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Pride of the Marines

Pride of the Marines(1945)

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teaser Pride of the Marines (1945)

It's somewhat ironic that one of the best war-inspired films of the 1940shit movie screens the same week that the war ended. Delmer Daves' Prideof the Marines (1945) is an uncompromising portrait of Al Schmid, a real-lifesoldier who was blinded in combat, then had to come to grips with hiscondition upon returning home. Schmid's tortured attempts to acclimate to society are somewhat reminiscent of the challenges facing MarlonBrando's wheelchair-bound character in Fred Zinnemann's The Men (1950). ButDaves and his gifted screenwriter, Albert Maltz, avoid the often polemic tone of Zinnemann's film, and are well served by one of John Garfield's strongest performances.

Garfield himself initiated this project when he read a Life magazinearticle about Schmid, and it's easy to see why: there's enough drama in thisrole for three actors. In the first part of the picture, Schmid is showncourting and marrying his girlfriend (Eleanor Parker), in his hometown ofPhiladelphia. When war is declared, he joins the Marines, and is shippedoff to Guadalcanal. One night, while under attack by the Japanese, Schmidmans a machine gun and mows down literally hundreds of enemy soldiers. Buta grenade blast blinds him, and he's sent home a bitter, changedman.

It's on the home front that Schmid faces his biggest challenges. He'lleventually find a new kind of courage, but not before passing through a darkpsychological corridor of anguish and self-doubt, one that also effects hiswife. Few punches are pulled in this often harrowing picture, and Garfieldis nothing short of magnificent.

Although Daves' Westerns were often ripe with liberal politics, if youlooked beneath the surface, Pride of the Marineseventually gained a reputation as his most left-leaning picture. Severalyears after the movie's release, screenwriter Maltz had the misfortune ofbecoming one of The Hollywood Ten, a group of higher-echelon film talentswho were accused by the House Un-American Activities Committee of beingCommunists. HUAC used pieces of the dialogue in Pride of the Marines -mostly lines dealing with social consciousness and the struggling underclass as evidence that Maltz had, indeed, deviously inserted coded messages intohis work.

Maltz's script is hardly apolitical, but it's quite a stretch to view it aspro-Communist. In fact, the main concern before its release was a simplescene that showed white and black soldiers enjoying each other's company."In the recreation hall scene," producer Jerry Wald wrote to Daves, "pleasedon't mix colored boys and whites around the piano. This stuff is usuallycut out of pictures in the South." No one made any mention of thepossibility that the film would instill Marxist teachings in the hearts ofits viewers. But then again, Joseph McCarthy didn't work for WarnerBros.

Maltz's career would be derailed for several years due to his blacklistingby HUAC. And Garfield, who refused to testify against his colleagues, also found himself unable to work in films. Manypeople feel that the harassment he suffered from HUAC contributed to his death from heart failure, at the age of39.

Producer: Jerry Wald
Director: Delmer Daves
Screenplay: Albert Maltz (from a book by Roger Butterfield)
Music: Franz Waxman
Camera: Peverell Marley
Editor: Owen Marks
Art Direction: Leo Kuter
Sound: Stanley Jones
Set Decoration: Walter F. Tilford
Cast: John Garfield (Al Schmid), Eleanor Parker (Ruth Hartley),Dane Clark (Lee Diamond), John Ridgely (Jim Merchant), Rosemary DeCamp(Virginia Pfeiffer), Ann Doran (Ella Merchant), Warren Douglas (Kebabian),Don McGuire (Irish), Tom D'Andrea (Tom), Rory Mallinson (Doctor), StephenRichards (Ainslee).
BW-119m. Closed captioning.

by Paul Tatara

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