Tag Archives: WWII

Rube Goldberg, Pearl Harbor

Rube Goldberg ruled my childhood.

Goldberg, who died forty years ago today, was a cartoonist who was most famous for his elaborate engineering ideas that illustrated a complex way of performing a simple task. He was so inventive at this that his name became synonymous with anything where the effort far outweighed the result.

Government, anyone?

You’ve heard the phrase “build a better mouse trap”? Goldberg did.

I played that game incessantly as well as its follow-up, Crazy Clock.

As goofy as they were, they did cause you to think about things a different way. Perhaps that’s why Rube Goldberg competitions flourish to this day. And maybe why I am as odd as I am.

Today is also the “day that will live in infamy“… and so it shall here. I remember visiting the memorial in the early 80s and being stunned that oil is still leaking to the surface. The fact that the crowd was about sixty percent Japanese tourists with cameras was surreal. But I remember thinking that we were another generation past a brutal war in which both sides conducted ruthless and brutal attacks, and these were different times. But forgive  does not mean forget.

I salute my Dad and all others who served bravely in WWII.

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T.G.I.F. – Happy Birthday, Robert Mitchum

Boy, talk about a rebel.

Robert Mitchum just didn’t give a shit about authority or rules. Didn’t care that in Hollywood, people were supposed to act a certain way. Didn’t care that he might rub directors or producers the wrong way and it might impact his career. I doubt he even let the word career linger in his head. Basically, you go around once,  and baby, if you want to climb aboard the Good Ship Mitchum, things are gonna work out just fine.

Of course, by the time this reputation was clearly established, I was but a young film buff learning to appreciate the wonders of The Sundowners, Cape Fear, El Dorado and Story of G.I. Joe (amazingly, his only Academy Award nomination). It wasn’t until years later that I finally saw Out Of The Past, which is easily in the top five list of the greatest film noir ever made.

I was not a big Winds of War or War And Remembrance fan despite the accolades; I prefer Mitchum young and rebellious and demonic. But even in his seventies, his narration in Tombstone was outstanding (the last line is an absolute classic) and his small role in Robert DeNiro’s remake of Cape Fear put a big smile on my face. Pretty amazing that he lasted within a month of his 80th birthday after the life he had, but his majestic film performances are preserved forever in all their glory. As are those record albums and mug shots.

So as I celebrate Robert Mitchum’s birthday by having a cocktail, listening to a calypso song and just not giving a shit for a little while; here are Ten Memorable Mitchums for you to recall and/or discover…

(No slight to fellow birthday buddy Lucille Ball, a comedic legend and genius, but it’s all about Bob today. Maybe next year?)

01)  The Night of The Hunter. Oh. My. God. As (cough) preacher Harry Powell, with fingers tattooed L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E, Mitchum created one of the most frighteningly sinister characters in film history.

02)  River Of No Return. Mitchum in a western with Marilyn Monroe, a raging river and a real-life pot bust during filming. Not a classic, but a side of Mitchum not often seen.

03)  The List of Adrian Messenger. Okay, Mitchum only plays a small part in this movie, much like Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis . The stars are really George C. Scott and Kirk Douglas, but this who-done-it is really more of a who-is-it. Trust me – watch this film.

04)  Crossfire. Three Roberts – Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Robert Young – in a wartime thriller directed by Edward Dmytryk. Available in a film noir collection although technically not really in the genre.

05)  The Longest Day. Still one of the best WWII movies ever made, this film told the story of D-Day from the perspective of four different countries and featured forty-two Hollywood stars in the cast.

06)  The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Mitchum as a Boston small-timer with his back against the wall trying to survive between the Feds and the mob. Incredible cast (Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Alex Rocco) and finally out on DVD. A must-see movie.

07)  Thunder Road. Moonshine, hot rods and rum-running as Lucas Doolin. Mitchum wrote the script and even had a hit song with the title theme (take that, Bruce Springsteen!) as he played an Appalachian James Dean

08)  The Racket. Another film with Robert  Ryan (perhaps even more underrated than Mitchum these days) where Mitchum plays the righteous guy trying to stem the corruption of the mob.

09)  The Enemy Below. A taut duel between submarine commander Curd Jurgens and Mitchum’s destroyer. To say this is claustrophobic is an understatement, but the game of cat-and-mouse is spellbinding and tense, and the display of respect for one’s enemy was an unusual tone for a war film.

10)  Out Of The Past. An absolute stone-cold classic loaded with killer quotes. “Build my gallows high, baby”…”Baby, I don’t care”…”It was the bottom of the barrel, and I was scraping it“. And when the femme fatale says she doesn’t want to die, he replies “Neither do I, baby, but if I do I want to die last“.  Also featuring one of Kirk Douglas‘ best roles; loosely remade as Against All Odds in the 80s (a decent film,  but it pales in comparison to the original).

Robert Mitchum’s filmography at IMDB.

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9/11 on 12/07

My Dad lied about his age to join the Navy during WWII. Days later he was in San Francisco, getting ready to ship out on a destroyer headed for Japan. He was surrounded by a bunch of guys of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, but much like him they shared a common sense of purpose. He spent most of his time in the Pacific Theatre and thankfully returned home safe and sound, although I know he experienced horrible things we still don’t talk about to this day.

Our enemies then were obvious and easy to identify. They had a defined geographic location. Wars like that were as horrific and unthinkable as any ever were or will be, but few could argue that we didn’t have skin in the game.

Things are very different after 9/11, although the call for retribution after the attack on American soil and the frustration and anger we felt mirrored Pearl Harbor. Somehow whatever goodwill and global sympathy that came our way was quickly destroyed, and almost a decade later we find ourselves involved in at least two major war efforts. Whether liberators or occupiers, our blood is being shed halfway around the globe in an effort that increasingly looks more like Vietnam than World War Two.

We’re on the cusp of even bigger involvement while back home our economy struggles, our politicians bicker and – perhaps most sadly – a large number of us walk through each day oblivious to what is happening to us.

Are we really a society that is that ill-informed on matters of importance but well-schooled on what’s happening in the gossip pages? Too lazy to listen to the President’s speech but plenty of time to DVR Gossip Girl? Unwilling to discuss health care or the morality of foreign conflict but happy enough to dedicate hours of talking head television to Tiger Woods and his family indiscretions?

At least for today – a day that will live in infamy – can we put aside the mundane bullshit that we wallow in like oblivious sheep? Can we give thought to the brave men and women – hell, boys and girls – who volunteered to put their lives on the line so that we could sit at home, safely, to participate in such nonsense? Like my Dad, they went not out of formal obligation, but as a personal one. People of character, strength and purpose.

Yet we take them for granted. We’d rather give our attention to the celebretards and reality show losers and fallen idols. Can we please, as we stumble through a holiday season of gifts and parties and fanfare, give some thought to what really matters?

I was lucky that the man who would become my Dad came home. Many he served with did not. Many families today mourn – and will mourn – when their sons and daughters and mothers and fathers depart and never come home. Maybe you know those people. Maybe you are those people.

I don’t pretend to understand the complexity of what is happening in the Middle East, or whether our actions are justified or not. I do know that we have thousands and thousands of brave people around the world who are in the thick of it all day every day. I do know that I do not and will not ever take that for granted.

Even if for one day, remember these people, these volunteers, the truly brave among us, and do something. Write a letter, send a care package, reach out to their families…do something to acknowledge in a small way that you understand their sacrifice and appreciate it. And when you sit around your Christmas tree or holiday celebration, take a moment to remember all those people who wish they could be doing that with their family as well, but who chose to sacrifice even that for the rest of us.

The American Red Cross

The U.S.O.

Veterans Administration

USA Cares

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