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April 11, 2014


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Pete Apruzzese

Thanks for the excerpt and link to the book, it sounds like fascinating reading.


One of the nice things about reading the book was that so much of what was discussed is available via YouTube. While reading, I downloaded the first 6 episodes of Why We Fight, as well as The Battle of Midway, and watched them via Plex after finishing the book.

Also, one of the things I found most fascinating about that book was how much of a whack-job Capra was. Who woulda thunk it? Not me.


I saw a print of They Were Expendable back in my first college film class, and it really blew me away, and inaugurated my Jack Ford obsession. I didn't think I could really like a war movie except Apocalypse Now before I saw They Were Expendable. It really is magnificent. (And war movies are still the genre I'm most resistant to. I don't even like most anti-war movies. Paths of Glory is my least favorite Kubrick, for example.)


Thanks for this. I once met a PBS producer that knocked THEY WERE EXPENDABLE for being a propagandistic, run-of-the-mill John Wayne movie and proceeded to present it as such in an episode of "The American Experience." Not surprisingly, that same series was responsible for the Oscar-nominated travesty on Orson Welles, 'The Battle Over Citizen Kane.'

Dan Heaton

I heard Mark Harris recently on the Cinephiliacs, and I can't wait to check out this book. I'm still digging through a lot of John Ford's films, and They Were Expendable is definitely on the list.


@MK: Just curious, what do you find so horrible about "The Battle Over Citizen Kane?" I've seen it I think twice: once back when it first came out maybe 20 years ago and once in the bonus materials when I first got the Kane DVD. I honestly don't remember much about it, but the word "travesty" never came to mind. Again, just curious.


(I suppose I could just pop the DVD in and see for myself.)


@AeC, it was the subject of much controversy when it came out, and for good reason. Check this link out for a comprehensive rundown: http://www.wellesnet.com/?p=1392

Also, this quote from David Walsh that was posted over at Wikipedia summarizes the problems pretty well: "This sort of superficial comparison—a cat has a head, a dog has a head, therefore a cat equals a dog—conceals far more than it reveals." He adds: "The documentary filmmakers fail to make any reference to this social and political context. Furthermore, because they identify success with a stable career and a steady income, they think Welles's subsequent work hardly worth considering."


(Should've mentioned this for those who haven't seen it - the "superficial comparison" of course is the parallel drawn by the show between Welles and Hearst.)


Beautiful shot from what I still consider to be the greatest war film ever made. Would absolutely love to see a great Blu-ray of this.


"Beautiful shot from what I still consider to be the greatest war film ever made. Would absolutely love to see a great Blu-ray of this."

Agreed on both counts. (Though while a Blu-Ray would be appreciated, I think a cinema screening is really needed to do justice to this flick. And while we're on the topic, where's my Blu-Ray of Wagon Master, my absolute fave Jack Ford? Gentle, gentle...)

The Mark Harris book helped me understand just WHY it was able to be so good. Finally freed of government duty, and freed by the end of the war to crank out something with no regard for propaganda value, Ford was able to create something both lyrical and HONEST.

Tom Block

>they identify success with a stable career and a steady income, they think Welles's subsequent work hardly worth considering.

Yeah, The Battle Over CK leaves a clear impression that Welles was ruined after Kane, just did absolutely nothing worthwhile afterwards, thanks in large part to his not keeping his appetites in check. Touch of Evil, Chimes at Midnight, F for Fake--seriously, these titles aren't even *mentioned* in the doc. Whether or not that constitutes a slur against the man, it's definitely a slur against his career.


Peter Biskind's book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" left the same impression about the New Hollywood directors: that their careers ended in the early '80s (except for Spielberg and Lucas, who allegedly corrupted an art form.)

Paul Schrader said his big gripe about the book was that it implied his career was over after "Cat People."

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