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Distinguished and versatile actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. spent many years in bit roles before finally becoming a star. The son of Cuba Gooding, lead singer for the '70s pop group The Main Ingredient, he was born in the Bronx on January 2, 1968, but moved to Los Angeles after his father's group had a hit single with "Everybody Plays the Fool" in 1972. Unfortunately, the elder Gooding abandoned his family two years later. The subsequently tumultuous nature of Gooding, Jr.'s upbringing did not deter him from achievement: during his teens, he attended four different high schools but managed to become class president of three of them.

Gooding, Jr. made his professional debut in 1984 as a breakdancer for Lionel Richie's show at the Olympics. As an actor he was discovered by an agent while performing in a high-school play, and began working steadily in television commercials, which led to a bit part on an episode of Hill Street Blues. The experience inspired him to take acting lessons and after attending workshops and classes, he began to get a few more parts in television and films. He made his first feature film appearance in Coming to America (1988) in which he was credited as "Boy Getting Haircut." Gooding, Jr.'s first real break came when he was cast as Tre Styles in Boyz N the Hood (1990). The film earned him considerable acclaim and seemed to offer the promise of a great career. Sure enough, Gooding began landing fairly substantial parts in feature films. Unfortunately, save for a few exceptions like A Few Good Men (1992), most of the films were not well regarded, and the actor continued to work in relative obscurity. The comic talents he demonstrated as Paul Hogan's sidekick in 1994's Lightning Jack were overshadowed by further mediocre films, and it was not until 1997 that he truly came into the spotlight. That year, he starred as a loyal football player in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his efforts.

Following this triumph, Gooding, Jr. next appeared in the acclaimed As Good As It Gets alongside Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, and Greg Kinnear. Two relatively obscure films, the suspense drama A Murder of Crows and the mockumentary Welcome To Hollywood, followed before Gooding, Jr. took part in another high-profile picture, What Dreams May Come. Starring opposite Robin Williams, Gooding, Jr. played the deceased Williams' tour guide to heaven. Unfortunately, the film was critically savaged and failed to do much business at the box office.

In 1999 Gooding, Jr. kept busy with both television and film. In addition to starring in a series of Pepsi commercials, the actor appeared opposite Anthony Hopkins in Instinct and had a lead role in Chill Factor, an action extravaganza which featured him as an ice cream man trying to keep a top-secret military chemical safe with the help of a short-order cook (Skeet Ulrich). -- Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide

Doris Miller - by historian Roger Hare
Cuba Gooding Jr. portrays Doris Miller in the upcoming block-buster movie "Pearl Harbor". He was a legend to my father who was his shipmate on the battleship West Virginia,Dec.7,1941. Growing up, I heard first-hand accounts of his heroism. If you've never heard his story allow me to be the first to tell it.

Old Johnny Cash songs aside, it was hard for a farm boy named Doris in Waco, Texas. One of three brothers,everyone knew him as the star of Moore high schools football team. Miller as did my father, joined the navy to see the world and escape the depresion. Both wound up on the same ship serving as targets for the emperor.

On that fateful day, Miller, the fleet heavyweight champ, ran to his battle station, only to find it destroyed. A quick sprint topside found him outside the "bridge" where he saw the disemboweled captain lying on the cat-walk. The ship was turning over, its port side blasted off by 8 torpedoes. The dead were everywhere.

While my father sat trapped in a void three decks down, Doris helped the captain to shelter amid heavy dive-bombing. Suddenly the harbor went silent and was enveloped in a blinding flash. An eternal second later a violent shock-wave flattened him to the deck. Fifty yards aft, the U.S.S. Arizonas powder magazine erupted, raining "Dante's Inferno" over the West Virginia. Moving to a nearby machine-gun, he kept enemy planes at bay with protective fire. Out of ammunition, the captain dead, and the ship in flames, Miller went to the side, and with his powerful arms, scooped dazed sailors from the harbor. All while under fire from enemy aircraft. Many owe their lives to him and others who stayed behind to save their shipmates. My father was one of those rescued.

Typical of this generation, the story doen't end here. Doris Miller became a symbol of patriotism for all Americans. He spoke at war-bond rallies, had boys clubs named after him, and was the subject of a letter writing campaign to FDR asking for his admission to Annapolis. He desired instead to get back in the war. His new assignment-the carrier "Liscome Bay". In 1943 this ship was torpedoed off Tarawa and exploded, killing 646, including Doris Miller.

Today it's hard to understand why this man, a product of "Jim Crow" Texas would risk all for a segregated country. My belief is that patriotism is color-blind. To the navys credit he was recognized and decorated for fearless conduct. He will always be respected by my father and a dwindling number of survivors remaining.

In 1973, the frigate U.S.S. Miller was launched. The navys top honor to a fallen hero,a ships namesake, was bestowed on the memory of Doris Miller. This sixtieth year following the Pearl Harbor attack, remember him and others who comprised this greatest of all generations.

You can find more of Roger Hare's work in his series of articles on the event.

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