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Prelude to War (1942)

Not Rated | | Documentary, War | 27 May 1942 (USA)
The official World War II US Government film statement defining the various enemies of the Allies and why they must be fought.

Directors:

Frank Capra (uncredited), Anatole Litvak (uncredited)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Victor Bulwer-Lytton Victor Bulwer-Lytton ... Himself (archive footage) (as Lord Lytton)
Kai-Shek Chiang Kai-Shek Chiang ... Himself (archive footage) (as General Chaing Kai-Shek)
Walter Darré Walter Darré ... Himself (archive footage) (as Darré)
Otto Dietrich Otto Dietrich ... Himself (archive footage) (as Dietrich)
Hans Frank Hans Frank ... Himself (archive footage) (as Frank)
Joseph Goebbels ... Himself (archive footage) (as Doctor Goebbels)
Hermann Göring ... Himself (archive footage) (as Goring)
Rudolf Hess ... Himself (archive footage) (as Hess)
Adolf Hitler ... Himself (archive footage) (as Hitler)
Saburo Kurusu Saburo Kurusu ... Himself (archive footage) (as Kurusu)
Robert Ley Robert Ley ... Himself (archive footage) (as Ley)
Yosuke Matsuoka Yosuke Matsuoka ... Himself (archive footage)
Frank McCoy Frank McCoy ... Himself (archive footage)
Benito Mussolini ... Himself (archive footage)
Puyi Puyi ... Himself (archive footage) (as Henry Pu-yi)
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Storyline

This famous propaganda piece, used as a U.S. Army training film in WWII before theatrical release, asks 'why we fight.' The answer compares the 'free' and 'slave' worlds. Included: development of dictatorships in Italy, Germany and Japan, while anti-militarism and isolationism rise in the USA; a look at enemy propaganda; and the first acts of aggression. Walter Huston narrates a combination of archival footage, maps, and other graphics. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

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Genres:

Documentary | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Release Date:

27 May 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Why We Fight, 1 See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(copyright length)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the year 2000, the United States Library of Congress mandated that this film (and the other six documentaries in the 'Why We Fight' series) were "culturally significant" and selected them for preservation in the National Film Registry. See more »

Goofs

During the (silent) footage of Ethiopians shouting, the angry voices are actually shouting in Kiswahili: "Kwenda!" ("go:), etc. The principal language of Ethiopia is Amharic. Kiswahili (commonly known as "Swahili") is the main language of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. See more »

Quotes

Narrator: [Last line] For this is what we are fighting: Freedom's oldest enemy, the passion of the few to rule the many. This isn't just a war. This is the common man's life and death struggle against those who would put him back into slavery. We lose it, and we lose everything. Our homes; the jobs we want to go back to; the books we read; the very food we eat. The hopes we have for our kids; the kids themselves. They won't be ours anymore. That's what's at stake. It's us or them! The chips are down. Two ...
[...]
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Connections

Followed by The Battle of Britain (1943) See more »

Soundtracks

A Hot Time in the Old Town
(1896) (uncredited)
Music by Theodore A. Metz
Played in the score
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Truly shows the high stakes involved in World War II...riveting!
18 November 2009 | by jcapogrossiSee all my reviews

I originally heard of this film from watching a (now) favorite documentary about the history of editing ("The Cutting Edge")- I decided to watch "Why we fight" just to see it for it's artistic importance as an influential part of US film history.

It is- This film, even though from the 40's, is well made and is, without a doubt, NOT "boring" in any sense. This film moves forward and never lets up. I think what makes this film riveting moreso than other documentaries is that this one was made in the middle of the actual conflict. The outcome of world war II had not yet arrived at the time of this film...the Allies did not know if they would be able to win or not. The plan of attack of the Axis, as outlined in this film through well done animation from Disney, showed that if the U.S. didn't act quickly, soon it would be us versus the rest of the world, under the control of the Axis. Unlike other WWII documentaries, which tell the story from the perspective of history, this one is right in the middle of everything.

Especially this chapter, prelude to war, shows the terrifying history of the Nazi's rise to power, and the Imperialist Japan's rise as well. I think for all the danger the U.S. faced at that time, the most chilling, perhaps, to U.S. audiences would be the Nazi regime.

If anyone ever doubted how scary the Nazis were, just watch this film. Especially enlightening are facts that many of us likely didn't know or remember,-the fact that the Nazi's were not only anti-Semetic. Hitler's takeover of Germany soon became a decidedly anti-Christian "religion". The Nazi party actually removed crosses off of churches and replaced them with swastikas, and in speeches the Nazi's cast Hitler's words as "Germany's religion". Many Christian ministers and even priests and nuns were jailed.

The most eerie was the scene where the children in Germany were made to sing songs like "Hitler is our Lord" etc... CHILLING.

Many have called this film slanted, and U.S. propaganda, and this may be true...but I still think it's a great piece of historical film-making.

I feel more than other films I have seen, this one really makes us in 2009 realize the seriousness of World War II (The slave world of Hitler vs the free world), and how high the stakes were.

It makes me thankful to live in America, and for me also brings about a newfound respect for our senior citizens who lived through that very challenging era of history, especially those who served as soldiers.


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