Sunday, March 1, 2009

Somebody Shoot Me

John Huston was a talented actor and Oscar-winning filmmaker who directed 47 films. While well-remembered for Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Prizzi's Honor, Huston also served in the U.S. Army during WWII and made three war documentaries for the Photographic Division of the Army Signal Corps.

Typically Hollywood personnel were enlisted to produce propaganda for the U.S. government. However Huston chose to show the horrors of war and its long-term consequences. It's not surprising that Huston's war films were not appreciated by U.S. military leaders. Recounting a screening for the brass, Huston said: ''I remember the ranking officer rising around a third of the way through and leaving the theater. And when he was gone, the next-ranking officer rose and he left. And so they went, one after the other, until I was alone in the room.''

Midge Mackenzie wrote for the NY Times, "two of the three films Huston was to make were never shown, suppressed by the military because the images of broken bodies and stumbling, shell-shocked soldiers told a different story: that in war, everybody loses."

These films were finally declassified in the 1970's and are now freely available via

Let There Be Light, 1946

The Battle of San Pietro, 1945

Huston said that "If I ever do a movie that glorifies war, somebody shoot me".

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