Pride of the Marines
Directed by Delmer Daves
Written by Albert Malz and Marvin Borowsky from a novel by Roger Butterfield
Al Schmid: Just for luck, maybe the ship’ll come in tomorrow with some mail on it.
Lee Diamond: Why is it that everything good is always gonna happen tomorrow?
This didn’t quite measure up to my expectations after seeing Garfield top-billed but it’s not bad by any means. It’s mostly a coming home story but the one combat sequence is really the highlight.
Al Schmid (Garfield) is an ordinary Joe and factory worker. He’s also a confirmed bachelor and ever wary of his landlady’s efforts to matchmake. So he is deeply suspicious when the lady invites her friend, an alleged great bowler, to her birthday dinner. Even though the friend turns out to be Ruth Hartley, a woman as beautiful as Eleanor Parker who plays her, Al treats her pretty shamefully. But one thing leads to another and Ruth proves herself to be a ready companion for hunting and fishing, Al’s two passions, and they fall in love.
Then Pearl Harbor is attacked. Al enlists in the Marines. Before setting off for boot camp he attempts to set Ruth free but thinks better of it at the last minute. After he is on Guadalcanal one of his great regrets will be not marrying her.
But Guadalcanal does not give Al much opportunity to ponder such things. He is a machine gun operator stuck in a fox hole with two buddies and a horde of Japanese calling out “Marine, tonight you die” through the darkness. When they attack, the Marines are clearly scared out of their wits. One gets killed quickly and another, Al’s buddy Lee (Dane Clark), is badly wounded. Somehow the three stave off the attack. But everything culminates in a well-aimed grenade which robs Al of his sight.
Back in the States, Al refuses to write to Ruth until he can have the operation that he is convinced will restore his sight. When the operation is not successful, Al becomes despondent, refuses to participate in his rehabilitation, and wants to break it off with Ruth. The rest of the story deals with Al’s extremely reluctant adjustment to the very real possibility that he will be totally blind.
This is an OK movie. I thought the sequence on Guadalcanal was extremely effective. It seems to me nighttime combat scenes work particularly well for some reason. The heckling and shouts of Bonzai from the enemy made it seem eerily scary and real. The melodrama is not up to the combat but was pretty good. I could have done without the last minute of the film.
Pride of the Marines received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay.