Friday, January 25, 2013

Eyes of the Navy (1940)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, Two Reel - MGM

In 1940 the United States Navy was in the middle of an ambitious building program, resulting from the restarting of the production of battleships three years earlier after the Washington Naval Conference slowed production in early 1923.  For the first time since the Naval Act of 1916 appropriated more than $500 million to build the "Big Navy" in response to increasingly heated relations with Germany, the United States Navy ruled the seas.  This dominance was a significant contributing factor to Japan's eventual decision to attack Pearl Harbor with hopes of lessening the strength of the Navy.

The Navy, never more powerful before that point, produced in cooperation with MGM the two-reel short "Eyes of the Navy," a profile of the then current state of the Navy.  Unlike many of the shorts that would follow in the coming years after the United States entered the war, this is a film made by a confident service branch looking to show off its superiority.  There is none of the begging for recruits and threats of dire scenarios as in later shorts, but instead confident displays of the grandiosity and greatness of the Navy as it was in 1940.  Though the film still makes the case for enlisting and surely sought to grow the ranks of the Navy, this effort is much more subtle than the film that would shortly come.  The Navy is shown in all its pre-war splendor, and it really is a sight to behold.

As with other wartime documentary shorts that were produced in the 1940's, "Eyes of the Navy" wouldn't fly today (no pun intended).  The film doesn't ask any questions or explore any issues or controversies, and though it is well made, it is at its core little more than a promotional film.  Still, it is hard for a history buff not to enjoy this two-reeler, and it is by far one of the best made and least cheesy efforts of the kind that I have seen.  Though I'm glad the documentarians of today make harder hitting films that ask tough questions and seek answers, these films have a certain charm to them that we have likely forever lost.

Remaining: 3174 films, 871 Oscars, 5449 nominations

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