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Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War [Kindle Edition]

Mark Harris
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $29.95
Kindle Price: $11.99
You Save: $17.96 (60%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

In Pictures at a Revolution, Mark Harris turned the story of the five movies nominated for Best Picture in 1967 into a landmark work of cultural history, a book about the transformation of an art form and the larger social shift it signified. In Five Came Back, he achieves something larger and even more remarkable, giving us the untold story of how Hollywood changed World War II, and how World War II changed Hollywood, through the prism of five film directors caught up in the war: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens.




It was the best of times and the worst of times for Hollywood before the war. The box office was booming, and the studios’ control of talent and distribution was as airtight as could be hoped. But the industry’s relationship with Washington was decidedly uneasy—hearings and investigations into allegations of corruption and racketeering were multiplying, and hanging in the air was the insinuation that the business was too foreign, too Jewish, too “un-American” in its values and causes. Could an industry this powerful in shaping America’s mind-set really be left in the hands of this crew? Following Pearl Harbor, Hollywood had the chance to prove its critics wrong and did so with vigor, turning its talents and its business over to the war effort to an unprecedented extent.



No industry professionals played a bigger role in the war than America’s most legendary directors: Ford, Wyler, Huston, Capra, and Stevens. Between them they were on the scene of almost every major moment of America’s war, and in every branch of service—army, navy, and air force; Atlantic and Pacific; from Midway to North Africa; from Normandy to the fall of Paris and the liberation of the Nazi death camps; to the shaping of the message out of Washington, D.C.



As it did for so many others, World War II divided the lives of these men into before and after, to an extent that has not been adequately understood. In a larger sense—even less well understood—the war divided the history of Hollywood into before and after as well. Harris reckons with that transformation on a human level—through five unforgettable lives—and on the level of the industry and the country as a whole. Like these five men, Hollywood too, and indeed all of America, came back from the war having grown up more than a little.


Editorial Reviews

Review

The Los Angeles Times:
“Meticulously researched, page-turning.”

Booklist (starred):
“It’s hardly news that the movies affect and are affected by the broader canvas of popular culture and world history, but Harris—perhaps more successfully than any other writer, past or present—manages to find in that symbiotic relationship the stuff of great stories. Every chapter contains small, priceless nuggets of movie history, and nearly every page offers an example of Harris’ ability to capture the essence of a person or an event in a few, perfectly chosen words. Narrative nonfiction that is as gloriously readable as it is unfailingly informative.”

Kirkus Reviews:
“A comprehensive, clear-eyed look at the careers of five legendary directors who put their Hollywood lives on freeze-frame while they went off to fight in the only ways they knew how. As riveting and revealing as a film by an Oscar winner.”

Publishers Weekly:
“Insightful. Harris pens superb exegeses of the ideological currents coursing through this most political of cinematic eras, and in the arcs of his vividly drawn protagonists…we see Hollywood abandoning sentimental make-believe to confront the starkest realities.”

Library Journal:
“Harris surpasses previous scholarship on the directors who are the focus here… This well-researched book is essential for both film enthusiasts and World War II aficionados.”

About the Author

For fifteen years, Mark Harris worked as a writer and an editor covering movies, television, and books for Entertainment Weekly. He is the author of Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. A graduate of Yale University, he lives in New York City with his husband, Tony Kushner.

Product Details

  • File Size: 21809 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594204306
  • Publisher: The Penguin Press (February 27, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DMCV8BI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,716 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Years of Their Lives December 10, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Five Hollywood directors volunteered for active duty after Pearl Harbor. They ranged in age from mid-thirties to late forties and had families to support. They were in no danger of being drafted at their age, and taking an indefinite leave from their careers was risky. They took huge cuts in pay to join up. They all accepted commissions and spent the war doing what they did best -- making movies.

I came into Five Came Back with a pretty sketchy idea of who these five directors were (Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, William Wyler, George Stevens). I remembered Capra did It's a Wonderful Life and John Ford did westerns, or was that John Huston? So, to be honest, I was ready to bail out if it turned out to be for insiders.

Once I started the book though, I was hooked. Mark Harris did a tremendous amount of research to track down the stories of the five. There's a fair amount of personal information and some gossipy bits, but mostly it's the story of the movies they made while they were in uniform. Since they were working for Uncle Sam and not for a movie studio or a news outlet, most of what they did was propaganda and training films. But because these were talented and creative men, they didn't churn out standard issue films.

While all the stories are fascinating, that of George Stevens is the most gripping. He was with the first Allied unit that entered the Dachau concentration camp after the Germans had fled. No one was prepared for the horror. And as an army unit, they were unable to do much right away for the many inmates who had survived to that point. Stevens filmed as much as he could, and his film would be used as evidence during the Nuremburg Trials. The experience shattered him though, and it took years for him to recover enough to make movies again.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War" examines the impact that the Second World War had on the Hollywood film-making community in general, and five top directors – William Wyler, John Ford, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens – in particular. It is a well-researched volume with considerable detail (sometimes too much, frankly) which brings to light aspects of the uncomfortable alliance between civilian filmmakers and their military counterparts that most readers, even WW II aficionados, might not be aware of.

The partnership between the Hollywood community and the military film-making establishment that was forged in hurried fashion when the United States was plunged into war on December 7th, 1941 was never an easy one, and the varied wartime careers of the five notable film directors around which the volume is structured brings this fact to light.

Treading carefully with government and military information establishments which often viewed them as slightly untrustworthy, liberal-tending dilettantes, these five men brought their own personal and political baggage to the task of making training films and morale-boosting documentaries for the civilian and military populations. John Huston was a thrill-seeking adventurer who firmly supported the war, Frank Capra was a timid sort whose beliefs wavered with the current political wind – his only true conviction the fear of being ostracized.

While some went to the front, in harm's way – notably John Ford and John Huston – others contributed from the home front; Frank Capra, for example. For all the trials and tribulations these five men encountered, the over-arching impression that I came away with was that they didn't really accomplish much.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't go home again. December 26, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Five top Hollywood directors -- John Ford, Frank Capra, John Huston, William Wyler, and George Stevens -- enlisted in the armed services for World War II to offer their skills in documenting the conflict. Ford, the most prescient of the five, actually joined the Navy several months before Pearl Harbor. All had made classic films before the war. All of them put their very lucrative careers on hold, with no guarantee that they would or could resume them afterward. Except for Capra, all of them saw action. Capra stayed in the US to help organize Hollywood's war effort and the army's propaganda.

James Agee remarked in one of his film essays that most of these men's work deepened after the war, and this book shows you why. Harris also paints a detailed picture of the complex relationships among the studios, the military, and the movie-going public.

Ford, famously, was wounded during the Battle of Midway. Wyler risked his life filming bombing runs over Germany and actually lost his hearing trying to get a particular shot. Ford and Stevens filmed the D-Day landings at Omaha and Juno beaches, respectively. Stevens documented (he realized immediately that his footage would be used as evidence) the liberation of Dachau. He would not allow his men to film the worst of it, but shot the crematoria and other footage himself. Huston worked mainly in Italy. Capra spent his war mainly creating the Why We Fight series, in the process coming up with many narrative innovations that we now take for granted.

Harris also contrasts these men with other Hollywood people who served. Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th-Century Fox, strutted like a popinjay in his tailored uniforms and insisted on being addressed as "Colonel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Effort
This book covers a lot of territory, and for the reader who is unfamiliar with the work of these five classic directors, it can be a bit overwhelming. Read more
Published 15 hours ago by R. Bono
5.0 out of 5 stars George Stevens' video at Dachau after liberation
[...]

This color film (video) is mentioned in the book, but apparently wasn't available to the public until 2007. Read more
Published 19 hours ago by Charles A. Krohn
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Gift
This was a gift to my son who has a degree and film making. It covered many of the film makers that he considers the tops in their field.
Published 4 days ago by Sandy Brady
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War
I generally get a book for my brother-in-law every year for Christmas and this one was reviewed in the paper and caught my eye. He doesn't read fiction. Read more
Published 4 days ago by B Zimmer
4.0 out of 5 stars Five Giants
Informative and fascinating account of five of the greatest American film makers of the 20th Century and their participation as film documentarians in both the European and... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Ian von Franckenstein
3.0 out of 5 stars How the War Was Fought on Film
You would think that a book about 5 great Hollywood directors who set out to film World War II would be fascinating, and large chucks of this book are. Read more
Published 9 days ago by C. Peterson
3.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed but Ok
Harris has written a solid book, but not one that really cuts any new territory. Writing a biography is a difficult enough exercise. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Kevin Brianton
4.0 out of 5 stars Values Won in Blood
This book ought to remind readers how much different we were in the prewar and postwar era. There was hope that our values would be confirmed and that there would be no reason for... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Russell Scott Day
4.0 out of 5 stars First Rate Piece of Historical Reporting
Mark Harris’ “Five Came Back” is a first rate piece of historical reporting; the book details how five (John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens, William Wyler, Frank Capra) well... Read more
Published 16 days ago by mjb
5.0 out of 5 stars Great gift for a film lover
Great book for film lovers. I haven't read the book; it was a gift for my son who Dean's Listed in Film Studies. He dove right into the book when we went on a trip recently. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Charles from Redondo Beach
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