"The Fighting 69th" is a First World War regiment of mostly New York-Irish soldiers. Amongst a cocky crew, perhaps the cockiest is Jerry Plunkett, a scrappy fellow who looks out only for himself. The officers and non-coms of the regiment do their best to instill discipline in Plunkett, and the chaplain, Father Duffy, tries to make Plunkett see the greater good, all to no avail. Behind the lines or in the trenches, Plunkett acts selfishly and cowardly, eventually costing the lives of many of his fellow soldiers. A final act of cowardice leads to terrible consequences, but Plunkett sees in them a chance to redeem himself...if only he can. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hollywood released quite a few films with the Pat O'Brien, Jimmy Cagney pairing with the same general theme, one which I think is unfairly dismissed here as 'cliched'.
In each of these films, Cagney's character was an Irish ghetto hood, full of street values (toughness at all costs... taking, lying, and using ... physical aggressiveness ... resistance to authority or discipline ... contempt for 'chump' 'soft' moral values). He saw Pat O'Brien's character as 'soft' because he was a 'sucker' with all his 'morality' talk.
The redemption came when Cagney's character contrasted Father Duffy's steady courage under fire with his own terror. His street values taught him to respect courage. But he saw that his street values can teach him defiance but not serenity. Serenity comes from moral character and the street cannot teach you that. He saw that there is, as the song goes, more to being a man than just being macho. And there is a courage that has nothing to do with your fists.
That is a very, very important point.
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