I posted earlier today about favorite movies.
Plainly, I’m not finished, because here I go again:
My wife and I just returned from seeing The Hunger Games. I rather liked it. I must be one of the few people in America, though, who had never heard of the novels and had no idea at all what they were about.
I have a number of these weird gaps in my cultural literacy. I’ve never read a line of a Harry Potter novel, for example, nor seen more than a few minutes of any of the Harry Potter movies. I’ve never read a line of any of the Twilight novels, either, and haven’t seen so much as a nanosecond of one of the film adaptations. I’m the only person of my age in America who never watched an episode of The Bill Cosby Show — thus, I imagine, demonstrating to a few of my more fevered, hyperzealous critics that I’m threatened by prosperous black professionals – and perhaps one of the three American Latter-day Saints who haven’t seen Saturday’s Warrior.
Bizarre. I know. Unbelievable.
But there was one movie that I really loved when I was a little boy. Or, to be more accurate, I really loved its film score, by Dimitri Tiomkin.
Like others of my generation, I grew up faithfully watching Fess Parker’s Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.
But that show never told what finally happened to our hero..
I can still remember the awful day, though, when I was browsing in a book that our family owned about important historical sites in the United States and came across an entry on the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas.
When I read that Col. Crockett had died there in 1836, bayoneted by Mexican troops under General Santa Anna after a heroic thirteen-day siege, I was furious. And incredulous that, even then, roughly a century and a quarter later, the United States wasn’t going to war with Mexico to avenge Davy’s death.
Eventually, I saw John Wayne’s 1960 movie of The Alamo, in which he played Davy Crockett. (Richard Widmark played Col. James Bowie, the inventor of the Bowie knife — I ultimately got one, and, because it was too sacred a relic for me ever to think of actually using it, it’s as shiny today as it was when my Dad bought it for me — and Laurence Harvey played Col. William Barrett Travis, the commander of the Alamo’s small and doomed garrison of volunteers. Richard Boone played General Sam Houston.)
I insisted on getting the soundtrack, too. I listened to it over and over and over again, preferably at maximum volume. (My mother was horrified, coming home one day, to be able to hear the too-familiar sound of my favorite music from half a block away. She offered to snap it in two if I ever played it that loud again.) And I spent a great deal of time, day after day, studying the album cover:
I haven’t seen the movie since I was a boy. I haven’t heard the soundtrack for decades. But I still know every melody on the album, and the lyrics to every song. I can still sing The Green Leaves of Summer” along with The Brothers Four, and I still have every word of Marty Robbins’s “Ballad of the Alamo” by heart. I can probably also still recite Davy Crockett’s “Flaca Speech,” complete with John Wayne’s pauses and inflections.
And then there’s this other speech from Davy Crockett/John Wayne. Its appeal to me as a young boy probably foreshadowed my future libertarian/conservative leanings:
“Republic. I like the sound of the word. Means that people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat.”
When John Wayne died in 1979, part of my childhood went with him.