The Fighting Sullivans: How Hollywood and the Military Make Heroes

The Fighting Sullivans: How Hollywood and the Military Make Heroes 1062 The Journal of American History March 2018 The Fighting Sullivans:  How Hollywood and often thought to reinforce hierarchy and sen - the Military Make Heroes. By Bruce Kuklick. timentalize human existence, audiences are (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016. nonetheless left to question the nobility of the xii, 212 pp. $27.95.) country’s demands, even for a “majestic pur - pose” (p. 172). How does the state, which, for its survival, More is at stake: the nature of hero making. asserts the right to demand all lives a - nd re The farther one traveled from Waterloo, the sources, justify ultimate sacrifices? How does more idealized the Sullivans became. While the cinema collaborate by creating heroes? Tom and Alleta were lionized on national How do citizens seek to establish the v - alid tours, The Fighting Sullivans drew poorly in ity of heroes? With erudition and humility, the hometown. Efforts to memorialize them Bruce Kuklick brings a lifetime of scholarship met indifference and even resistance. Tom was to bear on these questions through the lens of a drinker, Alleta “could not cope,” the legiti - one of the most popular propaganda movies macy of a birth was questioned, the five br-oth of World War IThe I F : ighting Sullivans. ers were (in varying degrees) hellions with little Released in 1944 by Twentieth Century interest in education or careers (p. 171). Only Fox, The Fighting Sullivans creates heroes of by turning the brothers into worthy individu - the five Sullivan brothers who, serving on the als could their sacrifice attain heroic stature. same ship, were killed early in the battle of In a meditative conclusion Kuklick suggests Guadalcanal in 1942. “All five?” gasps the dis - that perhaps humans are able to go on “only believing mother, Alleta Sullivan, upon - hear through a belief in the heroic that is necessar - ing the news. Kuklick skillfully traces -Holly ily illusory” (p. 173). A historian of American wood’s usual compromises, omissions, and philosophy, he invokes William James’s obser - fabrications, including the filmmakers’ navi - vation that we all come from “common clay,” gation through the maze of industry censor - and he asks us to consider: “Why is pain not ship and governmental propaganda bureaus. tragic if its victims are flawed?” ( ibid.). Despite its title, the film shows little combat. Much of the picture concerns the brothers - ’ ste Clayton Koppes reotypically idyllic boyhood in Waterloo, I - o Oberlin College wa—a reworking, says Kuklick, of the tropes Oberlin, Ohio of the Our Gang film series (1922–1944) and doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax516 the Andy Hardy film series (1936–1947) . Al- though Kuklick does not make a point of it, Hard-Boiled Hollywood:  Crime and Punish- The Fighting Sullivans employs Hollywood’s fa - ment in Postwar Los Angeles. By Jon Lewis. miliar hierarchical world of patriarchy, priest, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017. and corporation. When Tom Sullivan learns xii, 233 pp. Cloth, $85.00. Paper, $29.95.) that all his sons have perished, he awkwardly pats Alleta and goes off to join his regular rail - You can tell a lot about a society by looking road run, proud that he has not missed a day at its suicides. That off-handed comment from of work in thirty-three years. Emile Durkheim becomes the animating Kuklick moves seamlessly from the world principle for Jon LewisH ’s ard-Boiled Holly- of Waterloo to global strategy and ackno - wl wood, which studies, as the surrealists would edges that, despite ample research, many ques - have it, the “exquisite corpses” of those left tions remain unanswerable. He subtly uses the behind by the collapse of the studio machine. Sullivan phenomenon to explore questions of Lewis details the cases of aspiring actresses, meaning and mythmaking. Cinema and state young women seeking to break free of t-he re attempted to redeem the Sullivans’ dev -astat ing loss—and deflect attention from an un - pressive domestic imperative of the postwar baby boom, who came to Hollywood seeking prepared military—by showing that, through classic era fame and fortune and were instead their deaths, the young men, in effect, attain salvation. And yet the film provokes “an -am victims of a declining industry whose lack of bivalent judgment” (p. 143). In a medium a material setting encouraged the comingling Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/104/4/1062/4932693 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

The Fighting Sullivans: How Hollywood and the Military Make Heroes

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1062 The Journal of American History March 2018 The Fighting Sullivans:  How Hollywood and often thought to reinforce hierarchy and sen - the Military Make Heroes. By Bruce Kuklick. timentalize human existence, audiences are (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016. nonetheless left to question the nobility of the xii, 212 pp. $27.95.) country’s demands, even for a “majestic pur - pose” (p. 172). How does the state, which, for its survival, More is at stake: the nature of hero making. asserts the right to demand all lives a - nd re The farther one traveled from Waterloo, the sources, justify ultimate sacrifices? How does more idealized the Sullivans became. While the cinema collaborate by creating heroes? Tom and Alleta were lionized on national How do citizens seek to establish the v - alid tours, The Fighting Sullivans drew poorly in ity of heroes? With erudition and humility, the hometown. Efforts to memorialize them Bruce Kuklick brings a lifetime of scholarship met indifference and even resistance. Tom was to bear on these questions through the lens of a drinker, Alleta “could not cope,” the legiti - one of the most popular propaganda movies macy of a birth was questioned, the five br-oth of World War IThe I F : ighting Sullivans. ers were (in varying degrees) hellions with little Released in 1944 by Twentieth Century interest in education or careers (p. 171). Only Fox, The Fighting Sullivans creates heroes of by turning the brothers into worthy individu - the five Sullivan brothers who, serving on the als could their sacrifice attain heroic stature. same ship, were killed early in the battle of In a meditative conclusion Kuklick suggests Guadalcanal in 1942. “All five?” gasps the dis - that perhaps humans are able to go on “only believing mother, Alleta Sullivan, upon - hear through a belief in the heroic that is necessar - ing the news. Kuklick skillfully traces -Holly ily illusory” (p. 173). A historian of American wood’s usual compromises, omissions, and philosophy, he invokes William James’s obser - fabrications, including the filmmakers’ navi - vation that we all come from “common clay,” gation through the maze of industry censor - and he asks us to consider: “Why is pain not ship and governmental propaganda bureaus. tragic if its victims are flawed?” ( ibid.). Despite its title, the film shows little combat. Much of the picture concerns the brothers - ’ ste Clayton Koppes reotypically idyllic boyhood in Waterloo, I - o Oberlin College wa—a reworking, says Kuklick, of the tropes Oberlin, Ohio of the Our Gang film series (1922–1944) and doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax516 the Andy Hardy film series (1936–1947) . Al- though Kuklick does not make a point of it, Hard-Boiled Hollywood:  Crime and Punish- The Fighting Sullivans employs Hollywood’s fa - ment in Postwar Los Angeles. By Jon Lewis. miliar hierarchical world of patriarchy, priest, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017. and corporation. When Tom Sullivan learns xii, 233 pp. Cloth, $85.00. Paper, $29.95.) that all his sons have perished, he awkwardly pats Alleta and goes off to join his regular rail - You can tell a lot about a society by looking road run, proud that he has not missed a day at its suicides. That off-handed comment from of work in thirty-three years. Emile Durkheim becomes the animating Kuklick moves seamlessly from the world principle for Jon LewisH ’s ard-Boiled Holly- of Waterloo to global strategy and ackno - wl wood, which studies, as the surrealists would edges that, despite ample research, many ques - have it, the “exquisite corpses” of those left tions remain unanswerable. He subtly uses the behind by the collapse of the studio machine. Sullivan phenomenon to explore questions of Lewis details the cases of aspiring actresses, meaning and mythmaking. Cinema and state young women seeking to break free of t-he re attempted to redeem the Sullivans’ dev -astat ing loss—and deflect attention from an un - pressive domestic imperative of the postwar baby boom, who came to Hollywood seeking prepared military—by showing that, through classic era fame and fortune and were instead their deaths, the young men, in effect, attain salvation. And yet the film provokes “an -am victims of a declining industry whose lack of bivalent judgment” (p. 143). In a medium a material setting encouraged the comingling Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/104/4/1062/4932693 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018

Journal

The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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