World War II at the Movies:
Alfred Day's attempt to face the disillusionment of war on a film set is similar to what society at the time was doing at the movie theaters. The massive movie hits of the 40s and 50s, like To Hell and Back, allowed moviegoers on both sides of the Atlantic to relive moments of the war, if they had been directly involved, or to understand the nature of war, if they were not.
Since war broke out in 1939, World War II has been a favorite topic with movie studios in the USA and UK, and no doubt in other allied nations, but the vision of the war has changed over the decades. In the 40s and 50s, while Europe and America were rebuilding, the movies were patriotic and laudatory of each nation's triumphs (while occasionally touching on the part played by the other allies). more recently, movies like Saving Private Ryan, while not abandoning this stance, added another component: contemplation of the senselessness of war.
Over time, World War II movies have offered the public ways to remember the halcyon days of American and British moral and military might when the good guys were always good and the bad guys were always bad but they have also forced viewers to recognize the tremendous human loss of war.
This article was originally published in January 2008, and has been updated for the
March 2009 paperback release.
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