Heroes Provide Road Maps for Success
Tuesday July 27, 2003 Grand Junction Free Press Page 10
(c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved
Grammy's Axioms, Special to the Grand Junction Free Press
By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall
Axiom: People today confuse the words "freedom" and "license." Historically, freedom implies responsible behavior. License does not.
I keep wondering why there are so few Hollywood stars with public appeal equal to that of movie legends from the 1940s. People who were not alive during the 1950s may argue with that... but they don't know any better. They really did not know John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart.
Tom Cruise is a very handsome, sexy man. He is a wonderful actor. Something tells me, however, that his movie image will not carry him as a movie great into old age like it did for Wayne, Stewart, Heston, Scott, Niven, Brando, etc.
Why? Okay, I know... as we age, we all lose the physical attributes so much a part of star appeal. But that did not stop John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart and a lot of other 1940s movie giants from being lifelong Hollywood stars. And, their appeal was not gender biased. Their popularity did not rely on sex appeal. They were equally loved by all movie goers, male and female.
What is different about today's stars?
I believe the appeal of stars from my generation had a lot to do with integrity. Since integrity (or, lack of it) always results from character, I guess it is also a matter of character. Today's stars have a lot of style... but often show very little class. Jimmy Stewart exuded class. So did Charlton Heston, David Niven, and George C. Scott. Is the name of Tom Cruise equal to the names of John Wayne or Clark Gable?
Do you consider Bruce Willis the equal of Charlton Heston? Will Sean Penn's star keep shining as brightly as Jimmy Stewart's throughout his life? Part of the answer to that question lies in real-life behavior rather than the screen heroics that safely occur in front of cameras.
Can you imagine Jimmy Stewart going to Berlin to talk with Adolph Hitler just prior to World War II? Can you see him telling the German people how ashamed he is of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for wanting to declare war against Germany... to help our allies, the Brits? I can't.
More people were killed on 9-11 than were killed by the Japanese during the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 1941.
Sean Penn might be able to imagine it... he visited Saddam in Iraq. With the advent of World War II, many of our 1940's actors gave up their wealth, position and fame to become G.I.s. Here is what our super stars of the 40's were doing after war was declared:>
Sir Alec Guinness (Star Wars and many other important leading man roles) operated a British Royal Navy landing craft on D Day.
James Doohan ("Scotty" on Star Trek) landed in Normandy with the U. S. Army on D Day.
Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape) really was an R. A. F. pilot who was shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Germans. David Niven was a Sandhurst graduate and Lt. Colonel of the British Commandos in Normandy.
James (Jimmy) Stewart entered the Army Air Force as a private and worked his way to the rank of Colonel. During World War II, Stewart served as a bomber pilot, his service record credits him with leading more than 20 missions over Germany. He took part in hundreds of air strikes during his tour of duty. Stewart earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, France's Croix de Guerre, and 7 Battle Stars during World War II. In peace time, Stewart continued to be an active member of the Air Force as a reservist, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in the late 1950s.
Clark Gable (mega movie star -- remember Gone With The Wind?) was too old to be drafted at the time the U.S. entered WW II. Regardless, in Los Angeles on August 12, 1942, Gable enlisted as a private in the Army Air Force. He attended officers candidate school at Miami Beach, Florida and graduated a second lieutenant on October 28, 1942. Gable then attended aerial gunnery school. In February of 1943 he was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook where he flew missions over Europe in B-17s. Captain Gable returned to the U.S. in October 1943. At his own request, he was relieved from active duty (as Major Gable) on June 12, 1944. His reason? He was over age for combat.
Charlton Heston was an Army Air Corps Sergeant stationed in Kodiak. Long before he became a leader for the National Rifle Association, Heston was ready to fight for American freedom.
Earnest Borgnine was a U. S. Navy Gunner's Mate, 1935 1945.
Charles Durning was a U. S. Army Ranger at Normandy earning a Silver Star and awarded the Purple Heart.
Charles Bronson was a tail gunner in the Army Air Corps, more specifically on B-29s in the 20th Air Force out of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan.
George C. Scott was a decorated U. S. Marine. No wonder his performance in Patton was so realistic! He did not need to use method acting to understand his role!
Eddie Albert (television's Green Acres and a lot of top films, too) was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroic action as a U. S. Naval officer. He aided Marines at the horrific battle on the island of Tarawa in the Pacific, November 1943.
Brian Keith served as a U.S. Marine rear gunner in several actions against the Japanese on Rabal in the Pacific.
Lee Marvin was a U.S. Marine on Saipan during the Marianas campaign when he was wounded, earning the Purple Heart.
John Russell enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942. He received a battlefield commission and was wounded and highly decorated for valor at Guadalcanal.
Robert Ryan -- be still my heart -- was a U. S. Marine who served with the O. S. S. in Yugoslavia.
Tyrone Power (an established movie star when Pearl Harbor was bombed) joined the Marines. He was a pilot who flew supplies into -- and wounded Marines out of -- Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Then, there is my favorite movie hero: Audie Murphy. When I met him at the National Convention of Peace Officers in 1970, I was surprised at his size -- he was 5' 5" tall and weighed 110 pounds. His physical size did not matter. He was a giant among men. I notice things like that -- I'm five inches taller than he.
Murphy was the most decorated serviceman of World War II and earned: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. He also earned the U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, two Distinguished Unit Emblems, American Campaign Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing an assault landing at Sicily and Southern France) World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar, Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar, French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre, French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier, French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star, French Croix de Guerre with Palm, Medal of Liberated France, Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm.
I was in Kansas to interview this brave man for an article in National Peace Officers Magazine -- I was the editor. It was a hot Kansas afternoon and we stood, trying to find shade and not melt down, close to the runway where his private plane had just landed. I was proud to introduce my children to him.
I did not worry about his public image... it was impeccable. I did not worry about the kinds of movies or the messages his acting roles would send to my kids in the aftermath of their having met him, either. They would be family-friendly.
He was a friendly person... a warm smile lit his eyes. He was very soft spoken and bore such a look of gentleness. It made me wonder how he could have performed so many heroic deeds. Maybe it was his wartime experiences that made being gentle an integral part of him.
A few short months after meeting Audie Murphy on that hot August runway, the same airplane that flew him to our meeting crashed. He was killed.
Perhaps that is the biggest difference I see in the stars of today versus those of my era. My stars believed in the same things I did... Mom, country and apple pie. Corny, I know, but a philosophy likely responsible for providing the quality of life Americans enjoy today.
There are exceptions to my "general rule" observations.
Tom Selleck... well, there's an exception to the rule. Mel Gibson, too. Either could be the new Jimmy Stewart or Clark Gable.
Like Charlton Heston, Mel Gibson would make a wonderful Moses. Like Clark Gable, as Rhett Butler he would charm Scarlett right out of her... senses.
Ah, well... fiddle-dee-dee. I'll think more about this tomorrow.