One of Hollywood's most striking films of World War II has very little war in it, yet it whips up a fearsome power. A U.S. bomber that took part in the Doolittle raid on Tokyo crash-lands in Japanese-occupied China afterward. Captured, the officers and crew are hauled before a Japanese court and tried for war crimes. The trial is illegal and stacked against the Americans from the outset. But that doesn't stop it from developing into a fierce duel of nerves and icy politesse, especially between the U.S. commander (Dana Andrews) and the Japanese general (Richard Loo), who is the chief architect of the strategy to break the Americans and learn how the raid was carried out. The story for The Purple Heart was written by none other than 20th Century-Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck, resurrecting one of his pseudonyms--Melville Crossman--from the days when he used to crank out gangster pictures and Rin Tin Tin movies for Warner Bros. Did it have any corollary in fact? Home front audiences in 1944 were ready to believe the worst, and what The Purple Heart asked them to believe was both terrible and inspiring. The film was directed, pungently, by Lewis Milestone, a two-time Oscar winner and Hollywood's most honored chronicler of the horrors of war (e.g., All Quiet on the Western Front); cinematographer Arthur Miller, Fox's master of black and white, worked wonders with the claustrophobic interiors. The solid cast also includes Richard Conte, Sam Levene, and Farley Granger. --Richard T. Jameson
Captain Harvey Ross:
No your excellency. It's true we Americans don't know very much about you Japanese. And we never did. And now I realize you know even less about us. You can kill us. All of us, or part of us. But if you think that's going to put the fear of god into the United States of America, and stop them from sending other flyers to bomb you, you're wrong. Dead wrong. They'll come by night, they'll come by day. Thousands of them. They'll blacken your skies and burn your cities to the ground and make you get down on your knees and beg for mercy. This is your war. You wanted it. You asked for it. You started it. And now you're going to get it. And it won't be finished until your dirty little empire is wiped off the face of the earth.