Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pacifists at war

Tonight's TCM lineup of war movies deals with an interesting topic: what happens when war hits people who would rather night fight. It's a bit of a surprise to think that there were enough movies made on the topic to have an entire night of classic films on TCM, but indeed there are. This week's TCM Essential, kicking the night off at 8:00 PM, is Friendly Persuasion, subject of a February 2012 blog post. In that case, the pacifists are Quakers, who by religion are opposed to war. A Quaker played by Alan Ladd(!) goes on to become a military hero in The Deep Six, airing overnight at 2:30 AM. This one doesn't seem to be in print on DVD, and frankly, it's a title I don't know much about.

A more famous guy who claimed conscientious objector status is Sergeant York, whose story is on at 10:30 PM. To be honest, I got the impression watching the movie that Alvin York (played by Gary Cooper) was really more looking for any way to stay out of World War I, which is certainly understandable, but his pangs of conscience certainly seemed convenient. At any rate, Cooper does quite a good job as Alvin York.

The other two movies are very interesting in that the pacifists don't actually wind up fihgting. First is Men Must Fight at 1:00 AM. In this one, the pacifist is a mother played by Diana Wynyard, who the same year this film was made (1933) also did Cavalcade. Set several years in the future, in 1940, Wynyard's character is a widow who lost her husband in the Great War; she doesn't want to lose her son in the coming war. What's interesting, of course, is that the movie was released in 1933. It's fairly prescient to see people guessing there was going to be a big war a few short years later. The movie also posits the future presence of television as a mass communications technology.

Last up is Foreign Correspondent at 4:30 AM, in which Laraine Day plays the pacifist, a "well-meaning amateur" whose father is the head of a peace group that, unbeknownst to her, is actually a front for the bad guys, who aren't called Nazis here. When I blogged about this back in November 2008, I mentioned that it's avaiable on DVD, but the DVDs must be out of print, as the TCM shop doesn't have it available for purchase.

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