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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.


Henry Koster


John Philip Sousa (book), Ernest Vajda (story) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Clifton Webb ... John Philip Sousa
Debra Paget ... Lily Becker
Robert Wagner ... Willie Little
Ruth Hussey ... Jennie Sousa
Finlay Currie ... Col. Randolph
Roy Roberts ... Maj. George Porter Houston
Thomas Browne Henry Thomas Browne Henry ... David Blakely (as Tom Browne Henry)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Frank Ferguson ... Mr. Wells (scenes deleted)
Jack Rice 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


Strike up the band! Here comes The Greatest Musical Show on Earth!


Unrated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


In supplemental material on the DVD they reveal that, while the story for the most part follows Sousa's autobiography, Willy Little and Lilly Becker never existed. They were written in to add a little love interest. 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 »


John Philip Sousa: Upon my word, ma'am, I've never danced with so charming and graceful a two-stepper.
Jennie Sousa: And upon mine, sir, I've never danced with so charming and flattering a liar.
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 »

Alternate Versions

Some releases include at the end a clip of the real John Philip Sousa leading the band in one of his famous marches. See more »


My Love Is a Weeping Willow
Music by John Philip Sousa from "Semper Fidelis" (1888)
Lyrics written for "Stars and Stripes Forever" by Ken Darby
Sung by Clifton Webb
See more »

User Reviews

It may not be accurate historically, but it's sure entertaining!
9 May 2003 | by gregcoutureSee all my reviews

When this movie was released it was the climax of one of those dreaded days when I had to accompany my mother on a downtown Boston, Massachusetts, shopping trip. I was never aware if my having to tag along was because she couldn't find a babysitter or because she wanted a little companionship, however young and immature, as she searched for a few things to update the family's wardrobe. By the time our trek through several department stores had bored me almost to the point of rebellion, we found ourselves entering the Mayflower Theater and I soon sat fascinated as this Technicolor treat unspooled before my amazed eyes. Even then I knew I wasn't seeing an historically accurate recreation of the life and times of the famous Mr. Sousa, whose music was familiar to me because of my father's enthusiasm for it. (He had played trumpet in his high school band.) But I knew I was seeing a glowingly colorful example of what Hollywood could do to entertain an audience in the mood for some patriotism, however jingoistic, with a touch of romantic flim-flam thrown in.

20th-Century Fox trowelled on the Technicolor; cast Ruth Hussey and Clifton Webb as about the most compatible-seeming mature couple one could imagine; assigned the ever-reliable Alfred Newman to supervise the music, which he did magnificently; and allowed two of its young up-and-comers, Robert Wagner and Debra Paget, to supply a little frosting on the cake. The end result thoroughly charmed that weary pre-teenager in 1953 and did, again, when I saw it on a TV broadcast many years later.

I have to confess that I watched it again to catch that absolutely amazing number, "Father's Got 'Em!", performed with energy to burn by the gorgeous Miss Paget in some of the tightest white tights I'd ever seen before or since. It's hilarious and a heck of a lot sexier than the struttings of most of today's so-called "divas."

Since this was a pre-CinemaScope Twentieth product, possibly produced while the three-strip Technicolor process was still in use, the VHS tape transfer may very well look as vividly rich as it did on that big screen so many years ago in Boston.

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Release Date:

16 February 1953 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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