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Subject: War Movies: August 2017 rss

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Scott Gillispie
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For previous months: War Movies Monthly Discussion - Subscription Geeklist

Back after a month off (due to my travel) - here are four war movie picks from the August Turner Classic Movies schedule.

Feel free to add comments on these or any other war movies you've seen recently.

(times are US Eastern)

Aug 5. 6 am: Pilot #5 (1943): Franchot Tone is a pilot on a suicide mission. Gene Kelly and Van Johnson in supporting roles. Also known as Destination Tokyo, but not the famous one.

Aug 18, 2 pm: Seven Seas to Calais (1962) Rod Taylor as Sir Francis Drake. Filmed in Italy; an early appearance by noted spaghetti Western star Terence Hill (aka Mario Girotti).

Aug 25, 10am: Against the Wind (1948) British spies on a sabotage mission in occupied Belgium. Starring Robert Beatty and Simone Signoret.

Aug 26/27, 2:15 am: The Gallant Hours (1960); James Cagney as Adm Halsey; Cagney’s next to last film before his twenty year retirement.
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Bill Eldard
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scottgillispie wrote:
Aug 5. 6 am: Pilot #5 (1943): Franchot Tone is a pilot on a suicide mission. Gene Kelly and Van Johnson in supporting roles. Also known as Destination Tokyo, but not the famous one.

This is a must see for fans -- like myself -- of war films made during WW2. Nothing particularly special about it, but I always like studying how Hollywood scripts dealt with the war when news from the front wasn't good for the Allies. A lot of flashbacks reinforcing American life and values. Typical propaganda-laden dialogue. Good stuff!

Here's the trailer . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0FPbqcN7EM

scottgillispie wrote:
Aug 26/27, 2:15 am: The Gallant Hours (1960); James Cagney as Adm Halsey; Cagney’s next to last film before his twenty year retirement.

Don't expect a lot of action in this one. It's a docudrama, covering Halsey's tenure from the point that he relieved Ghormley in OCT '42 to the crucial naval battle in NOV '42, and throws in the shooting down of Yamamoto (with which the film takes liberties with historical time, since Yamamoto was killed in APR '43). A very somber, even reverent soundtrack, and narrated by director Robert Montgomery -- Hollywood leading man, WW2 naval officer, director, and father of Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched. Also in the cast is Dennis Weaver, who was a USN Corsair pilot in WW2.

Here's a sample: http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/314547/Gallant-Hours-The-...

As you can see, they've got some minor issues with authenticity (i.e., the Marines are carrying M-1 Garand rifles), but the movie does take a look at the war through the eyes of Halsey, who was instrumental in ensuring that Vandergrift's Marines and soldiers got the naval support necessary to secure their position.
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"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
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Watched the classic Gunga Din several times while preparing a Battle Cry scenario depicting the epic combat sequences.




Learned quite a bit about the filming of these magnificent battle scenes! There were approximately 1500 extras plus the horses and elephants. The action was carefully rehearsed at a walking pace and then shot at full speed. Almost everything was planned (like a real battle) and assistants concealed behind large boulders were connected to the director's "headquarters" by field telephone. A team of wranglers swept aside runaway horses frightened by the noise, dust, and smoke. The film might have been even more epic; when the movie started falling behind schedule and over budget the producers ordered a cease fire.
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Christina Kahrl
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I've hiked around the Alabama Hills in the Owens Valley, where Gunga Din was filmed. Sort of fun to recognize the scenery I'd grown up seeing in black and white.
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Ron A
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pete belli wrote:
Watched the classic Gunga Din several times while preparing a Battle Cry scenario depicting the epic combat sequences.






Oh man, now I have to print this picture out and try to find the exact spot next time I'm up there.
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Bill Eldard
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pete belli wrote:
Watched the classic Gunga Din several times while preparing a Battle Cry scenario depicting the epic combat sequences. . . .

Still one of my favorite movies. It was released at the end of the Thirties and followed a number of Victorian-theme military pictures sparked by the success of Lives of a Bengal Lancer, and including Wee Willie Winkie, and Charge of the Light Brigade. The last film is remarkable in that most of it is set on the Northwest Frontier despite the fact that the British units that fought in the Crimean War came from England.

In all these American films, British soldiers are portrayed as gallantly serving in savage lands as the barrier between civilization and barbarism. Perhaps Hollywood saw them as British "Westerns." Ironically, British society was undergoing a period of national angst and self-doubt compounded by the global depression. While Hollywood glorified Britain's past, many Britons were convinced that Britain was past its zenith and in rapid decline.
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Bill Eldard
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DiamondSylph wrote:
I've hiked around the Alabama Hills in the Owens Valley, where Gunga Din was filmed. Sort of fun to recognize the scenery I'd grown up seeing in black and white.

I seem to recall reading that when the film was released in 1939, there were people who claimed that they recognized the locale in NW India/Afghanistan that it was filmed in, and some even refused to accept the truth when told it was actually filmed in the US. I guess the guy who picked the shooting location got it right.
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Shaun Morris
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Just recently watched John Wayne's "The Green Berets". I never realized before how large a chunk of the primary characters get killed.

Sgt. Petersen, Cpt. Coleman, Sgt. Provo, Capt. Nim (who I never realized is played by a young George Takei), and Lt. Sachs all get killed.

It's a surprisingly dark movie for John Wayne. Released in 1968, it was critically panned. I think largely, it's critical failure (it was a financial success) was due to it being a pro-Vietnam War movie during a time when being pro-Vietnam War was about the most unpopular position you could take.

Personally, I really love this movie.
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Bill Eldard
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morris9597 wrote:
Just recently watched John Wayne's "The Green Berets". I never realized before how large a chunk of the primary characters get killed.

Sgt. Petersen, Cpt. Coleman, Sgt. Provo, Capt. Nim (who I never realized is played by a young George Takei), and Lt. Sachs all get killed.

It's a surprisingly dark movie for John Wayne. Released in 1968, it was critically panned. I think largely, it's critical failure (it was a financial success) was due to it being a pro-Vietnam War movie during a time when being pro-Vietnam War was about the most unpopular position you could take.

Personally, I really love this movie.

They apparently obtained the rights to the best-selling Robin Moore book in 1966, before popular support for the war dipped; in 1966, the recording that stayed at the top of the American pop charts longer than any other was Ballad of the Green Berets, written and performed by SSG Barry Sadler, US Special Forces. There was also a weekly newspaper comic strip titled Tales of the Green Beret, and I remember owning the Green Beret plastic model kit by Aurora. In the two years it took to get it to the screen, the subject was not as popular as it might have been, in no small part because 1968 was also the year of the Tet Offensive.

Wayne got a lot of cooperation from the US Army on this project. It was filmed at Fort Benning, Georgia, and used Army equipment and personnel (particularly as extras -- note that you never get a good look at the faces of the Viet Cong & NVA troops overrunning the camp, because they are American soldiers). The colonel that COL Kirby (Wayne) trap shoots with is the actual commander of the Army's Airborne School.

It has the feel of war films made during WW2, and that's probably why critics didn't like it (or anything else that Wayne acted or directed). One even described the situation and defense of the camp to the Duke's earlier Westerns, with the fort's garrison, the villagers as 'settlers' needing protection, and the 'cavalry' (MIKE Force) coming to the rescue. I would say that in dramatizing two of the episodes from the book, they might have done better with the NVA general snatch before the camp defense/battle story.

TRIVIA NOTES: There are two Japanese-American actors portraying South Vietnamese officers in the film. George Takei, as mentioned in an earlier post, played Captain Nim. The other was Jack Soo (born Goro Suzuki) as Colonel Cai. Both actors had been committed to relocation camps during World War 2. Takei is most known for his Star Trek character Mr. Sulu, and many will remember Soo as detective sergeant Nick Yemana in the Barney Miller sitcom. Soo had an extensive career in '60s/'70s movies and television, but also sang in nightclubs (He recorded "For Once In My Life" for Motown before Stevie Wonder did).

Also, the Navy Seabee lieutenant in the movie is John Wayne's son Patrick Wayne, who appeared in a number of Wayne films in the '60s. Aldo Ray -- who played the team's top sergeant -- served in the US Navy as a frogman from '44-'46, including duty with a UDT at Okinawa. Jim Hutton (SGT Peterson) served in the US Army, where he made Army training films before being assigned to special services (not to be confused with Special Forces) in Berlin.
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Bill Eldard
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As I type this I am watching Flying Tigers (1942) on cable for probably the 20th time -- there are a few similarities to Pilot No. 5. It's another classic made-during-WW2 film, with John Wayne as the stoic squadron leader, and stuffed with stereotypes, wartime themes, and of course, two guys contesting for the love of one girl. The biggest flaw in the movie is the portrayal of the Tigers -- officially the American Volunteer Group (AVG) -- as being in air combat with the Japanese over China/Burma long before Pearl Harbor, when in actuality, they didn't see their first combat until over two weeks later. However, the film remains as the most public and lasting tribute to the AVG when so much of WW2 history is fading in our rearview mirror.

I like Donald Ford's conclusion in Flying Tigers, his exhaustive history of the AVG from the origin of its concept to its absorption into the US Army Air Corps on 4 July, 1942. Ford wrote . . .

"When somebody asks, they oblige with the same stories that were told in the winter and spring of 1941-1942: that the Flying Tigers shot down 300 (or 600 or 1,000) Japanese planes, that they outfought the Mitsubishi Zero, that they stopped one Japanese army in the gorge of the Salween River and another in East China. (All wrong, save possibly the last. Operation Sei-go did indeed evaporate after the AVG reached Guilin.) What they do not say is that for a few months, half a century ago, in their incandescent youth, they were heroes to a nation that needed heroes as never before and never since.

"They fought magnificently in a losing battle, and their achievement is not at all diminished by the fact that they believed their accomplishments to be greater that they were.

"They were there. Mercenaries, gamblers, innocents, black-marketeers, romantics, war lovers -- they were there when the British empire was falling, and when America's future seemed nearly as bleak. 'Did you ever regret joining the AVG?' a reporter once asked R.T. Smith*. R.T. glanced off to the side, put his tongue in his cheek, and said: 'Only on those occasions when I was being shot at.' Yes. Frightened men in fallible machines, they fought against other men as frightened as themselves. All honor to them."


* - Smith was officially credited with 8.73 kills during his tenure with the AVG. When the AVG disbanded, he accepted a commission in the US Army Air Corps. The top ace was Robert Neale with 15.55 kills to his credit, followed by David Lee "Tex" Hill** with 11.25. Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington had 3.50. Nineteen AVG members were killed in action or air mishaps.

** - Tex Hill, who'd been a US Navy pilot aboard the USS Ranger before signing on with the AVG, accepted an Army commission as a major, and assumed command of the 75th Fighter Squadron. Ford writes, "He was a legend throughout the air force. A young army pilot, new to the theater, recalled his first combat briefing at Guilin. Expecting something on the order of The Target for Tonight, with jests, chalkboards, and weather reports, what he got was a tall, sunburned man who shambled into the briefing room and spoke three words: 'Y'all follow me.'" Hill would shoot down 5 more Japanese planes over China, and eventually command the 23rd Fighter Group -- the legacy unit of the AVG.
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Ronald EMCA LADD
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I watch Dunkirk (2017) at the drive inn theatre!
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