An American Hero To Dance ForFriday, November 26, 2010
I grew up watching old movies. No matter where I am or what is going on in my life, an old movie can bring me a sense of peace. I suppose it brings me back to careless childhood days--when you don't have to worry, because someone will always take care of you. Perhaps the nostalgia of old movies (and the places and decades that Carey Grant and Kathryn Hepburn can take me) is why I love to write historical fiction. Whatever the case, I'm glad that my parents gave this gift to me. I can only hope that my children grow up knowing what it feels like to try hard no to cry during Shenandoah, laugh their way through Philadelphia Story, and scream out loud when the scary old woman appears in Vincent Price's House On Haunted Hill. I hope Lucy falls in love with Clark Gable and Carey Grant. It would only be fitting that Teddy admires The Duke and, at least for a while, considers him the epitome of a hero. All little boys should know that a white cowboy hat is for the good guys and the black cowboy hats are for the bad guys. ;)
There's one movie I know I will have them watch when they are old enough to appreciate it, and that's The Glenn Miller Story with Jimmy Stewart. It was released in 1954, ten years after the famed orchestrator died, and holds a special place in my heart. Of course, before my children can watch the movie, they will have to listen to all of their daddy's Glenn Miller records on the high-fi and learn to dance to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. I can hardly wait to see that!
Alton Glenn Miller had an impossible dream. Lost in a time of Gene Krupa and big shots like Louis Armstrong, he loved the sound of good jazz and blues. Yet, he felt compelled to discover a new sound. What a feat! Can you imagine fighting the feeling of mediocrity when you want to climb to the top with Ben Pollack and Arvey Shaw--having no means or money to achieve that dream? But Helen (his wife) never let him give up on himself. She pushed him and reminded him that he was fully capable, more than talented, and too wonderful a musician not to try.
Miller achieved the unique sound he dreamed of. In return, he soon had a gold record, radio broadcasts, movie deals, and sky-rocketing sales of his records. But as his fame soared, so did the rising conflict in Europe and Pacific.
World War II was unfurling across the nation. Too old to enlist, Miller found a way to serve his country. After many letters and transfers, he finally made it into the Army Air Force. Once there, Miller was put in charge of the military marching band where he skillfully blended jazz and the blues with traditional military marching tunes. He believed that this was a way he could bring a "little bit of home" to the fighting men over seas. And he did just that. From 1942-1944, Miller traveled all over Europe performing for troops, broadcasting over the radio, and even cutting records.
I'm going to pause here, because I want you to watch a 4 minute scene from The Glenn Miller Story with Jimmy Stewart. This was my favorite scene that shows just what an impact Miller made during his time in the service. It brought me to tears...
Of Major Alton Glenn Miller and his band, General Jimmy Doolittle said, "Next to a letter from home, that organization was the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations."
And that is why I want my children to see this movie. Not only that, but I want them to know about Glenn Miller's life, hear his records, know the true story behind the movie. I want them to dream impossible things...to look for a spouse that will believe in them and encourage them the way Helen did Glenn...and learn to love to serve and lift up others in their most trying of times. I want them to be willing to sacrifice riches and safety, health and comfort, to do what they believe is right...
On December 15, 1944, Glenn Miller boarded a plane to fly from England to France to play for the soldiers there. His plane never arrived. All evidence of the plane and the crew were never found. Today, Glenn Miller's status remains as missing in action. He was forty years old.
I believe that he is one of America's Hero's. For more than one reason. :)
"Major Miller, through excellent judgment and professional skill, conspicuously blended the abilities of the outstanding musicians, comprising the group, into a harmonious orchestra whose noteworthy contribution to the morale of the armed forces has been little less than sensational." ...from Miller's Bronze Star Medal citation
" He had a good sense of humor, he was a very fine musician, he was a good businessman . . . he was athletically oriented, and he was a super patriot." ...Paul Tanner, a trombonist in Miller's orchestra