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Hail the Conquering Hero
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Academy Award-winning writer and director Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels) delivers a hilarious satire on the American penchant for hero worship in Hail the Conquering Hero. Born on the day his father died a hero in WWI, Woodrow Truesmith (Eddie Bracken) enlists proudly when WWII begins. Although anxious to serve his country, Woodrow is quickly discharged because of his chronic hay fever. Ashamed to return, the “conquering hero” manages to dupe his girlfriend, friends and entire hometown by having his buddies forward his letters from the “Pacific.” Nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award, this quick-witted comedy classic showcases the talents of Preston Sturges at his best.
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Remarkable for its perceptive portrait of small town America going over he top in its hero worship. Having been discharged from the Marines for hay fever, Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith played by Eddie Bracken runs into a group of returning marines he pays drinks for that decide to return the favour by pretending he had seen action and be welcomed back to his mother as a hero.
His father had died heroically in the earlier war as a marine.
The story is fast moving and shapes up as a satire on the role of moms, hero worship and small town enterprise shaped America.
Bracken plays his sudden hero role in a decidedly wimpy fashion throughout most of the film up to the latter scenes where reveals great strength of character and the film ends on an unlikely but welcome high note that bravery is often performed off the battle field as on.
Sturges offers a treasure trove of character actors such as the wonderfully incendiary William Demarest, Ray Walburn as the town's mayor and Franklin Pangborn that steal their scenes effortlessly.
Woodrow's love interest Libby, played by Ella Raines has fewer lines to work with. Only in the latter scenes does she come alive.
Particularly haunting was a depiction of post traumatic stress disorder in one of returning marines who became fixated on Woodrow's mom as well. Though framed as running gag, director Sturges gives this minor plot an awesome grace that makes this film so viewable.
This is US film-making at its best. Well worth collecting and repeated reviewing.
The quality of the digital print was excellent as well.