20 user 9 critic

Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

A film biography of the composer John Philip Sousa, from his early days in the Marine Corps Band through the Spanish-American War in 1898.



(book), (story) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Documentary tracing the history of the Jewish people from the destruction of the temple in AD 70 to the modern-day nation of Israel.

Director: Paul Wittenberger
Stars: Steven L. Anderson, Texe Marrs, Leo Abrami
Certificate: GP Comedy | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

An aging cowboy finds to his embarrassment that the successful business he has inherited from his brother is actually a house of prostitution.

Director: Gene Kelly
Stars: James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Shirley Jones
Child Bride (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.7/10 X  

Schoolteacher in a rural community campaigns to stop the practice of older men marrying young, underage girls.

Director: Harry Revier
Stars: Shirley Mills, Bob Bollinger, Warner Richmond
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

An aeronautical engineer predicts that a new model of plane will fail catastrophically and in a novel manner after a specific number flying hours.

Director: Henry Koster
Stars: James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Glynis Johns
Hellstorm (2015)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A documentary that tells the tale that the victors still do not want you to know. Learn the terrible truth about the rape, torture, slavery, and mass murder inflicted upon the German people by the Allied victors of World Word II.

Director: Kyle Hunt
Stars: Gerhard Ausmeier, John DeNugent, Thomas Goodrich
36 Hours (1964)
Thriller | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Germans kidnap an American major and try to convince him that World War II is over, so that they can get details about the Allied invasion of Europe out of him.

Director: George Seaton
Stars: James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Taylor
Hans Westmar (1933)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

This Nazi propaganda film purports to show the story of a Nazi Storm Trooper named Horst Wessel--here called "Hans Westmar"--who took part in street brawls and assassinations in Berlin in ... See full summary »

Director: Franz Wenzler
Stars: Emil Lohkamp, Paul Wegener, Heinrich Heilinger
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A Nazi propaganda film based upon the life and death of Hitler Youth Heini Volker, killed while distributing flyers in a Communist neighborhood.

Director: Hans Steinhoff
Stars: Jürgen Ohlsen, Heinrich George, Berta Drews
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Der Sieg des Glaubens (English: The Victory of Faith, Victory of Faith, or Victory of the Faith) (1933) is the first propaganda film directed by Leni Riefenstahl. Her film recounts the ... See full summary »

Director: Leni Riefenstahl
Stars: Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess
Jud Süß (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

Duke Karl Alexander of Württemberg begins his reign promising to rule with loyalty and honesty, but the treasurer Süß Oppenheimer corrupts him, causing the citizens to complain and pushing Württemberg to the brink of civil war.

Director: Veit Harlan
Stars: Ferdinand Marian, Kristina Söderbaum, Heinrich George
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Anti-semitic Nazi propaganda "biography" of the Rothschilds, a German Jewish family whose members rose to the top of the European banking community during the Napoleonic era.

Director: Erich Waschneck
Stars: Erich Ponto, Carl Kuhlmann, Albert Lippert
Tucker Carlson Tonight (TV Series 2016)
News | Talk-Show
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Powerful analysis and spirited debates with guests from across the political and cultural spectrum.

Stars: Tucker Carlson, Mark Steyn, Ed Henry


Complete credited cast:
Lily Becker
Willie Little
Jennie Sousa
Col. Randolph
Maj. George Porter Houston
Thomas Browne Henry ...
David Blakely (as Tom Browne Henry)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Mr. Wells (scenes deleted)
Jack Rice ...
Mr. Jones (scenes deleted)


In the 1890s, Sgt. Major John Philip Sousa, leader of the Marine Corps Band, meets Private Willie Little, inventor of an instrument he calls the Sousaphone...and Little's girlfriend, shapely showgirl Lily. To support his growing family, Sousa leaves the Marines and forms his own band; Willie and Lily go along. Though he'd rather write ballads, Sousa's marches bring him increasing fame; from their debut in 1892 the band is a great success. But Sousa's 'no wives' rule threatens the romance of Willie and Lily...as does the Spanish-American War. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


See all certifications »




Release Date:

22 December 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Marcha Triunfal  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Sousa was superstitious and refused to wear a pair of gloves more than once considering it to be bad luck. In the beginning of the film he orders 110 dozen pairs of pigskin gloves (1320 pairs) at five dollars a pair. That comes to $6,600 at a time when a new car cost about $700 and you could buy a house for around $4000. See more »


In the film the famous Sousaphone was invented by Willy Little. In actuality the first sousaphone was developed by James Welsh Pepper in 1893 at the request of John Philip Sousa. See more »

Crazy Credits

During the opening display of 20th Century Fox's logo, Sousa's "Semper Fidelis" was played instead of the usual 20th Century fanfare See more »


Referenced in Worth Winning (1989) See more »


Presidential Polonaise
Music by John Philip Sousa (1886)
Played by the Marine band at the presidential reception
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Our First Great Composer?
23 May 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

John Philip Sousa's position in American (and World) music is set in stone by now. Others have composed great marches (the English composer Edward Elgar with his four "Pomp and Circumstance Marches" for instance, two of which are memorable), and such major composers like Wagner and Mendelsohn. But Sousa remains the "March King". Like Johann Strauss the Younger, Alexander Scarlatti, and Scott Joplin, he is recalled for his domination of a single area of music: marches in this case, rather than waltzes, sonatas, or "rags". But this really does not explain why he remains the "March King". There is a sense of fun and spirit in Sousa's marches that transcend what a march is usually supposed to do.

Marches were originally meant for troops to walk in step either on a training field or on the battlefield (music was used until the end of the 19th Century to keep up the spirits of the soldiers, and even to help orchestrate the speed they were to fight at when running across the battlefield). Sousa came from a musical family (his father was a musician in the Marine Corps band). Sousa followed in his father's footsteps, but played several instruments and rose to be the bandmaster. He began composing pieces for the Marine Corps Band, such as "Semper Fidelis", "The Washington Post March", "Manhattan Beach", and he tried to expand his abilities into other fields. When he left the Marine Corps, he formed his own band, which he developed with a perfect balance of brass, stings, percussion, and woodwinds. His band would go around the world performing, not only his own pieces, but also other composers as well.

The movie does touch, once or twice, on Sousa's attempts to broaden his musical ability by doing Broadway shows (operettas). At the start Clifton Webb, as Sousa, does play the melody of "Semper Fidelis" for his wife Jenny (Ruth Hussey) as a tune to be sung. It doesn't quite work. He would do a successful operetta (which is still revived) called EL CAPITAN, which starred DeWolf Hopper (we hear an actor as Hopper singing a tune at a rehearsal during the movie). However, EL CAPITAN had a book by Charles Klein, a major dramatist of the 1890s - 1915 (he drowned in the Lusitania disaster). Klein was not a W. S. Gilbert, but his libretto was serviceable. Unfortunately Sousa never had another librettist/lyricist like Klein, and spent the rest of his career seeking his "Gilbert". As a result the leading operetta composer from the U.S. in Sousa's lifetime (and since) was Victor Herbert.

Sousa was talented in other ways too. He sometimes wrote clever lyrics to comic songs, such as "A Typical Song of Zanzibar". He wrote about five comic novels too. He designed the special marching tuba, the "Sousaphone" (which is shown in the film being designed by Webb and Robert Wagner). But it is the string of great marches that he left which are his great donation to our culture. The reason is more than just his gift for melodious music. He was a genius at composition and orchestration - probably the best orchestrator among the major American composers.

His best remembered march is the title march for this film: THE STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER. The film mentions how Sousa, on a trip for his health, was walking the deck of the liner at night and thought of the beat of the music. We hear Webb describing the moment (quoting a passage from Sousa's memoirs, MARCHING ALONG), and the film ends with the playing of the great march. The film does not mention that that Sousa also composed words to be sung to it (which occasionally still are sung). A few years ago, the U.S. Congress formally adopted THE STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER as the national march.

I have gone into a great deal of detail regarding Sousa and his career, for the movie (for a biography) skims a lot. His literary efforts are not dealt with, and the film ends (really) with the playing of THE STARS AND STRIPE FOREVER. That was in 1899. Sousa would live until 1932, and would be a public figure until then. He was still composing until the 1920s.

Webb had an extensive musical comedy career in the 1920s and 1930s (he was one of the stars in Irving Berlin's AS THOUSANDS CHEER, for example). But aside from an occasional tune he sings like "When I wore a Tulip" or a dance he does with Jeanne Craig in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, he never did a musical. STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER is his one "musical film". He is credible as Sousa, but the film never really goes deeply into the great man. The dramatic portions are handled by Robert Wagner and Deborah Paget as friends and lovers, whose love affair is twisted for awhile by the Spanish American War. The film is certainly watchable (the cast is game, and the music is first rate) but it is not a showcase for Webb's talents in musicals. Ironically he could have been in Vincent Minelli's THE BANDWAGON with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, but opted for the lead as Sousa. Probably a bad decision - but it is hard to say. Every July 4th STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER is shown for it's great holiday music. What we lost in not seeing Webb opposite Astaire is not enough to prevent our still seeing Webb as the great maestro composer.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: