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Doesn't anyone want to talk about World War I?


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If there was ever one point in time where you could draw a line and say, "That was before, this is after," World War I is it.  About everything in our lives today in any aspect of our civilization--economic, political, social, cultural, scientific--was affected by this monumental upheaval.  And not in subtle ways, but profoundly.  The war is still claiming lives (it takes a long time for wars to end),  The events throughout the Arab world are a result of the political arrangements made by the Allied powers.  And of course, while it may not have been a mere continuation of the conflict, World War II was definitely a consequence of the conditions created by the end of the first war.

 

TCM is attempting to recognize the importance of World War I this month in its Friday Night Spotlight.  But I do wish it did something more in-depth, as when they examined race, or homosexuality in film, with Robert Osborne speaking with someone (or maybe a number of people) through the month about the films being presented.

 

Anyway, tomorrow has a full day of films about the war, some of the best ever made.  But I would like to draw people's attention to a number of films that, while not on the epic scale of the best, are worth watching.

 

First, there's The Spy in Black.  Anything directed by Michael Powell is sure to be entertaining.  It's a thriller with Conrad Veidt, and Valerie Hobson.  Lots of intrigue, murder, suspense, plot twists, and action.

 

Then there's Hell Below.  Don't know anything about it, but it has Robert Montgomery, Walter Houston, and Madge Evans.  How can you go wrong with that?

 

Next up is Flight Commander, the earlier version of Dawn Patrol.  I know people have said they prefer the Flynn/Niven movie, but gosh darn it, I like Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (and Howard Hawks is no slouch).

 

After (hm, this line-up is looking pretty good) we have Ace of Aces.  Richard Dix.  The Man.

 

Then a rare, once every three- or four-year appearance of Waterloo Bridge.  No, not the distilled and filtered MGM thing, but the 1931 James Whale version with Mae Clarke and Kent Douglass.  No ballerina tragically forced into--you know, and and committing suicide, á la Anna Karenina, but a straight-up, honest-to-goodness prostitute loved by a soldier--who just happens to be the son of a British noble.  Miss Clarke's best role.  

 

Can it get any better?  Maybe not, but it can stay just as good, with Suzy, starring Jean Harlow, Franchot Tone, and Cary Grant.  Never seen it.  Looking forward to it.

 

Finally, at the other end of the day, there are two German movies of worth.  Westfront 1918 is a lot like All Quiet on the Western Front.  In some ways it's better, in others, not as good.  But I saw it so long ago, I can't say how.  Kameradschaft is a post-war movie about Germans and French coming together over a mining disaster.  It's a good movie, designed to contend against the lingering bitterness over the war--especially in the Alsace region.  Wishful thinking.

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If there was ever one point in time where you could draw a line and say, "That was before, this is after," World War I is it.  About everything in our lives today in any aspect of our civilization--economic, political, social, cultural, scientific--was affected by this monumental upheaval.  And not in subtle ways, but profoundly.  The war is still claiming lives (it takes a long time for wars to end),  The events throughout the Arab world are a result of the political arrangements made by the Allied powers.  And of course, while it may not have been a mere continuation of the conflict, World War II was definitely a consequence of the conditions created by the end of the first war.

 

TCM is attempting to recognize the importance of World War I this month in its Friday Night Spotlight.  But I do wish it did something more in-depth, as when they examined race, or homosexuality in film, with Robert Osborne speaking with someone (or maybe a number of people) through the month about the films being presented.

 

Anyway, tomorrow has a full day of films about the war, some of the best ever made.  But I would like to draw people's attention to a number of films that, while not on the epic scale of the best, are worth watching.

 

First, there's The Spy in Black.  Anything directed by Michael Powell is sure to be entertaining.  It's a thriller with Conrad Veidt, and Valerie Hobson.  Lots of intrigue, murder, suspense, plot twists, and action.

 

Then there's Hell Below.  Don't know anything about it, but it has Robert Montgomery, Walter Houston, and Madge Evans.  How can you go wrong with that?

 

Next up is Flight Commander, the earlier version of Dawn Patrol.  I know people have said they prefer the Flynn/Niven movie, but gosh darn it, I like Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (and Howard Hawks is no slouch).

 

After (hm, this line-up is looking pretty good) we have Ace of Aces.  Richard Dix.  The Man.

 

Then a rare, once every three- or four-year appearance of Waterloo Bridge.  No, not the distilled and filtered MGM thing, but the 1931 James Whale version with Mae Clarke and Kent Douglass.  No ballerina tragically forced into--you know, and and committing suicide, á la Anna Karenina, but a straight-up, honest-to-goodness prostitute loved by a soldier--who just happens to be the son of a British noble.  Miss Clarke's best role.  

 

Can it get any better?  Maybe not, but it can stay just as good, with Suzy, starring Jean Harlow, Franchot Tone, and Cary Grant.  Never seen it.  Looking forward to it.

 

Finally, at the other end of the day, there are two German movies of worth.  Westfront 1918 is a lot like All Quiet on the Western Front.  In some ways it's better, in others, not as good.  But I saw it so long ago, I can't say how.  Kameradschaft is a post-war movie about Germans and French coming together over a mining disaster.  It's a good movie, designed to contend against the lingering bitterness over the war--especially in the Alsace region.  Wishful thinking.

WW I has been virtually forgotten in the WW II stampede. A bad analogy would be Hank Ballard's version of "The Twist" being forgotten in the wake of Chubby Checker's version.

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Well, I WAS going to reply to your very well written and observed first post here slayton, but then I realized you pretty much said what I would have in it.

 

(...and so you didn't leave me much room here!) ;)

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Well, I WAS going to reply to your very well written and observed first post here slayton, but then I realized you pretty much said what I would have in it.

 

(...and so you didn't leave me much room here!) ;)

Dang.  Well, I guess great minds think alike.

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A couple of the films I'm most looking forward to are coming on July 25th. King of Hearts (1966), and Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). Today I'm most interested to see Westfront 1918 (1930) and Kameradschaft (1931), and next week: Grand Illusion (1937)!

 

I'm glad to see that, even though the tributes are 24 hours long, TCM found many interesting films to show that would not be considered "war" films. There's a lot of variety (and rarity) in this spotlight.

 

Incidentally, there is a thread for this topic in the TCM Programs > Friday Night Spotlight sub-forum, but it hasn't got a whole lot of replies.

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Dang.  Well, I guess great minds think alike.

 

Yeah, that works for me too! ;)

 

Though I might add that I thought your words about the Middle East being in "the fix" it is in today because of the great western powers' postwar political maneuverings was especially well observed, and thus the reason I've always found that particular aspect of the often shown "Lawrence of Arabia" the most intriguing part of that film.

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Yeah, that works for me too! ;)

 

Though I might add that I thought your words about the Middle East being in "the fix" it is in today because of the great western powers' postwar political maneuverings was especially well observed, and thus the reason I've always found that particular aspect of the often shown "Lawrence of Arabia" the most intriguing part of that film.

 

The Smithsonian,  July 2014, has an article;  Lawrence's Arabia and the focus is on his daring raids in WWI with how that war impacted the current Middle East today.    Very interestings.     The article does have relate what actually happened to what occurs in the movie.   e.g.  the taking of Aqaba.    Instead of what we see in the movie,  Lawrence and his rebel army found the Turks around 40 miles north of the city.    Here the rebel army, of around 1,000 men,  massacred the 550 or so Turks.     Lawrence and his force was than able to take Aqaba with the Turks surrendering after barely firing a shot.     

 

Also in the same edition is an article called Over the Rainbow about the Wizard of Oz script.    So lots here for us movie fans.     

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A few weeks ago in London, I saw a production of Sean O'Casey's World War I play, The Silver Tassie. Wonderful production of a heartbreaking play. Here's a clip:

 

 

 

As for film, guess which great film gives us these perceptive words: 

 

"All right, Miss Bryant, do you want an interview? Write this down. Are you naïve enough to think containing German militarism has anything to do with this war? Don’t you understand that England and France own the world economy and Germany just wants a piece of it? Keep writing, Miss Bryant. Miss Bryant, can’t you grasp that J. P. Morgan has loaned England and France a billion dollars? And if Germany wins, he won’t get it back! More coffee? America’d be entering the war to protect J. P. Morgan’s money."

 

But for all the great films, plays, songs, etc., there is one work that stands above all others, in my opinion, in expressing the horrors of that probably unnecessary and horrific war: Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce et Decorem Est." The title refers to a quote from Horace: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori:" "It is sweet and right to die for your country," a quote which, spoken by at the start of WWI, sent many to horrible deaths: 

 

 

DULCE ET DECORUM EST

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs 
And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, 
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, 
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . . 
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud  
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.

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I agree with your opening comment about how WW1 is one of the pivotal moments in recent history. It has left a lasting mark on not just our own country, but nations around the world even after 100 years now. I am certainly no expert.. but I do enjoy hearing the stories and watching the documentaries, as well as the films on this topic. Entire societies were forever changed as a result of the war and its outcome (and technology was never the same as well) It was a fascinating time to be sure. 

 

There are several really good films depicting WW1 and the effects it had either on individuals (or  on the world, in general) Personal favorites for me would include Four Sons, Wings, Sergeant York, and a recent film that I truly enjoyed, War Horse.

 

I am sure that there are some films (among these.. or others that might be mentioned) that are more historically accurate than others.. and I imagine there are some that are better-liked by some of us than others, but  hey, that is the nice part about movies.. .we all get to choose for ourselves what we do and don't like, ha.   :)

 

If you are ever in Kansas City, I highly recommend the National WW1 Museum. My family and I were there recently (this past Spring) and we really enjoyed it a lot. One of the things I REALLY was intrigued by was the time lines they had posted everywhere in different places throughout the museum. The entire war was one big "domino effect" in that one thing led to another, which led to another, etc, etc. It's really well laid out that way in the museum.

 

Here is a picture of one of the displays that I found particularly well constructed. It pretty much says it all (as far as when each of the different "main events" all happened.  And you can see how it really is like a 'chain reaction' especially when you look at the other displays there and see who was aligned with who just before and during the war.

 

(ha.. I took the picture so my daughter could have it. She was studying WW1 in her history book at that time so I thought she might like to keep it handy) 

 

034_zpsb6e6e506.jpg

 

Kyle In Hollywood started  an excellent poster thread several years ago in honor of the Memorial Day holiday (and in honor of a TCM special that was being shown at that time that featured films about WW1 and included inteviews with the director of the museum in KC.)  

 

I posted some more photos of the museum and made some more comments about it in that thread back during the Mem Day holiday this past May, both as a tribute to Kyle and in honor of that thread's origins. It really is worth checking out (ha.. the thread... not necessarily my posts) because of all the effort he put into the themes he chose for each Memorial Day. After the first year, it became a bit of a tradition for him to revive the thread and so it went on for several years and as a result, it is FILLED with some truly wonderful posters (from WW1 and WW2) . The WW1 posters in particular are really something special.. in fact the entire thread is a very worthwhile glance at how "propaganda" was used to promote various themes all throughout the world. (not just here at home) during both World Wars. 

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Thanks for your comments rohanaka.  I don't get out of San Diego much, let alone California, so I'm not sure I'll be seeing the museum, but I'll keep it in mind.

 

And thanks for the poem Swithin.  I think it brings up something about the war that was also an important result, and that is the introduction of disillusionment into Western culture (and maybe others).  Nihilistic thinking had entered philosophy and art previously, but it was something that existed among the intelligentsia and academics.  The horrors of the war introduced bleak disillusionment and alienation among all the classes.  There were a lot of events in Western history that supposedly marked a transition from one period of relative innocence, or naiveté to one of wider sophistication, the older beliefs giving way to more worldly regimes--the dark ages to the middle ages, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution.  But all of modern history from the end of the ancient world was really one continuous Age of Faith, or Belief.  Until the First World War.  It sounded the true death knell of Faith in the West.  The history of society and culture since then has been the attempt to cope with that dreadful loss.

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And thanks for the poem Swithin.  I think it brings up something about the war that was also an important result, and that is the introduction of disillusionment into Western culture (and maybe others).  Nihilistic thinking had entered philosophy and art previously, but it was something that existed among the intelligentsia and academics.  The horrors of the war introduced bleak disillusionment and alienation among all the classes.  There were a lot of events in Western history that supposedly marked a transition from one period of relative innocence, or naiveté to one of wider sophistication, the older beliefs giving way to more worldly regimes--the dark ages to the middle ages, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution.  But all of modern history from the end of the ancient world was really one continuous Age of Faith, or Belief.  Until the First World War.  It sounded the true death knell of Faith in the West.  The history of society and culture since then has been the attempt to cope with that dreadful loss.

Wilfred Owen's poetry was also an important antidote to the poetry of Rupert Brooke, who romanticized the war. Owen's personal experience was tragic. He -- like his friend Siegfried Sassoon -- was totally opposed to the war but went to fight, dying a week before the armistice was declared.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_Owen

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Hi Obrienmundy,

 

The idea of defending your women seems to have a strong appeal in wartime, and has been often used for enlistment and propaganda purposes by all nations. I've also observed that many women turn very hawkish in wartime, goading their men to serve and challenging them with questions like: "Why aren't you in uniform?!". Women of all countries have been known to do this.

 

I've always felt that there is a close relationship between sex and war. Gender roles get bent or reversed, lot of marriages take place, lot of quickie liaisons and a lot of babies get born. Men lose their inhibition against proposing marriage, and women lose their inhibition against quickie" hookups". I'm by no means the first to have noted this!

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Hi Obrienmundy,

 

The idea of defending your women seems to have a strong appeal in wartime, and has been often used for enlistment and propaganda purposes by all nations. I've also observed that many women turn very hawkish in wartime, goading their men to serve and challenging them with questions like: "Why aren't you in uniform?!". Women of all countries have been known to do this.

 

I've always felt that there is a close relationship between sex and war. Gender roles get bent or reversed, lot of marriages take place, lot of quickie liaisons and a lot of babies get born. Men lose their inhibition against proposing marriage, and women lose their inhibition against quickie" hookups". I'm by no means the first to have noted this!

 

Yep. In fact, one of the scenes early on in THE BIG PARADE shows John Gilbert's American girlfriend saying to him after hearing the U.S. had declared war on Germany, "Isn't this exciting?! You'll look so handsome in an officer's uniform!"

 

And then of course you have Virginia Mayo saying to Dana Andrews after the next war and when she sees him in civilian clothes for the first time saying something to the effect of him "not looking like himself".

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Yep. In fact, one of the scenes early on in THE BIG PARADE shows John Gilbert's American girlfriend saying to him after hearing the U.S. had declared war on Germany, "Isn't this exciting?! You'll look so handsome in an officer's uniform!"

 

And then of course you have Virginia Mayo saying to Dana Andrews after the next war and when she sees him in civilian clothes for the first time saying something to the effect of him "not looking like himself".

And finally you have Ralph Kramden saying to Alice, "You don't love me. You've never loved me. You know why you married me?  Because you were in love with my uniform."

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And finally you have Ralph Kramden saying to Alice, "You don't love me. You've never loved me. You know why you married me?  Because you were in love with my uniform."

 

You didn't finish the quote, Rich!

 

(...I think it ends with somethin' about "a trip to the moon")

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A perhaps forgotten aspect of World War I was that the upper and upper middle classes are said to have died disproportionately, since in those days they had this honour and army tradition thing going on. In some cases, whole villages lost their young men. There is a sad, beautiful song, "Dancing at Whitsun," written about the old ladies who were seen to dance around the maypole in later years, because all the young men in the village died in World War I. Here are two versus, plus the whole song:

 

The feet that were nimble tread carefully now,
As gentle a measure as age will allow,
Through groves of white blossoms, by fields of young corn,
Where once she was pledged to her true-love.

The fields they stand empty, the hedges grow free--
No young men to turn them or pastures go seed
They are gone where the forest of oak trees before
Have gone, to be wasted in battle.

 

 

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No doubt some intellectuals felt a sense of despair and disillusionment

after World War One, but I don't think that feeling extended to the

ordinary citizen, at least in the U.S. Following close on the heels of

WW I were the Roaring Twenties, which wasn't exactly a period of

despair or alienation. And faith remained, maybe faith in different

things, such as technological advances, but faith nonetheless.

Ever hear of The Lost Generation?  There were many films that addressed that topic.  Heroes For Sale, and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang are two of the best.  This happened not only in the U. S., but all through Europe, and perhaps in other parts of the world. As for the death of Faith, I refer to the Judeo-Christian paradigm of the universe and how it shaped social structure.  It's no coincidence that the aristocratic tradition was finally demolished at this time.  It went along with the hierarchical/dictatorial themes in Semitic religions.

 

Hey, how about German war posters?

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