The Greatest Generation gave us a lot of things — including, believe it or not, the motorcycle gang.
The first outlaw “one-percenters” were returning vets reluctant or unable to return to “boring” civilian life (and who were no doubt self-medicating their cases of what we now call PTSD.)
(I’ll leave it to shrinks to theorize why is was that when the Greatest Generation’s children took over Hollywood in the “easy riders, raging bulls” 1970s, those Boomers churned out “outlaw biker” flicks ad nauseum…)
Veterans who didn’t take their disaffection that far were sympathetically portrayed in the candid moving classic The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), about men struggling to re-acclimate to home and family.
Occasionally, this post-war disillusionment was only hinted at, providing the subtext of the vast majority of films noir – and even lighter fair on occasion. We forget that the original Ocean’s 11 (1960) crew served together in the 82nd Airborne; their battle-hardened skills and cynicism are integral to their caper.
The same cynicism informs Frank Sinatra’s vet-turned-presidential assassin in Suddenly, and needless to say, he and his crewmen in The Manchurian Candidate aren’t mental health poster children, either (thanks to Communist Korean brainwashing, of course.)
But — and this is a weird “but” — the crazy vet characters in those two films “only” want to kill the President.
Things get scarier when American soldiers stateside start aiming at total strangers.