Well Did You Evah’s Guide To WWI Films

In this household we watch a lot of films. I have a love for war films but I tend to find that the majority I do watch are WWII based. With this week being special, it’s remembrance day on the 11th November in the Centenary year of the start of WWI, I thought It’d be a good idea to educate you in the world of World War I films. Here I’ll pick 5 of my favourites that are memorable, shocking, and very different from each other.

 

War Horse (2011)

WAR HORSEHow this film makes me sob every time I watch it. Poor horses. This film is directed by Steven Spielberg and is based on the Michael Morpurgo book of the same name. The story revolves around Albert, a Devon lad, who joins up the war just to find his horse who was sold to the cavalry to aid the military effort. He vows to find the horse no matter what. The film basically follows the horse around and we see different aspects of the war from the frontline to a small devastated family who come to be in possession of the horse. It’s a touching story because it leaves none of the brutality and scariness out of the war. You basically fear for the horse. You fear for Albert searching for his horse. It’s a war film that takes you on a journey and makes you think more about what you’re seeing.

Paths of Glory (1957)

Paths of Glory is such a great World War I film because it shows the so called coward best-paths-glory-1957side of the war. Again this is based on a book, Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb, and the film is directed by Stanley Kubrick. The film follows four French soldiers who refuse to follow orders to undertake a mission because it is a suicide mission. Set in black and white we see the gore and devastation of the war, especially from a French perspective. The men are tried for cowardice and are eventually executed by firing squad even though their Colonel has fought their side. Paths of Glory is a film that really needs paying attention to, the cinematography and story are fantastic with so many twists and lots of WWI politics involved.

Wings (1927)

Wings is a silent film that still maintains and shows all the drama involved with war. It’s kind of light hearted for a war film in that Clara Bow’s character is in a love triangle, the wings-1927-002-mary-david-and-jacktwo guys go off to war thinking they’ve both won her heart then she becomes an ambulance driver in the war and unintentionally meets one of the guys in Paris, France. As in all silent films the drama seems a lot more intense with the music. The acting is superb and the romantic storyline running along the war will make it a hit for a broader audience. The ending is quite emotional with a twist of fate. It doesn’t seem as realistic a war film in todays terms but you have to remember before the 1950’s they made films on what sold well.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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I chose this one because it’s based on factual events and looks at T.E. Lawrence’s time in the Arabian Peninsula during WWI so is completely different to the fighting and side of war a lot of films depict. Lawrence of Arabia shows us a lot of customs and difficulties a Western man might face in Arabia during the first world war. The fighting bares no resemblance to what the front lines in Belgium were seeing and the military there appear to be doing something completely different to the military in Europe. Peter O’ Toole and Omar Sharif bring life to the characters they play yet manage to have a military seriousness to the end. A great film to watch to get a different perspective on the war

African Queen (1951)

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn star in this brilliant film set at the beginning Hepburn_bogart_african_queenof WWI in German owned East Africa. Again this is a different side of the war. Hepburn plays a missionary and Bogart is the captain of the little boat, The African Queen, who brings in all the mail. War breaks out and they watch the Germans destroy the villages. Brilliantly Hepburn decides that the little boat can be modified into a torpedo boat to sink the big German gunboat that is blocking the river, and the way out. Fun ensues and the chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn makes the film enjoyable while still being a serious war film at the same time. The African Queen is a film that you can learn a lot from while smiling as well.

 

These are just five of the films that I love to watch and find entertaining, daunting and educational at the same time. War films can be scary but some can be fun and romantic so everyone can watch.

Just remember, what those brave men and women did for us will never be correctly or sufficiently shown in a film. All that can be done is recreations for us to watch, and ultimately, enjoy.

War Horse is on BBC One this Sunday 16th November at 8pm. 

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WWI Centenary Lights Out

“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”.

Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary , August 1914, as Britain’s Ultimatum to Germany was about to expire.

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At 10pm tonight we ask you all for just one hour to turn out the lights. Leave one candle or a single light on in memory of the beginning of WWI.

At 11pm on 4th August 1914 Great Britain joined the war changing lives forever.

BBC have commentary on until 11.05pm and there’s an app available called Light’s Out by Jeremy Deller.

Please join the country in remembrance.

The Crimson Field Review

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For the past six weeks the BBC have treated us to a fantastic war drama called The Crimson Field. This series was based in France and was set in a medical camp close to the front lines.

Throughout the six hours it’s been on our tv screens we’ve managed to see more of women’s lives in WWI than we’d possibly read in a book. It’s definitely bolstered the fact that women were indeed a crucial part of WWI

p01vbnlcThe main three ladies we get to know from the beginning are Kitty Trevelyan (Oona Chaplin), Flora Marshall (Alice St. Clair) and Rosalie Berwick (Marianne Oldham) all of them have their own secrets which we find out in the series. We get to watch them all grow in the short time we know them yet after the finale Sunday night it left me feeling like I’d known them forever. Suranne Jones plays another character who we know from the beginning, she plays Sister Joan Livesy. Sister Livesy is keeping a bigger secret than the rest of the ladies which makes her very interesting to watch.

One part I have to applaud the BBC on tackling is the taboo subject of Germans residing in Britain after the sinking of the Lusitania. We find out early on that Sister Livesy’s fiancé is a German, living in Britain, who goes back to be a German soldier. We find out that Germans who lived in Britain were treat very badly throughout this time. It’s quite an eye opener to see how different nationalities were so strictly divided but then we see this same division between the sexes and particularly ranks within the army.

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Each week we saw a different mix of soldiers come through the doors. This gave quite a visual of how the army, doctors and nurses dealt with different scenarios. A few that cropped up were desertion, keeping homophobia on the quiet, shell shock and mental health problems caused by the war and trust issues between the staff. Put in the time era of WWI and the punishments in place made these serious issues.

In some ways this series has been different to many you’ve seen before. I know when I first heard about it being commissioned I fell in love with the fact that thesuranne-jones-and-hermione-norris-in-the-crimson-field-136389032614410401-140404164356
main characters were female nurses from an everyday background. I loved that the actors were fairly unknown but you had the guiding light of experience such as Hermione Norris, Kevin Doyle and Adam James to keep it all in check so to speak. Everything else you learn about the war is an added bonus. The characters are obviously different to films you may have watched about both WWI and WWII, they feel a lot more gritty and strict. The nurses are also strict and stick with the rules, but you sometimes see the newer nurses facades crack a little reminding you they’re only human and they’re still only young.

In Sunday nights finale, which was a corker, the news comes in about Edith Cavell being executed which ties in with the storyline at that point. Everything within the series works well especially with the writers managing to weave real life stories into the scripts.

tumblr_n4d382JUTh1si51pco1_500The Crimson Field is really a series that needs to be watched. In my opinion it wouldn’t have worked as well for any other war. WWII sticks with women being Land Girls, Lumber Jills and Donut Dollies. WWI only seemed to depict women as nurses, there doesn’t appear to be many other roles for the fairer sex. The series manages to fit all the good, bad, ugly and forbidden of a year in WWI into six hours. Yes some questions don’t seem properly answered but this may leave room for another series… Just remember there’s still a lot of the war left at this point.

Watch The Crimson Field on BBC iPlayer here

Learn more about the series here

Happy 100th Birthday Alec Guinness!

tumblr_n0qyneBwz61r31mkdo1_500British screen legend Alec Guinness de Cuffe, better known to you and me as Alec Guinness, is an actor everyone has had the pleasure of watching on the big screen. As today would have been Guinness’ 100th birthday I was given the very hard job of selecting 3 films of his that I love because of Guinness’ superb performance and how the film fits perfectly to him. Please believe me ALL his films are worth a watch, he, like many other actors of bygone eras, just has something that the actors of today can’t perfect on screen. After many hours of great deliberation I narrowed it down to these three:

 

The Malta Story (1953)

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Muriel Pavlow & Alec Guinness in The Malta Story

From the first time I saw this film I loved it. From the outside it’s a classic war film of the British trying to hang onto the island of Malta as the German’s and Italian’s bomb and try to kill off any hopes of the Maltese people yet on the inside it’s a true romantic tale with Flight lt. Peter Ross (Guinness) falling in love with local girl Maria (Muriel Pavlow). Guinness plays this role wonderfully and manages to be a true RAF officer we’d expect to see but have a playful and caring side when it comes to his free time with Maria. The story itself really opens your eyes to Malta’s story during WWII and the great range of actors certainly gives you a film you’ll remember.

 

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

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Alec Guinness as Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne in Kind Hearts and Coronets

This was one of Guinness’ first big films and he nailed it, not just in one role but by playing EIGHT different characters. Kind Hearts and Coronets is an Ealing comedy and like all Ealing comedies it has a really different twist. Guinness plays eight members of the D’Ascoyne family including Lady D’Ascoyne. Unfortunately they all come to a particularly sticky end, all in their own ways. The make up and costume changes Guinness must have gone through for each character must have been tiring but in some occasions on screen you can’t even tell it’s him. He brings something unique to each character which is a true indication of his talent. Not many actors can pull off acting serious while being murdered in a, quite frankly unusual way, in an Ealing comedy.

 

 

The Ladykillers (1955)

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The Cast of The Ladykillers.

This is a film I knew I couldn’t miss out because it was one of the first Alec Guinness films I watched when I was younger. Again it’s an Ealing comedy and will
appeal to those who like a bit of dark humour. Please do not get this mixed up with Tom Hank’s 2004 remake, they’re both completely different and the Guinness version is far superior in every way. The Ladykillers is a great concept for a film and the 1955 cast perfects the overall film. Guinness role has ‘Professor’ Marcus is as sinister as he is charming, especially towards the Old Lady who owns the house he’s renting a room in. The film is all about criminals, imagination, police chases and great acting. In a weird way it makes for great family viewing, just like many of Alec Guinness’ other films.

 

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John Mills & Guinness in Great Expectations

Some films that nearly made it onto this very short list that are well worth a watch are: Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Peter O’Toole plays the lead but Guinness plays an excellent Prince Feisal. Bridge On the River Kwai (1957) A very well known war story and a must watch, also stars William Holden. Great Expectations (1946) Guinness’ first credited film. He was the perfect friend to John Mill’s Pip in this film and he looks so young.

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Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence & Guinness as Prince Faisal

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Bridge on the River Kwai

There’s plenty more films that you could watch and enjoy in which Guinness stars. He starred in many genres so there’s something there for everyone. You maytumblr_n3ds83EaKz1qh3tpwo1_500
have noticed the lack of Star Wars on here. Guinness’ is said to have disliked his time in the films and, to me, it isn’t really his best performance.

Happy Birthday Alec! You may be gone but your work and talent will be enjoyed forever!

Happy Birthday Greta Garbo

It would have been the late, great Greta Garbo’s birthday today. Has one of my favourite actresses it’s only fair that I let you in on why I love her. So here is a few of the silents and talkies … Continue reading