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A FILM FAN’S FAVORITES

Happy Birthday America!
By DAVID MEISTER
Celebrate America’s birthday with films set in key eras of our country’s history.

1. Colonial Times
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) – John Ford’s nuanced look at newlyweds Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert confronting Indians and the like in pre-Revolutionary times. Also see Last of the Mohicans (1992). 

2. Civil War
Red Badge of Courage (1951) – I chose John Houston’s anti-war adaptation of Stephen Crane’s novel of cowardice over Gone With the Wind because I feel it is more focused on the cost of war itself (600,000 American lives lost). When a general told Houston during WWII he had made an anti-war film, he replied, “God help me if I ever make a pro-war film.â€

3. The Great Depression
The Grapes of Wrath (1940) – One of Director John Ford’s four Oscars, for the adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel of dust bowl “Okies†trying to start over. Henry Fonda is memorable in this unforgettable portrait of a family trying to survive in “the land of plenty.â€

4. World War II
Battleground (1949) – William Wellman’s tale of a platoon during the Battle of the Bulge.  Superior movie making with consistently strong performances brought Oscars for script, cinematography and nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Supporting Actor James Whitmore. Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), depicting a platoon in the Pacific, is a great companion piece and John Wayne’s best performance.

5. The Sixties
The Right Stuff (1983) – “The establishment†perspective, via the soaring story of our first astronauts.  This Best Picture nominee won four Oscars.
Born on the Fourth of July (1989) – Anti-Establishment perspective, as Tom Cruise returns from Vietnam in a wheelchair. For the first time, America saw the real horrors of war on TV and started questioning the government. Nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Tom Cruise), Script; winner for Direction (Oliver Stone) and Editing.

Eight titles that remind me of our heritage. Let me know if you agree at davidmeister@westsidetoday.com, and Happy 232nd Birthday, America!

Palisadian David Meister is a life-long movie goer. He was a top executive at HBO, launched Cinemax, was president of Time-Life Films and later created The Sundance Channel for Robert Redford.

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