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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist
Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of tOR and CRO editorial
boards. 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. Her web log can be found
[go to Liebau index]
Cinematic Sign of the Times
“Cinderella Man’s” Old Fashioned Movie Hero
Platt Liebau] 6/6/05
“Cinderella Man,” starring Russell Crowe and directed
by Ron Howard, is a film worth seeing. It’s a biopic,
dramatizing the life of Depression-era boxing great James J. “Jim” Braddock
and chronicling the miraculous comeback that rescued him and
his family from severe post-crash deprivation, lifting America’s
spirits in the process.
The film has been
receiving excellent reviews, especially in conservative circles.
It’s noted – with equal
parts amazement and approval – that, in the film, Braddock
is shown as a man of unquestioned integrity. He’s a loving
husband and father, a good friend and neighbor, a hard worker,
a patriot. Even as he struggles to feed his family, Braddock
insists that his son return a salami stolen from a local butcher.
And when his fortunes improve, Braddock insists on repaying
the government all that he has been given in public assistance.
“Cinderella Man” is a good film. But perhaps it’s
a sign of the times that it’s being hailed as a great
one. After all, in films of the old school, it was hardly extraordinary
that a hero would be honest, courageous, patriotic, hardworking
and good to his family. Even “Gone with the Wind”’s
(1939) “scoundrel,” Rhett Butler, eventually joined
the Confederate Army and adored his daughter Bonnie. Jimmy
Stewart was able to make a career out of playing plain old “good
guys” – most famously in “Mr. Smith Goes
to Washington” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” – as
was Spencer Tracy, whether as Clarence Darrow or Father Flanigan
(yes, priests were heroes back then).
Sure, there were gangsters
in those days, but they weren’t,
for the most part, portrayed as people to emulate. On the whole,
they were vicious brutes – too fond of a drink, abusive
to their womenfolk and prone to violent and ignominious deaths.
Even Humphrey Bogart worked hard to break out of the gangster
roles he had been playing. His greatest work was, perhaps,
as Detective Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” – and,
most famously, as the selfless and patriotic nightclub owner
Rick Blaine in “Casablanca.”
Rhett Butler and Jim Braddock, American cinematic storytelling
lost its way. Antiheroes became the
order of the day, as films like “Easy Rider,” “Taxi
Driver,” “The Godfather” and “Scarface” won
media attention and critical acclaim. Men of religious faith
(like Bing Crosby’s Father O’Malley) have been
replaced with men of doubt (like Clint Eastwood’s Frankie
Dunn in “Million Dollar Baby”). Whatever the cinematic
or artistic merits of these films, they certainly lack the
moral bearings and clear messages of their predecessors.
We are all the poorer
for it – but none have been robbed
so cruelly as the boys of America. Their society used to celebrate
heroes who were “morally straight,” and elevated
them as exemplars in story and film. Now, of course, the summer’s
biggest blockbuster, “Revenge of the Sith,” glamorizes
a young warrior’s seduction by the “dark side.”
Here’s hoping that at least some of America’s
young men will see “Cinderella Man,”– and
have the chance to be inspired by the kind of movie hero that
used to be a far more celebrated, and visible, part of America’s
movies and popular culture. tOR
Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and
theOneRepublic / 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