ISN'T LIFE WONDERFUL? (1924)    "Yes, beasts we are; beasts they have made us. Years of war and hell; beasts they have made us!"
The cry of a group of German workers driven by hunger in the aftermath of war to steal the hero and heroine's precious harvest of potatoes in D. W. Griffith's ISN'T LIFE WONDERFUL? (1924).

    "While we fight for them, they steal our homes--our fields! They kill us slow--why not we die like soldiers die?"
Tolie (Charles Stevens), a Navajo veteran returned from World War I service in THE VANISHING AMERICAN (1925).  In the film, while the Native Americans fight valiantly for the white man in the war in the belief that it will lead to greater freedom at home, white agents in Arizona take advantage of their absence to drive the Indians from their remaining lands, leading to worsening conditions on the reservation.

    "Waiting!  Orders!  Mud!  Blood!  Stinking stiffs!  What the hell do we get out of this war anyway?  Cheers when we left and when we get back!  But who the hell cares--after this?"
Jim Apperson (John Gilbert), an American doughboy, reacting to the horrors of World War I in King Vidor's THE BIG PARADE (1925).

    In a speech entitled "Men Like War" that he made in Los Angeles in January, 1966, linking war to male dominance, King Vidor called for US withdrawal from Vietnam, "not tomorrow but today."  In his 1972 book on filmmaking, Vidor wrote:

    "Today's new freedom is a sign of the times, an indication of an era of debunking that has been brought to a head by the obvious phoniness of the Vietnam War.  It stands to reason that we cannot expose the hypocrisies of this war without becoming aware of innumerable other hypocrisies we have blithely accepted over the years.  After all, nudity and sex have been part of life since the dawn of time. As for violence, observe the dignity and honors showered on the warmakers of the past."

    "There's something rotten about a world that's got to be wet down every thirty years with the blood of boys like those."
Marine Captain Flagg (Victor McLaglen) in Raoul Walsh's WHAT PRICE GLORY? (1926).

    "My men look at me like whipped dogs--white-faced boys with the stink of the dead in their nostrils--and all night long that wounded sniper in a tree screaming for mercy!  You talk about honor and courage, and a man bleeds to death on a cross above your head. . . .WHAT PRICE GLORY, NOW?"
—Lieutenant Moore (Leslie Fenton) to Captain Flagg during a World War I battle in WHAT PRICE GLORY?

    "They came back once--they came back twice--they will not come back three times.  They are so strong and beautiful.  They are too young to--die--"
—Charmaine (Dolores Del Rio) as the marines march back to the front at the conclusion of WHAT PRICE GLORY?

    "Here, for men fresh from the front, whose minds carried the image of unutterable horrors--here was forgetfulness. . . . ."
Title in William Wellman's WINGS (1927) describing the Folies Bergere in Paris where men from the armed forces went on leave during World War I. "

THE END OF ST. PETERSBURG (1927)"In the name of the tsar, the fatherland and money!"
A series of titles preceding the carnage on the Eastern Front in V. I. Pudovkin's THE END OF ST PETERSBURG (1927).

    "War is now an outlaw and will be hunted from the face of the earth. Those ten million men have not died in vain."
—The words of an elderly sage to the hero (George O'Brien) at the conclusion of Michael Curtiz's NOAH'S ARK (1929) when the Armistice is declared.

    "War is never a solution-it's an aggravation."
George Arliss in the title role of DISRAELI (1929).

    "I think it's more a kind of fever. Nobody wants it in particular and then all at once there it is.  We didn't want it, the English didn't want it, and yet here we are fighting."
—Albert (William Bakewell) in a discussion of the causes of war in Lewis Milestone's ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930).

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)"Oh, God, why did they do this to us? We only wanted to live, you and I. If we threw away these rifles and these uniforms, you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert."
Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres), a German soldier, to the French soldier (Raymond Griffith) he has just killed in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT.

    "It's dirty and painful to die for your country.  When it comes to dying for your country, it's better not to die at all.  There are millions out there dying for their countries and what good is it? . . . He says go out and die. But oh, if you'll pardon me, it's easier to say go out and die than it is to do it. And it's easier,.to say it than to watch it happen."
Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) replying to his superpatriotic teacher and his class during a return on leave in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT.

    "All our lives are ruined! All of us are to blame--every last one of us!"
—The words of the German soldier, Karl (Gustav Diessl), wounded on the battlefield, just before dying in the field hospital in G. W. Pabst's WESTFRONT 1918 (1930).

    A United States senator on the efforts of the American ambassador to Sylvania to influence its government to sign a commercial treaty:
"It's absolutely contrary to the spirit of American government to mix or meddle in the affairs of any other country."
The US Ambassador (Will Rogers):  "Yeah? Tell that to the Marines."
—From AMBASSADOR BILL (1931).

    "We're fighting for something that doesn't exist."
An American doughboy (Bill Boyd) on the emptiness and futility of World War I and its cause in John Robertson's BEYOND VICTORY (1931).

    "We're not women anymore. I'm not. You don't suppose I can go through it, living in mud, smelling the dead and still come out of it like I was. Betty, I kissed a man once. He was dying. He'd got in the way of a shell. I'll never forget the sight--just a thing with two blind eyes. He was off his nut and thought I was his wife. I kissed him and heard the rattle. I went on my first bender after that. I got cockeyed--it was the first time."
Monica (Evelyn Brent) to Betty (Irene Rich) in William Beaudine's THE MAD PARADE (a.k.a. FORGOTTEN WOMEN), a 1931 production with an all-female cast in a drama about the women ambulance drivers of World War I.

    Betty (Irene Rich):  "This war isn't going to last forever."
Monica (Evelyn Brent): "Oh, yes, it is for me. Oh, I couldn't stand peace now. That part of me is dead. That's why I can't go back to the States."
Betty: ". . . Things will settle down afterward, you'll see. Oh, you come from good, decent people."
Monica: "Yes, decent, that's it. They never knew anything like this. . .Blood, rats, shells--they didn't know anything like that at home. I guess that's why I couldn't face it--I'd smash up."
—From THE MAD PARADE.

    "Nine million people got slaughtered and they're already talking about another war. And the next time there'll be ninety million, and the world calls that sane. Well, then, I want to be insane."
Paul Renard (Phillips Holmes), a French soldier conscience-stricken f or having killed a German soldier in Ernst Lubitsch's BROKEN LULLABY (1932).

    "Who sent that young man out to kill Germans?  Huh?  And who sent my boy, and yours . . . Who gave them the bullets and gas and bayonets?  We, the fathers, here and on the other side.  We're too old to fight but we're not too old to hate.  We're responsible!  When thousands of other men's sons were killed, we called it victory and celebrated with beer.  And when thousands of our sons were killed, they called it victory and celebrated with wine.  Fathers drink to the death of sons!  My heart isn't with you any longer, old men.  My heart's with the young, dead and living, everywhere, anywhere!  I stood in front of this hotel when my son marched by.  He was going to his death and I cheered."'
Dr. Holderlin (Lionel Barrymore) to his embittered fellow Germans on his friendship with the young French soldier, Paul Renard, in BROKEN LULLABY.

    "Here I am in the trenches.  Any moment an attack might begin.  I have a revolver, a gun, a bayonet and a hand grenade, and before God, I don't know why.  Whom am I going to kill and for what? For two years, I lived in Paris and I love the French.  And now I am told to kill them.  The noise is getting awful. How much longer will I live, and when I die, who will benefit by it?
From the last letter written by Walter Holderlin just before his death, read by his fiancee, Elsa (Nancy Carroll) to Paul Renard, the Frenchman who killed Walter, in BROKEN LULLABY.

    "Drink to the war, then!  I'm not going to.  I can't.  Rule Britannia!  Send us victorious, happy and glorious!  Drink, Joey, you're only a baby still, but you're old enough for war.  Drink as the Germans are drinking tonight, to victory and defeat, and stupid, tragic, sorrow.  But don't ask me to do it, please!"
Jane Marryot (Diana Wynyard) when asked to drink to Britain's success against Germany in Frank Lloyd's CAVALCADE (1933).
 
 

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Introduction copyright ©1991, 1998-2001 by William M. Drew.  All rights reserved.
 
 

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