Follow by email

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

World War Two Timeline in Movies - It's was a funny old war

In reality Hitler was far from funny, but that didn't stop film-makers on both sides of the Atlantic from poking fun at the dictator - blowing raspberries had been outlawed by the Hays Code in 1932 when Charles Laughton caused controversy by blowing one in 1932's If I had a Million, but the censors had to look the other way when the Donald Duck cartoon, Der Fuehrer's Face used a pop song about blowing raspberry's at Hitler as a title song. The song won an Academy Award and propelled the obscure pop group, Spike Jones and his City Slickers to stardom. The cartoon is embedded below.

Gasbags (1940) starred the Crazy Gang and saw them crossing Europe on a barrage balloon and ending up in a concentration camp in Germany. Here they came across a battalion of doubles for Hitler who were being trained to impersonate their leader. The gang eventually escape by stealing a secret weapon, the burrowing submarine. And in that same year Charlie Chaplin made his famous, The Great Dictator which was so effective in lampooning Hitler that the great comedian found himself on Hitler's death list. And in 1942 the original,To be or not to be took great delight in reducing Hitler to an absurd comic figure.

In 1942 Hal Roach produced the short, Hitler with the Devil which saw the lord of darkness outdone in the evil stakes by Adolf Hitler and countless movies followed suite, but perhaps the most successful comedy set during the dark days of the second world war came not from the big screen but television. The British sitcom, Dad's Army is superb and is arguable the greatest British sitcom ever produced. Telling the story of a team of home guard volunteers, the show ran for nine seasons and also produced a spin off big screen movie, as well as a radio series and several stage plays.

Originally intended to be called The Fighting Tigers, Dad’s Army was based partly on co-writer and creator Jimmy Perry’s real-life experiences in the  Home Guard. Perry had been 17 years old when he joined the 10th Hertfordshire Battalion and with a mother who did not like him being out at night and fearing he might catch cold, he bore more than a passing resemblance to the character of Frank Pike. An elderly lance corporal in the outfit often referred to fighting under Kitchener against the "Fuzzy Wuzzies"  and proved to be a perfect model for Jones as played by the wonderful Clive Dunn. Other influences were the film Whisky Galore!, and the work of comedians such as Will Hay whose film Oh, Mr Porter! featured a pompous ass, an old man and a young man which gave him Mainwaring, Godfrey and Pike.

So popular was the series that in June 2010, a statue (pictured) of Captain George Mainwaring was erected in the Norfolk town of Thetford where most of the TV series  was filmed. The statue features Captain Mainwaring sitting to attention on a simple bench in Home Guard uniform, with his swagger stick across his knees. The statue is mounted at the end of winding brick pathway with a Union Flag patterned arrow head to reflect the opening credits of the TV series, and the sculpture has been designed so that members of the public can sit alongside Captain Mainwaring for the purpose of having their photo taken.

It certainly was a funny old war.

Check out Herr Donald Duck below

No comments: