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Kings Go Forth

Kings Go Forth(1958)

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In 1944, while Allied troops attempt to remove German occupation forces from the mountains of southern France, a brash and wealthy young radio technician named Britt Harris joins the battle-weary platoon of Lt. Sam Loggins. The lieutenant is puzzled by his new corporal, who, having tried to bribe his way out of military service, soon demonstrates a heroic willingness to rescue soldiers injured in a mine-littered apple orchard. Upon learning that Loggins' men have been under fire for many months, the colonel in charge begins issuing them weekend passes to Nice, a coastal resort on the Riviera that has been supplied with every amenity for the admired American liberators. One afternoon, Sam drives his jeep out of town, where he meets the beautiful Monique Blair, who was born and reared in France, but whose family is American. In Mme. Brieux's cozy restaurant, Sam discusses his past, and Monique, in turn, describes the wisdom and goodness of her deceased father. Sam wants to see Monique again, but although she likes him, she states clearly that she has no interest in a romantic relationship. Disappointed, Sam returns to the business of flushing out Germans. After Britt risks his life to secure a strategically placed bunker for the platoon, Sam overcomes his envy of Britt's wealth and good looks and gives the young soldier a promotion. On Saturday night, Sam returns to the little restaurant, where he meets Monique's mother, who invites him to dine at their villa. Monique explains that her father, who had died two years earlier, had taken orphans and refugees into the house during the worst days of the occupation. She then lets Sam kiss her. Sam begins to spend all of his weekend passes with Monique and her mother, and one evening, he confesses his love to Monique. Again declaring that she wants only his friendship, Monique reveals something she earlier had been afraid to admit: Her father was black. "I guess 'nigger' is one of the first words you learn in America, isn't it?" she asks, and when Sam fails to respond, she bursts into tears. Monique's mother explains that although she and her husband Fred had lived together proudly in Philadelphia, they moved to France before their daughter's birth because of its "blindness to color." Sam, who had been on "the opposite side" when he lived near Harlem as a child, struggles with Monique's revelation throughout the following week and finally decides to renew their friendship. Thrilled, Monique accompanies him to a jazz club in Nice. Sam is surprised when Britt performs a stirring trumpet solo with the band, and is disheartened when he immediately captures Monique's admiration. While the soldiers occupy the captured bunker later that week, Britt admits that he likes Monique, but before he can react to the news of her father's race, a bomb lands nearby. Determined to find the source of the heavy German artillery that has halted their advance, Sam and Britt request permission to scan the area from a bell tower behind enemy lines. After one of his evenings with Monique, Britt announces that he has proposed, whereupon Sam, skeptical of Britt's intentions, practically forces the corporal to submit a marriage application. Several months later, on the day on which Sam learns that their mission has been approved, he also hears that Britt has quietly withdrawn his marriage application, calling the whole matter a gag. That night, Sam forces Britt to reveal this to Monique and her mother. Britt, admitting that the affair was just a "new kick" for him, callously insults Monique's racial background. Hysterical, Monique runs away, and later that night, Sam learns that she has tried to kill herself. As he and Britt begin their dangerous nighttime mission, Sam angrily vows to kill the young soldier. Nevertheless, the two steal into a German-held village and position themselves atop the church bell tower. With illumination provided by assisting Allies, the men radio the positions of German troops and ammunition supplies back to the base, whereupon the Allies immediately bomb those positions. As they work, Britt apologizes repeatedly for hurting Monique, explaining that unlike Sam, he has no character. The two finally instruct the Allies to bomb their own position, but as they run to escape the coming explosions, Britt is killed by a German soldier. Sam loses an arm, and after four months in a French hospital, he decides to quit brooding and return to his business in Los Angeles. On his way home, he visits Monique, whose mother has recently died. He finds the villa transformed into a school for war orphans, as Monique has resolved to carry her burden with dignity. As the children sing, Monique smiles bravely at her old friend.