large_9tywzppg1ye3u3ei6i2txnjhv2mI think one idea that many organizations could do during the centennial is to have a film festival of WWI movies.  There are quite a few, and you can find lists of those suggested as some of the best films.  If you can, you could find someone to discuss the accuracy of the films or lead discussions about them.

Here is one such list:

It’s not a bad list.  I’ve seen nine of the films  and have little quarrel with their presence.  Any list that includes the 1930 All Quiet on the Western Front is off to a good start, in my humble opinion.  After 86 years, it still holds up very well.

But I’m a silent film fan, and I would have included the 1924 The Big Parade and the 1919 French film, J’Accuse.

51ppejhcv3lOf more recent vintage I would have included Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 film, Paths of Glory.  For submarine war fare, the 1981 German film Das Boot might make a few lists.

I think I’ve just opened myself up for some criticism by movies fans.  Perhaps later we can discuss more of these WWI films, and perhaps we can get others to chime in.


One movie not on the list is coming up on Turner Classic Movies on November 4th.  The 5:00 a.m. starting time may give you some pause if you aren’t a morning person.

It’s not truly a World War I movie, but it has it’s place.  It’s the 1942 film, Yankee Doodle Dandy, with James Cagney and Joan Leslie, and is the biopic about the showman, George M. Cohan.  Cohan wrote the song, “Over There,” of course one of the more memorable songs to come out of the Great War.

According to some information, Cohan wrote the song the day after war was declared, although it wasn’t introduced to the public until a few months later.

yankee_doodle_dandy_posterAs for the movie, it’s interesting to see Cagney as a dancer.  Cagney was delighted to return to his Vaudeville roots and show the movie-viewing public that he could play roles other than gangsters.  He won his only Oscar for the role.

But perhaps to no one’s surprise, historical accuracy is NOT a hallmark of the movie.  Although Cohan was dying, he did get to see the film.  According to, while he liked the film–he said of Cagney, “I wouldn’t want to follow that act”–he also said of the film, “It was a good movie.  Who was it about?”

Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.