6.13.05 @ 12:01AM
DON’T BE A STRANGER
Re: Wlady Pleszczynski’s It Ain’t Cool:
Love With the Proper Stranger is indeed a wonderful
movie. As soon as you said it, I remembered the poignant story and
how beautifully it was told. I missed the whole retrospective on
Steve McQueen last week. If Mark Felt was the reason, all I can say
is that I wish that duplicitous old man would take his dirty
secrets and go back in his garage where he belongs.
— Judy Beumler
How can you leave this out? When bandying about the films of
McQueen, a largely nostalgia-driven exercise, how can you possibly
ignore Le Mans? In addition to McQueen, it features the
Porsche 917-series race cars, perhaps the greatest endurance racers
of all time, with gorgeous, flowing lines, enormous brute power and
an evil reputation (a later version would develop 1,500 peak and
1,100 continuous HP; the Le Mans variants were 600-700 or so if
memory serves). Granted, it’s not so much a movie as it is a bunch
of classic race-cars driving around the Sarthe — but it’s the real
deal; not mock-ups or fakes (mostly), and the drivers are real,
too. And of course McQueen is there, detached and cool as always,
perhaps even more so than usual.
Bravo and dittos. Love With a Proper Stranger: an amazing
B&W film (can you imagine “colorizing” this?) Deeply moving and
winning performances. It’s been a favorite of mine for years and I
am sorry to see it has been ignored. Thank you for giving it the
attention it so richly deserves.
— Pamela Hall
About 15-20 years ago I came across the box for LWPS in a
video store. I was immediately perplexed. Why had I never heard of
this movie before when Wood and McQueen were both BIG in 1964? It
must have been a dud I concluded, and I started to move on, but my
favorite casual female style is the black sleeveless turtleneck,
and Natalie’s wearing one in the still on the cover (but does not
in the film!). So I took it back to apartment and was floored. It
was excellent. So perplexed was I that this movie was not well
known that I went and looked up the NY Times review from
1964 on microfilm (positive) and looked at the ads to determine how
widely it was distributed. As the message about abortion is
ultimately ambiguous, it didn’t dawn on me that that might be why
contemporary cognoscenti have squelched it, but your assessment
makes sense. Remaining confused about the film’s obscurity, I
rented it again two-three years ago, thinking that perhaps I had
just overrated it in my youth on the first viewing. No, it was top
notch. It was also notable for another reason. The films of 1961-67
depicted New York as glamorous (Breakfast at Tiffany’s,
Barefoot in the Park etc.); the films of 1969-75 depicted
it as nasty and gritty (Midnight Cowboy, French Connection, Taxi
Driver). Released in early 1964, LWPS was unusual for its emphasis
on gritty and nasty New York and was about five years ahead of time
— J. Mack
“…The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven
don’t stand up to adult viewing”? Since when!
— Rufus Thompson
I’ve been a Spectator reader since the late '70s. Everything has been perfect until I read this:The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven don’t stand up to adult viewing. El wrongo! The Magnificent Seven, besides being a great action flick, is also an exceptionally well-written and well-made film. The scene that introduces the main characters, Chris (Yul Brynner) and Vin (McQueen), accomplishes everything a good scene should have-it advances the plot, has a few funny lines, and develops character. Boy, does it develop character.
Let’s take a look: As the campesinos arrive in town, they notice an argument. It turns out a local who dropped dead on the street can’t be buried in the town cemetery, Boot Hill, a sort of Potter’s field. “Old Sam” is an Indian, and racism has reared its ugly head. Anyone who tries to bury the Indian will be killed, so no one will drive the hearse (Points to Whit Bissell here, who does a great turn as the frustrated undertaker).
A bunch of saddle tramps are watching. From among them Brynner volunteers. Testosterone oozes off the screen as he steps forward, joined by McQueen, whom he does not know. Atop the hearse, the two men regard each other. We know nothing about them; they know nothing about each other. Except both have demonstrated that they understand that harmful retribution should never deter one from doing the right thing. A stage coach guard, Epictetus, hands down McQueen a coach gun.
Okay, I made up the name of that guy — he doesn’t get a credit. But you see my point. The movie’s themes are laid out in clear terms: It is in the nature of good (if flawed) men to right wrongs, but sometimes the price is difficult to pay. That should not deter one. And sometimes it is those flaws which give them the ability to fight when others cannot. As I write this, Iraq comes to mind.
As for The Great Escape, based on a true story, as I’m
sure you know, it memorializes the finest of human instincts; man’s
will to freedom, and prevail under any circumstances. Sometimes the
most profound ideas are contained in the most unassuming
P.S. Bring back the “Nuke the Whales” T-shirts.
I watched a lot of the TCM tribute, no mention at all of the movie
below. It’s scary to think the number of people, editors, and
producers that had to be involved to be sure that this movie
received absolutely no mention from so many sources. This kind of
removal is scary, it’s as though a group is trying to erase ideas.
I don’t doubt that if roles were reversed that the RIGHT might try
to pull off the same thing, but I hope not. Surely someone would
see how wrong this is. It seems that it’s a
“by-any-means-necessary” attitude that prevails in today’s arena of
ideas. Very scary.
— Bryan C. Burge
Thank you for the article on Steve McQueen and the unjustly neglected Love with the Proper Stranger, long one of my very favorites. It is difficult to find and seldom seen, but it is a tremendous film.
I would just like to add that I would also include in this category the follow-up film that McQueen did with Robert Mulligan two years later in 1965 — this time cast opposite Lee Remick — in Baby the Rain Must Fall (an adaptation of a stage play).
Once again McQueen’s great talents as an actor are embellished and revealed by appearing alongside a strong actress. It is indeed sad that McQueen died too soon, but also unfortunate that while alive he did not make more of these quiet introspective films portraying morally complex characters rather than the large-scale heroic action pictures.
In a similar way, Clint Eastwood’s The Beguiled (directed by Don Siegel), is largely forgotten, a film in which Eastwood plays, perhaps for the only time, an anti-hero who exploits and victimizes others. Probably the Vietnam War served as the underlying symbolic context, as it did in Eastwood’s later film The Outlaw Josey Wales.
Another actor of the same period — and sometimes co-star of
McQueen’s — whose work is often neglected is James Garner. Similar
rugged, handsome looks as McQueen, though always more sarcastic in
demeanor. An excellent “forgotten” film of Garner’s is The
Americanization of Emily, in which he co-stars with Julie
Andrews. A very well-made and extremely funny film. It is also
notable that Garner was a tremendous physical actor who performed
virtually all of his own stunts, including remarkable driving
feats. Everyone remembers his wild Firebird reverse spins on his
Rockford TV show, but he also starred in films such as
Grand Prix where his car driving abilities are best
showcased. It is my opinion that he puts Paul Newman to shame in
this regard, though Newman is better known as the “racing
— James Carpenter
You’re on target about Steve McQueen. In junior high, Paul Newman
would have been the smart mouthed kid that everybody wants to beat
up behind the gym. McQueen was the cool loner.
— David Shoup
I have been an avid Steve McQueen fan since six years old (I am now 47). The first time I saw The Great Escape, I fell in love with Steve and remember asking my two older brothers, “Why were the Germans always picking on him?” Still love The Blob and it was actually the first movie I ever bought. One day I was walking downtown Broadway in NYC when the NY Post paper boy gave me the late edition. Headlines: “MCQUEEN DIES”! Well I cried like he was family.
I saw LWPS a couple of years ago, and you are so right on as to the meaning of the message of the movie. In fact, I am printing your article and passing it along to friends, family and students to remind them of the subtle yet evil way Hollywood has permeated into our lifestyle its “Culture of Death Message,” and damn anyone who opposes or suggests an “alternative solution.”
I watched that Steve McQueen special this past week and I truly miss him. Other than Mel Gibson and Jim Caviezel, there is no one in Hollywood who could get me to a movie (even if it were free).
Thank you for giving him a truly great testimonial.
— Joellen M. Arrabito
Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
While I’m in agreement with your take on Love With the Proper Stranger, I very much think The Magnificent Seven holds up to repeated viewings. It’s much better than its hokey and sloooowwww original Japanese source material. And the only reason I can’t say the same about The Great Escape is because I finally saw it for the first time just a few days ago.
I’d also respectfully differ about Hell Is For Heroes, which TCM also ran and you didn’t deign to actually name. This one, and McQueen’s performance in The War Lover, are McQueen at his stoniest and most impenetrable. His most screwed up, too. He is worth watching because we know how crazy he is in both movies, and how we’ll thus never be able to figure him out.
But give him credit, he could also summon dopey charm when
necessary, as in Soldier In The Rain (which had a great
Jackie Gleason and an achingly lovely Tuesday Weld), in Never
So Few (which showed he could play supporting roles) and
The Reivers, a movie which in my opinion is too often
overlooked in discussions of either McQueen or Faulkner on screen.
He’s even likable in The Honeymoon Machine, and at least
quite bearable as the DA hunting his boyhood best friend in
Never Love A Stranger, speaking of movie obscurities.
— Richard Szathmary
Thanks for the article about Steve McQueen and your commentary on TMC having left Love With the Proper Stranger out of the McQueen special. In LWPS, McQueen reached the right answer for the moral question (at least as far as the baby was concerned — it got life), and Wood, by requiring McQueen to prove his love was real, provided the right answer of the moral issue of family. It was a moving story.
But I disagree with you about the “overhyped” car chase in
Bullitt. What is cool about that scene is that the
audience sees the action from four perspectives — from others on
the street — the driver of the Cadillac (Buick?) stopping short
and blowing the car horn as McQueen and the bad guys race down the
hilly street; the view from the VW, being passed by first the bad
guys, then McQueen; then from the bad guys’ view from inside the
car, seeing McQueen in the rear view mirror; and from McQueen’s
view — concern both with catching the guys and public safety. I
probably don’t have these scenes in order, but it’s a great film
technique that puts a viewer right into the action. For example, as
the Dodge Charger speeds down the street, onto the flat surface of
the cross-street, proceeding onto the slope of the hill, I can feel
the car bouncing from one attitude to another to another
(direction, pitch, yaw, and roll).
— Mark Davis
You forgot Le Mans (1971) — one of the two best films about auto racing. I read somewhere that John Frankenheimer had wanted McQueen for Grand Prix but had to settle for James Garner.
Of the three Hollywood leading men who owned and liked to drive fast cars, Newman did not make a major racing film — though he did race on the circuit. And he has been an investor in Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. Whether he funded Lime Rock out of his “Newman’s Own” company, I don’t know.
I’ve not seen Le Mans in years, but recall that it was
not great on much but the racing (Frankenheimer probably did a
better job with Grand Prix as he was a racing aficionado
himself). If they don’t include Le Mans in the McQueen
retrospective (or the DVDs), then they are really low. I first saw
McQueen on CBS in Wanted Dead or Alive back in the
— John Williamson
Kudos for your observation of Steve McQueen’s coolness. I believe his image will be around long after Paul Newman is forgotten.
I must add my own favorite McQueen movie, (primarily because I
was a car-crazy teenage kid at the time), was LeMans. It
will never be remembered as an epic, but those racing scenes made
me into the racing fan I am today.
— Joe O’Brien
It seems that I remember a movie called the The Carey
Treatment that set up a situation where a young girl was the
victim of a botched abortion (both the baby and the mother die). It
was very easy to get the message that the reason the girl died was
the unavailability of legal abortion. The pro-abortion message
under the rest of the story was pretty loud for 1972. James Coburn
was in it but, you will look very hard before you will see it as a
credit on any movie list or on his website.
— Danny L. Newton
Yeah, I agree. Love With The Proper Stranger is a McQueen classic. And the Hollywood pro-abortion bunch just can’t have that kind of message goin’ ‘round the room.
And speaking of McQueen classics, every Halloween I always play my old VCR copy of The Blob from the late '50s. Gone With The Wind it ain’t!
FYI: McQueen’s Blob female co-star went on to play the
TV role of Barney’s girlfriend, Thelma-Lou, on the old Andy
Elk Grove, California
Thank you to the person who wrote this! A long time McQueen fan
myself, I have always felt — and still do — that Love With
the Proper Stranger is one of his best. To me there was a
tender magic between Steve and Natalie Wood, the result of these
two great actors and the time the film was made. Never again will
that combination be possible. I re-watch it a few times a year. (I
— Mary Louise Kleman
I enjoyed your article about this movie, a movie that I’d love to
see. Odd that it’s about the only Steve McQueen movie that isn’t on
DVD yet. Very odd.
— Christopher Burnett
REPORTING AND ABETTING
Re: Ben Stein’s A New Yorker Kind of Guy:
Excellent commentary by Ben Stein on The New Yorker
article. In the late sixties and seventies, it was clear the
younger generation was breaking up the established standards.
Sadly, they destroyed their compasses too. We are apt to become
what we spend our time doing, and I think that generation became
addicted to destruction. When you have no compass, you can only
travel in a direction based on emotions instead of reason. How
twisted they’ve become!
— Louis Flanagan
Thanks to him for writing this, and to you for publishing it.
It’s sort of like Shimon Peres saying how much Arafat yearned for peaceful coexistence with “Al Yahood.”
I can’t help think that if so few show outrage at praise of evil, we probably don’t recognize it well enough to fight it properly.
It’s like I told a friend the other day, Bush isn’t doing well
in our war on terrorists (still mistakenly called “war on terror,”
whatever that is) but I voted for him instead of Kerry because if I
thought if we ended up taking the local, instead of the express to
our demise as a nation, we might have one last chance to time to
come up with a plan. Hey, it could happen.
P.S., My dad was with the First Marines at Guadalcanal. He told me they used to try to be nice to the captured enemy and to bury their dead, till the prisoners started throwing grenades and stabbing their captors, and their booby trapped dead blew up the burial details. But today, we have to be so sensitive that it’s better for an American to die, than an Islomofascist to be insulted. The lunacy is so widespread that I’m actually beginning to worry about winning this one, and unlike Vietnam, walking away is not an option.
Thank you, Ben Stein. I hope your article will be published in
every newspaper and magazine. Unfortunately, in today’s MSM, it
will not. Thank you for lighting a candle, trying to shed light on
the moral and ethical abyss of the MSM today. One can only hope
that such a candle will tip over and start a fire to burn away the
darkness. Thank you from a relative of a Special Forces Green Beret
— Dorenna Hart
Please extend my thanks and respect to Ben Stein for his accurate
and well-written article about the lack of morality and
anti-Americanism in the mainstream media.
— Karen Monro
Nothing surprising about it. Offenses on the left hardly ever merit any rebuke. On the right, it’s altogether a different ball game. Just think of Linda Tripp, one quick example that comes to mind, and the vitriol heaped upon her when she exposed the lies of the Clinton White House.
One can easily extend this to — another example quick — the
different treatments in the worldwide press of, let’s say, Fidel
Castro and Augusto Pinochet. I don’t recall any Spanish judge
issuing an arrest warrant directed at Castro. And the list could go
— Thomas Edelman
Santa Monica, California
God bless you, Ben Stein!
CHAIRMAN LOOSE CANNON
Re: George Neumayr’s In Dean’s Den:
I just PRAY that Dean and the rest of the nutty left keep up
their hate for the majority of Americans, as that will just keep
bringing more votes to the “right” side.
— Elaine Kyle
Cut & Shoot, Texas
This Vermonter says, “Thanks, George.” Good article. It’s a
pleasure to share Dean with the rest of the nation. After all, he’s
got enough hate for everyone. Been waiting 20 years for that little
psycho case to finally melt down.
— Pete Chagnon
It’s simultaneously farcical and tragic to see Howard Dean continue his William Tecumseh Sherman-like, scorched-earth march across America’s social-political-religious landscape.
But let him continue unchecked in his folly, his war against Christianity. As a Christian, I hope he does. His criticisms only galvanize us and further cement the indisputable fact that the Democrat Party is wildly secular and getting more so. And that ongoing revelation will only drive more God-fearing folks from its ranks. But, still, you wonder: Why does Dean hate Christianity — therefore, Jesus the Christ, its founder and head — so passionately?
Just after last fall’s drubbing John-John Kedwards took in the Mountain State, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said: “I have always known where the values of West Virginia lie — patriotism, faith, family, opportunity, a clear sense of right and wrong, and justice. The Democratic Party needs to get back to reflecting those core principles.”
Fortunately for the country, Dean or others like Nancy Pelosi
don’t belong to that party.
— C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia
He’s the best thing to come along for Republicans in decades! In
summary, a nasty, mean spirited individual with a perchance to
stereo type and look down on everyone not of his belief. Let’s hope
he stays head of the DNC and continues to spew hate speech. Every
time this small minded bigot opens his mouth, a Democrat decides to
— Bob Montrose
Fort Lee, New Jersey
Mr. Neumayr is on to something here as to the mental state of Dr.
Dean and his fellow travelers in the Democrat Party. Yes, only the
denizen of Park Ave., pampered by servants, cocooned and nurtured
in the best old monied private schools privilege can buy, can
possibly tell the rest of us how pathetic our meaningless bourgeois
lives really are and just how hopeless things are in America. After
all, the good doctor has come to this knowledge after toiling
within the crucible of the '60s, no doubt after deep meditation
upon sunsets in the mountains of Aspen, after the physical demands
of a full day on the slopes. Yes indeed, the oracle from the lily
white state of Vermont, inhabited by the many cast offs from those
glorious hippie days, knows of what he speaks. Those more trained
in the science of mental health than I might just call this state
of reality “acute narcissistic prolonged adolescent psychosis.” A
fitting malady for the head of the Democratic Party.
— A. DiPentima
As a white, conservative, Republican, retired Army officer,
Endowment NRA member, now honestly working for a defense
contractor, I personally apologize for not inviting Howie to my
nephew’s recent Bar Mitzvah.
— Mike Horn
RICHER OR POORER UNDER THE GIPPER?
Re: Ralph R. Reiland’s Grumpy About Class:
“…and the poverty population, after growing by 7 million during the late 1970s, dropped by 4 million in the 1980s. With each of those things, it’s the poor who won.” — Ralph Reiland
In 1979, before Reagan entered office, there were 27,392,580 officially poor people in the U.S., representing 12.4 percent of the population. By 1989, near the end of Reagan’s policies, the official poverty figure was 31,742,864, or 13.1% of the population. American poverty increased under his economic policies, both in raw numbers and in the percentage poor overall.
The proper conclusion should have been the opposite of Reiland’s
conclusion: it’s the poor who lost under Reagan’s policies. Please
correct or explain your statements because it gives the impression
that conservative advocates are either ignorant or deceitful.
— Phil Rutledge
DON’T SWEAT IT
Re: Lawrence Henry’s Thinking About Schools:
I used to feel the same way when our kids (three boys and three
girls) were in school. We did the same things: study with them, go
to the parent and teacher conferences, etc. For most of that time,
if not all of it, I thought it might be all for naught, but after
they left high school they have done well for themselves. They are
all married, happy and a lot smarter than me, their old man and
they think that I’m brilliant. So it just goes to show you: don’t
sweat the small stuff if you’re trying.
— Gene Hauber
COMMON SENSE ON CREDIT
Re: David Hogberg’s Accounting for San Diego:
Before you make the jump from San Diego’s fiscal suicide to Social Security, there is a stepping stone: the State of California.
Like San Diego, the state has promised everything to everybody, particularly the public employee unions, without the least idea how to pay for any of it.
Governor Schwarzenegger has challenged the Democratic powers that be — and had to back down every time. Now there is talk of raising taxes (on the “rich” only of course… for now). But since the invariable pattern of our legislators is to spend two dollars for every dollar they get and scream for more, the budget will not be balanced. Ever.
Only when total bankruptcy zeroes out everything will the cycle
cease. No doubt it will provide an object lesson on the wages of
socialism. I only wonder if there will be time to do anything about
— Martin Owens
Milwaukee Country (Wisc.) had a similar scandal a few years ago.
Thanks to the Democrats in power they enriched themselves with high
pensions and benefits. Now the county taxpayers are paying 70 cents
on every dollar for those benefits and many county workers have
lost their jobs because there are no tax dollars to support them.
There is now a Republican county executive who refuses to raise
— Luonne Dumak
Re: Ben Stein’s The Cost of the War on Terrorism:
I am Lt. Col. in the Marine Corps and have been in Iraq now for over three months (on the way to just over 12). I am married and have three beautiful children. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you wrote in your June 6 article entitled, “The Cost of the War on Terrorism.” We are doing a great deal of good out here and even if the worst happens to me, it will all have been worth it - my wife and kids know that also. You are a great American Ben and knowing that people like you exist and can write so eloquently about this war makes it easier to deal with.
Take care and thanks again,
— Lt. Col. Bill Mullen, RCT-8 Ops O
“The best of the human spirit is alive and well inside those red T-shirts.”
Mr. Stein graced us with his presence at the TAPS gathering over Memorial Day weekend. The ending line of his article states so eloquently that there is a heavy price we pay for freedom, however there is still light, there is still hope and there is still promise for the future.
Mr. Stein, thank you for being a part of our weekend. Thank you for your patriotism and for honoring the sacrifice of our men and women in the armed forces and their families.
God bless you and God Bless America!
— Ellen Andrews
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