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TELL IT TO THE MARINES (director: George Hill; screenwriters: Joseph Farnham/E. Richard Schayer; cinematographer: Ira Morgan; editor: Blanche Sewell; music: Robert Israel; cast: Lon Chaney (Sgt. O’Hara), William Haines (Pvt. “Skeet” Burns), Eleanor Boardman (Norma Dale), Eddie Gribbon (Cpl. Madden), Warner Oland (Chinese bandit leader), Frank Currier (General), Carmel Myers (Zaya); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating:NR; producer: Irving G. Thalberg; TCM; 1926-silent)
“Dated romantic, comedy and adventure tale that was popular during its release but when viewed today seemsjust to be silly.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It was MGM’s second highest grossing film of 1926. The shipboard sequences were filmed on the USS California, which was sunk in the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was the first film the Marines fully co-operated with. George Hill (“The Big House”/”The Midnight Express”/”Min and Bill”)directs this dated romantic, comedy and adventure tale that was popular during its release but when viewed today seemsjust to be silly. The film made a star out of William Haines, who later gave up his movie career to become a successful interior designer.

Smart-alecky Kansas boySkeet Burns (William Haines) goes to San Diego on the pretext of joining the Marines, but really to get a free train ride to the racetrack across the border in Tia Juana, Mexico. But when he loses, he joins the Marines for a four-year hitch. His drill sergeant is the hard-boiled Sgt. O’Hara (Lon Chaney), who makes it his mission to straighten out the misfit soldier.

O’Hara is smitten with pretty Navy nurse Norma Dale (Eleanor Boardman), but she finds more in common with sadsack soldier Skeet.

We follow Skeet’s misadventures for four years, from his hapless troublesome days in basic training to his immature reckless behavior on Tondo Island to his sudden maturity in becoming a hero in the Marine rescue of Americans held hostage by Chinese bandits in the Chinese city of Hangchow. Norma was one of the nurses rescued, while Warner Oland (the future Charlie Chan) was the Chinese bandit leader. Back in San Diego, the gruff O’Hara shows a big heart by not taking it out on the kid for winning the girl in the end.

Chaney achieved stardom the year before for his role in The Phantom of the Opera. This pic is one of the few times when “the man of a thousand faces” appeared without elaborate make-up and masks.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”