Monday, December 07, 2015

The date which will live in infamy

Aloha.  It’s always a little strange to be in Hawaii on December 7th. That’s “the date which will live in infamy,” although as each year passes more and more young people have no idea what that means.

On this date in 1941 Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. That was, for the United States, the beginning of World War II. For that generation, it was their 9-11. And even though I didn’t come along until many years later, I heard about it all my life. I’m sure Millennials can’t conceive of a time when we won’t remember 9-11 but you'd be surprised -- time goes by shockingly fast.

There have been several movies about this historic event, most not so good – but by far the worst is PEARL HARBOR atrociously directed by Michael Bay. It’s basically a horribly written love triangle followed by a shit ton of bombing.

IN HARM’S WAY is another dud but at least has John Wayne.

Better is TORA TORA TORA, although the battle ships are miniature toys filmed in the tank at Paramount. But it’s a more balanced film and shows the actual planning – far more worthwhile than watching Kate Beckinsale try to deliver cringeworthy lines like, “Slow down, flyboy!” and “Every night I watch the sunset and soak up every last ray of its warmth and send it from my heart to yours.” Transformers wouldn’t even say that.

The best is probably FROM HERE TO ETERNITY from the ‘50s. You got your Hollywood star power in that one, from Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr (the famous beach love scene) to Sinatra who won an Academy Award (I wonder how many horse heads that cost the Godfather.).

If you're not familiar with this event, please check out a movie (except PEARL HARBOR) or book on the subject.  It's something you really oughtta know.  

So at least for a moment this day,  “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Especially if (like me) you’re in Hawaii. Like everything else, paradise comes with a price. And even though it happened a long long time ago now, let’s never forget.

31 comments:

David P said...

For those of us of a certain age, it's also the date that Will Lee passed away in 1982. He served in the Army in WWII, and went on to a career as an actor, interrupted by the HUAC blacklist (he was in As the World Turns, but replaced after a single episode).

He gained fame through his portrayal of the gruff grocer with the warm heart, Mr Hooper, on Sesame Street.


Or, for a musical bent, Harry Chapin was born a year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbour.

Anonymous said...

Ken,
I am rather surprised you didn't mention the 70's TV mini-series version of From Here to Eternity with Natalie Wood and William Devane. It's been a long--long, long--time since I saw it, but as I recall it was quite good, too.
Keith

McAlvie said...

It is probably hard for any 'story' to do justice to Pearl Harbor. Ken, you criticized Saving Private Ryan, saying that the rest of the movie was a let down after the D Day invasion. I don't agree, but it seems to me that any good story on the subject of WWII is going to face the same problem - it isn't all bombing and shelling and machine gun fire. The big events are events, not story. Gripping events that need to be remembered, but you can't expect people to sit through 90 minutes of bombs, strafing and torpedos. Trying to make Pearl Harbor a love story is probably a mistake, I agree. But what kind of story do you thread through something like that? How do you get an audience invested in the ordinary lives that surround pivotal events? I would like to see it done right, if only so that the story survives for other generations.

Kirk said...

There was a miniseries in the late 1970s titled Pearl that starred Dennis Weaver and Angie Dickinson. It was so-so.

H Johnson said...

Good morning Ken. Finally in our time zone.

Very nice post. It's important we don't forget. We'll be looking at the same skies today and picturing those planes coming through the mountains. Chilling.

Aloha

Elf said...

My wife was born on Dec. 7. When she told me I replied with "So, you celebrate each year by going out and getting bombed?"

Canda said...

Highly doubt future generations will continue to mark Dec. 7 as anything unusual. As WWII vets die off, and any of those who remember that day pass on, it will be forgotten.

Same with November 22, 1963.

As proof, how many people around today have any idea what the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month means?

VincentS said...

Here's something that might help us remember. Franklin Roosevelt's speech before Congress asking for a declaration of war in its entirety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhtuMrMVJDk

kent said...

I am a pilot and a student of aviation. I have studied both the attack on Pearl Harbor and, to an even greater extent, the subsequent Doolittle raid on Tokyo. While the movie is terrible for all the reasons you say, it is also far and away the most accurate account of those events ever filmed.

Kel said...

Same with November 22, 1963.

Okay, don't yell at me for being a stupid 20-something, but I had to look up November 22, 1963. Give me points for looking it up and not just asking, though.

Johnny Walker said...

Two films to add to the list. Thanks!

Thanks for sharing that, too, VincentS. Chilling.

Cap'n Bob said...

Did you hear about the half-Irish, half-Japanese pilot who bombed Pearl Bailey?

I had an uncle who was wounded at Pearl Harbor and almost every adult male I knew growing up was a WWII vet. I haven't forgotten.

Astroboy said...

I think a triple feature for today would be the original "From Here to Eternity" followed by "Tora Tora Tora" & then 1976's "Midway." The last two are not 'great' films in any sense, but they certainly were riveting to me when I first saw them and have stuck with me.

Anonymous said...

Friday question: I recently had the misfortune of being forced to watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory and began to wonder who the people were in the live studio audience who kept laughing at every predictable "joke". My question: how do the studio pick whose in the audience and be sure they will respond to the show?

Anonymous said...

Most college freshman have no knowledge of 9/11.

jcs said...

Before Pearl Harbor the Japanese had very aggressively waged war in the Far East (e.g. Manchuria, Korea). In Europe Hitler's armies had occupied Czechoslovakia, mercilessly invaded Poland (with Stalin offering a helping hand), Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg before defeating the French and destroying the British Expeditionary Force. Already before WWII broke out, Italy had invaded parts of Africa and had conquered Albania. Yet the US government thought they somehow could stay out of all this.

The attack on Pearl Harbor cost many lives, but luckily Hawaii never endured the brutal Japanese invasion that the poorly defended UK and US colonies in the Pacific suffered right after the bombing. In Hongkong (Black Christmas), in the Philippines and other places the Imperial Japanese Army did not care much about the Hague Convention, POWs and civilian casualties. From a historical point of view the lack of proper preparation for a potential armed conflict was a costly mistake of the US government.

Igor said...

Ken, small favor to ask: Could you please write a sitcom pilot for Bob Newhart?

And while it's the pilot, could you make it the last episode, too? And make it so, at the end, he wakes up and discovers he's in bed with Donald Trump?

Buttermilk Sky said...

Canda, I'm not a hundred years old but I recognized the reference to the armistice that ended World War I. You don't have to live through something to know about it, you only need to learn some basic history. The question is why so few Americans give a damn about anything that happened before they were born. As Cicero said (no, I never met him, either), not to know history is to remain forever a child.
Which explains a lot.

Kosmo13 said...

My introduction to Pearl Harbor when I was 8 was The Time Tunnel episode about that event. That's still my favorite filmed version, though Magnum, PI had a good episode about Pearl Harbor, too

Anonymous said...

The last four years were the anniversary of the most important event in the country's history (let's call the Revolution before we were a country).
How many official commemorations?
How many times did the President visit a battlefield? (especially ironic considering who the president is and what is was all about)
Who spoke about the sacrifices of the most deadly conflict?

Crickets, from all sides.
Many of us will not be around for the 200th.

blogward said...

Spot on about From Here to Eternity, Ken. The PH attack swamps all the romantic shenanigans, as it would have done at the time. Heroes emerged. But I call cheap shot on Sinatra; had Brando got the gig it would have been a bigger turkey than Trump's Thanksgiving lunch.

MikeN said...

"You miss her like Michael Bay missed the point in Pearl Harbor..."

Diane D. said...

Lovely post, Ken Levine. Thank you.

Anonymous said most college freshman know nothing about 9/11. Can that be true? It is impossible for me to believe it, even though I am aware that many children graduate from high school knowing very little history of their own country and even less of world history. If Cicero (quoted above by Buttermilk Sky) was right, we will soon be a nation of children.

Johnny Walker said...

No, I don't think that's true, Diane. There was a video that went around supposedly showing it, but there was also another video, years ago, showing adults saying the same thing. You can edit a video to show whatever you want it to.

jbryant said...

I think IN HARM'S WAY is a fine film. The story may be an uneasy marriage of military strategy and soap opera, but both aspects work well enough individually. John Wayne and Patricia Neal are great together, and the rest of the cast is solid too. Preminger favors long-take scenes filled with subtly great camerawork.

Diane D. said...

Thanks, Johnny Walker. It's unfortunate that people quote such dubious information sources. You can always find reputable web sites, but so many people want to believe the worst--it gets so tiresome.

ODJennings said...

"Better is TORA TORA TORA, although the battle ships are miniature toys filmed in the tank at Paramount."

I'll take the models in tanks any day over today's CGI (although Warner Bros. put everyone else to shame when it came to exciting model ship sequences. Watch Action in the North Atlantic if you don't believe me.)

At least with toy boats in tanks they had to fall back on gimmicks like plot and dialogue instead of just trusting CGI to carry the movie like they do today (Watch Pearl Harbor if you don't believe me.)

In Harm's Way is worth watching for Patricia Neal if nothing else. When she kicks off those nurses shoes and tells John Wayne to get his roommate to sleep somewhere else tonight--well what's not to like about that.

MikeN said...

Diane it's true. Just ask some people of that age. I know that in 2003, many college freshman taking a history class didn't know about Bill Clinton's impeachment.

Also, ask them who is being thanked at Thanksgiving, and you'll be surprised how many will say The Indians.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

@McAlvie:

Three words: Black Hawk Down.

Kirk said...

MikeN said: "Diane it's true. Just ask some people of that age. I know that in 2003, many college freshman taking a history class didn't know about Bill Clinton's impeachment."

Did you by chance mean 2013? 2003 was a mere five years after Clinton's impeachment. Those college freshmen would have been in the 8th grade. Yes, parents may have tried to shield their children from the whole Monica Lewinsky affair, but I think someone on the verge of adolescent would have found out (and found it interesting) anyway. By way of comparison, I was in the 8th grade during the Wayne Hays scandal (the congressman paid his secretary for sex) and knew about THAT. Could it be that those freshmen were aware of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair as a scandal, but not, strictly speaking, an impeachment, since a lot of people incorrectly believe a impeachment to be the removal of a president, rather than an ATTEMPT to remove a president (I've known a lot of people who mistakenly think Nixon was impeached)?

Anonymous said...

An interesting Pearl Harbor movie was a special effects spectacular the Japanese made in 1942 titled The War At Sea from Hawaii to Malaya. The effects are by the same Toho guys who ten years later would be making Godzilla movies. It's cracking stuff.

You can find it on YouTube if you look. I warn you: most of the movie is dull as ditchwater, mostly dealing with the training of Naval aviators. But the action and effects scenes in the final reel are well worth catching.