20 June 2018 | SimonJack
Very good backgrounder on a WW II movie
"The Making of Midway" is a documentary short that refers to the 1976 Universal film about the Battle of Midway in World War II. The battle was one of the most decisive naval engagements in the war, and the one that turned the tide for the U.S. and the Allies in the Pacific. This look at the making of that movie is a cut above the usual movie background documentary. Charleton Heston, who starred in the movie, opens this behind the scenes look at "Midway." Heston says that in 1942, he was attending Northwestern University where he was studying to be an actor.
A big plus for "Midway" was the effort put into it to make it accurate but also historical from both sides in the war. Thus, the back and forth scenes that showed Japanese as well as American commanders and their staffs. Producer Walter Mirisch talks about that. "I tried to make this picture historically. We tried to treat the Japanese as bright, intelligent, smart, led unfortunately at that time by people who were instrumental in the oppression of Japan and who brought the country to war."
Mirisch says, "We tried to depict them as people just like us, who were... who were doing what they had to do to the very best of their ability." This short uses clips from the movie as it covers various aspects of the film production.
Among those interviewed in this backgrounder are the top "Midway" makers. They include director Jack Smight, writer Donald Sanford, composer John Williams, and some of the technical people. This short used clips from the film as well. Vice Admiral Bernard M. Strean was naval adviser in the making of "Midway." He had been a Naval pilot who flew in the Pacific in WW II, although he wasn't in the Battle of Midway. Strean spent two weeks with the film crew at sea aboard the U.S.S. Lexington during the movie shooting. The Lexington was the only carrier left from WW II. In 1976, the Navy used it in the Caribbean for training pilots.
The authenticity of the movie was further enhanced by using actual battle film footage from World War II. Much of that had been shot by Hollywood director John Ford who headed a Navy photo team during the war. Ford directed a 1942 short documentary, with actual war film footage, "The Battle of Midway." Some of the footage came from other WW II films that also used actual war film. Ron Siegal was director of photography for "Midway." He says that they reduced the quality of much of the movie film they shot for a better blend into the coarser film of the wartime battle scenes.
The Japanese helped ensure that the film had the authentic uniforms of the Japanese navy during WW II. To play Admiral Yamamoto, Universal cast prominent Japanese film actor Toshirô Mifune. When Mifune showed up for filming, one of his white gloves had a short finger. Admiral Yamamoto was missing one joint in one of his fingers. By coincidence, Admiral Chester Nimitz also had a finger missing one joint.
Charleton Heston was in on the planning of the film early. In an interview from the late 1970s, he gave an idea of what the Hollywood customs were like at the time. "I think there's not a film made in Hollywood where the principals don't discuss it over breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel," he said.
This is a fine and interesting background documentary on the making of a feature war film.