Saturday, May 26, 2012

It's Memorial Day weekend again

Memorial Day weekend means TCM showing a bunch of war- and military-themed movies. Those movies will be running for 48 hours starting at 6:00 AM Sunday. Everybody got into the war effort after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, with Hollywood being no different. Many of Hollywood's talent worked for the military making instructional movies for the soldiers. Some of this work is chronicled in The First Motion Picture Unit, which kicks off TCM's Memorial Day weekend tribute at 6:00 AM tomorrow.

Although the Motion Picture Units made instructional films, it looks as though none of those are on this year's schedule, which is a bit of a shame. I really wish TCM could show Resisting Enemy Interrogation again. The title is precisely what the movie is about, but it's actually fascinating because it shows, presumably accurately, how the Nazis are going to be clever in trying to split up American POWs and get them to divulge information unwittingly. Films like this were, as far as I'm aware, strictly for internal consumption, but they were preserved. Unfortunately, Resisting Enemy Interrogation doesn't seem to be available on any video format, and isn't even up on Youtube.

The Motion Picture Units also made promotional materials that were intended for civilians. An example of this is Winning Your Wings, which airs tomorrow morning at 6:25 AM. There's not much to it; it's more an infomercial-length film trying to get young men to join the Army Air Corps, this being the days before the Air Force was a separate branch of the military. The obvious interesting thing is that it stars James Stewart, who really did fight in the war (he's referred to here as Lt. James Stewart), remained in the reserves after the war ended, and ultimately retired as a Brigadier General. Also interesting is that there's a young Don DeFore, who would go on to act after the war even if he wasn't terribly famous (I think I've recommended him in It Happened on Fifth Avenue and not much else); that and the direction by John Huston.

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