5/2/2021 0 Comments
#106) So Proudly We Hail
~Women In World War II - Film Review~
I had no idea what to expect when I popped this DVD into my little, black, spinning machine. But, I was delightfully surprised by what I had discovered within.
I’m a huge fan of old, classic films - especially from the 1940’s and into the 1950’s. Those years are, without a doubt, my favorite era of filmography. And having knowledge of, and already having viewed, countless movies from that time period, I was shocked that I had never run across this one.
I believe this film was recommended to me by Big Tech. You know - the guys who know more about you than you do about yourself.
One of the big sites told me I should check this out. And, either they really do know me better than I do, or a little birdie told them how completely and utterly patriotic I really am. A quick glimpse of the movie poster, imagery, and really, the title alone, and I immediately clicked. A simple skim of the plot, and I went straight over to the Jacksonville Public Library mobile app and requested to rent.
What a joy!
And what sorrow…
For anyone who is even a remote fan of World War II films, this one is a must-see. The title says it all, and the title does do it justice.
Based upon a true story, So Proudly We Hail tackles a plot involving a ‘small’ and somewhat forgotten and overlooked bullet point of WWII subject matter - WOMEN.
The Women of War… The Women of World Wars... The Women who also risked it all - for freedom.
While, of course, men did most of the fighting, and dying in WWII, women were also heavily involved, at home, and abroad. And contrary to popular belief, women were allowed on the front lines. It just wasn’t discussed, acknowledged, and brought to our attention as it should have been.
Yes - It should have been - so that we could honor the might and bravery and history of American women - in the world's biggest and mightiest war.
No - it wasn’t just Rosie the Riveter back on the homefront, representing the women of American wartime, in bomber plants and machine shops across the U.S. for the Defense industry.
While we remember and know Rosie pretty well - we cannot overlook Nancy the Nurse.
She was nursing on the warfront, and she tackled the death and destruction straight in evil’s path.
So, while Rosie riveted away on airplanes and war ships and other munitions, Nancy was also seaming and mending pieces together, with stitches and staples of a different sort, and working on a different sort of product.
Rosie handled the steel - and Nancy handled the blood and guts.
But they all gave it their all... and that’s all that really mattered at the time.
Starring Claudette Colbert and Paulette Goddard, two of the silver screen’s most extraordinary stars at the time, So Proudly We Hail, accurately, and with great detail, captures the role females in the Army had during some of the war's most challenging times.
And before going any further with this review, I want to highlight an aspect of the film which I deem one of the most important - its context - Time.
So Proudly We Hail was released in 1943 - during the height and depth of WWII. The context is imperative. This film was produced during the war - and not AFTER the war.
This context is of extreme importance, and is what makes this film quite different from WWII films released AFTER WWII was complete. When the war was literally over, extinguished, not of this Earth any longer.
Context is something that - we - society today - have all but forgotten. And context is essential to our understanding of the time period.
And why context is so crucial should be so very obvious, but increasingly isn’t. The war was RAGING while this film was viewed in theaters all over the United States. The war was being fought, the people were sacrificing, people were dying, and the people were afraid of their unknown futures.
American’s had no idea who was going to win the war while watching this film upon its release. Yet, American’s still sacrificed, and they still gave up so very much. All for a belief... a simple, true and noble belief - in hope.
For a better future.
For a free world.
For an end to slavery and tyranny, concentration camps, hate, imperialism - and against the destruction of faith - and for value of personal freedom.
So, while I do love watching these old classic films in the context of the world of today - seemingly and literally a million miles away from the values and context of a world that was alive less than a hundred years ago. I also equally enjoyed viewing So Proudly We Hail with the remembrance of the fact that all of this was made and written and said and sweated over while we were still fighting against the Third Reich and the Imperial Japanese.
No one at the time knew how this horrific world war would end, especially in 1942 and 1943. Only really in 1944 could some see a light at the end of the tunnel. Again, calling all of context into play here.
It all could have gone either way at that point in 1943. The world could have gone the way of the thousand year reign of a fascist dictator, or it could, and did, go in the direction of freedom. And that fact of their lack of knowledge of the future is what I enjoy the very most when I view these films of that time period.
Additionally, and of quite importance regarding the axis power of Japan during the time, no one knew we would someday become allies, and what I have always viewed as a special kinship and friendship between the United States and Japan - after the war.
I believe with all my heart that our relationship with Japan is of solid hope for the world to see - that enemies can become friends. That horrific atrocities on both sides can truly be forgiven. And pave the way toward a better future - for both nations, and others. And this is worth noting due to the scenes in the film where hatred toward the Japanese is discussed from the American point of view at the time.
A time - after - Pearl Harbor had been bombed.
A time - before - Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been bombed.
Of particular note is a scene where Veronica Lake’s character says she is going to ‘kill some Japs.’ She then has a realization - what good would that do? That is not her role. She is sent to the front lines as a nurse - to heal any and all - at a hospital, in the jungle. She does fulfill her role and duty, and does not kill her enemy instead at the time.
Ultimately, however, it is her character that ends up ironically sacrificing herself to save her fellow female soldiers from their enemy at the time - the Japanese. And in her final act, she ends up killing herself - to kill the enemy - to save her American comrades. This scene, showing that no matter how her personal beliefs evolved over the course of their wartime struggles, people still made the ultimate sacrifice. And some still were forced to kill, even if they truly did not want to, in the course of war and evil.
Throughout the entirety of this wonderful piece of film, we are treated to the display of American Army Nurses on patrol, on shift, and their struggles off shift as well. Love, duty, honor, and sacrifice abound the entire film. This movie sheds light on the role of nurses in war, and what tools they had - or did not have - to work with while caring for their patients.
Seemingly forgotten in the jungles, these brave nurses triaged patients under a canopy of palm trees. Their operating rooms were made of tin roofs and cloth sheets for walls. They ran out of what we call today - PPE - personal protective equipment. And they performed surgery without masks. Simply because they just didn’t have any around to use.
Gloves were in extremely short supply. And where today’s hospitals have entire sterile processing programs for surgical instruments, this film portrays how nurses had to wash and sanitize tools in basic garbage bins and barrels - in a futile struggle to remain germ-free for each and every, and endless, patient.
Medicine running out, and at times completely out of supply, patients had to be treated without pain killers, and no anesthesia. A basic - grit your teeth and bear it - sort of agony, for stitching and mending.
And post op - forget any special flower bouquets and treats and books and magazines to keep occupied. Patients by the hundreds and thousands, lay on makeshift stretchers, to suffer through their terrible recoveries in the hot, humid, and wet open air weather of the so-called hospital. All these patients - laying in that shared, open air, watching as our heroic nurses continued treatment on countless other patients seemingly all around them.
And in case one was starting to forget - the film does a solid job of not ever letting us forget that all their hospital work was under constant threat of destruction and actually bombing. Army staff and patients were constantly fleeing enemy soldiers, snipers, airplane attacks from the sky above, and there were constant forced evacuations onto safer land - that was, conspicuously, never found.
As the situation seemed to get worse, for allies in the vicinity, sadly, the war did eventually take a very bad turn for the allies. Bataan, and the Battle of the Philippines, being what many consider one of the American militaries worst failures in our history. In that, the United States, amidst the U.S. and Filipono forces’ inability to hold the line, they ultimately fell - to the Japanese. As the overwhelming and brutal forces of their imperial enemy in this area were too much for both nations to endure. And sadly, after the fall, there was further atrocity - when the Bataan Death March was played out on enemy territory.
Roughly 80,000 American and Filipino troops were contained as prisoners of war, and horrific treatment of these prisoners led to countless further wartime deaths. Post War, Japanese commanders were tried and convicted of war crimes for their knowledge and failure of oversight of subordinates and for allowing these war crimes to take place on their watch.
So, knowing all this, many tears were shed while watching this film. As pain, and suffering, and sacrifice, and hate, and love, were all on full display.
And yes, there was Love.
There was Love - that surrounded the entire film. Love, that gave many hope, I might think, at the time. Love was still happening. Love of all kinds. And this film - in the greatest of great horrors of war time - showed that people were not afraid to actually live while they were alive. Something - as I have said many times - many today have now conclusively forgotten.
We are an afraid people right now. And we are scared to live while we are alive. These people were not. And I am not afraid to live either. The love and life portrayed in this film is indeed something we all can take lessons from today.
During struggle and and sacrifice and the horrors of war, one still must live.
After all, when else is there to live, than when you are alive?
Amidst bombs exploding, one must still live as they watch the bombs fall. In the middle of a raging fire, one must search for water and various types of flame retardants. Surrounded by hate, one must spread good will. And with smoke attempting suffocation, one must still breathe. Life.
If we are not living - we are dying.
If we are not moving - we are receding.
If we are not learning - we are submitting.
If we are not struggling - we are not human.
If we are not risking it all - we are doomed to never know what could truly become.
If we do not know sacrifice - we do not know God’s ultimate glory for us.
If we are not loving - we are doubting God’s creation.
If we do not have Faith - what is our future?
Faith - this brings me to my favorite scene of the entire film.
Walter Abel, playing the role of Army Chaplain, gives a superb performance, and is my favorite actor in the film. He remains, to this day, one of my favorite character actors of the time. His on-screen presence is a joy to me, and a light to my heart. If I had been alive during his lifetime, I would have strived to have met him in real life. And I know I would have written letters to him, thanking him for the joy his characters brought to my heart.
The scene - was of course - Christmas. My favorite holiday. My favorite time of year. Our beloved characters were all onboard ship, and the Chaplain said a prayer. The script is poetic. And many ears today could benefit from hearing his special words. It’s as if God spoke onboard the mighty vessel. And God was there - glowing amidst the light of their special little makeshift Christmas tree.
And this remains my favorite scene - because…
What is war - without Christmas?
“You must forgive me for being sentimental...” Abel states, as personnel gathered around the silly, impromptu Christmas tree.
And he continues: “We’re a sentimental people…”
“Our enemies deride us for it…”
But - “It’s what makes us stronger.”
He asks the people standing around him to have Faith. To continue forward. Even as that very night the ship steered straight into the hellfire of the coming battle. And even as he knows - and they know - what is waiting for them when they reach shore.
But still - they prayed.
And they still - had Faith.~
3/14/2021 0 Comments
#101) Contagion ~ Ten Years Later
~ A Film Just Before Its Time ~
If there ever was a film I was terrified of upon its release - it was this one.
Just the other day, I recently re-watched “Contagion” - the now infamous film from 2011 - starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon, amongst many other notable actors and actresses.
I had seen Contagion ten years ago, upon its release. And I remember thinking at the time how scary of a film it truly was.
To me - Contagion was a horror film.
An apocalyptic film.
A sci-fi film.
A nightmare scenario.
Eerie. Very eerie.
A film that scared the living daylights out of me.
It shook me - to the core. But, why?
I could never really understand that. Why? Why did this film so severely affect me at the time of initial viewing? Was it a sense of foreboding? A sense of truth in terror? A feeling that fiction is reality? Or can someday be?
Can all fiction someday come true?
And what about historical films? Can history repeat itself? Was there ever a film made about the 1918 influenza outbreak? If so, did anybody learn anything from it? Or were we just doomed to have it all happen all over again, no matter what film was made, or not? No matter what happened in the past, does history always repeat itself?
I also remember thinking at the time that I could NEVER, EVER rewatch this film. It was too horrific for my brain to process this storyline more than once. A note to self - once and done. If this film happened to reair on cable tv years later, I would NOT be viewing it. Remember - CONTAGION.
Well, little did I know that I’d actually watch it two more times in the next ten years.
Was I crazy or something? Why would I purposely subject myself to a film that so obviously had shaken me?
At the very beginning of the Covid 19 outbreak, just a bit before it was formally declared a global pandemic, so a little over a year ago now… I went ahead and rented Contagion from the Jacksonville Public Library.
Something told me it was time to rewatch this scary film. There were things happening in the news that sounded awfully similar to what I had watched all those years before, on screen.
What the heck was I doing?
I brought home the DVD, carried it in the house, and I let the disc just sit there on my console table. I was thinking - contemplating…
Should I rewatch this horror?
But I was curious. Very curious.
And - By this time, nine years had gone by since I watched the film.
It was the year 2020. I had turned 39. Nothing scared me anymore. Nothing.
I had changed A LOT in those nine years since first viewing the film.
Now, I actually LIKE watching horror films. Apocalyptic films, sci-fi films, suspense films, thriller films, you name it, if it keeps my brain utterly and totally occupied, I’ll watch it. And I enjoy them all.
So, as the world was getting closer and closer to a nasty and evil and very real pandemic raging outside our walls, I had Contagion sitting there - waiting for me to view it once again.
So as the real life nightly news began preaching more and more about washing hands, using sanitizer, and cases of this novel coronavirus spreading widely, my curiosity peaked.
I ended up putting the DVD into the player, and I hit play. On a lovely evening, after a very busy day at work, and with a tv dinner in hand, my husband and I rewatched Contagion - for the second time.
This time, I watched it from start to finish - with the backdrop of a real life, strange, and mysterious virus standing just outside my door.
This time, I watched with an open mind.
This time, I watched to see how the world handled itself in this fictional crisis and war-like situation.
Well - of course - the world went crazy. Completely and utterly crazy.
On this fictional Earth - There were protests and riots, destruction and houses broken into. There were gunshots. There were bare store shelves, military on the streets, quarantines, and gloves, and hand sanitizer, and blockades, masks, and treatments, studies and vaccine research. And there was isolation, and school closures, contact tracing, and even discussion on how to allocate and distribute those precious vials of potential immunity. This list does go on.
It was all there.
It was scary, yes.
But it was still so fictional.
The film was still so out of touch with reality.
It was still sooo sci-fi.
We finished off the film. And went to bed. And went back to normal and not so crazy life. But, I guess, little did we know at the time that normal life wouldn’t be so normal anymore. Just a matter of days and weeks later. All that crazy - was coming our way.
As I slipped the DVD in its case and then slid it through the return slot at the library… the world outside went ahead and changed on us all.
So then the pandemic came. Once upon a time in a not so distant world. A virus plagued us all - IN. REAL. LIFE.
The fictional world of Contagion came true.
With shocking and detailed accuracy. Even down to conspiracy theorists influencing millions of people in various ways, and people wearing bubbles around their heads.
So as the one year anniversary of the plague came around, I found myself the other day, in contemplation, yet again. Over the film - Contagion.
Something told me I had to rewatch this horrific film, yet one more time.
How would I view Contagion, after experiencing a real life one?
So, for now the third time, I rented the film from the local library.
And I did my now usual hesitation - but this time just for a split second. I laughed. And I popped the film into the DVD player.
What on Earth is there to hesitate about at this point? Have we not seen it all in this past year?
This now silly and comedic film couldn’t possibly scare me now! Ha! As I laugh at our messed up little globe. The problems humanity has to deal with couldn’t scare me out of my mind. Nothing could shake me - to the core - after enduring what we’ve endured.
So, last night, at the age of 40, and ten years after its release, with a dinner consisting of frozen pizza and club soda, we rewatched Contagion, yet again.
Gosh, Matt Damon looks a lot younger there! - I thought as the film began.
I laughed as they tried to identify the virus - it’s ‘novel’ said the CDC.
And I remembered how a year ago I kept asking myself, why are they calling this virus a NOVEL virus?
I gasped as panic set in, similar to the real life panic.
My jaw dropped at the bare store shelves. And the fight for food and survival.
And I flat out had to press pause as all of societal order - began to break down.
It’s easy to look back and think all this was coming, and coming fast, and that we simply weren’t prepared. It’s easy to think of the should haves and could haves - now.
But how could we really have been prepared for the apocalypse? How does one prepare for a meteor to hit the planet? Not everyone has MRE’s sitting in a climate controlled basement bunker, patiently sitting there and waiting for their time in the limelight.
I hit play again and continued watching. They spoke of people leaving their clothes at their front door upon return home from work. So as not to contaminate their house.
Matt Damon’s character repeatedly hands his daughter hand sanitizer after they touch objects outside their home.
His daughter spends basically a year at home, sitting in her room, and texting her friends. Growing increasingly sad, anxious, and desperate for the end to this worldwide ordeal. When would she go back to school?
Well, as in all good end-of-the world films, the saga did come to an end. They found a vaccine - not necessarily a treatment - from what I understood of the ending, anyway. The world moved on. People started to venture on with their lives, slowly, and hesitatingly. And the story closes following a bird and a bat and a pig and raw meat and a chef and bare hands, and then - a handshake.
I think the very end of the film is always what scared me the very, very most about it.
While Contagion was completely fictional. Seeing it for the third time shook me again - this time to the core - again. Yes, the entire film was a work of fiction. But what was nerve-wracking and shocking to me, now, with this third viewing, was how true to life the entire storyline was. How did this film predict all that was to come? How did this story come true - down to a T? To the finest detail?
It was as if real life over this past year was scripted to match this film. Or was it that the film had been scripted to match the future real life? It all was just so eerie to watch. It was truly scary. Can fiction really become reality? And you know what? It was probably more difficult to watch the film for this third and final time. That’s right, I finally don’t need another viewing. Three and I’m done. I’ve lived through the film and I’ve lived it in real life. Next in line for viewing, please.
What was it about it for this third viewing that was so shocking to me? Why did the film originally shake me to the core ten years ago? Why was I so scared watching a piece of pure and utter fiction? Why did the bat and the pig and the raw meat imagery stay in my mind for all those years?
Maybe, just maybe, it was because I knew, ten years ago, deep in the back of my mind, how real and possible and true this piece of fiction could become, if we just gave it enough time. ~
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