Final Jeopardy! category: WAR NOVEL & MOVIE TITLES (08-10-2012)
Final Jeopardy! clue: Its title phrase traces back to a stand by heavily outnumbered British infantry against a cavalry charge
The gist: In keeping with the precedent set by several of this installment’s clues. The Thin Red Line is a 1962 novel by James Jones, and a 1998 film adaptation directed by Terrence Malick (as well as a lesser-known 1964 film version). Both are based on Jones’ own experiences at the Battle of Mount Austen, the Galloping Horse, and the Sea Horse, A five-week-long battle between the Japanese Imperial Army on one side and American forces and native Solomon Islanders on the other, in the Guadalcanal Campaign of the Pacific Theatre of World War II. Japanese forces had been using several islands in the South Pacific to harry U.S. and Allied supply routes from the west coast of North America to the Pacific Theatre. In August 1942, the Americans began an offensive to oust the Japanese from Gaudalcanal (one of the Solomon Islands), a major Japanese base, led by the Navy and the Marines. Later in the year, after much fighting on land, at sea, and in the air, the U.S. concentrated about 50,000 forces on the island in order to displace the Japanese from their fortified position on Mount Austen. By late January of the next year, the Americans had captured the Japanese positions, losing about 250 men and killing 3000 Japanese soldiers. In the meantime, the Japanese were preparing to abandon the island anyway, in order to concentrate their forces on New Guinea
The novel’s title is used in the book as a description of the boundary between the sane and the insane, and the living and the dead, among soldiers, but ultimately comes from a line from one of Rudyard Kipling’s “Barrack-Room Ballads,” which calls a regiment of British soldiers “the thin red line of heroes” for standing against a Russian cavalry charge during the Crimean war. Both the novel and the film have been noted for their stark, realistic, and disturbing depiction of the war, both its violence and the behaviour of soldiers both American and Japanese. The film is considered a classic, and was nominated for seven Oscars, but failed to win any.
The clue: Going back to the correct response to this installment’s first clue, the main hint in this FJ! clue is that it’s talking about British soldiers, which any American will know are called “redcoats” for, well, the colour of their coats. Making that realization is probably the first step, and possibly the last, to getting this one. A less helpful hint could be that a stand of infantry is often referred to as a “line,” so if you can get “red” and “line” in your head, you might be able to get it. Only one contestant ended up getting it, though, while the other two guessed The Charge of the Light Brigade, a fine guess except that that is neither a novel nor a film, but a poem.
In Jeopardy!: The Thin Red Line, either the movie or the book or both, are in a surprisingly low ten regular clues plus this FJ! clue in the J!Archive. Author James Jones is in four, while director Terrence Malick only get one. On the military side, Gaudalcanal gets three mentions, while WWII gets two. Actors Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, and Woody Harrelson also get a couple mentions each.