Pride of the Marines (1945)

“I won’t have her being a seeing eye dog for me!”

Synopsis:
A Marine hero (John Garfield) wounded in battle is reluctant to return home to his fiancee (Eleanor Parker) and face a new life without sight.

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Review:
Based on the true story of Navy Cross-winning Marine Al Schmid, this powerful (anti-)war film — sensitively directed by Delmer Daves — afforded John Garfield one of his best starring roles. Other than the inclusion of one short but genuinely terrifying battle sequence (in which Schmid loses his sight), the film is primarily concerned with the lingering effects of war on wounded veterans — and while numerous other mid-century films (i.e., Fred Zinnemann’s The Men, and William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives) did an equally fine job tackling this sensitive topic, Pride of the Marines remains a worthy entry in the limited genre. The screenplay (based closely on Schmid’s memoir) spends the entire first half-hour showing us Garfield’s courtship with Parker, firmly investing us in the idyllic life he leaves behind when he goes to war. We’re allowed ample opportunity to understand what a proud, self-determined man Schmid is — thus compounding his struggles to come to terms with his disability. Despite occasional lapses into overly patriotic banter (to be expected, given the time of the film’s release), this finely acted, little-seen movie is worth a look by all film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Garfield as Al Schmid
  • Eleanor Parker as Ruthie
  • Dane Clark as Al’s fellow Marine, Lee
  • The terrifyingly realistic battle scene
  • Incisive (and occasionally surprisingly risque!) dialogue:

    “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home, Bill?”
    “I think I’ll spend about three solid weeks just saying hello to my wife.”

Must See?
Yes, for Garfield’s fine central performance, and as an all-around powerful “war film”.

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One Response to “Pride of the Marines (1945)”

  1. A once-must – for the performances by Garfield and Parker, Albert Maltz’s screenplay and Delmer Daves’ sensitive direction.

    I’m rather in agreement with the well-stated assessment given, so I’ve little to add.

    The film does benefit greatly by allowing us to see (in the first half-hour) how Al and Ruth meet and grow as a couple. It’s rare in cinema to see a twosome start off in this uniquely combative a way (it’s a wild, often funny courtship): he gets pissed-off when he thinks he’s been set up on a blind date (and he blames her!) and she lets him have it – straight-out in public in a bowling alley – by making it clear to him that she knew nothing about what her girlfriend had set up for them for the evening. She storms out as bystanders cheer her on! …And Al decides he likes that; he likes it that Ruth has the character to stand her ground. ~because Al is a guy who stands his ground.

    But, as the film goes on, and once he is wounded, Al becomes a rather complex character to sympathize with. We understand his anger, of course, but his fear of losing control of his faculties turns him into a tough nut to crack. Still, Ruth loves him – and her success in turning him around to her way (the right way) of thinking is worth the wait when it comes.

    Another interesting sequence comes a little earlier in a talk Garfield has with his buddy Lee (Clark). Lee strongly urges Al to realize that, yes, his blindness might result in his being turned down for a job – but he could also be easily turned down even if nothing was wrong with him at all. For example, if he were like Lee: Jewish. (This scene is all the more powerful when we remind ourselves that Garfield himself was Jewish.)

    Interesting side-note: As Wikipedia tells us, “Garfield met Schmid during his rehabilitation before a movie was ever planned. Once the film was planned, Garfield lived with the Schmids for several weeks, becoming friends with the couple.”

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