Cast & Crew
On 5 May 1942, an Army plane bearing eight nurses previously stationed in the Philippines arrives in Melbourne, Australia. As the only known surviving nurses from the hard-hit Army base in Corregidor, the women relax for the first time in two years aboard an Army transport ship bound for the United States. During the cruise, a physician asks them to recount their arduous tour of duty so that he can ascertain how to bring their superior officer, Lieutenant Janet "Davey" Davidson, out of the severe emotional distress that has caused her complete silence. Lieut. Sadie Schwartz recalls the day in 1941 when the nurses under Davey's command met in San Francisco to board the Army transport ship that was to take them to Honolulu, Hawaii, for their two-year tour of duty: When Pearl Harbor is bombed on 7 Dec 1941 in a surprise attack by the Japanese, the United States declares war and the nurses' ship is rerouted to meet with a convoy of Army ships in the Pacific Ocean. One of the convoy ships is torpedoed and the survivors board the nurses's convoy. Among the survivors is Olivia D'Arcy, a nurse who seems so cold and unfeeling that she alienates Davey's nurses. Olivia soon has an altercation with her roommate, Joan O'Doul, a lovable flirt, and at Davey's urging, Olivia reveals the source of her misery: she watched her fiancé die at Pearl Harbor, and now has an abiding hatred of the Japanese. During their time aboard ship, Davey falls in love with a medic, Lieut. John Sumners, and Joan falls in love with Kansas, a handsome college football hero, whom she keeps at arm's length. With the war between the United States and Japan fully launched, the nurses are stationed at an army hospital in the Bataan Peninsula. Upon the arrival of Davey's nurses, the Bataan head nurse, Capt. "Ma" McGregor, immediately relieves her exhausted nurses, who have been tending front line soldiers. Olivia requests duty looking after the wounded Japanese prisoners, intenting to sabotage their care, but finds herself unable to kill them. When the camp is evacuated because of the enemy's approach, Davey's nurses are the last to leave and Joan runs back to her tent to retrieve the black nightgown she has worn every night to maintain her morale. The small delay results in the death of their escorts, and the nurses are forced to hide from the encroaching Japanese soldiers. The nurses are terrified of being captured and, realizing there is no other way out, Olivia grabs a grenade and marches into the hands of the enemy. Only at the last moment does she pull the pin, and the resulting explosion allows the other nurses to escape while grieving their friend's sacrifice. Their new makeshift base, known only as Hospital Kilometer 163.5, is an extremely primitive encampment in the jungle where the nurses care for about 8,000 wounded men. Malaria and dysentery run rife through the camp, but even the affected nurses continue to work. Davey and Joan are fortunate enough to see John and Kansas now and then, but after Ma's son dies from war wounds, Davey's commanding officer informs her that General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the Allied forces in the Philippines, has left the island and that the expected convoy of supplies has been sunk. After a move to yet another base, Joan collapses from overwork, but soon rallies and overcomes her fatigue. The Japanese bomb and strafe the hospital, and many are killed or wounded, including nurse Rosemary Larson, who dies in a bombing attack while assisting surgeon Jose Bardia. Davey burns her hands during an unsuccessful attempt at saving the two from the burning building. Bataan is evacuated and the roads and waterways are jammed with evacuees headed for the harbor at Marivèles. By nightfall, after supervising surgery on John's wounded leg, Davey joins the confusion and boards a rowboat in a desperate escape to Corregidor. Finally reaching the underground base at Corregidor, the nurses continue to work under the duress of incessant air raids until their supplies run out. John joins a group headed for Mindanao to obtain supplies and, pressured by the constraints of a wartime romance, he and Davey break military rules by getting married. They spend their wedding night next to a gunmount by the bay, and at five in the morning, John departs on his mission. Several days later, the nurses under Davey's command are the first to be secretly evacuated from Corregidor. Davey resists going because she promised John she would meet him upon his return, but a bombing attack forces her departure, and she goes into shock. Although the eight nurses are evacuated safely, many more never return. The story finished, the doctor reads to Davey a letter from John, who reports that he is safe and that he continues to fight for the peace of all people. He encloses the deed to his American farm, where he promises to meet her at the close of the war. Roused by the knowledge that her husband is safe, Davey speaks his name.
Dr. Hugh Ho Chang
Victor Kilian Jr.
B. G. Desylva
Colonel Thomas W. Doyle
First Lieutenant Eunice Hatchitt
Charles Lang Jr.
Best Special Effects
Best Supporting Actress
Best Writing, Screenplay
So Proudly We Hail! - Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard & Veronica Lake in SO PROUDLY WE HAIL! on DVD
It would seem a strange, unwieldy blend. Movies in the "woman's film" genre of the time tend to revolve around individual women somehow trapped by society because of their gender, and their stories deal with issues like love, romance, career, motherhood, sex, and fashion. Combat movies, on the other hand, are obviously about groups of men in war fighting to achieve objectives, and the screen is filled with action, guns, killing, uniforms, and so on.
So Proudly We Hail! is a perfect combination of the two. It follows a group of nurses through their time on the islands of Bataan and Corregidor, both the sites of major battles (and defeats). Their group is made up of a mix of types found in combat films, from a parental figure (Mary Servoss) and a loner (Veronica Lake) to a wisecracker (Paulette Goddard) and an innocent newbie (Barbara Britton). Claudette Colbert plays the resilient hero of the piece. All are plopped right smack in the middle of a combat setting fairly quickly into the movie, and though they are nurses, they even fight - just look at the way Veronica Lake takes care of some attacking Japanese soldiers, a shocking scene that made an especially big impression on moviegoers in 1943. But through it all, the aforementioned woman's film issues are still front and center. Our view of war is simply channelled through them.
We have, for example, a wedding, a honeymoon (in a foxhole, no less), a dance, childbirth, mother-son scenes, and even a negligee which figures prominently in the plot. One nurse is distraught over losing her husband at Pearl Harbor. Another falls in love with a soldier on Bataan (played by George Reeves), and a third has a semi-comic relationship with another GI (Sonny Tufts). One major combat worry is rape. Combat itself is always present or nearby, however, and So Proudly We Hail! does not shy away from hard-hitting scenes of battle and its aftermath. The bottom line is that consciously or not, the filmmakers clearly knew that the way to get audiences to accept a story of women in combat was to take what made a woman's film a woman's film, and transpose it credibly to the war zone. Telling the story of the nurses on Bataan without including those issues could very likely have had far less resonance and impact to audiences used to seeing the issues in other women's films. Film historian Jeanine Basinger has written much more on this subject in her book The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre . "When the question of why we fight does appear," she writes, "it emerges from the woman's point of view. We fight because we are mothers, to keep our sons safe."
The cast is exemplary. Goddard received an Oscar® nomination (as did the film's script, special effects and superb cinematography), but really all the women here are equally good - even Veronica Lake, who is often criticized for being more of a pretty face than a real actress. Colbert has perhaps never been better. One running joke which is even funnier in hindsight has Goddard explaining the comic book character of Superman to some native kids. If he's so great, they ask, why isn't he fighting this war? He is, says Goddard - he's on the front line going by the name "Kansas" (meaning Sonny Tufts). The joke now, of course, is that George Reeves - the real future "Superman" - is also playing a soldier on the front line.
So Proudly We Hail!reflects America's mood of the time, and in spotlighting the toughness, decency, resilience and optimism of its nurse characters, it seems to say that those qualities embody the best of America in 1943, and that's why we will win the war. Even for those of us who weren't around back then, it's a touching experience and a real visceral link back to that time.
Universal's DVD, part of their Cinema Classics series, comes with an intro by Robert Osbourne and a trailer, and the film is in fine technical shape.
For more information about So Proudly We Hail, visit Universal Home Entertainment. To order So Proudly We Hail, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeremy Arnold
So Proudly We Hail! - Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard & Veronica Lake in SO PROUDLY WE HAIL! on DVD
So Proudly We Hail!
Those Philippine islands were the sites of two of the most crushing Allied defeats in World War II. On Bataan, thousands of U.S. and Filipino troops died in a brutal "death march" to a prison camp after their capture by Japanese forces. And Corregidor was bombarded for five months by the Japanese, finally forcing the May 1942 surrender of 10,000 U.S. and Filipino troops. Although So Proudly We Hail! was fairly typical for a Hollywood war film, its glamorous stars were dragged down into the mud and gore that the realistic story required.
After reading a news report about ten nurses who escaped the fall of Corregidor in 1942, producer-director Mark Sandrich (known for his Astaire-Rogers musicals of the 1930s) and screenwriter Allan Scott (who received an Academy Award nomination for this script) tracked down the survivors and got their story. Sandrich also hired one of them, Lt. Eunice Hatchitt, as a technical adviser.
Critical praise for the film's authenticity (it gives "a shattering impression of the tragedy of Bataan," said Bosley Crowther in The New York Times), and the popularity of the three female leads guaranteed big box office. But the stars also gave Sandrich some headaches. A feud erupted when Paulette Goddard upset Claudette Colbert by telling a reporter that she preferred working with Veronica Lake because they were closer in age (when in fact, she was 9 or 10 years older than Lake and only 7 years younger than Colbert - who at 39 was far from past her prime). There were arguments over how they were to be photographed (Colbert was famous for having an aversion to having her right profile filmed). Often Sandrich had to reshoot scenes the more experienced Colbert nailed in the first few takes in order to get something worthwhile from the other two actresses. But it was Goddard who was singled out for praise at Oscar® time with a Best Supporting Actress nomination, her only such recognition; although passed over for her fine work here, Colbert was nominated three times for Best Actress and won for It Happened One Night (1934). The most recent star of the trio, Lake got attention in this role for tucking up her trademark peek-a-boo bangs; at the time her hairdo was considered a bad influence on female home front defense plant workers because long, flowing hair could get caught in factory machinery.
Actually, it was newcomer Sonny Tufts who critics said stole the show with his portrayal of the likable lummox "Kansas," Goddard's love interest. Although Lake's character spends the movie in bitter anti-Japanese hatred after the death of her husband at Pearl Harbor, Colbert is also given a romantic angle in the person of George Reeves, later famous as TV's Superman. Later critics have said the inclusion of the men put too much emphasis on the nurses' relationships, when the film would have been stronger concentrating solely on their work and personal sacrifices. But audiences and reviewers at the time welcomed the picture as a fairly accurate account of the contributions women made to the war effort on the front lines.
The Office of War Information (OWI), the chief military propaganda unit, was not always so pleased and put Sandrich and Scott through a number of hoops to make sure the film conformed to their notion of what the public needed to see of the war. OWI Hollywood Chief Nelson Poynter meddled in almost every aspect of the script. Some of his suggestions were on target: his insistence that the U.S. be seen as part of an allied team, rather than the single best hope for the world; his demand to temper the more blatant anti-Asian aspects of the script; and his feeling (echoed by those later critics mentioned above) that the portrayal of women was often derogatory. "The worst feminine characteristics have been emphasized," said Poynter (in Hollywood Goes to War by Clayton R. Koppes and Gregory D. Black). "The girls" quarreled with each other, gossiped constantly, grew "petulant under any strain," were insubordinate, and ignored regulations against fraternization with enlisted men." But when Poynter started offering detailed dialogue rewrites, including a lengthy, overblown monologue for the troops' chaplain that equated democracy and the American way with God's will, he aroused the ire of Paramount head Y. Frank Freeman.
In the end, however, just about all concerned were pleased with the outcome. Poynter sent the studio a congratulatory note, in which he stated, "So Proudly We Hail! demonstrates what film can do toward interpreting the war without sacrificing dramatic and entertainment values." One of Paramount's biggest releases of the year, it ran with a trailer in which the Army Nurses Corps appealed for volunteers. The picture also received Oscar® nods for Best Black and White Cinematography and Best Special Effects.
Director/Producer: Mark Sandrich
Screenplay: Allan Scott
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Editing: Ellsworth Hoagland
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Earl Hedrick
Original Music: Miklos Rozsa
Cast: Claudette Colbert (Lt. Janet Davidson), Paulette Goddard (Lt. Joan O'Doul), Veronica Lake (Lt. Olivia D'Arcy), George Reeves (Lt. John Summers), Sonny Tufts (Kansas).
BW-126m. Closed Captioning.
by Rob Nixon
So Proudly We Hail!
I never catch a cold.- Kansas
I never get wounded.- Kansas
I never get killed.- Kansas
The working title of the film was Hands of Mercy. The title So Proudly We Hail! was taken from a line in "The Star Spangled Banner," "...And so proudly we hail..." (lyrics by Francis Scott Key; music arranged by Thomas Carr). Mark Sandrich's credit reads "Produced and directed by...". The following appears onscreen in the opening credits: "We are grateful for the cooperation of The War Department, The Army Nurse Corps, The American Red Cross; And our special thanks to Colonel Thomas W. Doyle, U.S.A. Commanding Officer, Combat Team 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, on Bataan; and First Lieutenant Eunice Hatchitt, Army Nurse Corps of Bataan and Corregidor." The film opens with the following written prologue: "Out of the black sorrow and tragedy of Bataan and Corregidor came a light-the light of a miracle! Eight American girls-Army nurses-had been delivered from that holocaust. The story that follows is inspired by their courage, devotion and sacrifice, and is based on the records of the U.S. Army Nursing Corps. We dedicate this picture to them and their comrades still somewhere in the Philippines, and to nurses everywhere."
The United States lost control of Bataan to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, and approximately 75,000 soldiers and Filipinos were taken prisoner. (For more information on the fall of Bataan, see the above entry for Bataan.) The United States' forces were then ensconced in the Malinta Tunnels on Corregidor, which were dug by the U.S. Army. Following a severe bombardment on April 29, 1942, the Navy evacuated approximately 50 people, mostly female nurses. On May 3, 1942, a submarine evacuated twenty-five more personnel, including thirteen women. The troops at Corregidor were forced to surrender to the Japanese on May 6, 1942. Over 800 troops died in battle, and over one-third of the men who were captured died during their imprisonment.
Information in the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information: The film was originally intended to open with footage from a July 1, 1942 Paramount News newsreel, in which the surviving Corregidor nurses were cited for heroism at a Washington, D.C. ceremony, followed by a salutory speech by Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Included in the footage was a series of closeups of the nurses and their names: Dorothea Daley, Harriet G. Lee, Mary G. Lohr, Florence McDonald, Juanita Redmond and Eunice Hatchitt. Lieutenant Hatchitt, who served over two years in the Philippines, was to begin the film proper with a short narrative recalling her release. This sequence was apparently abandoned, as was a trailer featuring Lieut. Hatchitt, which was shot on April 14, 1943, according to information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library and the Records of the War Department at NARS. The trailer featured Hatchitt urging American women between the ages of 18 and 50 to join the Red Cross as a Volunteer Nurses' Aide or to train as a civilian nurse to assist returning wounded soldiers. She then closed the trailer with the following statement: "They say, and this I know to be true, 'The wounded don't cry,'-and this I also know, 'The wounded cannot wait,'-so, please, everyone, enlist now and help to bring this war to a quicker end."
A May 22, 1943 letter from Paramount to the War Department Pictorial Branch of the Bureau of Public Relations notes that the trailer of Lieut. Hatchitt was removed because the filmmakers felt that "the picture itself is the greatest appeal for nurses possible, and that the sequences made on Lt. Hatchitt are anti-climactic." However, Paramount did plan to release the trailer nationwide through its Paramount News newsreels. Hatchitt served as a technical advisor on the picture and was credited in production files for story contribution. In addition, Hatchitt was hired by Paramount to help promote the film upon its release in August 1943. A Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Paramount received the cooperation of Colonel Mason Wright, U.S. Army, Stuart Brown of the American Red Cross, and Lowell Mellett, head of the Film Co-ordination Group, during production.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, after Richard Crane replaced Elliott Reid in the role of "Georgie Larson," Reid was assigned the part of an aviator. Reid's appearance in the final film has not been confirmed, however. According to an article in Life, Paramount used photographs of Corregidor taken by Life correspondent Melville Jacoby to verify the authenticity of various details of army life depicted in the film. Some scenes were shot on location at the Salton Sea and Sherwood Forest, CA, and at Sherman Studios. This was the first picture in which Veronica Lake, renowned for her "peek-a-boo" hairstyle, wore her hair up to conform with her role as an Army nurse. While Life commented on the film's "authenticity and grim realism," and Daily Variety hailed it as "the first complete, deeply-etched drama of women on active fronts of the present war", The Nation reviewer wryly noted that, "This is probably the most deadly accurate picture that will ever be made of what war looks like through the lenses of a housewives' magazine romance."
This film was selected by Film Daily as one of the ten best pictures of 1943 and was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Supporting Actress, Paulette Goddard; Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Allan Scott; Best Cinematography (Black & White), Charles Lang; and Best Special Effects, Farciot Edouart, Gordon Jennings and George Dutton. Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake and Sonny Tufts recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story broadcast on November 1, 1942.