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Three soldiers, a Canadian, an Australian, and a New Zealander, are on leave in London where they meet an English film actor, Mr. Howard, who buys them a pint, takes them to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral, and demonstrates to them that they all have common roots in the Motherland and to ask them why they've crossed the seas to fight Hitler. Written by
Perhaps the men who came closest to putting them into words were those Americans, many of them the sons of British pioneers, who founding an independent nation proclaimed "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights - that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". Those words and that spirit were born and nourished here, and your fathers carried them to the ends of the earth. ...
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An excellent WWII propaganda short, starring Leslie Howard as himself...
Although this period short pops up occasionally on Turner Classic Movies, you can watch it for free inside the media lab of the British Film Institute, which is located on the South Bank side of the Thames underneath Waterloo Bridge. Due to the age and condition of the short, the BFI's copy is quite scratchy and noisy in places yet these elements do not deter the viewing experience.
Not only does the short concentrate on the involvement of Great Britain's Commonwealth allies during the Second World War (three real-life soldiers from Canada, New Zealand, and Australia appear here), it also concentrates on how "the Motherland" and British common law (in other words, democracy) influenced the formation of these countries and its preservation of the elements of democracy and liberty which we hold so dear. In the meantime, the short concentrates on how important the city of London is to the soldiers and countries of the Empire. Through Leslie Howard's smooth and refined voice, his words take the viewer on a visual tour of the city's greatest landmarks while he and the three soldiers remain standing on a studio set of the top of St. Paul's Cathedral.
Miklos Rozsa's main title music from THE FOUR FEATHERS (1939) is heard briefly over the opening and end credits yet it is appropriate. The script is intelligently written and never hits the viewer over the head with its didactic elements and maintains a sense of nostalgia and sentiment throughout. The use of montage and voice-over by the four real-life characters is put to beautiful use, mainly relying on stock footage of the London landmarks and flashbacks of the three soldiers in prewar civilian life. Despite the short's patriotic purposes and the era of when it was made, the themes are timeless and still relevant today.
FROM THE FOUR CORNERS is well worth watching, even if this excellent and emotional short seems to be only available on TCM or located at the BFI for the time being.
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