John Ford’s ideas of duty and community coalesce movingly in this Technicolor CinemaScope epic, surveying fifty years of life at West Point, through the invention of the football passing game and two World Wars, as seen through the life of Marty Maher, an Irish-born physical education instructor.
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I get skeptical when a movie announces itself as a "TRUE STORY" in all caps and then tilts towards Hollywood. So should you. But it's frictionless, carried by the energy of Tyrone Power and Ford's eye for adding lyricism to unquestioned right-leaning populism. Intended sadness: the passing of time. Unintended sadness: that Ford's rose-tinted version of plucky assimilation into the US is hardly extended to all.
A primer on how to make a sentimental film work, but eventually the schmaltz became too much for me, including the use of music to command our tear ducts and the abundance of off-screen narration to tell a story I'd rather watch performed. The comedy (and there was lots) was terrific, though perhaps a tad dated for '55. There
were probably enough choral/marching songs for a musical.
I have always had and will have a lot of resistance towards the discurse disguised as "that's life" of Ford's cavalry and military films, for purely ideological reasons, mine and his, and make of myself tabula rasa is something i refuse. That said, it is obvious that his cinema here demonstrate an incredible elaboration, every frame is a marvel of composition, which elevates the film above almost all my resistance.
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."
It's a great film that merely confirms my suspicion that Ford should have directed a film adaptation of Stoner.
The humour is corny, but the best moments occur when we feel the passing of time and the ghosts of generations past floating through the ether.