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Two Films by Billy Wilder

Wednesday, January 3, 1979
7:30 p.m. Five Graves to Cairo
Billy Wilder (USA,1943)

Five Graves to Cairo was probably the first American film to deal maturely with World War II, bringing a welcome relief from the masochistic and jingoistic last-stand dramas that cluttered screens in 1942. The film created quite a stir at the time for its remarkable currency; it was begun after the fall of Tobruk and completed three months before Rommel lost the African Campaign. Five Graves is also Wilder’s vest-pocket Citizen Kane - the film in which he explores all the possibilities of the medium. Among the most striking touches is the opening appearance of a “dead” tank, and a fantastic fight involving a flashlight. Franchot Tone is quite good as the improvising hero, but the high point is Stroheim’s definitive incarnation of Rommel.

• Directed by Billy Wilder. Produced by Charles Brackett. Screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder. Photographed by John F. Seitz. Music by Miklos Rozsa. With Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff, Erich Von Stroheim, Fortunio Bonanova, Peter Van Eyck. (1943, 96 mins, Print Courtesy of Universal 16)