Home of the Brave

| May 13, 2014

Olive Films has re-issued Home of the Brave, which is a film based on a play by Arthur Laurents and recounts the story of a young, black soldier who has suffered a nervous breakdown and has developed psychosomatic paralysis. Crippled by rage and trauma, his condition was induced by experiences encountered during a reconnaissance mission, combined with a lifetime of racial discrimination. He may be able to walk again, but only if he can overcome his anger and frustrations. The film’s theme revolves around a diverse group of men subjected to the horror of war and their individual struggles.

Home of the Brave was one of Hollywood’s first bold statements regarding the issue of race. The cast includes Frank Lovejoy, Lloyd Bridges (father of Beau and Jeff), Douglas Dick, James Edwards, Steve Brodie and Jeff Corey. The film was produced by Stanley Kramer (On the Beach) and directed by Mark Robson (Champion) with a screenplay by Carol Foreman (High Noon).

The black soldier, Moss, played by James Edwards, runs into an old high school mate named Finch, played by Lloyd Bridges, right as they both have been called into the special assignment. Moss is feeling tension with the other soldiers in the room, and Finch helps smooth the way with the other bigoted bunch.

During the four-day mission on a Pacific Island occupied by Japanese forces, Finch is shot and this renders Moss disabled where he can’t walk anymore. But before Finch is shot, he comes real close to calling Moss out of his name, after he believes that Moss is responsible for the team become a bit misguided. This really troubles Moss, but before he can really get to the root of why his old high school buddy would insult him, Finch is shot and dies. After they return to the base, the doctor works feverishly with Moss to help him trace the roots of his shock and anger to the racism that he has faced.

The military psychiatrist shows Moss that although he has been made to feel inferior, he is just like any soldier who witnesses a buddy getting shot. The surviving soldier may feel something secondary but his first instinct is that he is glad that he is not the one who has gotten shot.

After an arduous few days, with episodes of psychosis, Moss is finally able to accept that, as a soldier, he is one and the same as all the other soldiers. He is helped along with this by speaking with another one of the team’s soldiers who also suffered a casualty during the mission. Moss also accepts the fact that his body willed him into temporary paralysis, because of the fact that his friend was shot and not able to walk away from the incident. As a result, he is able to prepare to return to the United States and get on with his life.

I appreciate this film, because it does explore race relations within the military during World War II. However, it does tie everything up into a nice, pretty bow at the end, which I don’t think would have normally been the case. But the National Board of Review named the movie one of the 10 best films of 1949—probably because it tackled the issue of race relations. Further research reveals that the protagonist in the play was of Jewish descent, which makes the film entirely different than the original play.

Home of the Brave was produced in 1949 and is available on Blu-ray on May 13. For more information, visit http://www.olivefilms.com/films/home-of-the-brave-blu-ray/

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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