In real life Wallace Beery was far from the lovable oaf he was normally cast as. In fact he could be one downright nasty person. But such was his public image and MGM made a lot of money off that image. In the case of The Bugle Sounds however, the image was strained beyond belief in a film that could never be made other than for propaganda purposes during World War II.
Beery like George S. Patton in real life is an old horse cavalry soldier who is not crazy about the fact that cavalry is a thing of the past. Of course if he was any kind of observant during World War I where it is said he served as well as in the Pancho Villa campaign, he would have seen just how useless horses are in the trench warfare that was World War I in France. Patton sure adapted to mechanized warfare, but Beery just can't get it.
Nevertheless when Colonel Lewis Stone orders him to whip some of those new draftees into shape for the new mechanized army he does what he's told. But when one of the tanks goes awry and kills his favorite old campaign horse, Beery goes bonkers.
There's also some nasty sabotage afoot here led by cashiered soldier George Bancroft and Jerome Cowan in a laughable Teutonic accent. It all gets pretty silly before the film is over.
Marjorie Main was opposite Beery as she was in many films, but even their on screen chemistry couldn't do much here. And believe me the chemistry was strictly on screen. I don't know how much good The Bugle Sounds did for young Donna Reed as the earnest young wife of William Lundigan, one of Beery's recruits. Beery works for Main at her greasy spoon restaurant.
Even the presence of such scene stealing players as Eddie Acuff, Guinn Williams, and Chill Wills all playing sergeants and Beery's peers in terms of military service don't elevate this film.
The Bugle Sounds is a textbook case of the military propaganda film rendered laughable by time. And a great example of what MGM gave Wallace Beery to sell before the American movie-going public.
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