Immortal Propaganda

/ Movies /

I love music, books, lots of things: but it’s easier still to write about movies! ‘Cause the web is filled with images! (easily, if not always ethically, borrowed.) (Though why should I care about ethics when it’s the thieves who stole from me that I’m stealing from?)

Jan and I have enjoyed a wonderful string of WWII propaganda recently: I’ll comment on a couple.

Not long ago I introduced her to Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky. I was born in 1938, though I was an infant I remember Pearl Harbor: shock and horror on the neighbor woman’s face as she relayed the evening news to my family. All my life thereafter I was steeped in propaganda. For all the propaganda we were fed everyday, the propagandists having their hands deep in our pockets since before we were born, we voluntarily paid more for Hollywood’s versions. But I was in my early twenties before I paid money to see what a Russian Communist did to make his Comrades hate Germans! Wonderful, wonderful: thrilling propaganda. And great music, by an equally great composer!

Just recently Jan and I revisited classic WWII propaganda. When I was a kid much of our entertainment was not just anti-Nazi, anti-Jap, it was pro-English, pro-Brit. The other night we watched Mrs. Miniver. I’m so glad we did: I hadn’t seen it since childhood. But just last night, manipulating nationalisms, we watched National Velvet!

National Velvet
thanx trueclassics

I remember seeing it in (or close to) 1944. If I wasn’t old enough to appreciate how female Elizabeth Taylor looked at age twelve, I was told, from all sides. But I couldn’t possibly have remembered how very good she was at the role. She was to other child actresses at the time what Saorise Ronan is now, and Shirley Temple had been, and Dakota Fanning: head and shoulders above. (And she ain’t the only great one on display! Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp, Ann Revere …)

Mickey Rooney The greatest actor of them all! Lawrence Olivier

One thing easy to overlook (or to forget): she’s not too pretty! She lets in a little opposite, more than a little complexity: she wears braces on her teeth. Soon, as a teen, opposite Montgomery Clift, she’d been too innocent, too pretty, too pure … but not as Velvet, conspiring for her National.

Jules Feiffer, on Broadway with his Little Murderers (a flop, 1967), wrote a NYT op-ed piece about Broadway: he said that the market permitted an author to say anything he wanted to on Broadway, anything he wanted, through Acts I & II: provided that he made it clear by Act III that he didn’t mean it. Velvet is plucky, and lucky, but at the end of the four mile steeplechase she falls off the horse, and everyone learns that she’s just a girl.
And then, Jesus, she turns her back on Hollywood, turns up her nose at all the contracts!
Like us? Don’t we just wish!
But on the subject: especially since I’m something of an athlete myself: in the novel Velvet claims that she didn’t win the race; the horse did. I’d like to ask Dick Francis and a panel of veteran steeplechase champions if the jockey is just baggage.
Jan and I also just watched the French Open. Not just Federer, Nadal; Serena, Masha … Martine, Stephie, Justine … There are women in sports today who are close to being as good as it’s humanely possible for females to be: whereas there have been male athletes close to the right wall of evolution all along. Now: take a cute girl, twelve year old Liz, take a sport, basketball: put her on the court against Lebron James: see if she wins, and then falls off the horse.
Kipling wrote a great story pretending that the polo ponies won the match despite the incompetence of their riders. Cute: but they won’t beat the team where both ponies and riders are smart, and know the game, and love the game.

Liz & the Pie
Liz & the Pie
thanx barewalls

pk, pk: when will you ever learn: it’s propaganda!

Jan commended the movie for looking just like her coast in Nova Scotia. I looked it up, and told her: it was shot in Pebble Beach!

As with Mrs. Miniver we see how plucky the English could be, how courageous, how at one with nature: and confuse them with us. That I could go on and on with, and may, later.

2014 06 15 Last night we watched Little Women, the 1994 movie: Winona Rider. Boy, does the camera love her, and so do we. I didn’t rent it as propaganda: I’m seeing patterns after the fact. This is propaganda too, or a sort: it was written deliberately to “teach” 1860s American girls how to be 1860s American girls. When I was a kid Life magazine taught us how to behave: in the 18th Century novels taught upper middle class women how to behave (or how to pretend to behave). 19th-century novels taught everybody to behave. Twain taught us how boys behaved, Alcott swept in the girls. (Actually Alcott beat Twain by a decade, but never mind: my sweeping pattern holds regardless of detail.) Alcott, people have observed all along, invented the American girl.
(Tripe but I’m glad we saw it: I’d avoided “girls” books since wearing pants.)

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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