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Five Came Back, Mark Harris


A thorough and well-researched book on the eyes of WWII through the lens of five of Hollywood's most famous directors, who entered the war in middle age, and found themselves with a new world to conquer. The war would reshape Hollywood from the top down, just as it reshaped the rest of America. The war marked the govt’s first attempt at a sustained program of filmed propaganda, and its use of Hollywood filmmakers to explain its objectives, tout its success, and shape the war as a narrative for both civilians and soldiers… a radical experiment. But by the time they came home, the idea the directors once held that war would be an adventure was a distant memory of their guideless incomprehension. They returned to Hollywood changed forever as men and filmmakers, and the movies they directed leading up to all their deaths exhibited that. For instance, the 2 filmmakers to supervise the creation of a filmed record of D-day…John Ford, who loved to tell war stories, didn’t talk about D-day for twenty years. Stevens, a prolific journal keeper, fell silent leaving 3 weeks blank in his diary. Capra said himself, “None of us were the same after the war…” How could you not be. If you are a fan of old movies and prominent directors, as I am, a vast and interesting look at how the war changed the lives of these five men both personally and behind the lens, forever.


©2020 by Sean Burch