Made in 1944 as victory seemed in reach in WWII, IT CAN'T LAST was typical of the 6th War Loan propaganda films. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish, the film was intended to help steel public resolve and held ensure both financial and physical support for the war effort. Like most of the other 6th War Loan films, this one criticizes home front complacency while contrasting the situation of civilians and war workers with that of soldiers, sailors and Marines fighting overseas.
The film starts with images of a paperboy making his rounds and speaking to a neighbor who minimizes the war situation. "It won't be long ... it can't last much longer," the man says. From the town clock we dissolve at 4:10 to a Navy plane flying a mission somewhere in the darkness against a Japanese ship. At 9:25, pilots from this mission who have been shot down lie in a life raft, trying to stay alive. They talk over the fate of their buddies who were shot down in previous battles and never returned. At 15:40, the film transitions back to small town America and our neighbor who is so complacent about the war. At his feet lies a newspaper thrown by the paper boy, with the headline that "one American plane fails to return". At 16:30 the Chief of Chaplains R.R. Workman gives a homily about the war and people's attitudes towards it. "The hardest blow to hit at the end of a fight is the last one, because it is the last blow."
During World War II MacLeish also served as director of the War Department's Office of Facts and Figures and as the assistant director of the Office of War Information. These jobs were heavily involved with propaganda, which was well-suited to MacLeish's talents; he had written quite a bit of politically motivated work in the previous decade. He spent a year as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and a further year representing the U.S. at the creation of UNESCO. After this, he retired from public service and returned to academia.
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