December 28, 2008

"Valkyrie"

"Valkyrie," with Tom Cruise as Col. Stauffenberg, who led the July 20, 1944 assassination and coup plot against Hitler, is a fairly decent movie that never quite overcomes the obvious problems with making a thriller where you know ahead of time that the hero fails, and there's only one explosion and a brief shootout. Still, it's a respectable, grown-up film.

The accents, though, don't help matters. Hitler has a German accent and Stauffenberg an American accent, and in between these two moral poles, most of the supporting cast, such as Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, and Eddie Izzard, have English accents. Granted, the English actors are quite good, but if you have Tom Cruise signed up as your hero and he can only do an American accent, then, rather than embarrass your star, shouldn't you find American character actors and do the whole thing with American accents? Sure, maybe the English are better character actors on a per capita average basis, but there are more than enough good American character actors to fill out the cast.

And that leads to the question of whether Cruise should have played Count Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. Ever since Cruise replaced his publicist with his sister, his public image has been in ruins, but I've never gotten too worked up over that. I've never much liked Cruise as an actor, because he doesn't seem to have much going for him except energy, but he has a track record with remarkably few outright failures on it ("Lions for Lambs" being the only one in this decade). Tom Cruise's name on a film suggests that it's not going to be totally bad. Strange as it may seem, the Cruise brand name implies that the film will be a quality product.

Facially, Cruise is quite plausible as the handsome 37-year-old colonel. Still, much of Stauffenberg's charisma, which was essential in his driving a military plot large enough to have a chance at not just killing Hitler but overthrowing the Nazi Party, stemmed from his epitomizing the best traits of the old German aristocracy. Cruise doesn't do upper class grace. Mostly, Cruise just does intensity. The film would have worked better with a Shakespearean-trained English actor as the Count. Or, if Cruise was essential to the financing, then lose the stage-trained Englishmen in the supporting roles and replace them with Americans.

Director Bryan Singer adds to the style of the film, especially its art direction, a note of gay hysteria that is not all that historically inaccurate in depicting Nazi Germany.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

60 comments:

Luce said...

Steve, I reckon that the English actor, Richard Armitage, would have been a natural for the role of the naturally aristocratic and 'mystically good looking' Stauffenberg. He's the hottest acting property on British TV, at the moment, but he really deserves to break through into cinema. I'd like to see him as the next Bond.

michael farris said...

I think Hollywood (and the US) is mostly clueless to the accent issue. I remember a time that I couldn't tell and Australian from an English accent. And the US is one of the few countries with diplomats with non-native accents.

Now that I know more, accent chaos makes suspension of disbelief much harder.

HBO's Rome was good on accents AFAICT with class-based English accents for the Romans (clear differences between the patricians, plebians and freedmen) and various non-native accents for foreign born characters (except Cleopatra who was a natural polyglott).

If I ever watch Valkyrie it will likely be on dvd in which case I hope it has other soundtracks (rewatching part of a movie with a non-English soundtrack [or silent] can be a good indication of where movies go right or wrong IME). I suspect that Cruise just can't do aristocratic body language.

Garland said...

The weird campaign of disastrous expectations that emerged for this film helped it immensely, at least for me and those I saw it with. "Way better than I expected" was the pleased response from them. I very much liked it too, even though it's only okay.

Apart from not being a debacle, I think it benefited from being a competent production of an intensely intriguing story, set against an eternally intriguing backdrop. If you dont fudge up a good Nazi story than you've got a good movie--automatically. And a Nazi story with such heroes is something special.

Peter said...

Next thing you know, the disabled rights advocates will claim that it's discriminatory to have the able-bodied Cruise play a disabled character. Though I supposed it would be hard to find a one-eyed amputee actor.

Anonymous said...

Steve, isn't "graf" the same thing as "count"? Putting them both next to the guy's name is a tautology. Basically, "graf" is the original Germanic word for that title. It was substituted in English for the Frenchified "count" during the Norman invasion of 1066.

Anonymous said...

These are the opening words of Valkyrie's trailer, as they appear on the screen:

I swear by god this sacred oath: that I shall render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer of the German Reich.

Notice how they're all in English, except for "leader" and "government".

billswift said...

I think there is something wrong with Hollywood's marketing. I have seen several brief trailers and print ads (not that I paid much attention to them) and this is the first time I've heard that it was about the "Bomb Plot" as I've heard it referred to before.

Anonymous said...

'We want a New Order which makes all Germans
supporters of the state and guarantees them law and justice, but we
scorn the lie of equality and we bow before the hierarchies
established by nature.' "

- Clauss von Stauffenberg

See, with quotes like this, von Stauffenberg is also a "Nazi" by today's standards.

Cruise was great recently in Tropical Thunder, stealing the show along with Downey Jr. Also, let's not forget the performance in Magnolia.

And Cocktail.

MQ said...

I love Steve's movie reviews. They're really lucid and common-sensical, but penetrating. Another good one here.

Anonymous said...

I though that the drama should have revolved around the part where Stauffenberg was trying to fuse the bomb. What they did not capture is that had stauffenburg put the other brick of explosives in the bag (even without the fuse) that it would have gone off too surely killing Hitler. The fact that he only had three fingers to do it is what made it possible and challenging. It made Stauffenburg above suspicion. I sometimes wonder why one of Hitler's Generals simply did not put a gun to his head shoot him.

Truth said...

I saw the movie. Tom Cruise said 'dude' twice.

dearieme said...

They should have hired "House".

Anonymous said...

Is Tom Cruise the most "boyish" looking actor ever?
Interesting to note that he is now older than Humphrey Bogart was when Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon were made.

SFG said...

Gay hysteria? The Nazis sent gays to concentration camps. They had special pink triangles for them (that's where ACT-UP gets its symbol from). Ernst Rohm was gay but after the SA was crushed in the Night of the Long Knives there wasn't much gay in Nazi Germany.

Of course here the response is going to be divided between people eager to smear the Nazis as gay and people offended that the Nazis are being smeared as gay. ;)

Josh said...

If you wanted an Englishman for Stauffenberg,I wouldve suggested Russell Brand!They could tie-in the "We've Got To Do Something" video! It wouldve been--different,anyway.I am a Cruise fan,but most of his movies didnt interest me,I mainly have seen his stuff when its 3 am and Ive got insomnia and theyre showing 'Officer & a Gentleman' on cable for the 5 millionth time,(that Pollack guy was good,tho every time I saw him I wanted him to do Capt Kirk!)so I havent seen too much of his work.I do think he had a lot of gumption,tho,to take on an anti-Hitler role;could ruffle some Hollywood feathers,being anti-Hitler! Sean Penn has done something equally gutsy,as his new movie,"Milk",boldly "outs" Harvey Milk,claiming that he was a homosexual!

albertosaurus said...

Maybe I'm wrong, there certainly are enough WWII history buffs out there who can set me straight, but it seems to me that assassinating Hitler was a bad thing from the American British perspective.

Stauffenberg I understand was a German patriot who calculated that killing Hitler was good for Germany. If that is so then it would follow that not killing Hitler would have been good for us.

By July 1944 Hitler had already demolished democracy in Germany, killed millions of Jews and gypsies, bombed England and conquered France. Killing him in mid 1944 doesn't repair the damage he had already done.

Hitler was at war in 1944 with his own high command. He had begun to supplant the best commanders in the east and to foolishly micro-manage. Some historians credit Hitler with good miliatry judgement early in the war but by 44 most historians seem to think he was a very bad military leader indeed.

If this is true then killing Hitler early on would have indeed helped th US and British causes but killing him in 44 might have a removed someone whose erratic leadership was proving to be major benefit to us.

Anonymous said...

Before I had read the reviews of the movie, I never knew that Tom Cruise played a German. I thought he had to be an American spy who infiltrated the ranks of the Germans. So when I found out from a review that he was a German, I laughed at the limitations of Tom Cruise's acting skills. I do enjoy his movies, but it's unfortunate that he is very much like Gene Hackman in that he plays the same person in every movie and only shows a range of emotion for that person.

TCO said...

Would George Clooney have been a better pick for the Colonel?

beowulf said...

Its interesting how there's no real etiquette towards how foreign accents are played. It would have been cool if Mel Gibson had directed it, with everyone speaking in subtitled German. Boy, Abe Foxman would have a stroke over that one.

I agree with Michael Farris, the least obtrusive way is to have everyone speak with a British accent. I wonder if its because we're used to hearing Shakespeare's Moors, Romans and Venetians all speaking the Queen's English.

michael farris said...

"the least obtrusive way is to have everyone speak with a British accent. I wonder if its because we're used to hearing Shakespeare's Moors, Romans and Venetians all speaking the Queen's English."

That's not my idea. American accents could work on their own, they just don't mix with other accents in a believable fashion. A mixed German/British Valkyrie wouldn't work either. An all American accent Rome (or Valkyrie) could also work but generally American movie makers don't think enough about accents.

Strangely enough color-blind casting doesn't bother me at all (as in the Chicago movie or as commonly happens in opera) but accent deaf casting irritates me.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments Albertosaurus.
I could be wrong but I seem to recall reading that even the anti-Nazi plotters were dedicated anti-Communists. Or at least fearful of being overrun by the Soviets. IIRC Stauffenberg and the other plotters weren't seeking an end to the war as a whole. They merely wanted to be the "rational Germans" the Western Allies could make a peace deal with while the Germans continue to fight the Red Menace in the East.

-Vanilla Thunder

Anonymous said...

,I mainly have seen his stuff when its 3 am and Ive got insomnia and theyre showing 'Officer & a Gentleman' on cable for the 5 millionth time

LOL!

New Yuck New Yuck said...

By noting that Cruise "doesn't do...grace" Steve's review gets to the bigger issue here: The United States of America has become incapable of grace, great art or even great pop art. It's become obvious that "there is no there there" mainly because infantile nihilism only cuts the mustard with certain homosexual billionaires.

Today the promotional budgets for "artistic" Hollywood films (media tie-ins and synergy) function mainly as propaganda to convince the masses that crap like "American Beauty", "Brokeback Mountain", "Mystic River" and "Letters from Iwo Jima" etc. is high cinematic achievement.

But the hype fades, the years go by, and soon the Oscar worthy titles are revealing themselves as two star affairs.

But maybe it's not just an American phenomenon. What was the name of that ridiculous UK movie about the transsexual and the IRA? Yeah, right, "Crying Game" is a classic.

"Se7en", too.

"English Patient", too. That's a good milestone for our decline: dumbed-down, hollowed-out, lightweight and forgettable.

Let's face it: the pop culture of the West is now trying to hawk a degenerated civilization. A previous commenter described the decline roughly as the Broadway affliction spreading to Hollywood and beyond.

Indeed. Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Gordon Brown, Sarkozy, Obama etc. these people are just the rancid frosting on the rotten cake.

Anonymous said...

Marley and Me, a movie about an unruly dog and Owen Wilson, is the number one movie in America.


Idiotocracy really is here. I just went to a Wal Mart for the first time in several years. I seen so many cro-magnons there that it was overwhelming. Pregnant teens, tons of people wearing sweatsuits, flabby females in tight clothing, wimpy whiterpeople with piercings and teased hair. The "new" America in all its glory.

These nitwits couldn't concentrate long enough to enjoy a "thinking" movie to begin with. If you think you are seeing a lowering of our culture, you haven't seen anything yet.


Valkyrie wasn't half bad. It attempted to be fairly factual.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe I'm wrong, there certainly are enough WWII history buffs out there who can set me straight, but it seems to me that assassinating Hitler was a bad thing from the American British perspective."

There was actually a "Dirty Dozen" TV movie based on that premise: Lee Marven's team was tasked with saving Hitler from German assassins who might have replaced him with a more competent military leader.

"It would have been cool if Mel Gibson had directed it, with everyone speaking in subtitled German."

Using subtitled Aramaic and Latin in "The Passion of the Christ"* was a brilliant move on the part of Gibson, as was his use of subtitled indigenous languages in "Apocalypto". You wouldn't have needed Gibson to do this though. I bet a German director such as the fellow who made "Lives of Others" could have made this movie with a first rate German cast at a fraction of the cost of the Cruise version (it might have also made a fraction of the money though).

In general though, since the sound of spoken German is linked so closely with memories of the war, it would have been best to have the actors in this movie speak German. When you go back to historical periods for which there are no sound recordings, it's less disconcerting to have all the characters speak English. I vaguely remember the miniseries Shogun had the British protagonist speak with a sort of flat American accent and the Portuguese characters speak with British accents.

"Boy, Abe Foxman would have a stroke over that one."

Really? Did he have a stroke over "Das Boot"?

*Martin Scorcese took a different, though also effective tack in his Jesus movie by having the characters speak English in rough-hewn, working class American accents.

- Fred

Anonymous said...

Regarding Steve's point about Tom Cruise and quality movies, this is largely true. Mission Impossible III was excellent.

"Steve, isn't "graf" the same thing as "count"? Putting them both next to the guy's name is a tautology."

That would be a redundancy, not a tautology.

"HBO's Rome was good on accents AFAICT with class-based English accents for the Romans (clear differences between the patricians, plebians and freedmen) and various non-native accents for foreign born characters (except Cleopatra who was a natural polyglott)."

I saw the first season and recall from that that the series used both British accents as well as Italian accents for some characters.

- Fred

Anonymous said...

"Downfall" (a German production with German actors speaking German) was very good. Sometimes getting a big "star" - such as Cruise - to act in a film, ruins it.

colin laney said...

I like Diana Mosley's comments on the Stauffenberg affair:

I thought the bomb plot despicable. Stauffenberg, as a serving officer, had a pistol, he was in the bunker, he could have shot Hitler at close range. Instead, he planted a time bomb and ran away to Berlin hoping to head a new government. To shoot Hitler would have cost him his own life, but instead he chose to behave like the I.R.A. Hitler was not killed, but many of Stauffenberg's colleagues were,and many horribly maimed (for example General Bodenschatz, as I read after the war. I knew him slightly.)

I think anyone who understands courage and integrity can glean everything worth knowing about the "aristocratic" Stauffenberg from the brief passage above, especially the part which reads, "Stauffenberg, as a serving officer, had a pistol".

I guess his devotion to his country did finally run up against certain limits. This was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a selfless or courageous act.

I hate to detract from the standing of the only hero the Germans might imagine themselves having produced, as they discover that their moral free fall and subsequent punishment will be never-ending, but Stauffenberg isn't anything more than a cowardly opportunist . . . a weasel. Thus, it is fitting that Tom Cruise has been chosen to play him.

Besides, if Tom Cruise and Brian Singer want to work together so much, aren't there other themes, closer to home, that both men would be more qualified to reflect upon and present to the public instead of midcentury German politics, however much art direction is involved?

togo said...

... note of gay hysteria that is not all that historically inaccurate in depicting Nazi Germany.

Maybe this means that the US military should start openly recruiting among gays. All the experts of consequence(from Trevor Dupuy to the Israeli Martin van Creveld) agree that the German military was the best of WW2. The Germans were renowned, for example, for their ability to respond aggressively and innovatively to a fast-developing crisis. Market Garden was a famous case of this type.

The political leadership's blunders in the Russian campaign make allthis less clear to the average observer. And, in retrospect, Hitler would have been best advised to drag out FDR's low-level undeclared war in the North Atlantic for as long as possible.

Niels said...

Steve, is Cruise's stature an issue in this film? Stauffenberg seems to have been of above-average height. Cruise is about 5'7" on a good day. Even in shoe lifts, he'd be lucky to make 5'10".

Anonymous said...

Anyone remember Masada from 1981?

The senior Romans were played as upper class English. Working English class accents for the legionaries and lower ranking Romans.

The Jews had American accents.

Anonymous said...

"English Patient", too. That's a good milestone for our decline: dumbed-down, hollowed-out, lightweight and forgettable."


A good chick flick and useful to make females think you are sensitive. "Out of Africa" works as well. However, I did love the scene with Jurgen Prochnow and Willem Defoe when the krauts have got him chained to a table in the basement for interrogation. "Are thumbs fingers?" Good stuff!

albertosaurus said...

A good chick flick and useful to make females think you are sensitive.

I liked The English Patient. Probably because the protagonist always carried a copy of Herodotus with him. For many years I always kept a copy of Herodotus in my car.

Am I sensitive?

albertosaurus said...

... crap like "American Beauty", "Brokeback Mountain", "Mystic River" and "Letters from Iwo Jima" ...

I love movies. I watch a lot of movies, but I wouldn't watch these. Why did you?

Anonymous said...

"Am I sensitive?"

Can't tell through the internet...Do you like long walks while holding hands? Puppies? Cry easily?

Anonymous said...

I liked The English Patient. Probably because the protagonist always carried a copy of Herodotus with him. For many years I always kept a copy of Herodotus in my car.

Am I sensitive?

Nope, just pretentious.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"Anyone remember Masada from 1981?

The senior Romans were played as upper class English. Working English class accents for the legionaries and lower ranking Romans.

The Jews had American accents."

It was probably made in Hollywood. The Jews (pro-Israel American) heroes; the Romans (pro-Arab Brits), nasty and decadent.

'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

It could be that von Stauffenberg wanted to kill not just Hitler, but several of his senior commanders/advisors as well. A bomb made more sense.

Diana Mosley was sympathetic to Hitler and he attended her second marriage to Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the Fascist party in the UK. He was a friend. She was hardly likely to be unbiased in her comments about von Stauffenberg.

S'mon said...

I'm not sure the fervid atmosphere of repressed homosexuality among sections of the Nazi party contributed to the WW2 German mastery of maneuver warfare.

It did result in the coolest uniforms of all time though, and great parades.

Anonymous said...

"I thought the bomb plot despicable. Stauffenberg, as a serving officer, had a pistol, he was in the bunker, he could have shot Hitler at close range..."

"It could be that von Stauffenberg wanted to kill not just Hitler, but several of his senior commanders/advisors as well. A bomb made more sense."

According to Wikipedia, he lost his right hand and 2 fingers on his left. Tough(but not impossible) to use a pistol. However, using a pistol is much different from using it in an effective manner. I'm right handed and a pretty good shot with a handgun. But put it in my left hand and my accuracy drops significantly. And I've got all my fingers. Also, I have no idea if Stauffenberg was a right or lefty, does anyone?

Anonymous said...

"It was probably made in Hollywood. The Jews (pro-Israel American) heroes; the Romans (pro-Arab Brits), nasty and decadent."

Did you even see it? The Roman commanding general was actually portrayed as something of a sympathetic figure, a career officer following orders. When the Romans finally breach the mountain top fortress, there is no triumphalism on his part. He has a great line about how his victory was winning a rock in the middle of a wasteland next to a poisoned sea (the Dead Sea).

Tying this back to Nazi Germany, incidentally the German officers trapped at Stalingrad compared themselves (apparently with no sense of irony) to the Jewish Zealots on Masada.

- Fred

Gaz Smiffy said...

I hate to detract from the standing of the only hero the Germans might imagine themselves having produced, as they discover that their moral free fall and subsequent punishment will be never-ending, but Stauffenberg isn't anything more than a cowardly opportunist . . . a weasel.

So bravery and selflessness are only to be attributed to those prepared to commit suicide? Boy, you're rough.

James Kabala said...

I believe the British Romans, American Jews casting choice can be found in Ben Hur as well.

In Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazarerth, there was some tendency in the opposite direction, but it was not consistent and I can't remember if the actors used their natural accents or if everyone did fake Brit.

New Yuck New Yuck said...

I love movies. I watch a lot of movies, but I wouldn't watch these. Why did you?

alberto, like many folks I watched those films because they were designated "highest quality" by Matt Lauer and other People Who Matter.

And by "matter" I mean not just the film critics aggregated at Rotten Tomatoes, but also the snarky wits at Salon, Slate and the Times. Because their murmurings waft into the noses of the editors and columnists at the major weekly magazines, and then the daytime TV hosts, and then perhaps most important of all: the late night TV hosts.

Yes, a critical mass of tastemakers told me to reach into my wallet and drink in the officially announced zietgeist. And so I did.

SKT said...

"Steve, is Cruise's stature an issue in this film? Stauffenberg seems to have been of above-average height. Cruise is about 5'7" on a good day. Even in shoe lifts, he'd be lucky to make 5'10"."

I didn't think it was an issue.

John Seiler said...

Steve, I didn't find the different accents a problem because Germans and Austrians themselves speak many different dialects.

Steve Sailer said...

Yes, clearly there are big accent differences among Germans and Austrians, but the accents in the movie should map to something the filmmakers are trying to communicate about the characters.

For example, Oliver Stone's "Alexander" handled the accents pretty well: the Macedonians, such as Alexander the Great and his father, mostly had Irish or Scottish accents, befitting their geographically marginal status in Greek culture, while the Greeks, such as Alexander's tutor Aristotle, had Oxbridge English accents.

Similarly, the Ben Hur strategy where the Hebrews have American accents, the Roman Senators have Oxbridge accents, and the Roman centurions have cockney accents, also maps pretty well.

But I couldn't come up with any theory for why Stauffenberg should have an American accent, other than that he was Tom Cruise. A big question in the history is why did all these generals like Rommel follow the lead of a mere colonel, but "Valkyrie" emphasized only two of the four reasons: Stauffenberg's horrific wounds served as evidence of his courage and character, and he was generally charismatic and energetic, which Tom Cruise is also. They largely skipped over, however, his religious (Roman Catholic) devoutness and his superb aristocratic manners.

Anonymous said...

I just went to a Wal Mart for the first time in several years. I seen so many cro-magnons there that it was overwhelming. Pregnant teens, tons of people wearing sweatsuits, flabby females in tight clothing, wimpy whiterpeople with piercings and teased hair. The "new" America in all its glory.

Yeah, but on the plus side, I bet you came out of there feeling like a million bucks!

Anonymous said...

Steve, I agree that the accent thing was well handled in Stone's "Alexander". The Macedonians actually spoke with Northern Irish accents ... which gives an interesting twist.

No, Fred, I haven't seen Masada - so apologies for jumping to conclusions.

Harry Baldwin said...

Steve points out, “Cruise doesn't do upper class grace. Mostly, Cruise just does intensity.”

That’s something that often bothers me when actors play historical figures. Great men usually have a manner that no actor can portray convincingly. Take George Washington, a man who held a poorly provisioned army together through a long, grueling struggle, while inspiring his peers, most of them his intellectual superiors, to defer to his judgment. What actor is going to be able to communicate the remarkable quality of character he had that commanded respect from everyone who met him? Jeff Daniels? I don't think so.

The worst casting of all time may have been Colin Farrell as Alexander the Great, but who could possibly convey the level of charisma possessed by only a few men in history?

Here’s another example: http://www.hbo.com/films/houseofsaddam/index.html

Does that really look like Saddam Hussein? There was a ruthlessness and a strength of will evident in Saddam's visage that this actor cannot convey by glowering at the camera. He looks like a headwaiter expressing his petulance at an inadequate tip.

George C. Scott probably made a better Patton than Patton did himself, but he benefited from the fact that Patton actually was theatrical. Forrest Whittaker definitely earned his Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland,” delivering just the right combination of cunning, madness, charm, childishness, and evil. And, of course, it's hard to imagine anyone but Charlton Heston playing Moses. Even in a small role, such as that of a rancher in "Tombstone," Heston came across as a man of strong resolution. Few of the younger generation of actors can pull that off.

josh said...

Uhm..that should be "A Few Good Men" on cable for the 5 millionth time. We regert the error!

colin laney said...

So bravery and selflessness are only to be attributed to those prepared to commit suicide? Boy, you're rough.

Maybe it would be easier for you and others at this board if I could show you what I meant in a member of the fair sex, so that Stauffenberg's unseriousness could be cast into higher relief.

From an essay about Charlotte Corday:

It is known that Corday was greatly disturbed by the events in her country and that she had resolved to do something about them. In the weeks before Marat had marched into the hall of the National Convention (1789) demanding the arrest of twenty-two Girond elected representatives, Corday had been known to write over and over again on little slips of paper the question "Shall I or shall I not?"

[. . . ]

The horrors of the Reign of Terror and the September Massacres, the period between the end of the monarchy and the first meeting of the National Convention, brought Corday’s attention specifically to Marat. She believed that he was the instigator and that saving her country meant killing him.

On July 13 a Saturday of 1793, Corday, who had just come to Paris after making final preparations, went to seek the Jacobin leader. Marat who suffered from several ailments was in a bath of medicinal herbs. She had sent him a note asking to speak to him about occurrences in Caen. He was working on an article for his paper L’Ami de Peuple about disturbances in Caen and was thus interested in speaking to her. When she was admitted to his bathroom, she maintained her pretense of speaking to him about an uprising in Caen. After a brief conversation, he began to write the facts that she told him, including the names of several Girondins in Caen. When he ceased to write, she surprised him by quickly drawing a kitchen knife, which she had purchased in Paris, and stabbed him through the chest.

The most startling factor of Corday’s action was the composure she maintained before and after the crime.

[. . . ]

At her trial, Corday again asserted, "I told my plans to no one. I was not killing a man, but a wild beast that was devouring the French people" (Loomis, 117)

[. . .]

The President of the Tribunal had ordered him to plead insanity, which instead of saving Corday would humiliate her and steal the aura of patriotism from her act. Because he admired Corday but could not disobey the order, Chauveau-Lagarde mentioned, "This incredible calm… this complete tranquillity and abnegation which in their way are sublime, are not natural" (Loomis, 144-145). Thus Chauveau-Lagarde preserved the honor and image of patriotism of Corday.


In reflecting on Corday's story, we can see that she was, in fact, noble - whereas Stauffenberg merely had a title in his name. Oh, and some airy-fairy "manners".

Moreover, Corday was effective in achieving her operational goal. In contrast, Stauffenberg merely succeeded in scoring what is now called an "own goal". His target survived, while Stauffenberg was killed and his physical remains desecrated.

The lesson here? To start with, "Mystical good looks" and "manners" are no substitute for competence and determination.

They are also not a substitute for courage.

Diana Mosley again:

I thought the bomb plot despicable. Stauffenberg, as a serving officer, had a pistol, he was in the bunker, he could have shot Hitler at close range. Instead, he planted a time bomb and ran away to Berlin hoping to head a new government.

Final score: Charlotte Corday 1, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg 0.

You do the math.

Anonymous said...

'Twas I who originally posted about Masada.

Peter O'Toole (yes, he is actually Irish) played the sympathetic Roman general. The Romans/English were not badly served in that production.

At one point O'Toole is to be replaced by some slimy trouble shooter political type sent over from Rome to take charge of the siege but the the salt of the earth legionary types support 'their' general - O'Toole - and the leadership issue is closed. The general and his men are shown to be honourable.

SFG said...

"It did result in the coolest uniforms of all time though, and great parades."

Well, the uniforms were designed by Hugo Boss. Literally. It's as if Ralph Lauren were designing the US Army uniforms.

MQ said...

Take George Washington, a man who held a poorly provisioned army together through a long, grueling struggle, while inspiring his peers, most of them his intellectual superiors, to defer to his judgment.

I thought David Morse did an OK job of this in the Sam Adams miniseries. He was stiff, but you could tell he was aiming for that remove and dignity and strength of will that everyone describes in Washington.

Mr. Anon said...

"SFG said...

Gay hysteria? The Nazis sent gays to concentration camps. They had special pink triangles for them (that's where ACT-UP gets its symbol from). Ernst Rohm was gay but after the SA was crushed in the Night of the Long Knives there wasn't much gay in Nazi Germany."

I agree. The nazis were, on the whole, pretty straight. Rohm and his SA leadership were gay - and were also rather overtly proletarian and socialist - both reasons why the SS and the german military wanted them neutralized. The current fashion among neocons of saying that the nazis were left-wing is really alot of nonsense. Giving up their pretensions of class-warfare was a requirement for the nazis to gain the support of the Wehrmacht. The SS was interested in race-warfare, not class-warfare. And Hitler himself never cared about socialism, but rather only about race and power.

Any gay-hysteria in the story is probably due to its director, Bryan Singer, who is homosexual, and who is also a scientologist, like,.....well, you know.

It's interesting that the fascist-homsexual connection is often made by liberals (for example, Oliver Stone in "JFK"). They're all for gay-rights, but are happy to hang a homosexual-slur on someone if they think it'll work for them.

"colin laney said...

I like Diana Mosley's comments on the Stauffenberg affair:

I think anyone who understands courage and integrity can glean everything worth knowing about the "aristocratic" Stauffenberg from the brief passage above, especially the part which reads, "Stauffenberg, as a serving officer, had a pistol""

Stauffenberg was much more honorable than was the loathesome nazi-sympathizer, Diana Mosley (wife of Oswald Mosley, the british fascist and nazi-toady).

The events of "Valkrie" certainly make for a good story, and are the stuff of good cinema, but, I wonder, is there a hidden agenda here? At least on the part of the film's director (Singer) and star (Cruise)? The german government is famously hostile to scientology. By making a movie that shows germans (at least some of them) in a favorable and heroic light, are Singer and Cruise making a peace-offering to Germany, in the hopes of improving scientology's prospects there?

Anonymous said...

"Well, the uniforms were designed by Hugo Boss. Literally. It's as if Ralph Lauren were designing the US Army uniforms."

I wish he was. Our uniforms suck. No style at all. That goes for both dress and BDUs.

Concerned said...

Cruise resembles Stauffenberg strongly:

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://bp0.blogger.com/_XAePxwGya7E/R1Il0zKFtoI/AAAAAAAAAhU/eCuQcPtXfgA/s1600-R/Stauffenberg-Cruise.jpg&imgrefurl=http://coolmenshair.com/2007/12/tom-cruise-hairstyle-on-valkyrie.html&usg=__bhSGY7jMLX78jAwSNhDggHHqSGc=&h=285&w=450&sz=16&hl=en&start=12&um=1&tbnid=WejcVZdUrgC96M:&tbnh=80&tbnw=127&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dstauffenberg%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox%26rlz%3D1I7GGIE_enUS290%26sa%3DN

Anonymous said...

Josh! I thought you were deliberately confusing An Officer & a Gentleman (Richard Gere) with Top Gun (Tom Cruise) for comedic purposes. TG could have been a sequel to AOAAG

Never even thought of A Few Good Men.

Anonymous said...

I knew I was in for a long movie when Tom Cruise read German outloud. Thankfully he lapsed back into English before my ears bled.