Warner at War (2008 TV Movie)
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*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Steven Spielberg narrates this 48-minute documentary that takes a look at the four Warner brothers and how they decided to fight the war long before it was considered the right thing to do. This is yet another very entertaining documentary but you can't help but wonder why this one runs so short. A lot of interesting things are learned but I can't help but think there's even more history out there. Spielberg takes on the narration role and does a very good job but that's all there is in terms of talking heads. No other experts or historians show up, which is a shame but this isn't anything too major. The film opens up talks with the Warner's early history and how they wanted to speak out against Nazis and Germany long before 1939 but the production code wouldn't allow it. Confessions of a Nazi Spy gets a lot of talk and its historic importance is really spoken very highly of. This here kick starts the subject as we go through countless movies that the studio were making just to make American's support the war. There's also discussion of the Hollywood stars signing up for these projects including the short films, which the President himself asked them to do. The talk of how many people enlisted in the Army after certain movies were released is an interesting topic even though I'm not sure how strong those numbers are.
The viewer is treated to a number of clips from famous early Warner films like LITTLE CESAR, 42nd STREET, I WAS A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG and FOOTLIGHT SERENADE (which was obviously endorsing Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency).
But their bravest foray into taking a stand against the threat of World War II was CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY ('39), which told a compelling story about a man caught up in an espionage plot involving Nazis just shortly before America's involvement in WWII. It starred FRANCIS LEDERER as the spy and PAUL LUKAS as his Nazi mentor.
The documentary goes on to explain that Warner Bros. had many other films during the '40s with a war background, such as SERGEANT YORK, CASABLANCA, ACTION IN THE NORTH Atlantic, THIS IS THE ARMY, MISSION TO MOSCOW, DESTINATION TOKYO, EDGE OF DARKNESS, OBJECTIVE BURMA and PRIDE OF THE MARINES, all of which are represented by brief clips.
The commentary by Steven Spielberg is nothing special and overall the documentary is good but not great.