Friday, January 11, 2008


Thoroughly average military-readiness propaganda film from WWII, notable only for its lovely Technicolor, and for being the first of four films that John Payne and Maureen O'Hara made together. The title would seem to promise plenty of wartime action, but there is none except for some moderately dangerous training maneuvers late in the film. Much of the movie was shot at a real Marine Crops base in San Diego which makes me assume this film had the approval of the Corps, but I can't imagine that it reflects the real Marines of the day. Randolph Scott is a Marine commander, and not nearly as rough on his men as the stereotypical Marine drill instructor I picture in my head (admittedly itself a Hollywood stereotype). John Payne is a newbie, the son of an old friend of Scott's (Minor Watson) who wants Scott to whip the tall, good looking boy into shape, though as far as Payne is concerned, he's just killing time until he gets a cushy office job in Washington. The night before he is to report to barracks, Payne meets O'Hara at a party and discovers she's a Marine nurse, and the equivalent of a lieutenant. After he kisses her, he says, "I bet I'm the first Leatherneck in history who's kissed a lieutenant"--um, probably not, I replied to the screen. Anyway, if you've seen any of these cliched "the military makes the man" movies of the era, you know what happens: Payne is a pain in the ass to Scott, but he's also popular with the other men, and when he gets serious, he's also a good Marine. When Scott and Payne get into fisticuffs, Scott takes the blame, knowing that Payne could get kicked out. During maneuvers, Scott winds up in mortal danger and Payne risks his life to save him. Still, when Payne's girl (Nancy Kelly) gets him his office job, Payne decides to take it, but then, in addition to his blossoming affection for O'Hara (and her grudging affection for him), Pearl Harbor happens and changes everything. At the end, the Marine's Hymn (from which the movie's title is taken) is used for what amounts to an inspirational musical number. Not a moment of the movie rings true, and though the Technicolor makes it look nice, it also may add to the feeling of artifice that hangs over it all. The one original touch is a scene in which Payne strips out of his civilian clothes and into his uniform in the middle of a parade march, surrounded for modesty's sake by his buddies. Other would-be Marines include William Tracy (the messenger boy in SHOP AROUND THE CORNER), Alan Hale Jr. (Gilligan's Skipper), Harry Morgan (MASH's Col. Potter), and Maxie Rosenbloom. Payne and O'Hara are easy on the eyes, and I'd only recommend this for their fans. [FMC]

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