I want to talk about something a little different today – I’m going to go a little fangirl on you. Yesterday I finished watching Band of Brothers. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg were the executive producers of this miniseries. These two men were also executive producers of The Pacific. They worked together in Saving Private Ryan and clearly believed that The Greatest Generation had more stories to tell; so, they told a few more of them. Some time ago I shared with you something of my own experience at Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery there in Walking Boys Home. That experience was so utterly profound that I feel an obligation to watch all military films based on real people and real events.
I hate it. But that’s beside the point.
People lament that we don’t have any “great” movie stars anymore. We have a surfeit of these idiot, reality show personalities but a dearth of real talent with real character. We have Real Housewives (who, incidentally, probably don’t know how to clean a toilet) and a host of others famous for being famous. People who make money being scandalous, tasteless and exhibitionist – the click-bait millionaires. We don’t have any Jimmy Stewarts, John Waynes, or Gary Coopers. I can think of some exceptions to that, though – Gary Sinise, Angelina Jolie, and Tom Hanks specifically.
In 2016 year, President Obama awarded Hanks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This actor whom I first remember seeing as a cross-dressing guy living in a women’s apartment building drooling over Donna Dixon won the Medal of Freedom. His early career was spent playing silly and sometimes buffoonish parts; but, that all changed when he went to Philadelphia. He played AIDS-stricken, homosexual Andrew Beckett at a time when taking the role of a gay man was a dangerous career move in any film; but, to take that role in a drama discussing a serious subject like discrimination based on sexual orientation was potentially career suicide. It turned out to be his first Oscar-winning role. It was followed by other serious roles that were heroic in some way: Forrest Gump, Jim Lovell, Captain Miller, Paul Edgecomb, Chuck Noland, Captain Richard Phillips and Captain Chesley Sullenberger. Well, and Woody. Behind the camera, he helped tell heroic stories by producing From Earth to the Moon, West Point, Band of Brothers, We Stand Alone Together, John Adams, The Pacific, and so many more. He was instrumental in raising money to build the World War II memorial. In fact, without his efforts, there might not be a memorial.
And there should be.
The US was officially involved in WWII for four years and lost over 400,000 soldiers and citizens. They should be remembered and I’m thankful that someone like Hanks who has the voice and the platform to promote their memory, is willing to do it.