Hollywood and World War II

The US government’s propaganda machine during World War 2 was powered by cinema and the contributions of some of Hollywood’s most famous directors. This is their story.

For the USA, World War 2 was an all-out war – to mobilize the masses, the US government launched a huge propaganda campaign and cinema, the medium of the masses, was quite simply their most important weapon. Government authorities monitored the production of feature films and the military itself produced documentaries aimed at rallying the American people to support the troops. This film tells the story of four Hollywood directors of European origin, who returned to the "Old Continent" during the Second World War to make propaganda documentaries for the US Army at the front: William Wyler from Alsace, Frank Capra from Italy, Anatole Litvak from Ukraine and – in post-war Germany – Billy Wilder from Austria. The four men – three of whom came from Jewish families – risked their lives at times for their new homeland and returned to the USA with serious physical and psychological injuries. Their films are unique, long-forgotten documentaries dealing with the front line in Italy and the bombardment of Germany through to the liberation of Dachau.

This film centers on the hero's journeys of the film-makers using impressive archive material, including of course the actual documentaries made by the directors which have all been preserved and are in the public domain. We speak with William Wyler's daughter Catherine and George Stevens' son as well as several historians and biographers. Not least, the film also tells the story of European and Jewish immigrants in Hollywood, who after their contributions to the war effort finally came to be fully accepted Americans...

90 min. German, English, French and 2 x 45 min. English version available