How The World Was Won — Episode 3: Challenges of the Century
A Teleplay for a Three-Hour Episode of a TV Miniseries
Episodes dramatizing the life-and-death struggles of everyday people around the world bring to life the turning points of history, like the classic How The West Was Won, in this epic three-night miniseries.
- Episode 1: In the Beginnings
- Episode 2: Reason and Revolution
- Episode 3: Challenges of the Century
First Draft: November 14, 1989. Registered WGAw No. 424734.
Sequence 11: The First World War
NARRATION: Accompanying computer animation of Earth, the promising, yet challenging 20th Century is introduced.
The causes of the First World War are reviewed, with film clips of colonialism (from Episode 2), newsreels of industrial arms build-ups, and computer animation of nationalistic changes in the map of Europe and the often-secret military alliances around the Turn of the Century.
A montage of newsreels shows the start of World War I.
STORY: In very early 1917, 30-year-old Ernst Stock does his best to survive with his fellow German soldiers in the nightmarish trenches at the Western Front.
Having spied behind the British lines, German soldier Fritz comes running across No Man’s Land; but just before he can make it to safety, Fritz is hit by a British flame-thrower. Dying in Ernst’s arms, Fritz recalls receiving flowers from his betrothed back in Germany; and then, with his last gasp, he warns of a British “monster.”
The next morning at daybreak, Ernst and the other German frontline soldiers are attacked by British infantrymen. With machine guns, poison gas, rifles, bayonets, and their bare hands, the Germans destroy this wave of assault. However, out of the smoke and dust of the battle comes an unearthly rumbling: Suddenly, a British tank — the first Ernst and his comrades have seen — appears, its machine-gun giving cover to another wave of British troops. As the tank rolls over the barbed wire in No Man’s Land, the British troops overrun the German front line. Fighting for his life, Ernst finds himself in the trench over which the tank is rolling; but as the British troops move to overtake the second line of German defenses, many of them are mowed down by machine-gun fire from above: A German bi-plane has appeared overhead. Pulling up at just the last moment, the plane dive bombs the British tank, blowing it to bits — the German soldiers finish off the last, retreating British soldiers. As the bi-plane wags its wings overhead, Ernst recognizes the pilot: His 25-year-old brother Max. Suddenly, a French plane, with an American pilot, engages Max in a dogfight. After finishing off his opponent and showing off with aerial acrobatics, Max flies off — Ernst laments that he was always “a reckless brat.”
NARRATION: A montage of newsreels from 1917 to 1918 reviews the end of World War I, accelerated by the entry into the war of America — with her doughboys and patriotic zeal.
The consequences of the First World War are reviewed with montages of newsreels showing the millions of military and civilian casualties and refugees; the awesome and costly destruction of European farms, factories, and cities; the desperation of the unemployed in the economically strained cities of Europe; and the postwar prosperity of America, now the most powerful nation in the world.
The changing map of postwar Europe shows how the territories of the defeated powers were carved up, and the narration also tells how monarchies fell and the seeds of greater disaster were sown.
STORY: On the night of November 9, 1923, an impoverished crowd of poor German townsfolk and farmers, including Ernst (now 36), is gathered in a Munich beer cellar, run by Max (now 31) and his pregnant, traditional wife, Molly (31).
In the middle of a speech by the dictator of Bavaria, the door bursts open, shots are fired into the ceiling, and in marches German General Erich von Ludendorff and — surrounded by Nazi goons — a 34-year-old Adolph Hitler.
The wild-eyed, mesmerizing Hitler excites the drunken, discontented crowd — urged on by the goons — with his supposedly patriotic tirade against the democratic German government for accepting the “extortion” of the Allies’ Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I and produced astronomical inflation (to pay war reparations) and a humiliating reduction in the armed forces and territories of Germany. Hitler offers his Nazi party as a solution to the desperate throng, to restore Germany to greatness. He rails against certain “traitors” and “Judas goats”: He declares the superiority of the German people and the inferiority of “unworthy” ones, such as communists, Slavs, and Jews. With the support of the agitated crowd, Hitler declares the German government “kaput,” himself Chancellor (in this, “The Beer Hall Revolt”), and Ludendorff head of the armed forces. With his goons, Hitler leads the crowd off “to Munich and glory.”
Although Ernst tries to get them to come along, Max and Molly tell him that they had already decided to leave the poverty of Germany for the opportunities of America, whose President Wilson had tried to keep the other Allies from treating Germany so heavy-handedly after the war. Ernst grudgingly gives his blessing; but insists that the couple raise their American-born child to be proud of their German heritage, as he goes down a list of famous Germans and their accomplishments. As a memento of their last time together, the three have their photo taken.
Seq. 12: The Roaring Twenties
STORY: One night in 1925, Max (now 33) sits at the wheel of a truck on a Chicago dock on Lake Michigan, as fellow bootleggers wait by their cars. Max talks to his boss, “Scarface” Al Capone, about Al’s “generosity” and about those other strongmen, Mussolini and Hitler. A smuggler’s boat arrives; and after the men load the truck with cases of Canadian whiskey, Al gets in the truck with Max.
Their “convoy” proceeds slowly along the waterfront. Although Max becomes nervous as they pass G-men dumping barrels of beer into the lake, winks between Al and the head federal agent confirm a payoff — “everything’s jake.” Max can’t figure out the reasoning behind the Prohibition, and Al says they’re just supplying a demand.
Suddenly, in from side streets race 3 cars, of rival gangsters, who start blasting Al’s convoy with machine-gun fire. As they speed away, Al’s men blow-up one of the rivals’ cars with a grenade, sending it off a dock into the water. Soon the chase is crashing through the corrals of the Chicago stockyards, sending cattle running and men and bullets flying. The driver of one of Al’s cars is shot; and the men in the out-of-control car run up a ramp, crash through a slaughterhouse door, and dive down in a huge vat of blood and guts. As the chase proceeds onto “the main drag” of Chicago — and pedestrians and drivers dodge the gangsters’ vehicles and gunfire — Al directs his remaining car to pull in behind the truck. To the horror of Max, watching in the rear-view mirror, Al uses his shotgun to shoot out a front tire of his own men’s car, which upends — the closest pursuers’ car crashes into it. As they continue their high-speed chase, a motorcycle cop races out, from behind a “Burma Shave” billboard. One of the rival gangsters jumps from the running board of their car onto the tarp covering the back of Al’s truck; but just before he can shoot Al, the motorcycle cop shoots him: The would-be assassin’s body falls off the truck and into the path of the motorcycle, sending the cop flying over the handlebars and skidding down the street. Promised a big bonus by Al if he gets them out of this, Max plays bump-and-run with the remaining rivals’ car; and as they screech around a corner, the rivals’ car crashes into a movie palace, whose marquee advertises those 1925 hit movies Ben Hur and Greed.
After pulling to a stop in an alley behind a speakeasy, weak-legged Max and Al get out of the truck and are greeted by Sal, the vampish speakeasy owner, whose men unload the “hooch.” After being paid handsomely by Sal, Al lives up to his promise and gives Max a fistful of hundred-dollar bills, some of which he peels off for Sal — she’s to show Max a good time. Although Max tells her he’s a married man and a new father, Sal introduces Max to the wild times inside.
With chorus girls and a jazz band keeping the joint “jumpin’,” “flappers” and their tuxedoed “beaus” enjoy the drunken good times of Sal’s speakeasy, in these “Roaring Twenties.” Fluent in the “hotsy totsy” dialect of the day, Sal gets Max drunk on champagne and gets him to lower his inhibitions — “life’s too short” for worrying, especially during these heady times in the big city.
After dancing the Charleston together, Sal props her legs up in Max’s lap. Although he doesn’t want to talk about his wife at home, Sal confronts Max with the specter of his having to wake up with his wife every morning for the rest of his life — Max falls for Sal’s charms, and they exit to go for a drunken ride in her Stutz. The jazz-band leader, reminiscent of Satchmo, just shakes his head.
NARRATION: Montages (accompanied by a medley of contemporary music) present archival recordings of radio shows, theatrical movies, sports and other heroes, and print media of the 1920s.
STORY: On Sunday morning, October 27, 1929, in an upper-class Chicago living room, 5-year-old Martin Stock lies on the floor reading the funnies of the Sunday paper. His father, Max (now 37 and considerably heavier and balder) nurses a hangover and reads the financial section of the newspaper; and his mother Molly (now also 37 and dressed for Church) listens to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the radio and reads the religion section of the paper.
After Martin tells a joke of the day, Molly starts in with her moralizing: She condemns the teaching of evolution, she praises the popular revival meetings, and she condemns the “flaming youth” and the violations of Prohibition. Although no longer in the bootlegging business, which did provide the seed-money for his profitable investments, Max disparages Prohibition, which makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens, makes gangsters bigshots, and costs many lives of police and innocent bystanders and many dollars of taxpayers.
After Molly laments corruption has reached the highest levels of society, Max retorts that what the men in Washington do is completely different than what punks do on the streets. Max and Molly snip at each other about the right of women to make up their own minds. Martin intervenes with a comment about having seen “some more of those people with black skin.” Although Molly tries to be charitable, she too fears the blacks moving en masse from the South in search of work; and Max sympathizes with those joining the Ku Klux Klan, opposing not only colored people but also other “outsiders,” such as radicals and foreigners. When Martin points out that Max and Molly were foreigners not too long ago, Max says that’s different: He and Molly earned their keep and went along with the American way.
Max tutors young Martin about the “evils” of such troublemakers as labor leaders: He blames such activists for the troubles in the Soviet Union, says business has to keep workers in line, and applauds the contemporary conservative government for making sure that “the business of America is business.” In response to Molly pointing out that he doesn’t like government “meddling” in other affairs, Max praises as good government breaking strikes and raising tariffs and condemns as bad government practicing progressive programs — tinkering with the free enterprise system, run by “heroic” captains of industry, who “know what’s best for the country.” Max reminds them of the unprecedented prosperity America enjoys during the Roaring Twenties and credits it to businesses being given a completely free rein by the government. Molly worries, however, about all the “Buy now, pay later” going on.
As the scene dissolves to a stock-exchange clubroom in a Chicago skyscraper, on Tuesday morning, October 29, 1929, Max explains to his fellow speculators, nervously puffing their cigars, how he tried to get through to his wife that the debt he’s taken on buying stocks poses no risk: Investing in companies, by buying their stocks, even on credit, had made the companies strong and the stocks, thus, just that much more profitable. But just as the men start applauding themselves for their “wisdom,” the stock-ticker starts up.
The scene dissolves to later that afternoon: Max and his fellow investors are in shock — the stock market has crashed; and because they had mortgaged everything they had to buy into it, they are now broke. When Max asks, “My God, how has it come to this?,” one of the butlers who had been serving them brandies — a Native American — bravely supplies the answer. He condemns the speculators as fools for having thought that they could just buy and sell the same stocks over and over again, at higher and higher prices, and not think that sooner or later the “crap shoot” had to end — either they ran out of “suckers” or money. The butler also condemns them for having, in their false prosperity, neglected others, especially the farmers around the country (including his old father back on the reservation), who have been failing all along, taking down with them many banks. He predicts that as the banks that loaned Max and the other speculators also fail, the rest of the economy will also suffer: Everyone will end-up paying for the greed of the speculators. And because big businessmen had kept the wages of such employees as himself as low as they could and because even working people had been encouraged to take on massive amounts of debt already, the butler sees no way for the economy to recover: There’s not enough money left in circulation to buy enough of what businesses have to offer to get them going again. As he storms out, the Indian says he pities the speculators: They have done to their white world what they have been doing to his red world for ages.
Through a crowd of panic-stricken investors on the street, Molly leads young Martin to Max’s office building. But suddenly, screams erupt; and Molly is forced to hide Max’s eyes from the horror: Max has jumped out of the window of the skyscraper and is plummeting to the sidewalk, crying, “Forgive me.” From his P.O.V., cut to black.
Seq. 13: The Great Depression
NARRATION: Accompanied by a medley of archival recordings of contemporary music, montages present newsreels, etc. of crime stories, sports, and printed media (comic strips) for 1930 to 1932; and other montages present radio shows, theatrical movies, and news of the early Depression.
The toll of the Great Depression — in dollars and in human misery — is introduced, as is the mechanism of the catastrophic collapse of the domestic and world economies — more interdependent than ever.
STORY: In a Chicago “Hooverville” one afternoon in 1932, Molly (now 40, slim, and with a persistent dry cough) and Martin (now 8) sit idle among other homeless men, women, and children among their shelters of junk.
A homeless father decries Hoover’s lack of action; and although Molly puts the blame for their present predicament on her late husband’s reckless investing, the homeless father claims he and his wife are penniless through no fault of their own: They trusted the bank with their hard-earned life savings and lost it all when the bank failed. His wife worries about the innocent children growing-up poor and wonders where all the money went. A hobo in camp tells them that a lot of the money was just numbers on paper, secured by other purely paper money. He also tells how those folks who still have money are too scared about ending-up poor to do much to help and how there’s no escape from depression in Canada: He plans to follow the Okies to California, in search of greener pastures. When the homeless father wonders how he could get out there, the hobo warns it’s no life for a family man: He has to ride the rails. Although it’s dangerous, he does sing the praises of the beautiful countryside he’s seen. Worried that Martin’s becoming taken with such romantic tales, Molly tries to dispel the glamour of a hobo’s life. The hobo tells of how he’s had to do many odd-jobs to earn his keep and how the problem nowadays isn’t that there isn’t any work to do, it’s just that nobody is willing or able to pay to get it done. This gets the homeless father to start talking about unionizing workers: Although he used to cuss the unions for striking and he used to rely upon the companies to take care of their workers, he became disillusioned when the company he worked for, for so many years, just laid him off with no concern for his welfare when times got tough. The hobo warns the homeless father about the sacrifices inherent in organizing, however, as he tells of how Midwest farmers are dumping milk to raise its price, even though children are going without: Who could pay the cost of transporting it to the cities, when the farmers can’t even cover the cost to produce it? Hungry, Martin and Molly go into town.
As they pass by mostly poor people on the depressed streets of Chicago — including men selling apples on street corners, shining shoes, or wearing sandwich signs asking for work — Molly must confront her pennilessness. At a soup kitchen, Martin recognizes the man in front of them in line: The man runs off crying, in shame. At the head of the line, while they wait for a new kettle, Molly thanks the charity worker, who says “Here but for the grace of God go we.” The charity worker doubts that anyone deserves such hardships, confesses that there’s not much meat in the soup, and — asking forgiveness of God for saying so — laments that so many who are blessed do not give as big a share of what they have as the common man does. Although it turns out there is no more food to be given out today, the charity worker does give Molly the name of a doctor who will treat her illness for free, “if not for yourself then for your child.”
With Martin still hungry, Molly goes to scavenge for food from trash cans in an alley behind a restaurant; but she sees a meat pie cooling on the window ledge and cannot resist the temptation to steal it. A portly policeman comes out of the restaurant and apprehends her but after seeing little Martin, releases her with the pie and an admonishment to not let it happen again (He then quiets the disgruntled restaurant owner.).
In his office, the doctor gives Molly some medicine for her cough and tells little Martin, envying all the doctor’s possession, that the most important things in life are health and family. Overcoming her fear of strangers, many of whom apparently have abused her, the doctor convinces Molly to accept his ride to a shelter for the night, so that she and Martin can sleep in beds, out of the night air. He also asks her to accompany him that evening to the Democratic Convention in town, where Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt will accept the presidential nomination. After Molly and the doctor praise the crippled FDR’s inspiration to us all, we see and hear stockfootage of FDR accepting the nomination and pledging “a new deal for the American people.” The stockfootage ends with a marching, rousing chorus of Happy Days are Here Again!
NARRATION: A montage presents newsreels (and an archival radio recording) of domestic affairs from 1933 to 1936, including the first “One Hundred Days” of FDR and his first “fireside chat” on radio. Montages also present archival recordings of radio shows, copies of print media, and film clips from theatrical movies for 1933 to 1936; and accompanied by a medley of archival recordings of contemporary music, montages present archival film of sports, pop culture, and foreign affairs (especially in Nazi Germany and the Spanish Civil War) for 1933 to 1936.
STORY: One afternoon in 1936, in a small town in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, Martin (now 12) is serving as apprentice to Will, a middle-aged Tennessee Valley Authority electrician hooking-up wires in a barber shop owned by middle-aged Norm, cutting the hair of Richard, an older cotton-mill owner.
Having read in the paper about all the goings-on in Germany, Japan, and Italy, Norm appreciates life in the U.S.A., despite the Depression. Richard doubts that there really is a depression. Will tells them about how he lost the cotton farm that had been in his family for generations. The men in the shop learn that Martin’s ma, Molly, is in a sanitarium in Chicago, getting over “consumption” and that his pa is dead, like Norm’s. Will tells the men that Martin is a good boy, writing home and sending his ma part of his National Youth Authority paychecks.
Richard says he realizes some folks have it bad nowadays; but in their small town “horseshoes still get pitched, sodas still get jerked, the Four-H kids still raise lambs, and bingo and pie-eating contests still get won up at the Baptist church.” Although he’s embarrassed to say so — because so many are going hungry — Norm is happy to report that food prices have gone down. Will doesn’t blame him for feeling that way, even though low prices drove Will and many other farmers off the land. Richard says he’s sorry about that but that that’s just free enterprise — survival of the fittest. Will protests that there’s no excuse for leaving everything to chance. Richard retorts that being from the Volunteer State, he does enough, without the government telling him what to do: He thinks FDR’s a dictator. Will wonders if Richard’s not upset just because he’s losing power over the people in “his” town. Richard claims he earned all the power and money he inherited and calls FDR a traitor to his class, New York’s “cafe society.” Will says if the rich and powerful don’t do the most to support the country, as by paying the highest income taxes, the rest of us will. Richard decries such sentiment as unnatural and socialist. Will reminds Richard that Tennessee was once the state of Franklin, named after the man who established so many public works for all our countrymen. Richard asks what’s he got to show for the spending of all his tax dollars. Will points out the army, sewer systems, post offices, and schools, which benefit everyone. Richard asks why, if all this is being done, there’s still a depression and states, “What we need is a good war!” Will says defense spending is just as “socialist” as social spending. Richard blames such thinking on northern “intellectuals” and tries to shame Will into the old Southern rallying cry of telling the federal government keep its hands off the states. Will counters by telling how all three presidents Tennessee sent to the White House believed in a strong federal government. Richard longs for “the good old days,” when people looked up to the captains of industry. Will says that people are now looking up to leaders of their own choosing. Norm admits that he’s quite inspired by crippled, yet confident FDR and his plain-looking, yet supportive wife: “When HE tells me I’ve got nothin’ to fear but fear itself, I believe it.” Norm also volunteers the information he’s gleaned from a new book, by the British economist John Maynard Keynes, which credits spending — by businesses, individuals, and the government — with paying all the bills and producing all the profits in the economy: The money doesn’t just disappear — it circulates. When Will agrees and applauds FDR’s plans to spend our way out of the Depression, Richard doubts the constitutionality of all the New Deal bureaucracies, run by unelected officials. After Richard rattles off a list of the agencies’ initials (as he sees the “infinite” series of his reflections in one of the two mirrors on facing walls in the barber shop), Will points out that those letters stand for agencies that help all sorts of individuals and businesses get back on their feet and help prevent another Depression. Richard claims the CCC, for example, is just a bunch of lazy young men collecting paychecks paid for by his taxdollars; but Martin praises their work and claims that if he gets into the CCC when he grows up, “it’ll make a man o’ me.” Answering Richard, Will tells of the coordinated activities of the TVA: Generating revenues for local governments, developing and selling fertilizers, replanting forests (to prevent erosion and flooding), and building dams — “We’re takin’ our destiny in our own hands.” Norm likes fishing and hunting on the new lakes, claims the wildlife likes it too, and says there aren’t as many mosquitoes since the waters have been controlled (In addition, it was a flood that took his father.). And even Richard admits he benefits from the controlled waterways, on which his mill’s boats export and import goods.
Finally, Will and Martin show the men what the TVA’s doing for the barber shop: Martin turns on the power, and pandemonium erupts — before they can get the power turned off again, the lights flash on; the radio blares The St. Louis Blues (by Tennessee’s own W. C. Handy); the barber pole spins, making Norm proud; the shaving-cream dispenser shoots out lather; the ceiling fan spins so rapidly it blows the newspaper out of Richard’s hands; the motor makes the chair go up and down, bouncing Richard wildly; the electric clippers zip off a shelf and start “chasing” Martin around the room; the scalp massager vibrates a container of witchhazel off the shelf, although Norm catches it just before it hits the floor; and the alarm clock rings merrily. Norm says, “Now THAT’s power!” and Martin says he and Will should spend some of their New Deal paychecks on a haircut by Norm, a shirt from Richard’s store, and a show at the bijou. The men laugh as friends.
NARRATION: Accompanied by a medley of archival recordings of contemporary music, montages present archival recordings of radio shows, copies of print media, film clips from theatrical movies, archival film of sports, archival film of pop culture, and newsreels of domestic affairs for 1937 to 1941.
Seq. 14: World War II
NARRATION: Accompanying computer animation of Earth, the scope of the imminent disaster is foreshadowed, as well as the lesson of redemption to be had.
A montage presents newsreels of the beginning of World War II — 1937 to December 6, 1941.
STORY: In a brief montage of newsreels, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, which FDR calls “a date which will live in infamy” as he asks for war, the next day.
That month, in a Chicago sewing room, Martin (now 17, about to be 18) talks to his mother, Molly (now 49 and recovered from TB), as she sits and sews.
Martin says he’s got to help teach Tojo a lesson. Molly laments that the country already took her husband, so “why must I sacrifice my son?” Martin wants to pay America back, for having saved them with the New Deal, even if it means fighting Germans, and not just Japanese: He wants to prove himself a good American, not just to others but also to himself. Even though Molly tells him there are other ways to prove himself a man, Martin insists that the country needs him now in this way. She breaks down after he exits.
NARRATION: Montages present copies of print media, archival recordings of radio shows, film clips from theatrical movies, and — accompanied by archival recordings of contemporary music — newsreels of World War II from 12/8/41 to 6/5/42.
STORY: On the night of June 5, 1944, the last of the previous newsreels of the war plays in a Chicago theater. As the house lights come on, Molly (now 52) happens to notice that the movie-goer beside her, Pete (age 50), is crying silently. She tells him she worries about her son in service and asks Pete if he lost someone close to him in the war. “You might say that,” says Pete as he exits, revealing to Molly that he is missing one arm.
As they walk on the bustling Chicago streets, filled with civilians and servicemen and plastered with patriotic posters, Pete rejects kind-hearted Molly’s pity. After she learns that he is a Canadian war veteran and after they have a tense moment and then a gentle laugh together, Pete and Molly start to relate. Pete asks what she has to feel guilty about — “you aren’t a Nazi, are you?” Molly says no; but she can’t help but wonder if she is doing enough for the war effort, that he and her son and so many other servicemen are giving their all for. With appropriate responses, Molly answers yes to all Pete’s inquiries, about whether she buys war bonds, gives to scrap drives, gives blood, tends a Victory Garden, obeys the rationing rules, and keeps her mouth shut about troop movements. Pete says she has nothing to feel guilty about. But Molly still wonders how all that can compare with the sacrifices of the Europeans whose homes and lives are being destroyed or the sacrifice he has given. Pete says it really can’t, but it’s not her fault: “Nothin’ can bring back my arm. But I guess it’s better to be half a live man than all of a dead one ... though sometimes I wonder.” Spotting a flashing sign, Molly grabs Pete by his hand and drags him to a dance hall: “Let’s see how much of a man there really IS left of you!”
In a romantic montage, the couple spins closer and closer, with a medley of dance music from the ’40s, being played on the record player in the crowded dance hall.
Later, about 10 P.M., Pete and Molly stroll alone on the moonlit shore of Lake Michigan: Molly no longer feels guilty, and Pete no longer feels like less than a man. Suddenly, Molly panics, as she notices Pete’s watch: She must go quickly, to work the graveyard shift in a defense plant. “You’re a ‘Rosie the Riveter’?” asks Pete. “More like Molly the Machinist!” she replies. Pete chides her for thinking she wasn’t doing enough, although Molly says she can’t do enough for all the billions of dollars the bond-buyers and taxpayers have given. Pete realizes that many people have sacrificed a lot for what they believe in. Molly says she believes in Pete, “and that’s no sacrifice.” They kiss.
Later, about 11:00 P.M., in a converted Chicago auto factory, Molly works with others — male and female, black and white — on an assembly line. While helping assemble a landing craft, she prays (V.O.), “Oh God, please let my son still be alive.” At the same moment, in a landing craft on the choppy waters of the foggy English Channel, Martin (now 20, a sergeant in the army) prays (V.O.), “Oh God, please let me still be alive an hour from now.”
STORY: It is 5:00 A.M., June 6, 1944. Martin (now 20) and his platoon of multi-ethnic American infantrymen cope with seasickness in a landing craft being tossed about on the choppy English Channel. Although it is too foggy to see anything, Martin and his men hear the sound of thousands of Allied bombers overhead. Martin thinks back (in the first of several flashbacks on this, The Longest Day — by the way, the film of this name contains a wealth of stockfootage from D-Day.).
It is nighttime, in the spring of 1944. Martin enters a pub in the south of England and sees George, an African-American pilot, and Willie, an Australian pilot at least 30 years old, trying to fight off several British sailors. Martin joins the outnumbered two and chases off the sailors, who had no love of airmen. After cheers and beers from the pub-goers (George takes tea.), the three new comrades settle in for a friendly game of darts (as a barmaid secretly listens in).
Because of segregation in training fields in the South, American Negroes aren’t allowed in the regular air force, so they formed their own Colored Man’s Air Force for “Uncle Sam” — George is dropping propaganda leaflets over Germany; and although Willie tries to debunk such “psychological warfare,” Martin thinks it can be effective, and scary.
Willie’s proud to carry on the tradition of the Australian fighting man, like his father, who died fighting the Turks in Gallipoli, in the First World War. Willie recalls fondly his sheep ranch and the beautiful and often exotic landscape and wildlife of his homeland, Down Under. Martin says it sounds like the Old West; and George says Willie’s the descendant of slaves, like his own people. Willie says that his ancestors were indentured servants, brought with other debtors and political prisoners to Australia after the American Revolution, when the U.S. would no longer accept England’s prisoners. Willie tells how free settlers also came to Australia; but it wasn’t until routes were blazed over the coastal mountains by intrepid, heroic explorers that the settlers found the security of vast fertile plains. Willie goes on to tell about the great “Never Never” desert inland — unlike the U.S., there was no great river to find as explorers pushed west. Like in the Old West, unfortunately, the settlers in Australia had troubles with the natives, the Aborigines. Eventually, a Gold Rush, like that in California, doubled Australia’s population; and the cities grew. Since then, his country’s prospered as an independent nation in the British Commonwealth and gotten along peaceably with others, except, of course, the Japanese, making war in the Pacific.
Although George warns him about asking so many questions (“The walls have ears.”) and the barmaid listens in closely, Martin asks Willie what the Royal Australian Air Force is doing in England. Whispering, Willie tells his friends that he’ll just repeat the story the base commander told him to give out, true or not: Out loud, Willie says he and thousands of other Allied bombers are softening-up the French coast at Calais, north of Normandy. When Martin asks if that’s where the Allied invasion of Europe will take place, Willie says, “Who can say?,” to the dismay of the barmaid.
George, the teetotaler, drives the comrades back to the airbase where he and Willie are stationed and where apparently countless other Allied men are encamped and countless tons of supplies are stockpiled (in a matte painting). The three agree to meet the next evening, after Willie gets back from a bombing mission.
The next evening outside the airbase, Martin and George wait in the jeep for Willie. Through his binoculars, George sees Willie’s squadron approaching; but he is taken back to find no sign of Willie’s plane, the Waltzin’ Matilda. As Martin frantically searches the skies, normally reserved George curses, “This damn war.”
Martin’s thoughts return to the present, about 5:30 A.M., June 6, 1944. Suddenly, one of his men tries to jump overboard: He is sick as a dog and panicky. Martin makes him and the rest of his men regain their composure. When pressed, Martin reveals to his men the exact nature of their mission: They are part of the largest amphibious invasion in history — this is D-Day! They will shortly beach in Normandy, south of where they had led the Germans to believe the invasion would take place. Suddenly, a breeze blows away the fog behind their craft, revealing (in a matte) the thousands of ships in the invasion force: The largest armada ever assembled! Suddenly, the ships open fire on the coast. Martin looks at the beach, exploding, and then at the awe-struck faces of his men as he remembers ...
In another flashback, it is the night before. Martin and his men do their best to relax in their barbed-wire-enclosed compound with other American infantrymen. Suddenly there is a commotion and an “Atten-hut!” “Ike,” Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, addresses his troops in preparation for their mission. Afterwards, as he exits, his aide drops a paper, unnoticed by everyone. As Martin orders his men to police the area, he happens to pick up the paper and notices that the (actual) text of Ike’s inspiring speech is written on it. With the general nowhere to be seen, Martin turns the paper over and sees Ike’s speech In Case of Failure. Looking up, Martin sees Ike’s stern face. Martin crumples up the paper and throws it in the fire in an oildrum: Ike smiles. After answering the general’s questions about his family, Martin volunteers that the general makes him proud of his own German-American heritage. Ike thanks him but tells him to look around: There gathered in their great cause are Americans of every conceivable ancestry (a great many are listed). The general praises the devotion, in war and peace, of American Negroes and Japanese-Americans as well. Martin salutes, saying he is proud to be their fellow American.
Martin’s thoughts return to the present, about 6:30 A.M., D-Day. He and his men are horrified to see what awaits them on the rapidly approaching Omaha Beach: On the wide beach, butting up to high cliffs, there are miles of barbed wire and countless huge iron snares. Suddenly, the artillery and machine guns from the Germans’ enormous concrete bunkers atop the cliffs open fire, blowing apart a landing craft near Martin’s. Martin shouts instructions to his men; but suddenly, the bottom of the landing craft is ripped open by a giant concrete and steel post that had been submerged in the surf. Martin is thrown into the water. Struggling to avoid drowning — like the decapitated soldier he meets, to his horror, in the underwater turbulence — Martin, burdened by his backpack and clutching his rifle, somehow manages to make it ashore. As other landing craft and men come ashore — many of whom are blow to bits by artillery, mortars, or mines or cut-down by machine-gun fire — Martin tries in vain to find his men. Suddenly, an artillery shell explodes near him, sending him reeling. Fighting for consciousness, Martin makes his way through the nightmarish barbed-wire obstacles, double-exposed (from his hazy P.O.V.) with the obstacle course he remembers his drill instructor “barking” him through, back in bootcamp. Finally stumbling to behind the sea wall on the beach, Martin collapses and passes out.
It is afternoon, D-Day, before Martin regains consciousness. The scene on the beach is straight from Hell: Men, equipment, and vehicles — and parts of them — are scattered over the beach and in the surf. Landing craft continue to deliver more men to the on-going slaughter. Another artillery shell explodes nearby: In the smoke and sand before him, the unnerved Martin recalls an ironically innocent “Disney” cartoon training film urging the recruits to have confidence in their own abilities. As the smoke clears, Martin is shocked to see one man walking the beach as if the war was not all around him: Colonel George Taylor, of the American 1st Infantry Division, shouts to his men to get up off “this damn beach” and “go die inland” (His dialogue is reportedly from a real incident.). Without thinking, Martin and others follow, as Martin recalls (again in double-exposure from his P.O.V.) his drill instructor back in bootcamp giving him marching orders, to be immediately obeyed. By the time Martin realizes what he is doing, he and some of the others have made it through the minefield and the artillery- and gun-fire to the base of the cliffs. As another American soldier exchanges rifle fire with some German soldiers atop the cliff, Martin finds his gun jammed: He quickly disassembles and cleans it, as he (once again in double-exposure from his P.O.V.) remembers such a cleaning exercise, with barking drill instructor, back in bootcamp. His gun cleaned, Martin shoots the last German off the cliff above them. Following his comrade, Martin scales the 150-foot-high cliff, remembering the torturous chin-up exercises back in bootcamp. Just as they reach the top of the cliff, Martin’s companion lets out a scream and falls: A German soldier atop the cliff has a bloody bayonet. But the German’s rifle jams as he tries to shoot Martin, who quickly throws dirt in the enemy’s eyes. Scrambling to the top, Martin slugs the German to the ground; but before he can unsling and shoulder his rifle, the German trips him. Among other Americans and Germans fighting at close quarters atop the cliff, Martin and the German soldier “joust” with their rifles: For one more time, Martin remembers such an experience back in bootcamp. Finally, Martin delivers a blow to the head with his rifle butt and knocks the German off the cliff. He and the other Americans use their hand grenades to blow-up the men and artillery in the German bunker. Martin then leads the men inland, to cut-off a highway and German reinforcements.
It is nighttime, D-Day. As his comrades place explosives in the middle of a road, Martin reels out wires to a detonator, in the roadside ditch. Suddenly, the men in the road are mowed down by machine-gun fire, from a German armored personnel carrier racing down the road. As it screeches to a stop, Martin pushes the plunger and blows it up. Inspecting his fallen comrades, Martin is shot in the leg and falls to the ground: One of the German soldiers is still alive; but before he can squeeze off another shot with his Luger, he is shot — Martin looks up to see Annette, a young French Resistance fighter holding her smoking rifle. After quickly attending to Martin’s wound, Annette hustles Martin, hobbling and ready to pass out, into the apple orchard bordering the road.
Running as best as they can, with her arm around him, Annette reassures Martin that, contrary to what he’s asked, he is not dead and she is not an angel: “You Americans are OUR angels: We have waited years for this day — for you to come liberate France from those Nazi swine!”
Annette relates the sacrifices her family has made for the Resistance movement. Her parents were among those randomly rounded-up and shot by the Gestapo; and her brother was killed at Calais, in a mission designed to fool the Germans into thinking that the invasion would take place up there — the Allies even tipped off German spies about the mission, to make it seem more believable: Annette accepts this “fate” as part of the price of victory over the Nazis and their Vichy puppet government. She tells of how their Resistance Movement has published underground newspapers, spied on German troop movements, and sabotaged German lines of transportation and communication — including cutting telephone and telegraph lines all over France the night before this invasion, to keep Rommel and Hitler, back in Germany, unaware of what was going on until it was too late. Helping him keep from passing out, Annette tells Martin what she has heard “through the grapevine” about the battles of the day, reassuring Martin that the Allies have established secure beachheads: Casualties have been in the thousands, but they are less than feared. When Martin asks, “My God, what kind of world do we live in?,” Annette replies, “A world in which life without freedom is no life at all. A world in which some men and women care more about the lives and freedom of others than they do about themselves.” When Martin adds, “A world of love an’ hate, eh?” Annette asks if his people came from France. Martin tells her Germany; and she says, “Well! I guess the evil is not in the blood.” and kisses him on the cheek.
After reaching safety in her dilapidated barn, Martin falls asleep in the hay, his head in Annette’s lap, as he asks in delirium, “Oh God, why did you spare my life today? What mission have you saved me for? Can you even hear me, Lord?” A dairy cow moos. Annette remarks, “C’EST le vie.”
NARRATION: A montage presents newsreels of World War II from 6/7/44 to 4/12/45, concluding with the funeral procession of FDR.
STORY: In 1945, now 1st Lieutenant Martin Stock (age 21 and limping slightly) leads his new platoon of American infantrymen up to the front gates of a Nazi death camp. Clamoring inside the barbed wire fences are ragged, tattooed, diseased, starving Jewish and Gypsy men, women, and children, among a pile of corpses. The guardtowers are vacant, although the gaunt dogs bark viciously from their wire kennel. In a nearby cabbage patch, an old German soldier spreads mulch from a wheelbarrow — he is oblivious to the happenings.
Martin stops his men from immediately opening the gates, for fear they might be booby-trapped. One zombie-like Jewish woman says the power’s off — Martin had feared the fence was still electrified. Martin asks the woman who they are. She starts to identify herself by her tattoo number, but Martin stops her. She then says, “We are the family of the living dead. We WERE Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, Slavs, homosexuals, POWs. Now we are but food and shelter for the lice and maggots.” Martin asks if there are more, but she tells him they are all dead — and the SS guards left with human shields days ago. When Martin asks, “What in the name of God has gone on here?,” the woman goes down the list of all the various and heinous methods of death inflicted upon her fellow victims. Martin can stand no more: He yells, scaring the others away from the gate, and shoots off the lock. He orders his men to tend to the survivors as he goes to get the one the woman madly calls “Crazy Old Ernst, king of the cabbages!”
Confronting the old soldier, Martin is horrified to see the name “Stock” on his shirt’s nametag, too: Quickly digging through his pockets, Martin produces the old photo (from the beerhall in 1923, in Act One) of his parents and his uncle Ernst — indeed the defiant old soldier before him. Martin demands to know, simply, “Why?!” Ernst says, “We had no choice!” and then proceeds to rattle off a list of things the German people “HAD” to do, for survival and glory: Concentrate power in a dictator, as in Japan, or Russia, or Italy; avenge the “humiliation” suffered after the First World War, including the “extortion” of the Treaty of Versailles; work their way out of the Depression, by disciplining labor and management and making armaments; take territory, like the Italians and Japanese “had” to do; enslave conquered peoples to work to the death for the German war machine; prove the might of fascists in the Spanish Civil War, when democracies stood impotently by; purge themselves of foreign influences, as the shoguns had done for centuries in Japan; purge their nation of “traitors”; use the Gestapo to silence all dissent, by imprisonment and execution; control all facets of life, from sports to the arts; control travel abroad and the mass media at home; stop communist leftists; devise the “Final Solution” to the Jews and other “inferior” peoples; and answer to no one, as the democracies themselves had insisted by not submitting to the League of Nations. Ernst insists that “our New Order HAD to do these things — as difficult as they have been — because we are Germans — not Jews, not Frenchmen, not Englishmen, not Americans, but GERMANS — this is how we HAD to secure our destiny!”
Martin slaps Ernst to the ground, upsetting the wheelbarrow, as he declares, “You did not HAVE to do all this just because you’re German, any more than those people ‘HAD’ to die just because they’re Jewish! This has absolutely NOTHING to do with them being Jewish, or me being American, or you being German: God help us, this has to do with each of us being HUMAN. ... Because they ARE human beings, your victims did not deserve these horrors; but they were vulnerable to them because they ARE just human beings. Because I am a human being, I did not want to kill anybody; but I had no other way to stop this madness, because I am just a human being. And because YOU are human beings, you Nazis have no excuse for these atrocities; but I’m afraid you were able to become so INhuman because you are just human beings — no more devils than some godlike ‘Master Race’ — just all-too-human beings: You became the monsters you are because you were weak-minded, desperate, mean-spirited, insecure; and God help us, no people on Earth are free from such problems and temptations. That’s the scariest part about this whole God-damnable thing: Human nature — not just German nature, Ernst — but HUMAN nature can become as cruel as it can be kind. As God is my witness, we must never again let the minds of any people — any people at all — become so poisoned by fear and hate. Never again!”
Max suddenly notices that the “mulch” in the wheelbarrow is composed of ash, charred bone, and manure (as at Maidenek). When Ernst laughs madly that they finally found a use for “those people,” Martin gives the first of a series of shouts from deep within his gut: “NEVER AGAIN!” He directs his first shout to Ernst, the next to his men, and the next to Heaven; and each of his following shouts is heard offscreen after each of the following brief montages: Newsreels of death camps; Omaha Beach; the end of the war in Europe (including the rape of German women by Russian soldiers, the abuse of hundreds of thousands of German POWs by American forces, the reviling of the corpse of Mussolini, the immolation of the alleged body of Hitler, and the surrender of Germany); the end of the war in the Pacific (including the bloody battle for Okinawa and the atomic bombs’ devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki); VJ day (including the signing of surrender terms, dancing in the streets of Americas, and the crosses and Stars of David in Arlington National Cemetery); the millions of dead civilians and servicemen worldwide; the millions of pitiful refugees worldwide; and the ruins of cities and farms throughout Europe and Asia. Martin’s final offscreen “NEVER AGAIN!!!” accompanies computer animation of Earth, seen from above.
NARRATION: Dissolving to a close-up of the flag of the United Nations (with the Earth mapped from above), the narrator (V.O.) starts to recite the inspiring preamble to the charter of the U.N., which will accompany appropriate stockfootage of U.N. agencies, activities, and people: UNICEF children assembled in traditional costumes; Eleanor Roosevelt and her U.N. committte drafting the International Declaration of Human Rights; the flags in front of the U.N. Headquarters; the bewigged judges of the “World Court”; a World Health Organization clinic; the statue of Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, at the U.N. Headquarters; the U.N. Security Council; U.N. peacekeeping forces; an F.A.O. advisor teach a poor farmer; the U.N. General Assembly and Secretary-General; and the U.N. Headquarters buildings, in New York City.
Seq. 15: The Postwar World
NARRATION: As a typical American family (ca. 1946) sits entranced by the “Indian Head” test pattern and snowy static on the screen of their early television set, its bluish light glowing in the darkness of their living room, the narrator (V.O.) introduces this last sequence (which bears a detailed production note): “In the Postwar years, millions of Americans and billions of others have opened new windows on our rapidly changing world. Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, this is YOUR life!”
STORY: A nostalgic montage (a la the Oscar®-winning short Precious Images), incorporating archival film and video footage and phonographic recordings, reviews the foreign affairs, domestic news, technology, sports, fads, music, radio, television, and movies of 1946 to 1963 (ending with the eternal flame over JFK’s grave): A year a minute (I have more than enough material researched to select from.).
STORY: A nostalgic montage (a la the Oscar®-winning short Precious Images), incorporating archival film and video footage and phonographic recordings, reviews the foreign affairs, domestic news, technology, sports, fads, music, radio, television, and movies of 1964 to 1974 (ending with Nixon’s resignation): A year a minute (I have more than enough material researched to select from.).
STORY: A nostalgic montage (a la the Oscar®-winning short Precious Images), incorporating archival film and video footage and phonographic recordings, reviews the foreign affairs, domestic news, technology, sports, fads, music, radio, television, and movies of 1975 to 1990 and the present: A year a minute (I have more than enough material researched to select from.).
NARRATION: Accompanying computer animation of the turning Earth, the narrator (V.O.) says: “Human beings have existed a thousand times longer than all of recorded history; and the Earth, a thousand times longer than that. But in this brief moment of eternity, countless civilizations have risen and eventually fallen, victim to all manner of war, famine, pestilence, and greed.”
With montages of stockfootage of Earth’s crowded countrysides and cities, we consider the problem of overpopulation, the root of all too many other evils, especially in our planet’s crowded but growing cities.
With montages of TV crime reports worldwide and TV racial-incident reports worldwide, we consider some of the more obvious problems of city life.
With a montage of common women worldwide, we consider the victims of the most pervasive discrimination in the world; and although a montage of famous modern women worldwide (such as Benazir Bhutto, Margaret Thatcher, and Corazon Aquino) reveals exceptions, a montage of government and professional gatherings worldwide reveals the shortage of women in powerful positions worldwide. With a montage of traditional men worldwide, we consider the “flip side” of this issue of freeing women from stereotypical roles.
With a montage of elementary schools to colleges worldwide, we consider education as a key to freedom and prosperity, for men and women of both minority and majority groups: “Knowledge is indeed power.”
With montages of science labs worldwide; of city air-, noise-, and water-pollution worldwide; of stormy weather and crop-pest outbreaks worldwide; of dumps and recycling centers worldwide; of nuclear and other power plants worldwide; of the sun; of space exploration and weather satellites; of medical treatments and old people worldwide; and other modern technological innovations worldwide, we consider the scientific problems — some of which are the unintentional by-products of earlier advancements — that we are challenged to solve, efficiently and ethically, with the power of knowledge.
A montage of upper- and middle-class neighborhoods in developed nations worldwide is contrasted with a montage of poor neighborhoods and rural areas worldwide, to present the unequal distribution of prosperity in our world; and a montage of peaceful and violent demonstrations by racial, labor, women’s, and like groups worldwide shows people trying to gain more power over their own lives.
A montage of Cold War battles worldwide and stockfootage of the flags in front of the U.N. headquarters are accompanied by a consideration of how, in spite of so many conflicts in recent history, the multiplying centers of power in the world today are balancing, with a moderate mixture of both socialist and capitalist ideals: More free markets, personal incentives, and democratic discussions as well as more consumer safeguards, social “safety nets,” and labor/management discussions. “Throughout history, idealism has slowly but surely given way to pragmatism.”
With a montage of public and private buildings in Washington, D.C., our public and private institutions — although expensive to maintain, vulnerable to corruption, and in need of checks and balances — are presented as “our best hope to enforce our mutual responsibilities and to secure our individual rights.”
Film clips from Koyaanisqatsi and a montage of Picasso’s cubist works accompany a brief consideration of the fact that many people feel lost, shocked, or confused in our large, rapidly changing world; but with a final look at computer animation of Earth, we are reminded that we share the same planet and that there are many problems that we face together but cannot solve alone.
“And so, in spite of war, famine, pestilence, and greed — in spite of our overpopulation — prosperity and freedom greater than our ancestors could have ever imagined await us and our descendants, if we gather our individual and collective strength, courage, and wisdom and if we receive the blessings of Divine Providence: That’s how the world WAS won.”
Note: The story continues; the script can be updated.