Saturday, March 31, 2007

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

This weekend I've watched two 20-minute Technicolor shorts Warner Bros. made on behalf of the war effort in 1942. The first was SOLDIERS IN WHITE (subject link), about the Army Medical Corps, and the second was MEN OF THE SKY, about the Army Air Force.

These little films are a great time capsule from the early days of our involvement in World War II. They're fairly hokey, yet also extremely effective at stirring patriotic sentiment. They were designed to encourage Americans at a fearful time, and I'm sure they did their share for recruitment, too. Given that our country is at war today, I could perhaps relate to these movies more strongly than I might have a few years ago.

What struck me the most, though, given the P.C. times we live in, was how fearlessly these movies named and spoke against our enemies. These movies could not and would not be made today, when too many people are afraid of giving offense. You just know that today some timid P.C. types would claim that in insulting those who would kill us, we'd be driving them to hate us even more and inciting them to greater violence. After all, we currently live in such a nutty world that our enemies are even using our courts to sue for damages, claiming insult when they were called on their suspicious behavior!

Hollywood played a huge role during WWII, helping to keep morale up both on the homefront and at military bases around the world. (THE FILMS OF WORLD WAR II is a fine photo book on the subject.) Wouldn't it be wonderful if some enterprising filmmakers could produce something today designed to give our country a patriotic boost and encourage us as we fight the War on Terror? To an extent UNITED 93 fits that description, though it was designed as more of a straightforward documentary, which happens to stir patriotic feelings as a natural side effect, but we could certainly use more films to inspire and encourage us. I know there are many wonderful stories about our young men and women in the military, for starters.

Unfortunately, it seems most in today's Hollywood are more interested in dividing our country and criticizing conservatives and the war than in uniting our nation. Exhibit A: Sean Penn. Exhibit B: Rosie O'Donnell. And so it goes.

SOLDIERS IN WHITE can be seen as part of the "Warner Night at the Movies" on the DVD THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, which is part of the first volume of The Errol Flynn Signature Collection.

MEN OF THE SKY is on the ACROSS THE PACIFIC DVD in the The Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection, Volume 2.

Both shorts, incidentally, feature a very young Eleanor Parker, who looked gloriously beautiful in Technicolor. They were directed by B. Reeves Eason.


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