Monday, September 14, 2009

Zero Hour!

I had occasion recently to happen upon an old film from 1957 called Zero Hour!, starring Dana Andrews. It concerns a man named Ted Stryker, who, years before, had a terrible experience while flying during World War Two. As a result of the entire crew of a commercial airplane falling ill to food poisoning, is called upon to land the plane. I could not believe my senses. That film was the prototype of the 1980 hit, Airplane!, even down to the air tower control boss say, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.”

It’s interesting how humor can apparently destroy drama. During the Civil War, the commander of my Great-Grandfather Mitchell’s unit, the Confederate Army of Tennessee, was General John Bell Hood. As a general, Hood was a terrific platoon sergeant. At Antietam, his brigade took more than eighty percent casualties. At Gettysburg, Hood was so badly wounded that he lost use of one of his arms. Two months later, at Chickamauga, he was again wounded. This time, so badly that they had to amputate one of his legs. I’ve sometimes wondered if the cartoonist Al Capp had Hood in mind when he created the character of Confederate Jubilation T. Cornpone, the author of Cornpone’s Defeat, Cornpone’s Demise, Cornpone’s Disaster, Cornpone’s Debacle and, of course, Cornpone’s Utter Devastation.

While General Hood was a very brave and very unlucky man, it’s a bit sad that I can never hear his name without thinking of John Cleese’s pugnacious but dedicated Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (“It’s just a flesh wound.”)

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