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Manliness: The Robert Mitchum Way Kindle Edition
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Even the title is a provocation in today's stifling, Politically Correct culture. But Bell -- obviously in the spirit of his book's subject -- couldn't care less about pandering to that culture.
"We are fast losing something essential in American life," he says in the opening pages: "the man who knows how to be a real man; who knows how to treat women and children and community; who knows how to fight for what's right and honorable and who takes seriously his role as warrior and protector and father...[S]omewhere in the past sixty years that kind of tradition has been ridiculed by those who think there should be no such thing as manliness, that society would be better served by doing away with virtually any word that has 'man' in it.
"How's that working out?"
Challenging prevailing post-feminist dogma, Bell tells us the dark consequences from the emasculation of our society. But while cursing that darkness, "I happened to spot a candle. It was a light known as Robert Mitchum." Mitchum's movie roles, he concluded, all represent "some aspect of the quintessential American male. Even in films where he assumed the role of villain there is a lesson to be learned -- the consequences of violating manly virtues."
Citing the iconic actor's best films, Bell draws a host of lessons in manhood -- of what it means to be "a real man." They include such chapter titles as "A real man refuses to play the patsy." "A man keeps his word, even if he'd rather not." "When insulted by a bully, a man stays cool" -- "But a man isn't afraid to get hot when he needs to." "Once a man takes on a tough job, he doesn't quit."
And on it goes, with lessons about how a man treats women and children, keeps his marriage vows, builds muscles, handles liquor -- and female rejection, takes responsibility, assumes leadership, respects soldiers -- and even accepts such controversial principles as: "A real man sometimes has to kill the bad guys."
No, this book takes no prisoners, metaphorically or literally. It is emphatically not for the aspiring Beta Male, or for women who enjoy pushing such malleable creatures around. "What used to be called 'manly virtues' have been dismissed and denigrated over the last forty years or more," he says in summary. "This acid drip began (as acid drips usually do) in the halls of academia. Gradually the poison seeped into society at large until denigration morphed into accept wisdom. But it is the wisdom of fools. For robust manliness is not only necessary for the vitality of America (*America* as an ideal has also been acid-dripped by the academy), but also for order, civility, protection, and romantic love..."
This message resonated with me, as the same vision of manhood (and femininity) I depict and celebrate in my own thrillers. It's such a treat to find a respected and successful fellow author defending those values and principles, and without apology.
"Manliness: The Robert Mitchum Way" is a fast, simple, easy, and entertaining read. But the life lessons it offers men -- and women -- should be pondered and absorbed for long after they close the final page. It should be read by every man facing the artificial "gender roles" controversies of our era, and certainly by every father. For its wisdom is something that a real man will want to impart to his sons.
“Manliness” The Robert Mitchum Way” by the author, teacher James Scott Bell is several things at once.
First and foremost: the book is a plea for a return to the ideals of “manhood” that existed in the first half of the 1900’s. These are many and varied, exemplified by Bell by roles in the Robert Mitchum movies. These manly ideals passed through the ages and have disappeared in the last forty years. I agree the ideals have disappeared, but can not follow Bell in blaming the universities. Bell places an ideal in bold print at the top of every short chapter and then illustrates the point from a Robert Mitchum movie. Bell uses the roles of Mitchum, good guy and villain, to illustrate the ideals. The ideals are valid. Most of the time the analogy with the Mitchum movies is valid. And Bell adds in a few other movies and novels to make his points. Most surprising, but fitting is the long quote from President Theodore Roosevelt in his essay “The American Boy.” Yes, this is a good starting point for a study of manly values for modern families and men.
Second: the book is a hymn of praise for Robert Mitchum. I am not old enough to be steeped in the 1940’s and 1950’s Mitchum movies. And Bell is 6 years younger than I am. But Bell describes the movies and some brief scenes from them well, preserving the excitement of the scenes. It is obvious that Bell is a fan of these old movies, knowing them well, probably having had to seek them out. This book is most likely one of the best brief compilations of Robert Mitchum’s movies.
Third: the book is a treasure chest of stories of the old Mitchum movies and several of his co-actors, including Marilyn Monroe. While the shortness of the book - it can be read in about two hours - prevents lots of stories, those Bell tells are poignant and insightful.
I did find myself a little confused at points. Bell is inconsistent in naming a character and the actor. Bell varies from following a scene or plot by the actor’s name or the character’s name. Sometimes Bell switches back and forth.
The book reads well and easily, except for the above cravat. The points are well made and easily grasped. The book does achieve it’s premise of detailing Ideals Of Manliness. Yes, the book would be a great place to begin a study of manliness for families that want to take the time and effort to find all the old movies. But, just reading the book gets the ideals across well.
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