Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In honor of November 11...

Why do we use November 11 to celebrate our veterans? It was on November 11, 1918 that the Armistice ending WWI officially took effect, beginning on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Celebrated as the war to end all wars, WWI was the first global conflict. Nearly a hundred years and several wars later, Historybusters would like to recommend a few Historybusting gems…

In Lawrence of Arabia, Peter O'Toole gives a star-making performance as T.E. Lawrence, the eccentric British officer who united the desert tribes of Arabia against the Ottoman Turks during World War I. Director David Lean delivers sweeping battle sequences and breathtaking images, but the film is really about the adventures and trials that transform one man into a legend. This film is mature, but family friendly.

Set during World War I, this brutally honest movie was co-written by director Peter Weir. It tells the story of two fictionalized best friends who put aside their hopes and dreams to join the war effort. This film eventually follows them as they enlist and are sent to Gallipoli to fight the Turks. The first half of the film is devoted to their lives and their strong friendship. The second half details the doomed war efforts of the Aussies, who are no match for the powerful and aggressive Turkish army. This film is family friendly, but with mature content.

Sergeant York
Produced in 1941, partly as an American call to arms in WWII, Sergeant York is a surprisingly accurate retelling of the life of Sgt. Alvin York, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Much of the script is taken directly from Sgt. York's diary, and York himself served as an advisor throughout the filming. York even chose Gary Cooper to play his character; Cooper returned the favor by giving one of the strongest performances of his career. The story begins before America’s involvement in the war. We meet York in his home state of Tennessee and quickly learn that this world-class sharpshooter is a pacifist. Drafted to fight, he is blocked from killing by his beliefs. The underlying theme of this memorable film concerns how a self-effacing and peaceful man managed to capture a German position single-handedly and save the lives of his fellow soldiers. It contains some mature content.

Behind the Lines

Based upon Pat Barker’s suburb psychological 1991 war novel Regeneration, this extraordinary World War I film is based on true events. It is set in 1917 at a British Army hospital in Craiglockart, Scotland. There we meet a pioneering psychiatrist named Dr. William Rivers and the many soldiers he must heal and send back to the front. It is a unique story about the invisible wounds of war, two visionary poets, and one visionary physician. Family friendly, but with mature content.

Paths to Glory

Based on the semi-fictional novel by Humphrey Cobb, Paths to Glory stars Kirk Douglas in one of his finest roles—Colonel Dax, commander of a battle-worn regiment of the French army serving along the western front during World War I. Held in their trenches under the threat of German artillery, the regiment is ordered on a suicidal mission to capture an enemy stronghold. This suicidal attack is loosely based upon the battle for Fort Douamont during the Battle of Verdun, where over 300,000 French soldiers lost their lives. When the mission inevitably fails, French generals order the selection of three soldiers to be tried and executed on the charge of cowardice. Colonel Dax is chosen to defend them. Paths to Glory contains moderately mature content.

The lost Battalion

This 2001 A&E production starring Rick Schroder, Jamie Harris, Phil McKey, Jay Rodan and Adam James II, tells the true World War I story of an American unit that was surrounded by German troops and bombarded mercilessly by both sides. It portrays the surreal brutalities of a war where carrier pigeons and machine guns were the tools of victory, and creates memorable characters well worth knowing. This is a wonderful depiction of a horrific time; it contains mature content.

The Life and and Death of Colonel Blimp

If you have never seen Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1943 production of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, get ready for a treat. The main character is based on a popular comic strip character of the time, but the amazing performance of Roger Livesey as the General Clive Wynne-Candy is much more than comic. We first meet the imposingly rotund General as a blustering old duffer serving in WWII. He oozes stuffy, pompous, and outmoded values. However, traveling back 40 years to the beginning of Crimean War, we see a different man altogether: a young and dashing officer nicknamed "Sugar" Candy. Through a series of relationships set against the events of three wars, we come to understand how difficult it is for him to adapt his sense of military honor to modern notions of "total war." Incidentally, this is the film that Winston Churchill tried to have banned because of its sympathetic portrayal of a German officer. Charming in every way, the film is family friendly, with mildly mature content.

To see a complete list of our WWI recommendations, visit Historybusters Store of Knowledge

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