WWII MOVIES: THE BEST?

WWII movies, one of the most popular sustained genres of film, is the subject of a recent online article I happen to come across. Naturally, everybody’s opinion is different, but if the subject is “20 of the Best,” there’s bound to be conflict. Actually, I agree with a lot of the choices in the article, but of course, there are exceptions. 
   As the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was heartened to see two of the actors best WWII films on the list. However, I of course think they should be ranked a little higher.
   The fact that the British author of the piece included some British films is to be expected, as well some underrated WWII movies worthy of rediscovery. But if he’s going to do that, he should have included the criminally underrated Attack!

The tag lines aside, the powerful artwork spoke volumes for the film WWII ATTACK!, one of the most criminally underrated WWII movies ever made.



(1956), which, like The Dirty Dozen (1967), was harrowingly directed by Robert Aldrich. By the way, the mention of the film Overlord (1975) also has a Dirty Dozen connection in that it was directed by Stuart Cooper who played Roscoe Lever. 
   Back to the list, itself. One problem I see in the choices is if you going to make the point about the prolific writing of Alistair MacLean why choose Where Eagles Dare over the much better Guns of Navarone (1961)? Weird!  
   Also, since WWII had so many varied aspects to it, why not break up the list by sub-genres? After all, if you put the legendary Casablanca on the list in terms of the effect the war had on civilians, there should be a place for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), The Best Years of Our Lives (1948), The Tin Drum (1979), Hope & Glory (1987), The Men (1950, Since You Went Away, (1944), So Proudly We Hail (1943) and several others. In doing so, it would include another Lee Marvin classic: Bad Day at Black Rock (1955). Just saying.

Henchmen Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin watch as Spencer Tracy gets off the train and prepare to confront him in John Sturges’ Bad Day at a Black Rock (1955).


   As far as sub-genres are concerned, there should be one for biopics and if so, it is absolutely appalling not to include the likes of Patton (1970). George C. Scott’s performance (turned down by Lee Marvin) is one of the greatest in movie history! 
  It can also be determined by branches of the service, which would include the likes of the navy in Mister Roberts (1955), They Were Expendable (1945), or the Marines via The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)…well, you get the idea. 
   Basically stated, if you’re going to write a list of “The Best…” anything, be prepared to be corrected, debated and possibly duck some brickbats as the cinema of WWII is a pretty big subject to ever narrow down to just 20. In the mean time, watch a Lee Marvin movie and then find out how they were made in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

– Dwayne Epstein



 

 

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JANUARY 2022 ON TCM

January 2022 marks a new year and with it, a couple of pretty good Lee Marvin movies on TCM. Oh, I know, 2021 was a pretty crappy year when all is considered. But look at the bright side. A new year always offers new hope, more chances for success and the possibility for more dreams to come true…or not. The future, dark as it looks, can still be bright as it remains unknown. Maybe the best way to ensure some glimmer of hope is by revisiting these Lee Marvin classics (all times are PST)….

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955): January 8th, 1:30 pm.

(L-R) Russell Collins, Walter Brennan, Spencer Tracy (seated), Dean Jagger, Lee Marvin and Robert Ryan in Bad Day at Black Rock.



 A recognized classic of slow building suspense, the entire all-star cast is uniformly excellent in this modern day western suspense thriller. Nothing new to say that hasn’t been said already as I wrote about previously here and here. Naturally, don’t just take my word for it. See it for yourself if you’ve never seen it…and if you have, enjoy it again. It’s just that good. 

The Dirty Dozen (1967): January 24th, 11:30 am.

Composite of scenes from the TCM perennial, THE DIRY DOZEN.

Once again, not much more to say about this recognized WWII classic other than to add it’s the subject of my current project to be published rather appropriately on Father’s Day, 2023. Truth be told, there actually is more to say as I’ve already racked up interviews with surviving cast members, adult children of the cast and 93-year-old producer, Ken Hyman. In other words, watch the film again and stay tuned for some great stories about it!


Raintree County (1957) January 31, 2:00 pm.

(L-R) Lee Marvin and Montgomert Clift as ‘Bummers’ during the Civil War scene in Raintree.


Okay, so this rip-off of Gone With the Wind (1939) has a painful-to-watch Montgomery Clift performance, a shrill Elizabeth Taylor and some rather unsavory plot twists. However, it also has some beautiful photography, underrated Agnes Moorhead and one of the best performances Lee Marvin ever gave on film. If you can sit through it, you’ll see what I mean as I’v written previously

Pretty good movies to end 2021 on and start the new year of January 2022 with, don’t you think? Don’t forget, all the films mentioned above are written about in greater depth in the pages Lee Marvin Point Blank

Oh yeah, almost forgot something.

A recent photo of good friend Ron Thompson (inset) and one of his two animated alter egos, Pete, from Ralph Bakshi’s AMERICAN POP.


American Pop (1981)

It premieres on TCM January 22nd at 12:45 am and is a worthy addition here, even if for no other reason then I love the film and know the film’s star, personally. Ron Thompson is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and gives an amazing dual performance in the film without ever being seen! Not even Lee Marvin can say that. Ron has always been worth watching and has recently experienced an overdue renaissance of sorts that you can see here.  Check him out in animator Ralph Bakshi’s rotoscoped classic depicting 20 century pop culture. He’s remarkable in it!

Okay, now I can say it. Happy new year, one and all!
– Dwayne Epstein

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FIGHTING ON FILM PODCAST

Fighting On Film is a podcast out of the U.K. Being the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank the gentlemen who host it recently invited yours truly as a guest to talk about The Dirty Dozen (1967).


Rather fortuitous timing as it allowed me to mention the recent announcement of my latest project: Killing Generals: The Making of The Dirty Dozen
   The podcast is hosted by two gentlemen who really know their stuff when it comes to both WWII history and the weapons used to fight it. As a matter of fact, their knowledge of the weapons and vehicles used in the film enhanced my knowledge! 

FIGHTING ON FILM host, Robbie McGuire.

FIGHTING ON FILM co-host, Matthew Moss.

The gentlemen got in contact with me through my Lee Marvin Point Blank publisher, Tim Schaffner who in turn put me in touch with them. Naturally we were both thrilled by the invite in an effort to continue to spread the word to a new audience about both Lee Marvin and The Dirty Dozen. 
I certainly enjoyed the experience of speaking with them and look forward to a possible return visit for my next project. 
So, with that in mind, I give you the ‘Fighting on Film’ podcast with your hosts, Robbie McGuire and Matthew Moss available for your listening pleasure at this link. Enjoy and happy holidays!

– Dwayne Epstein

 

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