April 18, 2012

Inspiring story of man and ‘DUKE’

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies, Relationships at 11:15 pm by dinaheng

The plight of homeless veterans is not an easy story to tell, but a thoughtful Hallmark Movie Channel film inspired by true events explores what happens when a veteran of the war in Iraq — traumatized by both PTSD and a disabling injury — finds the strength to go on with the companionship of a faithful Border Collie named Duke.

Duke,” which airs Saturday, April 28 at 8 p.m. Eastern on the Hallmark Movie Channel, stars Steven Weber as Marine Sergeant Terry Pulaski, a depressed war vet who leaves his wife and daughter when he feels unable to resume his former life, taking with him only a stray dog named Duke that has bonded with him.

Ten years later, Pulaski and Duke are living in an old RV, homeless, but still together. When the dog becomes seriously ill, the former Marine decides to leave him at a veterinary clinic, ashamed that he doesn’t have the money to pay for Duke’s treatment.

“My partner Kelly is a social worker, and saw an article in the paper about a homeless guy who’d left his dog at a vet’s office, with a note saying that he was afraid the dog had had a stroke,” says Michael J. Murray, who wrote the teleplay for “Duke.” “The newspaper ran a couple of stories about the dog, who lived. A friend of the vet helped to reunite him with the dog a week later. I took the article and fictionalized the idea for a movie.”

The homeless vet’s dog in real life was a German shepherd mix, but Duke in the film became a Border Collie, played alternately by two canine stars, Zeek and Tanner.

“Zeek was quite the performer,” says Murray, laughing. “Everyone wanted to play with the dog, and all he wanted to do was do his scene and go back to his trailer.”

Dog stories have a special place in our hearts because we all have the need to be loved, unconditionally, and dogs, well… they get it. They bark to protect us, sit at our feet when we need company, and lick us silly when we need to laugh. In “Duke,” the dog of the hour rescues a broken soul, an act of valor that humans could learn from.

Murray, whose TV movie credits include “Desperately Seeking Santa,” “A Neighbor’s Secret” and “When Angels Come to Town,” did extensive research on the problems faced by returning veterans, and met with the homeless vet whose story inspired the film.

“It was tough interviewing him,” Murray says. “He had so much emotion about the story, and gave me a lot of details that I used in the script, like how the dog liked to wear different colored bandanas every day. I was really attracted to the story because of the issues of homelessness and returning vets. We send these guys away, equip them for war, but don’t give them services to help them when they come back.”

As Murray notes, helping our nation’s wounded warriors hasn’t become an issue that has galvanized the public to action. Regardless of the reasons behind the inattention, “Duke” is a touching reminder that injured vets need more than gratitude for their service — they need the tools to rebuild their lives.

“If I can incorporate those themes into a movie that makes people think, that’s great,” Murray says. “I commend Hallmark for letting us do this. There’s hope and redemption in this movie. The homeless vet who the story is based on still lives in a motorhome in California. I hope he gets a chance to see it.”

“Duke” shows there’s always a way for heroes to come home.

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7 Comments »

  1. Vera said,

    The movie Duke was excellent but little credit is given to the song in the moive. I don’t know the official name of it, but I call it Grace, and it is so beautiful. I would love to know who the artist who sung and who wrote it. It is verry insoirational and should be shared.

    • dinaheng said,

      Sorry it’s taken me a while to respond to your question. According to the Hallmark Channel, the song was written and sung by John McMillan.

  2. Cory said,

    I’ve searched and listened to every one of John McMIllian’s songs. I can’t find who sings this “Grace” song. It is very upsetting that there is no information about it. Great song. Help me find it please.

    • dinaheng said,

      So sorry, but I have no more information on this.

  3. yukiinu said,

    I was a homeless vet, this story struck home in many ways. I have received excellent care from homeless outreach at the v.a. I have given this dvd to my outreach worker to share with her team in order to add to their insight regarding the homeless vets they workwith.

    • dinaheng said,

      Thank you for sharing this!

  4. mercedes slovin said,

    does duke die, or recover and look for him the marine. why did terry find him. or duke. find him. I see that he gave up on him self. like life,was not worth living.now I know he left them.and duke. I am watching the movie duke.


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