Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War

Penguin Pr. Mar. 2014. 512p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781594204302. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781594204302. FILM
OrangeReviewStarHarris (Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood) surpasses previous scholarship on the directors who are the focus here: Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens, and William Wyler. These Academy Award-winning directors were at the top of their careers when they volunteered for military duty in World War II. Several joined the Signal Corps and the Field Photo Unit; Wyler documented flying missions of the Memphis Belle. This is also a well-documented analysis of how Hollywood moguls (the majority being Jewish) and film celebrities became divided on the issue of prewar U.S. isolationism vs. interventionism. Accusations were thrown at Hollywood for either being in collusion with the Roosevelt administration or being anti-American and communist sympathizers. These directors were responsible for creating effective propaganda and training films for new recruits, as well as documenting the realities of a devastating war. Their work took them everywhere from the Aleutian Islands to the South Pacific. After the war, they brought their experiences back home, each being affected both personally and professionally. While Wyler and Huston found new pride in Hollywood and the country they loved so much, Stevens became painfully withdrawn from the world after having filmed the horrors of Dachau in preparing evidence for the Nuremberg trials.
VERDICT This well-researched book is essential for both film enthusiasts and World War II aficionados. [See Prepub Alert, 9/1/13.]All five directors are featured in individual titles as part of the University of Mississippi's "Conversations with Filmmakers: Interviews" series. Other books to consider: Thomas Doherty's Projections of War: Hollywood, American Culture, and World War II ([Film & Culture] Columbia Univ. 1993); Clayton Koppes & Gregory D. Black's Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics, Profits, and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies (Free Pr. 1987); Frank Capra's The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography (Macmillan. 1971; Da Capo. 1997); Joseph McBride's Searching for John Ford (Univ. of Mississippi. 2011); John Huston's An Open Book (Da Capo, 1994); Marilyn Ann Moss's Giant: George Stevens, a Life on Film (Univ. of Wisconsin. 2004); Gabriel Miller's William Wyler: The Life and Films of Hollywood's Most Celebrated Director ([Screen Classics] Univ. of Kentucky. 2013); Jan Herman's A Talent for Trouble: The Life of Hollywood's Most Acclaimed Director: William Wyler (Putnam. 1996).
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing