Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of
the CaliforniaRepublic.org editorial
board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator
based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News
MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety
of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate
and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the
first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.
[go to Liebau index]
Have You Gone, Mrs. Miniver?
When Puppets Must Explain the War On Terror...
Platt Liebau] 10/18/04
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.
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
Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and CaliforniaRepublic.org 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 CarolLiebau.blogspot.com