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What We’re Watching – WWII in the Movies

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In honor of our upcoming event, Dinner with a Curator – “WWII in the Movies” on April 16, 2013, we asked our staff to take a moment to send us their favorite WWII films.

The response was so overwhelming that we decided to share them with you in a series of blog posts. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section or on our Facebook wall.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Initially, we fully expected to get several submissions of this movie, but we were surprised by how many of our staff went outside of what one might consider “the usual suspects” in the world of WWII film. We were also deeply moved by the emotional connection that Sue Lampton,  Director of Patriots Circle and Member Events, so eloquently expressed.

My favorite WWII movie is Saving Private Ryan. My brothers and I were weaned on WWII movies (and football games). My Dad was a Flight Officer on B-29s in the Pacific. He suffered with vivid nightmares about the war. He always told us that being in a plane wasn’t as hard as being on the ground. I know that’s not necessarily true now. But he loved watching those old WWII movies with us when we were kids—adding his commentary throughout the films—a distraction we didn’t often appreciate.

I saw Saving Private Ryan when it premiered on the big screen. That scene of the men landing at Omaha Beach—I felt what it must have been to be a 17-year-old kid watching body parts fly, the sounds, the confusion and the fear. The fear. Up to that time, I experienced those old WWII movies like a Western; bang, you’re dead. But what Steven Spielberg did with this film was unlike anything I’d experienced before. It evoked such a visceral response that my body stayed tense the entire film.  And then there is that amazing scene in which Tom Hank’s character finally tells his men his story of being an English teacher back home in order to distract them from killing the German soldier and each other—Wow!   

I left the theatre crying, trembling and thinking “What if that were my son Matthew storming Normandy beach?” I went home with a headache.

I spoke to my Dad about the film after he had seen it. It was the first time I ever saw him cry over a film and about the war. He said, “The best part of that movie was when Capt. Miller tells Private Ryan to “Earn it.” Those guys in combat, they did what they had to do. It was bad for the men who died and their friends and families. But those men who came through that darkness, they will always feel, as I do now, the responsibility to make your life count for something.” Amen Dad. 

View all of our “WWII in the Movies” post here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Dinner with a Curator – Larry Decuers presents “WWII in the Movies”
Stage Door Canteen

From factual to fantastic, Museum Curator Larry Decuers will highlight examples of the diverse array of WWII films. Covering what many consider the best of the genre, the presentation will include 1940s propaganda pieces, gritty combat films from the ‘50s and ‘60s and some of the more reverent works of the past two decades. Clips from Air Force, The Sands of Iwo Jima, 12 O’clock High, Kelly’s Heroes and many others will be shown and discussed.

View the Full Menu

Purchase Tickets.

Dinner with a Curator is a seasonal series where Museum staff and guests discuss a featured topic related to World War II while enjoying a delicious three-course dinner. All dinners catered by Chef John Besh at the Museum’s American Sector restaurant. Space is limited. Reservations are required.

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