Lest We Forget our Veterans on Veterans' Day: Hollywood and WWII films
Lest We Forget our Veterans on Veterans' Day
Hollywood and WWII films
“From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered; we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother.” —Shakespeare: Henry V
Films focusing on WWII continue to fascinate Hollywood and audience attendance wills it so. Was that period of time the greatest generation? Is it because the WWII era represents a time when we clearly understood the heroic sacrifice of the everyday American? Is it because the threat of losing the country and freedoms so dear to us was in imminent danger? Some war movies—Vietnam, the cold war, Iraq—come and go, but 1939-1945 just won’t fade away.
It’s a war that never ends, cinematically speaking, that is. The Second World War may have ceased hostilities on September 2, 1945, with the formal surrender of Japan in a ceremony on the USS Missouri, but the film world has never stopped fighting. Nearly 70 years later, the demand for WWII movies appears unstoppable, with the supply inexhaustible.
Recently we saw the release of films about Germany during the war (The Book Thief), British soldiers imprisoned by the Japanese (The Railway Man) and the confrontation between Nazi and Soviet forces at Stalingrad (Stalingrad). Then we had films about the race to recover stolen artworks (The Monuments Men) a US tank crew fighting their way across Germany (Fury), a US soldier who survived shipwreck and a POW camp (Unbroken), a biopic of pioneering codebreaker Alan Turing (The Imitation Game) and a fictional account of the German occupation of France (Suite Francaise). And this year we saw Dunkirk and two films on Winston Churchill.
The war itself, a gigantic conflict that played itself out in a myriad of theatres across the globe, that traumatized entire societies and triggered seismic political, technological and ethical upheavals, has almost endless potential for storytelling. There are little-known military exploits to recount, reassessments to be made, newly significant relationships to be detailed.
You would, of course, think there are simply no stories left to film, nothing more to say. But upcoming schedules prove us wrong, including our own Gregg Russell, entertainer, writer, actor and producer, who is well on his way to release a WWII film to coincide with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
In a conversation with Russell, he disclosed he has always been fascinated with WWII stories, and came upon a story he had to tell on screen. Based on the novel No Better Place to Die by Robert Murphy.
As part of the massive Allied invasion of Normandy, three airborne divisions were dropped behind enemy lines to sew confusion in the German rear and prevent panzer reinforcements from reaching the beaches. In the dark early hours of D-Day, this confusion was achieved well enough, as nearly every airborne unit missed its drop zone, creating a kaleidoscope of small-unit combat. Fortunately for the Allies, the 505th Regimental Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division hit on or near its drop zone. Its task was to seize the vital crossroads of Sainte-Mère-Eglise and to hold the bridge over the Merderet River at nearby La Fière. Benefiting from dynamic battlefield leadership, the paratroopers reached the bridge, only to be met by wave after wave of German tanks and infantry desperate to force the crossing. Reinforced by glider troops, who suffered terribly in their landings from the now-alerted Germans, the 505th not only held the vital bridge for three days but launched a counterattack in the teeth of enemy fire to secure their objective once and for all, albeit at gruesome cost. Russell is hard at work fine tuning the script and securing locations.
Sources: www.theguardian.com, www.goodreads.com, www.imbd.com, Gregg Russell.
In memory of Dr. Ray S. Greco, a WWII Navy veteran and an Air Force veteran of the Korean War. "My father, my hero, passed away October 16, 2017. Love you daddy, may you RIP." -Donne