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Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War

 
 
Author
Mark Harris.
Publisher Penguin  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
ISBN 9781594204302
Pages/Publication Date 511/2014
Daedalus Item Code 61557
This item is not available.
Description
The author of the New York Times Notable Book Pictures at a Revolution here tells the story of how Hollywood changed World War II—and how World War II changed Hollywood—through the director's lens. In prewar America, Hollywood's relationship with Washington was decidedly tense; investigations into corruption and racketeering were multiplying, with insinuations that the business was too foreign, too "un-American" in its values and causes. When war came, the propaganda value of film was absolutely vital to winning the hearts and minds of American soldiers and civilians, but the government was not remotely equipped to harness it. President Roosevelt and the military had to turn to Hollywood for help, and the whole effort was farmed out to a handful of Hollywood's most acclaimed film directors: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. They were complicated, competitive men, gifted and flawed in equal measure, and between them they were on the scene of almost every major moment of America's war, from Midway to North Africa, from Normandy to the liberation of the Nazi death camps. 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.

"A tough-minded, information-packed and irresistibly readable work of movie-minded cultural criticism. Like the best World War II films, it highlights marquee names in a familiar plot to explore some serious issues: the human cost of military service, the hypnotic power of cinema and the tension between artistic integrity and the exigencies of war."—NYTimes

"It's hardly news that the movies affect and are affected by the broader canvas of popular culture and world history, but [Mark] Harris—perhaps more successfully than any other writer, past or present—manages to find in that symbiotic relationship the stuff of great stories. He turned that unlikely trick in Pictures at a Revolution, about the five Best Picture nominees in 1967 and how they defined a sea change in Hollywood and in society at large, and he does it again here. The number is once more five, but this time it's five acclaimed directors who went to war in the 1940s to make propaganda films and came home changed by what they saw and what they did. The stories of what John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler, and Frank Capra did in the war are dramatic (Ford filming the opening salvo in the Battle of Midway from a rooftop; Wyler riding along on bombing missions over Germany; Stevens filming the horrific scenes at Dachau), but they are also stories of personal redemption, frustration, and even dishonesty (Huston receiving acclaim for the authenticity of his documentary San Pietro, which was made up almost entirely of reenactments). Every chapter contains small, priceless nuggets of movie history (Joseph Goebbels thought Wyler's Mrs. Miniver was 'an exemplary propaganda film' and hoped the Germans could copy it), and nearly every page offers an example of Harris' ability to capture the essence of a person or an event in a few, perfectly chosen words (describing Huston as a 'last-call bon vivant'). Narrative nonfiction that is as gloriously readable as it is unfailingly informative."—Booklist (starred review)

 
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