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Drew Associates

"From Two Men And A War"



“My squadron, my buddies. I hope none of them ever have to see,
close up on the ground, the horror they leave behind.”

–Robert Drew, 19-year-old WWII fighter pilot
and From Two Men and a War filmmaker

Cinéma Vérité Pioneer Robert Drew Makes Tribeca Film Festival Debut With
From Two Men and a War

Gripping Documentary Offers a Deeply Human Look at Soldiers at War – and the Birth of Telling “ What it is Like to Be There”

From Two Men and a War

New York, NY, March 7, 2005

On his 19 th birthday, Robert Drew becomes the youngest fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps in World War II. He is not alone. Two men, his father, who taught him to fly, and celebrated war correspondent Ernie Pyle, are there to teach him how to stay alive and about the power and poetry of storytelling along the way. From Two Men and a War is the poignant and personal story of multi-award-winning cinéma vérité pioneer, Robert Drew, and his journey to develop a new art of quietly and compellingly telling the story.

Beautifully composed from candid black and white motion pictures shot by army photographers combined with revealing stills, Drew’s own moving recollections and those of the surviving members of his squadron, the film gracefully and effectively illustrates “what it is like to be there.” An important work in any time, the new film holds particular meaning in today’s world and in light of this year’s 60 th anniversary of the end of World War II.

From Two Men and a War explores a pivotal time in American history and in my own life as I embark on my filmmaking journey inspired by Ernie Pyle and his unswerving dedication to provide Americans back home with a look at the reality of war,” said Drew. “Pyle’s ‘what it is like to be there’ has stayed with me throughout my career and, ultimately, opened the gates for a flood of observational documentaries that came to be called cinéma vérité.

The new film follows the filmmaker’s combat experience as a young pilot. Narrated by Drew and interspersed with testimonies from family and squadron mates, the documentary pulls the viewer into a bygone era. A moving score plays over dramatic photography stills depicting the horrors of war. Eventually shot down over German held Italy, Drew is forced to see the destruction from the ground; something no training could have prepared him for. Reenactments show his life-threatening escape on foot through the Italian mountainside and, after more than three months of evading capture, his reunion with his family. Both Drew’s father and Ernie Pyle never returned home.

During his 45-year career, Drew has earned multiple awards for his remarkable filmmaking techniques. In 1960, he revolutionized the documentary form with Primary, which followed Senator John F. Kennedy on the campaign trail against Senator Hubert Humphrey in Wisconsin. The award-winning, historic film – shot in sync sound with handheld cameras moving freely to candidly capture the fatigue of the candidates as they vied for the presidency – marked the birth of American cinéma vérité . Drew’s mission continued as he documented JFK’s showdown with Governor George Wallace over the desegregation of the University of Alabama in Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment.

In 1960, he formed Drew Associates, producing works that have become known, along with Primary, as the foundation of “reality films” in America. Drew’s films have captured a wide range of extraordinary people and events on film, from race car drivers competing in the Indianapolis 500 to sailors racing Tall Ships across the Atlantic, pilots in combat in Vietnam to NASA scientists guiding spacecraft to Mars. With Producer Anne Drew, he extended his candid filmmaking into the arts, as they followed Duke Ellington on the road, and documented the public and private life of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandi and later, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandi, among many other striking subjects.

According to Drew, “Wherever people work hard, play hard and care very much about what they are doing, we can make a more human and exciting reality film.”

In his latest work, From Two Men and a War, the filmmaker turns the cameras on himself in a sense, documenting the real life events and relationships that led to his career in storytelling – and to the creation of his 60 documentaries, which have been recognized at Venice, Cannes, London and NY and have earned him major broadcasting awards, including the Emmy, Peabody and duPONT-Columbia.

From Two Men and a War is produced by Anne Drew and directed by Robert Drew. Photographers for the film are Gianni Cigna, Marco Venditti and Anne Drew. Editors are Mike Woodworth, Jon Nealon and Robert Drew. Pamela Liebson is Associate Producer.


“A thousand steps and I stop and straighten up.
A shock. Dead silence and staring into a hundred eyes.
These people have seen our bombs shatter their town.”

–Robert Drew, 19-year-old WWII fighter pilot

  • I am 19, flying fighters against German Panzer Divisions in Italy (Cassino, Rome, 1943-44). My father is also a pilot, delivering bombers to the war fronts. From him I have learned a great deal about staying alive in the air. Rooming with me is war correspondent Ernie Pyle, whose prose gives the people back home a vivid sense of “what it is like to be there” in war. What I am learning from him will not become clear for years to come.

A motion picture team is documenting the flying of my squadron – combat footage that, combined with still pictures and the recollections of survivors and myself, composes this film.

On my 31 st mission I am shot down and hunted by the Nazis. After three and a half months of evading capture, I emerge on the allied side of the lines. My father crashes in a winter storm in Newfoundland. Ernie Pyle writes my mother that, though he is desperately afraid, he is leaving for the Pacific. There he is killed by a Japanese sniper’s bullet.

Pyle’s “what it is like to be there” stays with me. I develop it in still pictures at LIFE magazine and in theory as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. I conceive and produce the first American film (Primary) in which the motion picture sound camera-recorder rig moves freely with characters (John F. Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey) throughout a breaking story. I follow Primary with some 60 films that gain recognition at Venice, Cannes, London and New York. They help open the gates for a flood of observational documentaries that have come to be called cinéma vérité.

Ernie Pyle did not work in pictures, still or motion. But I like to think that if he were looking on today he would recognize in these films the drive and determination to communicate “what it is like to be there.”

Director Statement - Robert Drew

The year 2005 is the 60 th anniversary of the end of World War II. A diminishing few of those who fought in that war are still alive and fewer still are in a position to pass on a personal view of “what it was like to be there.”

Now in their 80s or 90s, if any of the combatants are left burning with testimony they feel driven to get in under the wire, the timing could be a little tight.

In World War II, I was a fighter bomber pilot and the story I have to tell relates my wartime experiences to developments I later made in documentary filmmaking – developing candid filming of real life, following characters in action throughout a breaking story, giving the audience of sense of “what it was like to be there.” This candid filmmaking ruled out many techniques that had served historical filmmakers so well – directing scenes and characters, the use of massive narration, stills with music, reenactments. As I tried to figure out how to tell my story without these tools, the wire was growing closer.

The world took a couple of turns.

“Bob, I’m 90 years old!,” were the first words I heard in fifty years from Salvatore DiCuffa, an Italian whose refugee family risked everything to hide me from the Germans after I parachuted into their midst.

“Why yes, we have footage of your squadron in combat,” was the word from the National Archives.

So a film was conceivable using candid footage of real combat flying and real Italian and American characters. But only if I could learn to love filmmaking techniques I had so long opposed in my own work – an opposition that began to fade as it moved to pass under the wire.


Robert Drew was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1924. As an editor at LIFE Magazine, Robert Drew specialized in the candid still picture essay. As a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, he worked out ideas for candid photography in motion pictures and editing to allow stories to tell themselves through characters in action.

Robert Drew’s films established cinéma vérité in America – Primary, On the Pole, Nehru, Jane,Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment, The Chair (1st, Cannes), Faces of November (1st, Venice) .

Among some of Drew’s 60 films:

On The Road With Duke Ellington, Man Who Dances (With Anne Drew, EmmyAward), The New Met (Peabody), Apollo 9 (NASA), Images of Einstein, Vanishing Birds of the Amazon, Letters From Vietnam, Storm Signal, Shootout on Imperial (Frontline), Marshall High Fights Back (Frontline), Your Flight is Cancelled (Frontline),L.A. Champions,Life and Death of a Dynasty (With Anne Drew for BBC-PBS), For Auction: An American Hero (duPont/Columbia Award).



From Two Men and a War

Anne Drew

Robert Drew

Gianni Cigna
Marco Venditti
Anne Drew

Mike Woodworth
Jon Nealon
Robert Drew

Associate Producer
Pamela Liebson

Combat Footage
Pilots of the 86 th Fighter Bomber Group
U.S. Army Signal Corps
National Archives, Motion Picture Branch
John Huston
The Battle of San Pietro

Ernie Pyle Quotations
From “Brave Men” by Ernie Pyle

Voice of Ernie Pyle
Cliff Robertson

Puccini Arias
Chi il bel sognodi Doretta
O, mio babbino caro

performed by
L’uba Orgonasova
Miriam Gauci
courtesy of NAXOS

Still Pictures
Courtesy of
Ernie Pyle State Historic Site
Alfred Eisenstadt
George Silk
Pilots of the 86 th Fighter Bomber Group

Special Thanks
Alec Baldwin
Nancy Drew Bennett
General Frank Drew
Way Drew Greer
Captain George “Tiger”Palmer
Captain James Griswold
General John Dolny

In Memory Of
Ernie Pyle
Lt. Robert Drew, Sr.
Mary Way Drew
Salvatore Di Cuffa
Col. Ed Bland
Captain Enoch Duncan
Lt. Wendell Hook
Lt. Blair Watson
Lt. Herschel Mattis
Lt. Richard Gaines
Lt. Richard King