Feb 282013

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Adopting a relatively even-handed approach, the movie covers MacArthur’s career throughout WWII, the American occupation of Japan and the Korean War. While the story does show MacArthur’s self-fixation and growing paranoia, it skips over many of his mistakes because they would have required a much, much, much longer movie. Unfortunately, the limited budget meant that the movie was filmed in the United States, not Asia. Worse, most of the actors are second-rate, and the low budget meant that the battle scenes looked like they were filmed on a studio lot. Although the film looks like an ABC movie of the week in the early 1980s, it is the only full-length presentation of a controversial and extremely influential American general. Read More…

Dec 172012
Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur (January 26, 1880-April 5, 1964) was a controversial American general. The son of a famous general, MacArthur was driven by a limitless ambition. Displaying suicidal bravery and remarkable leadership ability, he became a brigadier general during WWI. Continuing to rise, MacArthur became chief of staff in 1930, but was publicly criticized following the brutal eviction of the Bonus Marchers, WWI veterans camped out in Washington. Denied a second term as chief of staff, it seemed that his career was over and he retired from the U.S. Army in 1937. When war with Japan seemed inevitable, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recalled MacArthur to active duty in July 1941 and gave him command of the Philippines. Taken by surprise by the speed of the Japanese invasion in late December 1941, MacArthur was evacuated to Australia where he oversaw the island-hopping campaign and eventual recapture of the Philippines. Following the Japanese surrender, MacArthur was appointed American viceroy, and implemented sweeping changes in Japanese society, economy and politics. Taking command of the American response when North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, an amphibious landing at Inchon ensured victory, but he permitted American forces to approach the border with China, which provoked a massive Chinese intervention. After repeatedly defying President Harry Truman, he was relieved of command in 1951. Failing to win the Republican nomination for president, MacArthur suffered the humiliation of seeing his former aide, Dwight Eisenhower, become president. Retreating from public life, MacArthur died on April 5, 1964 due to kidney and liver failure. Read More…

Dec 062012
How has Hollywood treated Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR)?

Regardless of whether one has a positive or negative view of him, FDR was a pivotal president. However, he has received little attention from Hollywood. Aside from Sunrise at Campobello, which examined his sudden attack of polio when he was still a rising politician, FDR has been relegated to cameo appearances. Clearly there is a need for a more in-depth look at FDR, so Hyde Park on the Hudson will be interesting. Hyde Park presents the weekend when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed at FDR’s private estate after attending the 1939 New York World’s Fair as part of a goodwill tour. The visit itself was ceremonial, intended mainly to deepen American sympathy for the British, in particular to oppose isolationist sentiment, but the experience enabled FDR to forge closer relations with the British government. More important, the movie presents FDR at his prime.
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Nov 192012
J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover (January 1, 1895-May 2, 1972) was the long-serving and controversial director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. John Edgar Hoover joined the Justice Department shortly after the United States entered WWI. Possessing superb organizational skills, Hoover was promoted to head of the Radical Division within the Bureau of Investigation. Rising to Acting Director of the Bureau in 1924, Hoover switched the Bureau’s focus from investigating political organizations to criminals. Faced with a wave of violent bank robberies in 1933, Hoover was placed in charge of an expanded bureau, which captured or killed a number of Public Enemies. Believing that he and he alone should symbolize the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), magazine articles, books and movies portrayed Hoover as having trained the agents.

A national symbol by the end of WWII, Hoover was a lifelong anti-communist, and the outbreak of the Korean War (1950-1953) seemed to confirm the global Communist conspiracy. When Dwight Eisenhower became president in 1952, he supported Hoover’s belief that domestic security trumped civil liberties. John F. Kennedy symbolized the shift in cultural values that would take place during the 1960s, and Hoover disliked both the president and the social changes. In fact, Hoover used the FBI to attack any group that threatened the status quo, including Martin Luther King Jr., the anti-war movement, and the Black Panthers, employing wiretapping techniques of dubious legality. Despite a lengthy relationship with Richard Nixon, Hoover’s continued career was uncertain when he died of a heart attack on May 2, 1972. Read More…