Five Came Back

Five Came Back

A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War

Book - 2014
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Entertainment columnist Mark Harris gives us the untold story of how Hollywood changed World War II, and how World War II changed Hollywood, through the prism of five film directors caught up in the war: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. It was the best of times and the worst of times for Hollywood before the war. The box office was booming, and the studios' control of talent and distribution was as airtight as could be hoped. But the industry's relationship with Washington was decidedly uneasy -- hearings and investigations into allegations of corruption and racketeering were multiplying, and hanging in the air was the insinuation that the business was too foreign, too Jewish, too un-American in its values and causes. Could an industry this powerful in shaping America's mind-set really be left in the hands of this crew? Following Pearl Harbor, Hollywood had the chance to prove its critics wrong and did so with vigor, turning its talents and its business over to the war effort to an unprecedented extent. No industry professionals played a bigger role in the war than America's most legendary directors: Ford, Wyler, Huston, Capra, and Stevens. Between them they were on the scene of almost every major moment of America's war, and in every branch of service -- Army, Navy, and Air Force; Atlantic and Pacific; from Midway to North Africa; from Normandy to the fall of Paris and the liberation of the Nazi death camps; to the shaping of the message out of Washington, D.C. As it did for so many others, World War II divided the lives of these men into before and after, to an extent that has not been adequately understood. In a larger sense -- even less well understood -- the war divided the history of Hollywood into before and after as well. Harris reckons with that transformation on a human level -- through five unforgettable lives -- and on the level of the industry and the country as a whole. Like these five men, Hollywood too, and indeed all of America, came back from the war having grown up more than a little.
Publisher: New York : The Penguin Press, 2014
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780143126836
Branch Call Number: 791.4302 HARRIS
Characteristics: 511 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: 5 came back


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JoePilla Jan 13, 2015

This is an admirable chronicle of the WW2 activities of five of the most famed Hollywood directors.
The issues of the value (and perils) of propaganda and the use of reenactment in documentary films are as timely today as during WW2. Harris expertly puts these five men's military experiences in context of the wider war, Hollywood history, and their careers and films. I learned quite a lot about men whose biographies and movies I thought I knew well.

ChristchurchLib May 12, 2014

"In his previous book, Pictures at a Revolution, author Mark Harris wrote about the 1967 nominees for Best Picture and how they reflected a changing culture. Here, he explores the stories of five big-name directors who joined the war effort in the 1940s; one documented the flights of the Memphis Belle, while another captured the liberations of Paris and Dachau. In discussing how their work in the armed services affected them personally and professionally, Harris also addresses the division in Hollywood between those who supported the U.S. joining the war and those who didn't." Popular Culture May 2014 newsletter


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