War Films: It’s Social Impact

12 Oct

Second article in our 5 week series on the War Film Genre

By Ozzie

Many films made during the 2nd World War were made for propaganda means. They were effective in stirring up patriotic feelings and a mind-set of a group effort rather than individual wants and needs. Country morale played a big part in the war effort as confidence in their leaders and forces lead to more production of supplies needed for the war effort.[1]  These films were not just made by Allied countries but also Axis countries and the Soviet Union. In fact, there was a film made by the Soviet Union in 1941 that sort of mirrors Tatiana’s story in The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons we will discuss that later.

From the outset of World War II in 1939, Britain began making propaganda films. The first was The Lion Has Wings and was about the Royal Air Force or R.A.F. Although it was viewed by British Audiences as “simplistic and patronizing” it was still a success. Germany and Japan began making propaganda movies in 1940. Germany’s first was Feinde (Enemies) and was made to explain the reason for the Polish invasion, which was what ultimately started the 2nd World War.[2]

Although the USA did not join the war till 1941 doesn’t mean there weren’t any films made by them until then. American cinemas showed some British propaganda films as well as USA made films which main topics included anti-fascists, pro-British and films designed to prepare Americans for a possible onset of war. The first American war film was Hitler; Beast of Berlin made in 1939 and directed Sam Newman. Staring Roland Drew, Steffi Duna and Greta Grandstedt, it is about a young German couple who spread anti-Nazi information through an underground-press operation and uses archive footage of Hitler.[3]

However that was to change after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Although made prior to the Pearl Harbour bombings, Casablanca which had its wide release on January 23rd 1942 was a hit with its Anti-Axis message. Captain of the Clouds was also a success despite being made in 1941 but premiered on the 21st of February, even though its plot centres on the Royal Canadian Air Force. Perhaps the first USA made propaganda film made after the Pearl Harbour bombing is Across the Ocean, which premiered on the 5th of September 1942. Staring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet, it initial storyline was supposed to be an attempt to advert the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbour, however after that really did happen the writers change the setting to the Panama Canal.[4]

In these 2nd World War time propaganda films, women began to play more active roles in them in an effort to bolster their contribution to the war effort. As men were enlisted into the army, air force and navy, women were encouraged to take up the work they had been doing e.g. farming and industrial work. One of the most popular roles in war movies was that of the nurses.[5] Perhaps the first propaganda film where a nurse was the main character was made by the Soviet Union in 1941. Frontovye Podrugi (The Girl from Leningrad) is about a young woman volunteering to go to the front lines to become a nurse. There she becomes emotionally involved with the injured soldiers and ultimately falls in love with one.[6] If you have read The Bronze Horseman, you can see the similarities between the movie and her story (i.e. coming from Leningrad, going to the front lines, becoming a nurse and falling for a soldier). Perhaps she had seen or heard about Frontovye Prodrugi herself![7]

Please join us for  discussion Thursday@10/13/2011

81 Responses to “War Films: It’s Social Impact”

  1. Littlebells October 12, 2011 at 11:10 AM #


    I’m checking netflix as I write this!

    You…wow…yes!…Thank you!


    • ozzie20 October 12, 2011 at 6:44 PM #

      Glad you liked my little surprise! 🙂

  2. comic relief October 13, 2011 at 12:37 PM #

    You did an excellent job on the article Ozzie. So detailed and elaborate, I seriously doubt that you didn’t cover at least the highest points of the World War 2 film genre.

    Though her books sound as though they were constructed from eye-witness accounts, I wondered how much Mrs. Simmons impressions of the war were influenced by old movies. Because I can distinguish the southern California light and atmosphere, I can tell whether a movie was actually filmed in Europe or not. This aspect of realism impresses me about many of the war movies made in the last 5 years. Of course they might have just used special lens to fool the audience.

    Like you when writing your article her accounts of the war were probably influenced by a range of different sources.

    Thanks for the feature film perspective.

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:09 PM #

      Thanks CR! I don’t know much about Paulina Simons but I do know she grew up in Russia, so would have her own personal experiances to draw on. I don’t know her age but I imagine she would have to visit many sources to be able to write in such depth.

  3. Littlebells October 13, 2011 at 4:30 PM #


    What did you enjoy about researching this topic?

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:05 PM #

      It’s going to sound soppy but talking to my Grandpa about it and discovering more of the world he grew up in. It also brought back memories of when I was a child and he used to take me to the local war museum. It brought back nice memories!

  4. Open Book October 13, 2011 at 7:06 PM #

    Hi Ozzie

    Great, great article. Very interesting surprise regarding The Girl from Leningrad film. Did u already know of this film?

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:13 PM #

      Hi OB!

      Thank you! I didn’t know about this film before my research. I found the title but there was no description with it. When I went looking for more information, I couldn’t believe the similarities! So of course it had to go in this article!

    • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 7:13 PM #

      Let me clarify.

      Did u already know of this film before reading The Bronze Horseman?

      • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 7:14 PM #

        Never mind this Q. U answered me above.

        • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

          Lol! I didn’t even know of it before reading the Bronze Horseman either!

  5. Open Book October 13, 2011 at 7:11 PM #

    How well did propaganda films do against mainstream films?

    • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 7:15 PM #

      Hi Ozzie and all,

      Great article again.

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:19 PM #

      Well, they were effective in their aim so I guess they did well. When I was talking about my Grandpa about he mention that even films that weren’t obvious propaganda still had a subtle message about them. Period films were made that had elements of bravery, winning and a united story line to them. I found that quite interesting.

  6. Open Book October 13, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

    Hi CR


    Do u think these propaganda films influenced more citizens to join the War efforts back more so than propaganda films of today?

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:24 PM #

      Yes, I do believe they were more effective then. Now we have the internet and camera phones. Anybody can upload footage that contradicts any message the goverment puts out. Back then, the only source of information was from newspapers, the radio and what was shown in the cinema.

  7. comic relief October 13, 2011 at 7:18 PM #


    Is it fair to say that propaganda films frequently supported the view points of the status quo leadership of the countries they came from?

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:34 PM #

      Yes, it is.

  8. Littlebells October 13, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

    Hi everyone!

    • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

      Hi Littlebells and OB.

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:26 PM #

      Hi LB!

  9. Open Book October 13, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

    Hi LB

  10. comic relief October 13, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

    One of the reasons that I asked about status quo leadership is I’ve counted at 21 9-11 documentaries that were produced from various sources. Those films are frequently inconsistent with government accounts of the events of that day. I wondered whether anything changed between then and now?


    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:34 PM #

      Apart from having more access to material which contradicts whatever the Goverment is saying, I’d say it’s a bit more subtle but it’s still there.

  11. Open Book October 13, 2011 at 7:35 PM #

    Given the book we’ve been reading. The film “The Girl from Leningrad” further solidifies how in-depth and real Simon’s portrayal of this period is depicted. For example in TBH & TBTHC we here how women and men were encouraged to have sexual relations outside of marriage to stimulate the population in Russia, which declined drastically due to war. This film seems to romanticize women going off to war and meeting a husband given how desperate women and men were for companionship during the war. What are your thoughts?

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:39 PM #

      I think it was romanticized to encourage women and men to go off and do these things. The reality is off putting, not many people would sign up if they knew how bad it was going to be.

      • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 7:46 PM #

        Yes, it’s very off putting. The way so many Russian citizens were controlled and terrorized by Stalin was horrific.

        • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:56 PM #

          I agree, Russia was a very harsh place to live during the war. Of course all countries involved were difficult to live in but I think Russia had it the worst.

  12. Littlebells October 13, 2011 at 7:39 PM #


    What war movies have you seen that you really appreciated? Did they reflect the realities of war well?

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

      Well, movies of that time were made to encourage moral. I can’t remember the names (as I watched alot of them when I was a child) but they were always enjoyable. As for the reality of war, probably not. Everything was made to unite the country, the reality tends to do the opposite. For example, my Grandfather told me that the word “retreat” was not mentioned, it’s was always “withdrawal” as it makes it sound like a calulated plan rather than being forced back because you’re losing.

      • littlebells October 13, 2011 at 7:59 PM #


        • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

          They should call it psychological warfare instead of propaganda. I mean propaganda sounds fairly innocent as well. What a play on words to get people to follow regardless if the person they’re following is the devil.

          • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 8:27 PM #

            Not that I agree with it but it was necessary at the time. Psychology did play a big factor in it. Just going off what was produced in the UK during the time, it was a massive success. The mindset still exist to this day. The stiff upper lip, and to carry on with life despite what happens and many more over national descriptions come from that time period. If it wasn’t encouraged things could come to a stop or come apart. There were daily bombings, after the raid had finished, fires were needed to be put out, people rescued, the dead buried and the streets cleaned up. Emotion had to be put aside to get those necessary jobs done and the goverment encouraged it.

            • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 8:56 PM #

              Thanks Ozzie-

              I was primarily talking about Germany and Russia. Yes, I don’t doubt films could be used to propel a country forward to benefit everyone.

              • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 9:15 PM #

                It was exactly the same for them too. I remember been shown a film of an air raid and the aftermath in a history class. We were asked what we saw and what we felt. After the discussion, it was revealed that the footage was taken in Germany. It was an enlightening moment. The only major difference was nationality.

                • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 9:51 PM #


                  How fascinating to learn. Again my ignorance is quite vast on this topic.

                  • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 11:18 PM #

                    Don’t worry OB! Despite knowing these bits and pieces, I still consider myself ignorant. There’s alot of history to learn!

  13. Open Book October 13, 2011 at 7:51 PM #

    It’s very ironic the first propaganda film by Russia was about a nurse caring for soldiers, given Stalin denied food and medical care to Red Army POW.

    • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 7:56 PM #

      OB, It’s amazing how much you have gained from the book.

      • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 8:07 PM #

        Yes, I have gained so much from reading Simon’s books. I don’t know where to begin? Honestly…….From the characters and the realistic accounts of the Leningrad siege and the deplorable mistreatment of Red Army soldiers during and after the war was mind blowing.

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 7:59 PM #

      Yes it is but they used what ever means to unite people at home and get more volunteers. Every country lied to some extent to get what they wanted out of their citizens.

  14. comic relief October 13, 2011 at 7:57 PM #


    What do you consider is the long time legacy of these films? I assumed these were necessary records of the time yet I couldn’t Youtube records of most of these accept “the Lion has wings”. I could find discussion about the movies but almost no video.

    Researched films:
    • The Lion Has Wings
    • Hitler; Beast of Berlin
    • Captain of the Clouds
    • Across the Ocean
    • Frontovye Podrugi

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 8:09 PM #

      I think their legacy is important for us to learn and understand that time. It would depend on whether they were archived or not. Just because they are not online doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. They just haven’t been digitally converted and are sitting in storage somewhere safe. Of course those made during the war and aired in Europe ran the risk of being destroyed by bombing.

      • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 8:19 PM #

        These are great points.

        • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 8:20 PM #

          To prove your point I think I will find someone whose movies we’re preserved.

          • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 8:21 PM #


            I like your chronology, yet I wonder whether we are hearing of some of the producers who may not a have always been accounted for. Unpresidented female filmakers like Leni Riefenstahl seems to receive a lot of praise in some circles as Hitler’s supreme documentarian and seems to be hailed as a feminist icon despite what the regime stood for. Here is her Nazi masterpiece “Triumph of the Will.”

            Now that’s talent!!!! I’m surprised that I would find Hitler a sympathetic character in any film.

            • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

              This is AWESOME CR….

              • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 8:26 PM #

                Thanks. It prove Ozzie’s point that without a driving interest much of this stuff falls through the cracks.

            • Littlebells October 13, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

              Wow! That really is awesome!

              Also, I am familiar with some of the titles you previously mentioned. I’m disappointed that I cannot rent these.

              • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

                Great find CR!

                • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 8:46 PM #


      • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 8:22 PM #


        After the war many countries turned to re-building and replenishing the population which had been destroyed. Did countries make films to boost morale for these efforts as well? If so what countries produced the most films using these themes?

        • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 8:31 PM #

          As my research only took me from 1939 -1945, I don’t know of any movie name but my Grandfather did say that they did continue long after the war for those reasons.

          • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 8:44 PM #

            I certainly did not know how badly the Soviets suffered under their own government. It’s amazing how little of this seems to pervade English speaking culture.

          • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 8:45 PM #

            Your Grandfather is a wealth of knowledge and I’m so appreciative he was willing to share his experiences with us for this discussion. It adds so much to hear about the realities of war vs. fiction. Thank U

            • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 8:58 PM #

              Yes, despite being a child at the time, he knows alot about it all as he’s fascinated by history (in general not just the 2nd World War. He writes local military books too. I grew up surrounded by history, especially that of the World Wars, so it’s kind of nostalgic for me too, lol! It’s also how I know about archiving. My Grandfather has thousand of soldier’s recounts on audio. It’s only recently they’ve started to digitally archive them but the audio is there just in the museums storage (which I imagine is massive because I’ve been into the offices and there’s piles of photos, maps etc practically spilling out of files!). It’s the same with photos and maps of the time. I know that because I have to scanned the ones my grandfather needs in his book onto a computer, lol!

              • Littlebells October 13, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

                WOW! I would love to listen to those! Where does he live? Is there any chance we could do a live chat with him? I would love to ask him questions! Maybe we can coordinate a different chat time so he is awake? 🙂

                • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 9:24 PM #

                  I don’t see how he would mind a live chat as he’s done many interviews for his books, it’s just a case of finding a time as he’s flat out sleep by 10 or 11 ish, lol!

              • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 9:09 PM #


                Wow…..Well it was truly, truly, truly wonderful to hear about your grandfathers experiences and the films u found for this topic. Some films I’ve never even heard of. I’ve learned so much tonight. The book we are reading and discussing and this War film series gives me a whole new perspective. What an honor to have your Grandfather enlighten our viewers and LIH community about this topic. Thanks Again……

                • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 9:25 PM #

                  He’s very pleased he can help!

  15. littlebells October 13, 2011 at 8:04 PM #

    TBH trilogy really brings the reality of war to light. the last inthe series deals with PTSD which will come up later in our series. Anyone know roughly when war movies started changing from propoganda supporting “its” country to the reality and brutality of what warfare really is?

    OB and Ozzie, ITA, war should not be romanticized. I support all those who enlist. It is a tremendous undertaking.

    btw, my comments are sporadic because Finding Nemo is competing for computer time. 🙂

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 8:16 PM #

      My Grandfather said they continued after the war as well. I don’t know when the first realisitic film came out but I assume it would be closer to our time than 1945. Alot of military strategic and goverment information was kept secret for at least 50 years. Imformation is still coming out about the reality.

  16. Littlebells October 13, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

    What do you think today’s audiences would think if these films were shown today?

    • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 8:34 PM #

      Great question LB, I wonder that also.

      When I’ve heard of the Soviets atrocities, associated with this book, I’m frequently horrified. Seems the Soviets are frequently amazed by Stalin’s brutality with their own recording of these events. It seems sometimes these events were discussed after these events had passed.

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

      Well, knowing what we know today, we can see right through the lies. The rest would depend on the story line and what the viewer’s feeling are of those lies are. For example, I don’t mind watching them if the plot is good. It’s interesting (and sometimes funny if it is played over the top) to see what films were like at that time. Whatever propaganda ia shown, I find interesting. I try to spot it and then compare what I know now to what was known then. But that is the historian side of me!

      • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 8:55 PM #

        I guess I wonder about the historian side of your grandfather also.

        You bring up a good point, Ozzie. Why do we crave to have horrible historical events dramatized and what is the difference with which we encounter or regard these very different evaluations of real events? I suspect you may say to help us cope with what we know. But how did your Grandfather cope? Did telling you of these events help him also?

        • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 9:10 PM #

          He was 9 when the war started. He was aware of what was happening but it didn’t really hit home till one of my Great Uncles went missing (he was in a Japanese POW but he came home alive). Otherwise no one really spoke of it. They were reminded by things going on but people carried on. As for coping, well that consisted of picking yourself, up dusting yourself down and carrying on. Many other people were in the same situation. They just had to deal with it, as there was no other reality out there.

      • Littlebells October 13, 2011 at 8:55 PM #

        Seeing this footage, researching, and reading this book has given me great compassion to all those who have served in war. We have NO idea what it is truly like to be in combat, suffer in POW camps (Oh my gosh, that alone is another disturbing topic!), or build lives around those who are mentally scarred by things they have done and seen. There are things that cannot be unseen or taken back. It deeply saddens me when ignorant people make off hand remarks or idiotic comments about our world’s war history.

        Sorry, rant over.

        • Littlebells October 13, 2011 at 8:57 PM #

          Sorry, I need to explain something better. I don’t like when people who know nothing of warfare and it’s realities make stupid comments and cut our military down.

          • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 8:59 PM #

            RANT, RANT, AWAY

        • Open Book October 13, 2011 at 8:58 PM #

          All ranting is welcomed tonight regarding this topic. RANT AWAY….

        • comic relief October 13, 2011 at 8:59 PM #

          rant appreciated.

          • Littlebells October 13, 2011 at 9:02 PM #

            Thanks everyone. 🙂

            Let me also add (haha!) I know they don’t want our pity, but our appreciation. Always say hello and “thank you” when you see your nation’s military!

  17. comic relief October 13, 2011 at 9:07 PM #

    Again thanks for informing us about the different strains of our history and film records.

    Thanks all.


    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 9:26 PM #

      Night CR!

  18. Open Book October 13, 2011 at 9:11 PM #

    Ozzie another AWESOME article and we would like to give a special thanks to your Grandfather as well.

    Goodnight everyone…..

    • ozzie20 October 13, 2011 at 9:33 PM #

      Night from me too!

      I’ll pass on the thanks. Honestly, he’s happy he can help!

      Also, a big thank you to Grandpa Ozzie myself! I know you’ve read my article here and there’s a slight chance you may come back and look at the comments, so I thought it would be the proper thing to acknowledge your help here too. Thank you! 🙂

  19. Littlebells October 14, 2011 at 10:55 AM #

    Depending on how TBH gets made into a movie (and if they choose to do the trilogy), I think it stands a fantastic chance of being a great war film in depicting the realities of combat during WWII, the Russian Penal Battalions, starvation, insanity, and torture and gruelling life in POW camps. I think it will be difficult to stomach, but if done correctly, open-minded individuals will have a greater appreciation for what the Russians suffered.

    OB, slightly off topic, but I would like to know your opinion. Do you think the war/prison flashbacks in TSG should be included in T&A/TBTHC if a movie is done? For example, how Alexander got his war body?

    • Open Book October 14, 2011 at 12:37 PM #

      Good Q LB-

      IMO in film it’s better not to be subtle. Only because audiences need a director to be clear about what he or she is trying to say. Especially, when there’s so much action happening like in T&A. So yes IMO showing how Alex received his wounds should be included in the film to have enough impact and clarity between the love story and the war so audiences understand their suffering, sacrifice and determination to be together. The English Patient is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

      • Littlebells October 14, 2011 at 1:09 PM #

        WHAAAAAAAAAAA! *sobs* 🙂

        • Open Book October 14, 2011 at 1:13 PM #

          Here’s a tissue!!

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