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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Matches Made In Heaven*

Pacino and DeNiro
(Regency Pictures publicity still)

*Johnstown, PA  Tribune-Democrat
July 17, 2011
as "Screen pairings we love to see"

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
Written content only.

A match made in heaven

This is a phrase that’s normally used to describe a couple who seem to be perfect for each other.  But that expression can also apply to situations where two of the best take the stage at the same moment.  It’s always the stuff of legends.  And for us fans, it’s just plain fun

Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro were paired in a movie called “Heat.”  Pacino played a homicide detective who applied himself wholly to his profession at the cost of everything else in his life.  DeNiro was the consummate career criminal, an audacious planner of, as he put it, “big scores.”  The two sparred and weaved throughout most of the movie, coming together for one unforgettable scene, sitting across a restaurant table.  Powerful stuff.  They were the best of their generation at the peak of their craft, the quintessential tough guys.  Watching them, you knew one of them had to lose.  And that was the only bad part.

One pairing I regret never seeing, was Clint Eastwood and John Wayne.  

It could have been a story that unfolded on a Pacific Island during World War II, or on the dusty streets of Laredo, Texas.  Maybe on a city’s mean streets, one as the cop, the other as the bad guy, or both on the same side.  Any of those locations would have suited both actors.  

In a way, they were opposites.  

Eastwood was one of the first of the Hollywood anti-heroes.  In his early movies, the so-called “spaghetti westerns” because they were shot in Italy, he played characters to whom violence was almost second nature.  Later on, as Inspector Harry Callaghan, he was a symbol of those who thought the justice system had swung too far in supporting the rights of the accused over the rights of the victims.  But despite the haranguing of police chiefs, captains and lieutenants, and politicians, Dirty Harry always managed to get his man.  Usually with “the most powerful handgun in the world.”

John Wayne has been called the ultimate American archetype.  Big and brawny, brave and principled, for decades he fought crooked sheriffs, cattle rustlers; he righted wrongs, all the while casting a very long shadow on the American frontier.  His character-types have endured and when a cable station runs a John Wayne movie, it’s always a popular draw.  The genesis of Wayne’s characters, as he related late in life, arose from his exposure to real-life lawman Wyatt Earp on a Hollywood movie set.

And those deliveries.  Eastwood was responsible for some of the memorable lines in movie history.  His intense almost monotone utterances, typified by the immortal, “Go ahead; make my day.”  Wayne never had a screenwriter worthy of him, but he still had the ability to make a simple statement powerful.  The one that sticks in my mind took place in the movie “Rio Lobo.”  The crooked sheriff (played by former Steelers linebacker Mike Henry), growled, “I shoulda taken you this morning.”  Wayne, rumbling like a Texas thunderstorm, replied, “You shoulda tried.”

As modern action heroes go, it’s hard to top Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer, and Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne.  For 8 taut seasons, Bauer battled terrorists and bureaucrats in Fox’s “24.”  Damon played Jason Bourne, the short-circuited trained assassin searching for his memories while fighting against the same CIA that turned him loose to begin with.  But if the Agency really wanted Bourne put down, they should have sent Bauer to do it.  Oh yeah, and Chloe, too.

This past Monday night, Major League Baseball put on it’s now-annual showcase, the Home Run Derby.  This event, started in 1985 as part of the annual All Star Game, pits the top home run hitters from each league in a show of pure power.  There have been some epic performances, the best of which was put on by the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa in 2002, who blasted the longest one in the history of the contest at 528 feet, exactly one-tenth of a mile.

It’s a shame this idea wasn’t started earlier.  I would have loved to watch Willie Stargell taking on Harmon Killebrew in 1969.  How about Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle going head to head in ’64?  Or going back even earlier, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio against Ted “Splendid Splinter” Williams.  Could you imagine watching Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at work against batting practice pitchers?  The mind boggles.

Each generation will produce its giants, on screen or on the playing field.  It will be up to us to capture those moments and carry them forward.

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