Monday, November 11, 2013

"Veterans'" Day

Today being November 11, it's the public Veterans' Day holiday here in the US. Amazingly, TCM isn't showing any war movies, at least not by design, but instead a birthday salute to Robert Ryan, something that pleases me to no end. I wonder how many people are going to complain about TCM's not honoring the holiday. As for me, a couple of years ago on Veterans' Day I mentioned on another board how my father had 18 months taken out of his life by Uncle Sam, which he spent at White Sands Missile Range in Nex Mexico keeping the missiles from falling into the hands of the Ernst Stavro Blofelds of the world. It's true, excepting the Blofeld part; before Dad married Mom he was drafted and had to take all that time out of his life. Unsurprisingly, the people who deify military service weren't happy about my comments. So let's just say that I wouldn't mind seeing TCM run a day of Elvis movies on November 11 to honor people who were forced into service courtesy of the peacetime draft.

Even in America, the holiday was originally conceived to mark the end of World War I, being called Armistice Day. But after World War II, the "Great War" was, I think, largely stuck into one of those "we'd rather not talk about it much" closets. WWI was a mess, while in the US, WWII is the obviously virtuous war that we were only forced into by those people who attacked us. And for Hollywood, it was easy to make heroic movies about WWII, much more so than WWI. Vietnam changed all of this, but that's another story.

Even so, there were quite a few good World War I movies made in the years before 1939. People who are bigger fans of silent films than I am talk about how The Big Parade is one of the best silents ever. It's praise I'd find a bit too high, but it is a very good movie. There's also Wings, and then when you get into the sound era, pictures like All Quiet on the Western Front.

After World War II ended, however, thate haven't been too many movies about the first one made. The best Hollywood example I can think of would be Paths of Glory, which is of course an extremely anti-war movie, probably even more so than earlier World War I films like All Quiet on the Western Front or the French Grand Illusion. Elsehwere in the world, there's Peter Weir's Gallipoli, which I'll admit I haven't seen. (War movies, like westerns and musicals, aren't my favorite genre.) Looking through IMDb's list of films with "World War I" as a keyword, there are a lot listed, although the war isn't the main point of the movie in a lot of the cases, even with films made before World War II. People fight in the war in Cavalcade, for example, but that's not really the point of the film.

What's your favorite movie about World War I made after World War II?


Tom said...

Sargeant York

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

A worthy movie, and one I should probably blog about sometime.

It's actually the sort of movie that got Hollywood into trouble in the year or two before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: some of the isolationists in Washington felt that Hollywood was propagandizing against one side (the Nazis, obviously) to try to make the case for entering the new world war. I'd think that movies arguing the virtue of World War I would be a bit of a problem for them.

Sergeant York, however, wasn't actually released until after the Senate committee got underway; they were even more troubled by films like Confessions of a Nazi Spy and The Mortal Storm.