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Forgotten Heroes of History, Volume One

In a society where we could no longer act or think freely, we developed a new awareness of ourselves through film

Hollywood Comes of Age

The Birth of Social Realism

Over time, hindsight presents us with the unexpected luxury of discovering entirely new ways to view the same old evidence. As our knowledge of the invisible laws of nature compounds, our old perspectives and expectations are swept away. A new world is born out of the old; new ideas become the norm, and the old ways are all but forgotten.

Again and again, untold heroes have dared to remold this world’s view of reality. More often than not, however, these unique pioneers have gone unheralded in their efforts. Many have toiled and achieved great things, even in the face of anonymity.

One of the great ironies of history is that some people’s accomplishments are so profound and have such a tremendous impact upon society that the person who actually accomplished them quite literally, over time, becomes overshadowed by their own deeds. While their influence lives on, enriching the lives of people everywhere, they are all but forgotten to the mainstream population.

In the Arts, the Sciences, and the Humanities, many remarkable men and women have bestowed countless gifts through their efforts. Yet, for all intents and purposes, they remain forgotten heroes of history, their true identities “lost in time,” until now.

In the Arts, the advent of the cinema brought mankind a form of communication and self-expression unparalleled in the annals of history. Yet in its brief, century-long existence, there have only been a handful of individuals who were willing to risk pushing the boundaries of the medium beyond “adolescence,” beyond the artifice of the silver screen.

But in the postwar world of the late ‘40s and ‘50s, the time was ripe for those who were willing to dare, men like film producer and director, Stanley Kramer. In 1949, Kramer began establishing “a record of considerable fearlessness” by producing a series of daring, groundbreaking films.1

His first knockout blow came with a powerful one-two punch. One, Kirk Douglas became a star as the gritty Champion, in the first story of boxing corruption; and two, Kramer’s next landmark film, Home of the Brave, the first ever to confront the black man’s dilemma in a white man’s world.2

A genuine pioneer, Kramer was the first producer to boldly make Hollywood movies which were about critical, timely issues, no matter how unpopular they were at the time.3

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But it would never be easy. The fifties in America were a strange and difficult period: repression and conformity were the status quo. The movie screens, like the rest of the country, were caught in the shadow of McCarthyism. In response, Hollywood doled out a steady diet of pabulum: an odd mixture of crass materialism, Puritanism, and anti-intellectualism.4

Ironically enough, in a society where men could no longer act or think freely, on celluloid, “the male, driven inward,” developed a fresh, new awareness of himself.5

“For the first time since the advent of sound,” said Joan Mellen, in her penetrating study on American movies, “men in films were thoughtful, understanding of weakness (including their own), and quietly perceptive.”6

Nowhere was this more evident than in Stanley Kramer’s landmark film, The Men, which would star Marlon Brando as a WWII veteran paralyzed from the waist down. In his motion picture debut, Brando “transcended the traditional image of men on the screen.”7

Unlike any other film of its time, The Men dealt openly and honestly with the theme of lost manhood. According to Mellen, “The paralysis is symbolic of the general powerlessness felt during the repressive fifties, with its blacklists and insistence upon conformity.”8

And unlike any other actor of his time, Brando brought the raw emotions of the ordinary man to the screen. “His instant acclaim was a response to the weakness he projected as well as to the human strength he summoned to see him through adversity.”9

Struggling to remain a man despite his handicap, Brando "is allowed to cry.”10

He openly expresses despair over his condition, departing from the obligatory suppression of painful emotions, as John Wayne would do. “The Brando male thus represents a leap into screen maturity, because he is a person who learns to accept, and live with, weakness—a permanent rebuke to those who forever fawn over the male image of The Duke.”11

More on Stanley Kramer’s Film Career

Many of the subjects that Stanley Kramer has so thoughtfully explored have produced some of the most memorable images in the history of the cinema, fleeting images, yes, but images which are now indelibly etched into the social fabric of America’s consciousness, and, as a result, the world’s consciousness.

A gritty boxer fights it out with his opponents, and himself, as he punches his way to becoming the Champion. A paraplegic veteran struggles to rediscover his dignity in a world that can’t bear to witness the pain of The Men. A lone sheriff stands up against lawlessness at High Noon, even when the town he is fighting for has deserted him. A paranoid naval commander, with silver balls and strawberries on his mind, tests our limits with respect to authority during The Caine Mutiny. A pair of mismatched convicts, chained at the wrist and on the run, The Defiant Ones learn to free themselves of the bigotry they’ve been taught their entire lives. Two adversaries lock horns in a courtroom, arguing over the right of every individual to think and speak for himself, or else Inherit the Wind. An undaunted submarine captain rallies his crew as they face the nightmare of a post-apocalyptic Earth, haunted by questions of how things could have been, On the Beach. An American prosecutor tries the case of the century, interrogating the most notorious criminals in modern history, as the world awaits a Judgment at Nuremberg. An aging couple who think they’ve seen everything when, just as they’re confronted with a dilemma they could never have anticipated, the challenge of an interracial marriage knocks on their door: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

So ends this Article of THE LOST STORIES JOURNAL, VOLUME ONE. To read more, please click on one of the following links:

Read the Next Article to learn how Divine Providence intervenes so we obtain what we could never obtain by our own efforts.

Read the Previous Article to learn about the secret storehouse from which facts unknown rise to the surface of our minds.

Read the First Article of The Journal, Volume One, to learn how by harmonizing a multiplicity of perspectives our results can then be trusted.

Read the First Article of The Journal, Volume Two, to find the most important thing is to avoid overemphasizing one discipline at the expense of the rest.

 
Selected Biographies

Marlon Brando (1924 - 2004 A.D.) American Actor Received seven Academy Award nominations for Best Actor; one for Best Supporting Actor. Won Oscars for On the Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather (1972).

Kirk Douglas (1916 A.D. - ) American Actor Received A.F.I.’s Lifetime Achievement Award (1999).

Stanley Kramer (1913 - 2001 A.D.) American Motion Picture Producer and Director Films received 85 Academy Award nominations. Won 17 Oscars for such classics as High Noon (1951) and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967). Received Thalberg Oscar (1961).

John Wayne (1907 - 1979 A.D.) American Actor Known as “The Duke.” Received an Academy Award for True Grit (1969).

Selected Glossary

Arts: the application of skill and taste to production according to aesthetic principles; the conscious use of the creative imagination in the practical definition, or production, of beauty.

Cinema: the technical, aesthetic qualities of motion picture art, including episodic and pictorial composition, movement, suspense, and drama.

Evidence: something that furnishes or tends to furnish proof; specifically, something legally submitted to a competent tribunal as a means of ascertaining the truth of any alleged matter of fact.

History: a narrative devoted to the interdependence of unfolding events, which includes a philosophic explanation for the cause of such events.

Humanities: the branches of education regarded as having primarily a cultural character, usually including languages, literature, history, mathematics, and philosophy.

Irony: a result which is the opposite of, and is in mockery of, what is to be expected.

Knowledge: the sum total of what is known about any given subject; the entire body of truth, fact, information, principles, or other objects of cognition acquired by mankind.

Perception: the powers of apprehension, observation, and discernment; an awareness of the environment through physical sensation.

Perspective: a view or conception of the world, derived from past experience with the external world, which serves as a basis for further meaningful action.

Puritanism: characterized by strict compliance to a moral code; also associated with the English Protestant Movement (16th - 17th century).

Science: the systematized knowledge of any one department of mind or matter; acknowledged truths and laws, especially as demonstrated by induction, experiment, and observation.