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Laramie Movie Scope:
Hail the Conquering Hero

Comedy of courage, saluting real heroes from the halls of Montezuma

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1944, b/w) When six Marines just back from Guadalcanal sit down in a bar with only 15˘ among them (having lost the rest of their dough gambling), a guy at the end of the bar buys them all beers. Their generous benefactor is Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith (Eddie Bracken), who's been working in the shipyard in San Francisco for the past year after getting a medical discharged from the Corps for chronic hayfever.

Listening to Woodrow recite his family's proud tradition of patriotic military service while expressing his shame at not being permitted to follow in his father's boot steps, Sgt Julius Heppelfinger (William Demarest) recognizes that Woodrow is Sgt Hinky Dinky's boy. Woodrow's father, with whom Heppelfinger served in World War I, was killed at Belleau Wood on the day Woodrow entered the world; Sgt Truesmith received the Medal of Honor for bravery.

Too embarrassed to tell his mother, Woodrow hasn't been in touch. "Think of your mother," says a motherless Marine, who after placing a call to Oakridge, Calif., informs Mrs Truesmith (Georgia Caine) that her son, wounded and honorably discharged after fighting at Guadalcanal, will be returning home the next day.

Accompanying Woodrow, whom they dress in a Marine uniform with medals, Sgt Heppelfinger and his men, make every effort at preventing Woodrow from removing the uniform and ruining their plan, on the train home. The entire townspeople welcome their young hero with four bands and a speech by Mayor Everett D. Noble (Raymond Walburn), running for re-election.

However, Woodrow's girlfriend Libby (Ella Raines), having received a letter from Woodrow, telling her he'd fallen in love with somebody else, is engaged to the mayor's son Forrest (also a chronic sufferer of hayfever).

In church the pastor announces that the citizens, as a civic expression of appreciation, have paid off Mrs Truesmith's mortgage; also funds are being raised for monument to the Truesmith heroes.

Finally, as further humiliation, Judge Dennis and a committee in opposition to Mayor Noble beseech an uneasy Woodrow to accept their party's nomination. Asked to speak as their candidate, Woodrow says he's unworthy: "I'm no hero." But the audience rejoices in having a humble, "honest man for mayor."

Sgt Heppelfinger and the five other Marines then tell of Woodrow's single-handedly saving each of their lives. When Woodrow complains about the falsification of facts, the sarge says: "Every one of those boys is telling the truth, except they change the names a little so as not to give out military information…. Anyway, those ain't lies. Those are campaign promises. They expect them."

Eventually Libby (who is Mayor Noble's secretary) finds an opportunity to tell Woodrow she's going to marry decent, tall, handsome, wealthy Forrest - "Who's all right," says Woodrow, pleased that at least she's not going to get mixed up in the consequences of his shenanigans, "if you like people like that" - but when he tries to explain that he's a phony, his pals come along.

Following a restless night, Woodrow conceives of a brilliant solution to his dilemma. So often in both love and politics ("Win with Woodrow") people want someone without applying reason to their choice opines director/writer Preston Sturges's comedy of courage, while saluting real heroes from the halls of Montezuma.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2009 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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