Van Johnson, who died yesterday at age 92, and Elizabeth Taylor starred together in "The Last Time I Saw Paris" (above), a movie I much admire not so much for its soap opera plot but for its evocation of postwar Paris. Not having lived it myself, I can't exactly vouch for it, but the mood the movie evokes is ebullient, bittersweet and transporting. Another striking movie Johnson contributed much to is "Battleground," a chronological precursor to "Paris" that tracks an American fighting squad across Northern Europe into the Battle of the Bulge. Again, an evocatively transporting picture--and one my Dad, a veteran of those same campaigns across Northern Europe, whose bout of pneumonia took him off the front line just before the beginning of the German offensive that ended at Bastogne, much appreciated for its success in capturing that time and place (as opposed to "Saving Private Ryan," which he despised). I haven't watched "A Guy Named Joe," the movie that put Johnson on the map, for years. Funny enough, it happens to be a movie that my Dad, as a kid working on the MGM lot in Culver City, watched some of the filming of before he shipped off to war.
Van Johnson, RIP.