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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Veterans Day on TCM

In honor of the service of the brave individuals who have fought for our country, TCM pays tribute to military veterans with a festival that includes The Dirty Dozen (1967), Sergeant York (1941), Where Eagles Dare (1969), Screaming Eagles (1956), The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Sergeant York (1941), Where Eagles Dare (1968), From Here to Eternity (1953), and The Story of G. I. Joe (1945).

Through out its history, Hollywood has made some truly spectacula films about war. It has glamorized it, condemned it, examined it, and so much more. During the days of WWII there was a particular point of providing propaganda for the home front. After "V-Day", and particularly "VJ-Day", there became an interest in portraying the effects such violent experiences had on the men (and women) who have sacraficed so much. These films explore what was once refered to as "battle fatigue", now known as post-tramatic syndrom disorder, or PTSD. This Noveber 11, TCM will air seven films in honor of the military veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

I have never seen the film, Screaming Eagles, so I can not attest to its quality. What I do know is very interesting. The producers were eager to have new (inexpensive) faces who had actually fought in World War II. Star Tom Tryon had served with the US Navy in the South Pacific while Alvy Moore had landed at Okinawa with the Marines. Martin Milner had appeared in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and Halls of Montezuma (1950) prior to his own military service, making training films for the Army's Special Services Division. During his military service, director Charles shot training films for the Army Signal Corps. This is a rare case of authenticity often lost on Hollywood productions.

Now, anyone familiar with classic films can tell you the merrits of some the other films included in the celebratory lineup. For instance, The Best Years of Our Lives received (justifiably) the Oscar for the Best Picture of 1946. The Dirty Dozen is an extremely popular movie with a cast of some of the most rough and rugged men ever to grace the screen, including Lee Marvin, Jim Brown, and Charles Bronson. Sergeant York earned Gary Cooper an Oscar as Best Actor of 1941 for his earnest portrayal of a pacifist soldier serving in WWI. From Here to Eternity also received the Academy Award for Best Picture and received statuettes for Frank Sinatra as Best Suporrting Actor and for Donna Reed as Best Supporting Actress, and the film boasted many other powerful performances by Ernest Borgnine, Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Deborah Kerr - we're talking powerhouse casting.

What I think is a film with which you are likely to be less familiar is The Story of G.I. Joe. It's an easy one to overlook due to its lack of star power. Although, a young Robert Mitchum is among the cast (this film established him as a star), the lead character is played by Burgess Meredith who is best remembered as Sylvester Stallone's couch in Rocky. Meredith plays real-life Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent, Ernie Pyle. Pyle serves as a conduit for the story's plot. He travels with the U.S. Army's Company C Division during their liberation of Italy reporting on their experiences. He wrote about them in his columns mentioning them by name, which was something both the soldiers and their families back home appreciated. It's also worth mentioning that, like Screaming Eagles, the extras in the film were real American GIs.

The Story of G.I. Joe takes a different approach to portraying war and those on the frontline. I think that's why I like the film so much. You get to know the actual infantrymen who do the grunt work every single day, in every situation, from the stifling boredom, to the frenzied battle scrummeges. We see those who gave all, and those who faced the same possibility. We see the future veterans we honor every November 11. It is one film I will not be missing.


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