Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Korean War

June 25 marks the anniversary of the start of the Korean War in 1950. There aren't nearly as many movies about the Korean War as there are about other wars, for any number fo reasons. It was not a particularly popular war, coming just a few years after the end of World War II, and being fought for reasons not particularly clear to Americans. On the other hand, Hollywood in the 1950s did not have as much of an ethos of making movies about the futility of war as filmmakers would starting with the much more unpopular Vietnam War. A whole generation of filmmakers trying to buck the Establishment came of age in the 1960s, making anti-war movies with Vietnam as a backdrop popular; unfortunately, these people seem to have become the New Establishment, and we have to have everything filtered through the lens of what happened in the 1960s. (If you don't believe me, think about how many pundits in the Washington chattering class talk about the Obamas channeling the Kennedys.)

Still, there are some interesting movies about the Korean War. Probably the most interesting is The Bridges at Toko-Ri, in which William Holden plays a fighter pilot who'd really rather not be back in combat in Korea. The movie also includes Grace Kelly playing his wife, and Mickey Rooney as the pilot of a rescue helicopter in what was a relatively rare dramatic performance for him. Rooney was obviously trying to get himself taken more seriously as an actor after all the time he spent at MGM, and he does a creditable job, even though his task in the movie is to provide its lighter moments.

William Holden also appeared in Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, which is nominally about the Korean War in that Holden's journalist gets called to report on the Korean War, being taken away from the half-Chinese lover he can never have (Jennifer Jones), because his estrnaged wife won't grant him a divorce. If you want a chick flick about war and revolution, this is the one for you.

Both movies are available on DVD.

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