Senior HTF Member
- Feb 20, 2001
- Livonia, MI USA
- Real Name
- Kenneth McAlinden
Pride of the Marines
Directed by: Delmer Daves
Starring: John Garfield, Eleanor Parker, Dane Clark, Rosemary DeCamp
|Studio: Warner Bros. (Warner Archive)|
Film Length: 119 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Release Date: Fall 2009
The Film ****Pride of the Marines adapts the true life story of decorated World War II veteran Al Schmid (Garfield). The first half hour of the film looks at Schmid's pre-war life in Philadelphia where he works as a welder and lives as a confirmed bachelor and avid sportsman. Despite his aversion to romantic attachment, he finds a perfect match in the feisty Ruth Hartley (Parker). When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Al signs up for the Marines and, overcoming his fear of commitment, proposes to Ruth. We then flash forward to Al's service on Guadacanal where he and fellow Marine Lee Diamond (Clark) distinguish themselves by manning a machine gun turret and holding their position against an overwhelming Japanese force. During this incident, Lee's arm is seriously wounded and Al suffers injuries from a grenade that result in him being blinded, with one eye beyond repair and another heavily damaged with a only a small chance that surgery could partially restore his sight. We then follow the ups and downs of Al's rehabilitation. Despite the efforts of Lee, devoted nurse Virginia Pfeiffer (DeCamp) and fellow convalescing serviceman, Al resists efforts to help him adjust to living without sight and refuses to let Ruth know the extent of his injuries.
Released less than two weeks after the end of World War II and over a year before William Wyler's classic The Best Years of Our Lives, Pride of the Marines takes on the subject of the personal cost of war and the effect it has on the lives of returning veterans and their families. While at face value this seems like it was a risky film for Warner Bros. to put into production before the War was over, it really was not. Al Schmid's story was well publicized via outlets such as Life Magazine and the book by Roger Butterfield on which the film was based. At the time, Schmid was recognized as a hero and made regular appearances at war bond fundraising rallies.
While Pride of the Marines occasionally gets a bit too sentimental and contains elements of wartime propaganda that cause it to feel somewhat dated, on balance, the film works exceptionally well. Much of the credit for this goes to Garfield who actively pursued bringing this story to the screen, likely due to both his well-established commitment to honoring members of the US Armed Forces, and his recognition of the suitability of the role for himself. The Al Schmid of the first three reels of the film is almost a stock Garfield East Coast tough guy character which likely helped the audiences get on board and empathize with him quickly before he goes through his difficult rehabilitation in the film's second half.
Delmer Daves deftly keeps things moving through the film's first two acts, fully exploiting the on-screen chemistry between Garfield and Parker in the film's extended "anti-romantic" courtship scenes and then turning all of the right screws of action, suspense, and claustrophobia during the brief but highly effective Guadalcanal sequence. He falters somewhat in letting the film's second half drag on a bit which allows Garfield's Schmid to come across as a bit too stridently self-pitying, but enough goodwill has been built up for the character by that point that audience remains in his corner. The protracted nature of the film's second half also prolongs viewer anticipation of the inevitable reunion between Garfield and Parker, which makes it a bit easier to accept the dramatically contrived way in which it is accomplished. There is also a sense of verisimilitude in details like the use of real-life people's names in all of the key parts and atypical for vintage Hollywood decisions to keep real-life details such as the Jewish ethnicity of Schmid's fellow Marine Lee Diamond in the screenplay.