Reading the Stars
Lessons in justice, liberty and patriotism from three 2020 departures.
Back on October 31, in the run-up to the election, Sean Connery passed away at 90. Critics worldwide hailed him as the greatest James Bond of all, but there was more to the character, the films, and the man.
Unlike Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda, Kiefer Sutherland and many others, Sean Connery did not become a star because his father or mother had been one before him. He was working class all the way, laying bricks, driving trucks, polishing coffins and such. After a few movie roles, including in Darby O’Gill and the Little People in 1959, producers tapped Connery to play British agent 007 James Bond in the movie version of Ian Fleming’s Dr. No. Connery played Bond in seven films from 1962 to 1983, when Johnny Carson quipped that old 007 needed a cyanide suppository.
The left derided the Bond movies as Cold War propaganda but that misses the mark. The villains were criminal organizations such as the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion (SPECTRE), playing the West and the Soviets off each other. Bond also encountered Auric Goldfinger, who proclaims, “Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He has fired rockets at the moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor, except crime!”
As he battles Goldfinger, Bloefeld et al, Bond remains an employee of an elected British government, with established and respected authority. In all the Bond films, there is no question that Britain is worth defending, and that continued long after Connery gave way to Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig.
In the 2012 Skyfall, spymaster M (Judy Dench) must face the music in government hearings. She sets up headquarters in Winston Churchill’s old bunker, and a British bulldog figurine, wrapped in the Union Jack, holds vigil on her desk. So the most enduring feature of the films is the conviction that, as the song says, “There’ll Always be an England.”
Olivia de Havilland, who passed away in July at 104, was best known as the genteel Melanie Hamilton in the 1939 Gone with the Wind. In reality, de Havilland was anything but a pushover. Olivia de Havilland was the first to challenge the industry’s onerous contracts in court, shaking the studio system to its foundations.
In 1944, de Havilland joined Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, and other stars in a radio broadcast for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After World War II, de Havilland networked with other stars in the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee for the Arts, Sciences and Professions, but this group had a problem.
Like many Hollywood guilds and unions of the time, HICCASP was controlled by the Communist Party, a force in the studios since the 1930s. De Havilland was given a speech written by dutiful Communist Dalton Trumbo. She tossed it, and that surprised fellow HICCASP member Ronald Reagan, who thought that de Havilland was one of the Communists. She thought the same about him, but they duly teamed up on a letter rejecting Communism and championing American free enterprise.
Communist Party straw boss John Howard Lawson promptly exploded and smeared the dissenters in typical style. Reagan and his allies duly resigned from HICCASP, one of many Communist Party front groups. The feisty patriot de Havilland outlived them all, a triumph of sheer staying power.
Wilford Brimley, who passed away on August 1 at the age of 85, played roles in Cocoon, The Natural and The Thing. What may have been his best performance came in the film that replicates a Washington intrigue of the past four years.
The 1981 Absence of Malice dramatized the high concept: “In America, can a man be guilty until proven innocent?” Prosecutor Elliot Rosen (Bob Balaban) leaks a story that Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman) is under investigation in an unsolved murder case. The fake story wrecks Gallagher’s business and puts him in jeopardy, but Gallagher fights back and trips up Rosen and the local DA, suspected of taking bribes. That brings in U.S. Attorney James A. Wells, wonderfully played by Brimley.
“We can’t have people go around leaking stuff for their own reasons,” Wells says. “It ain’t legal, and worse than that, by God, it ain’t right.” Wells asks Rosen what he plans do after government service. Rosen says he’s not going anywhere, but Wells explains, “You got thirty days.”
In the real world, Hillary Clinton concocted a fake story that Donald Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 election. The media ran with it, and the upper reaches of the DOJ and FBI deployed the fake story in an effort to take down candidate and President Trump.
Attorney General William Barr put John Durham on the case but despite mounds of evidence Durham brought no charges against major players Comey, Strzok, Page, Rosenstein, Ohr, et al. What this gang did wasn’t legal, and by God it wasn’t right, but they got away with it.
Deep State Productions now favor the bad guys, so more than ever we need people dedicated to justice under the law. It is possible to be a patriot in Hollywood, but you have to take a stand. If there will always be an England, and an America, we need the intrepid 007 types fighting behind the scenes. Sean, Olivia, and Wilford, thanks for the memories.