April 13th is not just another day.
Not for me, and not for America, either
Thomas Jeffereson was born on this day, in 1742, and he went on to write the Declaration of Independence. I’ve read that there were approximately 4,000 Americans killed in that conflict, or about 1.3 soldiers a day died to win almost an entire continent from the British.
The first battle of the Civil War began on this day, at Fort Sumter in South Carolina (Rebs won, no casualties) just 68 years after the end of the the American Revolution. There would be over 600,000 Americans killed in that savage conflict, or about 411 men died a day, in a cataclysmic attempt to see if we could keep most of our portion of that continent.
One hundred and eight-five years later, after the end of the Civil War in April 1865, I arrived in Chicago (four days late, around noon) on April 30th, 1950. This is not a historically significant date which I’m sure would be universally agreed upon by all concerned. But thirteen years later, I was a Bat Mizvah boy on April 13th, now 45 years ago, and that still matters to me.
Which, in my typically convoluted fashion, brings me to today’s movie, since at least one major member of that film’s cast had a bar mitzvah, too. But thirty-five years before mine, when that ancient coming-of-age ceremony was far more obscure in America than it is now, and Jews kept a much lower national profile.
The Magnificant Seven! (1960), one of the most revered Western-themed movies ever made, even though it was based on an equally revered Eastern film, The Seven Samurai (1954). I saw it when it came out (the US film) when I was just ten and I haven’t ever recovered from that first fantastic experience of an avalanche of charisma pouring off the screen by already famous and soon-to-be-famous macho American and European actors.
Yul Brynner (Chris, the so-cool leader), Steve McQueen (Vin, deadly, casual and philosophic) lead the cast. Without them, the movie would be one more so-so Western. But their spontaneous compatible relationship and world-weary attitude gave the film a spin that put a romantic sheen on everyone associated with it.
Horst Bucholz (Chico), a new and very young German actor, played the 7th man to join the ranks of the immortal Seven. Oddly, he was selected by the director, John Sturges, to play a brash young Mexican who distained the very peasant farmers he signed on to protect from the hordes of Mexican bandits who ravaged there village repeatedly, even though he was one of them. His view of life was that the intinerant and frequently impoverished western gunslingers were muy magnifico!! and he could never be a “miserable cowardly farmer” until Killer Cowboy Philosophy Class 101 cured him of that notion.
Plus one very hot (and extremely disrespectful to her justifiably concerned father) chick with a single long black braid and a “Do it to me NOW, baby!” attitude, who convinced him that grinding corn on your knees, under blazing sunshine, can be very sexy indeed.
(Read on …)