Looming larger as a reliable source of America’s disappearing e pluribus unum is Turner Classic Movies, which has always honored Memorial Day with a serious three-day exhibition of military films (including some comedies, like Buck Privates, Kelly’s Heroes, and Mister Roberts) that pay tribute to those who risked or made the ultimate sacrifice. Binge and you will experience a lot of throat lumps and tears. Among the movies featured in this year’s 72-hour marathon are The Caine Mutiny, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Glory, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Longest Day, and one of my favorites, They Were Expendable the saga of a Phillipines-based PT boat squadron at the outset of WWII. Directed by John Ford, and starring John Wayne, Donna Reed, Ward Bond, and Robert Montgomery (who ended up directing the final scenes after Ford broke his leg while filming), it includes one of my favorite scenes, with Leon Ames (the father from Meet Me in Saint Louis) having to give up his seat on the last flight out.
Ames had another terrific war movie cameo — as a chaplain in Battleground. Often part of the TCM Memorial Day lineup, but not this year, it is a must-watch starring Van Johnson, James Whitmore, and former NR subscribers, George Murphy and Ricardo Montalbon.
While we’re at it, here are a few films, not in the upcoming TCM lineup, that merit a place on any Memorial Day film list: The Red Badge of Courage, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Paths of Glory (what a scene!), Pork Chop Hill, Zulu, Bataan (the final scene with Robert Taylor machine-gunning into the camera is a classic), and Noel Coward’s powerful British naval drama, In Which We Serve, which you can watch here.
Rest in Peace, all those who died for our liberties.