One Eyed Jacks

New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick devotes a long, pseudo-invevestigative article to the relationship between John McCain and hiis memoir Faith of My Fathers. It’s an aimless and somewhat mystifying article. One is apparently to take away the thought that McCain’s coauthor (Mark Salter) superimposed an inauthentic narrative theme on McCain’s authentic experience. My only question is whether the Times will devote a comparable article to Obama’s Dreams from My Father.

In his current editorial for the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol compares and contrasts Obama’s and McCain’s answers to Katie Couric’s question regarding their favoritie movies. McCain says:

Viva Zapata! It’s a movie made by Elia Kazan. It was one of the trilogy of A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront and Viva Zapata! Marlon Brando stars in it. He plays Zapata. It’s a heroic tale of a person who sacrificed everything for what he believed in, and there’s some of the most moving scenes in that movie that I’ve ever seen. And one of them is he gets married–the night of his wedding night–he gets up and he and Jean Peters are in their hotel room–this little room and she says “What’s the matter?” And he says, “I gotta go to Mexico City tomorrow. I’ve gotta be with Pancho Villa and Modero and these people.” He says “I can’t read.” And she reaches over and takes the bible from the–table and opens it up and starts, “In the beginning.” You know, it’s a great scene. It’s great and there’s many others that are wonderful too, especially when he dies–when he gives everything for his country and what he believes in.

Kirkpatrick works McCain’s tribute to the film into his article as well:

Mr. McCain has often described the Brando film “Viva Zapata!” as the “greatest movie of all time.” It is the tale of a mercurial Mexican revolutionary who forms a new government, then fights against it. “I loved so much the idea of one man on a white horse, fighting for justice,” Mr. McCain wrote. “That was the essential truth of his life: he was a man who fought.”

Kirkpatrick purports to explain McCain’s affection for Brando’s films:

The appeal of the young Marlon Brando, whose career was at its height during the senator’s adolescence in the 1950s, is easier to see. Both he and Mr. McCain were short (about 5-foot-9) tough guys with volatile tempers and surprisingly soft voices. (Friends say Mr. McCain likes to imitate Brando erupting in rage: “You scum-sucking pig!”)

Kirkpatrick does not identify the the film from which the quote comes — perhaps the article has been subject to a confusing edit, or perhaps Kirkpatrick hasn’t seen the film — but it derives from Brando’s “One Eyed Jacks,” identified later in the article as another of McCain’s favorite films:

Like “Faith of My Fathers,” Mr. McCain’s other Brando favorite, the Western “One-Eyed Jacks,” is a father-son story of sorts. Brando played an outlaw known as Kid who kills a former accomplice-turned-sheriff named Dad and runs off with his stepdaughter.

Brando took over the development of the script and the direction of “One Eyed Jacks.” It is an absorbing story of betrayal and revenge that includes the Oedipal element to which Kirkpatrick alludes. The film depicts characters who leave a lot unsaid but is nevertheless full of great lines.

Among the film’s best lines is the one from which the film takes its title. It is Brando’s bitter statement to Dad Longworth, formerly an outlaw and now the sheriff of Monterey. Having robbed banks with Longworth in Mexcico and been abandoned by him as they sought to escape from Mexican authorities, Brando says: “You’re a one-eyed jack around here, Dad, but I seen the other side of your face.” It’s a widely applicable statement that the Times itself might ponder at leisure after the election.

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