The Battle of Russia (1943)

83 mins | Documentary | 13 November 1943

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HISTORY

This film was subtitled "Project 6004; Information film #5." According to government documents at NARS, this film's working titles were Know Your Ally: Russia and War in the East, which was also used as a working title for The Battle of China. Work began on the scenario on 1 Apr 1942, and an answer print was submitted for approval on 9 Jul 1943. Of the film's 7,363 ft., 4,542 ft. came from Russian sources, about 500 ft. from American newsreels and Hollywood studios, 496 ft. from seized enemy newsreels or documentary films, and 77 ft. from Allied documentaries. Footage from some Russian films was used, including Alexander Nevsky, Moscow Strikes Back, Soviet Frontiers on the Danube, Diary of a Nazi, Russians at War, Girl from Leningrad and One Day in Soviet Russia. Footage from RKO's The Navy Comes Through was also used. According to Capra's autobiography, he was nearly placed under military arrest for going to the Soviet Embassy to arrange for footage, an episode that ended in a reprimand. Music used in the film was drawn from classic Russian works, such as "The Rite of Spring" and the "Firebird Suite" by Igor Stravinsky, Dimitri Shostakovitch's Seventh Symphony, Peter Tchaikovsky's Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Isle of the Dead," and music from the film Alexander Nevsky by Sergei Prokofiev.
       Inserts, optical printing, fades and dissolves were made at Twentieth Century-Fox, while the music recording was done at Paramount. According to DV, Dimitri Tiomkin conducted the seventy-five piece orchestra ...

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This film was subtitled "Project 6004; Information film #5." According to government documents at NARS, this film's working titles were Know Your Ally: Russia and War in the East, which was also used as a working title for The Battle of China. Work began on the scenario on 1 Apr 1942, and an answer print was submitted for approval on 9 Jul 1943. Of the film's 7,363 ft., 4,542 ft. came from Russian sources, about 500 ft. from American newsreels and Hollywood studios, 496 ft. from seized enemy newsreels or documentary films, and 77 ft. from Allied documentaries. Footage from some Russian films was used, including Alexander Nevsky, Moscow Strikes Back, Soviet Frontiers on the Danube, Diary of a Nazi, Russians at War, Girl from Leningrad and One Day in Soviet Russia. Footage from RKO's The Navy Comes Through was also used. According to Capra's autobiography, he was nearly placed under military arrest for going to the Soviet Embassy to arrange for footage, an episode that ended in a reprimand. Music used in the film was drawn from classic Russian works, such as "The Rite of Spring" and the "Firebird Suite" by Igor Stravinsky, Dimitri Shostakovitch's Seventh Symphony, Peter Tchaikovsky's Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Isle of the Dead," and music from the film Alexander Nevsky by Sergei Prokofiev.
       Inserts, optical printing, fades and dissolves were made at Twentieth Century-Fox, while the music recording was done at Paramount. According to DV, Dimitri Tiomkin conducted the seventy-five piece orchestra that recorded the music.
       There were three versions of the film in lengths of six, nine and ten reels. Modern sources state that the film was released in two parts, the first half covering events through 1941, the second tracing the war since then on the eastern front. According to NYT, a passage in the original film about Russia's pre-war advances into Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bessarabia and Poland was deleted from the print showing in New York. It may be that the nine-reel version was exhibited publicly.
       The film was well received critically and was given an award by National Board of Review in 1943, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary that year. According to the Washington Post, the State of Pennsylvania censors cut out all newsreel excerpts showing Nazi atrocities in Russia.
       For a French version, Charles Boyer recited Andre David's translation of the narration. According to modern sources, the picture was translated by the Soviet Union into a score of dialects and shown throughout the USSR, with a special prologue by Joseph Stalin, and was extremely popular. W. Averell Harriman, American ambassador at the time, reported that Stalin personally told the visiting Capra that he was pleased with the film.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 Sep 1943
p. 3, 5
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 1943
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1943
---
Independent Film Journal
4 Mar 1944
p. 24
Los Angeles Examiner
13 Nov 1943
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Nov 1943
p. 7
Nation
30 Oct 1943
p. 509
Nation
25 Dec 1943
pp. 768-769
New York Times
15 Nov 1943
p. 23
New Yorker
20 Nov 1943
pp. 72-73
The Washington Post
25 Nov 1943
---
Time
29 Nov 1943
p. 92
Times-Herald (Washington, D.C.)
11 Nov 1943
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCERS
Lt. Col. Frank Capra
Supv
SOUND
Lt. William Montague
Mixer
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Know Your Ally: Russia
War in the East
Release Date:
13 November 1943
Production Date:

Duration(in mins):
83
Length(in reels):
9 , 10
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

The film links the German battle for Russia during World War II to other historical invasions of the Russian territory--by the Teutonic Knights in 1242, by the Swedish army under Charles XII in 1704, by Napoleon's armies in 1812, and by the Germans again under Kaiser Wilhelm in 1914. The invasions were made in part because Russia, the largest country in the world, contains raw materials, including ore deposits, lumber, fuel, and farmland, and can supply a great deal of manpower. Under Hitler, Germany again invaded Russia. As part of the 1939 Russo-German Treaty, Russia and Germany agreed not to fight each other. In 1944, Russia joined the League of Nations for the purpose of collective security against German, Japanese and Italian aggression and turned her peacetime manufacturing to war materiel. Meanwhile, the Russian army expanded and more men were trained. In 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, but when France and England declared war on Germany, the German effort turned toward the West. By 1940, much of Western Europe had been conquered, and while the Germans could not defeat England, they made plans to resume blitzing the East. They needed Hungary and Rumania for the materials and manpower these countries could supply, and also because they shared borders with Russia. Bulgaria, based on the Black Sea, provided Germany with access to Russian shipping. By the spring of 1941, these countries were occupied by the German army. Turning his attention toward Yugoslavia and Greece, Hitler assigned Benito Mussolini the task of taking Greece, but the Greeks resisted and themselves invaded Albania. Hitler then sent ultimatums to Greece and Yugoslavia, but in the face of their resistance, Germany ended ...

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The film links the German battle for Russia during World War II to other historical invasions of the Russian territory--by the Teutonic Knights in 1242, by the Swedish army under Charles XII in 1704, by Napoleon's armies in 1812, and by the Germans again under Kaiser Wilhelm in 1914. The invasions were made in part because Russia, the largest country in the world, contains raw materials, including ore deposits, lumber, fuel, and farmland, and can supply a great deal of manpower. Under Hitler, Germany again invaded Russia. As part of the 1939 Russo-German Treaty, Russia and Germany agreed not to fight each other. In 1944, Russia joined the League of Nations for the purpose of collective security against German, Japanese and Italian aggression and turned her peacetime manufacturing to war materiel. Meanwhile, the Russian army expanded and more men were trained. In 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, but when France and England declared war on Germany, the German effort turned toward the West. By 1940, much of Western Europe had been conquered, and while the Germans could not defeat England, they made plans to resume blitzing the East. They needed Hungary and Rumania for the materials and manpower these countries could supply, and also because they shared borders with Russia. Bulgaria, based on the Black Sea, provided Germany with access to Russian shipping. By the spring of 1941, these countries were occupied by the German army. Turning his attention toward Yugoslavia and Greece, Hitler assigned Benito Mussolini the task of taking Greece, but the Greeks resisted and themselves invaded Albania. Hitler then sent ultimatums to Greece and Yugoslavia, but in the face of their resistance, Germany ended her invasion of both countries. Then, on 22 June 1941, Germany again invaded Russia, concentrating on Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev. Many cities were attacked, and on 17 June, Smolensk, the key impediment to the advance on Moscow, fell. The Ukraine also faced German soldiers. Though the Germans were able to secure over 500,000 square miles of Russian territory, within six months the blitz of Russia was over. Despite the German strategy of "wedge and trap," the Russians kept fighting, and although cities were demolished, the Germans were ultimately defeated by the Russian "scorched earth" policy and guerilla armies. Footage is shown of Nazi vandalism of such historic landmarks as Peter Tchaikovsky's and Count Leo Tolstoy's houses, Nazi atrocities committed in Russia and the Russian triumph and celebration. In Leningrad, many citizens prepared for battle on the front line by digging trenches. The battle at Leningrad ended in defeat for the Germans, and the film emphasizes the Russian return to normalacy after their victory. By 1942, the Russians were preparing for defense of the Caucasus Mountains. The Germans conquered more territory, but during the Battle of Stalingrad, the Russians were able to defend and then regain the city. Beside suffering defeat at the hands of the Russians, the Germans were also bested by the British and Americans in North Africa. By 1943, the Russians were victorious, Stalingrad was free, and the Nazis had capitulated; their attacks on Moscow and the Caucasus defeated by the Russians.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.