TO THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI
(director: H. Bruce Humberstone; screenwriters: Lamar Trotti/from the story by Steve Fisher; cinematographers: Edward Cronjager/Harry Jackson/William V. Skall; editor: Allen McNeil; cast: John Payne (Chris Winters), Maureen O’Hara (Mary Carter), Randolph Scott (Sergeant Dixie Smith), Nancy Kelly (Helene Hunt), William Tracy (Johnny Dent), Maxie Rosenbloom (Okay Jones), Minor Watson (Capt. Christopher Winters); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1942)
“It serves best as a recruitment film for the U.S. Marines.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A decent but unexciting big-budget Technicolor formulaic WWII flagwaiver that has no fighting scenes (despite what the title implies) but instead takes place entirely at a San Diego marine base. It serves best as a recruitment film for the U.S. Marines. What makes this film unique was that it was made during the war; it also had the marine’s full cooperation and blessing. It’s directed in a workmanlike way by H. Bruce Humberstone (“I Wake Up Screaming”), and it’s based on the rah-rah story by Steve Fisher. The writer is Lamar Trotti.
Spoiled playboy Chris Winters (John Payne) is shanghaied by his tough marine captain father into enlisting in the marines to make a man out of him after graduating from the Culver Academy. He’s assigned to basic training under no-nonsense Sergeant Dixie Smith (Randolph Scott), who is friends with Chris’s father and served under him as “top sergeant” in the First World War. At first things seem hopeless for the wise guy Chris, who has a bad attitude about fitting in. But with the tough love received from Smith, who is always on his back, Chris discovers the meaning of “Semper Fidelis” after many hardships and becomes accepted as a marine. At the end of basic training, he and his colorful buddies are sent overseas for combat duty. There’s also the subplot of Chris falling in love with navy officer nurse Mary Carter (Maureen O’Hara) and ditching his hometown sweetheart Helene Hunt (Nancy Kelly).
Some of it was filmed in Hawaii just before Pearl Harbor was attacked. If it didn’t have the serious background of the war, it would just be a routine wiseguy tale of learning life lessons over duty and responsibility. Instead of doing anything to make a fresh wartime story, Humberstone just fills it with uninteresting clichés and a story line that has no fervor. Though the music is inspiring not much else is, as everything seems artificial despite the authentic location shots.
REVIEWED ON 5/29/2007 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/