Winner Take All
From the Pit
Screen writers have made a handy formula for all war films: America's invincible strength. As good moviegoers know, our country has won even those wars in which we actually didn't do too well. And in that misunderstanding during the sixties, if you have seen enough movies, you realize that both sides won. But the scenarists, aware that other countries might also claim impressive win records, have shown us that in wars among foreigners, our friends always win. "Even more impressive, our best friends beat middling acquaintances.
The hierarchy of battle victories is highly important to a writer. Foremost, of course, is the proposition that Americans win all wars and most skirmishes. This dictum also applies to Indians, unless pitted against real, government-type Americans. In the latter case, the Indians are pretty sneaky about fighting, almost always attacking the women and children hidden in the wagons. Naturally this deprives the wily natives of their benefits as citizens.
Just as we can beat the field, our pals the British are almost as unbeatable, regularly whipping the French. It is only against the stalwart American (known with withering scorn as "Colonist") that a hero of Duquesne or the Peninsula loses his sense of strategy and decency.
The next victorious nation is France, a little too slick and suave to defeat honest, persevering Anglo Saxons, as the Scarlet Pimpernel and countless Napoleonic pictures show. But they always beat the rest of Europe, and delight in thrashing picturesque Arabs. After the French, there is no really powerful nation always assured of the victory our favor brings. Generally, though, an underdog people or nation can be counted on to lick the oppressor, especially if an itinerant American adventurer falls in love with the rebel leader's daughter (played by Patricia Medina).
Until very recently, Germany was the one nation simply unable to beat any European nation. There was of course, 1870. But several pictures have pegged that in its true light: the first minor skirmish of World War I. Now the nation seems to be getting stronger; in The Devil Makes Three and The Search they help Americans beat both Nazis and Russians.
Historically there is only one possible victory for the Teuton, and that's against The Yellow Horde. On the other hand, this is indeed shallow praise, since the most trivial of European powers can spot the Yellow Horde both nefarious cunning and staggering odds, and still win handily. If the European power happens to be a troop of English bow-men who took a wrong turn at Vienna on the way to a Crusade, the slaughter is appalling. Studios have teetered on the rim of bankruptcy hiring enough extras to present realistically the number of Orientals slain under these circumstances.
When, as in The Black Rose, one Yellow Horde meets another, the one with some perceptible religion will triumph after horrible and chastening suffering. In the forthcoming Genghis Khan, however, the script writers are cast adrift without a hint as to American preference, none of the combatants being particularly religious and all being equally crafty and barbaric. Until the Horde tangles with Europeans near the end, there should be some terrific battles, with the victory to the strong rather than the popular.