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The battle of Britain by Capra, Frank

"The Battle of Britain," Chapter IV of Frank Capra's "Why We Fight" series, begins after Hitler's conquest of Western Europe. The British have been driven into the Sea at Dunkirk and Hitler is now intend on conquering Britain. Even as British pilots scramble to meet the enemy in the air, the German war machine is wrecking devastation on the English countryside. The film explores the efforts of the Royal Air Force during the air-battles over Britain and the North Sea. Although the RAF was outnumbered 6 to 1, it eventually comes out victorious - Why?

About the series
The seven part "Why we fight" series is considered the most powerful American propaganda ever produced and was the winner of an Academy Award in 1942 for Best Documentary. This outstanding and historic series traces the earliest beginnings of the second world war starting with Library of Congress National Film RegistryJapan's invasion of China in 1931, to the Nazi's march across europe. The series features extensive historic footage from both allied and axis sources. In 2000 the "Why We Fight" series was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry and remains a prime source of archival footage for the period.

Propaganda
The Why We Fight series was a massive effort on the part of the United States government to indoctrinate the millions of young men and women inducted into military service following the American entry into World War II. The making of this series and other large-scale information and education films, as they were called, was planned and supervised by Frank Capra. One of the most popular Hollywood filmmakers of the late 1930s, he had no prior documentary experience.

Concept & style
Why We Fight series was based on the assumption that servicemen would be more willing and able fighters if they knew the events that led up to, and the reasons for our participation in the war. It had to counteract the spirit of isolationism still strong in this country up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In this attempt it offered a gigantic historical treatise from a particular, "liberal" point of view — that is to say, the New Deal viewpoint of the Democratic administration prevalent in the country at the time. Pe

Social interest
The series was shown at military training facilities and later to the public in theatres to explain American policy and the war effort abroad. Though often blatantly propagandistic, this series provides great insight into the minds of Americans two thirds of a century ago. It argues that freedom is a threat to the fascist dictators of the Axis powers, who claim that democracy is weak and must be eradicated. It further claims that the ultimate goal of the Axis powers is to enslave the nations of the "free world.

Historic Interest
Once firmly in control of the parts of France and Norway closest to Great Britain, the Nazis commence their massive air assault on the British isles. Outnumbered six to one, the fighters of the Royal Air Force defend their skies against the Luftwaffe for close to four months. Capra embellishes the British successes, for example the film claims the RAF fought 200 dogfights in the first thirty minutes of the battle alone, and that by the end of the first month they had destroyed 900 German planes. (In truth, the number is closer to 260). However, the success of the British defenses forced the Germans to change strategies, switching to more frightening night raids that terrorized London. But the British resolve won the day, in grand fashion. The film claims total German losses of more than 2,700. The real number is closer to 1,600. The number of downed British planes equaled approximately half that of Germany.

Political interest
One of the aims of the Battle of Britain was to reduce anti-British sentiment among American forces in 1943. It describes the lives of British civilians and how they survived the onslaught of Nazi bombs. The film further uses newsreel footage and a few re-created scenes to illustrate the courage of the British people under the bombardment of Hitler's Luftwaffe. Much is made of the fact that Britain stood alone in 1940 when it was besieged by bombs, and that the little island was virtually the only Nazi target that refused to capitulate.

Credits

  • Producer: Frank Capra
  • Screenplay: Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein
  • Director: Frank Capra, Anthony Veiller
  • Editor: William Hornbeck
  • Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
  • Cinematographer: Robert Flaherty
  • Narrator: Walter Huston
  • Graphics: Walt Disney Studios
  • Director
    Capra, Frank
    Copyright Holder
    DocsOnline
    Duration
    53 min.
    Year of release
    1943
    Language
    English

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