The story of men at war and that of the esteemed Pulitzer prize winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Soon after the U.S. entry into World War II, Pyle joined C Company, 18th Infantry in ...
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Edward G. Robinson,
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The story of men at war and that of the esteemed Pulitzer prize winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Soon after the U.S. entry into World War II, Pyle joined C Company, 18th Infantry in North Africa. There he got to know the men and often wrote about them in his columns mentioning them by name, something both the soldiers and their families back home appreciated. Pyle moved to other units but as C Company is the first he went into combat with, he considers them "his" company and rejoins them in Italy. Many will die but his reporting brings a human face to war. Written by
A G.I. has ongoing problems with a vinyl recording from his wife and son, he perpetually plays it on a record player every time he returns from patrol, but it always sounds like it's playing backwards, and in fact at one point he expresses frustration that it plays backwards and that he knows nothing about record players, and constantly looks for someone among the new replacements G.I.s who knows anything about record players so they can fix it for him. His platoon mates join in his frustration that he cannot hear his son's voice speaking normally and saying "Daddy." Eventually one day, without changing how he played it, it miraculously plays correctly and he hears his son's voice and goes nuts. However, it would be impossible to play a record that sounds like it's playing backwards like that. You would only hear a slowed-down or sped-up sound if the turntable was the wrong speed for the recording, but not a reversed unintelligible sound. See more »
Opening credits: With the exception of persons whose true names are used, the characters and events portrayed are fictional. Any similarity to other persons living or dead is purely coincidental. See more »
William A. Wellman is one of the American cinema's greatest craftsmen. The Story of G.I. Joe is one of his best, if not his best. It presumably inspired a lot of later films. It especially reminds me of Stanley Kubrick's Vietnam film, Full Metal Jacket (the second half of it, anyway). This film should also be praised for its dedication to realism, and its lack of propaganda, surprising in such a vivid war film that was being made in the thick of the action in both Europe and the Pacific.
I also really love the script. The structure is very tenuous. Unlike most American films, it has no real "goal." Take a look at the infinitely inferior Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan. In that film, the story centered around the search for Private Ryan. In The Story of G.I. Joe, the goal is simply the arrival at Rome, but this isn't at all what the film is about. It concentrates mostly on how the soldiers passed the time and how they felt. In this way, it's the second most sensitive war film I can think of, only following Jean Renoir's unsurpassed The Grand Illusion. There are some excellent battle scenes, as well.
As with most war films, there isn't a lot of overt characterization. It works really well here, though. Instead of opting for the old two-dimensional types of soldiers - you know, the "tough guy" the "young guy" the "religious guy" and what have you - Wellman just lets the characters develop within the actors. We may not know all of their names, or even recognize the same characters throughout the film, but, with each close-up of a soldier's face, we know as much about that person as we could know. The acting is very good. The three who stand out are Burgess Meredith, who plays Ernie Pyle, the writer whose works the film is based on, Robert Mitchum, wonderfully sensitive as the troop leader (he was probably never better; he received his one and only Oscar nomination for the role), and Freddie Steele. Early in the film he receives a phonograph recording of his young son speaking. He spends most of the film first looking for a phonograph player and then trying to repair it. This subplot is especially touching.
Wellman's direction is superb. The cinematography is, as well, and so is the music. The only problem that the film has is that it runs into war movie cliches, but one would expect that those cliches probably existed in real life, as well. 10/10.
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