Battle Cry

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BATTLE CRY—-giant 1955 box-office hit is a big, tame, enjoyable, totally familiar WW2 saga. Scripted by Leon Uris, culled from his 1953 bestseller, which he based on his experiences as a Marine during the war. Cleansed for the screen, it’s about as lusty as the Rover Boys.

4383-2Aimed to be gutsy and sexy, it comes across quaint and corny. Director Raoul Walsh keeps things flowing at 149 minutes, but interjects little visual flair or snap in his staging. There’s no action until the last half-hour, when the boys get to Saipan, but although the production is large-scale (lots of co-operation from the Corps) the fighting is mainly just noisy, not even a hint of the awfulness of that island slaughter-ground.  Few Leathernecks get hit in all the racket, so it’s old-school in that the horrors of combat come across more like a fun-spoiling inconvenience.

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Max Steiner’s Oscar-nominated music score is fervently patriotic; his flamboyance was always best in the march department and he gets plenty of room to blast forth heroic melodies here.

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Most of the running time concerns itself with the romantic entanglements of your typical all-American squad as they move from San Diego boot camp to the roiling Pacific, with a few pit stops.  Aldo Ray does well as a womanizing lumberjack who falls for a nice ‘skirt’ (Nancy Olson) in New Zealand.  Tab Hunter plays Mr.Wholesome who eventually returns to the puppysweet snookums back home (Mona Freeman) but not until he’s waylaid by a sex-hungry USO dame, panted across by that champ 50s fox Dorothy Malone: few actresses of the day could put as much wanton carnality into their straining sweaters.

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Bookish twerp John Lupton falls for trollop Anne Francis, Justus McQueen* and Perry Lopez crack the jokes and gruff James Whitmore is the sarge who keeps ’em all in line. Van Heflin is the regimental commander who has iron in his keister and a root beer float in his heart.

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It was a big year for WW2 movies, but the grosses for Battle Cry were out of all proportion to its quality, the $17,000,000 take (third for the year after Cinerama Holiday and Mister Roberts ) if adjusted to 2016 would amount to $284,000,000, making it #267 on the roll call of all films ever released.

With Felix Noreigo, William Campbell, Fess Parker, Carleton Young, Susan Morrow, Rhys Williams, Gregory Walcott, Willis Bouchley, Frank Ferguson and a cameo role from Raymond Massey.

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  • *McQueen got some of the best reviews. He changed his name to that of the character he played here and the newly christened ‘L.Q. Jones’ gave us decades of excellent supporting performances.  I remember first seeing this entertaining softsoaper when I was nine. The local Seattle TV station showed it during part of the several days telecast of the 1964 Republican National Convention. So I forever link Barry Goldwater and John Wayne (who made a speech there at the Cow Palace) to this chestnut.
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