Five Came Back

Five Came Back

A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War

Book - 2014
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The untold story of how Hollywood changed World War II, and how World War II changed Hollywood, through the director's lens. It is little remembered now, but in prewar America, Hollywood's relationship with Washington was tense. Investigations into corruption and racketeering were multiplying, and hanging in the air was the insinuation that the business was too foreign, too Jewish, too "un-American" in its values. Could an industry with such a powerful influence on America's collective mindset really be left in the hands of this crew? When war came, the propaganda effort to win the hearts and minds of American soldiers and civilians was absolutely vital. Nothing else had the power of film to educate and inspire. But the government was not remotely equipped to harness it--so FDR and the military had little choice but to turn to Hollywood for help. In an unprecedented move, the whole business was farmed out to a handful of Hollywood's most acclaimed film directors, accompanied by a creative freedom over filmmaking in combat zones that no one had ever had before or would ever have again. The effort was dominated by five directing legends: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. They were complicated, competitive men, and they didn't always get along with each other or their military supervisors. But between them they were on the scene of almost every major moment of Americas war, and in every branch of service. In the end, though none of them emerged unscarred, they produced a body of work that was essential to how Americans perceived the war, and still do. The product of five years of original archival research, this book provides a revelatory new understanding of Hollywood's role in the war.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York :, The Penguin Press,, 2014.
ISBN: 9781594204302
Characteristics: 511 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm


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JoePilla Jan 13, 2015

This is an admirable chronicle of the WW2 activities of five of the most famed Hollywood directors.
The issues of the value (and perils) of propaganda and the use of reenactment in documentary films are as timely today as during WW2. Harris expertly puts these five men's military experiences in context of the wider war, Hollywood history, and their careers and films. I learned quite a lot about men whose biographies and movies I thought I knew well.

ChristchurchLib May 12, 2014

"In his previous book, Pictures at a Revolution, author Mark Harris wrote about the 1967 nominees for Best Picture and how they reflected a changing culture. Here, he explores the stories of five big-name directors who joined the war effort in the 1940s; one documented the flights of the Memphis Belle, while another captured the liberations of Paris and Dachau. In discussing how their work in the armed services affected them personally and professionally, Harris also addresses the division in Hollywood between those who supported the U.S. joining the war and those who didn't." Popular Culture May 2014 newsletter


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