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Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood And The Second World War

April 23, 2014

Five Came Back book cover

Five Came Back tells the fantastic story of five directors who offered their services to the United States during World War II. The tremendous amount of research done by Mark Harris and his engaging writing delivers a page turner that is a must read for fans of film history and WWII. Harris navigates a linear timeline from the late 30s till the end of the war and details the evolution of five men and the world they live in. The men chronicled are Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life), William Wyler (Roman Holiday) John Huston (The Maltese Falcon), George Stevens (Shane) and John Ford (The Searchers).

These men  put their lives at risk and careers aside as they traveled the globe chronicling the World War. Their egos combined with their sense of duty provided the United States with countless hours of fantastic footage, training videos and evidence of atrocities. It is thrilling stuff that educates and enlightens us on the pysche of the directors and the issues arising from filming war.

Each man had a unique journey that evolved them as directors and humans. Their lengthy missions brought about post-traumatic stress, alcoholism, moral debates and loss of senses. They all came back to a different Hollywood and had to readjust to life at home. After reading about John Ford’s WWII exploits they give new meaning to his iconic final shot from The Searchers.

the searchers final shot

Five Came Back gave me a much needed history of cinema. I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing about the directors contributions and the book has given me a deep respect for them. They weren’t perfect and their exploits were legendary. However, they risked their lives and helped the war effort.

Here are some of their many contributions.

John Ford filming the battle of Midway.


William Wyler and the Memphis Belle


Frank Capra and Mel Blanc gave the troops the bawdy Private Snafu


Five Came Back is a must read for film fans and history buffs. Read it. Love it. Let me know what you think.



One Comment leave one →
  1. April 24, 2014 6:11 pm

    Listened to an interview with the author and the book sounds fantastic.

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