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Contemporary naval films

TNWC07 16/11/06 11:26 AM Page 173 7 Popularising the navy, rewriting the past: contemporary naval films World War II holds a celebrated position in the benign meta-narrative of American foreign relations. This narrative holds that the United States is a benevolent nation whose foreign policy is based not on pure selfinterest but rather on the greater good of all humankind . . . World War II was designed to defeat the evils of Nazism and Japanese expansionism . . . the Cold War was pursued in order to defend the rights of free peoples everywhere against

in The naval war film
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Genre, history, national cinema

This book undertakes a consideration of the depiction of naval warfare within British and American cinema. The films (ranging from examples from the interwar period, the Second World War, the Cold War and contemporary cinema) encompass all areas of naval operations in war, and highlight varying institutional and aesthetic responses to navies and the sea in popular culture. Examination of the films centres on their similarities to and differences from the conventions of the war genre as described in earlier analyses, and seeks to determine whether the distinctive characteristics of naval film narratives justify their categorisation as a separate genre or sub-genre in popular cinema. The explicit factual bases and drama-documentary style of many key naval films (such as In Which We Serve, They Were Expendable and Das Boot) also require a consideration of them as texts for popular historical transmission. Their frequent reinforcement of establishment views of the past, which derives from their conservative ideological position towards national and naval culture, makes these films key texts for the consideration of national cinemas as purveyors of contemporary history as popularly conceived by filmmakers and received by audiences.

film production, in a parallel to the American war film’s redeployment of the staples of pre-war genre cinema. In working to accommodate the documentary and entertainment film strands, early war productions often foregrounded naval and maritime activities, because the focus of fighting to date provided topical and propagandist examples: TNWC01 16/11/06 11:27 AM Page 33 British naval films and the documentary feature 33 Of the three armed services, it was the Royal Navy which was most frequently represented in serious war films between 1940 and 1943. The

in The naval war film

films, which were in any case derived from pre-war generic staples. The suggested evolution of the combat film, as an assimilation of documentary influences, a representation of early war incidents and a modification of existing generic materials, is indicative of Hollywood’s adeptness and responsiveness, but the assumption of uniformity in the depiction of all the armed services presupposes a concomitant rigidity and standardisation. The difference of the Navy and naval war implies a representational subset. That said, despite the inclusion of all arms of the Navy

in The naval war film
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from unprecedented co-operation on the part of the Greek State. Anxious to buff-up a reputation it felt might have been tarnished by the troubles in Cyprus over the previous few years, and keen to develop its tourist industry, the Greek Government put much of its army, navy and airforce at the disposal of Carl Foreman, including six navy destroyers, several air-sea rescue boats, launches, scout planes, helicopters, tanks

in J. Lee Thompson
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mention of Hornblower’s friend Bracegirdle, the ‘rats’ episode appearing before the ‘Marie Gelante’ and not afterwards etc. It may have been an insight into the Navy at the end of the 18th century but it was not the Hornblower of C. S. Forester.73 Whist or no whist, it might be taken as a sort of back-handed compliment that Hornblower attracted the sort of nit-picking criticism about its textual authenticity usually reserved for television adaptations of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. In fact Mr Bracegirdle (Jonathan Coy) does feature in ‘The Even Chance’ and other

in Swashbucklers

open a pattern of ruby shapes. A sailor’s navy umbrella glides by the baby-blue lettering of the credits, while a red pram rolls on. A lilac mix of umbrellas floats down-screen in a horizontal row as the film’s title appears in hot-pink. Throughout the parade, the musical theme tinkles in the rain. The sequence closes on a straight line of black umbrellas, ending on a darker note

in Colour

projected in 70mm on to two 20 by 20 metre screens at the Dome’s Skyscape accompanied by The Good Ship Citizen . Two major productions were incorporated into exhibitions. In the ‘Timekeepers’ Zone’ a live action, computer-animated episode of the television series Timekeepers called Timekeepers of the Millennium was shown, and a BBC production, Navy in Action , was screened at an interactive exhibition

in British cinema of the 1950s
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David Lean’s early career and In Which We Serve (1942), This Happy Breed (1944) and Blithe Spirit (1945)

aura of royal assent and giving Coward a ‘trump card that he was able to play’ in negotiations.25 This kind of support from on high was all the more vital to In Which We Serve in order to counteract the objections of the Ministry of Information (MOI). The Head of the MOI’s Film Division, Jack Beddington, judged the film to be ‘exceedingly bad propaganda for the Navy’,26 not least ‘because a ship was sunk in it’.27 Coward also had to contend with animosity from the Beaverbrook press, which was determined to represent him (in coded homophobic language) as an insincere

in David Lean
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, Guadalcanal Diary ), the navy ( The Navy Comes Through, Destroyer ), the army air force ( Air Force ) and the merchant marine ( Action in the North Atlantic ). The big action set pieces in these films, which were predominantly visual, could not be reproduced on radio and were replaced by narration and sound effects and their prominence consequently reduced. This had the effect of concentrating on the interplay of characters stressing the camaraderie, stoicism

in Cinema and radio in Britain and America, 1920–60