Movies for Boys Who Would Be Men

Part One:  Curriculum 101 – Eleven Good Ones

Recently, after seeing trailers for the post-modern re-boot of The Lone Ranger, I had to reflect on my personal experience with the 1930s radio origins of that classic American myth.

More than a few followers of LETs Blog responded, not all on this blog site (more on that later*), but all voiced strong opinions about the moral and intellectual sludge that passes for quality entertainment in this Age of Corruption. (If you think I’m just a grouchy old man, you’re only half right; I was also a grouchy young man.)

As I visited with these cultural compadres I recalled a list of movies I’d cobbled together a few years ago for my very young grandsons (who ignored it). They are older now, but the list has remained largely intact (and still ignored). A few titles have been removed, because they were redundant or didn’t age well. Others have been added or shifted about, because I’m smarter than I was.

These are not what I call “Bambi” movies. (No offence to baby deer lovers, but you get my meaning.) They represent the types of stories that informed my understanding of virtues which define a civilized person. These films feature no zombies, no vampires, no robots.

There is also no P.C. And no B.S.

Because reality is harsh for many youngsters in any era, the messages that resonate with them are not dry sermons or syrupy treacle. The images and ideas that stick in the mind are rooted in ages-old experience of risk, failure, loss, cruelty, and sometimes victory in spite of it all. But none of it comes without a price.

This article offers only a partial list for beginners. I call it Curriculum 101. It is for boys at least 12-14, depending upon their ability to sit still. For perspective and without reservation, though, be assured that each of these gems will deliver satisfaction for men and women of any age. As they have for me. And still do.

Now… Ready projection! Lights out please… And… ROLL ‘em!

LET’s Curriculum 101 (age12+)

1. The Shootist; (Manliness, pain, boy/man conflict. John Wayne)

2. Twelve O’Clock High (Valor in real wartime. Gregory Peck)

3. The Cowboys (Under stress, boys become men. John Wayne)

4. Chariots of Fire (Moral conviction, perseverance, Olympics.)

5. Rudy (boy’s perseverance, collegiate football.)

6. Red Badge of Courage (Cowardice, heroism, Civil War. Audie Murphy)

7. Black Beauty (Heroism – boy and valiant horse)

8. Jeremiah Johnson (Mountain men, 19th century. Robert Redford)

9. Field Of Dreams (Baseball fantasy, father/son. Kevin Costner)

10. Bad Day at Black Rock (Loner battles bad men. Spencer Tracy)

11. Wind and the Lion (Powerful adventure. East vs West. Sean Connery)


This is just a taste. Any suggestions? I’m open. *Speak up – talk to each other!







All the movies on this list are available on DVD, for purchase or for rent.

  1. Amazon
  2. Turner Classic Movies
  3. Blockbuster
  4. Netflix

In Your Face: Part Two

Observation: By L.E. Taylor

It’s been said that we end up with the face we’ve earned.  It’s also true that too many people not only deny the notion, but are so obsessed about it that they pay huge sums to have surgeons remove the evidence.

Be that as it may (or may not be), there are some excellent old kissers around that reflect wisdom, honesty, kindness, and hard-won battles with sorrow. And so much of it is beautiful. No, not the same skin-deep ‘beautiful’ that wowed ‘em forty years ago, but a refinement that says, ‘a life has been lived, and a price paid.’

Toward the end of his life, the movie star John Wayne made overtures to all kinds of people who’d disapproved of his Red-White-and-Blue politics, and of himself personally.  He was invited, sarcastically, to come to Harvard University to receive an “honor.” He accepted. When he arrived on campus, the sponsoring leftist student group supplied the vehicle in which he was to enter The Yard: A WWII vintage Sherman tank. Wayne laughed and climbed aboard. Moments later, having run the gauntlet of taunts, the sick and haggard “Duke” arrived in the lecture hall and mounted the stage where he took questions.  He handled the first pointed political thrusts with grace and intelligence, then the floor-mic was handed to a young fellow who asked bluntly, “Do you look at yourself as a great American hero?” A twinkle came into the old man’s eye and he replied, “Son, I don’t look at myself any more than I have to.”

The map inscribed upon The Duke’s face was beyond help from any lighting expert or makeup genius. But the sparkle in his eye won the day even in the camp of a hardened foe.

Going through my family archives for photos to use in these blogs, I came upon one of myself, at least forty years ago.  I was a Midwestern version, then, of what came to be known in this next century, as a Mad-Man. (Madison Avenue “ad man”). Hmm. So later I sidled up to a mirror and was jolted. Who’s that?

I remembered the John Wayne story. Life has done its job on me. We don’t stay the same, but guess what:  We do keep our souls. Maybe you’re still movie star handsome, and maybe it’ll survive. But trust me, you will ripen. Or you’re well along the way right now. Good for you. Good for us.

Go have a look at the old photos. And the looking glass, too. And don’t be sad. Don’t regret. Return to the moments that still live. And be thankful.





Practice, Man.

Opinion: By L.E. Taylor 

There’s an old joke that has an out-of-towner stopping a fellow carrying a fiddle case on 6th Avenue, and asking, “Uh, pardon me. Can you tell me, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

The guy answers, “Practice, man. Practice.”

The advice is not merely colloquial. Nor even artistic. It is universal for all of us – professional, amateur, and plebeian. If we seek to enjoy life in full, we must expose ourselves relentlessly to what’s been accomplished by the doers – to standards of excellence, and ultimately, courageously, to our own flawed selves as works-in-progress.

The point is not only to humbly acknowledge our momentary limitations, but also to reveal our unexplored potential.

Decades ago, I read an autobiography by Charlton Heston, An Actor’s Life. It was based upon a diary he’d kept over his first twenty years in Hollywood. Among many lessons I took from the book was a simple truism, “The more we do a thing, the better we get at it.” Heston also remarked upon how “easy” he had been on himself in his shortcomings, and how he would change that, given the chance.

About the same time in my young manhood, I was preparing to travel to New York City to consider moving into a life of what would be called, these many years later, the “Mad Men.” Translation: 1960s Madison Avenue and all the sin-and-sizzle it implied. Before leaving the Midwest, I was given words of advice by an experienced advertising CEO from my home state. He said: “Don’t sell yourself short; you are better than most of the people they see; remember, talent recognizes talent.”

Then he said, almost to himself, “What’s ‘good’ may be subjective, but there’s a common thread: Taste is educated perception.”

I can’t remember the man’s name, but I didn’t have to look up his admonition; it was seared into my brain before the waiter brought the luncheon check.

I’ve poured thousands of hours into feeding my ‘perception’. Now four decades later, my worldview is seasoned by experience in combat. Bloodless corporate combat, certainly, not the heroic D-Day kind. But in its time-and-place, it was urgent mundane struggle, nonetheless. We who strive know about exposing oneself to failure. Whether it’s playing the piano, or playing rugby; or hitting a curve ball, or raising a heifer and a crop of corn to feed her, you won’t fully appreciate it unless you’ve tried to do it.

The same is true of writing. Except for one caveat: when you sound a sour piano chord or fan on a fastball, the evidence is there for all to see and you’re the goat. But with a lousy page of writing, you can get away with it unless someone who knows better is there to read it and to tell you it stinks.

So practice, kid. Practice. And don’t take it easy on yourself, just work.