Monday, July 10, 2006

When Hollywood was Made of Nobler Stuff

In my previous post, I touched upon a celebrity who had briefly joined the military (it was either that, or face a 2-year jail sentence) before he attained celebrity status. What I'd like to do now, is focus upon those celebrities who served in the military after becoming rich and famous. The reason is, in a sense, they were living the American dream of success, along with the superficiality of stardom, and yet made a selfless choice to provide military service to their country. In some cases they may have been drafted instead of volunteering to enlist; nevertheless, when duty called, they answered that call, honorably and willingly, for love of country and patriotic duty.

In recent memory, there have been very few celebrities who have chosen to give up their multi-million dollar paychecks and life of luxury, comforts, and excess, to fight for the country that has made their wealth possible and given them so much. Since 9/11, only one name really comes to mind and that is Pat Tillman, although a couple of other star athletes have also chosen military service in their country's time of need over sports contracts and family obligations. As far as Hollywood name actors, there have been zero enlistments.

If Hollywood stars choose not to enlist, out of patriotic duty, that is their right. I don't expect them to drop everything and pick up arms and join the war on terror on the frontlines anymore than I expect myself or anyone else to do so. But it must be noted that citizens of almost every station in life are represented in our military, except for one demographic: the Hollywood entertainer. Contrast this with the Hollywood actors of the 40's generation who signed up to enlist after Pearl Harbor.

It might be argued that some of the Hollywood liberals are exercising their patriotism by opposing the War and This Administration. That might be well good and true; but in my opinion, some of them, because of the manner in which they express their dissent, are doing more harm to this country and to the War effort, than they are to helping bring about its conclusion.

What I do find strange is the shift in attitudes toward notions of patriotism and nationalism; and in what it means to support the troops. Can anyone imagine Ben Affleck signing up to wear an army uniform? Eminem at the Navy Recruiter's, inquiring about what it takes to become a Navy SEAL?

Not a single Hollywood actor gave up a movie contract to fight in the War on Terror. One might argue that there might be some who would, if it was a war that they believed in. But I remain doubtful.

Certainly, self-enlistment is only one way to "support the troops". Celebrities are in a position where their affluence as a civilian may be of greater use and positive influence to the military and the War effort, than if they were given an M-16 rifle and guard duty. Someone like a John D. Rockefeller, who avoided the draft by paying to have an unidentified man take his place, probably did more to help win the Civil War by supplying military goods than he would have done as a footsoldier.

John Wayne, an American icon and larger than life on the big screen, can be said to have done his part, through inspiration. And if he never actually served, it wasn't for a lack of trying:

According to Ronald Reagan: "Duke had hoped to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and was named as an alternate selection to Annapolis, but the first choice took the appointment. When war broke out, he tried to enlist, but was rejected because of an old football injury to his shoulder, his age (34), and his status as a married father of four.

He flew to Washington to plead he be allowed to join the Navy, but was turned down.

So he poured himself into the war effort by making inspirational war films.

To those at home and others around the world he became a symbol of the determined American fighting man. Duke could not be kept from the front lines.

In 1944 he spent three months touring forward positions in the Pacific theater. Duke went to Vietnam in the early days of the war.

He scorned VIP treatment, insisting he visit the troops in the field. Once he even had his helicopter land in the midst of a battle.

The Duke was also personally asked by the Marine Corp Commandant after World War II to make "Sands of Iwo Jima" after which recruitment went through the roof. When John Wayne was honored with a square at the Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the sand used in the cement was brought in from Iwo Jima.
-Hollywood Heroes

Only a few celebs- such as Gary Sinese, James Wood, and Bruce Willis, have actively vocalized their support for American victory in the War in Iraq and in the overall War against Islamic Terror. Ron Silver, who I believe is a Democrat, also supports the war, and has been vocal about his support of President Bush in this regard. To their credit, war critics Robin Williams and Al Franken are two of the few Hollywood liberals who don't really support the war, but have made efforts to show support for the troops by going to Iraq on USO tours, and paid $50 a day. Unfortunately, recruiting celebrity talent these days has been difficult. Part of it is the disagreement that Hollywood leftists have with the war (and yet they still dare to say, "we support the troops!"); the other aspect is the ongoing dangers in Iraq.

[Robin]Williams said he'd like to see more comedians in their 20s entertaining the troops, most of whom are that age. Pop singer Jessica Simpson and American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson are among the few young stars who have visited war zones.

Williams — who like Franken has been an outspoken critic of Bush's management of the war — and Newton, a Republican who backs Bush, say some stars have turned down the USO because they thought such performances would amount to endorsing the war.

"And I say it's not," Newton said. "I tell them these men and women are over there because our country sent them, and we have the absolute necessity to try to bring them as much happiness as we can."

Williams said he tells stars, "Go, man. You won't forget it. You'll meet amazing people.' "

Newton said "the fear of danger, and pressure from wives and kids, more than the politics" keeps many celebrities out of today's war areas. He said one National Basketball Association star whom he would not identify asked: "How safe am I going to be?" After Newton assured the player that "you've got the entire U.S. military around you," the player agreed to visit Kuwait and Qatar, Newton said.

"They're scared," country star Morgan said after Wednesday's show. "It's understandable. It's not a safe and fun place, and a lot of people don't want to take the chance."

The Vietnam and Korean wars also were unpopular in show business circles, said Johnny Grant, 82, a retired Hollywood disc jockey who's made 56 trips overseas to emcee USO shows. "During the Vietnam War, I'd see a celebrity and they'd run to the other side of the room, thinking, 'Oh, God, he's going to try to recruit me.' "
-USA Today, December 22, 2005

In "America's Victories" by Larry Schweikart, there is a chapter entitled "Citizen Soldiers" in which the author runs through a list of notable and not so notable Hollywood "A" and "B" stars. Among my favorites:

Clark Gable, who was technically too old to serve. Yet he joined up, enlisting as a private before being promoted up the ranks and attending Officer Training School. Gable flew B-17's over Europe, as did Jimmy Stewart. After starting as a "buck private peeling potatoes," Stewart attained officer rank and led hundreds of men, including another future Academy Award winner, and Stewart's radioman, Walter Matthau, who was awarded six campaign stars. Another airman, Charles Bronson, was a tailgunner on B-29 bombers in the Pacific.

Humphrey Bogart, who had already fought in World War I, tried to enlist but was turned down because of his age.

The list of Hollywood pro-war victory support of a bygone era is an extensive one. You can find more here. Anna of A Rose by Any Other Name also did a great post not too long ago on this very topic.



Blogger Mary said...

Great post, WS.

I just saw a thing on Cary Grant. Being a British citizen, he tried to enlist there during World War II.

When he was rejected, he tried to join the U.S. forces.

After being rejected for duty again, he devoted himself to using his star power to aid the war effort in any way that he could.

Grant is just one example of a Hollywood heavyweight having the right stuff.

Monday, July 10, 2006 8:48:00 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

Wow, we are on a wavelength this month.

Another great star of the old Hollywood has passed away, June Allyson at the age of 88.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 7:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Moonbat aka Pekka said...

When I decided earlier today to check this site out, I wasn't expecting to get quite as much useful information as I have.

This posting of yours is simply a great piece to fill a gap that I have had about this subject. On top of all has been Dukes' seeming duality between his persona on and off the silver screen.

Friday, July 14, 2006 7:14:00 PM  
Blogger airforcewife said...

Don't forget the stars that DIED in service to their country in WWII... Glenn Miller comes to mind quickly.

I honestly think that the world cares more about what you say than what you do now - no one is held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 5:21:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Someone else that I know of is Lee Powell, killed invading Tinian with the 2nd Marine Division. He played the first Lone Ranger on the silver screen.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 5:40:00 PM  

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