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 <email@example.com>
Clifton Webb, who had starred in musicals on Broadway, had been offered the chance to appear with Fred Astaire in the MGM musical The Band Wagon (1953)--which is now considered one of the classics of the era--but passed it up to be in this film because his role of John Philip Sousa was the lead in that film, whereas he would have only played a supporting role to Astaire in "The Band Wagon". See more »
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 »
What should be understood is that Stars and Stripes Forever is in no way a full biography of the famous March King which was the nickname given to John Philip Sousa. It is rather a portrait of the era known as the Gay Nineties in America where Sousa first achieved his reputation and prominence. Also included is a romance between fictional characters played by Robert Wagner and Debra Paget.
In that beard with those pince nez glasses, Clifton Webb looks remarkably like John Philip Sousa in that period and by reputation, Sousa was as much a dilettante as Webb normally played on screen which made him perfect casting. After leaving the Marine Corps band, Sousa formed his own orchestra which became world famous and toured the globe well into the Twenties.
But our story concerns Sousa the March King. Though he composed all kinds of music, it is his marches that have come down today and have given him his reputation. The Marine Corps official march, Semper Fidelis, was composed by Sousa and the incident involving President Benjamin Harrison as depicted in Stars and Stripes Forever is somewhat true. The Marine Corps Band was playing at a White House reception and the Harrison who was not the most social of presidents ordered Sousa to speed up the tempo so the receiving line would move at a brisk pace.
Ruth Hussey is cast in the Myrna Loy type role of the perfect understanding mate for her genius husband and she fulfills the role admirably. Even Clifton Webb does make you forget you're watching Clifton Webb and you do think you are seeing the real Sousa.
Stars and Stripes Forever is an admirable film and of course the finale does have several bands and marching armed forces personnel playing and marching to Sousa's most famous composition.
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