I counted about 55 people in Flaherty Community Room before the program started, and a few more streamed in. My wife estimated the crowd at 70, and I don’t think she was too far off.
It was a pretty decent turnout for 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. And the presentation was very interesting. Dr. Jim Grove and Dr. Joy Ochs spoke today about films depicting World War I. Their presentation preceded Thursday afternoon’s showing of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and it make me anxious to see that movie.
Dr. Grove started the presentation with a broad survey of numerous World War I-inspired films. One genre of films was the “airplane” movies, such as “Wings” or “Hell’s Angels.”
As World War II drew closer, World War I movies foreshadowed that great conflict and grew sometimes grimmer (although, to be fair, some earlier movies seem pretty grim, too). One in particular that I would like to see is “Dawn Patrol,” which centers on the difficult position of commanders who order young pilots to their almost certain death.
When World War II actually got underway, there was more of a shift to patriotic World War I movies, such as “Sergeant York,” released in 1941. I’m not going to put that one first on my list, although I probably would watch it if I were slightly tipsy.
Dr. Grove briefly covered several films that I have seen and enjoyed, such as the 1981 film “Gallipoli.” It is an Australian film that partly illustrates how lives were wasted during World War I.
On a lighter note, he also mentioned “African Queen,” possibly the leading chick flick or rom-com about World War I (trust me, yes, I know, it’s an old Humphrey Bogart movie, but I think it really is a rom-com). “My legs, the leeches.”
Anyway, the two films I most want to see, and have not yet, are “Paths of Glory,” which Dr. Grove showed an extensive clip from, and “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Dr. Ochs spoke about that movie, and illustrated her points with intriguing slides. I was interested to see how windows were used as symbols in the film, and how that echoed a World War I recruiting poster.
I am glad that I will get to see “All Quiet on the Western Front” Thursday afternoon. It may be some time—the fall semester will keep me very busy—but during Christmas break, I’ll have to find a copy of “Paths of Glory.”
The fascinating film talk could only scratch the surface—there have been a lot of movies made about World War I. The war happened just as the cinema industry was taking off, and I’m sure it had a profound impact on the look and feel of movies.
Beyond the very informative lecture, I also enjoyed the afternoon because it was a chance to see some familiar faces. Jay Shuldiner, a retired history professor; and John Rogers, retired social work professor, both attended. It was good to see and say hello to them.
One of the nice aspects of the series is that it has, so far, had good attendance, and that it has brought many people to the Hill.
Anyway, the presentation today was informative and interesting. I can’t wait to see more. If you missed it, check out the movie Thursday, or come to the next lecture a week from Thursday. I am one of the two presenters then on World War I propaganda.