Five Came Back

A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War

By Mark Harris
(Penguin Press, Hardcover, 9781594204302, 511pp.)

Publication Date: February 27, 2014

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Description
The extraordinary wartime experience of five of Hollywood's most legendary directors, all of whom put their stamp on World War II and were changed forever by it
In "Pictures at a Revolution, "Mark Harris turned the story of the five movies nominated for Best Picture in 1967 into a landmark work of cultural history about the transformation of an art form and the larger social shift it signified. In "Five Came" "Back, "he gives us something even more remarkable: the untold story of how Hollywood changed World War II, and how World War II changed Hollywood, through the director's lens.
It is little remembered now, but in prewar America, Hollywood's relationship with Washington was decidedly tense.Investigations into corruption and racketeering were multiplying, and hanging in the air was the insinuation that the business was too foreign, too Jewish, too un-American in its values and causes. Could an industry with such a powerful influence on America's collective mindset really be left in the hands of this crew?
When war came, the propaganda effort to win the hearts and minds of American soldiers and civilians was absolutely vital. Nothing else had the power of film to educate and inspire.But the government was not remotely equipped to harness it so FDR and the military had little choice but to turn to Hollywood for help. In an unprecedented move, the whole business was farmed out to a handful of Hollywood's most acclaimed film directors, accompanied by a creative freedom over film-making in combat zones that no one had ever had before or would ever have again.
The effort was dominated by five directing legends: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. They were complicated, competitive men, gifted and flawed in equal measure, and they didn t always get along, with each other or with their military supervisors. But between them they were on the scene of almost every major moment of America's war and in every branch of service army, navy, and air force, Atlantic and Pacific; from Midway to North Africa; from Normandy to the fall of Paris and the liberation of the Nazi death camps. In the end, though none of them emerged unscarred, they produced a body of work that was essential to how Americans perceived the war, and still do.
The product of five years of original archival research, "Five Came Back" is an epic achievement, providing a revelatory new understanding of Hollywood's role in the war through the life and work of five men who chose to go, and who came back.



NPR
Monday, Mar 3, 2014

A new book looks at how the military and Hollywood directors teamed up during the war. The films they made helped show Americans what was at stake, and served as evidence during the Nuremberg Trials. More at NPR.org

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NPR
Saturday, Feb 22, 2014

The New Yorker contributor moved to Paris during the reconstruction after World War II, and focused her short stories on often-overlooked European experiences. Gallant died Tuesday. More at NPR.org

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NPR
Saturday, Feb 22, 2014

Mark Harris' new book takes a look at five American directors who made films for the War Department during World War II � and how those films changed both their work and American cinema. More at NPR.org

NPR Audio Player Requires Flash Upgrade: Please upgrade your plug-in to view this content.

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