- “31 Days of Oscar”: Turner Classic Movies’ Academy Award-themed series continues with nine feature-length war movies, including two Best Picture winners (All Quiet on the Western Front, From Here to Eternity) and three nominees (Battleground, Twelve O’Clock High, The Longest Day), in addition to the Oscar-winning short In the Line of Duty.
- Can’t stand war movies in general? No worries. TCM’s war-related offerings have something to please everyone, from steamy romance (From Here to Eternity) and suspenseful action (The Dirty Dozen) to psychological conflicts (Twelve O’Clock High) and, gasp!, even a pacifist message (All Quiet on the Western Front).
‘31 Days of Oscar’: Among TCM’s nine war movies there’s something to appeal to both pacifists and militarists
After a Saturday filled with singing, dancing, and romancing (and at least one suicide: James Mason in A Star Is Born), Turner Classic Movies’ “31 Days of Oscar” series continues on Sunday, March 12 – the very day of the Oscar ceremony – with human beings displaying their courage, bravery, and valor by stabbing, bayonetting, shooting, and blowing up one another: Nine war movies (see full schedule further below) from the early sound era to the late 1960s, all but one Hollywood productions (the lone exception being Michael Powell’s British-made 49th Parallel) and all but one with a World War II setting (the lone – World War I – exception being Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front).
Admittedly, not every single war movie in the bunch features a lot of war “action.” 49th Parallel, for instance, feels more like a cross between an adventure flick and a travelogue, while Fred Zinnemann’s multiple Oscar-winning blockbuster From Here to Eternity places a far larger focus on various emotional entanglements (especially the adulterous one between U.S. Army Sergeant Burt Lancaster and army wife Deborah Kerr) – its human-against-human brutality being of a different type (psychopathic Staff Sergeant Ernest Borgnine vs. Private Frank Sinatra).
But war movie (and war) aficionados shouldn’t despair. The thrill of battle – machine-gun fire, bombs dropping, mangled and bullet-riddled bodies – permeates every title. Really, you don’t have to see or hear any of that to know what awaits many of the characters in Twelve O’Clock High and the civilian population of the Japanese capital in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.
Below are brief notes about four of the schedule titles: All Quiet on the Western Front, 49th Parallel, Twelve O’Clock High, and The Longest Day.
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front possibly remains the greatest war movie ever made and one of the precious few Best Picture Academy Award winners to have fully deserved the honor.
In his first lead role, future World War II conscientious objector and Best Actor nominee Lew Ayres (Johnny Belinda, 1948) stars as the youthful, idealistic German soldier who discovers that, despite what he has been taught, war and militarism aren’t at all about bravery, courage, or valor.
That this obvious lesson still hasn’t been learned says everything that needs to be said about the human race and their leaders.
Directed and cowritten by Edward Berger, a German-made remake is in contention for nine Academy Awards this year, including Best Picture and Best International Film. Newcomer Felix Kammerer has the lead role.
Update: The 2022 All Quiet on the Western Front ended up winning four Oscars: Best International Film, Best Cinematography (James Friend), Best Original Score (Volker Bertelmann), and Best Production Design (Christian M. Goldbeck, Ernestine Hipper).
49th Parallel (1941)
Today, Germany! Tomorrow … Canada?
Released as The Invaders in the United States, Michael Powell’s 49th Parallel follows a group of German soldiers as they attempt to evade detection after their U-boat is sunk in Hudson’s Bay. Their yearned-for haven? The then-neutral United States.
Despite its Best Original Story Oscar win (for Powell’s future codirector Emeric Pressburger) and nominations for Best Picture and Best Screenplay, this exemplar of British wartime propaganda is hard to sit through if taken seriously.
On the upside, watching the nonplussed Germans plod through exotic Canada does provide some amusement. Besides, there’s Austrian Anton Walbrook (not as a German but) as a Canadian and Laurence Olivier as a French-Canadian. More realistically, the Germans are played by the Teutonic likes of Eric Portman and Niall MacGinnis.
Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
Produced by 20th Century Fox honcho Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by two-time Oscar-nominated veteran Henry King (The Song of Bernadette, 1943; Wilson, 1944), Twelve O’Clock High chronicles the difficulties faced by a U.S. Army Air Forces officer (a stilted – but acclaimed* – Gregory Peck) in his dogged efforts to restore discipline while raising the morale of a group of flyers stationed at the fictional U.K. base of Archbury.
As the (by then former) Army Air Forces officer in whose memory the narrative unfolds, Broadway and Hollywood veteran Dean Jagger (Tobacco Road onstage, Wings in the Dark on film) was named the year’s Best Supporting Actor. Twelve O’Clock High also topped the Best Sound Recording category.
* In Hollywood since 1944, Gregory Peck received his fourth Best Actor Oscar nod, following The Keys of the Kingdom (1945), The Yearling (1946), and Gentleman’s Agreement (1947). Additionally, Peck was the New York Film Critics Circle’s Best Actor of 1950. (The NYFCC’s 1949 winner was Broderick Crawford for All the King’s Men.)
The Longest Day (1962)
Hardly considered one of the greatest war movies ever made, The Longest Day is indisputably the one featuring the most extensive star-studded cast (see further below), ranging from French icon Arletty to U.S. right-wing icon John Wayne.
Also produced by Darryl F. Zanuck – at that time working independently – and adapted from Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 nonfiction book about the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, this Fox-distributed war epic is so epic it had no less than three directors: The British Ken Annakin (British and French segments); the Hungarian-born, U.S.-based Andrew Marton (the American segments); and the Austrian Bernhard Wicki (the German segments).
Credit where credit is due: Zanuck took the trouble of getting local performers (including several top stars) to play the British, French, and German characters.
Also, it must be noted that not a single The Longest Day cast member was shortlisted for the 1962 Oscars.
Immediately below is TCM’s March 12 schedule. Most titles will remain available for some time on the TCM app.
Oscars’ war movies: TCM schedule
March 12, EDT
7:15 AM Beyond the Line of Duty (1942)
Director: Lewis Seiler.
Cast: Hewitt T. Wheless, Glenn Strange, William Hopper.
Narrator: Ronald Reagan.
8:00 AM Air Force (1943)
Director: Howard Hawks.
Cast: John Garfield, John Ridgely, Gig Young, Arthur Kennedy, Harry Carey, Charles Drake, George Tobias, Faye Emerson, Ray Montgomery.
10:15 AM Battleground (1949)
Director: William Wellman.
Cast: Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban, James Whitmore, George Murphy, Marshall Thompson, Jerome Courtland, Don Taylor, Denise Darcel.
12:15 PM Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
Director: Mervyn Leroy.
Cast: Van Johnson, Robert Walker, Tim Murdock, Don DeFore, Stephen McNally, Robert Mitchum, Phyllis Thaxter, Scott McKay, Donald Curtis, Leon Ames, Bill Williams, Jacqueline White.
2:45 PM The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Director: Robert Aldrich.
Cast: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Trini Lopez, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Clint Walker, Robert Webber.
5:30 PM Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
Director: Henry King.
Cast: Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Millard Mitchell, Dean Jagger, Robert Arthur, Paul Stewart.
8:00 PM The Longest Day (1962)
Directors: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki.
Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Eddie Albert, Paul Anka, Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Richard Beymer, Bourvil, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Pauline Carton, Jean Champion, Gary Collins, Sean Connery, John Crawford, Mark Damon, Ray Danton, Richard Dawson, Irina Demick, Fabian, Mel Ferrer, Frank Finlay, Steve Forrest, Bernard Fresson, Gert Fröbe, Leo Genn, John Gregson, Paul Hartmann, Michael Hinz, Donald Houston, Jeffrey Hunter, Karl John, Curd Jürgens, Alexander Knox, Peter Lawford, Fernand Ledoux, Wolfgang Lukschy, Victor Maddern, Christian Marquand, Roddy McDowall, Michael Medwin, Sal Mineo, Kenneth More, Edmond O’Brien, Leslie Phillips, Siân Phillips, Wolfgang Preiss, Ron Randell, Madeleine Renaud, Georges Rivière, Robert Ryan, Tommy Sands, Dietmar Schönherr, Ernst Schröder, George Segal, Jean Servais, Hans Söhnker, Bob Steele, Rod Steiger, Alice Tissot, Richard Todd, Tom Tryon, Peter van Eyck, Robert Wagner, Richard Wattis, Stuart Whitman, Georges Wilson.
11:15 PM From Here to Eternity (1953)
Director: Fred Zinnemann.
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine.
1:30 AM All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Director: Lewis Milestone.
Cast: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, William Bakewell, Ben Alexander, Russell Gleason, Beryl Mercer, Slim Summerville, Raymond Griffith.
4:00 AM 49th Parallel / The Invaders (1941)
Director: Michael Powell.
Cast: Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier, Anton Walbrook, Raymond Massey, Glynis Johns, Eric Portman, Finlay Currie, Raymond Lovell.
“Oscars’ War Movies on TCM” notes
Movie schedule information via the TCM website.
See also: TCM’s Oscar comedies raise some important questions & Oscars’ Westerns.
John Wayne and Steve Forrest The Longest Day movie image: 20th Century Fox.
Gregory Peck Twelve O’Clock High movie image: 20th Century Fox.
“Oscars’ War Movies on TCM: Pacifists + Militarists Should Rejoice” last updated in March 2023.