PRELUDE TO WAR: ON THE EVE OF WORLD WAR II
The films presented this week explore the mindset of the various world leaders and the global circumstances that led to World War II, which ravaged the globe only a few short years after the “the war to end all wars.”
Thursday, Aug. 14 (7:30 p.m.)
Prelude to War (Twentieth Century Fox, 1942)
The Office of War Information (OWI) and Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall commissioned this first film in the “Why We Fight” propaganda film series. Directed by Frank Capra, it was produced to assure American troops of the necessity of combating the Axis powers during World War II. The film won the Academy Award for best documentary, and the entire series was added to the National Film Registry in 2000. The 52-minute feature will be preceded by a number of short subjects that were made prior to the breakout of global war.
Friday, Aug. 15 (7:30 p.m.)
Triumph of the Will (Universum Film, 1935)
Director Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous documentary on the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg contains excerpts from speeches given by Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess and Julius Streicher, interposed with footage of Nazi troops and public reaction. Praised for its innovative cinematography, it is regarded as the greatest propaganda film of all time and is both fascinating and frightening to see.
Saturday, Aug. 16 (7:30 p.m.)
Wings of the Navy (Warner Bros., 1939)
Submarine officer Jerry Harrington (John Payne) goes to Pensacola to train as a flying cadet, just like his brother Cass (George Brent), a longtime airman. Competition escalates between the two when Jerry falls for his brother’s girlfriend, Irene (Olivia de Havilland). Like many of the Warner Bros. features in the pre-World War II era, it was intended to serve as propaganda for the U.S. military and received support from the U.S. Navy, which considered the film as a recruiting tool. It shows how, despite the general isolationist stance of the country at the time, America was preparing for war in its own way.
For more information on our programs, please visit the web site at www.loc.gov/avconservation/theater/.