- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 24, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143126830
- ISBN-13: 978-0143126836
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War Paperback – February 24, 2015
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*Starred Review* 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. He turned that unlikely trick in Pictures at a Revolution (2008), about the five Best Picture nominees in 1967 and how they defined a sea change in Hollywood and in society at large, and he does it again here. The number is once more five, but this time it’s five acclaimed directors who went to war in the 1940s to make propaganda films and came home changed by what they saw and what they did. The stories of what John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler, and Frank Capra did in the war are dramatic (Ford filming the opening salvo in the Battle of Midway from a rooftop; Wyler riding along on bombing missions over Germany; Stevens filming the horrific scenes at Dachau), but they are also stories of personal redemption, frustration, and even dishonesty (Huston receiving acclaim for the authenticity of his documentary San Pietro, which was made up almost entirely of reenactments). Every chapter contains small, priceless nuggets of movie history (Joseph Goebbels thought Wyler’s Mrs. Miniver was “an exemplary propaganda film” and hoped the Germans could copy it), 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 (describing Huston as a “last-call bon vivant”). Narrative nonfiction that is as gloriously readable as it is unfailingly informative. --Bill Ott --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Mr. Harris has a huge story to tell, and he does so brilliantly, maintaining suspense in a narrative whose basic outcome will be known ahead of time. Five Came Back is packed with true stories that, according to the proverb, are stranger than fiction. Mr. Harris's story of five particular directors at one particular moment of history tells us much about the motion-picture industry, about the nature of filmmaking and, more generally, about the relation of art to the larger demands of society . . . [A]n inspirational, if cautionary, tale of the triumph of the individual over the collective, of personal vision over groupthink, and ultimately of art over propaganda.” --The Wall Street Journal
“Five Came Back . . . is one of the great works of film history of the decade.” --Slate
“A tough-minded, information-packed and irresistibly readable work of movie-minded cultural criticism. Like the best World War II films, it highlights marquee names in a familiar plot to explore some serious issues: the human cost of military service, the hypnotic power of cinema and the tension between artistic integrity and the exigencies of war.” --The New York Times
“Five Came Back, by Mark Harris, has all the elements of a good movie: fascinating characters, challenges, conflicts and intense action. This is Harris’s second brilliant book about movies. Both books demonstrate meticulous research and exceptional skill at telling intersecting and overlapping stories with clarity and power.” --The Washington Post
“A splendidly written narrative.” --The New Yorker
“Can't-put-it-down history of World War II propaganda film.” --San Francisco Chronicle
“Meticulously researched, page-turning.” --The Los Angeles Times
“Definitive. In these lush, informative pages, Harris indeed reaffirms his commitment to writing the old-fashioned way, the way that evinces profound respect for his craft, his material and his readers.” --Cleveland Plain Dealer
“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.” --Booklist (starred)
“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.” --Kirkus Reviews
“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.” --Publishers Weekly
“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.” --Library Journal
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Top customer reviews
Maybe I am one of the oldest reviewers so my
perspective is different. The Second World War affected me as a child to the
point that I had to write a book about it myself, from that childhood point of
view. It was something I could not forget all my life . I saw 'the great movies'
as a child and yes, I mentioned them in my books. They too, affected me as a child.
The generations since, can only try to understand what it was like. Harris
himself may not know the collective consciousness of the time but his excellent
book brought it back to me.
Through the patriotism that infused the
directors I felt the message we got in the news shots of war in theaters of the
time. Through the thoughts they had about the " total waste of war" and the
damage it did to our souls , I could feel the thoughts I had between the age of
7 and 11.
My uncles came alive again as the Directors moved through the war
with the different branches of service. When the war ended, luckily all my
uncles and other relatives came home, at least two wounded, but alive. I knew
Harold Russell and his family.
Filming the atrocities of war so we could see it on the big screen on Saturday
matinee made us all aware of the tremendous sacrifice of life. For what? For
one man to rule the world , I often thought .
It was the pictures of the
souls in the death camps that raised the hackles! The final sickening straw!
How , why ?
The damage done to Director George Stevens who saw photographed ,
and experienced, was so real and profound . I visualized once again those
horrors. One can only imagine the soldiers who stepped up to soothe, calm, and
comfort the barely living survivors who rose from among stacks of dead bodies.
I screamed once again inside me at the utter horror of evil men who walked the
earth with us.
The horrid cruelty of prisoners and the Red Cross by the
Japanese came back and I remembered asking why the Emperor got away with this ?
Harris answered that question after all these years. I still think the Emperor
should have done something to stop the war and should have paid a price for
Through the lives of five men , the war came back and though these men
where older than me by 39 plus or minus years , we shared a common collective
consciousness . I wonder if this is proof of that and how we make our
I know none of us wanted war, but once we were in it we all were in it
to win. Yes, when it was over we "had enough ".
Yes, a great narrative ,
stirring and so enveloping about the time. The investigation into Communism in
Hollywood and more are all there.
Yes, a few tears peeked out as I closed the
book for the last time and put the era back to sleep in my mind , but not before
I had made comparisons about the rise of Hitler with the rise of terrorism.
History is repeating itself !