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War Movies in the 1950s
WWII had just ended and while the United States and Russia were busy with the Cold War, Hollywood was churning out war movies. War movies made in the fifties were based on outstanding heroics as well as POWs, which of course can easily be included in the 'heroics' title. Some of the greatest war movies of all time were made in the fifties and they included the top names in Hollywood. In my previous writing about war movies in the 1940s I include one about Audie Murphy, To Hell and Back, even though it was made in 1955 because Audie Murphy was a real life hero in WW II and starred in the movie I decided to include it in the forties. Even though I did it rightfully belongs in this writing and supports my 'heroics' theory. Additionally, I added a war movie about a particular person, Three Came Home.
Although the first color movie was made in 1918 ... a movie called Cupid Angling...color movies were very expensive to make. By the fifties, however, about half of the movies made were in color. Color was beginning to become more affordable for film makers and a new dimension was added to war movies. So half are color and half are still black and white in the fifties.
War Movies of the 1950s
Halls of Montezuma 1950
The Flying Leathernecks 1951
Operation Pacific 1951
From Here to Eternity 1953
The Caine Mutiny 1954
Paths of Glory 1957
Run Silent Run Deep 1958
Paths of Glory 1958
The Bridge on the River Kwai
From this writer's perspective one of THE greatest war movies ever made was "The Bridge On the River Kwai". It is said to be loosely based on history. I don't know exactly how loosely. However it is fact that the Burma Railway was constructed in 1942-43. Actually due to it's excellence this film was selected by the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry to be preserved. (The National Film Registry names to its list up to 25 "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films" each year to be preserved.) The film also won seven Academy Awards.
It's about a unit of British soldiers that have been captured and sent to a Japanese prison camp. There is a battle of wits between the British Commanding Officer and the Commander of the Prison Camp. The British Officer is a true officer and believes that what he and his men undertake must be done right and with honor even if it is for the Japanese benefit. He wants the Bridge Over the River Kwai built perfectly. Though his men are horrified he remains steadfast. In the meantime an escaped prisoner, after being badly wounded is told to participate in a mission to destroy the bridge. He is horrified but since he was impersonating an officer he finds himself in a position where he can only accept the temporary assignment.
Without revealing too much more of what transpires in the movie, let me just say the British Commanding Officer comes to his senses at the very end of the movie. If for some strange reason, you haven't seen this one, I highly recommend it!
The African Queen
Many of the men reading this may not agree but another great 1950s war movie was "The African Queen". By virtue of the leading actors alone, Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, this film is a classic, but it is the story line that raises it above other films.
Starting out in German East Africa during WWI, it is the story of a very straight-laced lady missionary and a boozing boat captain who delivers mail to their outpost. After her brother is beaten by the Germans and dies, Katherine Hepburn's character decides that she and Charley (Bogart's character) can sink a German gunboat which is on a large lake down river. Their journey down the river is one fraught with complications and many dangers. Oh yes it is a love story too but that's not what makes the film great. It's their journey to the lake.
They quarrel along the way, they have problems with weather, with Charlie's beat up steamship, but they make it to the lake. I won't divulge the ending in case you haven't seen this one but I will say it's a great ending!
Another of my favorites is more of a man's war movie, Stalag 17. This one is American Airmen in a German WWII prison camp. If you've ever watched TV's "Hogan's Heroes" you have an idea of what this movie is like without all the laughs.
"The inmates spend their waking hours circumventing the boredom of prison life; at night, they attempt to arrange escapes. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Stalag 17 is as much comedy as wartime melodrama, with most of the laughs provided by Robert Strauss as the Betty Grable-obsessed "Animal" and Harvey Lembeck as Stosh's best buddy Harry. Other standouts in the all-male cast include Richard Erdman as prisoner spokesman Hoffy, Neville Brand as the scruffy Duke, Peter Graves as blonde-haired, blue-eyed "all American boy" Price, Gil Stratton as Sefton's sidekick Cookie (who also narrates the film) and Robinson Stone as the catatonic, shell-shocked Joey." (http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/stalag_17/)
The drama stands out with the suspicion of a traitor in their midst. There are tense moments and an ending you don't suspect.
Three Came Home
No look at war movies is ever complete without at least one based on a true story. "Three Came Home" starring Claudette Colbert is Agnes Newton Keith who was imprisoned in several different Japanese prisoner of war camps. She was an American writer with a British husband and young son living in Borneo. When the war breaks out they are taken prisoner, but, prison camps there were divided; one for women, one for men and one for children. I have always liked Claudette Colbert, she's done many fine comedy and dramatic roles. This is probably one of her best though the movie is not one of the most well known.
The Japanese officer in charge takes an interest in Keith but is unable to protect her from everything that happens in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. She is tortured, starved, and humiliated by the guards. This film shows the brutality and lack of any morals the Japanese soldiers displayed during the war. It also shows Mrs. Keith as a very brave woman who care deeply for her family and tries to befriend this strange Japanese officer.
According to answer.com;
Jean Negulesco has directed beautifully; there is barely a misstep in tone or pacing through the entire picture, and he has created a film that is at all times vibrant, even when it is horrific. Three is also blessed with the sensational star performance of Claudette Colbert, who is simply riveting and whose stellar presence holds the film together from beginning to end.
It was difficult to find a short video on this movie because it has moved into the Public Domain and the entire movie can be seen on the Internet.
We all know my lists are inconclusive. Why not add your comments and/or your favorite fifties war movies in the comments section?
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