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Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Absence of Being Earnest

Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, and Joel McCrea
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MOTION PICTURES. We were talking movies ó or trying to ó and I began to wonder what my friendís son would reflect on at a later time, tables turned, in a similar conversation with a person half his age. Thatís when I realized something was missing.

Iím not an avid movie goer, but used to be. In the fifties and early sixties, Saturday afternoon was the time to box up the Fort Apache stockade, put away the plastic burp gun, and bike to the movies. ďShoot-em-upsĒ my mother called them. Westerns and war flicks. Occasionally, usually by accident, Iíd see films with no combat at all.

I wasnít lusting for bloodshed, I wanted to see heroes, learn what it takes to be a man. But the names and the faces I call up are barely known today, or so it seems.† They were genuine, solid, and, yes, earnest. They could win you over without histrionics or fake attitude.† All of them looked exactly like my father. Van Heflin in Shane. Joel McCrea in Ride the High Country. Glenn Ford in any movie that had him in uniform. Each would invariably leave me with the impression Iíd encountered someone real, someone worthy to emulate. Someone who would stand and fight if he had to ó and only for the right reasons. No phoniness. Just men.† Who remembers them now?

Not my young friend. One name, he says, sounds vaguely familiar. Then itís his turn. He asks what I think about someone in some movie I think Iíve seen but canít exactly place. Iíve caught several, Iím certain. Can almost recollect the special effects, which seem to be the real point. See in my mindís eye a few smug expressions and maybe bring up a one-liner or two of bravado. I know these big movies feature big stars, because thatís the way itís supposed to work. I just canít recall their faces or their names. But the fact is, I just donít care.

In the end we might have found one icon in common, the brightest star of all for me, William Holden. He remembers him, sort of. Something about a river and a bridge. Time rolls on.







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