I watched FIVE CAME BACK three times in one week. It fascinated me that much. Today's big Hollywood studio scene seems dominated by comic book superhero adventures. Look at the five famous filmmakers who gave us this solid entertainment before WW2: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Capra), STAGECOACH and THE GRAPES OF WRATH (Ford), DODSWORTH, JEZEBEL and THE LETTER (Wyler), SWING TIME, VIVACIOUS LADY, A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS with Fred Astaire plus the comedy team of George Burns and Gracie Allen with an original film score by George and Ira Gershwin (Stevens), and THE MALTESE FALCON (Huston). They would make gripping and often controversial wartime documentaries in which the superheroes were ordinary, average American men fighting for democracy and freedom. Fighting and dying. Capra's documentary, THE NEGRO SOLDIER, presented history and respectful images of African Americans not seen in typical Hollywood films. For one thing, it showed black women in uniform at a time when black women were still mostly seen as maids in Hollywood movies.
A chill of absolute terror went through Capra's body and soul when he saw a documentary from a German filmmaker, a woman named Leni Riefenstahl. Her 1935 work, TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, was a visually striking showcase of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party at the 1934 Nuremberg Rally.
You will also be touched and fall deeper in love with the golden power of films. I cried at the end which focused on Frank Capra, an immigrant who became a decorated American who served. All five men returned from the war, they returned to film work, but the war had changed them and, in their time away, Hollywood had changed. They had to be re-introduced all over again.
Wyler, Ford, Huston and Stevens came back and made hit films. Capra came back and made his favorite film, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. It flopped at the box office and it flopped with critics. Like a returning war veteran, the film became inconsequential. Overlooked in the community. It became a public domain film. The rights to it had not been picked up. It was "the forgotten man" like some war vets who came home to unemployment and homelessness. For a new generation in the 1960s and 70s, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE was a movie we young baby boomers saw on local TV stations a lot during our summer vacations from school. The prints of it were always tired and a bit tattered. Scenes were cut out to make room for used car and kitchen product commercials. As we grew to young adulthood, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE always made the list of films showing at revival movie theaters. We saw it on big screens and re-appreciation began. I am so proud of my generation for embracing George Bailey and seeing what movie critics and audiences in 1946 didn't. We saw how special it is. It's now restored. And redeemed. It's no longer an inconsequential public domain feature. It gets the love and attention it's long deserved.
"The greatest of all emotions that move us is love. The world is not all evil. Yes, we do have nightmares, but we also have dreams." ~Director Frank Capra in FIVE CAME BACK.