top of page
  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Five Came Back

During WWII directors Frank Capra, John Huston, John Ford, William Wyler and George Stevens answered Washington’s call for help from Hollywood. Shop the featured films from these five directors on the Shop TCM DVD website.

In a crossover promotion for the book, Five Came Back, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) has pulled a very clever marketing stunt. The classic film network is spotlighting the films made by the five featured directors in their programming as well as on the shopping page of their website. During WWII directors Frank Capra, John Huston, John Ford, William Wyler and George Stevens answered Washington’s call for help from Hollywood, bolstering our boys away from home with morale boosting pictures, training programs and even on the spot coverage of the war as it happened. When these five A-listers came back state-side they resumed their careers hardly missing a beat. Although, it is easy to see through their collective body of work that they were certainly changed men, which inevitably affected their craft.

Frank Capra is known for his beloved all-American take on, well, the American cultural perspective though out his filmmaking career, particularly during the Great Depression. Although his films declined in popularity initially after World War II (such as It's a Wonderful Life produced in 1946 which was critically derided as being "simplistic" or "overly idealistic"), the succeeding decades resulted in an ever growing fan base for his films, which many now consider timeless classics. Essential Capra includes the afore mentioned Christmas staple, It Happened One Night, You Can’t Take It With You and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

John Huston is the key figure in a Hollywood “dynasty”. Son of actor Walter Huston and father to both actor Anjelica Huston and actor Danny Huston, John was the one who could do it all: write, produce, direct, and act. He busted into the world of showbiz writing such high profile projects as High Sierra and Sergeant York. He would go on to be Academy Award nominated for directing The Asphalt Jungle, The African Queen and Prizzi’s Honor. He produced the epic Moby Dick and was Oscar nominated as Best Supporting Actor in The Cardinal. Essential Huston includes The Maltese Falcon, The Misfits and The Treasure of The Sierra Madre (for which he won Oscars for both directing and writing).

John Ford is best remembered for his westerns. However, none of the four Oscars which he received for Best Director (the only person ever to win four) were for a western. Indeed, the man who worked his actors to the bones (sometimes brutally) was versatile with his work, telling tales set in Ireland, aboard Navy ships, and even on the hunting plains of Africa. John Wayne was Ford’s favorite collaborator whom he usually picked on mercilessly. Yet, the Duke and others closest to him lovingly called the great director “pappy”. Perfection inspires that kind of devotion. Essential Ford includes The Grapes of Wrath, The Searchers and Stagecoach.

Nominated a dozen times, William Wyler is second only to Ford as the most winning Best Director at the Academy Awards with three wins. The man who helmed Wuthering Heights, The Letter, and The Heiress is often overlooked by the less informed classic film fan, but please remember he made superstars out of Bette Davis (Jezebel), Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday) and Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur). Essential William Wyler includes, The Best Years of Our Lives, Mrs. Miniver, and The Westerner.

There may be no other director with a more diverse credit roster than George Stevens. His versatility flows from Fred and Ginger on the dance floor in Swingtime, to action adventure with Grant and Fairbanks, Jr. in Gunga Din, to everyday family life with Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama. And yet Stevens is best remembered for some of cinema’s most iconic movies including essential Stevens films Giant, A Place In The Sun, and Shane.

It can not be over stated that any film by any of these five directors is well-worth watching. So set your DVR and record as many as you can. Or better yet shop the featured films from these five remarkable directors on the TCM DVD website (use image above as a link). Whatever your pick you’re bound to watch the films of these directors again and again.

bottom of page