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19 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

The Other Irish American War Tradition

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
18 July 2005

Recent American moviegoers who saw Martin Scorsese's great film, The Gangs of New York would probably think that the Civil War Draft Riots represented the unanimous Irish opinion on the American Civil War. Far from it and the regiment known as the 69th New York won honor and glory for itself in the Civil War.

The Spanish American War was over before it saw any action, but that was certainly made up for in World War I. The Fighting 69th as this film was called did the stuff legends are made of and a few personal legends came out of that conflict.

In the years 1938-1941 Hollywood turned out a whole load of patriotic type films. Either about past American wars or about military preparedness for the war to come, these flicks weren't deep or subtle. But they were great entertainment.

The Fighting 69th is based on two real American heroes, William J. Donovan and Father Francis P. Duffy, played by George Brent and Pat O'Brien and a fictional one named Jerry Plunkett played by James Cagney.

William J. Donovan (Will Bill as he was known)among other awards won the Congressional Medal of Honor. He had a distinguished career in the Harding-Coolidge Justice Department and also ran for Governor of New York in 1932, a bad year for Republicans which Donovan was. After this film was made, FDR appointed Donovan to head the Office of Strategic Services, our American intelligence service in World War II and the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. His biography would be a great film, maybe someone will do it one day.

When Father Francis P. Duffy died in 1932, he was one of New York's beloved figures by all faiths. He was the chaplain of the regiment, having been so since the Spanish American War. During World War II, he never stayed behind the lines, he traveled with a combat medical unit and went where the fighting was the thickest. The closest person we've had to him recently was Father Mychal Judge of the NYC Fire Department who accompanied the firemen into the burning World Trade Center on 9/11/01. A couple of Catholic priests who walked the walk were Duffy and Judge.

After the war Duffy became pastor of the "Actor's church" on West 42nd Street in Hell's Kitchen, but near the theater district. When he passed on, a statue of him still there today was put in the triangle opposite Times Square. And that triangle was renamed Duffy Square.

Both Donovan and Duffy figure prominently in Cagney's story in The Fighting 69th. For the first half Cagney is his usual streetwise, cocky urban self. The second half of the film as he's brought to the realities of war reveal a different Plunkett. It's also a great test of what a fabulous player James Cagney was, to show the change in Plunkett's character. The main story line is what happens to Cagney in the film and he's brilliant.

If anyone is looking for a film about the causes of and how America got into World War I, this ain't the film. Some in current audiences will find it flag waving and super-patriotic and it sure is. But it's well acted flag waving.

One of these days someone may do a film that concentrates solely on the careers of either Donovan or Duffy. Hopefully soon.

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16 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Father Duffy's Regiment

Author: lugonian from Kissimmee, Florida
14 December 2000

THE FIGHTING 69th (Warner Brothers, 1940), directed by William Keighley, teams James Cagney and Pat O'Brien for the seventh time on screen. A fine pair of fine Irish actors who were reportedly best friends in real life, they were first united in HERE COMES THE NAVY (1934), which was followed by other military themes such as DEVIL DOGS OF THE AIR and CEILING ZERO (both 1935).

In THE FIGHTING 69th, which is based on a factual presentation of the 69th's war record and set during the World War, features O'Brien in one of his best roles as Father Francis Duffy (an actual character), with Cagney playing Jerry Plunkett (a fictional character) from Brooklyn, NY, who joins the regiment. At first he defies authority and feels the world revolves around him, but when it is time for him to go out and face real combat, he changes his tune after hearing the sounds of bombs, seeing the sight of dead bodies around him, and goes into hysterical outbursts, showing that not only is he just a coward, but the one responsible for the death of several of the men in his company. In true Hollywood tradition, coward redeems himself when given a second chance, thanks to the grace of Father Duffy.

Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies, where this war story is shown, comments that THE FIGHTING 69th was one of the biggest money makers of 1940. With an all-star cast of only male performers, it presents Warner Brothers veteran stock players as George Brent, Jeffrey Lynn, Frank McHugh, Alan Hale, Dennis Morgan and Dick Foran, many playing actual men of The Fighting 69th, especially Lynn as famous poet Joyce Kilmer. In spite of it being historically inaccurate, good acting, humorous moments (especially by McHugh) and serious battle scenes make this still worth seeing. Beware of shorter prints. Originally distributed to theaters at 89 minutes, Turner Classic Movies had acquired a latter reissue 79 minute copy that eliminated the introduction of the main actors as shown through scenes/or outtakes from the movie with their faces over the names and their acting roles, along with some early portions of the story, and the closing casting credits. In order to view the complete print from the 1940 print, a 1990s video copy from MGM/UA had to be purchased or rented. After many years of having the 79 minute print presented on TCM, a complete 89 minute copy finally aired Saturday, July 29, 2006. (****)

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Famous regiment gets the stock company treatment from Warner Bros...

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
28 May 2001

'The Fighting 69th' gets a lot of mileage out of every cliche you've ever seen in a war film. It's hokey corn from start to end--and yet, despite the fact that you've seen it all before--it's an enjoyable enough experience because of its stellar cast of Warner stock players.

James Cagney is the mug from Brooklyn who is nasty to one and all, described by one character as "the man they'd rather riddle with bullets than the Germans." Pat O'Brien is the true-life character of Father Duffy who has a major job on his hands trying to reform Cagney in time for the fadeout. Sensitive Jeffrey Lynn is Joyce Kilmer, the poet. Gruff Alan Hale is a tough sergeant. And just about every male contract player from William Lundigan to Frank McHugh to Dennis Morgan is present to depict the stereotyped characters that fill the screen.

As hokey as it is, it does a graphic job of showing what war is like under combat fire. The combat scenes are skillfully done, with shells and grenades and bombs making trenches hell and buildings collapse, all in very realistic fashion.

Cagney is his usual pugnacious self and his reform at the end is a little too abruptly handled. But the film is a brisk 80 minutes, as shown on TCM, and fairly entertaining if you can forgive the corn. Surprisingly, it is directed by William Keighley, whose sluggish work on "The Adventures of Robin Hood" caused him to be replaced by Michael Curtiz to give the film more punch. And yet, "The Fighting 69th" is anything but sluggish. A brisk, entertaining little war film.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A new appreciation of an old classic

Author: bobsluckycat from Holiday FL
9 June 2007

When I first viewed "The Fighting 69th", I was probably 8 years old, around 1948 I'd say. It literally scared me out into the lobby more than once. At that age you're not ready for trench warfare that up close and personal. Being Irish, Catholic and a kinship with people named O'Brien, I have always liked this movie on many levels for a variety of reasons. I have watched this film many times over the years, including a "colorized" version, when they were in vogue. Now comes the definitive DVD copy of the film. I watched it again in all it's 42 inch LCD, near "Hi-Def", glory again recently. I was affected by it again but in an entirely different way. Basically the story is about bright, mostly full of pluck and good humor, young men who want to get this war over with and get home again. Now it could be viewed an "anti-war" movie in some ways. It also very much is like the young men,today, shedding blood in hell holes named Iraq and Afganistan. Quite a comparison. It hit home. I'm an older man and I cried and sniffled through the entire film, and I know the film! I didn't have any lobby to run out into. Bobsluckycat, in all his reviews, has tried to give you some out of the box appreciation for whatever film he reviews and this is no exception. Yes, the stars are all fine, but look to the mostly young supporting cast, many of whom would go off to WWII and come back having served proudly and heroically, and you'll see the meat of this film. William Lundigan, George Reeves, and many many others with a line or two here and there just outstanding and would go on to long acting careers post war. Gwinn "Big Boy" Williams, Frank McHugh, Dick Foran, Sammy Cohen among many of the "pros" doing superior work. Not one casting note rings false throughout. World War I does not play well in color, with the exception of John Fords' "What Price Glory" also starring Cagney, maybe. It's meant to be in black and white. Today, it's not the "rah,rah" picture it was made to be, but a stark reminder that war kills our youngest and brightest before they mature to fullness, just as today. In that light, It's one of the best war movies EVER made, period.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Another great film starring Cagney and O'Brien

Author: RickHarvey from Stockport
17 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What you see in this movie , you have seen before a thousand times. This doesn't mean that this film ain't enjoyable, not when the cast includes James Cagney and Pat O'Brien. As expected , James Cagney plays the tough guy while Brien , as expected, plays a priest. Now i can't speak about how this film relates to American civil war as i never studied anything from that specific topic. Instead i'll rate this film by how it stands out amongst other war films.

Not that may be unfair as this film is all about patriotic and flag waving not some serious , meaningful film with a moral understanding. Instead it about the 69th going out to war to fight the Germans. The story is about a tough guy who turns yellow on the battlefield in which by the end , redeems himself. Well, it does sound similar to angles with dirty faces and i know many think that this film is AWDF but with grenades but it not entirely that. Sure he a tough guy who turns yellow but at least we can certainly say he died a hero in this film.

The battle scenes for it day are brilliantly shot and the performance from Cagney is outstanding. The guy can act out anything. he can make you believe he crying, make you believe he the toughest guy in the world. No wonder why he is regarded one of the best actors ever.

For today's standards, this film does contain many corny scenes but it what you expect from a film made in that era. overall The fighting 69th was a enjoyable film to watch

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Pretty good flag-waver, typical Cagney/O'brien stuff.

Author: gazzo-2 from United States
30 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a fine movie for what it is-flag-waving, Irish-centered recruiting patriotic stuff. Cagney is a Brooklyn thug, cocky big-talker who makes life miserable for everyone around him in the unit, turns into a coward as soon's the shell's start falling around them in the trenches, is almost court-martialed (shot most likely), saves the day at the front but loses his life in the process of redemption.

That's about it, really. You will see familiar faces all around-Dick Foran, Alan Hale Sr., Frank MacHugh, George Brent, etc. I was surprised at the inclusion of Joyce Kilmer-the Trees poet, never knew he was a WWI casualty etc.

Some of the combat scenes are typically stage-bound, the players are too fat and old (Hale and MacHugh esp.), or walk where they should be kissing the ground etc under fire-but in other places-the constant shelling, machine gun fire, etc--the chaos and violent death of WWI France is displayed fairly well. Esp. for 1940 Hollywood before we had yet gone to war for real.

Cagney's good, rest are okay, as some have said it's 'Angels w/ Dirty Faces' re-hased yet again, O'Brien esp. makes you roll your eyes somewhat.

*** outta **** if you are a Cagney fan.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Finding the lost sheep

Author: slymusic from Tucson, AZ
18 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Fighting 69th" is one of the most powerful motion picture dramas of war I have ever seen. Boasting a first-rate cast and an inspiring screenplay, it concerns the famously nicknamed Fighting 69th regiment of mostly New York Irishmen facing the travail and terror of the First World War. (If you have not yet seen this film, please DO NOT read the rest of this commentary.) The great James Cagney stars as Pvt. Jerry Plunkett, a tough-talking wiseacre of a soldier having absolutely no idea how seriously he lacks courage and bravery.....that is, until it becomes time for him to engage in battle overseas! Pat O'Brien is superlative as the 69th's brave, humble chaplain Father Francis P. Duffy (based on the real-life chaplain of the same name, to whom this motion picture is dedicated). Despite Plunkett's disdainful behavior - he makes menaces of his immediate superiors Sgt. "Big Mike" Wynn (Alan Hale) and Major "Wild Bill" Donovan (George Brent) - Father Duffy befriends Plunkett and looks beyond Wynn's & Donovan's dislike for the young braggart soldier. Plunkett becomes a severely tough pupil, but through the patience and encouragement of Father Duffy, he eventually comes to recognize the importance of faith and prayer. In the end, Plunkett becomes a hero and dies in a gesture of bravery and patriotism.

The following are my favorite scenes from "The Fighting 69th". Before the fighting Irishers travel overseas, Father Duffy offers a humble petition to God inside his tent. Sgt. "Big Mike" Wynn harasses the slumbering Jerry Plunkett by literally dragging his underwear-donning carcass out of bed & out of the tent, and splashing a bowl of water in his face. After the wild free-for-all between the 69th and the 4th Alabama Infantry, the stern Major Donovan explains to the rioters the importance of all American armies fighting together as ONE NATION; especially at a time like this, there is absolutely no room for sectional feuds. Jerry and Big Mike engage in a fistfight (which Jerry has essentially been asking for all along), after which Jerry covers for Big Mike by claiming it was only an exhibition! During the final battle, Jerry tells Big Mike to shut his big Irish yap and show him how to use a Stokes mortar so that he can cut through enemy barbed wire and save the day for the 69th. And finally, the most climactic moment of all: Father Duffy recites the Lord's Prayer with a group of wounded soldiers, when who should join in the prayer but the intransigent Jerry Plunkett, now a much wiser human being; as he dashes out to lend a hand to the remaining 69th men on the battleground, Father Duffy almost has a tear in his eye as he softly recites the parable of the lost sheep.

"The Fighting 69th" is quite an outstanding motion picture. In the end, Major Donovan and Sgt. Wynn come to have respect and pride for the slain tough-talking blowhard who they originally believed was a coward.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Diddly day it's The Fighting 69th.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
17 May 2008

Jerry Plunket is a street brawling, tough as boots rebel from Brooklyn, he has no time for the traditions of the all Irish 69th New York Regiment, and he has even less time for his army superiors. But as Jerry is about to find out, War has a knack of making or breaking a man......

It's not hard to see why The Fighting 69th was a very popular movie back on its release, coming out as America was about to enter WWII, it's flag waving patriotism targeted its audience with gusto supreme and lashes of Irish sentiment, furthering the cause was in having James Cagney in the critical lead role of Plunkett. Yet oddly, Plunkett is the made up character here, for the story is based on actual characters that the film wishes to honour. Father Duffy {Pat O'Brien} & Wild Bill Donovan {George Brent} being two highly respected men from this actual {and highly acclaimed} fighting unit.

The story follows a now well trodden path, brash cocky man learns lessons the hard way, is there to be redemption come the finale ?, respect, bravery and indeed salvation are all given the once over by the makers here, there are few surprises but the film gets in there, does it's job, and leaves without lingering either side of the good or bad fence. The direction from William Keighley is vigorous, and the supporting players are solid, if unspectacular {haven't we seen this O'Brien turn before?}, but all and everything is second fiddle to the perfectly cast Cagney, bullish and stoic, his turn as Plunkett lifts the film above average, because without him the film would be instantly forgettable.

Enjoyable enough 6.5/10

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Put a Little Bunk in Your Bunker

Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
5 July 2014

It's 1917 and the United States is entering the Great War in Europe with guns blazing. Many young men (and, this being Hollywood, several decades from draft age) are recruited. Our boy from Brooklyn, wise-guy James Cagney (as Jerry Plunkett), looks like trouble from the beginning. He joins the mostly Irish Catholic "Fighting 49th" regiment. When the going gets tough, Mr. Cagney gets going – literally. As the fighting starts, Cagney realizes a man could get killed. He is no help on the battlefield, but kindly soldier priest Pat O'Brien (as Francis Duffy) provides cover for Cagney. Eventually, the cowardly Cagney's luck runs out and he must either find Christ and fight, lest he lose his spot in Heaven or on Earth...

This is an entertaining war story, with real characters giving he fictionalized Cagney story some substance. It promotes unity in the war effort and includes more realism than many propaganda films – specifically, the instances of US soldiers dying during battle is not minimized.

Cagney is engaging in the lead. His main support comes from Mr. O'Brien, who effectively manages the unholy wedding of Christianity and War. Of the many others in the cast, only a few get much script action. The best supporting part goes to Alan Hale (as "Big Mike" Wynn), who shows Cagney how to handle a mortar in a pinch. Apparently, Cagney was excused on mortar day, during training, but he's fortunately a quick study. Also getting a fair amount of screen time are stalwart George Brent (as "Wild Bill"' Donovan) and assimilated Sammy Cohan (as "Mike Murphy"). Good hokum from Warner Bros.

****** The Fighting 69th (1/26/40) William Keighley ~ James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Alan Hale, George Brent

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

" Plunkett's Atonement "

Author: PamelaShort from Canada
11 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Fighting 69th is a fictional account of the heroics of the famed World War I Irish regiment. In this film, Cagney plays Jerry Plunkett, a scoffing, sneering rebel who mocks military tradition and has disregard for all authority. Plunkett is arrogant and cocky during training, but in his first battle he shows his cowardice, which results in a shelling from the enemy that kills a number of his comrades. Pat O'Brien plays Father Duffy, who helps the remorseful Jerry redeem himself, and Jerry becomes a hero. Warner Brother's regulars Alan Hale, Frank McHugh, George Brent and Dennis Morgan play their parts well in this large money-making film of 1940. The spectacular battle scenes inflated the film's budget, and an extensive promotional tour culminated in New York City's Time Square, where the real Father Duffy greeted the cast. He shook hands with Cagney and O'Brien as thousands of fans cheered. Some may find this film very hokey and dated while others may enjoy the entertaining James Cagney who always puts real character into his performances . I'll let the reader decide for themselves on this one.

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