ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The director Quentin Tarantino is fond of references to film history in his movies. And in his latest film, the World War II movie "Inglourious Basterds," Brad Pitts character is named Aldo Raine. That name is a sly wink toward the actor Aldo Ray. Ray starred in another World War II movie, "Battle Cry." It was made in 1955. Here in this clip, his character meets his future wife and it isnt love at first sight.
(Soundbite of film, "Battle Cry")
(Soundbite of music)
Mr.�ALDO RAY (Actor): (As Private Andy Hookens) My names Andy Hookens. I didnt catch yours.
Unidentified Woman: (As character) I didnt throw it.
Mr.�RAY: (As Andy Hookens) Nice country youve got here. Im from Washington, Washington state, that is, not to be confused with the capital.
Unidentified Woman: (As character) Oh yes, I know, lots of trees in Washington.
Mr.�RAY: (As Andy Hookens) And youre looking at the boy who chopped most of them down.
Unidentified Woman: (As character) A modest Yank.
SIEGEL: Well, commentator Anthony Giardina has been fondly remembering Aldo Ray recently, thanks to that reference in the new Tarantino film.
ANTHONY GIARDINA: Ray was a natural warrior, a big, blond mans man with a wonderful foghorn of a voice. But for little boys growing up in the '50s, he was also something considerably more than that. Aldo Ray was the one who was most like our fathers.
In his domestic roles in movies like "The Marrying Kind," and in the interludes where hes seen with his family in "Battle Cry," he brought to the movies a startling whiff of our own suburban neighborhoods, the ones where our working-lug fathers would come home after a long day with still enough energy to light the barbecue, to throw a ball around.
Such men were the anti-"Mad Men." Guys fully committed to the home-based lives they were living. Aldo Ray was their patron saint at the movies, representing those men whose pure ethnic post-war simplicity seemed to have created the 50s.
As we were growing up, a lot of us preferred to remember the decade through actors like Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and James Dean. Actors who, through their neuroses and rebellion, showed us an alternative, a way out of the neighborhood, as well as a way out of a decade we grew to see as confining and hopelessly limited.
Aldo Ray, with his big, hungry body, his nakedly expressed desires for the simplest of things - home and wife and children - could never do that for us. But now that we're fathers ourselves, guys of our own neighborhoods with desires simpler than we'd ever have anticipated, it's possible to appreciate him anew.
Unlike Clift and Dean and Brando, he knew how to do things: how to hold a baby, how to cement a marriage, how to fix a broken pipe. It's that forgotten '50s presence that Tarantino is sending a shout-out to, and hearing it is a little like hearing my father's name called out in the dark in thousands of multiplexes - the old man with his solid, un-neurotic '50s persona - not forgotten after all.
SIEGEL: Tony Giardina is the author of the novel "White Guys."
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