WWII in the Movies: Allied Powers - Thursdays in June
D-Day (June 6, 1944) marked the date on which more than 156,000 Allied troops of World War II invaded northern France to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, signaling the beginning of the end of Hitler's grip on Europe. TCM continues to pay respect to the armed forces of WWII and the 75th anniversary of D-Day with Never Surrender: WWII in the Movies, this month looking at the Allied Powers and some of the numerous movies made about their struggles and victories.
Our tribute includes many classic titles such as Battleground (1949), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), To Hell and Back (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Longest Day (1962), The Great Escape (1963) and A Bridge Too Far (1977). We're also screening a number of compelling if lesser-known films--some seldom seen or underrated. A selection of these are highlighted below and grouped by categories.
75th Anniversary of D-Day/War in Europe:
Attack (1956), directed by Robert Aldrich, is set in the later stages of WWII in Belgium, where a U.S. Army lieutenant (Jack Palance) seeks revenge against a captain (Eddie Albert) whose cowardice in combat has cost lives. Described by The New York Times as "a stark, disquieting picture," the movie won the 1956 Italian Film Critics Award.
The British film Overlord (1975), not seen in the U.S. until recent years, mixes documentary footage with staged action in telling its story of a sensitive young man who has forebodings of death as he enters the Army and trains for action on D-Day. Slant magazine calls the film "a masterpiece."
War in the Pacific:
Cry 'Havoc' (1943) is set in a besieged Bataan bomb shelter at the height of the Pacific campaign and focuses on the struggles of Army nurses and volunteers in harrowing circumstances. The primarily female cast features touching and entertaining performances from Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, Joan Blondell, Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, Ella Raines, Diana Lewis and others.
The British production The Purple Plain (1955) stars Gregory Peck as a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot serving in the Burma campaign in the closing months of the war and battling depression due to the loss of his wife. The movie earned four nominations at the British Academy Awards, including Best British Picture and Best Actor (costar Maurice Denham).
Behind Enemy Lines:
Eight Iron Men (1952) concerns an eight-man squad fighting in a small town on the Italian front. When one of their number is trapped in a foxhole, they must decide whether to attempt a rescue or abandon him as ordered. Lee Marvin plays the squad leader, and the cast also includes Bonar Colleano and Richard Kiley. Critic Steven H. Scheuer praised the "good character sketches" and "fine performances."
Bitter Victory (1957), a Franco-American production set in Benghazi during the Western Desert Campaign, tells of two British Army officers (Richard Burton and Curt Jurgens) who lead a dangerous commando mission behind enemy lines. Among their conflicts is the fact that Burton is the former lover of Jurgens' wife (Ruth Roman). The New Yorker film critic Richard Brody praised the film for its "vision of modern psychological and moral dislocation."
The Story of G.I. Joe (1945) is a salute to the American infantryman of WWII as viewed by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle (played in the film by Burgess Meredith). The focus is on C Company, 18th Infantry, which Pyle accompanied into combat in Tunisia and Italy. Robert Mitchum, as the unit's commanding officer, received his only Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called this one "the greatest war movie I have ever seen."
Hell to Eternity (1960) tells the story of real-life Marine hero Pfc. Guy Gabaldon (Jeffrey Hunter), a Los Angeles Hispanic man raised by a Japanese-American foster family, and his heroic actions during the Battle of Saipan in the Mariana Islands. David Janssen, Vic Damone, Sessue Hayakawa and Patricia Owens costar. The New York Times called Hunter's acting "the best of his career."
by Roger Fristoe