If you've followed THE AMERICAN CINEMA series on PBS (a very mixed bag,
to say the least), the "Combat Film" episode made much of the influence of
John Wayne on young male fantasies of wartime heroism. Fair enough--the
book and film BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY is only the best-known testament
to the Duke's influence. But the episode then showed an Officer's class
screening SANDS OF IWO JIMA and the instructor exclaiming, "How about that
John Wayne, taking that hill on his own!" (or somehting like that) to a
roar of approval from the class.
The thing is, though, I'm sure I've seen that same classroom footage
elsewhere--and the instructor goes on to debunk the Duke at failing to
be a Team Player and for being a likely candidate for a quick, useless
death. Am I misremembering, or is the series playing fast and loose with
this footage? (It wouldn't be the first time.)
The series has been slowly unwinding on Twin Cities Public TV, and I have
to acknowledge the very valid criticisms that have been made of the whole
thing. It strikes me, though, that the episodes that deal with the
business of Hollywood (the structure of the "American Cinema," the episode
on the studio system) have been better than the ones that focus on genre.
The latter seem often incomplete and often resort to gimmicks like cute
montages like the stuff Disney's been doing for specials for decades.
I'm puzzled by some of the omissions of what seem like obvious factors to
me, at least--Why, for example, no mention at all of TOP GUN in the Combat
Film sequence and its role in the revival of a military career as
desirable (especially interesting for the way that film focuses on the
need to be a Team Player and virtually ignores Patriotism as a motivating
factor) or why the episode on the Western pays so much attention to
PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID and none to THE WILD BUNCH, which is much
more important (and a better film to boot). One positive thing about the
Combat Film episode, though, was the way it drew acknowledged wartime
experience influencing directors from Ford to Zanuck and particularly the
contrast it drew between THE LONGEST DAY and Sam Fuller's films.
I'm curious to see what they will do with (or to) film noir, which airs
Other thoughts? Or has this subject been beaten to death already?
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN