Long Gray Line, The (1955)

Long Gray Line, The (1955)

“Maher, you’re a rotten soldier — no soldier at all. Slovenly, undisciplined, insubordinate, bad-tempered, and full of cute tricks.”

In a meeting with President Eisenhower, Irish immigrant Martin ‘Marty’ Maher (Tyrone Power) reflects back on his many years of service at West Point Academy, where he began by waiting tables, then was brought on by the Master of the Sword (Ward Bond) to teach athletics. After marrying an Irish maid (Maureen O’Hara) who he falls in love with at first sight, Marty brings his dad (Donald Crisp) and brother (Sean McClory) over from Ireland, and he and his wife enjoy a long career serving as informal parents and mentors to West Point cadets — including introducing one cadet (William Leslie) to a pretty tutor (Betsy Palmer) who he soon marries.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Betsy Palmer Films
  • Biopics
  • Donald Crisp Films
  • Flashback Films
  • John Ford Films
  • Maureen O’Hara Films
  • Military
  • Tyrone Power Films
  • Ward Bond Films

In between Mogambo (1953) and Mister Roberts (1955), John Ford directed this adaptation of a memoir by Marty Maher, a devoted employee and retiree of West Point Academy who was apparently beloved by many, and gave hair-growing advice at one point to young Eisenhower (Harey Carey Jr.).

Unfortunately, DVD Savant describes this “pure John Ford” film perfectly as “overlong, episodic, and weighed down by cartoonish characterizations and an excess of sentimentality.” Yep. Diehard Ford fans may be delighted by the overload of “blarney quotient” present, but it’s impossible not to view this movie as simply a vehicle for unrealistic adulation of the military. The worst scenes are near the beginning, as Power and O’Hara engage in an extended meet-cute that defies all credibility:

On the up side, Power does a fine job with his Mr. Chips-like role, and keeps us reasonably invested throughout.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Tyrone Power as Marty
  • Charles Lawton Jr.’s cinematography

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a Ford completist.


One thought on “Long Gray Line, The (1955)

  1. Rewatch (skipping a bit throughout). Not must-see. All told, a minor Ford film (though completists may not mind).

    Fave sequence: Power and O’Hara in the ‘engagement scene’ on the porch swing.

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