Friday, June 24, 2011

Frank Capra, remixer

From John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (15-16, footnotes omitted):
Shortly after the United States entered World War Two, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall summoned Frank Capra, the Hollywood director, and asked him to prepare a series of orientation films for viewing by American troops....

In a memorandum to one of his aides when the project was still in the planning stage, Capra stated that there were two overriding objectives to the films: to win the war and win the peace. And he quickly hit upon a simple working motto that decisively shaped the style and texture of the films: "Let the enemy prove to our soldiers the enormity of his cause--and the justness of ours."  Capra also expressed this more colloquially.  "Let our boys hear the Nazis and the Japs shout their own claims of master-race crud," he declared, "and our fighting men will know why they are in uniform.

What this meant was that extensive use would be made of the enemy's own words and the enemy's own graphics as these were available in the form of confiscated or captured newsreels, propaganda films, commercial movies, and the like. Capra was known for his boldness in the cutting room and his fondness for contrast and counterpoint; the difference now was that he was working with footage taken by others, and indeed in good part by the enemy. He proceeded to collect millions of feet of enemy film, to cut and edit this until the expressions of the Axis powers became lean anti-Axis images, and to juxtapose the menacing faces and words of the enemy against the bright hope and accomplishments of the American people and their allies.

No comments: