May 12, 2013 by Manny Wordsmith
I imagine it all started with Field of Dreams. I was too young to know the exact moment my mother’s crush on Kevin Costner started, but 1989, on a corn field in Iowa, feels like a good spot to begin.
It would make sense. She always had this on again, off again love for sports, the same “love” that many women have when they’re with someone who’s sports crazy…which my dad was. It seems it would be easy for her to ease into the film’s premise and fall for a forward-thinking, down-on-his-luck farmer, who rides around with a Pulitzer Prize winning Darth Vader, trying to get ghosts to play baseball.
She probably skipped The Gunrunner and Revenge as most did and fell right into Dances with Wolves.
Wolves would have been easy. The whole “going native” aspect most likely jumped out to my mom, since she was part native herself. Cherokee to be exact. Mr. Costner already charmed her with his down-to-earth, americana style. So seeing his character turn his back on his country for a deeper cause and essentially fall for a Native American woman…who was really actually white…must’ve seemed plausible and endearing. Right? Well, I think she saw past that and understood it was the culture he fell in love with, you know, the darker skin, the long hair, the language, the rituals and not Stands With Fist’s bare naked bum.
The ball rolls after this, right into Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
For this, I was old enough to know that she didn’t care about Kevin Costner’s lack of an English accent or the movie’s escalating violence. She liked his hair and how he handled a sword. Crushes don’t need to be anymore complicated than that. Her love of the film, fueled mine and my siblings love of the film. My brother had it on VHS and would watch it when ever he got home at night. I’d be up watching syndicated episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, when I would suddenly hear Morgan Freeman say, “English! English! Behold, Azeem Edin Bashir Al Bakir. I am not one of you, but I fight! I fight with Robin Hood!” It would sometimes be at the loudest possible volume.
The Bodyguard was the one. Like it was made in her mind or in the mind of any other black woman who fell for Kevin Costner.
A songstress needing of protection, inter-racial love and a kick-ass rendition of the Dolly Parton hit “I Will Always Love You”. You couldn’t really ask for more when it came to the things my mom enjoyed. The chemistry between Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston bonded my mom to the film. We would watch it when it came on, and after she got it on VHS, we all watched it almost monthly. My mom’s eyes would tear up at the last scene every time. After that, Kev could do no wrong. Stinkers like Waterworld and The Postman were still perfect in her eyes. Wyatt Earp was long, but she could watch the double VHS all the way through like it was nothing. She fell hard.
These movies I mentioned above will always connect me to my mother. I watch them when they come on and smile all the way through, thinking back to Saturday mornings when I would be right next to her.
Shirley Ann Smith lived long enough to see the first Nicholas Sparks adaptation, Message in a Bottle, starring Costner, but passed away before seeing Costner in his first role as a bad guy in Mr. Brooks. She wouldn’t have liked that at all. But she would have been excited to know that he’s playing Superman’s dad in next month’s Man of Steel and still making decent flicks. So I salute the only white man my mom ever loved and all the other film crushes mother’s have subjected on their kids. I wouldn’t trade the connection for the world.
Happy Mother’s Day!