Mr. Capra Goes to War collects the Capra “Why We Fight” series in glorious HD. The films were shot between 1942-1945 as a way of homefront and soldier support. Prelude to War was many Americans’ first introduction to the horrors of the Axis Powers. Short in nature, the documentary was anchored by Alfred Newman’s boombastic score. Was it propaganda? Sure.
The Battle of Russia: Parts I and II were a co-directed effort with Anatole Litvak. John Huston did the heavy hitting on the narration, but there’s a reason this documentary was split into two parts. If you want to see actual warfare, this might be your winner. Check out the special features, as the main supplemental material has some stunning insights on this one. Honestly, I’m just enjoying the Huston narration on this one.
The Negro Soldier was meant to encourage enlistment among African American men. Borrowing a liberal amount of footage from the 1936 Olympics, Capra and director Stuart Heisler drew a direct line between soldiers and Jesse Owens. The documentary short puts a lot of weight on the German government’s ability to oppress minorities. Naturally, the American oppression of minorities got glossed over. We had a war to win, people.
Tunisian Victory brought John Huston back into the mix with a handful of British film talent to showcase the battle for North Africa. Burgess Meredith contributed a narration track to help highlight the need to destroy the Nazi stranglehold. Each of these documentaries come with a powerful opening from Joseph McBride. Plus, the Why We Fight analysis helped me to look back on the historical impact of this content. Amazing work all-around and a must-buy for history nerds.