How much did World War II change Hollywood? How much did Hollywood Change World War II? These intertwined questions are at the heart of the upcoming three part Netflix series, Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War.
This is, to be fair, well trod ground – the podcast You Must Remember This did an excellent series on the subject a while back – but Five Came Back adds a new wrinkle by focusing on five filmmakers who served in the American armed forces during the conflict: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. These men gave up their Hollywood careers for the duration in order to make documentaries on the front lines, putting cinema in service to the war effort. To put things in context for modern audiences, director Laurent Bouzereau gets five great modern filmmakers in front of the camera to discuss the matter at hand: Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Greengrass and Lawrence Kasdan. The whole thing is narrated by Meryl Streep.
This looks like one for the ages. If you’re a cinephile, this sort of thing is your bread and butter – an in-depth look at how the power of cinema can affect the real world, involving some of the finest practitioners ever to expose celluloid to light. Yes, there is the possibility that the whole thing will at least carry a whiff of Hollywood’s tendency to self-aggrandise, but in this case it’s kind of earned.
Five Came Back hits Netflix on March 31, 2017.