Alfred Hitchcock’s first U.S. film, Rebecca, wins best picture honors.
Orson Welles directs Citizen Kane.
Early in World War II Frank Capra (best known for It’s A Wonderful Life) rejoined the Army, and he was assigned to the Army Morale Branch. Troops showed a lack of enthusiasm for the fighting, and Capra was assigned the ask of educating them about the reasons behind the war and their place in the fighting. In preparation for the works he produced, he also watched Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and other Nazi propaganda, parts of which were included in his own works. The result of his efforts was the Why We Fight series, which included seven episodes that were made over three years. The first two were Prelude to War and The Nazis Strike. These films were shown to troops first, but they weren’t made available to the public until 1943.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences begins to give out an award for a “best documentary” category. The film that won was Churchill’s Island, produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The film tells the story of Great Britain’s defense against German takeover in the early days of World War II. Eight other films also were nominated, including several each from the United States, Canada, and Britain.
Serving as part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, John Huston documents the trials and tribulations of soldiers stationed on the Aleutian Islands. The soldiers face an unforgiving climate and the possibility of Japanese invasion, who are looking to get a North American foothold. The end result is Report from the Aleutians, Huston’s first film about World War II. In addition to the access of the filmmaker and the insight into the army operations, the film also features some color combat footage.
Frank Capra continues work on his Why We Fight series, making Divide and Conquer, The Battle of Britain, and the Battle of Russia.
Four films won Best Documentary Oscar for this year: The Battle of Midway, Kokoda Front Line!, Moscow Strikes Back, and Prelude to War.
Frank Capra adds one more edition to his Whe We Fight series: The Battle of China.
The category for documentary is divided into two new categories: Best Documentary Features and Best Documentary Short Subjects. The Features winner is Desert Victory, and the Short Subjects winner is December 7th. The latter film exists in two versions, and the longer version, at more than 80 minutes, also features some fictional sequences.
Another Hollywood director, John Huston releases The Battle of San Pietro, a film commissioned by the U.S. Army. The film is about the United States’ efforts to claim the Lire Valley in Italy during World War II, and it primarily follows the 143rd infantry. Intending on making an anti-war film, Huston captured the battle using 35mm hand-held Eyemo cameras positioned within the fighting and low to the ground. The footage focuses on the experiences of the footsoldier, showing the realities of battle, particularly of the wounded and the dead. At first the Army refused to release the film, until General George C. Marshall defended the film’s value as a training film as it would prepare troops for combat. The film is reedited and released thereafter, though it still provides a strong contrast to the more propagandistic films made at the time.
Frank Capra completes his Why We Fight Series with War Comes to America.
Academy Awards: Short Subjects winner is With the Marines at Tarawa, and Features winner is The Fighting Lady.
John Huston releases Let There Be Light, which follows soldiers coping with the traumas they experienced during their service in World War II. Huston and his crew filmed soldiers at New York’s Mason Hospital throughout their recovery process, from treatment in group therapy to recovery. The Pentagon suppressed the release of this film for 35 years, waiting until 1980 to do so. It is notable that only two films were banned during World War II: Let There Be Light and The Battle of San Pietro, both directed by Huston, and both addressing the darker realities of a soldier’s experience.
After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States, led by Gen. Douglas, began the reconstruction of Japan. In 1946 Kamei Fumio made a documentary called The Japanese Tragedy, a compilation film made from archival materials that showed the nature of Japanese wartime propaganda. The film also showed Hirohito and addressed questions of the emperor’s guilt about the war. The film passed the Japanese censors and was showed a couple times before the U.S. censors found out about the film and prohibited its showing. According to Iam Buruma in Inventing Japan: 1853-1964, the documentary was undoing what the U.S. was trying to do: Keep Hirohito in the position of being the best ruler for Japan, even though many other countries wanted him charged for war crimes.
Academy Awards: Short Subjects winner is Hitler Lives, and Features winner is The True Glory.
Academy Awards: Short Subjects winner is Seeds of Destiny. There is no Features winner this year.
Academy Awards: Short Subjects winner is First Steps, and Features winner is Design for Death.
Auguste Lumiere dies.
The major studios are forced to divest their theater chains.
Academy Awards: Short Subjects winner is Toward Independence, and Features winner is The Secret Land.