Monday, April 2, 2012

Marines in the Making (1942)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, One-Reel - Pete Smith

Pete Smith was a unique figure in the history of the cinema, one whose legacy would likely have all but vanished if not for the programmers at Turner Classic Movies, who squeeze "Pete Smith Specialties" into the schedule more often than TBS airs The Shawshank Redemption. Smith produced scores of non-fiction short films for MGM, and his films became known for Smith's occasionally wry, often corny, and always amusing narration.

Though Smith is probably best remembered for his films on sports and household mores, two subjects in which his humor worked best, he also made some exceptional military-themed films during World War II. Most of the military-themed short films made during the war years are nearly unwatchable now, as even the best of the bunch employ a Polyanna-esque tone and political simplicity that is foreign to modern day sensibilities. While Smith's war films are still very much of their time and thus the tone is still quite dated, the gently biting humor in the narration gives the films a lasting quality.

"Marines in the Making" is one of the strongest of Smith's military-themed films. The film is a brief look at the training of Marines shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the short is quite entertaining, as opposed to most short films of the time that served as little more than commercials for war bonds. In his narration Smith cracks harmless jokes about the Marines during their training, and the comparisons between the training of Marines and football players gives this short a unique spin. Some of Smith's narration is far from politically correct and offensive to modern ears, but at the time was indicative of national sentiment.

As is generally the case with Smith's films, "Marines in the Making" doesn't push the boundaries of the short film, and the content is quite straightforward and not terribly exciting on its own. Yet Smith's trademark style of narration and willingness to inject humor where others dared not combine to make "Marines in the Making" one of the more watchable and lasting of the military-themed shorts produced during World War II.

Remaining: 3167 films, 874 Oscars, 5445 nominations

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