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"Coward, Take My Coward's Hand": On "Home of the Brave" [by David Lehman]

Home of the BraceMuch of my early education in film history I owe to the old Million Dollar Movie on television (WOR-TV Channel 9 in the New York metropolitan area), which showed the same movie back-to-back every night for a week, with Max Steiner’s theme from Gone with the Wind to usher you in and out. As a boy, I watched the 1949 war film Home of the Brave on successive nights, deeply moved by this so-called “problem picture,” which Ralph Ellison praised for hitting the “deep center of American emotion.” It was, Ellison wrote, “a look at the ties between the races and also the deep-seated nests of American racism itself.”  It “set up a confrontation. One is forced to deal with racial issues.”

Directed by Mark Robson, Home of the Brave is first and foremost a sensitive treatment of racism, but it is also sophisticated in its handling of the subjects of courage, cowardice, and survivor’s guilt. It was filmed independently on a small budget. Carl Foreman and Arthur Laurents wrote the screenplay; Stanley Kramer produced; Dmitri Tiomkin contributed the music, and the last lines of Eve Merriam’s poem “The Coward” mark the movie’s moral climax.

The film depicts a company of U.S. soldiers entrusted with a dangerous mission on an island in the Pacific that the Japanese tenaciously hold. The men—Major Robinson (Douglas Dick), Sergeant Mingo (Frank Lovejoy), Corporal Everett, a bigoted redneck (Steve Brodie), and privates Finch (Lloyd Bridges) and Moss (James Edwards) —are asked to make an amphibious landing and to map the terrain in advance of an invasion.

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from "Coward, Take My Coward's Hand" in The American Scholar
Looking back at Mark Robson’s Home of the Brave
By David Lehman | August 13, 2020


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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly

Radio

I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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