WW2 Race to Victory: Second Episode

DATELINE: No Re-enactors!

 

  FDR & Winnie

History Channel’s new series Race to Victory  started off shakily in the second installment by suggesting that both Stalin and Roosevelt were surprised by the attacks on their countries. Putting the drunken bender of Stalin in line with philatelist FDR. It seemed bad taste, and outright preposterous.

The excellent photo footage is most remarkable in its selection and usage. The second episode began in early 1941 well before Pearl Harbor to show how much Churchill tried to entice FDR to give up isolationism and convince America to fight with the British Empire.

FDR was a capitalist against empires, and Churchill was the epitome of the colonial mentality. Though they met and personally liked each other, there was no agreement on this sticking point. And, both were reluctant to accept Stalin, but his massive country was important if they were to stop Hitler.

The series skips with balletic care the idea that Pearl Harbor was a deliberate set-up to bring America into the war. However, we know from our father, a Naval officer in the war, that he and others believed it firmly.

The end of 1941 was Hitler and Japan’s run to victory on both fronts. The Japanese immediately took hold of all the key ports of the Pacific, making America’s requirement for two fronts. It undercut Churchill’s plans for the US to fight strictly in Europe.

However, this compelling series manages to pull together extraordinary historical film and pictures to make this a a refreshing and powerful series that depicts the Big Three in ways you may not expect.

 

 

Race to Victory: History ‘s Honorable Series

 DATELINE: Original Big Three

  Winnie.

In an age of re-enactors playing historical figures and onerous narrators, History Channel has gone against its own monster: we have World War II: Race to Victory,  a three-part examination of the Big Three of the greatest war in history.

World War II: Race to Victoryis a throwback to the grand documentaries of CBS back in the 1950s and 1960s. It is purely informative and uses rare footage to enhance the lessons.

With a plethora of newsreels, photos, and historical documents, it seems that History is drawing on this goldmine of records, news films, and interviews. And, they are not colorizing the brilliant black and white footage.

The series starts with an examination of Winston Churchill and his nemesis Neville Chamberlain. On the same side, they were bitter opponents, but had to live with the other in their cabinets.

Churchill’s rhetoric still makes him transcend all others in the 20thcentury. His persuasive powers were made for an age when behind-the-scenes patricians ran the British government. And make no mistake, the Brits did not have a democracy in the American sense.

While Churchill uses his techniques to great advantage, he falls short with his counterparts: Franklin Roosevelt will not be drawn into the war before he was ready, and Josef Stalin didn’t believe anything Churchill told him.

If there is a revelation in the first episode, it is that Chamberlain’s appeasement was a misnomer. He was buying time for a country not ready for war; to Churchill, that meant nothing.

Race to Victory  plays on the rivalries and mistrust among the original Big Three, and we hope future episodes are of the same high quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stalin’s Death as Farce and Burlesque

DATELINE: So-so Soviet

 

buscemi & tambor

Krushchev & Malenkov at Stalin’s funeral.

Maybe we missed the lesson of the Cold War in which the ruthless homicidal dictator killer was surrounded by fawning idiots like extras and operetta buffoons. The Death of Stalin makes a point that defies historical truth.

Indeed, the opening minutes may strike you as a Monty Python-style farce (compounded with the appearance of Michael Palin), with a posse of dunces dancing to the whim of Stalin. They must entertain him and do his bidding, lest they end up like everyone else:  on a hit list.

Their cruel inaction over the dying Stalin as he lay on the floor in his odeur is the nastiest of political satire. Jeffrey Tambor is Malenkov, the weaking second-in-command and under heavy pressure from Krushchev (Buschemi).

The film features endless background executions in a variety of appalling ways, carried out ruthlessly, to the gallows humor of men like Nikita Krushchev, played in thin fashion by Steve Buschemi.

Most of the Communist comrades speak with British accents, jarring at first, ridiculous in deliberance.

What starts as a black comedy set in 1953 becomes more and more disturbing, despite pathetic Vasily Stalin and sister Svetlana, horrified and fearful at what might befall them with their despot father’s death.

From the early antics of a Monty Python, the film devolves into The Godfather, as these small-minded committee commies become more frightful and violent. We can almost fully believe there is more political truth than satire here. This is Swiftian justice meted out by the Lilliputians.

The evolution of Nikita Krushchev from second banana to dangerous rival to the predatory Beria, Stalin’s child molesting henchman, is truly the centerpiece of this political free-for-all. Buschemi’s performance is ultimately a marvel to behold.

Fast-moving and surprising, it is a film to put on your viewing list.

Silence Patton: Victim of Assassins?

DATELINE:  General Nuisance?

Patton

As the supposed first casualty in the Cold War, General George S. Patton is the subject of a 2018 documentary that raises the theory that he was murdered in 1945. He was about to return to the States as a whistle-blower on the ineptitude of the war strategy. This intriguing documentary is called Silence Patton.

A military truck, driven by a drunken soldier, hit the limo with Patton in it, as he prepared to return to the United States. He was left in a state of paralysis and soon succumbed (some say poisoned) in a German hospital.

What are we to make of this? Patton himself, as he was pulled from the wreckage of the accident, insisted that no soldier be blamed. He called it an “accident’”. He seemed intent of leaving this verdict. It seems a bit peculiar.

Why would anyone want Patton killed? And why?

The film certainly finds no shortage of enemies for the officer who slapped a soldier for cowardice (one, it appears, of many, as he used this as a morale technique). Stalin and the Russians hated him for his virulent anti-communism, and perhaps they wanted him dead. He wanted to expose American weakness for allowing Stalin to run amok.

He was prepared to expose Gens. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley as incompetants who let the Stalin forces take over half of Europe in the waning days of the war. He was horrified that the Russian soldiers raped and killed large numbers of German women in a genocidal take-over.

Yes, there is plenty of unpleasant actions behind and around the death of the great, opinionated officer. He was boorish, brave, and outrageous. It was his guts, but someone else’s blood that he shed. Yet, he was a man of his soldiers. The meandering quality of the documentary is unforgivable.

A steady stream of Patton apologists feel he has been wronged by history and by his contemporaries. How much can be believed? It an age of fake media and a blustery president, there may be some revisionism here. Trump’s name is never mentioned in this film, but he seems to loom over the proceedings as a disciple of Patton.