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The Purple Heart (1944) Poster

Trivia

This film is based on the true story of eight US crewmen of a US bomber plane who were downed and captured by the Japanese military after the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan on April 18, 1942. The crewmen included Lt. Robert Hite, Lt. William G. Farrow, Lt. George Barr, Sgt. Harold A. Spatz, Cpl. Jacob De Shazer, Dean Hallmark, Robert Meder, and Chase Nielsen.
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The trial, as depicted in the film, was held at Police Headquarters in Shanghai, China on 14 October 1942. The eight men were condemned to death. Hallmark, Farrow, and Spatz were executed by a firing squad of the Imperial Japanese Army at sunset the next day. The remainder were given an Imperial commutation to life in prison. In 1943, Meder died of mistreatment and various diseases. The remaining four survived until they were freed upon Japan's surrender in August, 1945.
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Many of the actors playing Japanese people in this movie were not Japanese. According to the documentary Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988), many Japanese characters in films of the World War II period were actually played by Chinese actors. This was because 112,000 Japanese-Americans, who had lived in the USA for years, were transferred to relocation centers and "stripped of their property" during WW 2.
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According to the article "Hollywood's friends and foes" by Colin Shindler in the film history tome 'The Movie', "In 1943 20th Century-Fox made 'The Purple Heart', best of the anti-Japanese pictures. Written and produced by 'Darryl. F. Zanuck' . . . it was intended to strength public hatred of the Japanese at a time when it appeared as if the war in Europe were stealing all the headlines. The film was not finally released until 1944 when the [US] War Department was prepared to concede officially that the Japanese had indeed been torturing American POWS. Zanuck would have been quite prepared to wait until the end of the war to release his picture - so strongly did he feel about it."
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The film's title, The Purple Heart, refers to one of the highest military decorations that can be awarded to a soldier of the US military, "Being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces." About forty years after this film was made, another Hollywood movie would utilize the medal as a movie's title with the release of Purple Hearts (1984).
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Excerpts from two poems are recited in this film. They are "The Boys" by Oliver Wendell Holmes and "How Do I Love Thee-Let Me Count the Ways" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
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The 'Hollywood Reporter' of 14 April 1944 reported that this movie's box-office receipts had in only seven weeks returned all of its advertising, print and production costs.
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The Samuel Goldwyn company film studio loaned actor Farley Granger, who plays Sergeant Howard Clinton, to the Twentieth Century-Fox studio to make this film.
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According to the book 'The Films of World War II' by Joe Morella, Edward Z. Epstein and John Griggs (1973), this film was "released shortly after the [US] government's publication of reports of Japanese torture of American prisoners of war" and as such the film's original cinema release "was extremely timely and moving."
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This film represents one of four movies made by Hollywood during the 1940s which were about or related to the USA military's Dolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan during World War II. The four movies (the first three considered "fictionalized") are Destination Tokyo (1943); The Purple Heart (1944); Bombardier (1943) and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), the latter being the most accurate and least fictionalized of the four.
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According to the article "Hollywood's friends and foes" by Colin Shindler in the film history tome 'The Movie', "In 1943 20th Century-Fox made 'The Purple Heart', best of the anti-Japanese pictures . . . it was intended to strength public hatred of the Japanese at a time when it appeared as if the war in Europe were stealing all the headlines. The film was not finally released until 1944 when the [US] War Department was prepared to concede officially that the Japanese had indeed been torturing American POWS. [Writer & Producer Daryl F.] Zanuck would have been quite prepared to wait until the end of the war to release his picture - so strongly did he feel about it."
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This film's opening prologue states: "Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the purple heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen. George Washington, General and Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Aug. 7, 1782."
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An intended re-release of this movie was publicized by the 'Hollywood Reporter' in September 1945. The film would get a return season "because of the timely confirmation of its torture story". "Excerpts from statements" by General 'Douglas Macarthur', Jonathan M. Wainwright "and other Allied military authorities in the Far East" would form part of the new advertising publicity campaigns.
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In 1950, 20th Century Fox theatrically reissued this film on a bill with Belle Starr (1941) and Guadalcanal Diary (1943).
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The Japanese character of Mitsuru Toyama in this film (played by Peter Chong) was a real-life person. Toyama was a Japanese politician and a member of the Japanese group, the Black Dragon Society. The high majority of the Japanese characters in this movie were actually fictional.
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The 'Hollywood Reporter' reported on 29 September 1943 that actor Richard Loo had tested for the part of Tojo but in the final film he actually ended up playing General Ito Mitsubi.
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The Republic film studio loaned actor Don 'Red' Barry, who plays Lieutenant Peter Vincent and is credited as Donald Barry, to Twentieth Century-Fox studio to make this film.
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According to the 'Hollywood Reporter' in October 1943, the following actors tested for this movie: Abner Biberman; J. Edward Bromberg; Michael Chekhov; Paul Gordon; Alan Napier; and Herbert Rudley.
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In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack and the WW II war in the Pacific, this movie is considered amongst others in film history as an anti-Japanese US war propaganda film.
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The 'Hollywood Reporter' in October 1943 reported that actor Dave Willock would be part of the cast for this motion picture but he is not listed in the credits as being part of this film's cast.
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This movie is considered a Second World War wartime propaganda film of the United States.
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