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  • War Movie Back-Stories

    In the process of doing my war movie reviews, I have researched interesting facts about many of the great war movies. I will use this thread to share. Feel free to add interesting facts that you know. This thread is not really meant to be a critique of the movies.

    #1 - All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

    The first great anti-war film was based on the greatest anti-war novel ever written. Lewis Milestone took on the task of bringing Erich Remarque’s book to the screen and even considered casting Remarque as Paul Baumer. Lew Ayres won the role and was so affected by it that he became a pacifist and jeopardized his career by claiming conscientious objector status in WWII. His brave service as a medic helped regain much good will from the public. Milestone had learned filmmaking in the Signal Corps during WWI. He knew what war looked like from editing war footage. He recreated no man’s land on a ranch in California. Shell holes were blasted with dynamite and then filled with muddy rain water. A French village was built on a back lot and included a canal that was dug for the swimming scene. Twenty tons of black powder and ten tons of dynamite were used for the battle scenes. One explosion resulted in Milestone being hit by debris and knocked unconscious. 2,000 extras were found in California by requesting help from American Legion posts. The US Army could not provide soldiers because American doughboys could not appear in foreign uniforms on film. The 99 day shoot was double the planned 48. The $.9 million budget boomed to $1.4 million. It paid off as the movie was a smashing success and won the Best Picture Oscar. Milestone won Best Director and the film was nominated for Writing and Cinematography. It was ranked #54 on AFIs original list of the 100 greatest movies, but did not make the revised list issued in 2007! It was not a smashing success in Nazi Germany, a country Remarque had been forced to flee for his life. At its premiere, Goebbels had the Brown Shirts release mice, stink bombs, and sneezing powder to clear the theater. The movie was pulled after a week and not shown again in Germany until 1952 ( the year Remarque returned to his homeland ).

    *** I will also use this thread to show you alternate posters instead of the official ones.



    This poster is ridiculous! First, there are no tanks in the movie. Not only that but the tanks are accompanied by American or British soldiers, neither of whom appear in the film. Second, what the Hell is up with the bottom left? It looks like a scene from an American WWII movie has infiltrated the poster! Third, check out the bottom right. It looks like the wounded Frenchman is biting Paul.

  • #2
    PATHS OF GLORY - “Paths of Glory” was Stanley Kubrick’s first great film. The fact that he also directed several other movies on the 100 Greatest list (“Spartacus”, “Dr. Strangelove”, “Full Metal Jacket”) makes a case for his being the greatest war movie director. The movie was based on the novel by Howard Cobb which was published in 1935. The teenage Kubrick had read the book in his father’s study. Kubrick had trouble getting funding because of the depressing nature of the plot. This problem was solved when Kirk Douglas was brought on board. His production company took on the task and Douglas was paid 1/3 of the approximately $1 million budget. He was not in it for the money as Douglas was committed to the project in principle. The movie was a critical smash, but only a modest success at the box office and as predicted did not do well in Europe. In fact, it was banned in France for two decades. Incredibly, the movie received zero Academy Award nominations and is not on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list!

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    • #3
      Das Boot “Das Boot” (“The Boat”) is a German submarine movie directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Originally the movie was going to be made by John Sturges starring Robert Redford and then by Don Siegel starring Paul Newman. Thankfully, both projects fell through. It is based on the novel by Lothar-Gunther Buchheim. Although fictional, Buchheim used his experience as a correspondent on U-96 on a tour in 1941. The Werner (Herbert Gronemeyer) character is based on Buchheim. Buchheim began as a technical adviser, but had a falling out with Petersen because of what Buchheim considered unrealistically enhanced dramatic license. The movie took three years to produce (1979-81) and was the most expensive German film up to then. It was released in 1981 at 150 minutes and then shown as a miniseries at 300 minutes. The version I am reviewing is the definitive Director’s Cut which clocks in at 209 minutes. The original version was a big hit in Germany and the U.S. It was an even bigger critical success. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Director, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay (Petersen), Film Editing, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing. Stunningly, it was not nominated for Foreign Film.

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      • #4
        Letters from Iwo Jima

        “Letters from Iwo Jima” is Clint Eastwood’s companion piece to “Flags of Our Fathers”. They were filmed back to back. It is the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. It is based on the letters of the Japanese commander Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi and the book So Sad to Fall in Battle by Kumiko Kakehashi. The movie was filmed in California with a one day shoot on Iwo Jima. The film was well received by critics and made numerous top ten lists. It was a big hit in Japan, but did not do very well in the States (those damned subtitles!). It was nominated for Academy Awards for Picture, Director and Original Screenplay and won for Sound Effects. The original title was supposed to be “Red Sun, Black Sand” ( which was apparently too cool ).



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        • #5
          Alexander Nevsky


          “Alexander Nevsky” was the great Sergei Eisenstein’s first and most successful sound motion picture. It came thirteen years after his other masterpiece “Battleship Potemkin”. He chose to do a film on Nevsky because little was known about him so Eisenstein hoped to be able to structure the narrative the way he wanted. He was not given the free rein that he had hoped for. For this film he was kept on a short leash as the Soviet government wanted to make sure it got the propaganda product it commissioned. Eisenstein was assigned a co-writer and co-director to look over his shoulder. The co-writer was probably a secret police agent. The film is most famous for two elements: the battle on the ice and Prokofiev’s score. The iced lake scenes were filmed outside Moscow in the dead of summer. The cinematographer went to remarkable lengthes to create the lake setting. The ice was actually asphalt and melted glass. The fake ice rested on floating pontoons that could be deflated on cue. Some scenes in the picture were cut to match the score. The film was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1941 and Eisenstein (and the co-director) was given the Order of Lenin by Stalin. Speaking of Stalin, he was shown a rough cut of the film and either did not like a scene showing a riot of the citizens of Novgorod or the reel was accidentally left behind so it was not vetted by the supreme ruler. Either way, the reel was left out of the final cut.


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          • #6
            Lawrence of Arabia “Lawrence of Arabia” is considered one of the great classic movies. It is #7 on AFI’s latest list of the greatest movies. It is #1 on the Epics list. The film is considered to be the best of director David Lean’s awesome resume (which includes “Bridge on the River Kwai”). It is loosely based on T.E. Lawrence’s “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. The screenplay was first written by Michael Wilson, then Robert Bolt was brought in and changed virtually all the dialogue and characterizations. Wilson was uncredited partly because he was blacklisted for communist sympathies. His contribution was not credited until 1995. The movie’s desert scenes were filmed in Jordan and Morocco. King Hussein of Jordan provided a brigade of the Arab Legion as extras. Peter O’Toole was not the first choice for Lawrence. Albert Finney was unavailable and Marlon Brando turned the role down. Anthony Perkins and Montgomery Clift were considered. Jose Ferrer agreed to appear in it only after being guaranteed pay that ended up being more than what was paid to O’Toole and Sharif combined! The movie took over two years from start to finish. In one scene the O’Toole that finishes at the bottom of a staircase is two years older than he was at the top of the staircase. The desert shoots were difficult. There was the 130 degree temperatures and the sandstorms and the critters. At one point, O’Toole was thrown from his camel and only was saved from being trampled by the camel standing protectively over him. By the way, O’Toole had to sit on a sponge pad to survive all the riding (the Arab extras called him “Lord of the Sponge”). It was all worth it as the film was universally acclaimed. It won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Art Direction, Cinematography (Freddie Young), Score (Maurice Jarre), Editing, and Sound. It was nominated for Adapted Screenplay, Actor (O’Toole lost to Gregory Peck for “To Kill a Mockingbird”), and Supporting Actor (Sharif).


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            • #7
              Originally posted by warmoviebuff View Post
              In the process of doing my war movie reviews, I have researched interesting facts about many of the great war movies. I will use this thread to share. Feel free to add interesting facts that you know. This thread is not really meant to be a critique of the movies.

              #1 - All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)





              This poster is ridiculous! First, there are no tanks in the movie. Not only that but the tanks are accompanied by American or British soldiers, neither of whom appear in the film. Second, what the Hell is up with the bottom left? It looks like a scene from an American WWII movie has infiltrated the poster! Third, check out the bottom right. It looks like the wounded Frenchman is biting Paul.
              And those WWII Americans appear to be firing a Skoda M09 machine gun as used by the KuK army. The tank above them looks like the French Char 2C which entered service in the early 20s
              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
              Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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              • #8
                Originally posted by warmoviebuff View Post
                Lawrence of Arabia “Lawrence of Arabia” is considered one of the great classic movies. It is #7 on AFI’s latest list of the greatest movies. It is #1 on the Epics list. The film is considered to be the best of director David Lean’s awesome resume (which includes “Bridge on the River Kwai”). It is loosely based on T.E. Lawrence’s “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. The screenplay was first written by Michael Wilson, then Robert Bolt was brought in and changed virtually all the dialogue and characterizations. Wilson was uncredited partly because he was blacklisted for communist sympathies. His contribution was not credited until 1995. The movie’s desert scenes were filmed in Jordan and Morocco. King Hussein of Jordan provided a brigade of the Arab Legion as extras. Peter O’Toole was not the first choice for Lawrence. Albert Finney was unavailable and Marlon Brando turned the role down. Anthony Perkins and Montgomery Clift were considered. Jose Ferrer agreed to appear in it only after being guaranteed pay that ended up being more than what was paid to O’Toole and Sharif combined! The movie took over two years from start to finish. In one scene the O’Toole that finishes at the bottom of a staircase is two years older than he was at the top of the staircase. The desert shoots were difficult. There was the 130 degree temperatures and the sandstorms and the critters. At one point, O’Toole was thrown from his camel and only was saved from being trampled by the camel standing protectively over him. By the way, O’Toole had to sit on a sponge pad to survive all the riding (the Arab extras called him “Lord of the Sponge”). It was all worth it as the film was universally acclaimed. It won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Art Direction, Cinematography (Freddie Young), Score (Maurice Jarre), Editing, and Sound. It was nominated for Adapted Screenplay, Actor (O’Toole lost to Gregory Peck for “To Kill a Mockingbird”), and Supporting Actor (Sharif).

                O'Toole refused to shoot on location in Saudi unless he could be provided with booze at the end of the day's work which given the prohibition on alcohol was difficult to say the least. In the end he was officially certified as ill and the bottle of booze as medicine. Even then when the news leaked out it created such a stink locally that even this subterfuge became impossible to use again.

                I was based for a time at Rabigh where Lawrence had his HQ. It's nowhere as photogenic as the scenes in the movie (or as Lawrence describes it in 7 Pillars but he did tend to over egg things). One of my colleagues managed to get to the train ambush location where the remains of the train still stood and again not as in the film. Shot on location in Saudi but not the actual locations.

                Incidentally the film was greeted with overwhelming tepidness in Saudi where Lawrence is not regarded with over-much acclaim (unlike Jordan where he has become a tourist draw).

                Re the staircase scene - obviously an attempt to demonstrate gravitational time dilation as predicted in Einstein's Special Theory where the further you get from the centre of the earth the faster time goes (this has been proven using very accurate atomic closks and high flying aircraft) - have to be a very tall staircase though
                Last edited by MarkV; 28 Jun 18, 12:04.
                Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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                • #9
                  Remember, we're talking about Hollywoody, where it is traditional to suspend both reality and belief in the interests of telling a good story. If you're expecting historical accuracy, you're SIERRA - OSCAR - LIMA.
                  Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                  • #10
                    THE GRAND ILLUSION

                    “The Grand Illusion” is a film by the acclaimed French director Jean Renoir, son of the famous Impressionist painter. He wrote the screenplay along with Charles Spaak. Renoir was inspired by his own experiences as a reconnaissance pilot in WWI, but the film is far from autobiographical. Von Stroheim wore Renoir’s uniform in the movie. The title of the film was influenced by the book “The Great Illusion” by British economist Norman Angell. Angell argued that war was useless because nations have common economic interests. Good call, Norm! The movie was famously banned in Italy and Germany. Goebbels even had Renoir labeled “Cinematic Enemy #1” and attempted to have all copies of the prints destroyed. Fortunately, a print was recovered by the U.S. Army (no, not by the Monuments Men) after the war and Renoir was able to accomplish a celebrated restoration. The movie was the first foreign language film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.


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                    • #11
                      SAVING PRIVATE RYAN

                      “Saving Private Ryan” originated from writer Robert Rodat seeing a monument to eight siblings killed in the Civil War. He brought the idea to producer Mark Gordon. The movie was a huge critical and box office success. Made for around $70 million, it made over $480 million and was the highest grossing film of the year. The Omaha Beach set and reenactment cost $12 million and used 1,500 extras (including amputees) and 40 gallons of fake blood. The Ramelle set was built from scratch, including the bridge and the river. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 5 (Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing, Film Editing, and Director). Incredibly it lost Best Picture to “Shakespeare in Love” in the most egregious miscarriage in Oscar history. Almost as perplexing was Hanks’ loss to Roberto Bergnini. The movie is currently #71 on AFI’s list of greatest movies of all time.



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                      • #12
                        PLATOON

                        “Platoon” is the semi-autobiographical account of Oliver Stone’s experiences in Vietnam. It came out seven years after “Apocalypse Now” and was followed soon after by “Full Metal Jacket” and “Hamburger Hill”. More than those other films, it impacted the movie-going public and Vietnam War veterans. It was cathartic. It became the definitive Vietnam War movie. The film was a big hit with audiences and most critics. Produced for only $6 million, it made $138 million. It was awarded the Best Picture Oscar and also won for Director, Sound Mixing, and Editing. It was nominated for Original Score and Cinematography. Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger got Supporting Actor nods. The movie is ranked #86 on AFI’s Top 100 list. The shooting was done in the Philippines and took only 54 days. The film was shot in sequence and this began immediately after the boot camp for the actors. Stone meant the film to be a counter to John Wayne’s “Green Berets”.

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                        • #13
                          GLORY

                          “Glory” was inspired by screenwriter Kevin Jarre’s viewing of Augustus Sainte-Gaudens’ memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in Boston. His research relied on the letters of Robert Gould Shaw, Lay This Laurel by Lincoln Kirstein, and One Gallant Rush by Peter Burchard. Edward Zwick (“Courage Under Fire”) directed with a limited budget of $18 million. Shelby Foote (of Ken Burns’ “Civil War” fame) was the technical advisor. Morgan Freeman took a pay cut to appear in the movie and was determined to be a part of the enhancing of African-American history. The movie was critically acclaimed, but only a modest box office success ($27 million). It won three Academy Awards – Best Supporting Actor (Denzel Washington), Cinematography (Freddie Francis), and Sound Mixing. It was nominated for Art Direction and Film Editing.

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                          • #14
                            WINGS

                            “Wings” was a movie that was loaded with firsts. First aerial combat movie. First male kiss. First Best Picture (and the only silent movie until “The Artist”). It set the template for future air combat movies. The director was William “Wild Bill” Wellman (“Beau Geste”, “The Story of G.I. Joe”, “Battleground”) who had been a pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille in WWI. He had three confirmed kills, survived a crash landing that left him with a limp, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Sadly, he is one of the few directors who were not even nominated for his Best Picture efforts (tell that to Ben Affleck). The movie was filmed at Kelly Field in San Antonio with full cooperation of the U.S. military. The planes provided were mainly Thomas-Morse MB-3s and Curtiss PW-8s. The German fighters were played by Curtiss P-1 Hawks. One stunt flier broke his neck in a crash and another was a fatality.


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                            • #15
                              BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI

                              “Bridge on the River Kwai” is the screen adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s Bridge Over the River Kwai (I do not know why they changed the title). Boulle channeled his experiences as a POW in Southeast Asia during WWII and based his main character on French officers who collaborated with their Japanese captors. Boulle was awarded the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar even though he did not write it. Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson were uncredited at the time because they were blacklisted due to the McCarthyism of the 50’s. Both were given posthumous trophies in 1984. It was directed by David Lean (who co-directed “In Which We Serve” and went on to do “Lawrence of Arabia”). The movie was filmed in Sri Lanka so the crew and actors had to deal with diseases and jungle critters. It was not an easy shoot, but considering what the real-life POWs went through, I hope no one complained. The movie was a huge financial and critical success. It cost $3 million to make and made $27 million. It was the #1 movie of 1958. It won seven Academy Awards: Picture, Director, Actor (Alec Guinness), Adapted Screenplay, Score, Editing, and Cinematography. Sessue Hyakawa was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The movie is #36 on the most recent AFI Top 100 Films list.


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