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  • mistermuse 12:00 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , anti-war films, armed forces, , , , Irving Thalberg, , Memorial Day, MGM, , patriotism, , THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, , war films   


    At the risk of making this a too-lengthy piece (lengthy peace, I’ll leave to miracle workers) I am going to blend a very disparate “double feature” into a two-for-the-price-of-one post….for today is not only Memorial Day, when America honors those killed in military service, but it’s the birthday of a man who literally changed the long-term ‘picture’ of the Marx Brothers after their riotous anti-war film, the anarchic classic, DUCK SOUP (1933).

    But first, for those who are interested and may be unfamiliar with the 100+ years history of war movies, I highly recommend taking time to check out this link for context: http://www.filmsite.org/warfilms.html (DUCK SOUP is listed under “Black Comedies”)

    I don’t necessarily agree with a blogger who wrote, “As we all know, every good war film is [an] anti-war film” — though I think any war picture which doesn’t contain at least an element of “war is madness” (as in BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, below) is, at best, simplistic patriotism (e.g. John Wayne’s GREEN BERETS; I’d add Cagney’s YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, but it’s a rousing glorification of a man’s patriotism, not a war film).

    Back to that birthday man (Irving Thalberg), the film producer known as “The Boy Wonder” for becoming head of production at MGM at age 26 and turning it into the most successful studio in Hollywood during his reign (1925 until his death in 1936). Quoting Wikipedia, “He had the ability to combine quality with commercial success, and [to bring] his artistic aspirations in line with the demands of audiences.” Within this framework, we can appreciate this passage from ROGER EBERT’s great book, THE GREAT MOVIES:

    The Marx Brothers created a body of work in which individual films are like slices from the whole, but Duck Soup is probably the best. It represents a turning point in their movie work; it was their last film for Paramount. When it was a box office disappointment, they moved over to MGM, where production chief Irving Thalberg ordered their plots to find room for conventional romantic couples.
    A Night at the Opera (1935), their first MGM film, contains some of their best work, yes, but [also] sappy interludes involving Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones. In Duck Soup, there are no sequences I can skip; the movie is funny from beginning to end.

    This may not be one of the funniest sequences in DUCK SOUP, but it certainly makes for a glorious celebration of war as madness:


    As even the longest war must eventually come to an end, so too must this Memorial Day piece (de résistance). Even so, it ain’t over till the DUCK SOUP fat lady sings: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xnec7z_freedonia-at-war-part-3-from-duck-soup-1933_shortfilms

    • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    P.S. The state of Ohio imprints the words ARMED FORCES on driver’s licenses whose bearer is/was a member. The last time I went in to renew my license, the BMV clerk took a look and thanked me for my service, which took me by surprise because my service is ancient history and I’d never been, or expected to be, thanked. I was a 1960 draftee who served during the so-called Cold War, not a volunteer in the Civil War (or whatever hot war my hoary appearance makes me look like I served in). But I realize that a bullet or bomb doesn’t care if you’re a draftee or volunteer when it takes you out, so to those who died in the service of this country and its professed ideals (and who had no choice as to whether or not the war they were in was worthy of their sacrifice), I thank youYou are the ones fate chose to earn this day.



    • Cynthia Jobin 12:20 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I watched The Bridge on the River Kwai on TV’s Turner Classic Movies this weekend. I am always perplexed by the idea of what Plato called The Guardians…the need for them, the tragedy of their engagement, the seeming futility of trying to do anything differently. But it’s good to acknowledge the willing, and the brave, as we do, on this holiday; and I hope we also do, when it’s not a holiday.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 7:46 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        On the same day BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI was on TCM, John Wayne’s best war movie, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, was on. To me, the title of that WW II film says it all: for those who die in even the most ‘noble’ and necessary of wars, there is a sense that (of necessity?) THEY WERE EXPENDABLE. (I put a question mark after necessity because too often, bad judgment and stupid decisions of superiors lead to the unnecessary loss of many lives.)

        Liked by 2 people

    • scifihammy 2:03 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      A very good post. So much sacrifice and loss over all these years. Any movie that reminds us of this is a good movie.
      And how nice for you to be thanked after all this time. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 7:58 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you. It was a nice gesture, though it was obvious that the BMV clerks were instructed to say “Thank you for your service” to all service members (past & present) who appear before them, and I doubt that, without that directive, they would’ve even noticed. Nonetheless, it gave me pause.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Don Frankel 6:51 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Muse I swear that in the opening sequence of We’re Going to War, one of the Generals is Sadam Huessein. Take a good look there.

      I think From Here to Eternity is a great movie and listed as a war movie although the war only comes in at the end. But it is not so much a war is madness but the army is madness and the war makes the army sane.

      You served and you went where they sent you like everyone else. In most of our wars only a small percentage of those serving wind up in combat.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 8:23 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Don, that sequence goes by pretty fast, but from just a glance, it does indeed look like Sadam.
        I think there’s something to your statement about madness and war making the army sane….maybe something along the lines of “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”


    • ladysighs 6:59 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Your posts are never too lengthy. Maybe too long, but never too lengthy. lol

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 8:27 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        Ladysighs, I’m not so sure that doesn’t come under the heading of A DISTINCTION WITHOUT A DIFFERENCE — nonetheless, I accept all accolades, regardless of length. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • linnetmoss 7:53 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Duck Soup is a genius movie. I once saw it on a big screen! Just the name Rufus T. Firefly cracks me up.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 8:34 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

        DUCK SOUP is indeed a genius movie. The fact that it was a box office disappointment probably shows that it was ahead of its time, though 1933 was the height of the Great Depression and many people couldn’t afford necessities, much less movies.

        Liked by 1 person

        • linnetmoss 9:35 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink

          These ones for the ages often fall flat in their own time. Moby Dick (the novel) comes to mind.

          Liked by 1 person

    • arekhill1 10:10 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Hail Freedonia! And hail to you as well, Sr. Muse, on this Memorial Day, for being a veteran in more ways than one.


    • Don Frankel 10:52 am on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Muse I read the book and the book lays it out with more detail. The Company where Prewitt/Montgomery Cliff is revolves around boxing. Boxers make up all the Non-commissioned officers as that is their reward for boxing. Most of them are incompetent and the Company is dysfunctional. After Pearl Harbor the Company has to gear up for the war and the Boxers are demoted and the Company begins to function. It is one of the many ironic subtleties that make it a great book.


    • mistermuse 1:08 pm on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Don. I’ve never read the book, and it’s been a while since I saw the movie. I think it’s on TCM now and then, so I’ll try to keep an eye open for it.


    • mistermuse 5:08 pm on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t know anyone who would disagree, Michaeline (but too many other people don’t seem to give a damn).


    • D. Wallace Peach 10:54 am on May 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve never watched Duck Soup (clearly, I should). I’ve seen a number of war movies, and they always leave me terribly melancholy. I think about the real wars and the irreplaceable lives lost, all those hopes and possibilities gone forever for the service men and women and the people who love them. As a grief counselor, I worked with little kids who lost parents in Iraq. I hate the politicians to toss lives into war without a thought about the true cost. I think the best way to honor the dead is to try our darnedest to make sure that war is the very last resort. Thank you for your service 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 11:36 am on May 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you, Diana. In a certain sense, it’s misleading to call Duck Soup a war movie because it’s the ultimate ANTI-war movie. No other film (that I’m aware of) subjects the glory of war to such manic ridicule….so I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts. And THANK YOU for your work as a grief counselor.

      Liked by 2 people

    • calmkate 7:31 am on June 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      wow love that Marx bros number, excellent 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  • mistermuse 12:01 am on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Afghanistan, bombast, bombs, collateral damage, , , George Orwell, , patriotism, , , the fog of war,   


    Friends, I love to bomb the hell out of the enemy as much as the next guy, but as we know, in the dead-on, aptly-dubbed fog of war, mistakes are made (aka stuff happens)….for examples, the killing by “friendly fire” of former NFL star Pat Tillman in April 2004, the accidental bombing (which took the lives of 22 medical staff & patients) of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in October 2015 — both in Afghanistan — and who knows how many other such tragedies throughout history.

    Thus it is with mixed feelings that I bring you tidings of a recent poll revealing that many Americans are in favor of bombing the city of Agrabah, which is located, not in the Middle East, but in the far-off kingdom of Apocrypha, no less:

    30% Of Republicans Favor Bombing Fictional Disney City Of Agrabah

    Friends, after some animated soul-searching, I regret to say that I must differ with my fellow patriots. I do not favor the bombing of Agrabah. It’s not because Agrabahn terrorists don’t deserve to die — they are, after all, cartoonish, less-than-human barbarians, committing appalling atrocities in the name of Allah (who apparently controls the minds of his adherents from the heavenly kingdom of Allahbah). No, friends, I demur because there is a near-100% chance of fog in the war zone, and an even greater probability of collateral damage, which of course only turns survivors into revenge-crazed recruits for the enemy. Even many of our esteemed leaders, both military and political, are believed to be aware of these realities, though clueless as to what to do about them (other than deem them regrettable and unavoidable).

    Well, I say we spare Agrabah and all the other bahs whose populace has the misfortune of living in a different dream world than ours. If we must show them who’s boss, we can always blow them to kingdom-come with politically incorrect ridicule and blasts of bombast, such as the Shakespearean likes of Donald Trump drops on his adversaries, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    Or – well, as a last resort, we could emulate the brilliant tactics employed by another politically incorrect Donald, by George:

    So there, as a last report, you have my final post of 2015….and not a moment too soon, I dare say. Happy New Year to all, and to all, a good night.


    • mistermuse 12:05 am on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Although this post is five days after my last one (which was a day early because of Christmas), I will get back on schedule January 5 – at least, that’s my (only) New Year’s resolution. I’d make more resolutions, but I’m retired.

      Liked by 2 people

    • arekhill1 1:35 am on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Really, Sr. Muse, you seem to be making light of this two-dimensional threat to the American way of life. We could quickly storyboard up a fleet of cartoon cruise missiles to lay waste to Agrabah. Of course, it’s a Pentagon storyboard, so the missiles would cost some millions apiece, but freedom isn’t free.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 6:15 am on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Me make light of human folly? On the contrary, I’m shocked — SHOCKED — that there is bumbling going on here! Thankfully, not only do our political candidates have all the answers for all our problems, but they’re confidently humble about it. How, for example, could we not trust our future to a candidate whose principal qualification seems to be that he is leading in the polls (as he modestly reminds us ad nauseam)?

      Liked by 1 person

    • ladysighs 7:02 am on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I must confess I don’t always watch your posted videos to the finish. But I couldn’t resist D.D.
      Read you next year! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • charlypriest 7:36 am on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I say bomb the shit out of that place. I could care less of collateral damage, imagine you were the soldier on the ground, just talking for myself, but when I was in the army we infantry hated this stupid rules of engagement because of collateral damage. Sorry, we didn´t use civilians as our shelter, but we are the ones that had to go in on foot and see your friends die or you yourself might die all because there is a possibility of collateral damage, war is war, damn ugly i can tell you the nuerous times when we had the enemy on sight and couldn´t even shoot with our rifles because there could be civilians around the building, and you could see these nutcases through your scope holding an AK and call it in the radio, by the time it went up al the channels and got back down to us they where already gone, to come and kill us another day, so for me, just carpet bomb the place if you really want to win that shitty war, which Mr.O let it begin in my opinión by not taking action agaainst this nutcases earier on calling them the JV team, taking out all the US tropos and living a vacume there to be filled by the muslim nutcases, so I´m with the majority of America and I´m not even American I´m Spanish, they started this fight you better end it quickly with overwhelming fire power if not this is the place where you are at, debating now wether they should bomb their headquarters, if they had acted earlier we wouldn´t be having this discussion. So the longer you draag it the worst, and as I said, for the soldiers on the ground it is sad and it does impact you to see dead bodies of kids but i always put it in perspective, it was a mistake but better them than one of my collegues that´s for sure and absolutely no regrets.

      Damn, I got wound up here. Good topic to point out though.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 9:07 am on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve commented elsewhere that Obama was asleep on the job while ISIL/ISIS was overrunning 1/3 of Iraq and only half-awake thereafter. I like him as a peacetime President, but as a wartime President, he doesn’t seem to get that you gotta do what you gotta do…and the sooner, the better. I dislike ideological, jingoistic, simplistic thinking-politicians, but ISIL/ISIS also thinks in those terms, and in their case, it’s lethal not to take them (out) seriously.


    • Don Frankel 10:43 am on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Muse this article fails to mention that a large number of democrats also want to bomb Agrabah which could mean that a majority of Americans want to bomb Agrabah and it has bi-partisan support. I say if we are to bomb Agrabah how can we not also bomb Shazam?


    • mistermuse 11:23 am on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      The article I cite does say (near the end) that 19% of Democrats want to bomb Agrabah, which, along with 30% of Republicans and undoubtedly some Independents, would indeed add up to a majority in favor of bombing….which also means that a majority of Americans failed to Google the name to learn where the hell Agrabah is, and thus would have found out that it doesn’t really exist, which means that most Americans want to bomb first and ask questions later. No wonder Trump is leading the polls.


    • Don Frankel 3:12 pm on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I know that article said 19% but I read somewhere else that it was higher which makes it an overwhelming majority. But let’s go back to the good old days.


    • mistermuse 10:10 pm on December 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Love that Doo Wop, Don….and speaking of “higher” and “the good old days,” here’s my favorite Doo Wop of them all:


    • Don Frankel 2:05 pm on January 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      If we’re going there how’s about this one.


    • Don Frankel 3:21 pm on January 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      No wait this is the sine qua non of do wop.


    • mistermuse 10:00 pm on January 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Don, The Platters sound to me like a cross between Doo Wop and The Ink Spots of the 1940s. Good stuff!


    • Joseph Nebus 7:43 pm on January 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I wouldn’t bomb Agrabah. They’ve got a genie, and I’ve seen the TV series. We could all end up turned into rats or something before we know what hit us. And I don’t want to be a rat. I want to be something in the raccoon family, or maybe Eugene the Jeep.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 9:04 pm on January 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      I assume you mean the TV series I DREAM OF JEANNIE, which I confess I liked even if it wasn’t the most sophisticated comedy in the world (the fact that Jeannie was played by the luscious Barbara Eden may have had something to do with my appreciation of the show). In MY dream of Jeannie, the animal I’d have wanted to be is a wolf, but alas and rats! – time waits for no one, and she’s now 84, and I’m no spring chicken myself.


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