America is a weird place. In America it’s one generation from liberals like Henry Fonda joining up to serve the country in war–like everyone else, at one in heart & mind with their conservative friends, like Jimmy Stewart–to liberals like Jane Fonda running off to Vietnam to help out some of the most atrocious murderers available at the time with the hot blonde part of PR. The old man did not chastise his daughter publicly, so you can see how great the change was & I’m sure you all have thoughts on what’s happened–I’d like to talk about it, but it does not entirely seem proper right now. Maybe this weekend?
At any rate, I would not presume to speak to you about 9/11. I take it seriously, but it is not my business, being a foreigner. I make it my business sometimes to talk to other foreigners about it. I only write today because I ran into a heartening video post by Mr. Chris Pratt. I know others have tried before to tell Ricochet, he’s one of us!, a good, decent man who is not a liberal! Here’s another piece of evidence. There is a hashtag to go with it: #thankaveteran. It seems the right thing to do. He shares briefly the story of Navy SEAL Mike Day, whose story might be common among the damned few, but is shocking for the rest of mankind, & pledges & asks for donations for the damned few.
It has set me thinking both about the changes in what makes an actor popular today & what contributions actors can make. In WWII, about a dozen million people served America in uniform.
In WWII, about a dozen million people served America in uniform. Many actors signed up, as well as directors, including men who were not young. In his first biography, Reagan talks about how he had to cheat on the eye tests to get into the cavalry & how things came to a crisis in his lieutenant test–cavalry exercise in the rain, & his poor eyes were about to cost him dearly, but he was providently preserved. Instead, he went & made movies for the army, to prepare bombing missions. He writes seriously, but modestly about his service & is pleased to report that fliers found the work he coordinated useful.
Others, most famously John Wayne, did not go off to war. I’m young enough to have learned filmographies on imdb–one always sees the 1941-5 gap with actors & some directors–not with John Wayne. For reasons I do not know–take it up with Mr. McVey, between the two of us, we know everything about movies…–he did not sign up & instead made another fortune in Hollywood. But at the end of the war, one of the directors who did serve, John Ford, hired him for a war movie–They were expendable (PT boat crews in the Philippines try to do something to keep the Japanese Imperial Navy at bay). The credits famously list everyone’s rank, from the director on down–one of them, however, is a civilian. Before the credits roll, the movie ends with Gen. MacArthur’s famous phrase, We shall return! as the chorus to the Battle hymn of the republic is sung.
It does not seem likely that America will soon fight a war where millions will have to serve. Someone who makes war movies & talks up the cause of patriotism like Duke did will have made his mark. One sees war movies rarely nowadays & almost no good movies has come out of the long decade of war in the Middle East, same as the brief Middle Eastern war before. Neither famous people nor anyone else, neither established studios nor anyone else believes America wants or needs to see serious stories about war. In some way, it is far more difficult to make war movies now–that, I believe, reveals a lack of political will.
Then again, there does not seem to be anyone who can tell Americans something meaningful about patriotism & the political situation right now. This worries me somewhat. America does not depend on movie-makers for patriotism or policy, but they do help people reflect on their beliefs & the crises they confront. In the far more democratic, far less political situation in which you find yourselves, stories are far more important & correspondingly less likely to be made in the first place.
I don’t believe Mr. Pratt is going to be America’s next John Wayne, although I believe America–& not just America–does need someone like him. He might decide not to go crazy with the movies & instead spend time with the missus & kids. Private life is decent, reasonable, & attractive. But I do hope someone will take up the challenge. Patriotism does depend on stories, in the sense that if you do not tell your children about your past, they will never know. & war requires stories, too, because it is the strangest of all things known to man & few have any experience of it–by the time it is upon you, it is too late to start preparing. America seems to Americans beyond this old opinion, beyond horse sense–whatever catastrophe, it will come & go & soon be forgotten. That attitude, I fear, has hurt some crucial part of the interest in telling stories about America’s bloody past & bloody future.