Thursday, July 26, 2012


Here I go again, changing up what I said I would do before. I've changed my mind on what to finish off this month on and I think you'll enjoy it.

I am in the process of creating a collection of actors who served in the military. So far the list is large and I hope to have it done before the week is through. In today's post I wanted to talk on the most decorated WWII soldier who became a movie star, Audie Murphy.

Now as I stated above, Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of WWII and he received thirty-three awards for his valor. With these actions he became the Sergeant Alvin C. York of the second world war. When he came back they wrote a book about his experience in the war titled To Hell and Back. The book was so successful that they turned it into a motion picture in 1955. This war soldier turned actor played his own part in the film, and it became an instant classic. Though he had been acting in other films before, this picture was to be the one that launched him among the stars.

From his Texas upbringing to his military experience, he found himself going from Western to War and then back to Western. His talent as an actor was not completely fine tuned at the beginning, but in the end he starred in forty-four films and became a legend of Hollywood. What a great guy!

Monday, July 23, 2012


For the last week of July I wanted to cover the influence of Hollywood on America or vice-versa. Now before I continue I wish to divulge, for the first and maybe last time, my age. I am twenty-eight years old and I grew up with old movies in my home. For that reason alone I have created this blog to introduce these films to my own generation.

The reason why I find this fact vital is that everything I have learned, of the years gone by, has been fed to me through these entertaining films. I am the prime example of what their legacy teaches the youth in our day. You may not have noticed the little things that are different in some of the old films in comparison to our day, but, these little facts can give a young person an insight to what life used to be like.

For instance, in the film The Human Comedy (1943), we have a scene where people go to see a picture show. There is an usher with a flashlight at the entrance ready to show you to a seat. Before the show starts the United States flag is waving on the screen and a special announcement is given to update the audience on the war. These things were common occurrences in that day but they don't happen anymore and may have been forgotten about if they were not preserved on film.

We don't just see this in the films of that era, but more dramatically in the TV shows of that time. Probably the most important show to watch is the Dragnet series. They may add a little dramatization to the storyline but the stories are still true.

So I hope to point out a couple things that I have noticed in some of the films that contrast with our day. I also hope to show the influence that world wars had on the media. Many directors were immediately enlisted to create films that promoted our fight for freedom and gave us hope during those dark days. Things were done in that era that may have not happened in our day since conspiracy's have risen.

All-in-all I hope to open the treasure chest of the past and show a couple priceless items to you in a way that you may begin to cherish them to. I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

HOWARD HAWKS (1896-1977)


Born: May 30th, 1896 (Indiana)

Died: December 26th, 1977 (stroke)

Marriages: Athole Shearer (1928-1940), Nancy Gross (1941-1949), Dee Hartford (1953-1960).

Children: He had four children from his three marriages:  David, Greg, Barbara and Kitty.

Interesting Fact: His wife, Nancy, was credited for discovering Lauren Bacall on the cover of a magazine and recommended her to Hawks. Lauren was then showcased in To Have and Have Not (1944).

Success: He had directed almost every genre and succeeded very well in each one. Near the end of his career he turned to westerns with John Wayne, ending on Rio Lobo (1970).

Awards: He was only nominated once and that was for Sergeant York (1941). In 1974 he was given an Honorary Award from the Oscars. He was nominated three different times for the Director's Guild of America and twice for the Laurel Awards. He did, however, achieve a star on the Walk of Fame and a Western Heritage Award for his contributions to the West through motion pictures.

My Favorite Films: Sergeant York (1941) & I Was a Male War Bride (1949).

Howard Hawks may be one of the most under appreciated film directors of Hollywood. He started before talkies and color and made the transition without a stop. He has quite an impressive list of films which involved some of the major stars of his day like; Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Edward G. Robinson, John Wayne & Humphrey Bogart. He directed one of the most famous; gangster films, Scarface (1932), WWI films, Sergeant York (1941), & comedic films, Bringing Up Baby (1938). All of this was accomplished without much praise from the Academy and other institutions until his retirement.

Near the end of his life he teamed up with John Wayne in some of my favorite films like; Hatari (1962), El Dorado (1966) & Rio Lobo (1970). Another team up that I enjoyed was with Cary Grant in films like; Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday (1940) & I Was a Male War Bride (1949).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

MICHAEL CURTIZ (1886-1962)


Born: December 24th, 1886 (Budapest, Austria-Hungary).

Died: April 10th, 1962 (cancer).

Marriage: Lucy Doraine (1918-1923), Lili Damita (1925-1926), Bess Meredyth (1929-1962 His death)

Children: He adopted the son of his third and final wife, John Meredyth Lucas, in 1929.

Interesting Fact: He died of cancer six months after the release of his final film Comancheros (1961).

Success: At Warner Brothers he directed some of the best known classics.

Awards: He received one Oscar out of his five nominations for Casablanca (1942). The other four films were Captain Blood (1935), Four Daughters (1938), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) & Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). He was nominated for six other achievements and received a star on the Walk of Fame, along with a Western Heritage Award for Comancheros in 1962.

My Favorite Film: I must admit that I had no idea who Michael Curtiz was until now, but as I looked down his impressive list of films, I was shocked that I didn't know of him before. My favorite of his is Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), which is even more impressive since he was not born in the US.

Michael has become a favorite of mine for a couple of reasons. As an immigrant he directed two of my favorite most patriotic films; Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) & This is the Army (1943). He had also successfully directed almost every genre imaginable from Western to War, Drama to Comedy & Gangster to Romance. He also discovered some of my favorite movie stars like Errol Flynn, John Garfield & Doris Day. Oh, and he directed White Christmas (1954) 'nough said.

As I mentioned above he is responsible for some of the greatest films of his time, including Casablanca (1942) which he did the same year as Yankee Doodle Dandy. He also did quite a few biopics besides Cohan, like Cole Porter in Night and Day (1946), Gus Khan in I'll See You in My Dreams (1951) & Jim Thorpe in Jim Thorpe - All American (1951). One other film worth mentioning is one of my favorite comedies, We're No Angels (1955). This film is an unknown classic that has a Christmas tradition following. You gotta see it!

Monday, July 16, 2012


Now that I have showcased some of my favorite films and the stars who played in them, I want to turn to some of the directors who made the films possible. I hope to bring to light some of the little known comparisons that they have with their country.

Some of the directors may not have been born in this country, but the flame on the Statue of Liberty had burned in their heart and they gladly stepped up to present this country the best way they knew how. Others were raised here, and may have received a couple eye-openers as they began to realize the wonderful country we live in.

I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

GARY COOPER (1901-1961)


Born: May 7th, 1901 (Montana)

Died: May 13th, 1961 (prostate cancer)

Marriage: Sandra Shaw (1933-1961 His death)

Children: One daughter Maria Cooper

Awards: He was awarded three Academy Awards: Best Actor in Sergeant York (1941) & High Noon (1952) and an Honorary Oscar in 1961 received by Jimmy Stewart in his place since Gary Cooper was battling cancer at the time. He was nominated three other times for Best Actor: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), The Pride of the Yankees (1942), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943). He has received nine other awards for his acting and nominations for an additional three.

Interesting Fact: One month after Cooper died of cancer, his friend of twenty years, Ernest Hemingway, shot himself.

My Favorite Movie: Among my favorite of his are The Pride of the Yankees (1942), Friendly Persuasion (1956), Beau Geste (1939) & Sergeant York (1941)

Gary Cooper was more than just the home-spun boy of America, he was the loneliest one. His sad eyes and straight expressions, coupled with his deliberately slow performances, told you more about the character than anyone else could do. His biopics may have been few, but each one was on a grand scale. I find it interesting that he has played a war objector quite a few times; his most notable performances on this theme were Sergeant York & Friendly Persuasion.

I hate to admit that when I was young, I would often get Cooper confused with Stewart. I know, I know, how is it that even possible? Now looking back, I have taken some time to investigate where the confusion began. Maybe it was that they both did Capra films, or that they were western figures. No, I think it was their small-town delivery. They both took time on their speeches and focused more on their expressions or lack of. The truth of the matter may really be that I got confused when someone pointed them out in error as a kid. Who knows.

Speech from Pride of the Yankees.

Favorite scene from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

JIMMY STEWART (1908-1997)


Born: May 20th, 1908 (Pennsylvania)

Died: July 2nd, 1997 (cardiac arrest)

Marriage: Gloria Stewart (1949-1994 Her death)

Children: They had twin daughters: Judy Stewart-Merrill & Kelly Stewart-Harcourt. He also adopted Gloria's two sons from her previous marriage: Ronald & Michael. Ronald was killed in action during Vietnam.

Awards: He was awarded two Oscars, one for Best Actor in The Philidelphia Story (1940) and the other was an Honorary Award. He was nominated for Best Actor four other times: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Harvy (1950) & Anatomy of a Murder (1959). He has recieved twenty-five additional awards with nominations for fifteen others. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Regan in 1985.

Interesting Fact: During World War II, he flew over 20 bombing raids in Europe, and became a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve.

My Favorite Movie: Picking your favorite Stewart film is like picking your favorite child, compromising. Among my favorites are Harvey (1950), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), The Glenn Miller Story (1954), You Can't Take it with You (1938), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), The FBI Story (1959), The Man who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Shenandoah (1965), The Stratton Story (1949) to name a few.

Stewart's talents stretched from the inspirational Capra to the mysterious Hitchcock to the epic Ford. He was a favorite among directors for his small town personality. Ford cornered him one time during the filming of The Man who Shot Liberty Valance though. Ford always gave his stars a hard time to keep them on their toes, and had neglected Stewart for too long. He asked his opinion on the film, in true Ford fashion, and finally got Stewart to object to something. Ford stopped production and brought the whole crew around to explain that Jimmy, in an extent, was anti-negro since his said the part played by Woody Strode looked Uncle Remisy.

Not only did Directors love him, but the audiences were crazy about him. He had a way of drawing you in on what he would say next and have you hanging on his every word. He didn't sound like a script reciter, but as a man who told you a story as it unfolded. He played many true-to-life characters like Glenn Miller, Charles Lindbergh & Monty Stratton so effectively that each portrayal never compromised the other. This is an amazing actor whose legacy has continued to grow with each generation. Unfortunately with this expanding fame, many of his amazing roles have become forgotten.

Here, he recounts his war days.

A favorite scene from Harvey.

Another favorite scene of his now in Shenandoah.

Monday, July 9, 2012

JAMES CAGNEY (1899-1986)


Born: July 17th, 1899 (New York City)

Died: March 30th, 1986 (heart attack related to diabetes)

Marriage: Frances Cagney (1922-1986 His Death)

Children: They adopted a boy and a girl: James Cagney Jr. & Cathleen Cagney.

Awards: He won only one Oscar, which was for his performance in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). He was nominated two other times for Best Actor: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) & Love Me or Leave Me (1955). He achieved eight other awards with one additional nomination. He also has a star on the Walk of Fame.

Interesting Fact: He began his career as a female dancer in a chorus line.

My Favorite Movie: Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). Though I love his gangster films, this one hits home for me. I was named after Cohan, and I just love Cagney's portrayal of him. Another favorite film is Man of a Thousand Faces (1957), it is a unique story about a unique man, Lon Chaney Sr..

First I would like to mention how odd it is that there are so many movie stars with the name James. Jimmy Stewart, James Cagney, Jimmy Durante, James Dean, James Garner and so on. Cagney was a strong actor who often got his way and it usually paid off when he did. He had a voice, he could dance, but all of that was incidental to his amazing ability as an actor.

One of his most powerful performances is found in Man of a Thousand Faces, here he is seen transforming himself as Chaney did with all the emotion that comes with it. Another thing to love about Cagney is his patriotism. This is seen best in the flag waving Yankee Doodle Dandy. He did an excellent job telling a story that would be considered corny in our day. This is a fantastic actor to watch.

This is a scene from Yankee Doodle Dandy
with a Rooney / Garland remake.
Here is a beautiful dance duet with Bob Hope in a
Cohan cameo on The Seven Little Foys (1955)


Friday, July 6, 2012


Studio: Warner Brothers

Producer: Howard Hawks, Jesse L. Lasky & Hal B. Wallis

Director: Howard Hawks

Awards: It won two Oscars: Best Actor (Gary Cooper) & Best Film Editing. It was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Walter Brennan), Best Supporting Actress (Margaret Wycherly), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Music, Best Picture, Best Sound & Best Writing. It has also received a NYFCC Award and was placed in the National Film Registry in 2008.

Release Date: July 2nd, 1941

Origination: Based on the life story of World War I hero, Alvin York. The stories were taken from his personal diary.

Interesting Fact: Alvin York would not give permission for his life to be made into film unless it starred Gary Cooper as himself.

Alvin: Therefore, render unto Caesar the things that ere Caesar's, and unto God the things that ere God's.

This is not just a story about a legendary sniper who became the shinning figure of World War I. It is not just a picture about the struggle that a religious man felt at that time when the call of war came to his people. It is a film about the idea of America, that men must fight to allow others to enjoy the freedoms they have been given. Freedom of Religion can not exist unless people stand to defend it. This is also a story about a family that raised a man who became a greater hero than any Senator. It's a story about a mother who never judged her son, but instead gave him encouraging words that created a great bond between them. This is an amazing story.

Gary Cooper's performance earned him an Academy Award and rightfully so. The performance of Margaret Wycherly, who played Ma York, was even more amazing. To this day, my mom will often say to us "When ya comin' home?" The story may be a little long, but I don't remember it that way when I was younger. This is a great piece of history for every American to watch.



Studio: Columbia Pictures

Producer: Frank Capra

Director: Frank Capra

Awards: In a year of Academy Award history, this film only won one of the Oscar's it was nominated for: Best Writing. It was nominated for Best Actor (Jimmy Stewart), Best Supporting Actor (Harry Carey & Claude Rains), Best art Director, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Best Picture, Best Sound & Best Writing. It also won a NBR Award and a NYFCC Award for Jimmy Stewart. In 1989 it was added to the National Film Registry.

Release Date: October 19th, 1939

Origination: The story was written by Lewis R. Foster under the title of The Gentleman from Wyoming and The Gentleman from Montana, though it never was published.

Interesting Fact: Released on the eve of World War II, this film was surrounded by controversy. Countries in Europe, like Germany and Italy, had banned the film. France, however, embraced it before a ban was issued when they became occupied. In America, it shook the ground where politicians stood and was not welcomed by the leaders of this country. Some suggested that it may not send the right message about democracy at a time when the country needed to be united. Harry Cohn, the owner of Columbia Pictures, compared his concerns on releasing this film to the feelings of Abraham, who was asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

Jefferson Smith: Because of just one, plain, simple rule: Love thy neighbor.

I've posted on this movie before, but now, in this month of patriotism, I couldn't pass it up. Though this film did not involve battle scenes where heroes died, or songs and parades that get the heart stirring, it creates a new kind of patriotism that celebrates the government of the people. The work may be fictional but the message is true. To date, no film has come close to what this picture has done for America. Films of our day focus on the corruption and conspiracy surrounding similar events, while Capra's picture focuses on the naive hero who rises against the tyranny. He is like a Frodo who has chosen to do something he may not fully understand.

Another thing that I love about this film is it's showcase of the monuments of D.C. and Mr. Smith's admiration of them. I feel like this movie brought those pieces of stone to life and gave them even more meaning. I have visited those sites and I could not help but reflect on the scenes of this film as I viewed them. They are all majestic!

Here are some selected scenes from the film
created by a fan on

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Studio: Warner Brothers

Producer: Hal B. Wallis, Jack Warner & William Cagney

Director: Michael Curtiz

Awards: Received Best Actor for James Cagney, Best Music & Best Sound. Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Walter Huston), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture & Best Writing. Was also given a NYFCC Award and was placed on the National Film Registry in 1993.

Release Date: June 6th, 1942

Origination: Based on the life of the Broadway show tunes writer George M. Cohan.

Interesting Fact: Before James Cagney became known as a gangster on the screen he was a dancer. He won his only Oscar for his performance in this picture and later reprised Cohan with Bob Hope in The Seven Little Foys (1955).

Cohan: "My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you."

This is a beautiful picture about an amazing man who gave this country songs to sing. I was also born on the third of July, and I've treasured this movie ever since my mother showed it to me when I was young. To see such a man with the same birthday feel a drive to show the world what we stand for, has influenced me greatly. I can't tell you how many times I have tried to dance down steps like he did at the end of the movie. This film gave me a greater love for James Cagney as an actor, George Cohan as a songwriter and America as a country of opportunity and liberty. This is a must see for every American.


Sunday, July 1, 2012


Hollywood was one of the greatest sources of Patriotism in years gone by. The flag waved proudly on the silver screen as goosebumbs gathered across the audience. It helped with the war effort of World War II and reminded the public not just about what we were fighting for, but that we would prevail during those dark times. These movies were written by people, people who were at one time refugees or imigrants. They came to a land that gave them opportunity and freedom from opression, and they used their talents to forever thank this country for those gifts. Though their ancestores were not present when the Decleration of Independence was signed, the privleges of this country was extended to them regarldless of their birth.

I think that one of the greatest expression that I've found to prove this fact, was in Frank Capra. Born in Sicily, he immigrated at the tender age of six to Ellis Island. He recalled what his father had said as the family first saw the Statue of Liberty, "That's the greatest light since the star of Bethlehem." He enlisted in WWI and then again on December 11th, 1941 in WWII, now as a well known director. He enlisted once again at fifty-three when the Korean War began, and was rejected for his advanced age. When asked why he kept enlisting, he responded that he didn't feel right making the movies he did unless he lived a life similar to his characters.

Frank Capra & John Ford during WWII.

For this month, I will be dedicating as much time as possible to posting on the patriotic side of Hollywood. As always, I'll begin with my favorite top ten films - Here they are:

#1. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
#2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
#3. Sergeant York (1941)
#4. This is the Army (1943)
#5. The Alamo (1960)
#6. Let Freedom Ring (1939)
#7. Johnny Tremain (1957)
#8. Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
#9. Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
#10. Since You Went Away (1944)