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Merin Coats - A Spoonful of Sugar

It’s 1943 and the world is at war. Maybe you have your doubts about it, the politics involved or perhaps you’re just not sure you agree with war on its most fundamental level. These thoughts can’t help but persist through a pervasive and all out assault-on-the-senses pro-war campaign. Everywhere you look there’s a poster telling you that supporting the war is the decent thing to do. Your neighbor came by to collect your old tires. “For our boys,? he said. Everyone’s on board. I mean…Hell! Who can argue with Bing Crosby? And now it’s Saturday night and you naturally want to go to the pictures, relax a bit, take your mind off the job and whatnot. Bogey in Sahara. How can you go wrong? You have no idea what sort of filmic valium, what panacea for the un-patriotic awaits you.

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It’s hard to imagine this sort of movie being made today. As a movie-as-pure-propaganda goes, it’s a relatively entertaining little jaunt, although I’m not sure its more comic moments were intended by the filmmakers. Columbia studios adhered triumphantly to the OWI’s standards. The first agenda, “demonstrating what we are fighting for,? was made clear by several memorable lines. The soldier known as “Doc? speaks of the Germans never knowing the “dignity of freedom?. When they reach the well, Sgt. Gunn tells his men they’re each allowed three swallows. He stresses “every man,? and he includes the POWs. This touches on one of the “Four Freedoms? as outlined by Roosevelt in his famous speech, the freedom from want for ALL nations, a democratic ideal to say the least. Perhaps one of the crowning lines, however, was the obvious heralding of the American Dream in, “The only miracle I believe in is the one you have to work for.?

The Nature of the Enemy was mapped out nicely as well. If we follow the film’s portrayal, the Germans are duplicitous and under-handed, hardly a heroic image, and by that token certainly not the type to win a war. The Italian POW is treated a bit better, but only becomes likable when he denounces his reasons for fighting and sides with the Americans. The message here being: "It’s never too late to support the war."

The Allies are represented well. They are all amicable and competent though clearly taking a back seat in command to Sgt. Gunn. The Frenchman provides a bit of comic relief, because well, let’s face it... The French are funny.

The “Supplies? and “Civilian Duty? standards take a slightly less prominent role. I did find it interesting, however, that the only female present in the movie was a mechanically challenged but lovable tank named “Lulubelle?. There are no civilians present in the movie, but plenty of messages are aimed at them. The line, “It is the duty of every man to do everything he can for the armed forces,? certainly hits its mark.

The soldiers themselves are well represented. They bring along the Italian POW despite their dangerously low water supply, thus demonstrating they are noble, decent men. The Allied soldiers fight in cunning and clever ways while the Germans are brutish and rely on sheer force.

I’ll let two unidentified American soldiers sum things up for me just in case you weren’t clear on where the movie stood on things. Call it another dose of medicine….
“Is he dead??
“No, he’s an American.?