9780143126836_b6312A three-part documentary based on the book Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War, Mark Harris (PRH/Penguin; OverDrive Sample), premieres on Netflix tomorrow, March 31.

The book portrays how Hollywood fought a propaganda war agains fascism, through
the voluntary efforts of directors John Ford,
George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler, and Frank Capra.

To tell the story in film, Harris has turned to five contemporary directors, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass, and Lawrence Kasdan, to provide context and insight and the entire series is supported with narration by Meryl Streep.

Netfilx will also air 13 of the films discussed in the series, reports Deadline Hollywood, “including Ford’s The Battle of Midway, Wyler’s The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, Huston’s Report from the Aleutians, Capra’s The Battle of Russia, Stevens’ Nazi Concentration Camps, and Stuart Heisler’s The Negro Soldier.”

Harris’s book got rave reviews when it was published. Slate calls it “one of the great works of film history of the decade.” The NYT says it is “a tough-minded, information-packed and irresistibly readable work of movie-minded cultural criticism.” The Guardian calls it “excellent” and The Washington Post says it “has all the elements of a good movie: fascinating characters, challenges, conflicts and intense action.”

The film version is also getting strong reviews. Entertainment Weekly gives it a B+, calling it “devastating and profound. And absorbing …well worth a binge.” Time says “The three episodes of Five Came Back run a little over three hours total, but the time goes by like a shot.” The Hollywood Reporter says it is “is intimately in tune with its subjects and the work they did.”

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