Monday, May 29, 2006

Pre's Rock

John Canzano a columnist for the Portland Oregonian has written a column today about those that make the pilgrimage to the rock in Eugene Oregon where the great Oregon distance runner, Steve Prefontaine, died. My family made our pilgrimage while they were filing the movie "Without Limits." We had driven from Medford to Eugene to be extras in the crowd scenes at Hayward Field. On the second day on our way to Hayward Field we drove up to the residential neighborhood on a hill near Hayward Field to see the place Pre died. Today's column is as follows:

Decades pass, but legacy doesn't
Monday, May 29, 2006
EUGENE The street signs on "Skyline Blvd." are gone now. Neighbors say they were so regularly ripped off the tops of their posts by souvenir hunters desperate to take anything to do with Pre's Rock home with them that the city gave up and stopped replacing them.

Hundreds of people come here while Sunday's Prefontaine Classic meet is going on at Hayward Field. Some take things, and others leave things. It's why I'm sitting here, observing, waiting, wondering. And in some way, this street, and this spot, has become a cosmic trading junction where Prefontaine memories and artifacts change hands.

Someone left a pile of pink roses here. And some plastic flowers. And late in the day, a young boy dropped off a pair of old running shoes. And in the morning, a man in a blue hooded sweatshirt ran up the street in the rain, bowed his head, and dropped a tiny plastic bag with a piece of paper inside it at the foot of the headstone that commemorates the loss of Prefontaine in 1975.

The note read: "I have traveled across the country to see the place where you breathed your last breath. . . . You will always be with me."

Turns out, the man is a college runner from The Citadel, born more than a decade after Prefontaine's death. And he's followed in the procession by fathers and sons. And daughters and fathers. And around the time someone was singing the national anthem at Hayward Field, signaling the start of the meet, an 84-year-old retired physics professor named Bernd Crasemann came wandering up the mossy street holding a 4-foot aluminum hiking pole with a giant spike on the end of it.

"It's not such a safe street to walk on," he says.

Skyline Boulevard is 10 yards across at its widest point. It's damp and slippery in patches. And there is a thick film of mulch on the pavement from the canopy of trees and vegetation that towers above this all. Crasemann is more worried about the cars, though.

Drivers sometimes misjudge the curves and, when it rains, the visibility can be poor, and also, neighbors don't like it when visitors park near the rock because there is little room to pass.

A white-haired man who lives three houses from Pre's Rock has erected a sign in his front yard that reads, "Wage Peace." And by the late afternoon, weary and disgusted from watching visitors utilize his driveway to make three-point turns with their automobiles, he's moved three giant potted plants from his garage to the edge of the driveway, blocking it.

The cars continue to come up the street. A green Mustang with a couple inside. A black Jeep with a college student and his visiting girlfriend. A van. A station wagon. Too many others to mention. They roll down the windows, crawl to a stop. And they gaze. Some hold out cameras and take photographs. Others drive past Pre's Rock, park, get out, and look around.

A man named John, who moved to Eugene a year ago with his wife and newborn child, has promised a friend in Florida, a marathon runner, that he will send her a photograph of Pre's Rock.

Mike Galligan, an insurance broker from California, has brought his 13-year-old daughter, Lauren, who just graduated middle school. He was a sophomore in high school when Prefontaine died, and he has a "Go Pre" poster hanging on the wall of his office at work.

"I thought it was important for my daughter to see this," he says.

Prefontaine, who held eight U.S. running records, died May 30, 1975. The date is painted in white on the large rock that took his life.

Dan Brekke and Kate Gallagher have come here with their dog and their son, Thom, who is a freshman at the University of Oregon.

"This is our sixth trip to Eugene, but our first here," Dan says. "We figured it was time."

There is also Aaron Cherrington, who ran track at DePaul, who says, "I've watched both Prefontaine films; not everyone knows there are two." And Elizabeth Uhlig, an educator, who walked up the road, she says, "just by chance," and suddenly remembered that this was an important day in Prefontaine's memory.

Some people come here looking for answers. They want to know where the headstone came from (it was donated by Eugene Granite and Marble). They want to know if it's true that state prisoners who rooted boisterously for Prefontaine in the 1972 Olympics donated the $1,000 for the concrete base (it's true). And they want to know what happens to all of the medals, bibs, shoes, flowers and notes left here (a man in his 70s from Pleasant Hill collects the stuff).

I learn this by calling Linda Prefontaine, Steve's sister. She says: "People leave things there, and they do it for a reason. I wish they'd just leave it there."

Linda does not come here. It's too painful. But she appreciates that others can find a sense of spirit on Skyline Boulevard.

A man pushing a stroller runs past Pre's Rock and lets go of the handle to point a finger toward the sky. And two competitive runners, on a morning training run, pause momentarily from their blistering pace at the foot of the rock, look around, and when they think nobody is watching, shout, "Preeeeeeeeeeeee!!"
On this day, they could have shouted for us all.

(For a link to Canzano's column click on the title above)(photo courtesy of

Friday, May 26, 2006

Songs of the Seventh Cavalry

One of the fun things of traveling to historical locations (and their gift shops) is finding unique items that you don't find at your local Wal Mart. While at Custer's Little Big Horn in Montana I found in the gift store a CD titled "Songs of the Seventh Cavalry" A small band and a female vocalist sing authentic Civil War and Westward Expansion songs once played or sung by members of the Seventh Cavalry. It has "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", "Shenandoah" , a Civil War Medley and of course the Song of the Seventh Cav, "Garryowen". People of that era found songs the staple of their entertainment and were used to build morale for the troops. Custer when he left for his campaign against the Indians wanted to take along the units 16 piece band mounted on white horses; but, General Terry wouldn't consent. So the band played as he left Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck North Dakota on that fateful June morning. The CD even has the songs his officers sang on the night before the battle.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"Will they ever rember my name?" : Memorial Day 2006

I picked this up over at free

"I had done everything I could to save his life.

We had gotten into a fire-fight with some N.V.A. unit somewhere near the border with Laos. (hell...let's be real...we were caught by surprise). Co.'s A and C, along with some attached South Vietnamese troops, had been ambushed along a border trail that we patrolled...and we were getting the stuffing knocked out of us. I had 22 patients in the first 1/2 hour...and they seemed to be coming in regularly. ( I served as a Medic). Most were minor wounds...but then they brought in Ricky.

I first met Ricky when we both arrived 'in country' about the same time. Both of us were from the Los Angeles area..and both of us it was kinda natural that we became friends. We would spend hours talking to each other about which beach had the best waves...and the best looking girls. He always swore that Newport had the best of both...while I naturally thought the waves, and girls, were better around Santa Monica. We would talk about music (we both agreed that Johnny Cash was one of the best)...and about playing guitar. Both of us tho....wanted nothing more than to get out of Vietnam alive....and head to Australia because we both agreed that the BEST was there.

Like me, Ricky was a reluctant soldier. Neither of us were very good at drill....(hated it...waste of time) and both of us felt a natural reluctance to blindly obey orders. But we did our jobs as best we could.

A mortar round had taken off the lower part of his right leg...just above the knee. He also had taken two rounds in the shoulder. Blood was shooting out of his torn leg...and he was in immense pain. I got some morphine into him....and then tried to stem the flow of blood. His femoral artery had been torn and had retracted into his thigh. There was nothing I could do but reach into his thigh and try and find the artery before he bled out. Working in his thigh was like working with was so shredded. And each time I moved my would increase the apprehension even more...and that would increase the pain. (note to those who don't know...pain medication works best when you are calm....and doesn't work very well when you are stressed.) The other Medic, Stan, was working on the shoulder wounds at the same time.

I finally found the artery..and clamped it off..and I tried to take a few moments to assess his entire situation.

He was failing.

He was dying.....and I couldn't see why.

Stan had done a awesome job getting the wounds in his shoulder to stop bleeding and had started plasma. I knew that he has lost a lot of blood....but he should be rebounding on the vital signs. But his blood pressure kept dropping.

There comes a time when you KNOW that you're going to die...and Ricky had arrived at that time.

He looked at me and tried to smile...but couldn't.

"Guess you're gonna have to surf for me...ok???"

I tried to tell him that he would be ok...but he knew.

He said that to let his mom know that he did ok...and to let her know that he would see her later.

And then he said..."Funny...No one will even remember my name."...and then he quietly cried out for "Momma"...and passed on to the next world in my arms.

We later found out that the reason he died is that one of the rounds that he had taken in his shoulder has broken off some bone...and that bone had cut the arteries near his heart. He bled to death internally. There was nothing Stan or myself could have done. But it has never stopped the guilt in either of us.

After the War...I took some of my pictures of Ricky that I had his parents in Southern California. We became friends...and to this day I talk to his brother and sisters at least once a year. His parents passed away in 1997 in a car crash.

In a few days it will be MEMORIAL DAY. A day where the people of the United States pledge to remember those who gave their all. A day that had been set aside to remember all the sacrifice....and all the pain...and all the death that has kept this Nation safe.

It is NOT about a three day weekend.

It is NOT about picnic's and barbecue's.

It IS about this Nation keeping it's word.

It IS about remembering the 'Ricky's' in our past who gave up their future so everyone could be Free.

I guess the question is...can YOU give up one day for them????"


DVD of "Rough Riders" Directed by John Milius to be released!

In 1997, John Milius directed a wonderful movie about Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. It will be released for the first time on DVD on May 30, 2006. The following is the summary from
"In 1898 the US government, led by Theodore Roosevelt (Tom Berenger) back when he was still a young, ambitious Naval Secretary, intervenes on the side of the Cuban rebels in their struggle against Spanish rule. Always ready for action, Roosevelt leaves the confines of the sidelines and forms a volunteer cavalry regiment which later became infamously known as the "Rough Riders." Roosevelt's regiment brings together volunteers from all corners of the nation to fight against a far superior adversary in one of the most rousing victories in American history."

As I posted below, TR was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading the charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish American War.

I saw this movie on TV a number of years ago and have been waiting for it's release on DVD. John Milius is a disciple of director John Ford and brings TR to life as he did in "The Wind and the Lion." In the "Wind and the Lion" he had Brian Keith play TR as President. Both great movies. They are just Bully!

(click on the title above for a link to the page for "The Rough Riders")

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Graduation & Road Trip Part IV

On Friday we drove into South Dakota. We left the freeway to drive to Britton South Dakota because I keep seeing a "Wickre Family Restaurant" mentioned on the internet. Well, they closed the restaurant two weeks before we got there but we got a picture of us with the sign. We then drove through Webster and Wauby, South Dakota where my parents grew up during the depression and Dust Bowl era. We stopped at Blue Dog Lake between Webster and Wauby for a family ceremony and drove on to the Black Hills and Mt Rushmore. In driving across Montana and the Dakota's we encountered a lot of bugs. Outside of Oregon you pump your own gas. so when we stopped my son would wash our windows while I pumped the gas. A few minutes on the freeway and the bugs were back all over our windshield. We stopped at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota. I love tourist traps and this is one of the best.From there we drive through Rapid City to Keystone, a small tourist town, a stones throw from Mr Rushmore. Since this is the "off season" all the motels in Keystone were advertising rooms for $34.99 for 1-4 adults. We got a real nice room with a microwave and refrigerator on the ground floor and got some pizza at a near by restaurant. We spent Saturday at Mt Rushmore. I love the place. They have changed it since I was last there and have underground parking and a new lodge. They have a good book store there with history's of the Presidents on Rushmore. We had lunch at the lodge and went on a walk around the front of base of the mountain (350 steps) We went to the studio where Borgland (the builder/sculpture) built the monument in the 1930/40s. We then went on a trip around Custer State Park looking for Buffalo. We saw three. We then went back to Rushmore for the lighting ceremony Saturday night. It rained a lot! While at Rushmore I bought a statue of George W Bush and a documentary on Teddy Roosevelt on DVD. My dad worked on Mt Rushmore in the early 1940's- he drove a dynamite truck. So, Mt Rushmore always was a special place for my parents and it is a special place for me. A part of them will always be there.

On Sunday we left Keystone and traveled through a corner of Wyoming and all the way through Montana , Idaho and on to Spokane Washington.. We had a short stop at the Little Big Horn where Custer had his "last stand". On Monday we traveled back to Oregon , stopped at my sister's home in Portland, and made it home to Medford by 8 pm. It was an exhausting trip but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It was a chance to spend some time with our son who if he goes to North Dakota we will see less and less of. For his view of the trip click on the title above for a link to his blog.

Graduation & Road Trip Part III

We arrived in Grand Forks, North Dakota on Wednesday and checked into the Holiday Inn. We then drove around the campus of the University of North Dakota. The next morning we had a 10:00 AM guided tour of campus. A nice student gave us a tour of the green campus with the red brick buildings. Following the tour our son met with a professor who is the head of the History Department. The History Grad School have offered our son a job as a TA, with tuition waiver, health coverage and a salary on top of that will just about cover room and board. Thus, he can go there and work toward his Masters and PHD without having to go into debt. We then walked around campus on our own. We checked out the library and went over to the huge and fancy hokey stadium and basketball arena. The University of North Dakota is the "Fighting Sioux" but the PC folks at the NCAA are trying to get them to change their mascot. I suggest the "US Calvary"! We then drove around Grand Forks and into East Grand Forks in Minnesota. The place reminded me of the University of Oregon and Eugene. In MAY it is a very nice place. We asked our tour guide a lot of questions about the cold winters. I said in Oregon visitors always ask about the rain and I am sure North Dakotians get tired of answering questions about the cold and snow. In any case, I could see our son living there and doing well. The folks there are very friendly and "down home". One professor who stopped to talk to us gave us some good advise and was very helpful. We then went by the Housing Office to check on available apartments on campus for Grad Students. We also went by the Barnes and Noble campus book store and got a tee shirt and car decal. Go Fighting Sioux! We drove by the Grand Forks Convention Center / Sports Dome where UND play their football games inside. On Friday We headed for South Dakota (to be continued)

Graduation & Road Trip Part II

Following graduation my son and I headed up the Columbia Gorge on the Oregon side toward Washington State University in Pullman Washington. We stopped at one of my favorite places Multnoma Falls. We then continued up the Gorge and crossed over into Washington and the rolling hills of Eastern Washington. Pullman, home to WSU, is a very small and isolated community near the Idaho border. We checked into a motel across the street from the University and set out to explore the school's campus. Our son has been admitted into the schools Graduate School in History and we went by the History Department. We walked around the rest of the school. The football stadium is very small by Pac 10 standards. The school itself is very nice and is built on the side of a hill. We then drove around Pullman and had dinner in it's small down town. Overall I was impressed by the large and extensive Washington State University campus but was not impressed by Pullman and it's isolation. However, my son is a very self contained person and would do well there. We are now awaiting on their financial package. After Pullman we headed up to Spokane and across the panhandle of Idaho and into the long drive across Montana on our way to Grand Forks, North Dakota and the home of the University of North Dakota. On our way we stopped by Pompei's Pillar in Eastern Montana. There 200 year ago William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame signed his name on the large rock and dated it "July 24, 1806" It is the only physical evidence left of Lewis and Clark's trip across America. We got to the rock pillar late in the day on Tuesday about 7 pm. The road gate was locked to the National Monument but the park rules allowed us to walk the one mile in on a gravel road. We saw lots of jack rabbits in this isolated spot. We were the only people there and we walked up the wooden stairs on the side of the rock to view William Clark's signature. It was worth the walk in just to see this piece of history. We then fought a ton of mosquito's who dive bombed us as we walked back to the car. We then drove to Miles City Montana and checked in to a Motel 6. On Wednesday we drove into North Dakota and stopped at Theodore Roosevelt Nation Park. We saw the cabin where TR lived while in the Bad Lands of North Dakota. TR said he would never have been President had he not lived in North Dakota. He moved there after his wife and mother died within a few hours of each other. He lived in this small cabin and became a "Cowboy". After that he went on to organize the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War and the rest is History. He was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his charge up San Juan Hill. While there we saw a prairie dog town. From there we drove on to Fargo and then on to Grand Forks and the University of North Dakota. (to be continued)

Graduation & Road Trip Part I

Well I am home now from the trip to our son's college graduation and the road trip that followed. Graduation was on Sunday May 14th in Salem Oregon at Willamette University. We drove to Salem on the Saturday before and helped him move out of his apartment. His sister had already arrived from Washington DC and was helping him clean up his kitchen.There was a lot that needed to be done! My sister then arrived from Portland to help. His apartment was on the 5th floor.... yes 5th floor with no elevator. With everyone's help we got the place cleaned out and went out to eat at the Outback Steak House in Salem. We then went to our hotel room and had a little party. I gave our son an antique pocket watch that I received from my father and he had received from his father back several generations.I believe it had come over from Norway and was owned by my great grandfather. On Sunday we had a brunch together and then went to the graduation ceremony. Willamette set up a large tent for commencement as they call it. The graduates were led into the tent by a bag pipe band with Old Glory flying and it was a very nice ceremony. Following graduation we all went to Newport Bay for dinner. Monday morning my son and I said goodbye to his mother who was driving her car back to Medford with most of his apartment contents and our daughter who had a red eye flight out of Portland for Washington DC. We then headed out for our roadtrip to visit Graduate Schools. It was nice for all of us to be back together as a family again. I appreciate the fact his sister and aunt could be there for this big event in our son's life. Willamette University is a good school and I think he enjoyed his time there and it allowed him to grow and blossom there.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Graduate! Class of 2006

This Sunday our son and youngest child will graduate from Willamette University in Salem Oregon with a double major in History and Political Science. We are very proud of him. Congratulations from your Mother and Father.

"Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After twenty-two years of child-raising, they are unemployed." Erma Brombeck

Peggy Noonan: on Republican Leaders and the Republican Base

"One gets the impression party leaders, deep in their hearts, believe the base is . . . base. Unsophisticated. Primitive. Obsessed with its little issues. They're trying to educate the base. But if history is a guide, the base is about to teach them a lesson instead."

Teddy Roosevelt - To the Person in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Big 30 days for John Wayne- John Ford Fans

The next 30 days is an exciting time for fans of John Wayne and John Ford. Not only is there a documentary about them on PBS ( See posts below) but there are 18 movies of theirs, either together or individually, that are being release on DVD, either for the first time or in new improved editions. They are as follows:

From Universal on May 30, 2006 there will be the release of John Wayne - An American Icon Collection. This 2-disc boxed set will have five films, most have not had a DVD release before. The films are Seven Sinners (1940), The Shepherd of the Hills (1941), Pittsburgh (1942), The Conqueror (1956), and Jet Pilot (1957).

On June 6, 2006 from Warner Brothers there will be two major releases. First, The John Ford Collection - The Lost Patrol (1934), The Informer (1935), Cheyenne Autumn (1964), Mary of Scotland (1936) and Sergeant Rutledge (1960). These films will only be in this set, not available individually.

Next is The John Wayne/John Ford Film Collection - This 10-disc set includes The Searchers (1956): 50th Anniversary Ultimate Two-Disc Special Edition, Stagecoach (1939): Two-Disc Special Edition , Fort Apache (1948), The Long Voyage Home (1940), The Wings of Eagles (1957), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), They Were Expendable (1945) and 3 Godfathers (1948).

After the above releases all of John Waynes' movies directed by John Ford will be on DVD.

Click on the title above for a link to the best John Wayne web site on the internet.

John Ford - John Wayne "American Masters" Part IV

For a link to the official web site for the documentary about John Wayne and John Ford on PBS's "American Masters" click on the title above for a link. It has a cool timeline for their relationship and movies.

by Ken Bowser

John Ford and John Wayne -- a friendship and professional collaboration that spanned 50 years, changed each others' lives, changed the movies, and in the process, changed the way America saw itself. It was a relationship that reflected all the elements and all the paradoxes of 20th century America -- generosity of spirit, abuse of power, a sense of loyalty, and a restless nationalism that didn't quite know what to do with itself...
Between the end of the war in 1945 and Ford's death in 1972, the two men made twelve films together. Those films helped define how we saw ourselves, or put another way, how John Ford wished us to be as Americans. From, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, through the cavalry series -- FORT APACHE, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, and RIO GRANDE -- Ford made U.S. history both poetic and heroic. He also made John Wayne the personification of that history as well as the American male. Wayne the actor and star brought a reluctant power to those roles. That reluctant power was Ford's principal and cherished idea of America's greatness.....

To read the rest click on the title above for a link

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Times They are a Changing

A number of years ago when our kids were still in Grade School and the "Cold War" was still on we went on a family vacation to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. As part of the trip we went on a tour of Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City. At that time it was the home base for the B-1 bomber. While on the tour the guide told us if we went east out on I-90 toward Wall Drug we would see from the freeway some of the Minute Men intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos doors on top of the ground with the missiles inside armed with their nuclear war heads. So we headed out I -90 toward Wall Drug and saw a freeway exit to "no where" and we took it and saw the silo doors surrounded by a chain link fence and barb wire on top. We shopped for just a few minutes looking at it and stayed inside the car on a county road. We then headed back to the freeway and were stopped by a jeep full of military guys with machine guns . We told them we were from Oregon and had just taken the tour at Ellsworth and just wanted to check out the silos. They said "no problem" and we were on our way. In any case it scared the sh*t out of all of us in that Ford station wagon and my family has never let me "live it down". Now those missile silos are a tourist attraction and a National Historic Site and you can even take a tour. As their web site say: "Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one of the nation's newest national park areas. It was created to illustrate the history and significance of the Cold War, the arms race, and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development." The place is even marked on my new road atlas (see post below). To go to the National Historic Site website click on the title above for a link. The times they are a changing.

You Know You are Growing Old When You.....

You know you are growing old when you pay the extra money for the LARGE PRINT road atlas at Barnes & Noble. This week end I bought the Mapquest U.S. Road Atlas which is very good and I would highly recommend it. For many year I always bought Rand McNally's but this is much better in the standard and the LARGE PRINT editions. I like the spiral binding and the colors are much brighter. I can even read it with out my magnifying glass. In the past I always passed on the LARGE PRINT editions because I felt they sacrificed detail for larger print. However Mapquest just uses larger maps on more pages and keeps all the detail of the regular edition.

Landmark Week in my life!

This is one of those landmark weeks in my life. Our youngest child will be graduating from college this Sunday and I will this week celebrate one of those mile post birthdays for baby boomers. Our son is graduating from Willamette University in Salem Oregon. Our other child will fly in from Washington DC, where she works, to help us celebrate the event and my sister will join us from Portland. In addition, we will be honoring my wife for Mother's Day on Sunday. After graduation, my son and I will be taking off on a "Road Trip" to check out several University's Graduate Schools in History. He wants to earn his doctorate in History so he can become a history professor. At least one school has offered him a job as a TA with pay and tuition waiver. I have always loved politics and history and one of my children works in government/politics and the other is into history. I am a lucky man! Now, if I had just one more child I am sure he would have played football for the University of Oregon Duck!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

John Ford - John Wayne "American Masters" Part III

The the John Ford - John Wayne documentary on PBS, has been described in posts below. However, I have to add just one more review by Hal Boedoner of the Orlando Sentinel on the subject because I am so intrigued by the subjects.The review starts off as follow:

" John Wayne's influence still pervades the culture. He and his most important director, John Ford, collaborated on movies that shaped America's view of itself. Their partnership was complex and filled with tensions, a fascinating documentary reveals.

PBS' American Masters on Wednesday salutes the two film giants with John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend. This 90-minute program concentrates on seven of the duo's 14 films: Stagecoach, They Were Expendable, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Quiet Man, The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The documentary bolsters They Were Expendable, a tragic World War II film that failed at the box office in 1945, and cites The Searchers, a 1956 Western, as the pair's masterwork."

For the rest of the review click on the title above for a link.

"United 93" A remarkable Film

George Will has a column today on the movie, "United 93" ,in which he ends it as follows: "The hinge on which the movie turns are 13 words that a passenger speaks without histrionics, as he and others prepare to rush the cockpit, shortly before the plane plunges into a Pennsylvania field. The words are: "No one is going to help us. we've got to do it ourselves." those words not only summarize this nation's situation in today's war, but also express a citizen's general resposibilities in a free society."

Earlier in the column Will quotes a soldier who fought at Antietam and other Civil War battles. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr:
In this snug, over-safe corner of the world.... we may realize that our comfortable routine is no eternal necessity of things, but merely a little space of calm in the midst of the tempestuous untamed streaming of the world and in order that we may be ready for danger.... Out of heroism grow faith in the worth of heroism

To read the entire column click on the title above for a link

John Ford - John Wayne "American Masters" Part II

Ted Mahar of the Oregonian gives his preview of the PBS series documentary in today' Sunday Oregonian (see post below for date and time):
Few creative film partnerships were as long or significant as that of director John Ford and actor/director John Wayne. They made about 20 films together, but 14 as star and director, several of which became cultural icons and affected genres and future films.

Their complex personal and professional relationship plays out in the "American Masters" documentary "John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend," the title coming from one of the film's many commentators, director/biographer Peter Bogdanovich, who knew both men well.

The documentary is crowded with commentators. Biographers include Ford writers Scott Eyman, Joseph McBride, Tag Gallagher and Ford's grandson Dan. Scholars and critics include Richard Schickel and David Thomson. There are no specific Wayne biographers, but a biography of one has to be a biography of the other.

Commenting directors include Martin Scorsese, Mark Rydell ("The Cowboys"), John Milius and Robert Parrish, who was Ford's wartime film team member and later a director. Wayne's son Pat, actor Harry Carey Jr. and others also chime in.

The credits list a dozen or so more who are not in the film. Clearly, the 90-minute documentary could have been longer, and -- good news, bad news -- it does leave us wanting more.

The film covers a lot of ground. The two met in the late '20s, when Wayne was a USC football player who worked summers on Ford's sets and had tiny roles in several films. Wayne starred in Raoul Walsh's 1930 epic "The Big Trail." Its failure doomed Wayne to B movies for the next eight years and to exile from Ford for the next four.

Ford (1895-1973) exhumed Wayne (1907-1979) for 1939's classic, genre-transforming adventure "Stagecoach." Its huge success boosted both careers and began an association that was both symbiotic and quietly rivalrous -- like many father/son relationships -- from "Stagecoach" to 1964's ho-hum "Donovan's Reef,"

The documentary ignores "Donovan," the muddled "Horse Soldiers," Wayne's cameo in Ford's scenes in "How the West Was Won," "The Long Voyage Home," "Rio Grande" and "The Wings of Eagles," a 1956 fictionalized biopic of Ford and Duke's friend Frank Wead, who wrote the 1945 classic "They Were Expendable."

Ford was a painter and directed dozens of silent films. He instinctively knew how to tell stories and create moods in images. But, even though his films were mostly adaptations, they formed a view of American culture and history -- a view that grew steadily darker. And Wayne embodied characters based on Ford or representing what Ford wished he could be. Compare the brave, plucky Wayne of "Stagecoach" to his characters in the 1956 classic "The Searchers" and 1963's "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." The former is an outlaw and sociopath. The latter becomes a disappointed and bitter man. As Eyman says, Wayne in "Valance" echoes Ford, an alcoholic who ultimately feels he has outlived his times and usefulness.

Commentators label Ford a harsh taskmaster, summed up by Bogdanovich in one word: "malice." Ford was famous for embarrassing cast members, and Wayne got his share and more. Ford, a Naval Reservist since 1934, left Hollywood before Pearl Harbor and became a war hero, wounded while filming the Japanese attack on Midway in June 1942. He had filmed the B-25s flying off the USS Hornet for the Doolittle raid in April 1942 and was filming the June 1944 Normandy landings when he spotted former PT Boat skipper Robert Montgomery on the bridge of a destroyer giving covering fire to GIs on the beach.

When they were making "Expendable" in 1945, Ford rode Wayne mercilessly. A star and moneymaker at last, Wayne sat out the war and became a superstar. On the "Expendable" set Ford was again on Wayne until Montgomery -- who saw even more combat than Ford -- rebuked the director, who laid off Wayne for the rest of the filming.

As time wore on, Wayne's popularity and power gradually overtook Ford's. "The Quiet Man" (1952) got made only because of Wayne's clout at Republic Pictures. They were equals on "The Searchers." But Wayne, the big dog on any film he made from the early '50s on, always deferred to Ford. When Ford arrived unannounced on the set of "The Alamo" in 1959, he was a problem that Wayne solved by giving Ford, at considerable expense, a crew and a bunch of extras to film action scenes that may not have made the final cut. One of the most powerful men in Hollywood could not ask his former mentor and benefactor to get lost.

Like Ford, Wayne made a historical film that fudged and even violated history. The famous line in "Valance" -- "When history becomes legend, print the legend" -- informed Ford's work long before 1963 but, Bogdanovich and others say, was never the simplistic notion that it appears out of context. Characters were shown dealing with the effects of protecting the legend when they knew the history.

Various commentators elucidate the complexity, ambiguity and subtlety of Ford's films and the power of Wayne's performances, especially in "Searchers" and "Valance." But Thomson recalls that in the early '70s he could not get his young students to even watch Wayne films. His superpatriotism, background as part of the blacklist and support of the Vietnam War had alienated younger viewers. He had come to symbolize the America that students were protesting. And the liberal Ford finally came around to Wayne's view during Vietnam. Like many World War II vets, Ford could not abide kids burning the flag he had fought for.

Written and produced by Kenneth Bowser, and directed and edited by Sam Pollard, "The Filmmaker and the Legend" is unusually engaging visually. It uses copious footage from Ford's films. It omits much but eloquently presents what it does cover. And it provides the names of several excellent biographers.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Growing Old and Road trips

In a few days I will be hitting one of those milestone birthdays; but, basically I still feel like that ten year old kid I once was. My son and I are going on a road trip from Oregon to the Mid West looking at grad school history departments where he has been admitted . When I was ten my dad and I would plan our family vacations. My dad and I were entirely two different personality's but one thing we had in common was the love of the open road with a good map. We could look at maps for hours figuring the best route to get from here to there. When I was ten I had a cheap small card board suitcase. I would put all my maps and trip information in it for family vacations. I would get a map of our entire trip and paste it in the inside cover of the suitcase so when I opened it I could see the route as we drove across America. My folks liked to go to Yellowstone Park and the Black Hills of South Dakota. I still remember those trips. In those days I would send letters to chambers of commerce and state travel offices asking for free maps and brochures of things to do. I would have each stop planed out. One of my favorite places to stop were state capitol buildings. I was and still am a sucker for tourist traps and gift stores. "Roadside America" is a fun book on tourist attractions and now they wave a web site. For the trip my son and I are making the small suitcase has given way to a bankers box in which I have files for each of the states we will travel through and some of the cites in which we will stop. I have the motel chain catalogs, maps for each state, and the "The Next Exit" book (a guide to what is at every interstate exit in America.) I have a three ring binder with Mapquest maps for our route and even a listing of all the radio station along the route from Radio It lists the radio station formats, it's cover miles and even if it has the Rush Limbaugh show. I Went to Laura Ingraham's web site and got her radio stations as well. Isn't the internet great. Today rather than writing to chambers of commerces you can go to their web sites and order free information for the trip. It's all in my bankers box.
My son and I have wanted to go on this trip for a long time and now we have the opportunity. We will be stopping in the Black Hills of South Dakota to view Mount Rushmore "America's Shrine of Democracy" according to the South Dakota Vacation Guide. My dad worked on Mount Rushmore during the depression and he was very proud of that and since my folks are both gone now it will be special to return there and to their home town's of Webster and Waubay South Dakota. They lived in Oregon for many many years but they never left their South Dakota roots and a part of them will return never to leave again.. They were Mid w\West through and through. They never knew a stranger.

We will also stop by the Little Big Horn and check out "Custers Last Stand". Fortunately my son has picked up my love of the open road and will share the driving duties.. When he and his sister were much smaller we would go on family road trips. I once mounted a map on a piece of card board and had a small cut out of our car they would move along the route of travel to help them understand where we were going and to understand were we had been. It also cut down on "when are we going to get there?" One of my favorite movies is Chevy Chase's "Vacation". For some one who works behind a desk ,this is a chance to go searching for America.I still am that ten year old kid.

Friday, May 05, 2006

John Ford- John Wayne "American Masters"

Mark your calendars for Wednesday May 10, 9 PM for the the PBS (yes PBS) series "American Masters". The first documentary of this year's series will feature the relationship between John Ford and John Wayne. The Washington Post has an article on the documentary as follows:
By Judith S. Gillies
Washington Post Staff Writer

Marion Morrison was a college student working as a prop man when he met John Ford, an established director.

Ford began giving background parts and bit parts to Morrison, known as "Duke" from his football days. A friendship developed -- cemented in poker parties on Ford's yacht -- that spawned 14 films, including nine Westerns, and spanned five decades.

Individually, Ford and Morrison -- better known as John Wayne -- had extraordinary careers. And together, they made movies for more than 20 years, including "Stagecoach" in 1939, "The Quiet Man" in 1952 and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" in 1962.

"John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend," which launches the 20th season of the "American Masters" PBS series, examines the intersection of their lives as artists and as people.

The 90-minute documentary shows "the complexity of their relationship and how that enabled these men to create some of the great American films," said Sam Pollard, who directed the program.

"I liked all those Ford films," Pollard said, "but had more fondness for the ones with Wayne. It was the whole male testosterone thing."

Susan Lacy, who created "American Masters" two decades ago to make a record of the most important cultural forces in the 20th century, said the Ford-Wayne documentary "is an interesting way of looking at how a director molded a B-movie actor into an image."

In the program, Ford biographer Joseph McBride says, "Somebody once said to me that John Wayne was to Ford what David was to Michelangelo."

The documentary features scenes from films the two created; home movies and back-lot footage; plus interviews with directors Peter Bogdanovich, John Milius, Mark Rydell and Martin Scorsese.

"Most people become John Wayne fans and then they realize that, gee, all these really good movies are made by John Ford," says Dan Ford, the director's grandson, who also told TV Week about spending summers on Ford's yacht, which he jokingly called "Camp Paint and Varnish."

Ford's friendship with the film icon continued through World War II and the McCarthy era, despite their different political outlooks. Ford served in World War II filming battles on active duty, for example, winning two Oscars for best documentary. Meanwhile, Wayne remained in Hollywood.

By the early '50s, Wayne's influence had grown, enabling the Duke to broker a deal for the man he called "Pappy" and "Coach."

That deal gave Ford the opportunity to make "The Quiet Man," which earned him a fourth Oscar for directing.

"For Wayne, it was fulfilling a debt he owed the Coach," says narrator Sydney Pollack.

Ford and Wayne died in the 1970s, six years apart, having left a body of work that largely chronicles what America was about and how the country had changed.
"Any of us should live one-tenth of the life of my grandfather. He worked his way up, saw it all, did it all. He was an extraordinary man," Dan Ford said. "He and Wayne are similar, and yet they're different. In a way they were birds of a feather, but they were two alpha males."

John Ford (1895-73) directed 14 major films starring John Wayne (1907-79), including nine Westerns (in bold):

* "Stagecoach," 1939

* "The Long Voyage Home," 1940

* "They Were Expendable," 1945

* "Fort Apache" 1948

* "Three Godfathers" 1948

* "She wore a Yellow Ribbon" 1949

* "Rio Grande," 1950

* "The Quiet Man," 1952

* "The Searchers," 1956

* "The Wings of Eagles," 1957

* "The Horse Soldiers," 1959

* "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," 1962

* "How the West Was Won," 1962

* "Donovan's Reef," 1963

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

War Criticism by Retired Generals

The following article by Gen. Robert H Scales illustrates the problem of having retired generals publicly criticize strategy in the middle of a war.
Today I finished the book "Cobra II," written by retired Marine Gen. "Mick" Trainer and New York Times correspondent Mike Gordon. The authors chronicle in great detail the strategic and military missteps that followed the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. The book is particularly important because its publication was the catalyst that launched the "revolt of the generals" a few weeks ago.
Their book appears about three years into this war. As I read, I couldn't help but imagine (given today's political atmospherics) how a book like Messrs. Trainer and Gordon's might have read had it appeared three years after Pearl Harbor.
Such a book would have hit the bookstores at Christmas time in 1944. Messrs. Gordon and Trainer would most certainly have written about the unconstitutional arrogance of an administration that violated international neutrality laws by taking sides with Great Britain against Germany. They would have recognized that Pearl Harbor was the greatest intelligence failure in American history. We would have read the whole horrific story of the humiliating surrender at Corregidor that signaled the shameful loss of the entire American Army in the Philippines.
The condemnatory tenor of the book would continue with depictions of the useless slaughter at "Bloody Buna" in New Guinea, the humiliating loss to the German Army at Kasserine Pass in North Africa, the failure of Dwight Eisenhower to trap the retreating Germans in Sicily, the horrifically wasteful daylight bombing campaign against Germany in 1943. Messrs. Gordon and Trainer would have reserved their worst for the conduct of George C. Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in their abortive "Crusade in Europe."
We would have read about an Army unprepared to meet the Germans in the hedgerows of Normandy. Operation Market Garden would be depicted as a foolish "bridge too far" that left our bravest soldiers to die for a few square miles of Dutch territory. The useless slaughter in the dank wilderness of the Huertgen Forest would have shocked us. And of course the book would have appeared just at the time the folks back home got word of Hitler's greatest defeat of the Americans at the Battle of the Bulge, evidence of another grand failure of intelligence and a testament to the genius of German arms.
Of course there was no such book written at the time. There were no calls for impeachment, dismissal or relief. None of this happened because military men of that age understood war as the most unpredictable of all human endeavors. Our grandfathers realized that unlike lawyers or doctors, soldiers practice their craft infrequently and often get it wrong at first. Thus, even the greatest military men make mistakes that all too often cost lives.
Sure, soldiers of that era carped about the human shortcomings of their leaders but they kept their own counsel because they realized that there was, first and foremost, a war to be won. They forgave the difficulties experienced by an army that had no choice but to learn to fight by fighting, the most wasteful form of education in the art of war. And they came home to a grateful nation sure in the confidence that they had done their part to destroy a great evil.
The imagination of historians like me can wander and take analogies too far. Al Qaeda isn't the Wehrmacht. World War II was indeed a great crusade consuming two thirds of the nation's production and twelve million of its young. Today the Army and Marine Corps, less than three quarters of a million, shoulder the burden for this war at a cost of less than 1 percent of GDP. Perhaps the American population is more willing to listen to criticism of their wartime leaders because they fail to accept that the stakes in this war are as great (or perhaps even greater) than those in World War II.
But before we become too cavalier about events in the Middle East, remember that Hitler didn't have nuclear weapons and Germany didn't sit astride most of the world's fossil fuel supply. Hitler never came to hate the United States with the mindless imbecility of radical Islamists nor was his anti-Semitic ranting any more threatening than those spouted by the likes of Zawahiri, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ahmedinejad.
Let's take a page out of the book not written by the greatest generation. Pull some punches and breathe into a bag for awhile. I believe that it's OK for commentators to challenge general defense policies and programs in wartime. I do that quite often. But just as a book written at Christmas time in 1944 might not have offered a meaningful picture of the course of World War II, any commentary on the course of this war might be off the mark just now.
In the interest of winning this war we all must defer judgments about the efficacy of our wartime leaders to the wisdom of the American voters and the 20-20 hindsight of historians like me...after our soldiers and Marines come home.

Retired Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales is a former commander of the Army War College