Film (1933). MGM Studios. Directed by Edgar Selwyn. Written by C Gardner Sullivan, based on the 1932 Broadway play of the same name by S K Lauren and Reginald Lawrence. Cast includes Phillips Holmes, Ruth Selwyn, Lewis Stone, Diana Wynyard, Robert Young. 72 minutes. Black and white.
This obscure film offers a Future War view of World War Two as seen from 1933, a vision which the passage of time has converted into Alternate History.
Laura Mattson (Wynyard), a nurse in World War One, falls in love with US aviator Geoffrey Aiken (Young) who is fatally wounded during his first mission and dies in her hospital. She soon discovers that she is expecting his child; to save her from perceived dishonour, the older US officer Edgar Seward (Stone) marries her and they raise the boy as his son. Years afterward in 1940, Seward is now the US Secretary of State on the eve of another world war. There is considerable conflict between Seward, Laura, and their son Bob (Holmes), whom Laura has taught to embrace pacifism. With war brewing between the US and the arrogantly hostile state of "Eurasia", Bob refuses to serve in the military and Seward angrily tells him the truth about his parentage, which Laura then confirms. When war begins it initially goes badly for the US, which suffers huge military casualties from gas bombs; an air raid on New York destroys the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. Laura is also slightly injured during this attack. As a direct result Bob changes his mind, marries his fiancée Peggy Chase (Selwyn) – who had broken off their engagement because of his pacifism – and enlists in the US air force to defend his country.
Men Must Fight incidentally features the widespread use of Television and the Vidphone among often futuristic sets. Its presentation of sympathetic pacifist characters (although the creed is ultimately rejected) is a rarity in US Cinema. Holmes died in combat in the actual World War Two some years later. [GSt/DRL]
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