I’ve just get hold of the third box-set in the Forbidden Hollywood DVD series. The six films in this pack are all by William Wellman, the toughest of the tough guy directors. And if you want to know how tough he was, watch the biographical documentary on the fourth disc of the set. Once, when he didn’t care for the script an unappreciative studio was trying to foist on him, he arranged for a load of horse manure to be dumped on the studio boss’s desk, with the script neatly placed on top.
The film I’ve watched so far is Heroes For Sale (1933), and it’s terrific. A war hero is wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans, who treat him decently, but start him on morphine to relieve his pain. After the War he comes home to find that another man has taken credit for his heroism. Morphine addiction takes hold of him. He resists the temptation to steal, but loses his job and is sent away for treatment. He comes back to the twenties and tough industrial politics. Caught between bosses and unions, he undergoes all sorts of troubles, and ends up a hobo.
The film expresses the major American myth of the Great War – that the soldiers who fought were let down by their country during the depression. You couldn’t ask for a better expression of the myth than this – though the hero is a bit impossibly virtuous at times. Recommended.