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When Willie leaves home to join the war effort he is all ready to become a hero, but he is only frustrated when his posting ends up to be in his home town, and he is recruited into training, keeping him from the action. However, when he finds himself accidently behind enemy lines he unexpectedly becomes a hero after all. Written by
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Although John Ford put in some touches that would make When Willie Comes Marching Home an identifiable Ford film, the film while good will never be considered in his top ten. It's more like the kind of service comedy Bob Hope would have done over at Paramount.
Dan Dailey is in the lead here and this would be the first of three films he did for John Ford, the other two being What Price Glory and The Wings Of Eagles. It's also the only one where we saw any of Dan Dailey's singing and dancing talents on display in a number.
Dailey who hails from Punxatawney, West Virginia is having as typical a Sunday as one would have been having in America on December 7, 1941. He's rehearsing with the band he plays trombone in when news of Pearl Harbor comes over the radio. His father William Demarest is head of the Punxatawney American Legion Post and as luck would have it Dailey is the first man drafted in the town.
But he turns out to be so skilled a marksman that he's needed as an instructor. And wouldn't you know it he's stationed at a new base near the old home town where everyone sees everyone else being shipped off to war. It plays havoc with your ego, even his girlfriend Colleen Townsend has her doubts especially since her brother was shipped off to the Pacific.
But within a week fortune both frowns and smiles on Dailey. He gets assigned as a belly gunner in a B-17 crew, gets shot down over France, meets beautiful resistance leader Corinne Calvet and performs a deed that might just change the course of the war. How that all works out you'll have to see When Willie Comes Marching Home.
I wasn't expecting to see Dailey sing and dance, but that's always a treat. He handles the comedy well, but Ford does not do comedy pictures. He's got a lot of rough house comedy in some of his best work, but they're not the center of the plot. This film would have also been better had a director like George Marshall or Frank Tashlin been at the helm. And while Dailey is good, Bob Hope would have made this a classic.
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