WWII in the Movies: The Homefront - Thursdays in May
This year, TCM honors the 75th anniversary of D-Day with Never Surrender: WWII in the Movies, a two-month salute featuring films from and about the era. This month, to kick off programming and in remembrance of Memorial Day, TCM offers a look at films from various decades that are set during that global conflict and observed from the viewpoint of the American home front. Joining TCM host Ben Mankiewicz to introduce and discuss the movies are five cohosts associated with the National World War II Museum, a military history showcase located in New Orleans, LA.
The National World War II Museum focuses on the contributions made by the United States to Allied victory during WWII. Founded in 2000, it was designated in 2003 by the U.S. Congress as America's official national WWII museum. Emphasizing the American experience during WWII, the museum maintains an affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution. The following cohosts who will appear on-camera as cohosts:
Gordon "Nick" Mueller, President and CEO Emeritus, is a PhD and former historian and Vice Chancellor at the University of New Orleans. He served as Founding President and CEO of the museum and has completed work on a new collection of personal accounts from the Allied invasion of Normandy, Everything We Have: D-Day 6.6.'44. Mueller continues to lead overseas WWII tours, speaks widely on the war experience and assists learning initiatives led by the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy.
Rob Citino, Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian, is a PhD and an award-winning military historian and scholar who has published more than 10 books including The Wehrmacht Retreats, The Death of the Wehrmacht and The German Way of War. Citino, who speaks widely on his topics of expertise, is also the author of numerous articles covering WWII and 20th century military history. He has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Army War College.
Seth Paridon, Staff Historian, was the first historian hired by the museum's Research Department and served for 12 years as Manager of Research Services. He has led his team in increasing the collection of oral histories to nearly 5,000 and has served as one of the chief historians in the development of many of the museum's exhibits. As Digital Content Manager in the Museum's Media and Education Center, Paridon is tasked with creating historical media utilizing the museum's vast collection of oral history and archival footage.
Lynne Olson, is a New York Times bestselling author of eight books of history covering Britain's role in World War II, has appeared at the museum to discuss her work. Olson's books include Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler; Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War; and Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941.
Gregory Cooke is an Adjunct Writing Instructor in the English and Philosophy Department at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Since 2004, he has been researching, writing and producing historical documentaries about the African-American experience during WWII, a subject in line with the museum's concerns. Cooke's film Choc'late Soldiers from the USA examines the liberating and tumultuous experience of the 140,000 black soldiers stationed in Great Britain during the war.
The films in our WWII Homefront tribute are divided into five categories. Here are highlights:
We begin with Keep the Homefires Burning, which opens with the David O. Selznick classic Since You Went Away (1944), starring Claudette Colbert and Jennifer Jones as the females in a family coping with loneliness and deprivation as the males in their lives serve abroad. Shirley Temple also stars. In the multiple Oscar-winner Mrs. Miniver (1942), with Greer Garson in the title role, a British family must learn to cope with the war--at somewhat closer quarters.
Comedy & Romance includes The More the Merrier (1943), which brought Charles Coburn an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a retired millionaire who plays cupid for a couple (Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea) during the wartime shortage of living space in Washington, D.C. The screwball comedy The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1943) features what many consider Betty Hutton's best performance as a small-town girl who becomes pregnant after a night of wild partying with soldiers.
The War Effort was aided by the all-star Hollywood Canteen (1944), a movie modeled around the real-life free entertainment center for soldiers in Los Angeles during the war. The cast includes Bette Davis and John Garfield, who helped create the club, as well as Barbara Stanwyck, Roy Rogers, Joan Crawford, Eleanor Parker and many others. Tender Comrade (1943) stars Ginger Rogers as a woman who tries communal living while her husband (Robert Ryan) is away at war. This is one of the films that got screenwriter Dalton Trumbo into trouble with the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Under Attack offers Hope and Glory (1987), a beautiful film from writer-director John Boorman recalling his experiences as a 10-year-old who found the London Blitz both terrifying and exciting. The End of the Affair (1955), also set in London, is an adaptation of the Graham Greene novel about the wartime indiscretions of a married woman (Deborah Kerr) with a writer (Van Johnson).
Coming Home is the subject of The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), the multiple-Oscar-winner about the readjustment to civilian life for servicemen played by Best Actor Fredric March, Best Supporting Actor Harold Russell and Dana Andrews. The female leads in this Best Picture winner are Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright and Virginia Mayo. Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) takes a lighter look at the re-entry process, with Eddie Bracken as an ex-Marine innocently drawn into a charade that has him posing as a war hero.
by Roger Fristoe