Friday, 31 August 2007

OK Pilgrim.

It's easy for the Left infected to criticize John Wayne, a large portion of the current zeitgeist such as it is, is primarily promoted and moulded by the fashionably fatuous Left, and is too often the default perception. Especially for those who would struggle impotently to look even slightly as fine a man and human being as The Duke was, or even any good at all. And with all the authentic appeal and power of a stack of sodden activist pamphlets. Women too can find it hard to achieve such very real and supple grace as John Wayne had. Wayne was naturally repelled by crudity. Thus he was not of the Left Liberal set.

I live in the inner city where there's a lot of great looking, hip, fun and groovy gals. The effect though, can sometimes be spoiled when they speak, move or stand still. I should be so lucky. As for the fecundity to be able to raise seven children...

While I was living in Taiwan, I had some kids tell me once, that I looked like Ronald Reagan! That was when I was 29 and he was in his 70's! It must have been the Tony Curtis rockabilly hair. Yes, that was it, the hair...

As for the local guys? While I do prefer the inner city, there is the impression that confident, clear minded, fluid and mature men with a sure sense of identity in a William Holden sort of way, are sometimes a little thin on the ground, but what do I know?

Wayne had a wonderful, unique mix of strength, natural masculinity and the female element of lightness. A sprung flexibility, not unlike the great Bruce Lee. Maybe that’s why Directors said Wayne walked around like a big cat. That's presence.

A balance of light and shade are what makes us human beings and Wayne had this. It's part of why so many were drawn toward and loved him. Wayne was a beautiful individual and naturally got your instant attention. Like everyone, he had his flaws, but he was so interesting. Damn right he was somebody, and many still feel him in their heart and soul, while others who are supposed to be great by opinion, make no lasting impact worth a damn. I wish he could still be around. There are many who are merely mistaken in their limited, biased perceptions and opinions of him.

Wayne had a great sense of humour, was funny himself and loved to laugh at himself. Not a big Left thing really is it, not taking yourself so seriously, while still true to real values?

For all of the often phony talk of tolerance and diversity, this can mean a narrowing to ones own peculiar views and non-ideas regards how a human being is supposed to be. Yep, diversity and choice but not that one, or that one, or that one. A natural, complete and real human being will be any damn way they please. And the nuanced and masculine seem to not be the promoted flavour of late.

The essence of Wayne was that he embodied the free individual. A responsible adult who genuinely cared for the actual people that he met and knew, showing it in daily actions. He never talked about people as mere political abstractions.

The accepted bigotry of today is reserved almost exclusively for strong individuals that happen to be white. Add American and ta dah! Add Christian or Jew and ya fine in venal creepy town and you get some nice rebel credentials too. It's freedom to express at last the right kind of bigot that you really are, and in the company of millions of other ‘right on’ and fake ‘progressive’ creeps whose only uniquely original thought is entirely narcissistic.

The Left bigots away ad nauseum on these approved targets, and how disgusting Capitalist Democracies are because they are not working when they empirically are, and usually to their great benefit, and what’s Capitalism ever done for us anyway etc?

You can do this it seems at a lot of urban dinner parties without much fear of criticism or censure. Just keep to whites, Jews or black and Asian Conservatives etc.

"Er, gee Roger, I think you may be a little hyperbolic there with your line about Australia being a Fascist Racist State, the Jews controlling the biosphere and the full Burkha being a great step forward for women. Maybe it's the seafood cocktail you had?"

This is the core of the overblown vitriol commonly aimed at John Wayne. They actually do hate America and the free authentic individual. John Wayne was an actor who never hurt anyone and was very kind and generous to many, especially ordinary people. The most popular, recognisable, admired and biggest box office star of all time, John Wayne's movies have earned over $700,000,000 in old money and that's when $700,000,000 was worth something.

The Duke was a man whose films were mostly very successful entertainment. They usually told on a personal and human scale, epic themes. Humane and about choices, it was cinema that mostly concerned itself with doing the right thing at the testing point of courage, however difficult or imperfect that may be. The recurrent line was seeing clearly that there are such things as good and evil, and being able to be discriminating and rational in dealing with them.

In the end, Wayne was about being on the side of human decency, standing up for the ordinary person, the absolute fundamental of freedom. Wayne's films and personal views were, oh how gauche! Patriotic.

Well, today it’s mostly fashionable and kudos gaining to not like either really. The common man only as a handy and opportunistic cipher often presented in the negative and a deluded buffoon, and patriotism not at all. Not until our country is perfect apparently.

Or in the unlikely event that the common people of a free Democracy, would ever willingly submit to their own Left proscribed 'perfecting' through the insanity of some idiot brand of Left Socialist revolution. These days, you hear freaks who long for such Utopian fantasy bildge at eny bus stop, folks.

Left leaning twerp at an inner city Prahran dinner party: "This Fascist regime! of Howard's is stopping dissent and diversity of opinion of 'the people'!"

Colonel Neville: "Er, gee, I'm a working class 'people' and I disagree with your statements as they are empirically unsubstantiated Leftist rubbish and nonsense. What do you say to my dissent and diversity of opinion, wee wee pants? Um, if it's so bad here, why aren't you so frightened that you're catching the next plane to Fidel's Cuban Wonderland? They have every Leftist's dream policy in place and all are fully acted upon".

Fatuous Twerpo: "You are a Fascist!"

Colonel Neville: "Er, but I own a restaurant and I have no divisions of Blackshirts".

Glib twerpo: "Right wing Imperialist!"

Colonel Neville: "Er, sorry about that. I didn't realise my fist was closed."

Regards Wayne’s anti-Communist actions in 1950's Hollywood, he was completely correct. Any decent person should naturally be anti-Left, anti-Communist, just as you should be anti-Islamist, anti-Nazi, anti-Che the child killer or anti-rapist. You don't have to hate the local breed of fluffy, deluded, dangerous individuals and untrue believers that curiously may be otherwise decent people, though often are not. And Wayne didn't hate them. He had no interest in punishing those who admitted that they were wrong to support Communism. The Duke said that, "It takes a lot of courage to admit you are wrong".

Sadly, the scandal of the 20th Century is that few on the Left ever admit to being wrong about anything, in fact they believe it even more the worse their bizarre fantasies get, in some kind of dysfunctional recurring cycle. Thus the endless and current Return of the Son of the 1960's.

The same useful idiots in Che t-shirts and now printed Chavez underpants, manage to forever maintain their comfortable, complete and stupid denial. This in spite of the Himalaya of damning evidence against such utterly inhuman and mad failures as Communism and the filth of Islamism. Give the 'Workers Paradise' another try if you have another spare 100 million workers to murder.

I could vomit on their shoes. The ideology of Communism, its practice and its seriously avid practitioners and enthusists should only be despised and we should see Communism, Leftist junk and now Islamism for exactly what they are and always have been. Repackaged murder.

Whatever way you cut it, Hollywood Communists, Leftists and others were and are a polite, respectable front made of hobbyists and enthusiasts for an ideology based on murder, lies, spite, conformity, jealousy and madness.

As Mark Steyn called it; it's a kind of 'Gentlemens Agreement' that to get too worked up about Communism, Radicalism or Totalitarian Dictatorships is so uncouth, especially as they almost never do except in the supportively and positive posing of the apologist, fan and useful idiot. Of course there's a bad side too.

These regimes have murdered over 100 million people and are still doing this right now.

The 1950's House Un-American Committee's suspicions via Senator Eugene Mcarthy were empirically correct. The Government was infiltrated by determined and serious Soviet Agents. Hollywood was full of Pinko's and sympathiser's! They were and are of various hues of commitment from the totally silly and negligible to the seriously criminal and dangerously treasonous. Hollywood then, just like today, had many "enablers of evil" such as various Left and limousine Liberals, Communist and Socialist radicals, sympathisers and apologist's. Today in Hollywood, there are platoons of movie folk pals and fans of mass murdering Dictators like Che and Castro.

Trying to figure out how twisted much of Hollywood, celebrity culture and the MSM actually is, is one Hell of a job.

Mark Steyns rather searing article on Hollywood and Elia Kazan; 'The Crucible of Hollywood's Guilt', shows how the real and great artist Kazan had real and actual experience of the hideous and true nature of Communism. Kazan couldn't stomach or find the same appeal as Leftists do in their long affair with Totalitarianism. Certainly few who have lived under Communism will never dig it say as easily and glibly as many Tinseltown folks do from the comfort of large Bel Air estates and even bigger bank accounts.

Stars like Robert Redford, the 'right' kind of Hollywood hero who lovingly made a film about how groovy and swell was Che, the child murdering Communist bastard. Redford will never get any criticism like Wayne has, even though Bob seems happy to present Che the mass murderer as neato, as Wayne never would or could. Bobby, like a lot of Hollywood, is very much at ease in Castro world.

This is why John Wayne is so popular and loved by people who have actually lived through or are trying to survive in Communist nightmares, Islamic basket cases and other hideous Dictatorships. Just ask the Poles who barely made it through Nazism and Communism, the two major disasters for millions of human beings in the 20th Century.

The Poles love Wayne and America, which are synonymous to them and millions free and yearning to be free around the world. Millions emigrate to the US and the West and with all it's flaws, few leave, especially permanently. For the Left, the name of John Wayne is used as a glib reflexive negative shorthand. The Left often take the imperfect human timbers of Democracy entirely for granted.

It’s not compulsory to agree with everything Wayne said, thought or did. It doesn’t make John Wayne a big zero because he doesn’t fit into a randomly acquired set of the latest ideological opinions, especially when he’s empirically not a bad person at all, unless one is entirely perspective free and on the edge of madness. He is so absurdly vilified simply because he wasn’t of the Left but a true Democratic Republican. Only the disturbed and bankrupt can be the kind of Liberal that many Liberals have degenerated into.

When such folks achieve more than the Duke let me know.

Wayne is polarising to people with polarised views. Shallow and nuance free, easy and intolerant is the way to go for the undisciplined and amorphous of mind. John Wayne was after all, a movie star, a private human being and a citizen. If you’re hip at all, he was very cool and not just the image. He was also very human and created entirely his own style, image and persona. Try achieving that in these days of the perfectly mediocre and forgettable formula grooming. Anybody around as long as Wayne was is bound to have their shortcomings a little more obviously displayed than say, the deservedly anonymous.

All those films and his great 'Look', the 'Voice' and those very quotable lines. Waynes dynamic character, the hope, adventures, violence and tenderness. What more do you want? He had seven children, was married to one woman, was loved and admired by millions and the many who met him. He said what he meant and meant what he said.

To the masses oppressed by Totalitarianism around the world, John Wayne's image and reality were and still are, a potent and very powerful idea. It's the dream of freedom, individuality and honesty and the yearned for possibility of a decent life for the powerless.

Travel the world long enough and there will be a time when you wish you could find a John Wayne character running a flatboat somewhere on your particular river. John Wayne had a converted WWII minesweeper that he used for fishing and entertaining among other things. Very, very cool. Was it a more optimistic time? Well, Wayne's span on earth was so sweeping and anyway, hope and the good are still always there and while it's not always easy, don't let the distractions of easy junk divert you from being an authentic, free and decent human being and...beautiful.

All the best on The Dukes 101th Anniversary.

"There's right and there's wrong. You got a do one or the other. You do the one and you're living. You do the other and you may be walking around, but you're dead as a beaver hat." John Wayne.

The following are some excerpts from Ronald Reagan’s personal tribute to the Duke.

'I never once saw Duke display hatred toward those who scorned him. Oh, he could use some pretty salty language, but he would not tolerate pettiness and hate. He often said, "I have tried to live my life so that my family would love me and my friends respect me. The others can do whatever the Hell they please."

We called him Duke, and he was every bit the giant off screen he was on. Everything about him, his stature, his style, his convictions, conveyed enduring strength, and no one who observed his struggle in those final days could doubt that this strength was real. Yet there was more. To my wife Nancy, "Duke Wayne was the most gentle, tender person I ever knew."

To him, a handshake was a binding contract. When he was in the hospital for the last time and sold his yacht, The Wild Goose, for an amount far below its market value, he learned the engines needed minor repairs. He ordered those engines overhauled at a cost to him of $40,000 because he had told the new owner the boat was in good shape.

Duke's generosity and loyalty stood out in a city rarely known for either. When a friend needed work, that person went on his payroll. When a friend needed help, Duke's wallet was open. He also was loyal to his fans. One writer tells of the night he and Duke were in Dallas for the premiere of [the movie] Chisum. Returning late to his hotel, Duke found a message from a woman who said her little girl lay critically ill in a local hospital. The woman wrote, "It would mean so much to her if you could pay her just a brief visit."

At 3 o'clock in the morning he took off for the hospital where he visited the astonished child and every other patient on the hospital floor who happened to be awake. I saw his loyalty in action many times.

When Duke discovered this, he went before the public and showed us that a man can fight this dread disease. He went on to raise millions of dollars for private cancer research. Typically, he snorted: "We've got too much at stake to give government a monopoly in the fight against cancer”.

Duke tried to enlist but was rejected because of an old football injury to his shoulder, his age (34), and his status as a married father of four. He flew to Washington to plead that he be allowed to join the Navy but was turned down. So he poured himself into the war effort by making inspirational war films-among them 'The Fighting Seabees', 'Back to Bataan' and 'They Were Expendable.' To those back home and others around the world he became a symbol of the determined American fighting man.

He gave the whole world the image of what an American should be'.

"Actually, John Wayne was a very good friend of Jimmy Stewart, and was there when Jimmy needed him most. I am most reminded of a story that I believe Stewart himself told during a 'Tonight Show' interview in the late seventies:

Stewart's stepson Ronald, a Marine, was killed in June 1969 in Vietnam. Stewart was devastated, and as anyone who knows that time period, very aware of the stigma which the nation had attached to those who served in that war.

Shortly after his stepson's death, Stewart and John Wayne stepped out of a building close to the Berkley campus only to find themselves on the outskirts of a massive anti-war demonstration. In the middle of this unwashed, unruly throng a Viet Cong flag proudly waved.

Stewart saw it, and so did John Wayne; then, according to Jimmy Stewart, Wayne did a remarkable thing. He turned to Stewart and told him he'd " right back". Wayne then disappeared into the gyrating mass.

Stewart related that even though he couldn't see Wayne, he could tell exactly where Wayne was in the crowd from the silence that evidently followed his path, and it lead straight to the Viet Cong flag.

A big hand reached up, pulled down the flag, then disappeared yet again, this time leaving silence spreading behind it, and when John Wayne appeared, he was carrying the balled-up Viet Cong flag in his hands..."

From a comment left by Dandelion.

Dear sports, here's a great column on Pinko Hollywood, the 1950's and Elia Kazan etc, by Mark Steyn. Unfortunately no link was avialable anywhere I could find.


Steyn on Stage and Screen.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007.

Bernard Gordon died over the weekend. He was one of those Hollywood Communists of the Forties blacklisted in the Fifties, and it defined him till the end. A solid Hollywood screenwriter, Gordon adapted The Day Of The Triffids and was a reliable hand at war movies, among them The Battle Of The Bulge and, of all things, Hellcats Of The Navy, with Ronald Reagan's only film role with Nancy. Gordon's screenplay and the stars' performance aren't always in sync: even as Ron's explaining why he's so tortured with guilt he can never marry her, he and Nancy look like a placidly contented small-town couple heading for a night out at the local Rotary Club.

In later years, the screenwriter led the protests against the very belated Oscar awarded to Elia Kazan in 1999. As Gordon wrote of Kazan in The Los Angeles Times, “He helped to support an oppressive regime that did incalculable damage to America and abroad.”

Interesting choice of word: "regime". And what about the regime you supported? With Gordon's passing, the blacklist recedes further into history, except for the curious fascination it exercises for the current crop of Hollywood poseurs. Here's what I had to say about the period for The Atlantic Monthly on the occasion of Elia Kazan's passing in 2003:

You usually hear the tune on Oscar night, but not often the lyric, which is more to the point:

Hooray For Hollywood
Where you’re terrific if you’re even good.

When someone’s really terrific, it’s a different story. In a town where everyone from Johnny Depp to Janeane Garofalo is an “artist”, Hollywood doesn’t always know how to deal with the real thing. In 1996, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, mulling over their Career Achievement Award, decided to reject Elia Kazan and honour instead Roger Corman, the director of Swamp Women, Attack Of The Crab Monsters and Teenage Caveman. Swamp Women and Attack Of The Crab Monsters are good, and Teenage Caveman is not only good, it’s also an eloquent plea for world disarmament, at least according to its youthful star Robert Vaughan. But On The Waterfront is terrific. This should not be a difficult call.

But apparently it is. Kazan can make a claim to be the father of modern American acting, the man who brought Stanislavskian techniques to Broadway and then to the silver screen. Insofar as the young lions of our present-tense culture aspire to emulate any of the old guys, it’s not David Niven or even Jimmy Cagney who resonate, but Marlon Brando, James Dean, Rod Steiger – on all of whom Kazan was the greatest single influence. He was a great theatre director, and later a fine novelist, and, when he walked on stage in 1999 to receive a belated Lifetime Achievement Oscar, he might reasonably have expected the orchestra to be vamping Leonard Bernstein’s theme to On The Waterfront for a good ten minutes while Hollywood roared its appreciation. Instead, outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, elderly hack screenwriters led protests and, inside, the likes of Sean Penn sat on their hands.

For both Hollywood’s ancient D-list Communists and its A-list anti-anti-Communists, there’s only one thing about Kazan that matters: he “named names”.

It’s no fun being a socially conscious movie star if nobody’s conscious of you. You want to be noticed. Not too noticed, not Salman Rushdie price-on-your-head noticed. But just a little bit of attention. And the only time any one in power paid any attention to the political views of Hollywood people was half a century ago. In an ideal world – or if you were making a movie on the subject – the fellows who were politically “persecuted” would be a little more talented, or at least prominent, and maybe it would be better if they weren’t subscribers to an ideology so thoroughly failed and so comprehensively rejected by anyone who’s had the misfortune to live under it.

But those are mere nitpicky details next to the towering feeling of validation the latterday Hollywood activist derives from his McCarthy fetish. For the Richard Dreyfus generation, what Kazan did is an affront to their deep conviction of their own heroism.

Nor is the fact that Hollywood’s belief in its own heroism derives from a moment of colossal Hollywood cowardice any obstacle. The blacklist “victims” weren’t blacklisted by the government but by the studios – Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney – the same folks who run Hollywood today. In 1999, when Penn and Dreyfus were up in arms over Kazan’s Oscar, old Lew Wasserman was still going to his office at Universal every day. Fifty years ago, had he chosen to, Wasserman and his talent agency could have broken the blacklist as decisively as he broke the studio system.

But Wasserman and the suits were absolved and their sins sub-contracted to one elderly retired director: as former blacklisted screenwriter Norma Barzman told CNN, “Elia Kazan’s lifetime achievement is great films and destroyed lives, and even a third thing, which is a lasting climate of fear over Hollywood and maybe over the country.” Kazan became the crucible (if he’ll forgive the expression) of the industry’s institutional guilt over the McCarthy era.

To this day, Mrs Barzman thinks Kazan ratted because he had a half-million dollar deal lined up for On The Waterfront: Thus, Hollywood’s Communists were true to their principles; its anti-Communists were in it for the money. This would be mere condescension if On The Waterfront were an Esther Williams aqua-musical, but it’s rendered laughable by the fact that the film is instead the most cogent response to the likes of the Barzmans, beginning with the exquisite joke of its choice of analogy for Communist penetration in Hollywood: a waterfront union corrupted by racketeers. After all, until the director’s detractors began insisting that personal loyalty trumps all other considerations, the notion that “ratting” was the ultimate sin was confined mostly to the mob.

Kazan had spent his first nine years on the move – born to Greek parents in Istanbul, who moved on to Berlin and eventually New York. He understood the force of the big impersonal currents of history because his own family had been swept along in their wake. From 2003, it’s difficult to appreciate the swiftness of the Red march in the post-war years: the Soviets very nearly grabbed Greece and Italy; their stooges seized Poland in 1945, Bulgaria in ’46, Hungary and Romania in ’47, Czechoslavakia in ’48, China in ’49; they were the main influence on the nationalist movements of Africa and Asia; they neutered much of what was left. You would have to be awfully convinced of American exceptionalism to think the Republic was uniquely immune.

But the arts have little time for anti-Communists, especially premature anti-Communists, especially as premature as Kazan: he quit the party in 1936, after he’d refused to help it turn the Group Theatre into an actors’ collective. Until then he was a conventional lefty, the stellar lefty of the Group's Waiting For Lefty, the one who ends the play by roaring the one-word injunction to the audience, “Strike!” But, if we were to frame Kazan’s testimony to HUAC in terms of personal loyalty, what about his responsibility to, say, Vsevolod Meyerhold?

When Kazan joined the Group straight out of Yale, the company looked to the Russians for inspiration, not just to Stanislavski but also to his wayward disciple Meyerhold. The latter was a great mentor to the young American and other Group members. This was a period, remember, when the Group frequently visited Russia – Lefty, for example, was staged in Moscow. Meyerhold loved the older stylized forms – commedia del’arte, pantomime – and refused to confine himself to Socialist Realism. So Stalin had him arrested and executed.

Think about that: murdered over a difference of opinion about a directing style. As “persecution” goes, that’s a little more thorough than forcing some screenwriter to work on a schlock network variety show under a false name.

Amid the herd-like moral poseurs, Kazan was always temperamentally an outsider, and his work benefited after he became one in a more formal sense. But, both before and after, his best productions concern themselves with a common question: the point at which you’re obliged to break with your own – your union, your class, your group, or, in Kazan’s case, your Group. The 1947 Oscar-winner Gentleman’s Agreement strikes most contemporary observers as very tame, square Kazan.

But, in a curious way, that’s the point. When you start watching and you realize it’s an issue movie “about” anti-semitism, you expect it to get ugly, to show us Jew-bashing in the schoolyard, and vile language about kikes. But it stays up the genteel end with dinner party embarrassments, restricted resort hotels, an understanding about the sort of person one sells one’s property to. Dorothy McGuire and her Connecticut friends aren’t bad people, but in their world, as much as on Johnny Friendly’s waterfront, people conform: they turn a blind eye to the Jew-disparaging joke, they discreetly avoid confronting the truth about the hotel’s admission policies, and, as Gregory Peck comes to understand, they’re the respectable face of what at the sharp end means pogroms and genocide.

That’s what all those Hollywood and Broadway Communists did. They were the polite front of an ideology that led to mass murder, and they expected Kazan to honour their gentleman’s agreement. In those polite house parties Gregory Peck goes to, it’s rather boorish and tedious to become too exercised about anti-semitism.

And likewise, at gatherings in the arts, it’s boorish and tedious to become too exercised about Communism – no matter how many faraway, foreign, unglamorous people it kills. Elia Kazan was on the right side of history. His enemies line up with the apologists for thugs and tyrants. Whose reputation would you bet on in the long run?

The Atlantic Monthly, December 2003".


Anonymous said...

Actually, John Wayne was a very good friend of Jimmy Stewart, and was there when Jimmy needed him most. I am most reminded of a story that I believe Stewart himself told during a "Tonight Show" interview in the late seventies:

Stewart's stepson Ronald, a Marine, was killed in June 1969 in Vietnam. Stewart was devastated, and as anyone who knows that time period, very aware of the stigma which the nation had attached to those who served in that war.

Shortly after his stepson's death, Stewart and John Wayne stepped out of a building close to the Berkley campus only to find themselves on the outskirts of a massive anti-war demonstration. In the middle of this unwashed, unruly throng a Viet Cong flag proudly waved.

Stewart saw it, and so did John Wayne; then, according to Jimmy Stewart, Wayne did a remarkable thing. He turned to Stewart and told him he'd "be right back". Wayne then disappeared into the gyrating mass.

Stewart related that even though he couldn't see Wayne, he could tell EXACTLY where Wayne was in the crowd from the silence that evidently followed his path, and it lead straight to the Viet Cong flag.

A big hand reached up, PULLED down the flag, then disappeared yet again, this time leaving silence spreading behind it, and when John Wayne appeared, he was carrying the balled-up Viet Cong flag in his hands...


Dan Zaremba said...

A great man.
My entire generation back in commie Poland loved him dearly.

Maybe it's the seafood cocktail you had?

I'd say the weed they smoke.