Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why We Fought

Tomorrow, December 7, is the anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. (Or, I suppose, if you live in the Animal House universe, the German bombing of Pearl Harbor.) So it's unsurprising that TCM will be running a bunch of war movies tomorrow. They're kicking things off at 6:00 AM with Prelude to War.

Prelude to War is the first part in a seven-part series called Why We Fight. The US, having been through World War I, was quite isolationist in the 1930s, not wanting to have to fight another European war. The perceived need to educate Americans on the importance of defeating the Nazis was seen by the British, who commissioned what eventually became the film 49th Parallel. Even once the Japanese attacked, the US government knew there were still going to be people not thrilled with having to go to war. So the government decided to engage in some domestic propaganda to explain to the reluctant soldiers why they were going off to fight.

Hollywood was part of the war effort, something I've mentioned before in conjunction with the short Winning Your Wings: several Hollywood stars who were drafted joined the Motion Picture Unit to make instructional films. Why We Fight is somewhat different in that regard, having been made directly by the War Department. It's still quite suitable for TCM, however, in that the series was mostly directed by Frank Capra, with Walter Huston providing the voiceover. Sure, it's propaganda, but it's also an interesting historical document.

As with all media produced by the US government, Why We Fight is by law in the public domain. It's made it to several DVD sets, although I don't know whether any of them are still in print.

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