- Cullman, Alabama

September 4, 2013

SOUTHERN STYLE: Kurt Russell's tears

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

— There are not many things in this world that make me cry anymore. I get bad sinus headaches when I cry, so it either has to be something that takes me completely by surprise, or something that breaks my heart, to allow me to be moved to tears.

But one of the things that can always choke me up and make me cry like a baby are Kurt Russell’s tears. I’m not sure why.

Maybe its because the former Mousketeer was one of the first television “friends” I ever had, or because he is such a good actor that he can bring out emotions in people sitting half a country away in their living room surrounded by a three-year-old, two barking dogs, a loud dishwasher and a beeping cell phone.

It probably started when my Cammack grandparents got a television in the early ’60s. Kurt Russell was a cute little guy about my own age who wore mouse ears and sang to me about a mouse every afternoon about 5 p.m. When you are an only child and the only grandchild in town, you bond with the characters in books, movies and on television. For me, Annette, Frankie, Darlene, Jimmy, Cubby and Kurt were like family.

We sort of grew up together. We learned the importance of being honest, keeping our word, and respecting our elders from the moral high ground of Walt Disney’s first endeavor at entertaining children.

Later, Kurt would make me bawl out loud as the lead character’s love interest in “Silkwood” and as the naive, but good-hearted guy in “Winter People” or the hero of “Backdraft” who cried for his brother even as he met his own death.

The one I saw tonight, “Dreamer: Inspired by a true story” was no exception. With an aging Kris Kristofferson (who can do a pretty good television crying scene himself; see “A Star is Born”) and a perky little scene-stealer by the name of Dakota Fanning standing by, Kurt once again gave me a lump in my throat as big as a goiter and had me wiping copious tears from my eyes.

I’ve learned the hard way, sinus headaches and all, that when Kurt cries — I cry. It’s just some kind of long-distance, remote osmosis sort of kindred spirit kinda thing that just happens with no explanation.

Kurt doesn’t cry sissy tears. He chokes up, tries to hold them back, and when he fails, he cries with dignity and without scrunching up his face, which is important in television and movie crying.

And of course, there is a horse in this movie, which is another lump in the throat kinda thing for me. I must have seen “Secretariat” a hundred times and I always, always cry. Then there is “Seabiscuit” — wow, what a movie! And of course, “National Velvet” was the first horse I fell in love with. “The Horse Whisperer” is right up there with my favorite horse movies, but even Robert Redford’s broken heart couldn’t make me cry the way Kurt can.

As good as the other movies are, “Dreamer” is still my favorite. Show me a little gap-toothed kid whispering to a horse, “You are a great champion. When you ran, the ground shook, the sky opened and mere mortals parted. Parted the way to victory, where you'll meet me in the winner's circle, where I'll put a blanket of flowers on your back,” that can make Kurt cry and that is a surefire combination to turn on the waterworks at our house every time.

I suspect that everyone has someone or something that can bring their emotions bubbling to the surface. There are memories, sometimes buried and sometimes just under the surface, of the seemingly most hardened people. Mention the right thing and it can trigger those memories… may all of yours be happy tears!