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.
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.
yes... its not a subject many know about but is a big part of our history
extremely well researched
I think so, he is a good reader
some of the surprises about just how our WW2 newsreel films were staged as if it was actual film
a long book but held my attention
Perry Martin is an American Audio Book Reviewer. I listen to 3-4 books a week as a long haul truck driver. I review so you don't have to.
Five Came Back - A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War written by Mark Harris and narrated by Andrew Garman is available at Amazon and Audible.com.
This Audiobook is 20 hours of great insight and history of film during WWII. It chronicles the lives of five directors who left Hollywood at the height of their careers to join the military. They documented the war on film as well as made training videos and propaganda films.
The insight that these men had as well as the studios who hedged their bets against both sides of the war is an incredible look at business during wartime as well as sacrifice made.
You know the films, now look behind them to see the psychological impact war had on their creators and how it affected their filmmaking. If you like film of war history this book will grab your interest. Also many of the war films they speak of in this book are available to view on YouTube. This is a great audiobook that grabs the listeners attention and takes them behind the camera during WWII.
I purchased this book for my own pleasure.
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.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
If you're a classic film buff or WWII history buff, Five Came Back is manna from heaven. If, like me, you're both, forget the manna, this is just pure heaven. Five of the greatest directors of the mid-20th century -- Frank Capra, John Ford, William Wyler, George Stevens, John Huston -- left Hollywood to join the army and navy and contribute their particular talents to the war effort, commissioned to make propaganda, training, newsreel and documentary films for the armed services.
The directors' stories are as varied as their personalities. As much biography as history, according to author Mark Harris, this book is just a fascinating look at how Hollywood films were made before and after the war, and how Hollywood contributed to the war effort via filmmaking. In the telling, key moments of WWII history unfold -- the pivotal Battle of Midway in the Pacific, the invasions of North Africa, Italy and Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, the discovery of the concentration camps, the bombing of Hiroshima.
The book is long, over 20 hours. But the pace of the writing and narration is brisk, holding one's attention throughout -- it was easier to listen to than books half its length that drag in either composition or performance. An interest in either subject is, however, a prerequisite for immersing yourself in this much detail. You probably don't need to have more than the normal level of interest in the war to appreciate this particular angle on D-Day, the war in the Pacific, etc.
But you definitely have to come in with an abiding interest in classic cinema -- there's not much here for you if you're not familar with (and therefore interested in) the making of Capra's Mr. Smith, Mr. Deeds, John Doe, It's a Wonderful Life, or Ford's Grapes of Wrath, Stagecoach, How Greed Was My Valley, They Were Expendable, or Wyler's Bette Davis movies, Mrs. Minivier, Memphis Belle, Best Years of Our Lives, or Huston's Maltese Falcon, Sgt. York, High Sierra, or Stevens's Penny Serenade, The More the Merrier, Woman of the Year, et.al.
Then you learn about the movies they made for the armed forces during their service. If nothing else, this book is worth listening to for the chapter on George Stevens filming conditions at concentration camps when Allied forces first came upon them and uncovered the horrific extent of the Holocaust, footage used as evidence during the Nuremburg trials. About the only thing missing from the audiobook (by definition) is the actual footage, but what I did was look it up on YouTube while I was listening and see it for myself.
There is more depth here in addition to the familiar movie titles and WWII battles. There is (what I found to be) an amazing analysis of the politics leading up to the war, not altogether different than what is going on in politics these days. Even better is how Hollywood came to be was wrapped up in it, part of that being the pre-McCarthy rumblings of anti-Communist friction between Washington and Hollywood. There is also an excellent section toward the end about the difficulties returning veterans endured after the war.
One word of warning: If you're a big Capra fan, be careful, because you will come away with an altered opinion of the man and the movie maker. I am a huge Capra fan from way back, always an apologist against charges of Capra-corn, but having just learned the context of his populist movies, eh, now I'm not so sure -- next time I view any of them, I will be seeing them through a different lens. But then, isn't that the point of a great work of historical and biographical non-fiction like this, to learn something new?
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