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Robert Z. Leonard
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>
I liked this film more than my wife and Henry Fonda did.
"Immortal Sergeant" was apparently not one of Henry Fonda's favorite film roles. I am not sure why "The Big Street" wasn't his least favorite (it was god-awful, believe me) but he disliked it. And, I might add, my wife wasn't super-fond a this film as we watched it. However, I really thought it was pretty good...though I do wonder if the main character played by Fonda might have been schizophrenic--that's because throughout the film he keeps hearing the voice of his sergeant--even though the guy is dead!
The film is a WWII propaganda film. Because of this, it's main thrust is NOT realism but to bolster folks' support of the war effort. I cut the film a bit of slack, as it was 1943 and keeping up morale was a major concern. What I didn't like was the casting of Fonda, as he was supposed to be a Brit--and seemed about as British as John Wayne or Hattie McDaniel! In this sense, I could see why he didn't like playing this role--but the plot is pretty good and more than makes up for this.
The sergeant in the title is played by Thomas Mitchell--and he's very good in this role. This guy is a career soldier and seems indestructible to his men--and he is adored by them. However, although he seems to have all the answers, his corporal (Fonda) seems quite different--unsure of himself and not at all the soldier Mitchell is. But, when the sergeant is killed and Fonda is left in charge of a small group of men in the North African desert, he's given a chance to show his mettle.
In many ways, this film is a lot like the film "Sahara"--though "Sahara" is a much more enjoyable (and less realistic) film. Both are set in the same locale and are about a small group of soldiers overcoming greater numbers of enemy soldiers. But the casting and script just weren't quite as good here--though the film STILL is enjoyable and did what the studio wanted it to do. I also appreciate how the men in this film were NOT indestructible--many died even though you KNEW how it all had to end. Not brilliant but quite entertaining.
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