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Gregory La Cava
After the success of Gary Cooper's first all talking film, The Virginian, he and his leading lady Mary Brian were teamed again in a Civil War story, Only the Brave. Sad to say the results were not as good as The Virginian.
Only the Brave is the kind of Victorian melodrama that was popular on the stage during the latter half of the 19th century. It was dated for the Depression era audiences when the film first came out, let alone for today's audience.
Cooper is a Union Army officer who after being jilted by girlfriend, Virginia Bruce, volunteers on what could be a suicide mission. He volunteers to go behind enemy lines disguised in Confederate gray as a staff officer to Robert E. Lee. He's to ride to a certain plantation which is a local brigade headquarters and deliberately let himself by caught with maps showing false Union troop dispositions. Of course the penalty then as now is execution.
Of course what happens is the plantation owner's lovely, crinolined, mushmouth drawling Mary Brian falls for Cooper, causing no small amount of jealousy with Phillips Holmes a most hot blooded southerner indeed. And Coop's charm is such that Brian falls for him as well.
It actually starts, only starts mind you, to get funny as Cooper is trying to be caught and Brian keeps saving him. I think Red Skelton must have seen some of this for his later film, A Southern Yankee.
Personally I think the best performance in the film is from an actor named William Le Maire who plays the sentry guarding Cooper after he's been caught and courtmartialed. He's one reluctant rebel who's very happy not to be in battle as the rest of his company runs off to act on Cooper's false information. His scenes with Cooper are very droll and are the best in the film.
Only the Brave will never be regarded as one of Gary Cooper's great films. It does have its moments, but for the most part it's a terribly dated and old fashioned, films that some my find quaint and some may find ridiculous.
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