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Hail The Conquering Hero Review


Good
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.

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Sullivan's Travels Review


Very Good
Would it be fair to say that, when all is said and done, Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels is just not as funny as its choir of supporters have made it out to be? It's not dour by any stretch of the imagination, but it's hardly laugh-filled enough to merit inclusion at #39 on the AFI's list of 100 Funniest American Films. Humor is of course subjective, and to say that the film is just not as funny as some would claim is not a criticism. Sturges was making a comedy, for sure, but the reason that Sullivan's Travels has endured so strongly in the minds of connoisseurs is the filmmakers' attempt to breathe a certain strange strain of realism into what audiences were assuming to be a straight laugh-fest. It isn't entirely successful in the end, but then neither was Woody Allen's attempt to deal with the weight of being considered nothing but a jokester in Stardust Memories, and that one is quite far from a failure.

Sturges loved fake beginnings, and this is one of his best. We open on a knock-down, brawling fight on (and below) a train that's roaring through the mountains at night. The two men finally knock each other off into the raging river, and the screen reads: THE END, after which we find out that it's a film being screened for a couple worried executives by a very popular comic filmmaker, John Sullivan (Joel McCrea), who's trying to break out of his niche, going on about holding a mirror up to life and painting a "true canvas" of humanity's suffering. Chagrined to discover that the suits don't think his silver-spoon upbringing entitles him to know anything about the human condition, Sullivan hits the road with ten cents in his pocket (kitted out in authentic bum-wear from the studio wardrobe) to find out something about it. He spends the rest of the film trying to get away from the suits (worried about losing their golden goose), and striving to find realism. At first he doesn't succeed, accidentally ending up back in Hollywood time and again, but eventually Sullivan gets a little more realism than he had intended.

Continue reading: Sullivan's Travels Review

The Bank Dick Review


Excellent
W.C. Fields, writing as "Mahatma Kane Jeeves" (say it aloud) had full creative control over The Bank Dick, widely regarded as his finest film. As Egbert Souse (pronounced Soo-SAY, of course), Fields plays his typically hapless schlub who foils a bank robbery (through no fault of his own) and ends up being given a job there as a reward. Wacky hijinks ensue, with some of the best one-liners in Fields' career herein. Excellent.

The Bank Dick Review


Excellent
W.C. Fields, writing as "Mahatma Kane Jeeves" (say it aloud) had full creative control over The Bank Dick, widely regarded as his finest film. As Egbert Souse (pronounced Soo-SAY, of course), Fields plays his typically hapless schlub who foils a bank robbery (through no fault of his own) and ends up being given a job there as a reward. Wacky hijinks ensue, with some of the best one-liners in Fields' career herein. Excellent.

Hail The Conquering Hero Review


Excellent
Preston Sturges' blatant allegory about a man (Bracken) who returns from WWII boot camp after a hay fever attack but inadvertently passes himself off as a war hero and ends up in a race for his local mayoral seat is as apt as any political movie ever made. Too bad Sturges uses the one-note "mistaken identity" joke a bit too much, making the whole production a bit too obvious. But overall this 1944 comedy is vintage screwball with a touch of sophistication. Bracken is great, but Ella Raines as the girl he left behind steals the show.
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Franklin Pangborn Movies

Hail the Conquering Hero Movie Review

Hail the Conquering Hero Movie Review

There's not a great deal of subtlety to Preston Sturges' genial 1944 comedy Hail the...

Sullivan's Travels Movie Review

Sullivan's Travels Movie Review

Would it be fair to say that, when all is said and done, Preston Sturges'...

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