The true story of Calvin Graham who at the age of twelve, but looking quite a lot older, succeeded in joining the navy during World War II. In spite of his young age, he received a Purple He... Read allThe true story of Calvin Graham who at the age of twelve, but looking quite a lot older, succeeded in joining the navy during World War II. In spite of his young age, he received a Purple Heart for his bravery in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. When he reported back to his unit ... Read allThe true story of Calvin Graham who at the age of twelve, but looking quite a lot older, succeeded in joining the navy during World War II. In spite of his young age, he received a Purple Heart for his bravery in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. When he reported back to his unit after leave, his world collapsed. Due to a misunderstanding he is reported as a deserter, ... Read all
- Captain Gatch
- (as Jon De Vries)
- Davy Cluff
- (as Thomas Mills Wood)
- (as Ron Shelley)
- (as Christopher Yore)
- (as Christopher De Oni)
Twelve year old Calvin Leon Graham, "Too Young the Hero" was one of those thousands.
Until CBS aired this made-for-TV movie, I had never heard of Calvin Graham. While parts and names were fictionalized for "dramatic clarity" (as the teleplay indicated at the beginning), I thought this conveyed the story of Graham well: his life as part of a poor family in Texas; his not-so-good relationship with his step dad; his plot to get into the Navy; his subsequent Navy service and maturing as he faces death and destruction when his ship, the USS South Dakota goes into combat; his discovery of his true age by the Navy; and his wrongful brig time made for an interesting account.
Again, there were parts and names fictionalized, but if this movie wanted to make you learn more about Calvin Graham, then it did its job. In my opinion, not too many people have heard of this Sailor until the broadcast of this 1988 tele-movie to include President Reagan who viewed it at the time. After he viewed this, he signed legislation that granted Graham full disability benefits (which he was denied after leaving the Navy).
Sure, it was made-for-TV and budgeted as such. North Carolina (where most of this was shot) stood in for many places in this tele-feature: Houston, TX (Calvin's Home at 12); Pearl Harbor, HI; New Caledonia; New York City; and rounding off the state's participation in this movie, the museum battleship, USS North Carolina stood in for the long since dismantled USS South Dakota. Virginia's National Guard Base, Camp Pendleton stood in for the rest: Corpus Christi, TX (Brig); San Diego, CA (Boot Camp). Of course, when Ricky Schroder shot this, he was seventeen years old. Did people cringe at these "inaccuracies?" Of course! I know I did. But it did not detract from the story.
It didn't have the budget of another TV WWII epic, "The Winds of War" (which shot at various places around the country and world); and while there have been many amazing (pre-teen) child actors in Hollywood, I doubt that 1) there were any that looked like they can pass for 17; and 2) they would have been able to depict the part of Graham maturing quickly convincingly. There are always "nits" in any movie, but all you can do is hope they don't keep you from taking in the story.
Again, many underage young men served in the military. Many served with honor. Underage military service is a story that is rarely told and CBS did it real well for Calvin Graham. I don't know if we should put these once too-young-to-be-in-the-service members on a pedestal like we seem to for the Pattons, MacArthurs and Nimitz' of the time, but I do know we need to honor them as they became men while their peers back home were doing typical activities of pre-teen and 'teen boys.
Their story is rarely told, let alone Calvin Graham's. When you look past the nit-picks and obvious older age of Ricky Schroder playing a twelve year old, this tele-movie will give you an appreciation of who Calvin Graham was and what he endured. It is unlikely there will be another movie made about Calvin Graham.
If you read up on him (after watching this movie), you will find he was the youngest service member to fight in World War II. Thank you CBS for pointing me to research that fact!
- Dec 12, 2017