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Posts Tagged ‘Darren McGavin’

Caution: this is a relatively long post reviewing two movies…  You’ve been warned.
Today’s reviews are re-watches from my childhood:  “Tribes” (1970) and “The D.I.” (1957).  Both are movies about being in Marine Corps Boot Camp.  “The D.I.” was released when I was two years old, so I obviously never saw it on original release, but I remember seeing it in my early teens.  “Tribes” I saw on its original TV broadcast.  I recently discovered / watched both movies on YouTube.
The D.I.” — movie review
If you’ve ever wondered what “Dragnet” would look like if it were turned into Marine Corps Boot Camp, this is the movie for you.  The movie stars Jack Webb (who also produced and directed the film) as Sergeant Jim Moore who is a Drill Instructor (“D.I.”) at Paris Island.  His job is to turn civilians into Marines and he has a problem in the person of Private Owens (played by Don Dubbins).  Whenever Owens feels he’s under pressure, he quits / gives up.  The company Captain (Lin McCarthy) feels Moore is getting soft and orders Moore to bring Owens around or get rid of him.
There are (of course) side issues:  one – Moore is falling for a shop clerk (Jackie Loughery) named “Annie”, which is wrecking his “tough-guy” Marine self-image;  and, two – Owens’ mother (Monica Lewis) appeals to Moore that she coddled Owens and she lost her husband (in WWII) and her two older sons (in Korea).  She wants Moore to make her son into a Marine or he won’t be able to live with himself.
This movie is shot in black and white and it is fairly dark.  I guess as a nod to realism, the movie has a scene with Moore and Annie which (shockingly) edges very close to date rape.  It doesn’t happen, but I was surprised it was even implied in a movie from that period.  Incidentally, in real life, Loughery married Webb the following year (1958).  Despite this being a “Webb” movie (“Just the facts, Ma’am…”), from the 50’s, it is also a happily ever after ending movie – for the Private / mom and the Sergeant / clerk.  Who woulda guessed?
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  Viewed as a “Webb” production, this is a classic.  As a period piece, I would say it’s still pretty much a classic.  This movie was my first introduction to the concept of “Basic Training / Boot Camp”, and I remember it had a fairly strong effect on my impressionable mind.  Don’t get me wrong, this movie is not a cinematic “classic” and it’s really only a fair movie, but, in watching it, it reminded me of the simpler times of my childhood when things did seem more “black-and-white”.
Tribes” — movie review
Tribes” is not strictly speaking a “real” movie.  Back in the 1970’s, one of the main TV networks (ABC) used to run what it called the: “ABC Movie of the Week“.  Some of the ninety minute movies were pretty good and some even became TV series in their own right.
Tribes” is a movie about a free-spirited (that’s “hippie”) individual who joins the Marine Corps and who has to go to (and survive) Boot Camp.  It stars Jan-Michael Vincent as the free-spirited Private Adrian, Darren McGavin as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Drake, and Earl Holliman as Chief Drill Instructor (and Drake’s boss) Master Sergeant Frank DePayster.
The movie always seemed to me to be a message about the changing times of the 1960’s / 1970’s in America.  You’ve got two straight-arrow Marine lifers, but one has a streak of decency and the other does not.  Ultimately, the leadership abilities of the young recruit pushes not only his platoon to excel, but also to win over the D.I. nominally there to break his individuality and “turn him into” a Marine who will follow orders.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  I was very surprised how much of this movie I could recall after nearly 50 years from my first (and only) viewing.  LoL – this movie also introduced me to meditation / alternative states of consciousness and boxers vs briefs.
I am very biased towards this movie as it had a personal effect on me when I was in Basic Training for the Army four years later.  When I was learning to fire the M16, I asked my Drill Sergeant why we used “human” silhouettes instead of “bulls-eye” targets, he replied, “because we want you to learn to shoot at people.”  He went on to explain Fort Ord (where I had my Basic Training) had the highest casualty and injury statistics of any of the training facilities which sent soldiers to Vietnam.  It was determined this was because “West Coast” city boys didn’t shoot at other humans instinctively.  Using silhouettes, trained them to shoot as a reaction instead of pausing to take aim.  Fortunately, I never had to put this to the test…
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On This Day In:
2018 Being President Doesn’t Make You Presidential
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2017 I’m Seeing It, Too
2016 Personal Decisions
2015 Verbal Fluency
2014 Familiar
2013 Unbending
2012 Simple Sayings
2011 Wupped Again?
2010 3 and 1…
Musical Notes…
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Northwest Passages – Evening Two
The Beierly’s Web Site

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The Court-Martial Of Billy Mitchell” (1955)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for an oldie but a goodie.  It’s a fictionalized version of mostly real events surrounding the court-martial of an Army officer who would later be considered a prophet and the “founder” of the Air Force: William (“Billy”) Lendrum Mitchell.   The movie stars Gary Cooper in the title role.  This is one of my two favorite war genre movies starring Cooper.  The other is another semi-biography: “Sergeant York“.  In this movie Mitchell is an Army General who gets busted in rank for disobeying orders by destroying a battleship to prove it can be done by aircraft with bombs.  (In real life, Mitchell did sink the battleship, but he didn’t disobey orders.  Also, he didn’t lose rank for that act.  He lost rank as a result of a general reduction in forces after the end of WWI.)  After the death of a naval aviator friend and a squadron of his former pilots, Mitchell makes public statements to the press bring disrepute to the armed services (Army and Navy).  For this, he is brought up on charges to be court-martialed.
I saw this movie a couple of times in my youth and remembered it generally as a courtroom / trial movie.  Because of the age of the movie and when I first saw it, I assumed it would be in black and white.  I can only guess that was because it (a black and white TV) was all we had when I was a child.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie is actually a “color” movie.
Besides Cooper, the movie stars Ralph Bellamy as Congressman Frank R. Reid (attorney for the defense) and Rod Steiger as Maj. Allan Guillion (the prosecutor) and multiple future 60’s / 70’s TV stars: Jack Lord as Lt. Cmdr. Zachary ‘Zack’ Lansdowne (the Navy officer / friend who dies), Elizabeth Montgomery as Margaret Lansdowne (Zack’s wife) and Peter Graves and Darren McGavin as a couple of Mitchell’s pilots.
The movie is interesting because it shows (accurately) that as early as the 1920’s that it was predictable the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor using aircraft.  What it failed to predict (in the movie and in real life) was the use of carriers to deliver those aircraft.  Mitchell believed the aircraft would come from “nearby” islands.  In real life, Mitchell died before the attack on Peal Harbor, so he never saw his predictions come true.  He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for service to his country.  The award was a bit unusual because it was awarded for his effort to promote aviation and not for any specific act of valor in the act of combat as is usually the requirement.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended movie.  Aside from the historical “prediction”, I found the movie to be very entertaining as a courtroom drama and as a view into the institution of the military and the integrity of the officers represented in the movie – both Mitchell and the court-martial board.  General MacArthur comes across particularly well in the behind the scenes “Board” arguments.   This surprised me as I am not a big MacArthur fan.  Finally, I want to give a shout out to Rod Steiger as one of the prosecuting officers.  This is one of my favorite of his roles, too.  I watched this movie on YouTube.  It is also available on DVD / disc and periodically on TV.
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On This Day In:
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2013 Subtle Humor
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