MovieChat Forums > Men Must Fight (1933) Discussion > Liberals and Conservatives

Liberals and Conservatives

I am watching this movie and it is very interesting. Not much has changed.


I like the line at the end where "Peggy" says HER son will never fight, and Grandma basically says, "get real, honey."


"I like the line at the end where "Peggy" says HER son will never fight, and Grandma basically says, "get real, honey."

I agree. It was just the right kind of line for May Robson, too.

However, what does she say just before her reply to Peggy? Sometimes she thought that if women ran the world there would be no wars. This myth should have been completely shattered by then. One only had to recall World War I, when women in Britain pushed white feathers onto able bodied men who were not in uniform. During the women's suffrage movement one of it's arguments had been that if women could vote there would be no wars because mothers would not allow them to happen. It eventually came to be seen as making as much sense as dynamite preventing warfare because it would make it too horrible.


It was the horrors of the First World War, and the incompetence and recklessness of most of the early military leaders in that conflict whose idiocy cost so many millions of lives, that had the unfortunate effect two decades later of leading to the kind of blind, insistent pacifism that kept Britain and France from taking the necessary steps to rearm and stop Hitler and the Axis powers earlier, when they could have done so at much less cost. Instead, for years they sold out to the Nazis, and by the time they finally reacted (not "acted") with force, it was almost too late, and the world paid a price far more bloody, prolonged and horrendous than anything seen in the first war.

For its time (1933), when such pacifist myopia was widespread on both sides of the Atlantic, the message of Men Must Fight -- that sometimes war is unavoidable, to prevent an even worse fate -- was rather remarkable. Few films took such a view at that point.



That was the view in 'The West' it seems; while The US, France & Great Britain were reading & watching 'All Quiet on the Western Front', or any of those Lost Generation issues from F Scott Fitgerald & generally crying in their beer the Germans were reading Ernst Junger's 'Storm of Steel' which had a VERY different view of the conflict & it's outcome---no doubt Pacifists thought EVERYBODY felt the same over the War & it just wasn't so...



Hey nickm,

Exactly so. Remember the German myth of the "stab in the back" from 1918? How the army was on the verge of victory but was stabbed in the back by cowardly politicians in a rush to surrender? Hitler used that canard to great effect.

Aside from the war, you'd think women's hairstyles would have changed by 1940. Have you seen this movie?

IFM -- and I know you know what that means! -- was more realistic!




I haven't seen this film...nor have I read Junger's book other than excerpts---and what I took from that was 'sometimes, You gotta do what your country needs you to do so 'strap on' & saddle up'---no whining or regret from THAT guy, that's for sure...I'm positive You wouldn't have found Junger drunk & dissolute somewhere on 'The Left Bank' mewling about his lost youth...No wonder the Nazis figured The West to be weak & decadent.



Well, they were almost right.

You should definitely try to catch this film next time it's on. Unfortunately, TCM only seems to run it maybe once a year -- and this last outing wasn't even scheduled. I get their monthly guide and another movie was listed in its place. But they had made a mistake in the guide about an earlier film's running time and had to shift that night's films back by a half hour. They substituted MMF for a longer film so they could get back to the listed times by next morning. I only found out by chance it was going to be on. Anyway, whenever they do schedule it again I'll click on a reply to one of your posts here to alert you -- assuming I remember in a year, or whenever!



Well I'll try to find it 'elsewhere'; Ted Turner ain't getting a frikking dime of my money!



Nick M,

Is Teddy T. even still a stockholder?

I will almost guarantee you you won't find it broadcast anywhere else. Too old and obscure. But maybe Warner Video will one day put it out in its "Warner Archive" series of DVD-Rs, begun just a few weeks ago. They're putting out a lot of films with limited commercial appeal on top-quality DVD-Rs, which look and sound very good. Men Must Fight would be an obvious candidate for this collection. I'll let you know if it ever happens.



"Aside from the war, you'd think women's hairstyles would have changed by 1940."

How could they have predicted what hairstyles would look like seven years in the future? Pacifism vs. patriotism was the main point of the film, anyway.

My problem with the movie is that the young man, at the end, seems too enthusiastic about going to war. He does say words to the effect that war is a bad business but he wants to be a pilot. That's because his father had been a fighter pilot in World War I. He shows courage in not wanting to help make poison gas when surrounded by militaristic frenzy. But when his stepfather scorns him for taking that position, he feels rejected by the man he had thought of as being his male role model. His masculinity has been questioned. Therefore, he buys into the ridiculous argument that if he refuses to fight another man will have to go in his place.

I can recall this viewpoint being made during our unfortunate venture in Vietnam. But many of the men who went there strongly supported that conflict. Even if they were draftees, they may have been rationalizing their participation
in it, saying they were fighting Communists, or proving their manhood. If draft evaders enabled them to go to Vietnam, if they wanted to go there, they should not have denounced anyone who was brave enough to refuse.

The last scene, when the pilot is smiling in his warplane like a boy with his toy, is a sellout. MGM cashed in on postwar disillusionment.
But it was probably afraid to take the main character's development to it's logical conclusion.


The hair styles remark was sarcastic, as should be obvious. Besides, they predicted telephones with televisions -- how could they do that, either? Not to mention that they were wrong there too, as they were about transatlantic biplanes capable of attacking New York City.

The main point of the film was not "pacifism vs. patriotism" -- it was pacifism vs. preparedness. Since when is pacifism unpatriotic? Not even this movie makes that argument.

Nor was the son at all "enthusiastic" about going to war. Rather, he accepted the unfortunate necessity of doing so to defend his country. And it wasn't some spontaneous decision -- the country had just been attacked, his city bombed, his mother injured. Even so, it's plain he doesn't relish war, but that in the circumstances it's what he has to do. The notion that he "bought into the ridiculous argument" that "if he doesn't go, someone else will", may sound facile but it's what many people felt in enlisting or serving in the armed forces during the two world wars, and many felt similar sentiments even in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf and Iraq/Afghanistan. It was an honest sentiment. But in any case that's not his reason for joining up -- he says it to his mother in an effort to get her to understand his decision to enlist. His reason is that he feels it's his duty to fight for his country.

I don't see how you can say MGM made the film to cash in on postwar disillusionment. That disillusionment was anti-war in its manifestation in the 20s and 30s. Men Must Fight is not "pro-war", but it does make the point that fighting sometimes becomes unavoidable -- it's certainly not anti-war. Far from cashing in on the predominant public mood, this film ran completely contrary to it. If the war had been depicted as simply the product of blind, avaricious men fomenting a useless war, that would be one thing. But the film was about the dangers of blind pacifism in the face of an aggressor, and the price Americans pay by refusing to recognize and prepare for the approaching threat. It was a plea for preparedness, which was certainly not a popular stance in 1933. Hitler had just come to power and wasn't seen as a threat. It would be five or six more years before the mortal danger posed by the Axis finally began to sink into most people in the West, and in the U.S. millions felt we could stay out of the war right up until Pearl Harbor. In exposing this refusal to prepare or face realities -- an attitude held in real life by so many millions -- and the catastrophic consequences that could result, the film was remarkably prescient.

Whatever else this film is, its plot certainly doesn't cash in on or reflect postwar disillusionment. It took a stand quite contrary to that disillusionment. And it did take the son's development to its logical conclusion. He wasn't "happily flying his warplane" because he enjoyed war or saw it as some kid's adventure. It was just an expression of his confidence in the righteousness of his mission, the sort of thing we've seen in a thousand other war movies.


"Besides they predicted telephones with televisions--how could they do that, either?"

There had been in the late twenties and early thirties experimentation with a forerunner of modern television. It had a small screen, like the one shown in the movie that gets smashed. A small number were being used in 1932. In the 1939
film Broadway Serenade, Lew Ayres makes a joking reference to television, implying that the idea of it is being discussed. It was that April that the first television broadcast was shown in the United States when President Franklin Roosevelt made the speech that opened the New York World's Fair. Television commercials followed two years later. The British had shown their first television show in 1936. How long they continued to make the broadcasts before the war I don't know. The television station was destroyed in an air raid. If there had been no Depression and no World War II, it is very possible that this medium might have become widespread before the 1950s.

As for planes not being able to attack New York City after crossing the Atlantic, that thought was not so far fetched in 1933. A year before Men Must Fight was released, the Japanese air force bombed Shanghai. It was the first large use of airpower against civilians. If that could be done, certainly it was only logical to conclude that bombers might travel many thousands of miles.
Also, dirigibles, like the Graf Zepellin, were transporting passengers. People might have feared that they could have been put to military use, as they had been in World War I.

As for your assertion that "Since when is pacifism unpatriotic?", it often has been considered so. Think of the war in Vietnam. Anti-war protestors did not hate their country, although they were accused of it. What matters is your definition of patriotism. Is it a blind love it or leave it loyalty? Or, does it ask questions about what the government is doing and why.


Well, let me start off on your last paragraph -- you misread what I wrote in my previous post. I didn't say patriotism was unpatriotic -- which doesn't make any sense anyway. I wrote "Since when is pacifism unpatriotic?" Although I'm sure there have been many people down the centuries who regard it as such.

Also, while I'm well aware they had television in the 30s, what was shown in this movie wasn't television as such but "picture phones", showing you the person you're talking to on the telephone. That was a technology not available until the late 50s or early 60s, and then confined basically to military or governmental set-ups, and even limited there.

A few movies in the 30s made references to television -- a Three Stooges short actually showed a TV set in a gag set-up. There was even a B-picture called Murder by Television, with Bela Lugosi, in 1935, and a television set (though not called by that name) had been shown in the 1933 W.C. Fields comedy International House. So it was clearly a known and in fact extant concept, just one never seen by most people.

Actually, the first public TV broadcast was not FDR's opening of the World's Fair in 1939. It was in 1927, when a broadcast (via telephone wire) of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover speaking in Washington, D.C., was seen in New York. It was a front page story in the next day's New York Times. Later there were very limited TV broadcasts in New York City beginning in 1930 (about a half hour a week), on one and later two stations, forerunners of the present CBS and NBC stations. There were also limited television broadcasts in General Electric's hometown of Schenectady, NY, in the late 30s. The number of receivers was of course a mere handful. The British (and Germans) were ahead of us in more-or-less regular TV broadcasts. The BBC started its TV as you say in 1936 and continued it steadily, a few hours a week, right up to the day Britain declared war, Sunday, September 3, 1939. In fact, they were in the middle of showing a Walt Disney cartoon when the station abruptly cut off in mid-program because the broadcast beams could serve as homing signals to German bombers. Television did not resume in the UK until after the war. I'm not sure whether the TV station was destroyed during the war -- the BBC's Broadcasting House was bombed, but I don't know if that affected anything to do with television or only radio -- but in any case that was not the reason TV broadcasts stopped. The government itself had ordered them cut off at the beginning of the war. But TV as we know it might well have arrived sooner had at least the war not intervened. Still, in the US network TV began, on a limited but regular basis, on the East Coast in 1946.

As far as transatlantic bombers, by 1933 of course the Atlantic had been crossed by plane, but not by biplanes, which could never make anything remotely close to that distance. Aviation specialists like Billy Mitchell knew that technological developments would eventually result in bombers able to fly across the ocean from Europe, but even in WWII this was a practical impossiblity. Some types of military aircraft could fly across the Atlantic, but didn't have the range to get back, so it would have been a one-way trip -- hardly an effective use of an air force. Not until the era of jet bombers would it have been possible to fly across the Atlantic, bomb, and which time intercontinental missiles would have made such lengthy bombing runs unnecessary. Of course, carriers could have been employed to deliver a bombing force near to the coast (as the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor), but the Germans had no such vessels. Zeppelins could have been used, but they took five days to cross the Atlantic, and were easy targets, especially since even if they succeeded in a surprise attack they were far too slow to get away.

Speaking of the Japanese, they didn't bomb Shanghai in 1932. It was not until Japan launched all-out war by invading China proper on July 7, 1937, that they began bombing Chinese cities, including Shanghai. You're thinking of the initial Japanese foray into China, their seizure of Manchuria in 1931. But that was mainly a ground action with limited use of air power and almost no bombing, certainly not the mass bombing of cities that came a few years later. And it was in large part from their bases in the puppet state of Manchukuo that the Japanese launched their attacks on China in '37, including Shanghai, and as they seized more territory they built new air bases on Chinese soil to give them ever-greater range deeper into China. Japan did not launch air attacks from Japan itself, or from the island of Formosa (now Taiwan), which Japan had annexed from China in 1895; but the distances involved from these places to China were nowhere near the width of the Atlantic and air attacks from them would have been possible, though risky. But because of the existing Japanese bases on the mainland (in Manchukuo and also in Korea, which had been part of Japan since 1910), as well as carrier-based aircraft, such long-range bombing forays were unnecessary.


I was in a hurry and meant to type "Since when is pacificism unpatriotic?"

Many people would separate the two. They would think that every time your government goes to war, no one who is able bodied should refuse to serve. Those who protested against our involvements in Vietnam and Iraq were not necessarily pacifists. If an invading army came to our shores they would fight it.

The Japanese did bomb a worker's district in Shanghai in 1932.


Many people would separate pacifism from a lack of patriotism -- being unpatriotic. I believe, as you seem to, that one can be a pacifist and still be patriotic. That was one of the debates in the movie. But many people feel that if you don't fight for your country in any circumstance (as in Vietnam), you're by definition unpatriotic. This is narrow and false thinking but many people equate patriotism with a "my country, right or wrong" attitude. It's this sort of "sunshine patriotism" that causes so much trouble in our national life, as when people such as Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney and Saxby Chambliss, who all ducked military service and refused to serve, nonetheless are so vociferously free and easy with their willingness to send others to fight for them.


"Speaking of the Japanese, they didn't bomb Shanghai in 1932."

The following is a quote from the lead story, front page and far right column, of the New York Times for January 29, 1932. It is "lethal aerial bombardment of a densely populated and unfortified metropolitan area". The Times for that day and the next reported on the bombing of the Chapei area of Shanghai. The New York Times Index for 1932 under China for those dates and for some in February and March referred to Japanese air raids.

The Chinese in Shanghai had been boycotting Japanese goods. A group of Japanese monks in that city had been beaten by a Chinese mob. Japan used these actions as an excuse to bring troops into Shanghai. Chinese planes battled with Japan's air force over the city. The entire episode, called The Shanghai Incident, lasted until May. The League of Nations intervened. But Shanghai was closely connected with western and Japanese economic interests. It was divided into spheres of influence. So, the League's decision was humiliating to China, which was powerless to do anything.

I am aware of the Second Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937, with the Marco
Polo Bridge Incident. Also I knew about the first Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Japan's colonization of Korea in 1910 and it's invasion of Manchuria on September 18, 1931 preceding the establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo.


I stand corrected -- you're quite right, Japan did make a limited bombing run on Shanghai in '32. Shanghai as you know was controlled in many parts by foreign powers and this Japanese move and its League aftermath were indeed, as you state, one more humiliation for the weak Chinese government.

Even so, the bombing of that one limited area of Shanghai was scarcely on a scale or import with what Japan unleashed on China five years later. Sorry if I offended you by seeming to imply you didn't know this history. But the point is that the wholesale slaughter of the Chinese by Japanese forces didn't begin until 1937. Nothing that happened in that region could have had any significant impact on the fictional events displayed in Men Must Fight as early as 1933.


The bombing of Shanghai horrified the world in 1932. But we are in agreement that it could not compare with the large scale invasion of China in 1937. The Rape of Nanking was only the most atrocious episode in that conflict.

But planes from Japan only had to fly a much shorter distance than those of the enemy did in the film to bomb New York, as you pointed out. There was, in one of the New York Times articles from 1932 a reference to a Japanese aircraft carrier that was in a river nearby Shanghai or maybe off the coast.

It was this new type of warfare, airpower, aided by aircraft carriers, of which Army Colonel Billy Mitchell was a champion. His arguing in it's favor with military leaders had led to charges of insubordination resulting in his court martial in 1925. While looking in the New York Times Index for information about the Shanghai Incident, I saw a listing for an article about Mitchell's prediction of war between Japan and the United States. This was at the same time that members of Congress were quoted as opposing sanctions against the Japanese.

It would have been sanctions such as trade embargoes, firmly enforced, against Germany, Italy and Japan that could have stopped them. Selective displays of armed forces might have worked too. The British controlled the Suez Canal in 1935. But, that year, didn't they just allow Italian troopships to pass through it prior to and during Italy's invasion of Ethiopia?

To return to Men Must Fight, I agree that it was remarkably clairvoyant about 1940. That was the year that Hitler's Luftwaffe, airforce, was unleashed on Europe on several countries. It destroyed the idea of a Phony War in western Europe, or what some might have seen as just a replay of World War I.

However, I still think the last scene of Phillips Holmes smiling in his warplane was out of character for him. He is so anti-war through most of the film that it's not logical. The reason he goes to war is for an intensely personal reason, to be like his father. It disappointed me. After writing that,
what I am about to state may seem strange. But to show the sacrifices that young men must make when older men make the decisions to start wars it would have made more sense for him to be killed or maimed.

But Men Must Fight is a strong statement against the continuing inability of governments to resolve their differences peacefully. As you wrote, I was wrong to describe it as MGM cashing in on postwar disillusionment. However, as you may know, there were other films in the 1930s, such as All Quiet on the Western Front, that reflected this attitude. A film like Men Must Fight that happens mostly in the future and shows an Earth devastated by weapons is Things to Come.
It starred Raymond Massey and was released in 1936. Although rather preachy, it gets it's point across forcefully.

Thank you for your extensive information on the history of early television.


Well, I agree with almost all your analysis. Of course, it was the West's very pacifism, this peace-at-any-price attitude, that led them to refuse to do anything that might upset the Axis. But they drew the wrong conclusion from WWI. People hated that war because of its waste and what was ultimately seen as its purposelessness, but they took away the lesson that no fight was worth it. Even All Quiet on the Western Front (book and movie) was somewhat misread as a plea for pacifism at any cost, when it was really more a stand against mindless patriotism and incompetent, mismanaged war without cause. And that anti-war attitude, reflecting popular perceptions in the wake of the First War, fed most of the films, literature and other works concerning war -- usually, that specific war -- during the inter-war period.

To make a minor correction, Billy Mitchell wasn't court-martialed (in 1925, not '26) merely because of his pro-carrier stand, although use of carriers was one cog in his advocacy of air power. His constant agitation for air power alienated the hide-bound officer class, the same types who led men into slaughter during WWI. Of course, he was formally charged with conduct unbecoming, disobedience of and disrespect to his superiors, and the like, but the real reason was that they wanted to get rid of him. In his letters about the Hawaiian Islands' vulnerability to air attack, he not only predicted almost the exact form of attack the Japanese would launch twenty years later, he even said it would happen "one fine Sunday morning." I think he was using that common expression less as a prediction than as a metaphor for the Americans' being "asleep at the switch", as we'd say today, but still....

As to Men Must Fight....

I still think Phillips Holmes's smile wasn't one reflecting that he was happy about the war or thought it was some sort of grand boys' adventure. In the scene, as I said earlier, it struck me he was simply showing a brave, not-to-worry side as an extension of his effort to persuade his mindlessly pacifist mother (whose attitudes are thoroughly discredited in this movie) that he'll be all right. But it's not clear to me whether there's any implication that he would be killed or maimed in the war, or not: it's neither a hopeful nor dismaying ending, but a question mark, as war usually is. But if we did learn he was killed or injured, that would have reduced the film to just another pacifist statement, like all the other such films of the period; it would have made Diana Wynyard right. But doing that would have not only abruptly altered the film's message but would have been far too contradictory to have stood up after all that went before. Having him go off with some degree of confidence that he's doing the right thing -- which is really what I think his smile is about -- fits in with the movie's theme: not pro-war, but recognizing that there are indeed times in which men must fight.

(Also about his smiling "to" his mother.... Granted, of course she can't see him from her terrace, but she knows he's flying past and he knows she's looking, so it's sort of a reflexive human reaction to put on a face expressing what you're feeling even if no one can see you at that moment -- like we often do when talking to someone on the phone. [Hey! Those picture phones in 1940 would have ruined that!])

Things to Come is a fascinating film, but talk about a pacifist credo! And the more you see this "marvelous" world of the future imagined by Wells -- something left over from Fabian Society debates of the 1890s, no doubt -- the more sterile, oppressive, grim, dictatorial, cold and unlivable it seems. I'd almost take life amid the ruins of the imaginatively* named "Everytown" instead!

*I'm being facetious (obviously, I hope!). Wells was usually very heavy-handed in his 19th century socialist claptrap. Remember the radio announcer's mention of "the battleship Dinosaur"? Oh, gee, H.G., are you trying to say that battleships are obsolete? It's so deft and subtle!

It's great talking with you, tkrolak. Have a good weekend -- Memorial Day, when we remember those who have died and served in our nation's wars. Of all the relevant holidays, to this discussion!


You are right about the court martial trial of Colonel Billy Mitchell. It did happen in 1925, in the fall. Historically it was far more important than the Scopes trial, about the teaching of evolution, that had taken place that July.
But the latter event gets much more attention in the media and in dramas.

Not long ago, a man wrote a book about Billy Mitchell, which focused on his trial. He was speaking on C-Span 2, the cablevision channel. About the only film made about him, 1955's The Courtmartial of Billy Mitchell, the author had
nothing favorable to say. It was almost completely inaccurate, he claimed. From his description of Mitchell, I would agree with him that James Cagney would have been a far better choice to play the title role than Gary Cooper.

At the time of Mitchell's battles with the brass, even Churchill disagreed with him to a large extent. The future saviour of Britain thought a ship could only be sunk by a plane if the bomb landed in the ship's funnel.

Which brings me to one of the arguments used in Men Must Fight, the debate about the morality of using gas against civilians. Once on the History Channel,
I saw a program about what was happening to other world leaders on July 20, 1944, the day of the most famous plot to kill Hitler. Churchill, the defender of our freedom, was arguing with his generals for permission to use gas attacks on the Germans. The narrator didn't say so, but I knew this was during the German V-1 rocket attacks on London. Churchill must have been thinking of revenge. On the other
hand, Hitler, the King of Beasts, was opposed to developing gas to use on the British when that was proposed to him. He feared retaliation. But he had been gassed as
a corporal in the German Army in World War I. That could have influenced his decision.


You know the old saying about how generals are always fighting the last war. It's also true that in movies and literature dealing with a speculative future, the creators always end up extrapolating on what exists now, rather than being able to foresee radical changes in technical or other developments. Men Must Fight undertakes to imagine a near-future event and suffers from both these problems. Basically, its vision of the next war is fundamentally a suped-up version of the last one. It's odd that the film tosses in a few unimportant futuristic touches for the audience (the picture-phone, for instance), but utterly fails to conjure any improvements in armaments -- in that final scene we've talked a lot about they're flying WWI-vintage biplanes, as if aircraft wouldn't have undergone any improvements in the preceding seven years. The use of gas is also based on the same approach, that it was used in the last war and would naturally be a factor in the next. Things to Come, fundamentally a rather clumsy and heavy-handed futuristic vision, makes the same errors, only much more egregiously. (Of course, since it takes place many decades into the future, much more futuristic stuff is seen in that film...but none of it is seen in 1940, the year the film starts -- the same year the bulk of MMF takes place.)

(That's also why I made my earlier sacasm about women's hairstyles -- and clothing styles -- not being a bit different in the imagined 1940 from what they'd been in 1933. Men's too, for that matter. Lack of imagination.)

Churchill was absolutely prepared to use gas at various points in the war, including if Britain was invaded. I agree, though I don't know whether there's anything in the record specifically about it, that Hitler (of all people) was averse to the use of gas because of his own experience in being gassed in WWI. Of course, he wasn't against the use of poison gas in more "contained" circumstances, off the battlefield.

But I don't know that I agree with you that Billy Mitchell's court-martial was historically more important than the Scopes trial. First, each trial was in itself somewhat limited in its scope (so to speak), but as to the issues raised, their effects were very different. In the Mitchell case, while he may have lost his trial, his ideas ultimately prevailed and he was vindicated; on the merits of the issues raised, the decision of history is long since in and no one questions the lessons of that trial. By contrast, the issues raised at the Scopes trial are very much with us today and are still being debated, with creationists or so-called intelligent design advocates repeatedly leading the charge against academic freedom and scientific fact. Historically, that fight still goes on and reaches deep into our society today, especially in a country where in 2008 three of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination announced they did not believe in evolution, and many Republicans continue to refuse to say they believe either in evolution or other phenomena such as global warming, dragging lies, phony science, and intellectual dishonesty into every discussion to obfuscate the truth and insinuate their own religious beliefs as some kind of scientific fact. No, it's Scope and its aftermath that loom the largest to us today. Mitchell, luckily, was indisputedly vindicated many decades ago.

I read that biography of Mitchell and it was pretty good. The author wrote that it was Mitchell's family who thought Cagney would have been better for the part than Cooper, because Mitchell was dynamic and combative, much like Cagney's persona, compared to Cooper's rather laid-back, lethargic style. Cooper was cast in large part because he closely resembled Mitchell physically. That difference, plus the liberties taken with some facts by the film (particularly the absence of Mitchell's wife and family, who are not mentioned, implying -- though not specifically stating -- that Mitchell was unmarried), angered Mitchell's family. But as to casting the lead, I don't think that Cagney was ever considered for the role. This thought came up in hindsight.

Have you seen The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell? Despite its factual flaws -- the norm for any Hollywood history or biography -- I like the movie very much. It's enjoyable and reasonably accurate in its essentials, with good actors. Like any other movie, just don't take its history at face value. It's not wildly inaccurate or fictitious, but as I say some liberties have been taken, more concerning Mitchell himself than with the basic events and issues depicted.


No, I have not seen more than several minutes of The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell. They should make a new film of it. If the topic isn't considered interesting enough for theatrical release, they could dramatize it for television. The movie would be especially relevant to our current concern about national security. Although that doesn't mean I agree with everything that was done in response to 9/11.

What a tragedy that Colonel Mitchell didn't live long enough to see his ideas about airpower vindicated. He was given several posthumous awards, as you may know. But thirty-two years after he was court-martialed, his son asked the Air
Force to set aside the verdict. The Air Force refused to grant the request. But it did express "regret" about "the circumstances" surrounding his court-martial.
Such hypocrisy!

As for the Scopes Trial, most Americans do believe in evolution, and most schools teach it. However, if Mitchell had been exonerated, he could have influenced military policy. The United States could have been better prepared for the coming war.


I think you have a very good idea about remaking the story of Billy Mitchell's court-martial -- actually, the source should be that biography of him, which is quite good. The other thing is that very few people have ever heard of him, and of those few, many know little about him. As both an important piece of history and as something we can still draw lessons from, his story is important and timely.

But try watching the entire 1955 film anyway. It's not bad at all. (The DVD says it's "fullscreen", while in fact it's widescreen, and of course films need to be seen the way they were shot.)

While I was writing my last post I also thought about the "cosmic injustice", if you will, of Mitchell's not having lived long enough to see his predictions, and his policies, become fact. And when he died in 1936 he was only 57 -- given a normal life span he could easily have survived into the 1950s, even seen the beginnings of the space program. Wouldn't that have been great? And, just maybe, besides public vindication he might have received official vindication of some sort...though I doubt the hide-bound military would have stood for that. Still, in 1954 Charles Lindbergh was honored for his wartime contributions to aviation, even though he was a pre-war isolationist, racist, pro-Nazi defeatist who did everything he could to keep the US out of the war and allow the Axis to win. Of course, he was exonerated by a Republican administration, which might have been less forgiving of a military renegade like Mitchell, especially with a general in the White House.

But in a narrow sense, I can understand the Army's refusal to vacate Mitchell's conviction. Under strict military law, he was insubordinate.

Evolving onto our other topic, unfortunately, polls show that most Americans believe in the Biblical myth of creation rather than evolution. As has been pointed out, creationists had better believe in evolution, since the vaccines they receive against things like swine flu or any other disease are all mutated -- i.e., evolved -- viruses. The fight to keep the teaching of evolution and other science in the schools goes on against those who falsely claim that a "dispute" about its accuracy exists. Believe what you want, but keep religious-based beliefs in the churches.

Boy, have we strayed from Men Must Fight! But you're a great and knowledgeable conversationalist, tkrolak. Later.


To return to Men Must Fight and it's anti-war message, although the film does speak strongly to us about the type of nationalistic hysteria that makes a country leap overnight into militarism, it must be seen in the context of it's times. There is the debate about gassing civilians as a way to shorten war. Poison gas had been used on the battlefields of World War I. It would only be used two years after this film's release by the Italians in Ethiopia.

During May Robson's anti-war speech near the end of the film, at the bottom of the screen are shown moving pictures of marching Nazis, and Japanese waving flags with the emblem of the rising sun. Some people at the time of this movie's production may have wondered about the sanity of anyone who even expressed the possibility of Germany and Japan being dangerous to America and
Europe let alone going to war with them. The Great War, as World War I was then called, had taken such a terrible toll that another conflict was to be avoided at all costs. But the costs in 1933 were yet to be seen. Adding to the feeling of isolationism was the Great Depression. Countries had to look inward and take care of themselves. Governments had less money to spend on armaments.

Not only was Hitler not regarded as a threat, he was seen as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. David Lloyd George, the former British Prime Minister, was overflowing with praise for the new Chancellor. He thought here was someone who would stop the spread of Communism.

When Hitler withdrew Germany from the League of Nations in October, 1933, there were cheers in a London movie theater when the event was reported in a newsreel. But most famously, there were the young men who were students at a British university who signed a pledge that year that they would not fight for King or country. What did they think about their pacifism in 1940?