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The lives of a close-knit group of brothers growing up in Iowa during the days of the Great Depression and of World War II and their eventual deaths in action in the Pacific theater are chronicled in this film based on a true story. Written by
This movie features the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal is situated in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean, north-east of Australia. Its local name is Isatabu and contains the country's capital, Honiara. The island is humid and mostly made up of jungle with a surface area of 2,510 square miles or 6,500-km². Guadacanal was named after Pedro de Ortega's home town Guadacanal in Andalusia, Spain. de Ortega worked under Álvaro de Mendaña who charted the island in 1568. See more »
In the end of the movie, George (the oldest Sullivan brother) was in Sick Bay when the remaining four brothers go to rescue him. In reality, George and Al were the only Sullivan brothers to survive the sinking of USS Juneau. Al drowned the next day and George succumbed 4-5 days later to dementia, when he shed his uniform and swam off in search of his brothers. See more »
Most reviews spoil the ending - but not this one!!
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Sound format: Mono
(Black and white)
A working-class couple (Thomas Mitchell and Selena Royle) raise six children - five boys and a girl - to adulthood, only to suffer an appalling tragedy during wartime.
When America finally entered the Second World War in December 1941, President Roosevelt was advised by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to prohibit family members from serving together on active duty. It was not an idle warning: Within months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, headlines were generated across the world by a smaller - though no less tragic - incident which befell a hard-working Irish-American family from Waterloo, Iowa, an incident which forms the basis of Lloyd Bacon's flag-waving melodrama. Mary C. McCall Jr.'s episodic screenplay (based on an Oscar-nominated story by Jules Schermer and Edward Doherty) is imbued with the kind of homespun values craved by audiences during wartime, and follows the fortunes of the Suillivan brood from adolescence to young adulthood, charting a recognizable course through the ups and downs of their otherwise unremarkable lives. However, their world is changed forever by the onset of war, leading to the worst possible disaster. In fact, the last fifteen minutes of the film are so utterly heartbreaking (particularly the 'water tower' sequence), many theater owners refused to screen the movie until the end of the war, believing it would be too painful for families whose loved ones were still fighting on the front line. Half a century later, Steven Spielberg paid tribute to the Sullivan family by using their experience as a springboard for his own wartime drama, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998).
Director Bacon (a veteran craftsman who began his career in silent films before gravitating toward sound-era classics like 42nd STREET in 1933) tells the story in straightforward fashion, employing close-ups and tracking shots purely for dramatic emphasis at key points in the narrative. He also uses an instrumental version of the old military standard 'Anchors Away' to particularly memorable effect during the latter stages of the film - some will find it corny, others will be deeply moved; either response is valid. Production values are economical but solid, and the cast is a mixed bag of veterans and newcomers, spearheaded by old-hands Royle (THE HEIRESS) and Mitchell (one of Hollywood's most celebrated character actors, usually a supporting player in A-list productions like GONE WITH THE WIND and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE), while Anne Baxter - so memorable in Orson Welles' THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS - toplines the younger cast in a thankless minor role. The performances of the five Sullivan boys (all played by relative unknowns) are variable, though the young actors who play them as children aren't even credited on-screen! Chief amongst them is Bobby Driscoll (as the youngest family member), a hugely talented child star who won an Oscar for his role in Ted Tetzlaff's superb thriller THE WINDOW (1949) and later provided the voice of the title character in Disney's PETER PAN (1953). Further down the cast list in a small but crucial role is Ward Bond, playing a navy officer who utters the single most wrenching line of dialogue in the entire film ("All five"). Remembered fondly for his role in TV's "Wagon Train", Bond appeared in almost 300 movies during the course of his long career, lending an element of quiet dignity to every role he ever played. Also known as THE FIGHTING SULLIVANS.
NB. Shortly after the events described in this movie, President Roosevelt finally decreed that family members would no longer be allowed to serve together in the US military. This rule has been enforced ever since.
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