Mark Harris, the author of the authoritative and highly readable history Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War (Penguin, 2014), introduces a selection of short films that represent the extraordinary contribution made by Hollywood filmmakers to the war effort—as propagandists, witnesses, and eulogists. While Harris’s book traces the wartime careers of five directors—Frank Capra, William Wyler, George Stevens, John Huston, and John Ford—this program focuses on the distinctive and very different visions of the latter two filmmakers. Huston’s Report from the Aleutians (1943) emphasizes the numbing routine of the servicemen stationed on remote Adak Island, a staging center for aerial raids on a Japanese-occupied island in the Aleutian chain. Ford’s The Battle of Midway (1942), perhaps the most acclaimed film to emerge from the war effort, contains some of the most vivid and frightening combat footage ever captured, as what begins as a documentary on daily life on Midway Island is interrupted by a Japanese attack. Preserved prints courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration.
Report from the Aleutians. 1943. USA. Directed by John Huston. 46 min.
Preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration.
The Battle of Midway. 1942. USA. Directed by John Ford. 18 min.
Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art, with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and The Film Foundation
Torpedo Squadron. 1942. USA. Directed by John Ford. 8 min.
Digital material courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration.