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Out on patrol in the war-time desert a Canadian corporal reminisces about the woman he has left behind in London and ponders whether she will fall for the charms of his rival in love. At the same time he worries about how he would get on with his outfit if his crack sergeant was not there to guide him. Circumstances combine to give answers to both questions. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In his memoirs Henry Fonda hated this film above all others that he did in his career. That's taking in quite a bit of territory because Fonda did some dreadful stuff in the seventies like Tentaccoli with a giant octopus. A lot of this was done for the money and Fonda with five wives certainly had much expenses in alimony.
But Immortal Sergeant held a place dear in his heart because of the head of 20th Century Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck. Back in 1940 in order to get the part of Tom Joad, Fonda made a faustian deal with Zanuck signing his only studio contract. The studio cast him in what he considered junk. The good films he made in that four year stretch were on loan out, to Paramount for The Lady Eve, to Warner Brothers for The Male Animal, to RKO for The Big Street. He was not fond of what Fox cast him in for the most part because he got what was left after Tyrone Power and Don Ameche rejected it.
Anyway come 1943 Fonda had two objectives, to make The Oxbow Incident because he knew that would be a classic and to enlist in World War II as pal Jimmy Stewart did. He prevailed on Zanuck to do The Oxbow Incident and it was a cheaply made western, classic though it was because it was shot completely on the sound stage.
Then Zanuck cajoled, begged, and pleaded with him to make this one more film which he said was a great propaganda piece one that would tear the hearts of the movie going public and rally the homefront and be an inspiration to the fighting troops.
When Immortal Sergeant proved somewhat less than that, Fonda felt hoodwinked and gritted his teeth and finished the film. He tried in fact to enlist to get out of it and Zanuck had so much pull in Washington, DC, Fonda kept getting his enlistment postponed.
It was one angry Henry Fonda who finished The Immortal Sergeant and then went to war. His experience with this film made him bound and determined to get out of his contract one way or another. Ultimately he left Hollywood in 1948 when he got a great Broadway role in Mister Roberts. Fonda didn't return to Hollywood until 1955 and then to make the screen version of Mister Roberts.
But that's getting away from Immortal Sergeant. Without Henry Fonda's rather colored viewpoint of the situation let me say it's not the worst World War II flag waver the studios put out. As is usual Henry Fonda is a Canadian to explain his non-British speech who has enlisted in the British army and is serving in North Africa. He's a young man with a lot of angst and when his patrol's sergeant is killed, Fonda has to summon something from within to bring the men back to their lines.
Thomas Mitchell is the sergeant and Maureen O'Hara is Fonda's girl back home and both do a creditable job.
For the rest of his life Fonda would foam at the mention of Immortal Sergeant. Being the professional he was, he did a good job in the film.
But Immortal Sergeant hardly belongs in the same company as The Oxbow Incident and Mister Roberts in the works of Henry Fonda.
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