The candidates as the cast of a WWII B movie


How did I get on this subject? Well, Bryan had said something about liking Scott Walker before he dropped out, and I said he failed to stand out and distinguish himself. All the other candidates have a shorthand character people can describe, for good or ill. For instance, Lindsey Graham, who did no better in the polls than Walker, was known as the hawkish guy with the wisecracks.

So I got to thinking about how we all think we know the candidates, even though we don’t really know them any deeper than we do the characters in a cliche-ridden B movie — as a group of familiar types.

So let’s treat them like old-style contract players and cast them in an imaginary flick about World War II, since most of us are familiar with the genre. The title of the film? I dunno. “Hell is for Sad Sacks,” or something like that.

Here we go:

LuzLindsey Graham‘s the wise-cracking guy who nevertheless can give a pretty good speech about why we fight, and though he’s obviously no John Wayne, he’ll likely be a passable soldier when the shooting starts. Think L.Q. Jones — the character, not the actor who played him and adopted the name (even though he was poorly cast) — in “Battle Cry.” Think the book version. Only Leon Uris fans will get that, so never mind. Instead, think George Luz in “Band of Brothers.”

HallScott Walker is the replacement who gets killed at the start of the first battle, and no one in the unit can remember his name. Or maybe he was a member of another company entirely who ended up fighting alongside the main characters because the drop zones were all messed up. Think Private Hall in “Band of Brothers,” the guy who is the first character killed on D-Day. Or, to switch genres, anyone in a red shirt on “Star Trek.”

FrankoTed Cruz is the blowhard who talks big about how many Krauts he’s gonna kill, and the first time he’s within hearing of the guns he’s found cowering, quivering, in his foxhole. Everybody hates him — he’s always figuring an angle for getting ahead, at the expense of the other guys in the platoon — so they’re inclined to leave him there in the hole, but someone calls the medic. In “The Dirty Dozen,” he’d be Victor Franko.

RicklesDonald Trump is the utterly corrupt quartermaster who runs the black market operations in the area. A real weasel, although a tremendous businessman (ya gotta give him that) he’s all about insulting the other guys in the battalion. He’s even trading with the enemy; anything for the deal. He gets along great with Starshina Putin, his counterpart in the Red Army unit just over the hill. Think Don Rickles in “Kelly’s Heroes.” (He’s not smooth enough to be Milo Minderbinder.)

earnest young officerJeb Bush is the well-meaning but largely ineffectual officer who lives under a huge shadow. His father was a general and even his ne’er-do-well big brother made a name for himself earlier in the war. He got great grades at West Point but thus far hasn’t distinguished himself. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s not the kind of guy the men are all that eager to follow into battle. Picture Tom Hanks’ kid in “Band of Brothers.” (I’m not going to be cruel and call him Lt. Dike.)

PopsBernie Sanders is “Pops,” the impossibly old guy who somehow got drafted anyway. The young guys all think he’s great and look out for him, even politely listening to his crackpot ideas about politics, the Army, etc. He likes to freak out the recruits by popping his teeth out without warning. For some reason I’m picturing James Whitmore in “Battleground,” but I’m not sure that’s quite right. Can anyone think of somebody better?

Savalas 2Chris Christie is the crusty sergeant who’s been there and done that and rides the younger guys pretty hard, calling them “craphead” and “boy in the bubble” and such. Maybe Telly Savalas, in either “Battle of the Bulge” or “Kelly’s Heroes;” take your pick. But not in “The Dirty Dozen” — totally different character. Was James Gandolfini ever in this kind of movie? That would be perfect, but I don’t think he ever was.

WebsterMarco Rubio is “College,” the guy who earned half a degree before deciding he’d better join up. He’s a slick talker and will probably get into politics when he gets back home. The guys respect him for his ability to talk his way out of KP and such, but he hasn’t proven himself to them yet, and some wonder how he’ll measure up in combat. Think of David Kenyon Webster, the Ivy Leaguer in “Band of Brothers.”

StrayerJohn Kasich is the battalion executive officer, like Major Strayer in “Band of Brothers.” (Yeah, I keep citing “Band of Brothers,” which doesn’t fit the mold of the stereotype-ridden B movie. But there were just so many characters to choose from.) He’s regular Army and he knows his way around and the guys pretty much respect him and accept him in the No. 2 role, but people just aren’t sure how he’ll lead if the Old Man gets hit. This guy doesn’t usually have a lot of lines in the movie.

rooseveltI don’t know who Hillary Clinton is. It’s tough, since the Pentagon hadn’t yet rubber-stamped an OK on women in combat. I’m still working on it… She’s not a nurse (unless we’re talking Nurse Ratched, and that’s the wrong genre), and I don’t see her as the dame back home who wrote you a Dear John letter and broke your heart. Maybe she’s the long-suffering wife of the good-time company commander who chases all the nurses — Deborah Kerr in “From Here to Eternity.” But I don’t see her with Burt Lancaster. Maybe I’ll just say she’s Eleanor Roosevelt. She should like that…

24 thoughts on “The candidates as the cast of a WWII B movie

  1. Brad Warthen

    Dang. Forgot Ben Carson. And Carly Fiorina.

    Those are tough. I suppose Carson could be “Doc,” although his demeanor in debates suggests “Sleepy.” I’m not even going to TRY to cast him as a black guy — he’s not Jim Brown in “The Dirty Dozen,” nor do I see him as a driver in the Red Ball Express, or a Tuskegee airman (remember, the character must be a cliche). So for now, it’s Doc.

    As for Carly, I dunno — a fighter in the French Resistance? (I had thought of Nazi Evil Lady Interrogator, but rejected it…)

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Carson is the ineffective officer who the enlisted guys hope they don’t get stuck with. You remember how Lt. Dike kind of sleepwalks through the fight at Foy and doesn’t really engage, and the guys really wonder if he gets that we’re at war? Yeah, that’s Carson.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        No, no, no! Not Dike.

        He’s Lt. Peacock. Remember? He’s the platoon leader all the guys are fond of (unlike Dike), but he’s no combat leader.Peacock

        When word came down that someone in the battalion had won a ticket home during the defense of Bastogne, Peacock is chosen because Winters doesn’t want him running a platoon when it’s time to go on the offensive.

        All his men gather around to congratulate him, saying it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, because they know they’re better off with him in the States…

        Really touched, he says, “Gee, thanks, guys!” Not getting why they’re so pleased for him…

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Okay, good call. That’s a better one.

          By the by, that’s exactly what the GOP needs to do with the bottom tier candidates. Hey! Rand, Carly, Chris, and Ben! Congratulations! You’ve won a ticket home! Way to go! Enjoy the R&R stateside, you lucky SOBs!

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I feel bad about thinking of Carly as what Bill Murray, in “The Man Who Knew Too Little,” called “the evil lady torturer,” because it seems to put me in the league of Trump, talking about her appearance. But back in the days of the studio system, the studio bosses would have taken one look at her eyes, and cast her that way. And they wouldn’t have felt bad about it at all…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Not a lot of female roles in the old cliche WWII movies. Obviously, that’s evidence of the patriarchy at work.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          And note that when I said “Resistance fighter,” I did not mean this one, even though I know she’s the first one who comes to mind for most people. Most guys, anyway.

          I was thinking someone older, less curvy, and tougher…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    It’s interesting that, while it was also an HBO miniseries produced by some of the same people, “The Pacific” doesn’t offer any good types to fit our needs here. Unless you count “Chesty” Puller, who was so ably played by William Sadler.

    But there are no Chesty Pullers in this lineup of candidates. Nor are there any characters who would be played by Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas or Randolph Scott. Not even a Ronald Reagan, speaking of B movies…

  3. Matt Bohn

    Lee Marvin in the Big Red One is Sanders. Old, experienced, gruff, and compassionate. Think the boy in the concentration camp scene. Just a sergeant serving in the trenches vibe.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      An inspired thought! I should have looked at “The Big Red One” for characters, since it is a classic of the “guys from all walks of life in one squad” genre.

      Although, it was a nice twist on the form. It was the first of its type I had seen in which the actors looked young enough to be real soldiers. The ones like that I grew up on in the ’50s and ’60s cast 35- and 40-year-olds as privates.

      That said, I have one quibble about the Lee Marvin character being Sanders. That sergeant was Regular Army, not an outsider. In a way, his character in “The Dirty Dozen” was more likely, since he was an OSS operative who had a problem with authority. But that doesn’t work, either, since he was a swashbuckler, a man of action, and I don’t see Sanders that way, either. (In the book, he was even LESS like Sanders, because he was a 30-year-old captain. But hey, at least he was half-Jewish!)

      I see Sanders more as the guy who makes people think, when they see him in uniform in a foxhole, “What the hell are YOU doing here, Pops?”

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I see Sanders more as the guy who makes people think, when they see him in uniform in a foxhole, “What the hell are YOU doing here, Pops?”

        How about the SGM in We Were Soldiers?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          specialAgain, too much the representative of the Establishment. I don’t see Sanders as any sort of senior NCO. Such men ARE the Establishment, the enforcers of the established order, the agents of orthodoxy, the guardians of tradition.

          But thanks for sharing. Sam Elliott is a national treasure.

          The other day I was in Walmart and found “Gettysburg” on sale for something like $3.74. So I bought it, and took it straight home and watched it. In the opening credits, it shows all the actors who will play the main parts, and at the end shows Sam and says ”Special Appearance by Sam Elliott.” Why “Special?” Because the others are just actors; Sam is REAL.

          And he abides…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            A senior NCO teaches you to march, and when you don’t do it perfectly in the prescribed manner, screams in your ear until you conform.

            Bernie is more like, “Ahh, march, don’t march… who cares! The real problem is the big banks…”

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          That reminds me, though…

          Long ago, like the ’70s, there was this TV miniseries about the Army starring Sam Elliott. I can’t remember anything else about it — the period, the plot — but I recall that he was in it and it was pretty good (for ’70s made-for-TV).

          Anybody remember that?

          Anyway, it was only the second thing I ever saw him in. My wife and I had gone to a double feature at a drive-in to see the cultish “Harold and Maude,” and “Lifeguard” was the other feature. Sam was the lifeguard, a 30something guy who was wrestling with the fact that people thought he should get it together and get a more grownup job… but he liked being a lifeguard…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Looked it up…

            It was called “Once an Eagle.” The IMDB synopsis:

            The story of two Army officers, one a ruthless, career-obsessed schemer, the other his exact opposite, and their personal and professional lives from the end of World War I to the beginning of Vietnam.

      2. Mark Stewart

        I wonder if Madeleine Albright thought, hey, we could elect a Jew as President when she went off last weekend on the necessity of supporting Hillary (and yet not Fiorina…) simply because she is a woman.

        Can we all just get back to core competencies now?

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