Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remembering Pearl Harbor, Hollywood-style

Commemorate today's anniversary with this list of films, offering Hollywood's take on the Before, During, and After of the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Flying Tigers
John Wayne in his P-40
John Wayne leads the famous flyers — in this movie, a mixed bag of principled freedom fighters and hot-shot mercenaries — against the Japanese in pre-Pearl China. Motives and personalities may be disparate, but everyone pulls together after FDR's famous speech.

Donna Reed and Montgomery Clift
From Here to Eternity
Set in Hawaii in the weeks leading up to the attack, this classic features Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift as the toughest-but-most-vulnerable soldiers in the army. They love the service, and they want to be loved back. Is that so wrong?


Tora! Tora! Tora!
Sô Yamamura as Admiral Yamamoto
Both the Japanese and American sides are shown in this film from 1970. Much bickering about invasion strategy is shown on the Japanese side, while the Americans are shown repeatedly ignoring seemingly obvious clues about the attack. After all the destruction, the film attempts an uplifting ending with Japan's Admiral Yamamoto declaring, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

The attack begins
Pearl Harbor
Every line of dialog in this Michael Bay-directed film sounds like a paraphrased chapter of a history book ("All we have to worry about here is sabotage, so we've bunched our planes together to make them easier to protect.") or a parody of romantic clichés ("I'm gonna give Danny my whole heart, but I don't think I'll ever look at another sunset without thinking of you."). It's a paint-by-numbers period melodrama whose colors drip all over the CGI-enhanced fantasy of actual events, though if you can sit through the first hour and a half you will eventually see Pearl Harbor blown up Bay-style, which I guess is something.


Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Spencer Tracy as James Doolittle
Spencer Tracy makes sporadic appearances as James Doolittle, the mastermind behind America's retaliatory air strike at Japan. The real focus is on the other flyers, namely a bomber crew led by Van Johnson's Ted Lawson. While the men succeed in hitting their target, they don't fare as well afterwards when their plane crash-lands in Japanese-occupied China.

Slim Pickens
Dare I profane the solemn day by recalling Slim Pickens, prisoner on a Japanese submarine, simulating defecation by dropping his boot into a toilet in order to prevent a Cracker Jacks compass from falling into enemy hands? I dare!

See also:
Remembering D-Day, Hollywood-style
Remembering the Doolittle Raid, Hollywood-style


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