Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

The Song That Rallied a Nation, Won the War, Changed My Politics and Got Me the Girl

January 29, 2013

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December, 1941. French Morocco is infiltrated by Nazi Germany. It is also the last outpost for passage to America and freedom for European refugees. The Germans are met with bitter resignation by the people who long to be released from an oppressive yoke. In a night club owned by a cynical American, Rick Blaine (who “sticks his neck out for nobody”), German officers with beer steins swinging, triumphantly sing their national anthem to a full but emotionally subdued house. Then underground leader, Victor Laszlo, approaches the band demanding that they play La Marseillaise. The band members look to Rick, who silently nods his approval (and in a defining moment sheds his passive non-involvement) and they begin to play. Laszlo starts to sing alone at first, but others join in. Soon their patriotism drowns out the Germans. At song’s end, the house is crowded with cheering patrons. This scene never fails to put a lump in my throat or bring a tear to my eye.

Most of these actors/extras were real life refugees from an dictatorial regime that had spread terror throughout Europe. When singing La Marseillaise, they were not acting. They sung with conviction, determination and hope. The viewer can feel the emotion. The first time I saw it, my life changed. No longer apathetic, I saw the pivotal role America played in the hope of other nations, both then and now. Though oppression still exists in various forms…

It is said this film did more for the Allied war effort than any other piece of propaganda. American audiences saw what fascist maltreatment looked and felt like. If our efforts had been lackluster before, they gained momentum after the release of Casablanca. By the end of 1943, the war had reached a turning point in favor of the Allies. Casablanca won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Years later I would meet and marry my French-Canadian sweetheart, relocating to Ontario. Ironically, I am now an American outside of my own country with a French-speaking wife, who is of a minority here. Occasionally resentment and prejudice rears its ugly head, but La Marseillaise raised an undaunted spirit in me that we both gladly share.

I found that love, like freedom, knows no boundary. Hope lifts the downhearted and is contagious. Justice, honor, morality and heritage are things that need preserving, even in Canada.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Should Have Been a Cowboy

April 26, 2010

My sister asked me who the greatest movie star cowboy was.  Without any hesitation I said, “John Wayne!”

But ya know, my generation is passin’, there’s not much out there that compares with the Duke… 

So last night I brought out an old classic western and watched it.  It was the 1956 film, The Searchers, which John Wayne said was one of his favorites.   As I watched it again for the umpteenth time, I realized once again what made John Wayne such an institution.  Even in this film, where he is really cast against type, I saw things that I hadn’t seen before.  I won’t go into my revelations here because each person should draw his own conclusions about the main character, Ethan Edwards, and why he behaved the way he did.

Of course, the image of a man who stands up for what he believes in and won’t back away from his beliefs is what makes John Wayne such an American hero.  But that image was not reserved for the big screen.  What you saw was really what you got with him.  I don’t think anyone saw him differently.  Here was a man you could trust.

I read one of the many biographies of John Wayne, John Wayne, My Father written by his daughter, Alyssa in 1992 which revealed a more personal side of the Duke.  By all accounts, he was what he portrayed; fiercely patriotic, straight talking and honest. 

Ten John Wayne movie favorites:

1.  Stagecoach 1939 as the Ringo Kid

2.  Reap the Wild Wind 1942 as Capt. Jack Stuart

3.  Tall in the Saddle 1944 as Rocklin

4.  Angel and the Badman 1947 as Quirt Evans

5.  Red River 1948 as Thomas Dunson

6.  The Quiet Man 1952 as Sean Thornton

7.  Hondo 1953 as Hondo Lane

8.  The Searchers 1956 as Ethan Edwards

9.  Rio Bravo 1959 as Sheriff John T. Chance

10.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962 as Tom Doniphon

I realize that not all the above mentioned movies are westerns.  They may not even be John Wayne’s most popular roles.  But I can watch these characters over and over again and find equal enjoyment every time.

Ernest Hemingway once approached John Wayne about starring as Jake Barnes, the main character in his book: The Sun Also Rises.  Fully aware of his public image as a virile ladies man at the time, John answered, “I’d be willing, but do you think the American public would let me?”

Much has been written about John Wayne.  He believed in America and professed this belief openly and unsparingly at a time when it was not as popular to do so.

We need more like him.

Interestingly enough, several milestones have been reached as of this posting.  This is #375.  To date there have been roughly 52,000 hits on AMRFP and May, 2010 marks our fourth year anniversary!  Yikes!  Where does the time go?

Thanks for reading, pilgrim.