Archive for Monday, July 8, 2013

Defining heroism in movies

July 8, 2013

This summer there seems to be a large number of movies about super heroes or persons with other unusual abilities and supernatural talents. While these movies blow up more things than I like, I can understand they are popular. They are pure fantasies that can keep you on the edge of your seat.

Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the super heroes and my enjoyment dates back to comic book and radio days. I have always been a Lone Ranger fan and I like Spider Man. To me, Christopher Reeves will always be Superman. Like most kids of my generation, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy were certainly heroes.

I got started thinking about my motion picture heroes. I limited my list to fictional characters, because Hollywood has never done a good job with biographical or real event movies. I believe the best ones are “Lincoln,” “Glory” and “Gettysburg.” One of my favorite all-time movies is “Chariots of Fire,” although a lot of liberties were taken with the characters. The more I think about it, there are a lot of heroes in movies who were “real.” Another is Buford Pusser of “Walking Tall.” The first movie was great, but the book was a lot better. I haven’t seen “42,” but I understand it is a tremendous film.

So, who is my number one fictional movie hero? I have to jump on board with millions of others who selected Atticus Finch played by Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird” as the greatest movie hero of the 20th century. He topped every poll taken about movie heroes. If you think about it, this is a story about real courage. Atticus is attorney in the Deep South in the horrible old days of segregation and “Jim Crow” laws who was willing to defend a Black man charged with raping a white woman. Just to take such a case in the 1930s was risky and to put together a defense that should have freed the man was downright dangerous. He risked his own safety and that of his family to do the right thing and doing what is right is always heroic.

As is often the case, the book is a lot better than the movie but both are very good. It depicts a sad era in American life and one man’s willingness to take on the status quo.

My second all-time movie hero is from the movie “The Poseidon Adventure.” Gene Hackman starred as the Rev. Frank Scott, a modern but courageous minister who made an effort to save six persons from the ill-fated ship. A huge wave capsizes the aging cruise ship on New Year’s Eve, and while most of the passengers wait to be rescued, Scott attempts to lead a small group to the top of the ship. Sadly, those waiting to be rescued all perished. Despite the minister’s heroic efforts, several of the small following also failed to survive. In fact, he gave his life to save his followers. To me the great message is never to give up and take any small chance you might have to succeed. Based on a Paul Gallico story, it is a great tale of courage.

My third hero is Marshal Will Kane played by Gary Cooper in the 1952 film “High Noon.” Kane refused to leave a town in the hands of a killer. What I believe is heroic about the character is his sense of duty to a town that really doesn’t care. He is willing to risk his life because of his sense of honor and duty. He is truly a great role model.

There you have my list, maybe it would be fun for you to think about your movie heroes.

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