July Highlights on TCM
100th Anniversary of WWI (Fridays in July)--This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, known as "The Great War" (because it involved so many nations: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France, Britain, the Balkan states, the Ottoman Empire, Japan, the United States and various protectorates, dominions, colonies and smaller neighboring countries) before the onset of World War II twenty years later. You might say that the war began on June 28, 1914, with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by Bosnian nationalists in Sarajevo. Just as plausibly, you could say that the war properly began in August of the same year when Germany declared war on Russia. But just as WWII was really a continuation of WWI, the origins of the Great War could be traced further back to the era when Otto von Bismarck was the German Chancellor and the nations of Europe were involved in an extremely complex game of territorial and colonial maneuvering and brinksmanship that involved most of the world. In history, there are no such things as beginnings or endings, there's just a continuous flow of events, actions and reactions. But no matter what you call it, WWI was a horrific milestone in human history. Trench warfare, gas attacks, machine guns, air power, barbed wire, submarines (in Germany, U-Boats) and tanks were introduced, and the casualties are staggering. Nearly 1,000,000 French and German soldiers died during the 11-month battle of Verdun, and over a million were lost during the battle of the Somme (both in 1916). In all, 16 million soldiers and civilians were killed in WWI, and 20 million were wounded or maimed. To commemorate this event, TCM has assembled 44 films either related to or set during the Great War, from Chaplin's 1918 Shoulder Arms to Peter Weir's Gallipoli (1981). The sheer breadth of work in this program, spaced out on four separate nights throughout the month, is impressive in and of itself. There's J'Accuse (1919) by Abel Gance, one of the first films made in the aftermath of the war; Rex Ingram's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), the movie that made a star out of Rudolph Valentino; King Vidor's extremely powerful The Big Parade (1925), one of the most popular films of the '20s; William Wellman's Wings (1927), the first movie to win an Oscar® for Best Picture; Lewis Milestone's version of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), and from that same year, G.W. Pabst's Westfront 1918 (from Germany); Wellman's bitter film about a WWI vet, Heroes for Sale (1933); Jean Renoir's magnificent Grand Illusion (1937); The Spy in Black (1939), the first collaboration between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger; David Lean's epochal Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Philippe de Broca's 1966 film King of Hearts--a film that at one time, between 1967 and about 1974, played almost weekly on college campuses and repertory cinemas in college towns (it played for five years running in Cambridge, Massachusetts). And, of course, there's Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957). Kubrick's rendering of trench warfare is so powerfully visualized and staged (the black and white is so stark that the images look like woodcuts) that the film imprints itself on your mind with a physical impact, particularly during the harrowing scene in which Kirk Douglas and his men try to take a little plot of land called the "Anthill." The terror of the Great War, artfully conveyed by a great artist through the power of cinema.
by Martin Scorsese