La Vie est à nous
Against French Nazism, the Popular Front.
The U.S.S.R., Lenin, Stalin, Dimitrov, André Marty, Marcel Cachin, L’Humanité (“central organ of the Communist Party”).
You can’t tell the players without a program, voilà, a program.
Cf. Klein’s Grands soirs et petits matins.
Shirer, “the riots of the 6th of February led to two developments which further divided France: one, the rapid growth of the Croix de Feu on the Right, and, two, the rise of the Front Populaire on the Left. From that chilly winter day of 1934 on, the nation seemed irrevocably split in two.”
Time Out, “a film of its time, conceived in the shadow of Hitler.”
The Depression, “l’union de tous les paysans sans distinction d’opinions”. Vaillant-Couturier, Renaud Jean, Martha Desrumeaux, Marcel Gitton, Jacques Duclos, Thorez, “debout, les damnés de la terre...”
Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “Renoir pontificates on the dehumanization of the capitalist system.”
Carl Sandburg’s text to accompany pictures of a B-25 in production, “thousands on the way, an angel of death, death to those who mock at free people, death to those who tell the world they are out to wreck the American democratic system. Hundreds here, thousands, tens of thousands on the way... the strength of the people of the free world.”
The significance is tersely stated in Target for To-Night (dir. Harry Watt) and here dramatically developed by the First Motion Picture Unit as Army Air Forces Special Film Project 125 (Restricted), a true story, two in fact. The title character is played by William Holden, the girl back home is Kim Hunter.
’For God and Country’
The Chaplain Corps of the U.S. Army (TF 16-2037) in “this man’s war” on two fronts. The one about the priest, the rabbi and the minister (cf. Rossellini’s Paisà). Like Beachhead to Berlin, a letter home. Scratch a priest and find a Jew (scratch an Irish tenor, find a cantor or an Eddie Cantor). “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”
There are no atheists in foxholes, at least you find sporting gentlemen or the charitable. In July 1944 a 25-minute version was “made available to the general public” with the proviso that “no admission may be charged. However, voluntary offerings may be received to defray expenses connected with the showing of the film, Msgr. [Brig. Gen. William R.] Arnold [Chief of Chaplains] announced.”
A thing of beauty, Democrats in Vermont (priest and rabbi) go to New Guinea (cp. Donovan’s Reef, dir. John Ford), a Republican in Georgia (the Phi Beta Kappa minister, an Olympic boxer) goes to Sicily. The crew is entirely unbilled, the cast of Hollywood actors likewise.
With the Marines at Tarawa
Combat footage of the landing and battle. A straightforward record of an amphibious assault after much shelling, the tedious, painstaking, successful fight to unearth and dislodge hardened Jap cadres, suicidally bent.
Orders from Hap Arnold to Lt. Gable for the making of this film in England, “dealing particularly with the combat phase of aerial gunnery.” Eighth Air Force, a run-through of operations, daily life. A thousand plane raid.
Capt. Gable narrates.
Beachhead to Berlin
Life in England, continuous preparations, D-Day. Letter from a chaplain, “the great crusade of liberation is well begun.”
U.S. Coast Guard, Warner Brothers, Technicolor.
Fury in the Pacific
“Red is evening on Palau Island”... Combined operations on Peleliu and Angaur, for an airstrip guarded by Bloody Nose Ridge, an infestation of underground Japanese.
Punching, bombing, pounding, day after day, until a relative handful remaining surrender.
One item in the MacArthur strategy, cutting off troops on island chains.
The vehement and yet blasé viewpoint of a well-dressed and well-spoken gangster, “nor do I have big teeth and glasses,” on the war then reaching its culmination, a rather demented Churchill proposing to fight on from China if invaded.
The eminent danger of confusing Japan with its leadership, utilizing “captured Japanese film” of its troops alongside some of the most authentically beautiful footage ever taken.
The necessity of steeling oneself to the task, an informative plea from the War Finance Division of the U.S. Treasury Department. For discretion’s sake and to illustrate the point, an actor in makeup plays the role.
Cf. Dmytryk’s Behind the Rising Sun, Fuller’s House of Bamboo.
The Stilwell Road
The Burma Road for China on old silk routes, cut by Japan, connected by the Ledo Road, with the engineering difficulties and military campaigns involved, thus covering the war from 1942 to 1945.
Much of the footage also goes into Roy Boulting’s Burma Victory, the score includes Debussy’s Nocturnes.
The Story of Submarine Warfare in the Pacific
“Just visualize the spot we were in, December 7th, 1941. There wasn’t time to be bitter. It was up to us, the small ships. The big ones were out of the picture.”
Narrated by Gene Kelly.
“Divide and conquer” is the enemy’s word, up the middle of this Signal Corps production (Orientation Film No. 14) drives the Red Ball Express under fire (vd. Boetticher), from the wreck of Cherbourg Harbor to the Rhine.
By the author and leading player of Heisler’s The Negro Soldier, films well-remembered in Altman’s MASH and Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles.
A rapid and very illustrative view of the situation in 1950, closely mirrored in Young’s Inchon!.
The Conquest of Everest
The noblest record of the great achievement is that no camera was there to observe it, no motion-picture camera.
The rest, planning and preparations, trek to the foothills thousands of feet in elevation, base camp after base camp, is all in Technicolor film of the slow and steady progress up to heights where pilots wear oxygen masks, and so do the climbers.
The opulence and beauty of the expedition is in its preparedness and knowledge, still the penultimate reach is an unforeseen difficulty owing to altitude.
Two assault parties attempt the final climb, the first fails a mere five hundred feet short, and the comparison to Frend’s Scott of the Antarctic is very vivid, the second two days later finds a way.
Music by Arthur Benjamin, text (a remarkably clear-minded narration) by Louis MacNeice, cinematography by the expedition.