“If I want Valentine or anything else worthwhile in this life, I have to fight for it.”
While fighting in North Africa under a firm but kind sergeant (Thomas Mitchell), a milquetoast writer (Henry Fonda) reflects on his love for a beautiful woman named Valentine (Maureen O’Hara), who is simultaneously being courted by a wealthy suitor (Reginald Gardner). When Fonda must suddenly take on additional leadership responsibilities, he finds himself developing new confidence and skills — but will this translate to his romantic endeavors once he’s back home?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Character Arc
- Flashback Films
- Henry Fonds Films
- Maureen O’Hara Films
- Thomas Mitchell Films
- World War II
It’s difficult to know why Peary included this earnest but heavy-handed wartime propaganda film in his GFTFF, other than the star-power provided by Fonda and O’Hara:
Much time is spent in early scenes showing Fonda flashing back to missed opportunities with O’Hara, as Gardner conveniently sweeps in and obnoxiously tries to woo her away.
Once we finally understand the thrust of the drama that will take place on the desert (i.e., Mitchell’s mentorship of Fonda):
… we feel a little more engaged — but not much, since we’re relatively certain how things will turn out, more or less. I recommend watching Sahara (1943) instead for a much better wartime movie taking place in the same setting.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- A few effectively filmed moments (i.e., the men enjoying passing around a final tiny cigarette and giving it a burial in the sand)
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a diehard Fonda or O’Hara fan.