Wednesday, October 7, 2015

George Stevens with a Present from his Son

Christmas 1944, near Bastogne. George Stevens with a present from his son. He left his former job as a film director in Hollywood in 1942 to serve overseas in the American Army for three years in North Africa and Europe. General Dwight D. Eisenhower had been disappointed with the film record of the war so far, so Major - later Lieutenant-Colonel - Stevens was given orders to organize high-quality motion picture coverage of the forthcoming campaigns to free Europe from the Nazis. In 1943 he began assembling SPECOU, the Special Coverage Unit of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. It became known variously as 'the Stevens Unit' or 'the Hollywood Irregulars'. Its members included crack cameramen, sound men, assistant directors and writers from the film industry. SPECOU was attached directly to SHAEF, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. The unit had official orders that enabled Major Stevens to assign small camera teams to move from army to army covering the major events of the war. Novelist Irwin Shaw, playwright William Saroyan and future screenwriter Ivan Moffat were responsible for writing captions and descriptions for the 35mm black-and-white film that the unit shot across Europe. Army producers called for all official motion picture coverage to be photographed in 35mm black-and-white, presumably because this was the standard for newsreels shown in movie theatres around the world, and because 35mm color film existed only in the costly Technicolor process which called for three strips of film running simultaneously through a huge camera - not a likely device for a mobile army unit covering combat! That is why, today, when we envision the Second World War, we see a black-and-white war.

Source :
"Victory in Europe: D-Day to VE-Day in Full Color" by Max Hastings and George Stevens

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