Substance Over Style

1954

I spotted Clint Eastwood last summer as he strode along 11 Mile Road, tall and rangy in jeans and a crisp white shirt.

And so I had to see his Gran Torino, of course.

My companions and I walked a mile to see Eastwood’s car-named movie that was filmed in metro Detroit. More typically, we drive a mile to see a picture filmed in New York with characters who walk around Manhattan.

Some things do change for the better.

Anyone passingly familiar with Clint Eastwood’s cranky old-guy Torino character, Walt Kowalski, knows that he angrily views most social change as a turn for the worse. For all of his many flaws, however, Eastwood’s Kowalski was a man who showed up, met his responsibilities, and knew how to fix things. And he had little tolerance for a world where those traits seemed to have fallen out of vogue.

Minus the flaws, Kowalski embodied qualities suitable for a spouse, which I bring up because this issue includes Hour Detroit’s annual wedding pages.

Bridal fashions are undeniably seductive. But the princess and prince fantasies should be confined to satin and pearls, bow ties and bou-tonnières. In a mate, style belongs way down the list of ideals; certainly it should follow behind “responsible” — that boring, but all-important

Boy Scout attribute. Cool detachment and cultivated attitude may make for interesting dating and the kind of yearning that gets confused with love. And straightforward sincerity may be unfashionable. But, over the long haul, an open nature wears as well as a classic tux.

Irony may make for faux-intellectual cocktail banter. But a can-do attitude makes history.In this issue, we reach back to 1889 to illustrate that point. That’s when Detroit hosted an International Exposition & Fair, one that garnered international acclaim. The nearly forgotten event, which featured the largest exposition building in the world at the time, was “an exercise in good old-fashioned civic boosterism, headed by a group of leading citizens whose names today grace various streets, parks, and buildings.”

That gloriously huge affair was pre-Rust Belt, pre-auto industry, when Detroit was on its way toward becoming a bustling metropolis.

Now, with the pendulum well in the other direction, we can find ourselves craving outside attention. That’s why, at the end of Gran Torino, as the credits rolled, a handful of viewers lingered, waiting to see the words “filmed in Michigan” scroll across the screen.

When they did, someone at the back of the theater applauded. Then the clutch of local loyalists stepped out into reality, to a familiar street that bears the name of a local man who did something.

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