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Ethnicity in WWII films.


slappy3500

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I always loved the way many of the WWII films(esp. those made during the war) showed the diversity of the U.S. in the military.There was always the Italian, the Jew and the Irish guy(usually these 3 were from NYC); there was the Mexican, & the Hick and the Native American. Always the "Kid" was a WASP. SOMETIMES there was an African American but not often. The one group NEVER shown was Asians...except as bloodthirsty, buck-toothed "Japs". This reflected American reality and the memory of a "buddie" from a different ethnic group may have helped the civil rights movement along in the 50's &60s. I'd like to think so.

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Yes, Slappy, WWII films were fairly diverse, with the exception of Asians ( more specifically, Japanese ). How many Middle Easterners are in today's movies, though? With the war in Iraq or without it I just don't think there are tons of Middle Eastern actors, and if so, not popular to be in many movies right now. On TV they are mostly ( not always ) hijackers, terrorists, wife beaters, American haters, so on. I don't know why, but that's just the way it seems to be.

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I agree most of Hollywood's war movies made in the 40's never show asians.But most films made about asians where played by actors that where anything but asian. Peter Lorre played Mr.Moto,Sidney Toler & Warner Oland played Charlie Chan,others -Paul Muni,Rex Harrison. I think even Brando.But when film makers/directors that where in the war came home they knew what is was like there to fight along side all ethnicities and made War films more realistic .Take Sam Fullers "The Steel Helmet" there is a scene in a Buddhist temple where a North Korean soldier asks a Asian/American why he is fighting along with the round eyes? Is this another reason why there is stereotyping? that we tend to believe what is in the movies and how they're depicted.

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far ranging topic, and along with your remarks about how the only Asian in WWII, was the enemy and never someone in an internment camp, I find films like "Tomorrow, the World" which have that almost now campy Hitler youth image, as done by Skip Homeier to be quite interesting.

 

He is so far out in that film, and reminds me of other characterizations of Hitler type youth in films, which are similar in their intensity.

 

Skip totally wears out Frederic March, Betty Field, and Agnes Moorehead with his histrionics, and don't get me wrong...I am a big fan of Skip, both as a kid and adult actor, and I love watching him pull out all the stops onscreen.

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Slappy, I understand the point you're making, but I can think of some exceptions to the idea that Asians are never portrayed positively in WWII era films. The Chinese and Filipinos were America's allies during that war, and recognized as victims of the Japanese even earlier than Americans were.

 

See Back to Bataan, So Proudly We Hail, and Stage Door Canteen for examples. And I vaguely recall a wartime documentary (one of Capra's?) about Japanese-Americans who fought in the European Theatre.

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As far as world war 2 films go, were made after Pearl Harbor. The Japanese-Americans were interned and those in the military already were re-assigned in most cases segrated). Hence, not often found in regular units. After being interned, these Japanese-American men were asked to inlist to fight while their families remained in "prisoned" behind barbedwire and machine guns. These men became the 442nd - the most decorated outfit in US history. "Go for Broke is a hollywood version of waht these men went through and accomplished.

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As far as African-Americans go during WWII they were mostly segregated into totally black units. While many of them served in combat with valor and bravery, many others found themselves, through no fault of their own, assigned behind the lines doing the dirtiest of jobs. From what I've read it was pretty unusual to find mixed races in combat together, and so this is reflected in most war films of that era. Even in one of the greatest war films "Battleground" I can only remember seeing one black soldier. He was in a non-speaking role in a crowd during the chaplin's Christmas service.

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