Celluloid heroes and a few live ones (a reprise)

The following is a repeat of a post I wrote about ten years ago. Since heroes are hard to come by and the word superstar is over used, here are some movie heroes along with a few real ones.

My daughter is reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” in her high school English class, so we watched the movie the other night. As it is one of my favorites, we actually own the book and movie. Giving credit for part of the title to the old Kinks song, “Celluloid Heroes,” I thought it might be good to take a break from the issues of the day to talk about reel and real heroes.

Atticus Finch is one of the great heroes captured in print and on screen. Gregory Peck plays him so well it is hard to imagine someone else in that role. There are many wonderful parts in the movie, but the two that move me most are when the Reverend makes Scout stand up in the court room because “your father is passing” and when Jem is told by a consoling neighbor that “there are people meant to do our unpleasant tasks in this world… your father is one of them.”

I told my daughter Atticus Finch is my idea of a true hero. He does not have to carry a sword, although he may as noted below, but is courageous in a time when it is far easier to do otherwise. Standing up for what is right when others don’t have the gumption to do so, makes a hero live on in our memories. Some of my other celluloid heroes would include, but not be limited to:

– Robert Roy McGregor of “Rob Roy” also one of my favorite movies. While he carried a sword that was just a tool needed for those times. The key lesson he passed on through words and deed are “honor is a gift you give yourself.”

– Henry Fonda’s character in “Twelve Angry Men” who stood alone against 11 impatient jurors until one gave him a chance to be heard. When we all take our jobs seriously and purposefully like he did, we will be better for it, even if it takes more time.

– Rick in “Casablanca,” another favorite movie. He is a harder one to figure as hero at first, but rallies in the end. I think his imperfections make him more believable, so when he does the right thing, we are behind him.

– Sergeant Wendell White in “LA Confidential.” Like Rick, a man of imperfections, but he stands up for those treated unjustly and is relentless to find the truth.

– Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront” is another man of imperfections that comes to mind as he stood up against the mob on the loading docks.

There are countless others, especially when the movies are about real people – Erin Brockovich, Norma Rae, Jimmy Braddock, William Wallace, etc.The stories play the best and the heroes stand tallest when they are playing against the odds. These real people lead me to some true heroes of mine, some of whom movies have been made about.

Gandhi and Martin Luther King are two that come readily to mind. My blog friend at “News of the Times” describes herself as a pacifist at heart.  MLK admired Gandhi so much that he adopted his “passive resistance” mantra to shine a spot light on unfairness and bigotry. Rosa Parks became another hero for similar reasons by refusing to give up her seat on the bus when it would have been easier to do so.

Nelson Mandela galvanized a country when it could have been so easy to divide it. I would have mentioned the movie “Invictus” before, but wanted to highlight him more here. His is the best example of inclusion and how he saw South Africa as a greater entity unified rather than separate. I wish our religious leaders would follow his lead on behalf of the LGBT community. The fewer “they” words we use the greater we will be.

John Adams is a true hero as well, but I remember what he did before the American Revolution as even more heroic. He defended in an American court of law British soldiers who had reacted appropriately when accosted by American rioters. His point is we stand for truth and justice and if we did not let these men go free, we would be going against our principles. This was against the strong will of the people led by his cousin Samuel Adams.

Abraham Lincoln is a hero of many and I am included in this mix. To do what he did when he did stands the test of time. Thomas Jefferson also is included in mine and many others list of heroes.  His principles drove much what we hold dear in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

A couple of names you may not know are Elliott Richardson and Archibald Cox. I would encourage you to look them up on Wikipedia.  They were leading the case against Richard Nixon after being appointed by him. When Nixon tried to strong arm them into pursuing a more tolerable path to justice, they resigned. They were there to do their jobs as they owed it to the American people to find out what happened before, during and after Watergate.

I recognize I am picking a select few heroes, but I wanted to get people thinking about the heroes they hold dear to their hearts. Truth be told, we have heroes we interact with day-to-day, be it a teacher, social worker, advocate, nurse, doctor or parent. These are the people I admire most. Heroes may be someone who is doing what he or she has to do to get by and try to help others. So, thank them, help them, applaud them and emulate them. When we see injustice, let’s call it out and try to do right by each other. If we had a few more Atticus Finch’s in this world, we would be in a much better place.

19 thoughts on “Celluloid heroes and a few live ones (a reprise)

  1. Loved this post! Also love this line: “The fewer “they” words we use the greater we will be”. All these heroes are inspirational examples. Some folks like to make fun of my child-like obsession with heroes. But if we aren’t reaching to be our best selves, then I don’t know what we’re doing. Seems like a waste of time to stay the same old people we were yesterday and all the days before that.

    • Rose, many thanks. Heroes tend to be less boastful than hero-wannabes. While you were typing your comment, I was adding a few more heroes, top of mind. Please offer some of yours. Keith

      • My heroes include the following but actually I could write for days making lists of my heroes: my niece who has a Master’s degree and uses it to help people in need/homeless/hungry/ill in Minneapolis/St. Paul: others Bessie Coleman, Tecumseh, Sequoyah, Rachel Carson and other nature/observers/writers, scientists who pursue facts and knowledge, historians who pursue accurate histories, teachers who give everything they can to help their students succeed…

  2. Note to Readers: Here are a few more top of mind heroes: Mister (Fred) Rogers, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Dr. Vivian Thomas, Alan Turing, Rep. Liz Cheney, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Edward R. Murrow, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Katherine Graham, Angela Merkel to name a few.

  3. There are so many famous role models who show us what it means to have a vision, the belief in its realization, and the determination to pursue it against all odds. Very encouraging post, Keith!

      • Johannes Strolz was kicked off the Austrian national squad just last year. It looked like his career had ended before it had a chance to begin. But he did not give up. He put everything together on his own. He had no sponsor, no official track to train on. He took care of his own skis, managed everything on a private basis. And last week he won gold and again silver this week. He did not give up and vehemently pursued his dream. He believed in himself and his goal. A wonderful and current example.

  4. Seeing so many true heroes (and celluloid ones as well) reminds us that there are truly good people in this world … lots of ’em, in fact! Most are quiet and never gain widespread recognition, for it is only a few who have a wide platform, but they walk among us and help make this world a better place. Thanks for this post, my friend!

      • Quite so, which is what I find every Wednesday when I do my ‘good people’ post … the really good people don’t advertise, they just quietly go about their business. Hmmmm … I’d have to think on that one … you’ve covered the ones that immediately come to mind, but I have many others … I’ll get back to you on that!

  5. An excellent list. I, too, love To Kill a Mockingbird–book and movie. Gregory Peck is superb. I didn’t recognize all the names you listed, but I definitely perked at Erin Brockovich. Another great movie. You know she has a cameo in there, right? I’m trying to remember. As a waitress, maybe?

    • Betsy, many thanks. I do remember Erin Brockovich had one, but cannot recall what it was. Norma Rae was made into a movie starring Sally Field. She led a painfully successful unionization effort. William Wallace was the actual Scottish hero in “Braveheart. Keith

      • Betsy, “Braveheart” is a great movie, but it was a little to violent for my wife’s tastes. “Norma Rae” may have been Sally Field’s first starring dramatic movie role. Keith

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