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What Price Glory (1952)

Though John Ford is undeniably one of the greats, he was also a notorious drunkard — left to his own devices, he'd just as soon climb into a bottle as roll film. That's why he tried to work constantly; it kept him straight, and it's why so many titles in his oeuvre are lackluster when compared to other great directors who have far better batting averages. What Price Glory (1952) is another one of his "keeping busy" efforts; it's a remake of Raoul Walsh's 1926 adaptation of Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings play of the same name, and was dusted off by Desk Set scribes Henry and Phoebe Ehpron. Perhaps their hands are why the picture plays more like a love story between two men than a war film. Set during World War I, James Cagney stars as Marine Capt. Flagg, a hard-living, hard-drinking, hard-fighting leader, who is assigned Quint (Dan Dailey) as his First Sergeant. The two have a history together, and the moment Quint arrives, the two wind up in fisticuffs. Flagg soon leaves for eight days in Paris, forcing Quint to break in their greenhorn recruits. But he also has enough time to get familiar with Flagg's lady Charmaine (Corinne Clavet) — which causes even more fighting between the two. The pair are then assigned a difficult mission when ordered to capture a German official alive, but even after they are successful, the two force themselves in a final battle over who will marry Charmaine — one will have to get the better of the other. Though sold as a war film, the majority of What Price Glory is set in a French village where no fighting occurs, except between Flagg and Quint (who are in many ways their own doppelgangers). But it's the sort of quarreling that makes them look like an old married couple. Tension is built around the question of who will win Charmaine, but in the end, it's only fitting that the two go off to war together and leave her behind for another day. An inconsequential picture, the war sequences are well photographed, and Ford's eye is as strong here as it is in his best work — nobody can doubt that he knows how to frame a shot. And while the leads are fine, Clavet seems to be doing a Marlene Dietrich impression, and Ford's idea of humorous drunkenness and painful comic hangovers seems something from a bygone era. Also of note are the appearances of Robert Wagner, William Demarest, and Harry Morgan. Fox presents What Price Glory in its original Academy ratio (1.33:1) and both DD 2.0 stereo and 2.0 mono audio. There is mild color damage to the source-print, with red streaks occasionally running along the right side. Extras include two trailers for this title and trailers for other Fox war films. Keep-case.

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