Dwight D. Eisenhower: From Soldier to President and The Presidential Years (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 5, Number 1, February 1975
- pp. 20-21
- Additional Information
distributors of the same film), an indication ofthe type of audience for which the film is intended, and suggested readings to accompany the film. A topical index increases the usefulness of this guide. Fulfilling a much-needed function, this guide is exactly the kind ofbasic, practical, and useful handbook needed to initiate the incorporation of film into the lecture. It is the kind ofindispensable reference work teachers ofLatin American subjects will keep handy in their own libraries. (This book may be ordered from Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, Box 13362 University Station, Gainesville, FIa. 32601.) E. Bradford Bums, UCLA FILM REVIEWS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: FROM SOLDIER TO PRESIDENT and THE PRESIDENTIAL YEARS, each 19 min., b&w (American School & Library Film, 1974), rent from A.C.I. Films The 1941 newspaper accounts ofthe United States Army's pre-war Louisiana maneuvers hailed the brilliant tactics of an obscure "Lt. Col. D. D. Ersenbeing." A decade later a major political party, and ultimately the nation, would adulate that same man now personified as "Ike." Currently, despite a boom ofnostalgia about the era linked with his name, and even an aborted attempt at political beautification, no revivals, revisions, or cults surround the military and political career ofDwight D. Eisenhower. At best we have the image ofa benignly smiling patriarch presiding over an era of seeming political and social stagnation. The rise from obscurity has been part ofthe mythopoetic domain ofAmerican tradition while the fall ofthe historical reputation is the province of the historian. The A.C.I, films "Dwight D. Eisenhower: From Soldier to President" and "The Presidential Years" provide a convenient, albeit uncritical and unanalytical, chronological narrative best suited to the needs ofsecondary schools. The initial narrative flows from the middle border town ofAbilene, Kansas to the halls ofWest Point where an amiable roughneck from the "opposite side ofthe railroad tracks" became a professional soldier. The years ofapprenticeship are glimpsed in rare footage ofEisenhower with the charismatic Douglas McArthur, whom he served for eight years. This relationship has dimmed in people's memories as their later professional and political rivalry flared. It is also seen in scenes of Eisenhower with the cooly professional Gen. George C. Marshall, a model for a generation ofAmerican soldiers and statesmen, and a patron whose support vaulted Eisenhower into the command ofAllied forces in World War II and onto the world political stage. The long span ofthe narrative from 1890 to 1952 ofthe first film compels a certain superficiality and blunting of issues. Thus, the war years are depicted in scenes of a smiling, concerned, and efficient "Ike" managing the training, landing and victory ofthe allies in Europe. However, neither the narrative nor the footage even suggests questions about wartime or post-war strategy, or even develop the notion ofpolitical stresses and strains within the Grand Alliance or military ones that occurred between the Supreme 20 Commander and his often more bellicose or supremely self confident subordinates. This flaw, that is relatively pennissible when unconditional military victory can mute the passion of the immediate period, becomes less admissible, when the narrative shifts to domestic and international tensions and conflicts where no such decisive climax occurs. Here the film is not well served by merely picturing a Lee-like "Ike" returning home in 1946, a Shermanesque "Ike" in the same year, or the N.A.T.A. Cincinnatus of 1950. Nor is it a criticism to merely observe that Eisenhower was out of his depth as President of Columbia University. A more precise picture would be of a man of tremendous ambition and a sense of achievement seeking to establish a role for himself in a postwar world torn by international tension between former allies, and a domestic scene inevocably changed by the necessities of social reform. This provides a more meaningful context for an account of the draft and campaign of 1952 then shots of "I Like Ike" signs and the rather rhetorical acceptance and "I will go to Korea" speeches. Perhaps a more compelling picture could have included the dramatic "Checkers'! speech and the "That's My Boy" embrace. This type of vision persists into the narration of the film on the Presidential Years and produces...