Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Five Came Back

Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris  511 pp.

While many in Hollywood found ways to support the home front in World War II, five of its top movie directors entered the military and took on the frequently dangerous job of documenting the war. John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens were all famous in their field for award winning films. As members of the Army, Air Corps, and Navy each was tasked with filming the fighting, the destructive aftermath of battles, the amazing work of the bomber and fighter pilots, and the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Frequently these men were in harm's way. There were often fights with the powers in charge over what they could and could not include in the films they made with Huston having the most difficulty over the controversial films he made. Capra spent the bulk of the war supervising the production of the "Why We Fight" series. Ford, Stevens, and Wyler suffered some form of what we now call PTSD after their experiences. Stevens (understandably) never got over what he saw in the concentration camps. Ford and Wyler both suffered physical injuries and Wyler lost most of his hearing from exposure to the loud noise while filming in a P-47 Thunderbolt. This book was interesting, if dry in spots. There is much revealing about the personalities of these men with Capra and Ford coming off as the worst of the five for their arrogance and bigotry. 

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