Men Must Fight


1h 12m 1933
Men Must Fight

Brief Synopsis

Prophetic tale of a mother in 1940 trying to keep her son out of war.

Film Details

Also Known As
What Women Give
Genre
Drama
Adventure
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Feb 17, 1933
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Men Must Fight by Reginald Lawrence and S. K. Lauren (New York, 14 Oct 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

Just before her lover of three days, Lieutenant Geoffrey Aiken, is to leave on his first World War I flying mission, Laura, a military nurse, accepts his marriage proposal and pledges her undying love. After confiding her romance to Edward "Ned" Seward, an older officer who also wants to marry her, Laura discovers Geoffrey dying from battle injuries in her ward. Unable to cope with the stress of Geoffrey's death and her impending motherhood, Laura is transferred to another hospital and eventually accepts the proposal of the devoted Ned. In 1940, Bob Seward, Laura's son, whom Ned has reared as his own, returns to New York City from Europe, where he has earned a degree in chemical engineering, eager to introduce his fiancée, Peggy Chase, to his parents. Although Peggy is nervous about meeting Ned, now the Secretary of State, and his socially prominent wife, Bob reassures her that she will be welcomed into the family. While Laura and Ned embrace their future daughter-in-law, Peggy's mother explodes at Bob when he criticizes her for defending the absolute sanctity of the American flag. Soon after, Ned learns that, in spite of his recent international peace treaty negotiations, the United States has sent ships to Eurasia in anticipation of war. Laura, an avowed pacifist, begs with Ned to resign his post in protest of his president's actions, but Ned refuses to quit and leaves for Washington, D.C. While news of Eurasian troop mobilization spreads across the country, Laura starts a desperate peace movement, which is founded on the idea that no mother should be forced to send her young son into battle to fight an old man's war. In spite of Ned's embarrassment about her pacifist activities, Laura agrees to speak at a massive rally, which is to be televised publicly. Angered by Laura's anti-war speech, a group of men crash the rally and instigate a vicious brawl, which eventually leads to a mob attack on the Sewards' penthouse. To soothe the rock-throwing crowd, Ned appears on the balcony with Peggy's brother Steve, a uniformed soldier, and vows that, if war is declared, all of the Sewards will do their patriotic duty. Ned then tells a reporter that Bob is going to accept a commission to engineer chemical weaponry, a claim that outrages both Bob and Laura. Although Peggy questions his courage and breaks her engagement with him, Bob maintains his pacifist convictions. When Ned hears of Bob's decision, he angrily tells Bob that he is not a natural Seward and rejects his adopted son as a coward. Laura then explains to Bob about Geoffrey and how he died a hero's death. Seeing her son's subsequent confusion and loneliness, Laura goes to the Chases' home and begs Peggy to hear the story of Bob's past. While Laura and Peggy are driving back to the Sewards' home, a fleet of Eurasian airplanes begins an aerial attack on the city. Laura is wounded during the bombardment, and Ned learns that 12,000 American pilots have already died, victims of the enemy's gas warfare. Sobered by these statistics, Ned backs down on his chemical warfare policy, but learns that Bob has enlisted as a flyer. Although frightened for both her son and herself, Laura accepts Bob's enlistment, then with the now married Peggy, proudly watches him fly away to war.

Film Details

Also Known As
What Women Give
Genre
Drama
Adventure
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Feb 17, 1933
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Men Must Fight by Reginald Lawrence and S. K. Lauren (New York, 14 Oct 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

Men Must Fight (1933)


Must men fight? Not according to Men Must Fight (1933), although it stacks the deck against two of its pacifist protagonists. Peace is a tough sell in the best of times, and here pacifism crumbles in the face of war. It's a film unable to escape its stage origin. While stopping just short of wielding a didactic sledgehammer, it's quite talky and although Cedric Gibbons' art deco flat, where most of it unfolds, is sleek with style, it does end up reminding us that the narrative is pretty static. Under Edgar Selwyn's direction, it would, in fact, be little more than a solidly accomplished period piece, except for one aspect that catapults it into the astonishingly prophetic and even visionary. It opens during World War I as an Allied flier (Robert Young) and a nurse (Diana Wynyard) enjoy a night of passion before he must fly his first combat mission at dawn. He dies. She's pregnant. A dignified rejected suitor (Lewis Stone) proposes marriage and a safe haven for her baby son, whom she swears will never fight. All are united on this point. Cut to 1940 and a startlingly prescient outbreak of hostilities, considering they first surfaced in 1932 in a Broadway play by Reginald Lawrence and S.K. Lauren, transferred the following year to film. Stone's Edward Seward, now Secretary of State, is celebrating a peace treaty he has negotiated. But it's scuttled when a U.S. ambassador is assassinated (shades of World War I!) and the U.S. goes to war with "Eurasia." There follows a montage of the mothers of the world stoically steeling themselves as their respective countries mobilize. Included among the visuals are the Nazi Swastika and Japan's Rising Sun! There follows a short but vividly effective sequence that's as good as any FX-heavy post-9/11 film has thrown at us. Squadrons of giant biplanes do a bombs-away over Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building are reduced to rubble. Also, gas bombs start felling the panicked mobs running through the streets. We know they're using scale models, but the scene still gets to us much more than any of the King Kong shenanigans, released the same year! Soon afterward we're told that the Panama Canal has fallen to the enemy, too. In the face of the sudden massive pressure to respond in kind, the ex-nurse's now grown son (Phillips Holmes) reiterates the pacifist beliefs learned at his mother's knee. With his country under attack, they frankly begin to sound less noble and a bit hollow. Left unsaid, but not for long, is that somebody has got to step up, even if he won't. Stone's statesman pays stiff-upper-lipped service to his (adopted) son's beliefs, but bemoans the fact that America's post-World War I pacifism allowed its enemies to arm themselves while we did not. He's just a bit too principled himself to push his son, but clearly he wishes the young man would join the army's chemical division so we can poison the enemy back. A couple of things undermine the pacifist side, though. Holmes's Robert simply doesn't project enough spine to fully convince as a man who will stick to his principles to the end, although he does accept the breaking of their engagement by his fiancée, Peggy (Ruth Selwyn, Mrs. Edgar Selwyn in private life). She can't marry a man who won't fight for his country, sharing the patriotic sentiments of her haughty mother (Hedda Hopper, who reminds us she had a movie career before she became a gossip columnist and Louella Parsons' rival). The strongest character is Wynyard's Laura, who proceeds (despite her husband forbidding her) to an anti-war rally at which she's the main speaker until a mob breaks it up and follows her home. They throw rocks through the Sewards' plate glass window until Stone's Secretary of State appears on the balcony amid the broken glass and calms the mob down, reminding them that the U.S. believes in freedom of speech and conscience. Will the young man stick to his principles? Or will he turn out to be his (biological) father's son? That's the question on which the film pivots, turning it into melodrama rather than the uncompromising, tough-minded play of ideas it could have been. In their ways, the men are brave, but Laura is braver, even if there is a dimension of self-interest in her pacifist stand, based on her passion for shielding her son from the same fate as his father, her lover. Although best known as the stage artist she primarily considered herself, England's Wynyard looms over the rest here by virtue of the depth of feeling in her performance. The others sometimes sound like placards. She never does. She's the fiercest warrior here, the only full-blooded character. Coincidentally, in Noel Coward's Cavalcade (1933), released just prior to Men Must Fight, Wynyard was nominated for an Oscar® as another pacifist mother. Also, one cannot write of Men Must Fight and war's death toll without noting that Holmes, who enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, died in 1942 when a transport plane carrying him and six other RCAF graduates from a training base to Ottawa collided with another plane. Stone (1879-1953), who fought in the Spanish-American War and World War I, made some 200 films, mostly for MGM, including a handful with Greta Garbo. He built his career on the strength of a string of lawyer, doctor and family confidant roles. Today, he's best remembered as the wise, kind judge and father who counseled and put up with Mickey Rooney's Andy Hardy in the many successful films in that series. The film also reminds us of the period's studio system wealth of character actors. Only Alan Mowbray came close to portly Robert Greig's hammerlock on butler roles, again on exhibit here. Australia's May Robson excelled as crusty dowagers, and it's hard to fault with her emphatically stated belief here that woman should be running the world. Robert Young, whose feature film career began only two years before this film, reminds us that it can be a break to be killed off early, as he is here in the role of Laura's briefly airborne lover. It helped him get five more films made in 1933, before he want on to a long career climaxing in two beloved TV series: Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, M.D.

Jay Carr
Men Must Fight (1933)

Men Must Fight (1933)

Must men fight? Not according to Men Must Fight (1933), although it stacks the deck against two of its pacifist protagonists. Peace is a tough sell in the best of times, and here pacifism crumbles in the face of war. It's a film unable to escape its stage origin. While stopping just short of wielding a didactic sledgehammer, it's quite talky and although Cedric Gibbons' art deco flat, where most of it unfolds, is sleek with style, it does end up reminding us that the narrative is pretty static. Under Edgar Selwyn's direction, it would, in fact, be little more than a solidly accomplished period piece, except for one aspect that catapults it into the astonishingly prophetic and even visionary. It opens during World War I as an Allied flier (Robert Young) and a nurse (Diana Wynyard) enjoy a night of passion before he must fly his first combat mission at dawn. He dies. She's pregnant. A dignified rejected suitor (Lewis Stone) proposes marriage and a safe haven for her baby son, whom she swears will never fight. All are united on this point. Cut to 1940 and a startlingly prescient outbreak of hostilities, considering they first surfaced in 1932 in a Broadway play by Reginald Lawrence and S.K. Lauren, transferred the following year to film. Stone's Edward Seward, now Secretary of State, is celebrating a peace treaty he has negotiated. But it's scuttled when a U.S. ambassador is assassinated (shades of World War I!) and the U.S. goes to war with "Eurasia." There follows a montage of the mothers of the world stoically steeling themselves as their respective countries mobilize. Included among the visuals are the Nazi Swastika and Japan's Rising Sun! There follows a short but vividly effective sequence that's as good as any FX-heavy post-9/11 film has thrown at us. Squadrons of giant biplanes do a bombs-away over Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building are reduced to rubble. Also, gas bombs start felling the panicked mobs running through the streets. We know they're using scale models, but the scene still gets to us much more than any of the King Kong shenanigans, released the same year! Soon afterward we're told that the Panama Canal has fallen to the enemy, too. In the face of the sudden massive pressure to respond in kind, the ex-nurse's now grown son (Phillips Holmes) reiterates the pacifist beliefs learned at his mother's knee. With his country under attack, they frankly begin to sound less noble and a bit hollow. Left unsaid, but not for long, is that somebody has got to step up, even if he won't. Stone's statesman pays stiff-upper-lipped service to his (adopted) son's beliefs, but bemoans the fact that America's post-World War I pacifism allowed its enemies to arm themselves while we did not. He's just a bit too principled himself to push his son, but clearly he wishes the young man would join the army's chemical division so we can poison the enemy back. A couple of things undermine the pacifist side, though. Holmes's Robert simply doesn't project enough spine to fully convince as a man who will stick to his principles to the end, although he does accept the breaking of their engagement by his fiancée, Peggy (Ruth Selwyn, Mrs. Edgar Selwyn in private life). She can't marry a man who won't fight for his country, sharing the patriotic sentiments of her haughty mother (Hedda Hopper, who reminds us she had a movie career before she became a gossip columnist and Louella Parsons' rival). The strongest character is Wynyard's Laura, who proceeds (despite her husband forbidding her) to an anti-war rally at which she's the main speaker until a mob breaks it up and follows her home. They throw rocks through the Sewards' plate glass window until Stone's Secretary of State appears on the balcony amid the broken glass and calms the mob down, reminding them that the U.S. believes in freedom of speech and conscience. Will the young man stick to his principles? Or will he turn out to be his (biological) father's son? That's the question on which the film pivots, turning it into melodrama rather than the uncompromising, tough-minded play of ideas it could have been. In their ways, the men are brave, but Laura is braver, even if there is a dimension of self-interest in her pacifist stand, based on her passion for shielding her son from the same fate as his father, her lover. Although best known as the stage artist she primarily considered herself, England's Wynyard looms over the rest here by virtue of the depth of feeling in her performance. The others sometimes sound like placards. She never does. She's the fiercest warrior here, the only full-blooded character. Coincidentally, in Noel Coward's Cavalcade (1933), released just prior to Men Must Fight, Wynyard was nominated for an Oscar® as another pacifist mother. Also, one cannot write of Men Must Fight and war's death toll without noting that Holmes, who enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, died in 1942 when a transport plane carrying him and six other RCAF graduates from a training base to Ottawa collided with another plane. Stone (1879-1953), who fought in the Spanish-American War and World War I, made some 200 films, mostly for MGM, including a handful with Greta Garbo. He built his career on the strength of a string of lawyer, doctor and family confidant roles. Today, he's best remembered as the wise, kind judge and father who counseled and put up with Mickey Rooney's Andy Hardy in the many successful films in that series. The film also reminds us of the period's studio system wealth of character actors. Only Alan Mowbray came close to portly Robert Greig's hammerlock on butler roles, again on exhibit here. Australia's May Robson excelled as crusty dowagers, and it's hard to fault with her emphatically stated belief here that woman should be running the world. Robert Young, whose feature film career began only two years before this film, reminds us that it can be a break to be killed off early, as he is here in the role of Laura's briefly airborne lover. It helped him get five more films made in 1933, before he want on to a long career climaxing in two beloved TV series: Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, M.D. Jay Carr

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was What Women Give. In addition to television, video telephones are used as props in the "futuristic" section of the film.