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The story of trench life during World War I through the lives of a French regiment. As men are killed and replaced jaunty Lt. Denet becomes more and more somber. His rival for the affection of nurse Monique is Capt. La Roche.
During the First World War, British combat pilot Dick Courtney mocks his commanding officer Major Brand for being too cautious, unaware that Brand is tormented by the requirement of his command that he send young men to their likely deaths in substandard aircraft and with insufficient training. When Brand is transferred, Courtney becomes the commanding officer and quickly realizes the burden Brand labored under. When Courtney's best friend, Douglas Scott, asks him to spare his newly arrived and inexperienced brother Gordon Scott from combat duty, Courtney cannot justify doing so. A rift grows between the friends as Courtney realizes the tragic demands of his job. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Stand to Your Glasses! (Hurrah for the Next Man to Die)
Lyrics adapted from poem "The Revel" by Bartholomew Dowling
Played on guitar by an unidentified airman and sung by an unidentified airman and others
Reprised a cappella by the airmen See more »
This is an early talkie starring Richard Barthelmess as Dick Courtney and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Doug Scott, a couple of World War I aces and the best of friends, at least at the beginning of the film. Neil Hamilton (police commissioner Gordon in the 60's Batman TV series) is Major Brand, in charge of handing out commands and assignments among his group of fliers. One day Courtney and Scott pull off a daring air raid that they have been ordered not to do by Brand. When they return, their success causes Brand to be promoted just as he is about to punish Courtney, and now Barthelmess' Dick Courtney is named as replacement and the new commander of the unit.
Now instead of risking death himself, Courtney is the one ordering others into harm's way, and it is cracking him up as he turns more and more to drink. However, he still has Scott's friendship until a new recruit arrives and is ordered into a fatal battle. Now it is Scott who not only has no use for Courtney, but no use for life itself, and it is up to Courtney to make sure that Scott doesn't throw his life away.
This film, like many early talkies, is long on talk but short on the kind of aerial action you'd probably expect in a film about World War I fliers. Only towards the last third of the film do you see much in the way of dogfights. The focus is mainly on the fliers themselves and the futility of war. Barthelmess gives a great and poignant performance as Dick Courtney, and he lasted longer in talking pictures than most silent film actors due to his great skill. Also remember that most of the films made about World War I during this time were essentially anti-war films. By the beginning of the depression, WWI seemed a wasted effort in both money and manpower, and these early talking picture war films reflected that attitude.
The version of this film starring Errol Flynn is what most people remember. It's too bad this version didn't at least rate as an extra feature on that DVD. It makes for an interesting comparison.
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