Thursday, July 3, 2014

An Independence Day Celebration

It seems almost mandatory, coming up on the Fourth of July, to write something patriotic. I wanted to take a different approach, so I thought I would celebrate patriotic Hollywood. No, not the self serving, egotistical, America hating, Hollywood of today. I'm going back to the Hollywood of the 1940s. Back to the Hollywood of the World War Two era.

It was a much different Hollywood in those days. Being an American and being a patriot was something to be celebrated by the movie industry. Great stars like John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, and Cary Grant made war films that showed America as a heroic country fighting evil. And, when you look at the history of the axis powers during that terrible ordeal, America was, in fact, fighting evil. 

Let me say, as I lived through WWII, the evil that was perpetrated was far greater than is shown today. There was a viciousness and lack of humanity that is hard to believe today. Actually, even worse than Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Hollywood tried to lighten the burden and the fear of war by making comedy films like "Buck Privates" and "You're in the Army Now". But films like "Back to Bataan", "Guadalcanal Diary", and "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" brought the ugliness of war to the local movie house. But then it was the Hollywood version of the ugliness. The real ugliness was shown in the Movietone News clips that were shown in every theater.

The studios, the stars, and the writers all valued the country that allowed them the opportunity to ply their art without government interference. One other note, back then the studios owned the actors contracts. They promoted the actors names and there were standards of public behavior that were expected. The outrageous behavior for shock value was never allowed. I don't think we were any the worse for that. That is not to say that the private behavior of movie stars wasn't over the top.

No one can write about the WWII era without a special recognition of George M. Cohan. He was a song writer as well as a song and dance man. His patriotic music such as "Yankee Doodle Dandy", " You're A  Grand Old Flag", and "Over There" entertained people through two European wars. When he was on stage singing his own patriotic songs, one could have no doubt that patriotism ran through him as thick as the blood in his veins.

Too many people today don't believe in American exceptionalism. Shame on them. While we may be at a low ebb today, there is still no other country, now or in the past, like the United States of America. One proof of this is that the people with the most vile opinions of our great country still live here. Have faith. Times will change. We have not sunk so far that there is no returning. So celebrate Independence Day proudly. As you are watching fireworks, think what they signify.

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