I recently got around to watching the excellent three part Netflix documentary series by Mark Harris. Five Came Back tells the riveting story of US studio directors’ impact on the Second World War. It's a little bit America saves the world, over the top at times, but if you love 20th century history and especially film history, the story of how Hollywood studio directors – William Wyler, Frank Capra, George Stevens, John Ford and John Huston put their talents to work on the frontline, creating propaganda films for the US Army is fascinating and well worth a look. The film is based on Mark Harris 2015 book Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War.
Especially interesting is the story of how Frank Capra, created the famous US Army documentary series Why We Fight. After he saw Leni Riefenstahl’s visually impressive Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will he asked himself “How can I possibly top this?” and wondered how he could out-propaganda the Nazis. His answer was to use the Nazi’s chilling power-worship footage against them by making it look silly, cheap and ridiculous.
Five Came Back is available to stream now on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.