World War II has fascinated me since I was a child. The lore attached to the conflict fired my imagination, and fun period action films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Rocketeer only added to my fascination. To my young mind, it was the ultimate battle between good and evil, where the lines couldn’t be any clearer.
As I grew older, and I began to look into the history of the era, my fascination matured and transformed into admiration and respect for the men and women who fought that war. It was a time of great sacrifice and hardship – something that hasn’t really been seen since.
Five Came Back was an outstanding look at a part of the World War II-era I was not familiar with. This film celebrates the important contributions of the American film industry to the war effort – specifically the wartime cinematic accomplishments of five legendary directors: Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life), John Huston (The African Queen), George Stevens (Shane), William Wyler (Ben-Hur), and John Ford (The Searchers). These men showed the war to the public, garnered support for the conflict, and literally recorded history. Some of their footage even sealed the fate of the Nazi war criminals after the fight was over.
Five Came Back is not just an amazing portrait of the courage of those five filmmakers – who braved everything from bombings in the Pacific to the D-Day invasion to bring footage back to the people, and came back with the horrors seared into their memories. It caused me to think about today’s entertainment industry, how far things have fallen in the past seven decades, and what true bravery actually looks like.