Hail the Conquering Hero

"Good"

Hail the Conquering Hero Review


There's not a great deal of subtlety to Preston Sturges' genial 1944 comedy Hail the Conquering Hero, but when one is dealing with a political satire about a soldier returning home during wartime -- in a film shot and released during a world war when the movie business was heavily pressured toward the patriotic -- one should just be happy that such a non-formulaic film was made at all.

The guileless Eddie Bracken plays a returning soldier with the overbearingly heroic name of Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith, the legacy of a Marine father who died during World War I. The film's opening finds Truesmith drowning his sorrows in a gin joint, not looking forward to going home and letting his mother (who keeps a veritable shrine to her dead heroic husband) find out that contrary to all his invented stories of valor, he never served at all, and in fact was discharged from the army due to a hilariously bad case of hay fever. He hooks up with a passel of Marines (Guadalcanal vets), who, in the true nature of this period's films, all seem to hail from the same Brooklyn neighborhood. Having already lost all their money at the start of a multi-day furlough, and seeing in fellow Marine Truesmith a good-hearted sucker with a deep and guilty wallet, they all pile onto the train home with him, all the better to give the kid a proper homecoming.

The homecoming awaiting Truesmith is a classic piece of mistaken identity, with his entire town under the belief that he was actually a war hero. Streets throng with adoring, flag-waving crowds who are all too eager to anoint Truesmith the greatest American warrior this side of Sargeant York. A statue is planned, and in short order there is a vigorous campaign to get the bemused and sneezy Truesmith elected mayor of the overly excited crowd. He even starts winning over his ex, Libby (played with sly intelligence by Ella Raines), now engaged to a tall and handsome bore. Meanwhile, the Marines in Truesmith's retinue -- led by the reliably salty William Demarest, arguably the most welcome returning member of Sturges' company of players -- act as a sort of Praetorian Guard for the milquetoast non-hero, who eventually comes to grips with his newfound, if mistakenly bestowed, fame and respect.

It's all rather joshing in tone, before turning maudlin, with Sturges attempting to wring rather too much comedy out of a premise that can't really hold it, especially in a wartime film that can only flirt with satire of mass political and military fevers. There's barely a hint of the weary cynic who so devastatingly skewered the perpetual motion machine of urban political machines four years earlier in The Great McGinty, and not all that much evidence of the comedic stylist of The Lady Eve or The Palm Beach Story.

But still, half a Sturges is better than no Sturges at all, and there remains a small bit of perfection in the film's opening bar scene when the broke Marines try to buy a round of drinks by bartering a supposed war souvenir. The exasperated waiter whips out a Japanese flag, followed by a veritable truckload of other fake memorabilia which other grunts had used for beer money ("Here we have the seat of Rommel's pants. And last, but not least, we have a button from Hitler's coat ... although that one I don't personally believe") -- a helpful reminder that even during "The Good War," the conquering heroes occasionally had to scam a few drinks here and there.

Conquer that martini, soldier.



Hail the Conquering Hero

Facts and Figures

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 9th August 1944

Distributed by: MCA Universal Home Video

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Woodrow Truesmith, as Libby, as Mayor Everett D. Noble, as Sgt. Heppelfinger, as Reception Committee Chairman, as Martha - Libby's Aunt, Georgia Caine as Mrs. Truesmith, Al Bridge as Political Boss, as Bugsy, Bill Edwards as Forrest Noble, Harry Hayden as Doc Bissell, Jimmy Conlin as Judge Dennis, Jimmie Dundee as Cpl. Candida, Chester Conklin as Western Union Man (uncredited), Eddie Hall as Man Swigging Beer at the Bar (uncredited), Tom McGuire as Town Councilman (uncredited), Frank Moran as Town Painter (uncredited), Dewey Robinson as Train Conductor (uncredited), Robert Warwick as Marine Colonel (uncredited)

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.