, I will skip They Came To Cordura - doesn't sound like something I would enjoy.

AndrewPrice said...

wulfscott, Welcome! I go back and forth on Sergeant York. On the one hand, he is presented as quite a simpleton. But on the other hand, I think the film as a whole really does fit the American ideal. He's the guy who only wants to be left alone but felt he had to finally act because it was the right thing to do. He does things his way. He succeeds wildly and yet remains very humble. And the others around him seem to accept him -- in particular, the industrialists who meet him at the end accept him without trying to change him and see the nobility within him. I think a lot of that fits the American mythos of the reluctant hero.

That's an interesting take on High Noon. I don't think that's what Foreman intended, he was intending to make a statement about the HUAAC, but it really does fit the film. As an aside, the Soviets hated the film. They banned it for "glorifying the individual."

On Cordua, I don't think you'll miss anything by skipping it. To me, it really does leave a bad taste in the mouth.

K said...

Nice article, Andrew.

Cooper has always seemed a queer duck to me from a political messaging POV. He fit the part of the individualist hero guy so well that he was pretty typecast in that roll - whatever the message of the movie. When he did Cordura he had his own production company and may well have wanted to play something against type - just to be different.

In Cooper's case, if you're looking for a turning point between Sergeant York and Cordura, the HUAC was likely an influence. Cooper testified but refused to name names.

Personally, I'm a fan of Fonda's Fail Safe - not because of it's now discredited message, but as an example of a near flawless propaganda film.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks K!

"A queer duck" is a good way to put how I see him as well. It's hard to put my finger on it, but time and again, I feel there's something strange about his characters. I get a similar feeling with Peck. Peck's films are always negative and de-motivational somehow. He seems to project anger and hopelessness whether the role calls for it or not. I get a similar feeling from Cooper in the sense that he seems to project hopelessness. Cordura is one of the first times where I think a very clear political statement can be attached as well. If this film were made today, I think it would fit right in with the worst leftist anti-Iraq war films.

In terms of something changing, I suspect the real key was fame/power. When he did Sergeant York, I doubt he had the power to do much more than act. But by the time he did Cordura, he had enough power to control his own films. Or, it could be what you suggest and he took a hard-left turn after the HUAC. Or it could just be he liked the story. It's hard to tell, which is why I find this interesting.

Fail Safe absolutely feels like propaganda.

K said...

Either something has gone wrong with the Turing test or this Anonymous guy is quite the dadaist.

AndrewPrice said...

K, LOL! I think it's a computer. We're awash in what appears to be Russian or Polish spam -- over 200 hits a day from the same source. It's all gibberish.

ScottDS said...

Just some random thoughts for the room:

-Fail-Safe, while a good film, doesn't quite work because it was already beaten to the punch by Dr. Strangelove and once you satirize something, it's hard to take seriously.

-I 1000% agree re: BH and rose-colored glasses. The stars of yesteryear had their vices - in some ways they were better, in other ways they were worse. They were also products of their time and above all, they were human. But say something even remotely negative about The Duke or Clint Eastwood and the BH gang would ride you out of town on the rails!

-It's also usually a fool's errand to judge an actor's movie roles through the prism of politics. Fonda, Peck, etc. are the exceptions, as are modern actors like Matt Damon and Sean Penn... but 99% of actors aren't A-listers - they're working stiffs who sometimes just need a paycheck. Or they can compartmentalize - I said this before but if I make/star in a movie with an evil businessman, it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm anti-capitalist.

-But after reading this review - and I'd never even heard of the film - I'm reminded of why movies need at least one sympathetic everyman. And it's something I've tried to do in my own creative work: the lead characters might be cynical dicks but at least have one supporting character to represent the audience.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott,

That was a huge problem for Fail Safe. But even beyond that, I just didn't think it was a well-done film. It lacked subtlety.

Yeah, BH had an odd view of the film work at times.

I think you are right for the most part about actors, but not always. By the time a star becomes a big name with a choice of roles, and when you can start to see patterns, then I think it's safe to reach conclusions. In this case, as I say in the article, I find Cooper confusing. There's something strange about his choices that is hard to put my finger on.

On needing a sympathetic character, that's true. Without someone to sympathize with, the story becomes difficult to like and you have nothing to hope for really. That said, I think we were supposed to sympathize with Cooper just on the basis that he's being attacked by the rest who are all jerks, but it's not enough.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I haven't seen this movie, either. But from what you've said, it doesn't sound like it has any redeeming features with its 'cynicism galore.'

Interestingly, it reminds of two more recent war movies.

The first is 'When Trumpets Fade.' (1998) Made-for-HBO. Basically, it's about a soldier fighting in the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest in 1944. The thing is just a mess. The lead soldier is an a$$. He spends the whole film trying to get a section 8 due to combat stress (no Kilnger-style humor in sight). During the course of the film, he gets promoted because his NCO's are killed, he tries to bargain his way into a discharge, executes a flamethrower-carrying soldier who runs off, challenges his superiors to kill him, and basically just acts demoralized. Oh, yeah. His superior officers see battle for the first time, fall apart mentally, and see the futility of war. The film ends by mentioning that this battle has been forgotten because it's overshadowed by the Battle of the Bulge.

This was promoted as 'WWII through the Vietnam lens.' A better tagline might've been, 'All soldiers are depressed a$$es, kill their own, and everything is ultimately meaningless.' I guess we're supposed to see the lead soldier as hero because he overcomes his selfishness when he leads an attack on some German tanks to clear the way, but it doesn't work for me.

I'm not going to say that all soldiers were gung-ho. Certainly, many suffered trauma and depression. But this is just demoralizing. All the characters are either pieces of crap or optimists just waiting to see 'reality.' (If the behind-the-scenes footage showed some hipsters smoking weed behind the cameras, I wouldn't be shocked.

(continued...)

-Rustbelt

Anonymous said...

(...continued)

The other is 'Band of Brothers.' I know this got a LOT of critical acclaim, but it reminded too much of 'When Trumpets Fade.'

Exactly how many times did the soldiers complain that the war was meaningless? Every single episode? Rather than repeat my last post, let me just say everything above applies here. Historical accuracy aside, I felt an unusual detachment from this series. Either the actors didn't seem to care, or they were intentionally bland. (One critic said the series was "all backdrop, and no frontdrop.)

Also, I have to agree with critics who noted the soldiers complain and drone on mightily through the series until they discover the concentration camp. Oh, my! After all this dreary cinematography, there IS a reason to fight! (No surprise the episode is called 'Why We Fight.') Yeah, it's based on real events. But producers and directors can focus material on themes of their choosing. Hanks and Spielberg got a little too obvious, even for their buddy critics. (And Hanks' comments that the sequel series- "The Pacific"- shows WWII was racist sure doesn't help my increasing animosity to BoB.)

And one more thing: the shaky cam can go to Hell!

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I didn't see When Trumpets Fade, but it sounds like par for the course on modern war movies. Look at all the Iraq war films and you will see that the soldiers are always presented as blood thirsty, cowardly, racist/rapist morons who are the dupes of big business. That is Hollywood's new default mode. What interests me about Cordura is that you already see the identical allegations in a movie from 1959. That really wipes out the idea that Hollywood's cynicism is the result of disillusionment with Nixon or Vietnam... it was already in place long before then.

On Band of Brothers, I enjoyed it, but never felt a desire to re-watch it because it felt hollow. It was pretty, but it wasn't anything all that exciting and I never related to it. The points you make could be the reason. In fact, the one memory I really have of the series is the anger they all had for one of their officers who doesn't join them in the invasion (David Schwimmer I think). So maybe you're on to something!

In any event, let me toss out another movie that fits exactly what you're talking about -- Saving Private Ryan. I remember a lot of conservatives latching onto that one because "it kicked ass" (a direct quote I heard every time the film was mentioned). But they ignored how unlikeable so many of the characters were and how they all kept talking about there being no point to fighting. None of them seemed to know why they were fighting. Tom Sizemore even gives a speech on that point -- I talk about it in the film guide if I an ever get that thing finished.

Ryan struck me as the first attempt to revise WWII through the ideas of the Vietnam generation. And it leaves me cold.

Totally agree on the shaky cam. I hate that thing with a passion.

T-Rav said...

Yeesh. I'm kind of surprised this movie was made at all, given the times.

As for Cooper, I don't know. Maybe he was just a bad judge of roles?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That could well be. There are certainly actors who just stink at picking roles. And that's why I'm not saying Cooper necessarily believes this stuff. I just don't know. What I do know is that his films always strike me as a bit "off."

Anonymous said...

Andrew, thinking a little harder about BoB, I think another problem is that all the characters were pretty much the same. All the dialogue was alike. They were pretty much interchangeable. Plus, the filmmakers emphasis on how miserable they were didn't help. About the only thing that separated them was the degree of anger they kept showing.

As for extra cynicism, I think the scene that rubbed me the wrong way and set the tone for the series was when the paratroopers were handed the message from General Eisenhower. One of them proceeds to read it in the most mocking manner possible. This after most of the actual troops said they found Ike's words inspirational. (I guess Hanks and Spielberg had other opinions about Eisenhower. Surprise, surprise.)

On that note, I'd like to recommend a recent- and decent- war movie: "Ike: Countdown to D-Day." (2004- A&E) No battle scenes at all. It just shows everything that Ike (Tom Selleck) had to deal with as he and his staff planned the invasion- German moves in France, a general blurting out the invasion plans while drunk in a restaurant, Monty's ego, the weather, and plenty of other problems. It heavily focuses on Ike's relationship with Churchill. And IMO, if the real Ike's encounters with General DeGaulle were half as irritating as they are in this film, Ike had the patience of a saint.

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I honestly don't remember it enough to state anything with certainty. All I can say for sure is that it was very pretty, but it left me cold. So cold that I don't really remember it and I usually do remember things I watch. I also haven't had any desire to re-watch it.

I haven't seen Ike, but it sounds interesting. I can imagine that DeGaulle was a real jerk.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. That does sound really cynical about them reading Ike's note in a mocking tone. It doesn't sound particularly accurate either. I don't remember the scene though.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Another quick thing re: celebs. Nolte always liked to say that he didn't attack celebrities of yesteryear because they were PROponents of something and he wouldn't attack someone for standing for something... as opposed to Opponents, who just hate and hate.

Fair enough, but if BH existed back in the 50s and 60s, you know Shapiro, et al would be doing write-ups of people like Gregory Peck and how they're not real Americans and where are all the classic stars, like Mary Pickford? (Taking that analogy back even further in time!)

And even now, all a celebrity has to do is say something slightly positive about Obama and they're branded a Socialist.

We've talked about it before but it's really a lose-lose.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I suspect that if BH was transported back to the 1950s, they would be digging into communist infiltration of Hollywood.

Critch said...

I remember seeing They Came to Cordura when I was a kid in Memphis at the drive-in. In those days the drive-ins often ran films that were 2-3 even 10 years old...it was cool. I was in the 5th grade so it must have been 1964. I didn't like this film then and no matter how many times I've seen it I didn't like it. It wasn't inspiring, it was a let down. About this time I also saw The Bridge on the River Kwai, which I think was an excellent movie,,and BTW, it really made me dislike the Japanese...looking back, that was a powerful film. At almost 60 years old I can still remember how it made me feel. They Came to Cordura made me feel empty. I never saw the attraction of Gary Cooper or Rock Hudson as he-man leaders. Now, Gregory Peck could act,,,one of his best films was The Stalking Moon...a creepy cowboy movie...hard to beat. He always just seemed to be a normal guy doing his job and doing it well. Saving Private Ryan was good the first few times then I just didn't go back for more; Band of Brothers was really good.

Critch said...

Just one note, I'm an old Cold Warrior, I served in SAC from 1972-1976 as a nuclear weapons specialist in the ICBMs. I did another 25 years in the Air Guard. I didn't like the Russians then or now, but I think Dr. Strangelove is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen...to the best of my knowledge, you still can't rent or buy Dr. Strangelove on a US Air Force base...

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, I've seen Cordura several times trying to see if I just misjudged it and I've never found anything to like about it. You're right in that it just leaves you feeling empty.

I love Bridge on the River Kwai, that's truly a powerful film on so many levels. That is a movie that did everything right.

I never cared for Rock Hudson either. He's just kind of blah to me. I do like Peck a lot. I don't like his politics, but I can respect that he was open about it. So I can overlook that. What I do like is that he has a strong screen presence and he's very good at making you feel what his character feels. But a lot of his films leave me cold.

I think Dr. Strangelove was hilarious and brilliant.

As I mention above, BoB didn't resonate with me and I disliked Ryan... or at least everything after the Normandy landing.

Working with ICBMs? That's a job I would not want to have!

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This flic reminds me of seeing brothers returning from s.e.Asia being spat on by ignorant cowards in the airports upon returning HOME.
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egomoi said...

Not sure where the initial reviewer got his mistaken facts about Gary Cooper and his politics In fact , prior to the HUAC situation, Cooper was what might be described as a populist and liberal. His perspective was not unlike that of Frank Capra, with whom he often worked . Projects like Meet John Doe or High Noon, have a distinct populist liberal bias. Capra' s long time writing collaborator, Sidney Buchman latterly ran afoul of HUAC. This mirrors Coop 's relationship with Carl Foreman , who wrote and produced High Noon. Foreman eventually fled to Europe to avoid testifying before HUAC. Cooper then backed out of the agreement he had made to co-produce films with Foreman (somewhat less than heroically) . His subsequent self serving HUAC testimony (as a friendly witness) could certainly be viewed as a change of heart politically, much as Ronnie Reagan's shift from New Deal Democrat to ardent anti-Commie Conservative could also be characterized.

egomoi said...

Cooper did NOT refuse to name names. It was a condition of being a friendly witness to name people, which he did willingly.

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