Tuesday, August 6, 2013

From the Four Corners

TCM's Summer Under the Stars dedicates 24 hours each day to the films of one paricular star. Well, more or less. They're still running shorts to fill out the time, and those shorts don't have to star whoever is being honored in Summer Under the Stars. Case in point is From the Four Corners. It's airing this evening at about 7:40 PM, or just after Joan Fontaine's Suspicion (starts at 6:00 PM) and just before Rebecca (starts at 8:00 PM).

There's no plot here. Three soldiers from various far-flung parts of what is now known as the British Commonwealth -- one each from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand -- are on leave in London, where they all meet on a street corner together. These are actually real soldiers; the short was produced by the British Ministry of Information. And who did the Ministry have show up to oh-so-coincidentally meet these three soldiers? Why, Leslie Howard of course, since he was working tirelessly for the war effort. Howard than proceeds to show these soldiers some of London's cultural landmarks, and tells them about what it is they're fighting for.

After all, the soldiers aren't fighting for the UK. Or, at least, that's what the British government was at great pains to let people know. It's a theme that was discussed as well in 49th Parallel. In Canada, whether to have a draft was a very controversial subject, especially among the French-Canadians, many of whom already felt like second-class citizens. The memories of World War I, when there had been a political crisis, would also have been fresh in people's minds. So the soldiers coming "from the four corners" weren't fighting for Britain. They were fighting for the ideas of liberty and self-determination that Britain and its cultural descendants in America had spread around the world.

I don't know what the effect was on the viewers of the day; I'm not even certain whether this was intended for people serving in uniform, or the civilians back home. Howard, though, is quite good at what he does, and the historical value of this short make it worth watching.

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