From the Imperial War Museum Official Collection
The movie’s title is taken from a letter of Sir Francis Drake “There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the True Glory.”
Question: Which President won an Oscar?
Answer: No, not Ronald Reagan. The 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature went to its uncredited producer, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower didn’t merely produce the movie. He also directed the Allied forces of Word War II, a feat which deserved its own Oscar. So we gave him the presidency. It was the best America had to offer.
A co-production of the US Office of War Information and the British Ministry of Information, The True Glory documents the victory on the Western Front, from the invasion at Normandy to the collapse of the Third Reich.
The officially credited director was Garson Kanin. British director Carol Reed was not officially credited, but is listed as director on IMDB and other sources. Paddy Chayefsky is the officially listed writer.
Other writers not officially credited are Harry Brown, Frank Harvey, Gerald Kersh, Saul Levitt, Arthur Macrae, Eric Maschwitz, Jenny Nicholson, Guy Trosper and Peter Ustinov. So many people were involved in this remarkable documentary — which received the Oscar for best documentary in 1945 — it’s impossible to list them all.
The film was brilliantly edited down from more than 10 million feet of film taken by hundreds of war photographers, none of whom are credited.
The editing involved is extraordinary. During one long segment of film, there must have been thousands of cuts, each less than 2 seconds in length, most no more than one second long. That is a lot of splicing. It’s beautifully done, professional all the way.
You have likely seen many propaganda films from World War II. This isn’t one of them.
I’ve seen a lot of war movies. This is real war, not the Hollywood version.
The effects were not done with a computer. The bodies of the dead are the bodies of soldiers, not actors. The guns are firing ammunition, not special effects. The ships are on the seas. The aircraft, pilots, bombardiers are the real deal. The battles are life and death in real-time. It gave me the shivers.
As the movie progresses, there are maps so you can follow the progress of the various armies. It’s the first time I actually understood where the Battle of the Bulge took place and why it was called “the bulge.” It was like time travel for me, listening to Dwight D. Eisenhower. I grew up when Eisenhower was President. I remember his voice as the voice of the president of my childhood.
Perhaps it’s a good moment to ponder whether or not Eisenhower displayed his Oscar in the White House. My guess is, he didn’t. After you’ve been commander-in-chief of the Allied forces for a world war, the Oscar isn’t as big a deal as it might be for someone else.
If you have not seen this movie and you have an interest in World War II, you should see it. It’s remarkable. It is now available on a 2-disc DVD. The set includes the European war, the Italian campaign and the battles in the Pacific.
There are many good movies about the war, but this set of documentaries has the most remarkable footage. Seeing it without any Hollywood manufactured footage is seeing it for the first time.
This is not a movie about the war. This movie is the war.