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Jennifer

Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce (2018)

dearmrsbirdIn 1940 London, 22-year-old Emmy Lake dreams of becoming a journalist to contribute to the war effort. Quite by accident, she accepts a job as a typist for a women's magazine... that soon has Emmy secretly answering letters written to an advice column. Debut author A. J. Pearce creates strong, charming characters and friendships along with a solid sense of place with London under frequent raids during the Blitz.

Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, Dear Mrs. Bird is a cheerful, bittersweet, and heartwarming tale of making a difference in the world in the midst of war. We’ve created a list of novels that take place on the home front during World War II.
Mary P.

Alone in Berlin (2016) R

In Germany, a couple’s only child is killed during the early days of World War II. Otto (Brendan Gleeson) spends his days in a factory making coffins. Bereft at this loss of life, and wondering why, Otto feels like his family gave the ultimate sacrifice to the Fuhrer. Spurred into action, he disguises his handwriting and starts writing and distributing anti-Nazi propaganda around Berlin. When his wife Anna (Emma Thompson) discovers his efforts, she wants to help him despite the dangers. Both the police and army are seeking who is responsible.

Alone in Berlin is based on a true story. Read the NPR article for more details.
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Jennifer

Their Finest (2017) R

In the early part of World War II, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is hired as a scriptwriter to accurately portray women’s dialogue in propaganda films. The war office wants these films to strike the right balance of realism and optimism, boosting morale throughout Britain (oh, and inspiring the United States to join the war). In Their Finest, Catrin works closely with fellow writer Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and aging film star Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) during the Blitz in London to contribute to the war effort.

Based on the novel of the same name by Lissa Evans. Discover other movies set on the home front during WWII.
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Jennifer

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) R

A gripping true story about a man who stood for his convictions while defending his country, Hacksaw Ridge details the life and service of Desmond Doss. A conscientious objector, Doss refused to bear arms. Nevertheless, like many others, he volunteered to join the army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a combat medic, Doss's heroics saved 75 lives during a WWII battle. Just a warning: the combat scenes (which start about halfway through) are quite graphic.

Hacksaw Ridge won Oscars for film editing and sound mixing. Andrew Garfield (actor) and Mel Gibson (director) received Oscar nominations.

Learn more about the true story of the first conscientious objector to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor in an NPR article and Army history.

 
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IPPL Staff

Story of G. I. Joe (1945)

storygijoeBased on the columns of popular war correspondent Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith), Story of G. I. Joe was released in 1945 at the very end of WWII. The movie follows “C” Company of the 18th Infantry as it fights across North Africa and up through Italy, focusing on a handful of ordinary soldiers and the well-liked Lieutenant Walker (Robert Mitchum). Actual veterans of the Italian campaign, waiting on the west coast for deployment to the Pacific, played extras in the movie.

Check out our spotlight of director William Wellman for reviews of his other war movies. You’ll notice his war films avoid unrealistic heroics in favor of poignant stories of ordinary men under hellish circumstances.

http://ippl.info/showsntunes/?p=2272
IPPL Staff

Spotlight: William Wellman and His War Movies

wingsDirector William Wellman served in France during WWI with the Lafayette Flying Corp. He put this experience to good use in the 1927 WWI movie Wings, winner of Best Picture at the very first Academy Awards ceremony.

Wellman’s war movies bring war down to the human level. The battleground1949 movie Battleground tells the story of the Battle of Bulge from the point of view a company of the 101st Airborne. The men are moved around in the snow from unknown point to unknown point, trying to keep warm, scrounging for something to eat, hoping not to lose another friend. They don’t even know for sure what country they are in.
IPPL Staff

The Scarlet and the Black (1983)

scarletblackGregory Peck plays an Irish Monsignor, who, during WWII, rallies an unlikely group of people to shelter Allied soldiers and Jews in Nazi-occupied Rome. The events in The Scarlet and the Black are inspired by true events, and the character of Monsignor O’Flaherty, inspired by a real Vatican priest. Gregory Peck is brilliant here as the lively and cunning O’Flaherty who goes up against Coronel Herbert Kappler, the head of Nazi operatives in Rome. Kappler, in turn, is deftly played by Christopher Plummer. While cold and ambitious, the colonel is also a dedicated family man—certainly not a one-dimensional character.

Plummer and Peck don’t share too much time on-screen, but when they do it’s a delight. Shot on location in Rome, this beautiful film features great acting and a well-placed plot. A must-see in my book.
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Mary

Taking Sides (2001)

takingsidesBased on the life of Wilhelm Furtwangler, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Taking Sides examines Furtwangler’s role during the Nazi era. Was he a collaborator as hard-nosed U.S. Major Arnold sets out to prove? Or was he an artist who walked a tightrope as he tried to keep his music separate from politics?
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IPPL Staff

The Flowers of War (2011) R

flowersofwarSet in 1937 Nanjing, China, as the Japanese invade and pillage the city during the Sino-Japanese War, The Flowers of War is a heart wrenching but very emotional story of the evils and atrocities of war. Thrown together as a means of survival, Christian Bale, an American mortician, a group of young Chinese school girls, and a band of courtesans hide in an old Nanjing church. With nothing in common, the three groups learn to pull together as death and destruction surrounds them.

Bravery, romance, and wonderful acting from the entire cast make this Golden Globe nominated movie one not to miss.

Even though this movie is listed as a foreign film, it is primarily in English, with small portions in Mandarin.
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Jennifer

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) R

goodmorningvietnamI’ve seen the clip of Robin Williams saying, "Gooooood morning, Vietnam!” loads of times and always wanted to watch the film; I finally viewed Good Morning, Vietnam for the first time after his death.

As an irreverent airman and a DJ in 1965 Saigon, Adrian Cronauer is in Vietnam to provide a bit of comedic relief to the troops (and as a bonus, irritate his superiors). Williams’ comedic talents are on full display. His monologues, voices, and impersonations, as well as his physicality, keep your eyes glued to the screen. And while he excels as a comedian, he handles the dramatic turns admirably as well.

The music is amazing, highlighting many hits of the 1960s. Check out the soundtrack that nabbed Williams a Grammy (it features a mix of Williams’ comic routines and music).

Check out Roger Ebert’s take on Williams’ performance and the film.
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IPPL Staff

Gallipoli (1981) PG

melgibson_gallipoliDuring WWI, one of the most notorious battles of the war was fought on the Gallipoli Peninsula in the crumbling Ottoman Empire. French, British, Australian, and New Zealand troops suffered a great defeat against the Turks. Gallipoli is the story of two young Australians who join the army for adventure and soon find themselves in a strange land facing overwhelming odds.

The first Australian set half of the movie is full of humor and boyish adventure building to the tense and poignant end. Mel Gibson plays one of the two young soldiers in one of his very early roles.

You can also watch a documentary about the battle in Gallipoli.

Did you know? 100 years ago, on June 28, 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the catalyst that started World War I.
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IPPL Staff

Grand Illusion

Grand Illusion (1937)
Three French officers are captured and held as prisoners of war by the Germans in World War I. Lt. Marechal was a mechanic before the war; Lt. Rosenthal is from a wealthy banking family; and Capt. De Boeldieu is from an aristocratic military family. The camp commander, Capt. Fon Rauffenstein, feels a great affinity for Boeldieu, but Boeldieu sees that the world of de Boeldieus and von Rauffensteins has passed.

This POW movie has many scenes we have learned to expect: the camp show, digging a tunnel and depositing the dirt in the garden, and unhappy Russians. The beautiful black and white cinematography, the humor, and the poignancy of each of the men’s stories make this a memorable movie. Missing this movie is strictly verboten!

In French with English subtitles.

For more on the film, check out the articles on TCM.com. And for other films set during WWI, check out our recommended movie list.
IPPL Staff

Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory (1957)
In the French army during World War I, in order to gain promotion, General Mireau orders an impossible attack against the Germans. When the attack fails, Mireau orders the court martial and execution of three men as an example to the rest of the men. Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) is appalled and determined to give the men an honest defense, but the powers above have already decided the ending to this story. The greatest enemy isn’t always the men in the other trench, but your own officers. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Looking for more WWI films? Check out our list of recommended movies.
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Mary

Army of Shadows = L’Armee des Ombres

Army of Shadows = L’Armee des Ombres (1969)
Produced in France in 1969, Director Jean-Pierre Melville’s film was not available in the U.S. until 2007. The “army of shadows” is a group of French Resistance fighters who must use their wits and courage to survive in the Vichy France as they spy on the Nazis and instigate acts of sabotage.

This is not your typical action-packed war drama; instead, Melville focuses on the fighters’ states of mind. In doing so, he captures the moral difficulties the Resistance encountered as they fight a brutal enemy and protect themselves and comrades whose arrests or mistakes placed them in danger.

In French with English subtitles.

For more on the film, visit the Criterion Collection website, plus Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert.
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IPPL Staff

Spotlight: Audie Murphy

Spotlight: Audie MurphyAs most of you know, Audie Murphy was America's most decorated soldier of World War II. After the war, Murphy went to Hollywood and began a movie career under the tutelage of James Cagney. Most of the movies he made were westerns.

Indian Prairie has acquired the Audie Murphy Western Collection, which contains four films. Sierra (1950) is the first. Murphy's inexperience as an actor shows in this, his second starring western. And his then wife, Wanda Hendrix, gives him no help due in part to her unusual voice. The film is nevertheless worthwhile because of the spectacular photography, the singing of Burl Ives (who sings a few very beautiful ballads and a very comical song for children), and the appearance in small roles of future superstar, Tony Curtis, and television's most famous western marshal James Arness.

All four films include an introduction by Turner Classic Movies' Ben Mankiewicz. The special features section of each film includes interesting facts. Also, Sierra includes a mini-biography of Murphy. One of the interesting stories about this film is a mock fast draw gunfight between Murphy and Curtis. If you watch the other films in this collection, you will note how much Murphy grew as an actor.

The other films in the collection are Drums Across the River (1954), Ride Clear of Diablo (1954), and Ride a Crooked Trail (1958). They are all solid westerns well worth watching.

In addition, Indian Prairie has three other Audie Murphy films: His autobiographical To Hell and Back (1955); Night Passage (1957), a film I previously reviewed; and No Name on the Bullet (1959). To Hell and Back was Universal Studios' biggest box office hit ever, until it was eclipsed 20 years later by Jaws.
Audie Murphy was good actor, who, unlike most actors, was a genuine hero. He stood 5’5”, had a baby face, but with his genuine humility and his life experiences he brought something special to his films. A friend said at his funeral, "Like the man, the headstone is too small." He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and after John Kennedy, his grave is the most visited gravesite.