Posts Tagged ‘Veterans Day’

Veterans’ Day at the Movies

Posted in General, On This Day on November 11th, 2014 by Eugene Finerman – 4 Comments

November 11, 1918:  Western Civilization gave itself a slight respite from self-destruction.

Poppy Projector FinishedThe Armistice lasted 20 years, allowing sufficient time for the toddlers of 1918 to grow into their boots and helmets. (And during that respite, corporals and sergeants promoted themselves to Fuhrers and Duces.)

We Americans did actually win the First World War simply because we still had a breathing generation of draft age men and we showed up in France at the right moment. Had the Chinese sent one million men to France in 1918, they could have won the war, too. Timing is everything.

America was barely involved in World War I. We entered the War in 1917, missing all the excitement of Gallipoli, the Somme and Verdun. More doughboys died from influenza than Krupp munitions. Our chief casualties may have been Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, who were constantly escaping “a fate worse than death” from the Hunnish clutches (or whatever the pertinent organ) of Erich von Stroheim in Hollywood’s depictions of the War. (It should be noted that in her long film career Miss Gish was also nearly raped during the French Revolution and the American Civil War.) Given our limited participation in the Great War, we commemorate November 11 as a catch-all day for all of our Veterans.

However if you really want to honor the veterans of the most futile war in history, you can do so any day on Turner Classic Movies. Just turn on a film from the Golden Age of Hollywood and look at the British actors. To a man, they served in a far more harrowing theater than all the terrors of working with Bette Davis. Many of them were left scarred. Herbert Marshall had the unique distinction of being a leading man with a wooden leg. Claude Raines was blind in one eye. When you see Ronald Colman’s fencing in “The Prisoner of Zenda” you wouldn’t know that he had a kneecap shot off. Lieutenant Nigel Bruce was machine-gunned in the buttocks; that is not the kind of wound that gets the Victoria Cross. If Leslie Howard seemed introspective and other-worldly, shellshock can do that. In fact, to save time, let me recite the British actors who somehow avoided being maimed in France. Well, Leo G. Carroll was wounded in the Middle East; at least, he had that originality.

The most veteran of the British veterans was Donald Crisp, the kindly father figure in so many films of the Thirties and Forties. (He did have an incestuous interest in Lillian Gish in “Broken Blossoms”; but you know, I am starting to have my suspicions about Miss Gish. Did the woman gargle pheromones?) Crisp fought in the Boer War and then served again in the Great War.

If you want to see a microcosm of British history, watch the 1940 production of “Pride and Prejudice.” The middle-aged actors–Edmund Gwenn and Melville Cooper– had served in the Great War. The younger members of the cast–Laurence Olivier and Bruce Lester–were to have their turn. The Armistice was about to end.

And Erich von Stroheim would threaten a new generation of actresses.

Veterans Day

Posted in General, On This Day on November 11th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

Long Ago and Far Away

For some reason, HBO’s series Rome did not feature the music of Jerome Kern.  (Showtime would have; as Rome burned, imagine Nero singing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.)  But The Roaring Twenties epoch Boardwalk Empire does feature Kern’s melodies.  And so did the World War II saga The Pacific.  His career spanned thirty years; how many of today’s composers will last that long?  Will Green Day make it to Gray?

Kern’s work even was considered suitable by the Third Reich.  His surname was Irish and so passed the German racial requirements.  Of course, the composer would have gleefully told Josef Goebbels that Kern was a recent acquisition; the family’s original name was considerably less Celtic and Aryan back in Austria-Hungary.  Nor did Kern feel very appreciative of his German fans.  Hearing the news of France’s fall to the Nazis, Kern and his friend Oscar Hammerstein wrote in one afternoon “The Last Time I Saw Paris”.  “No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way.”

By 1944, we could anticipate victory and the homecoming of our veterans.  This was how Kern–and Ira Gershwin–expressed the public’s hopes and expectations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1bwhGNeUuc

And I think that it still expresses our pride and gratitude to all our veterans.

And from the archives: http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2008/11/11/veterans-day-at-the-movies/

Arms and the Finerman

Posted in General on November 11th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

November 11:  Happy Veterans’ Day.

I don’t think that a member of my family has seen combat since 1905. (Unless you count family dinners, in which case, I make Audie Murphy seem like a Quaker.) My great-uncle Joe fought in the Russo-Japanese War. Can you guess which side? The wrong one, of course. Aside from being on the losing side, he probably would have found the Mikado less Anti-Semitic than the Tsar.

Both of my parents served in the army during World War II. My mother, as a librarian at Ft. Hood, actually came closer to fighting the Civil War. Being in Texas, Ft. Hood had segregated facilities but that didn’t include the library. No one expected the “coloreds” to use it. One African-American did, however. When he returned some books, my mother apparently said something provocative by Southern standards: “thank you.” An army sergeant wrote her a reprimand: “White ladies do not talk to the coloreds.”

My father’s military career was less harrowing. He had a fine singing voice so he was assigned to the U.S. Army Chorus. Even though we were fighting a world war on two fronts, the military brass still required receptions with entertainment. Once the Army Chorus was sent to the Bahamas to serenade its governor, the Duke of Windsor. That was the closest my father ever came to a Nazi.

And if I am permitted to create my own heroic mythology, I can just imagine one of my ancestors as the morale officer at Masada. Of course, given the family resemblance, he would have been court-martialed for ordering in pizzas.

Be sure to wish to thank a veteran today…even if he is your cantankerous father-in-law.

And here, from last year, is my essay on Veterans’ Day at the Movies:  http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2008/11/11/veterans-day-at-the-movies/

Veterans’ Day at the Movies

Posted in General, On This Day on November 11th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – 10 Comments

November 11, 1918:  Western Civilization gave itself a slight respite from self-destruction.

The Armistice lasted 20 years, allowing sufficient time for the toddlers of 1918 to grow into their boots and helmets. (And during that respite, corporals and sergeants promoted themselves to Fuhrers and Duces.)

We Americans did actually win the First World War simply because we still had a breathing generation of draft age men and we showed up in France at the right moment. Had the Chinese sent one million men to France in 1918, they could have won the war, too. Timing is everything.

America was barely involved in World War I. We entered the War in 1917, missing all the excitement of Gallipoli, the Somme and Verdun. More doughboys died from influenza than Krupp munitions. Our chief casualties may have been Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, who were constantly escaping “a fate worse than death” from the Hunnish clutches (or whatever the pertinent organ) of Erich von Stroiheim in Hollywood’s depictions of the War. (It should be noted that in her long film career Miss Gish was also nearly raped during the French Revolution and the American Civil War.) Given our limited participation in the Great War, we commemorate November 11 as a catch-all day for all of our Veterans.

However if you really want to honor the veterans of the most futile war in history, you can do so any day on Turner Classic Movies. Just turn on a film from the Golden Age of Hollywood and look at the British actors. To a man, they served in a far more harrowing theater than all the terrors of working with Bette Davis. Many of them were left scarred. Herbert Marshall had the unique distinction of being a leading man with a wooden leg. Claude Raines was blind in one eye. When you see Ronald Colman’s fencing in “The Prisoner of Zenda” you wouldn’t know that he had a kneecap shot off. Lieutenant Nigel Bruce was machine-gunned in the buttocks; that is not the kind of wound that gets the Victoria Cross. If Leslie Howard seemed introspective and other-worldly, shellshock can do that. In fact, to save time, let me recite the British actors who somehow avoided being maimed in France. Well, Leo G. Carroll was wounded in the Middle East; at least, he had that originality. And Captain Basil Rathbone, decorated for courage, really should have been awarded for remarkable luck: not a scratch!

The most veteran of the British veterans was Donald Crisp, the kindly father figure in so many films of the Thirties and Forties. (He did have an incestuous interest in Lillian Gish in “Broken Blossoms”; but you know, I am starting to have my suspicions about Miss Gish. Did the woman gargle pheromones?) Crisp fought in the Boer War and then served again in the Great War.

If you want to see a microcosm of British history, watch the 1940 production of “Pride and Prejudice.” The middle-aged actors–Edmund Gwenn and Melville Cooper– had served in the Great War. The younger members of the cast–Laurence Olivier and Bruce Lester–were to have their turn. The Armistice was about to end.

And Erich von Stroiheim would threaten a new generation of actresses.

Arms and the Finerman

Posted in General on November 11th, 2006 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Happy Veterans Day.

I don’t think that a member of my family has seen combat since 1905. (Unless you count family dinners, in which case, I make Audie Murphy seem like a Quaker.) My great-uncle Joe fought in the Russo-Japanese War. Can you guess which side? The wrong one, of course. Aside from being on the losing side, he probably would have found the Mikado less Anti-Semitic than the Tsar.

Both of my parents served in the army during World War II. My mother, as a librarian at Ft. Hood, actually came closer to fighting the Civil War. Being in Texas, Ft. Hood had segregated facilities but that didn’t include the library. No one expected the “coloreds” to use it. One African-American did, however. When he returned some books, my mother apparently said something provocative by Southern standards: “thank you.” An army sergeant wrote her a reprimand: “White ladies do not talk to the coloreds.”

My father’s military career was less harrowing. He had a fine singing voice so he was assigned to the U.S. Army Chorus. Even though we were fighting a world war on two fronts, the military brass still required receptions with entertainment. Once the Army Chorus was sent to the Bahamas to serenade its governor, the Duke of Windsor. That was the closest my father ever came to a Nazi.

And if I am permitted to create my own heroic mythology, I can just imagine one of my ancestors as the morale officer at Masada. Of course, given the family resemblance, he would have been court-martialed for ordering in pizzas.

Be sure to wish to thank a veteran today…even if he is your cantankerous father-in-law.