Tuesday, May 24, 2016

THE BIG PARADE (3) vs. FIGHTING 69th (14)


PLOT:  “The Big Parade” is a home front to war front romance.  It is also a buddy film.  The main character Jim is a rich boy who leaves his fiancé to go to war.  He meets “Bull”, the bartender, and “Slim”, the construction worker.  The trios’ unit is billeted in a French barn.  Jim makes a love connection with a feisty mademoiselle named Melisande, but then it’s off to the front for a battle that consumes the last part of the movie.  Many of the scenes go on too long.  The plot is decidedly silent movieiesh.  There are some lame stabs at humor.  The plot builds slowly to the climactic battle which is the highlight of the movie.  GRADE  -  C

“The Fighting 69th” is a fictional story involving the famous American 69th Infantry Regiment.  The story centers around the attempts of Father Duffy to reform a street tough named Plunkitt (Jimmy Cagney).  The plot takes the unit from boot camp to battle with Plunkitt’s antics keeping Duffy busy and giving him grey hairs.  It is all very predictable.  It is also blatantly religious and patriotic.  It features an unlikeable central character who doesn’t deserve, but gets, redemption.  A movie like this could not be made today.  That’s a good thing.  The only positive is the portrayal of some real heroes like Duffy, William Donovan, and Joyce Kilmer.    GRADE  -  D

FIRST QUARTER SCORE:  Parade  -  6    Fighting 69th  -  5

ACTING:  “The Big Parade” stars John Gilbert who was a major silent movie star and was a rival of Valentino as a sex symbol.  He is fine for a silent movie role.  You have to expect a lot of mugging.  There is some chemistry with Renee Adoree.  The rest of the cast was not noteworthy at the time although Adoree made a big splash in the film.  She is adorable.  I know the mugging was considered acceptable back then, but today the performances seem very dated.  Plus, the actor who plays “Slim” is difficult to watch.  He is a bizarre looking dude and his biggest talent is spitting tobacco juice.  His look is as disgusting as Plunkitt’s personality.  GRADE  -  B-

“The Fighting 69th” stars Cagney and Pat O’Brian so it is strong in its leads.  Cagney could be great, but the character and script let him down.  He chews the scenery like he hasn’t had a decent meal in years.  O’Brian is overly pious, of course.  The rest of the cast is wooden.  GRADE  -  C

HALFTIME SCORE:  Parade  -  13    Fighting 69th  -  11

COMBAT:  “The Big Parade” has 17 minutes of combat.  There is a lot of trite before you get to it, but it is worth the wait if you don’t expect ‘’Saving Private Ryan”.  The big combat scene starts with the Americans marching in lines through a forest where they encounter snipers and machine gun nests.  The machine guns do not mow them down but instead pick off individuals!  Then the action transitions to an assault across no man’s land.  There are plenty of explosions and after darkness, the renewal of the attack is nightmarish.  In between, the trio takes refuge in a shell crater and have their own little adventure.  It’s all very micro and does not stand out as one of the outstanding combat scenes.  I do not show it in class.  GRADE  -  B

“The Fighting 69th” has about 9 minutes of combat and it’s mostly of the bombardment of troops in no man’s land.  It is also micro and concentrates mostly on the actions of Plunkitt.  It is also laughably unrealistic.  It tells you a lot when a WWI movie stages its combat  mostly at night.  GRADE  -  D

THIRD QUARTER SCORE:  Parade  -  21    Fighting 69th  -  16

ANTI-WAR:  “The Big Parade” is average when it comes to condemning the war.  It tries to earn its badge by inflicting hardship on its main characters.  Two of the three soldiers are killed and one is maimed.  Melisande becomes a refugee.  However, this is diluted by a happy ending.  There is no criticism of command or the war in general.  Jim’s decision to go to war is not questioned.  GRADE  -  C

“The Fighting 69th” is one of the few WWI movies that is pro-war.  The main character is the only one who questions the war and that is because he is a coward.  All the other soldiers are enthusiastic.  One theme is that war brings the country together.  I guess you can’t laud a unit and criticize its war at the same time.  GRADE  -  F

FINAL SCORE:  Big Parade  -  27
                           Fighting 69th  -  20

MATCH ANALYSIS:   I liked “The Big Parade” better the first time I watched it. This time I found it quite the antique.  The scenes linger way past their expiration date.  It is more of a romance than a war movie.  Thank God for the big combat scene which saves the movie in the end.  It also has a great ending, although its schmaltzy.  I do believe it is overrated and was seeded too high.  But that is because IMDB judged it as a movie, not as a war movie and it got the ”classic” bump.  It had an easy first round opponent in the mediocre “Fighting 69th”.  It may be a talkie, but it is even more of a dinosaur than “Parade”.  I like Cagney, but he embarrasses himself in this movie.  Instead of concentrating on Donovan and Kilmer, we get Plunkitt.  And Duffy does not come off well as he continues to support an a-hole. 

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