03 April 2008

Bill Mauldin

A toast to Bill Mauldin, the cartoonist remembered for the creation of Willie and Joe, the famously unkept and slouching GIs that Mauldin invented when he was serving as an infantry sargeant in Italy in 1943.

Mauldin died more than five years ago, and there's no particular reason I should think of him just now but, hey, it's my blog. "I don't need no stinkin' reasons."

Actually, I've just been leafing through a recent biography of Mauldin, by Todd DePastino, which tells me that Willie & Joe made their first appearances in the 45th Division News, and only by stages became world-famous.

One of the many reproductions in the book shows our protagonists trudging through the mud and cold rain of the Italian winter, when an officer (who of course, is dry in his vehicle) sticks his head out thereof to ask Joe, "Have your men tried Dubbin, Sargeant?"

[As anyone likely to have been reading the 45th Division News would have known, Dubbin was a water resistent boot wax.]

DePastino helpfully tells us that nearly 70% of all non-battle injuries in Italy involved trench foot. There are two possibilities here, either encompassed in the weariness of the faces of the two men travelling on foot. It is possible that the officer is so ignorant of his men and the life they're leading that he thinks his suggestion is helpful. Or it's possible he's just being an arrogant son-of-beatch and the question is a form of sneer.

Through Willie and Joe, and through his own talent of course, Mauldin got to speak a little truth to power. We should all be so lucky.

1 comment:

Henry said...

Thank you for increasing my appreciation of one of my favorite movies -- "Blazing Saddles," the campfire scene in which is the funniest movie scene ever (at least for those of us with sophisticated senses of humor). What does your Bill Mauldlin post have to do with "Blazing Saddles"? The answer is its use of "I don't need no stinkin' reasons." I knew that that line was a quotation from or a take-off on something, but I didn't know what, so I googled and discovered the "Stinking Badges" entry in Wikipedia. It reports that "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" includes the line, "I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges" (spoken to Humphrey Bogart), and that the line was repeated in "Blazing Saddles" (to Harvey Korman). The Wikipedia entry gives numerous take-offs on the line, including one in Weird Al Yankovich's film "UHF," which has the host of a "Wild Kingdom" show say, "We don't need no stinking badgers!" Perhaps someone who knows how to contribute to Wikipedia can add Christopher's new use of the line to the list.

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.