LONG GRAY LINE
(director: John Ford; screenwriters: Edward Hope/based on the autobiography Bringing Up the Brass by Marty Maher & Nardi Reeder Campion; cinematographer: Charles Lawton Jr.; editor: William A. Lyons; music: George Duning/Morris Stoloff; cast: Tyrone Power (Martin Maher), Maureen O’Hara (Mary O’Donnell), Robert Francis (James Sundstrom, Jr.), Donald Crisp (Old Martin), Ward Bond (Capt. Herman Kohler), Erin O’Brien Moore (Mrs. Koehler), Betsy Palmer (Kitty Carter), Harry Carey Jr (President Dwight D. Eisenhower), Phil Carey (Chuck Dotson), Patrick Wayne (Cherub Overton), Robert Francis (James Sundstrom), William Leslie (Red Sundstrom), Walter D. Ehlers (Mike Shannon), Milburn Stone (Capt. Pershing), Sean McClory (Dinny Maher), Peter Graves (Cpl. Rudolph Heinz), Jack Fennick (Recruiting Sergeant); Runtime: 137; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Arthur; Columbia Pictures; 1955)
“Eloquently and simply directed by John Ford.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Though filled with a fair quotient of blarney, the inspirational West Point drama is still effective as family entertainment. It’s based on a true story of an Irish immigrant, Marty Maher (Tyrone Power), who came to the USMA as a civilian mess hall waiter and then enlisted in the army to pay off his debts incurred from the dish breakage due to his clumsiness. Despite getting off to a rough start in his army career, the gritty lad rose through the ranks to become a beloved athletic instructor at the military academy and stayed there for the rest of his life. His story spans two world wars, and it makes for a grand but minor film that is eloquently and simply directed by John Ford (“The Iron Horse”/”The Hurricane”/”Stagecoach”).
It’s based on Marty Maher’s memoir Bringing Up the Brass and is co-written by Nardi Reeder Campion. The screenplay is by Edward Hope.
After a fight with an enlisted man (Peter Graves) and being sent to the brig, Marty impresses the West Point boxing instructor Capt. Herman J. Koehler (Ward Bond) with his boxing skills and soon after the man from Tipperary begins teaching boxing classes. Marty meets the Koehler’s cook, Mary O’Donnell (Maureen O’Hara), an attractive young woman who has just arrived from County Donegal and he ends up marrying her.
Advancing to a corporal and then a sergeant, the athletic instructor after the loss of his only child due to a stillborn birth settles for becoming a popular surrogate father to the cadets as Mary is told she can’t have any more children. The heart of the film shows Marty’s love affair with the military academy and his handling of all kinds of adverse and joyous situations. When at 71, serving at the Point for 50 years, he arranges a meeting with President Eisenhower (Harry Carey Jr) to prevent his forced resignation because of age and Ike arranges for Marty’s return to the Academy. When back at the Point, the delighted cadets arrange for a full dress parade in his honor and the sentimental patriotic pic ends as the humble man is honored by rank after rank of cadets passing in review and Irish tunes played by the band as in a hokey way both the living and dead friends of Marty (an institution at the institution) seem to be at the ceremony.
REVIEWED ON 1/28/2014 GRADE: B