Sunday, May 25, 2014

Saluting Our Fighting Men and Ducks

I ran more wartime shorts this morning as I made Brown Sugar Pancakes and a half a grapefruit for breakfast. From 1942 to 1944, Donald Duck appeared in a series of classic cartoons that put him in the Army. He also dealt outright with the Nazis in the Oscar-winning surrealist nightmare "Der Fuhrer's Face" and did his part on the home front with Huey, Dewey, and Louie in "Home Defense." "Home Defense" has Donald taking time off from the Army to be a civilian aircraft spotter. His nephews are his gun crew, but they'd rather be playing pranks on their uncle. He's ready to forgive them when he thinks he hears an invasion...but is that what he really hears?

Work was on and off busy, a bit of a surprise given this is a holiday weekend. I figured there would be long lines all day. It was gorgeous today, sunny, breezy, and a bit warmer than it has been. I guess everyone went down to the Shore. I was in and out with no major problems.

When I got home, I finished out Donald while making Pineapple Cupcakes for Dad's Memorial Day barbecue tomorrow. "Commando Duck" was Donald's last Army short in early 1944. He becomes the only regular Disney character to see combat when he's supposed to meet the enemy in Japan. He ends up washing them out...literally! There were supposed to have been two more shorts about Donald's Army exploits, and Goofy would have joined Donald in combat, but the war was winding down by that point and audiences were looking for escape, not more reminders of fighting. 

After Donald ended, I made sauteed spinach and mushrooms, the last of the grits, and a leftover chicken leg for dinner while watching Mister Roberts. Henry Fonda played the title character on Broadway and in this film, an officer aboard a Navy cargo ship during the last year of World War II. He has to put up with horny men, goofy Ensign Frank Pulver (Jack Lemmon) who keeps claiming he's sick, and the tyrannical Captain (James Cagney) whose inane rules frustrate everyone. Doc the surgeon (William Powell, in his final role) gives him advice. He wants badly to be transferred, but the Captain won't sign his letters or even consider them. Roberts has the respect of his men and Pulver, who wants to just once show up the nasty Captain like Roberts does. When Roberts does finally get his wish, he has to decide if he really wants to leave the men who have become like friends to him or get into combat and do something "important."

There's no battle or fighting in this war movie, so if that's what you're looking for, you're in the wrong place. This comedy/drama reminds us that even those officers and soldiers who had jobs that didn't involve giving lives were as important as anyone on the battlefield. It's hysterically funny at times, especially when the crew gets leave and Pulver finally gains enough backbone to try to get on the Captain's goat, but it can also be surprisingly touching, especially the ending. Terrific cast, too. Fonda won a Tony for his role on Broadway; Lemmon got a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as the cowardly Pulver.

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