Set at West Point, The Long Gray Line is unique in its focus on a career military man who never sees battle, yet is profoundly concerned with the human toll of war and the factory-like nature of a school that produces generations of professional soldiers. Based on the life of Irish immigrant Marty Maher, who spent fifty years teaching at West Point, Ford blends Irish mysticism and the immigrant experience with an exploration of the rigidity of military discipline. Ultimately siding squarely with the necessity of the military lifestyle, the film is nonetheless a deeply emotional examination of the human cost of war from the point of view of a man forever on the sidelines. —Harvard Film Archive
Maine-born John Ford (born Sean Aloysius O’Fearna) originally went to Hollywood in the shadow of his older brother, Francis, an actor/writer/director who had worked on Broadway. Originally a laborer, propman’s assistant, and occasional stuntman for his brother, he rose to became an assistant director and supporting actor before turning to directing in 1917. Ford became best known for his Westerns, of which he made dozens through the 1920s, but he didn’t achieve status as a major director until the mid-‘30s, when his films for RKO (The Lost Patrol 1934, The Informer 1935), 20th Century Fox (Young Mr. Lincoln 1939, The Grapes of Wrath 1940), and Walter Wanger (Stagecoach 1939), won over the public, the critics, and earned various Oscars and Academy nominations. His 1940s films included one military-produced documentary co-directed by Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland, December 7th (1943), which creaks badly today (especially compared with… read more
O'Hara does some Chaplinesque, Power strokes cannons & sabres with melancholy; and magically, improbably bear the trauma of the first half of the 20th century on their shoulders & prove that often Brechtian distance is gut-wrenching involvement."One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastes to his place where he rose."
One of the most wonderful films I have ever seen. Ford is the most conscient of them all, always was, but here, with that feeling that almost seems pessimism, he gets reality and life at the highest level. Family - Ireland, a long gray line of sons -, failure, regeneration, peace. Memories, captured at the right moment. Duty and love. A tribute to the Fordian hero. Beautiful Maureen O'Hara. Resonant masterpiece.
Movement, movement, movement. Technique so subtle it disappears. The best John Ford film I have seen is not a western.
The only masterpiece of sentimentality I have seen. Patriotism and romance the way they should always be: born from respect and love, not fear.