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.
©2014 Mark Harris (P)2014 Recorded Books
Isn't the electronic world wonderful. I am 68 years old. Born in 1946, I grew up in the aftermath of WW II in a small rural community. Almost every one of the males over the age of 30 had participated in the war - yet they did not talk a lot about it or if they did discuss it the conversation was very superficial. I also did not have exposure to the prewar or even war movies produced by these five directors. Thus I enjoyed the opportunity to hear their stories and at the same time to view the documentaries produced for the war departments (You Tube) and the movies (YouTube or purchased/rented online), both before, during and after the war. I spent probably 75 hours over a several month period working my way through the book and the movies. It was a most enjoyable experience. I was particularly struck by the psychologic damage caused by war (highlighted in the unreleased Wilder film), most recently highlighted by the long-term studies of Vietnam veterans. I also enjoyed watching the color movies recently released from George Steven's personal collection (History Channel 2 over Memorial and D-day anniversary), but the impact on his health, both psychologic and physical, as he collected these images was sad.This was a good read, but to appreciate it fully you will have to do some work.
There were many. I did not realize John Ford was at the Battle of Midway.
Billy Wilder. What a story.
I very much enjoyed the bios of 5 of the most famous movie directors America produced. The vignettes about some of my favorite movies as well as period stars was tantalizing. Harris tells fascinating stories about WW2 through the lives of these extraordinary men. I really liked this book. The narrator was excellent as well.
If you like movies you'll like this book. Great discussions of how these various directors worked in the field or in Washington during the runup to WWII and during the war itself.
I would listen to this again only because I know I missed some information. I usually pick it up the second time around.
The liberation of the Nazi death camps
Accents of the subjects who were not known to be foreign born because they took Anglo sounding names.
A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
I wanted to REALLY like this book--a historical look at Hollywood's role in WWII, specifically with directors sent into the European and Pacific theatres to film the action for propaganda and training films. I enjoy this genre of writing as well as stories of Hollywood and WWII, so this book should have been perfect. In the end, it was just too much. It was so well researched and detailed that for this listener/reader I was overwhelmed with the detail and lost the larger story of how Hollywood directors supported the war. I think I would have enjoyed an abridged version of this book. The details of 20 hours of listening was a turn off.
The story of five famous directors -- Frank Capra, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler, and John Ford -- and their service during World War II.
The book contains a lot of interest facts. However by choosing to follow 5 directors simultaneously, the story telling felt fragmented. I had trouble keeping track of which director did what, when. Also since each director experienced different series of failure and success at different times and took away different lessons from the war, the story did not built up to any sense of suspense. Felt more like a text book than most historical non-fiction I read. A set of interesting facts presented by a good narrator, but oddly boring for the subject matter: Hollywood and WWII.
Gives a very clear picture of the impact of Hollywood during WWII & post WWII American mind set. Five of the greatest directors of all time. I predict this will be a major force in the history of film regarding WWII.
I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys film history or likes to read about World War II from different perspectives. The book could have easily been mediocre in the wrong hands. You come away knowing these people as distinct individuals.
It's reminiscent of Harris book Pictures at the Revolution in the way he gives deep background on characters to set you up for the story to come.
Like any good performance he interprets events that makes some moments more poignant that they might be otherwise. You can argue that Garman gave the reader a deeper understanding than a first time reader might get.
George Stevens witnessing German concentration camps in person and how that shaped the rest of his life is so moving I want to reads a book just about Stevens.
I wish Harris could churn these out at Stephen Ambrose rates because both of his books are modern classics in the film history genre.
This books combines my interests in the Second World War and American Cinema. It was interesting to see the political evolution of some of these directors, and the critiques of some of their well know films such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Meet John Doe are illuminating. There is a great deal of ink spilled over John Houston's San Pietro and Wyler's Best Years of Our Lives, and the impact these both had on cinema. The discussion of They Were Expendable was interesting. This book also gives a larger context to the Why We Fight series. I know plenty of those interested in historical reenactment who can get quite excited about source material such as Why We Fight, but it's good to know the full context of how those materials were actually used. Easy read.
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