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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of the editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go to Liebau index]

Where Have You Gone, Mrs. Miniver?
When Puppets Must Explain the War On Terror...
[Carol Platt Liebau] 10/18/04

1942 was in many ways a dark time for the United States. Brutally attacked at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Americans were newly engaged in a great struggle. Anxious but resolute, they went to the movies for a respite, and that year, they flocked to see Mrs. Miniver. Directed by William Wyler and starring Greer Garson, it depicted the joys and heartaches of a middle-class English housewife and her family, as they struggled to maintain a semblance of a normal life amid the Battle of Britain and the very real threat of German invasion.

The film concludes in the shell of a bombed-out church, with a rousing rendition of “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” But before the hymn, the Minivers’ vicar addresses a congregation struggling with the grief of wartime casualties:

This is not only a war of soldiers in uniform; it is a war of the people, of all the people. And it must be fought, not only on the battlefield, but in the cities and in the villages, in the factories and on the farms, in the home and in the heart of every man, woman and child who loves freedom. We have buried our dead, but we shall not forget them. Instead they will inspire us with an unbreakable determination to free ourselves and those who come after us from the tyranny and terror that threaten to strike us down. This is the people's war. It is our war. We are the fighters. Fight it then. Fight it with all that is in us. And may God defend the right.

Called the Wilcoxon speech (named for the actor who co-wrote and delivered it), it’s one of the most famous addresses in movie history. President Franklin Roosevelt had pamphlets of the Wilcoxon speech airdropped over Europe, and Winston Churchill called the film more powerful “than a fleet of destroyers.” Mrs. Miniver was the second biggest box office hit of the decade (after Gone With the Wind) and it won six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.

But the night of the Academy Awards, director William Wyler wasn’t available to claim his prize; he was flying a bombing mission over Germany. And like Wyler, many actors joined the war effort, from Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable and Ronald Reagan to Walter Matthau, Ernest Borgnine, and Lee Marvin, along with many, many others. Some celebrities, like bandleader Glenn Miller, even gave their lives.

How times have changed! For more than three years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, no major movie has even addressed the threat to freedom posed by Islamic terrorism – despite the fact that the speech above is as apt in this era as it was in the dark days of World War II.

In an age when Hollywood glitterati heap praise on cheap propaganda like Fahrenheit 9/11, perhaps it’s not surprising that the first film to explain the stakes of the War on Terror is an over-the-top comedy featuring not top-tier Hollywood stars but puppets. Team America is a hotbed of political incorrectness and incredible vulgarity (none of its speeches are remotely suitable for airdropping, to be sure) – but it is at least admirably straightforward about the nature of the terrorist menace and the threat posed by naïve proponents of peace at any price. In contrast to the actors who staunchly defended freedom and supported public morale in the ‘40’s, Team America’s parody puppets of real-life “stars” recite the foolish platitudes about “peace” that have marked them as morally obtuse, self-involved appeasers.

Throughout, Team America resounds with in-your-face national pride and resolution. Sixty-two years after the release of Mrs. Miniver, it’s sad that such sentiments could only find voice through puppets, and amid a string of profanities. Would the America that took Mrs. Miniver to its heart even recognize the Hollywood of today? CRO

Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at

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