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I agree with the evaluation of bsmith5552 that it is a disappointing flagwaver, and essentially a U.S.Marine recruitment film. But it has its own place in history. I have just been refreshed as to that place in history by watching again the film version of Leon Uris's first (and maybe best) novel, Battle Cry. Uris dramatized his own experience as a young marine, first training in the States, then in Wellington and elsewhere in New Zealand and finally fighting in the islands of the Pacific He has a fascinating picture of what it was like for young Americans to find themselves in a strange and previously unheard of land like New Zealand. I was a Kiwi teenager in Wellington at that time and can vouch for the accuracy of Uris' depiction of the impact of the descent of thousands of young marines on our city and of their interaction with the locals. To the Shores of Tripoli screened in Wellington in 1942, not long after Pearl Harbor, in the time the newly formed Marine Divisions were there preparing for their involvement in the war in the South Pacific. Through that film we saw on our screens the training only months earlier of the men who were now in our midst. Bsmith5552 speaks of the repetitive sequences of close order drill. I watched the marine band perform those intricate marching exercises in colour film in a local cinema ("picture theatre" in our brand of English). This was the same week I saw them do it live in Wellington. I was transfixed as I saw utterly committed young marines rise and stand to attention in their places in the cinema as the Marines Hymn came through on the film's sound track. I was not simply present at a piece of entertainment. I was watching live drama. To the Shores of Tripoli may not have been a great movie. But in the South Pacific in 1942, when we (maybe unlike today's Iraquis) welcomed the Marines as life savers, preserving us from a Japanese invasion, it had its place in the drama of that time. I viewed it sixty years ago with great interest. I would like the little niche it has in cinema history to be remembered.
While the story line is only so-so, the list of stars is quite
impressive. The really special part of this movie is the exposure that
the Marines in San Diego had to so many of the stars of the day. My
father's unit (he was a DI) was used to film the movie. When you see
Randolph Scott drilling his men, the close-ups are of Mr. Scott - the far
off shots are of my father. My father also appears as an extra in other
shots - the most noticeable being the scene where the men are all sitting
in the bleachers. The really memorable aspect (and hopefully not TOO
sentimental) of all this centers around the fact that this is the only
record I have of my father in a "moving picture" (He died in 1952 when I
was 3 years old, and the only pictures I have of him are still shots).
Additionally, I fondly remember a large autographed picture by Randolph Scott inscribed to my father and the men in the unit - sitting in front of the men are Mr. Scott and my father, both wearing their round DI hats. This picture was also very special to all of us children. Therefore, this movie, while never going down as one of the great ones, will always have a very special place in my heart. It also gives me a better appreciation of movie "extras" and makes me wonder, "who are they and whatever happened to them"!
I never heard of this movie until I saw it on FMC. As a former Marine I
thought it stellar, though I'd never consider it a "war flick". Like
the synopses says, it's about a cocky recruit and a hard core sergeant
that knew his dad in WWI trying to turn him around.
I'm amazed at the poor ratings here, there isn't much action, which may explain the 5.8 vote here, but the all star cast gives a knock down performance.
The best part of this is a remembrance when Hollywood would line up for the military's help in making a movie with it shot at MCRD San Diego.
This movie isn't about rouge officers, or sadistic NCO, it's not about military cover-ups, it's a great American movie about average people serving their country.
This plot of this film- selfish rich boy joins the armed forces and by
is converted into a red-blooded selfless team player- is often called
cliche'. However, you have to bear in mind that it wasn't at the time it
was made; It was one of the genre of plots that became cliche' latter (In
fact, it is basically a color remake of "I Wanted Wings"...a much better
film IMHO... substituting the Marines for the Air Corps.)
But what it does have is a great cast, great production values and the distinction of the first pairing the lovely Maureen O'Hara, stunning in beautiful early Technicolor, and John Payne. Arguably this is one of the great, if minor, pairings of the 40's ("Sentimental Journey", "Miracle on 34th Street", etc.) that culminated in a return to the Marine/Tripoli theme: In 1950 the pair would almost single-handedly capture the city in "Tripoli".
Is it great cinema? Nah...but it's a fun picture to watch for buffs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To the Shores of Tripoli is the kind of movie that I generally don't
care for. The title may conjure images of Marines fighting and dying on
some foreign shore, but you won't find that here. Instead you'll find a
flag-waving recruitment film that makes Marine basic training look like
a trip to summer camp. The movie makes it seem that the entire eight
week training is made up of little more than marching and doing drills
in a parking lot. And when these guys aren't in the parking lot,
they're pulling pranks and wooing nurses they've been told to leave
alone. Abbott and Costello's Buck Privates has more in the way of
military realism than To the Shores of Tripoli.
Yet despite all its shortcomings, forced patriotism, and light as air plot, I enjoyed To the Shores of Tripoli. I was somehow able to put my brain on hold and go along for the ride. It's harmless, good-natured fun. Most of my enjoyment probably comes from the three main leads. John Payne, Maureen O'Hara, and Randolph Scott do a solid job with what they're given to work with. Much of the comedy works, particularly the hospital scene where Payne fakes an injury to be near O'Hara. And, To the Shores of Tripoli has an innocence to it that you don't find in movies anymore that I find appealing.
After watching this movie, I now know where the "Officer and a Gentleman" screen writers probably got their idea for the character Sgt. Foley. Randolph Scott was the Sgt. Foley of the 1940s. This movie was made during World War Two, but it spares us the jingoistic propaganda associated with most war movies of that era and offers interesting and likable characters, especially Maureen O'Hara as a Navy nurse and John Payne as the recruit. While watching this movie I thought of Richard Gere and how he would have fit in well in this movie. The similarities between this movie and "Officer" must be more than just coincidental. "Officer" was more intense but this movie did not need to rely on such theatrics to maintain audience interest because the star of this movie was the USMC itself.
Stepping into the hero/heel part that Tyrone Power specialized in while
at 20th Century Fox is John Payne as the spoiled kid of a former Marine
officer, Minor Watson. Payne's hoping to get out of the Marines for a
nice desk job in Washington, DC, but Watson's hoping that his former
sergeant Randolph Scott, now a drill instructor will give Payne the
necessary attitude adjustment.
Payne's getting an attitude adjustment in another direction too. He's fallen for pretty nurse Maureen O'Hara even though he's got Washington society girl Nancy Kelly pulling strings for him.
The part is such a perfect one for Tyrone Power that I'm sure it was offered to him and rejected and given to Payne who was hired by Darryl Zanuck because of his resemblance to Power and the fact he could sing opposite Alice Faye and Betty Grable. Power did similar roles in A Yank in the Raf and Crash Dive and in fact did serve in the Marines in the South Pacific after 1943.
The film was shot on location at the San Diego Marine training station and I visited San Diego a few years back and some of it looks pretty much the same. Harry Morgan made his feature film debut and if you look close you'll see that another one of the Marine recruits is the Skipper himself, Alan Hale, Jr.
To the Shores of Tripoli is badly dated and doesn't play real well against today's attitudes. Still it's a great example of a World War II propaganda piece.
PEARL HARBOR seems to have borrowed elements of its plotline from TO THE
SHORES OF TRIPOLI--only this time the cocky hero with plenty of attitude is
JOHN PAYNE and the Navy nurse he falls in love with is MAUREEN O'HARA. The
scene where she gets even with him in the dispensary is reminiscent of the
much more graphic event in PEARL HARBOR's early courtship
Anyway, as patriotic flag-waving recruitment films go, this one is typical of what the public clamored for during World War II. I'm sure the stirring drill scenes and dress parade moments, combined with stirring soundtrack music, were geared to get marine enlistments into high gear. And maybe they succeeded.
Having put in some military years at the San Diego Naval base, much of the background looks achingly familiar to me. All of the location scenes at the military base have the requisite real flavor while the story itself is the timeless cliche about the spoiled rich boy who is given the rough treatment by a sergeant who wants to turn him into a tough marine. Naturally the over confident military brat becomes a hero in time to rescue his sergeant during a mine sweeping operation--and in time to ensure a happy ending for his romance with nurse O'Hara.
JOHN PAYNE is at his best as the cocky young marine, his left eyebrow getting its usual workout as he seeks to outmanouver everyone in his path. He also gets to show off his splendid physique in the scene where hot-tempered O'Hara plays a dirty trick on him. RANDOLPH SCOTT is excellent as the drill sergeant and others in the cast are up to par--including NANCY KELLY in a rather thankless assignment as "the other woman".
MAUREEN O'HARA is stunning in technicolor but, as usual, has virtually little to do aside from looking gorgeous in a number of close-ups. Her role is typical of the many innocuous cardboard heroines she had to play in the '40s.
Summing up: Nice marine recruitment film, if a bit obvious in its patriotism.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I only saw the man in the movie for a few moments. Am I mistaken? or is Johnny Carson also in this movie. Apparently he is not one of the bigger stars or he would be listed with the rest of them, but I know that face...and that voice is unmistakable. I really enjoyed the movie though. I thought it was great. But my mom thinks I'm nuts because by the time she sat nack down Johnny was gone and they never showed him again. I am hoping they show the movie again soon on AMC and that I'm available to view it. Wow..Johnny Carson is extremely young in this movie, too, probably low to mid 20's, if that. I'm not sure if mentioning an actor who isn't listed in the credits is considered a spoiler, but I checked the box just in case.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
William Manchester was an award winning novelist, reporter, historian,
biographer, and friend of John F. Kennedy. His account of his
experiences in combat on Okinawa are among the most vivid ever
published. And this is the movie that prompted him to enlist in the
Marine Corps during World War II.
Manchester was impressed, he says, by the same elements of the movie that I say will impress the ordinary viewer of today. Marine Corps boot camp is a lot of fun with plenty of jocular fellows to play grabass with. Your Drill Instructor looks like Randolph Scott. He's stern and crusty on the outside, but underneath that he's a concerned and devoted friend. (Underneath THAT he's a real mean son of a gun.) You get to wear snappy uniforms and after boot camp, why it's nothing but dress blues. Your training takes place in the impeccably kempt Camp Pendleton under the blazing blue skies of San Diego. Once you finish boot camp you go to Sea School and get to take a sea-going vacation aboard a battleship. Oh, there's always Randolph Scott around to say things like, "Step to it, men," but the tone is always avuncular.
On top of that, you -- a mere enlisted man -- get to make out with the stunning Maureen O'Hara, who was about twenty years old at the time. She's a lieutenant and you're supposed to do no more than salute her but nobody pays attention to these silly rules. It's all photographed in gorgeous Technicolor and you know what? Maureen O'Hara is a drop-dead hottie even without flaming red hair.
Man, is John Payne lucky. Well, maybe not THAT lucky. He was supposed to wind up happily married to O'Hara, both devoted to a peaceful military routine, but half-way through the shoot, the plot was interrupted by some uncommonly rude Japanese who attacked us at Pearl Harbor. Poor Zanuck, the producer, had to stick on a brief prologue about "the current conflict" and change the ending so that Payne, Scott, O'Hara, and all the boys climb aboard a troop transport for the Pacific, enthusiastically singing the Marine Corps hymn accompanied by a marching band. What a fantasy.
Want to see what happened to William Manchester? Read his awesome memoir: "Good-bye, Darkness."
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