Filmmakers on a war footing
A terrific three-part documentary has just arrived on Netflix that looks at the role of America’s wartime filmmakers. Based on the book by Mark Harris titled Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War, it looks at the experiences and ambitions of directors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens.
“Both the book and the making of the documentary were like one long journey to really try to understand who these five were as men,” says Harris.
“I always felt I had a good handle on who they were as filmmakers, but to get to know them, to try and understand their personal furies and frustrations and ambitions and disappointments — that was, from the very beginning, what I had most wanted to do.
“Early on, we seized on the idea that we could have one [contemporary] director serve as sort of The Battle of Midway a surrogate storyteller for each World War II filmmaker,” he says.
Accordingly Steven Spielberg discusses Wyler; Francis Ford Coppola delves into Huston’s experience; Lawrence Kasdan ( Star Wars) discusses Stevens; Paul Greengrass (Jason Bourne franchise) addresses Ford; and Guillermo del Toro ( Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) takes on Capra. The series is narrated by Meryl Streep.
In addition, Netflix will feature 13 related documentaries, including Ford’s The Battle of Midway, Wyler’s The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, Huston’s Report from the Aleutians, Capra’s The Battle of Russia, and Stuart Heisler’s The Negro Soldier.
One suspects there will be a certain amount of “it was the directors wot won it”. But it promises to be riveting viewing all the same. streaming on Netflix.
US filmmaker John Ford, who depicted the Pacific war in in 1942