Sunday, August 27, 2006

The more you read, the more you know...


We were watching The Sands of Iwo Jima this afternoon on TCM. Having just read the book Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story I was very interested in the scenes of the fighting on Iwo Jima. The film used real war footage, intercut with the movie scenes.

As John Wayne and his men arrive at the summit of Mount Suibachi, Wayne's character calls for a detail to find a standard and raise the flag. The shot where Wayne hands them the flag is perfectly framed to include three men receiving the folded flag. On a hunch, Treebeard checked the oracle, Wikipedia, for me.

Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, and John Bradley, the three survivors among the five Marines and one Navy corpsman who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi, appear briefly in the film just prior to the re-enactment. Hayes was also the subject of a film biography, The Outsider, and Bradley the subject of a book by his son, Flags of Our Fathers.

Rewinding and doing the freeze frame thing, I was struck by a small detail in the scene. The two men on the left are looking directly at John Wayne as he hands them the flag. Their faces are fully visible. Ira Hayes is on the right and looks up briefly but for the short time they are on screen, he keeps his chin down, not looking toward the camera at all.

Nelson's book makes a point of describing Hayes's very shy nature. Without knowing anything about their involvment in the film, I was interested at the body language of a man, ill at ease in the limelight.

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