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Hollywood At War, Then and Now

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William Whittle is comparatively new to the Blogosphere but he’s written a long and powerful essay on the current state of Hollywood celebrities and the anti-war/pro-dictatorship positions of today’s Hollywood that begins with his chance encounter with Jimmy Stewart in the late 1980s.

Let’s flashback even further to about 1966. Compare the apathy and arrogance of today’s celebrities with this photo of Stewart, a brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve, at about age 58, looking like God in a flight suit, walking away from a B-52F, after a mission over North Vietnam.

I have no idea how many flights Stewart made over Nam–but even if it was just one for this photo-op, think of what he had to go through: the 5000 mile flight from Los Angeles to at least Guam, where most of the B-52s flew out of during the Vietnam war, the risk of getting shot out of the sky by crack North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners and killed or captured, plus the timeout from his career, when by the 1960s, he was earning at a minimum, in the very high six-figures per movie. I’m sure that when the call came, if Stewart or his handlers quietly said, “err, no thanks”, the Air Force wouldn’t have pressed the issue. But, just as he did in WWII, Stewart served his country.

Now, flash-forward 35 years. John Travolta owns his own Boeing 707, a plane based on technology Boeing developed for the B-52 and the earlier B-47. Imagine him flying in a ’52, a B-1, or a B-2 anywhere except on a Hollywood soundstage. To paraphrase one of the anti-war movement’s heroes, it’s not easy if you try! George Clooney is busy taking cracks at George Bush and Charlton Heston. Sheryl Crow is busy checking her aura. James Lileks recently put the whole phenomenon into perspective:

Imagine you’re living in WW2, and you learn that Glenn Miller had kiddie-diddler urges, Dick Powell is in Berlin on a fact-finding mission, Hitchcock is insisting that the Blitz could be solved with diplomacy and understanding, and the Andrews Sisters showed up for an awards banquet wearing T-shirts that criticized Lend-Lease. Hitler the Second would be running Germany today, because the beautiful people would have convinced America that scrap drives were a plot by the rubber-industrial complex.

Of course, during the 1940s through the 1950s, when Stewart was at the height of his popularity, Hollywood stars–or at least their agents and producers–instinctively knew that they earned their wealth, from their audiences. As Whittle wrote:

I can clearly recall Jimmy Stewart on The Tonight Show telling Johnny Carson that everything he had — all the money and fame and admiration and privilege – he owed to the good people who were kind enough to come to the darkened theater and part with their hard-earned money. He said it was a privilege and a small price to pay to give back whatever he could to those fine, generous people.

Compare that to the celebrities of today and how far they’re removed from their audiences.

(Whittle’s essay found via Asparagirl. The above essay originally appeared on EdDriscoll.com)

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About Ed Driscoll

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Geez, I call bullshit. My uncle flew in Europe as a bomber pilot for nearly two years while Yanks stayed out of WWII as isolationists, charging in after all the heavy lifting had been done to take credit.

    Meanwhile, Americans such as Henry Ford and that rat bastard Lindberg were praising Hilter for his efficiency.

    And after the war was over, the US scrambled to get as many Nazi rocket scientists as they could, the OSS let organized crime get back to business.

    If anything, anti-war means anti-dictatorship, since the US has defaulted on any meaningful participation by its citizens.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    I should also temper that comment by noting Los Angeles is the fourth largest city in Canada.

  • Eric Olsen

    Jim, I am slowly coming to the sad conclusion that you are anti-American, since on every possible question you take the anti-American position.

    Re WWll, it took some time to convince the politicians that this was “America’s war” – everyone was scarred by WWl, but how can you possibly say Americans didn’t do any “heavy lifting”? That is preposterous. And “take all of the credit,” rather than taking credit, I think everyone was pretty well concentrating on winning the war.

    There is always a legitimate “alternative view” and then there is slander. What has America ever done to you? Your animus just doesn’t make any sense to me.

  • http://www.eddriscoll.com Ed Driscoll

    Eric and Jim,

    Geez, I was convinced somebody was going to jump all over this piece with “babykiller”-type cliches, because of the photo of Stewart in Vietnam.

    But I didn’t expect anybody to question the guy serving in WWII.

    Ed

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Jim, I am slowly coming to the sad conclusion that you are anti-American, since on every possible question you take the anti-American position.

    Oh give me a slice of big break pie you sad sorry bunch of hypocrites.

    I’m not anti-American, I have relatives in the States (like my uncle Roy who told me in Detroit to keep the window in the car rolled up so the niggers (and I’d never even heard that word before) don’t get to me) yeah, that was an education on what ‘murrica was all about, Detroit in the 70s.

    Where is the real look at history? AT&T via Argentina aided Germany via the 40s, the US disregarded the deathcamp experience of German rocket scientists during the late 40s, the US government carried out nuclear experiments on their own population during the 50s, and so on.

    Your government continues to draw your freedoms tighter and tighter, and you just rally behind a hopped up fratboy.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    I should point out my US relatives literally live in trailer parks, literally serve in the US Navy, literally drive pick up trucks, and literally keep booze in the freezer.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    So what is interesting that my uncle Bill “Sparky” who spent two years flying over Europoe from 39 to 41, gets no love from you sad bastards.

    And I’m the asshole.

  • http://www.eddriscoll.com Ed Driscoll

    Jim,

    You’re shadow-boxing. Nobody’s called you an asshole, and I for one am glad that your uncle served in Europe. But I do think your hyperbole in the posts prior to that one are waaaay overblown: to say that America charged into World War II “after all the heavy lifting had been done to take credit”, both slanders by omission the 2000 dead men at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, as well as our efforts in organizing D-Day (where yes, many, many fine Canadian and British soldiers died along with American GIs).

    If you want to defend anti-war protestors as being patriotic, that’s fine–and that’s a legitimate debate. But you’ve zigzagged so far off that path that you appear to be proving the very comments that Eric made above.

    Ed

  • http://oakhaus.blogspot.com/ Bill Sherman

    If I could jump in the midst of this, I’d like to respectfully take issue with Frum’s assertion (linked to and implicity supported by Ed) that to be anti-war is to automatically be pro-Saddam. I haven’t been combing the media for isolated stoopid statements from leftie celebs (I’m sure you can find ‘em, though we don’t get any specifics from this NRO column), but the anti-war folks I know are equally appalled by Hussein – they just aren’t convinced that war is the route to take. So Frum can’t “stomach” the sight of an active opposition. Damn, but this democracy business is a pain in the gut. . .

  • http:://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    both slanders by omission the 2000 dead men at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, as well as our efforts in organizing D-Day (where yes, many, many fine Canadian and British soldiers died along with American GIs).

    which was totally after the fact you big tool

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    What really burns my bisquits is the murricans trying to charge into the battle after the fact and trying to claim the credit. There was a war for two years and you sat it out.

    You just tried to decide who you would side with, Hitler or the Brits.

    To say you did the right thing based on principles is a lie.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Let me clarify. When I say I’m not an American, that is what I mean. Geez do you have a self-image problem or what? I’m a Canadian, I’ve had to put up with decades of self image problems you people can’t even imagine. You literally can’t imagine.

    You are bullies who don’t fight your own wars (and yes, I know Candadians who fought in Vietnam), you are so self-absorbed, you don’t even know your own history.

    Geez, if you had a tenth of the self knowledge you need, it would be great.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Remember, angry and incoherent is the only way to discuss politics, otherwise “they” have won.

    Also “Duck Soup” was on teevee last week, and if you want a Hollywood take on war, it’s the one I’m going with.

  • Dave Wellman

    I read in your site about B/G Jimmy Stewart flying a B-52F on a dangerous bombing mission over NVN. This would have been in 1966 and it was an Arc-Light Mission to a target in SVN. He flew with a crew from Columbus AFB, GA and my friend Lee Meyers was the Co-Pilot on that crew. Stewart was quiet during the briefing and during the flight. He borrowed my flight jacket, as he didn’t have any flight gear with him, being a reservist.

    Dave Wellman
    (Then Captain, USAF: 320th Bomb Wing, Mather AFB, California, assigned to Anderson AFB, Guam)

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Dave, honored to hear from you!

  • http://www.eddriscoll.com Ed Driscoll

    Dave,

    I just saw your post–thanks for the information!

    Regards,

    Ed

  • John OBrien

    Has anyone seen an essay, I recieved it in e mail and unfortunately deleted it. It’s an anti-celebrity-war piece. Something about “there we no celebrties treading the flaming waters at Pearl Harbor or serving as human shields in front of the World Trade Center….” If anyone has it or knows where I could get it, would you please e mail me.