“-I knew the Marines could do almost anything, but I never knew they could do anything like this.
-You got no idea.”
The main character Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith (Eddie Bracken) comes from a town that was built on his grandfather’s homestead. His father served in the marine corps and died at Belleau Wood the day Woodrow was born. When WWII came along Woodrow went and joined the corps. After a month they medically discharged him for chronic hay fever. At the beginning of the film he is sitting in a bar drinking because he is too scared to go home. That’s when six marines who have just lost all but 15 cents on their first day of leave walk into the bar. Hearing that six marines are having to split a single beer he buys them a round. Soon they get to talking and it turns out the sergeant knew Woodrow’s father and in fact was there when he died. Another marine was an orphan and when he hears that Woodrow is keeping his mother worrying because he’s scared to go home he immediately jumps on the telephone as soon as Woodrow drops the name of his town. He gets in touch with Woodrow’s mother and tells her that Woodrow was wounded at Guadalcanal and they are going to be bringing him home. After a few moments of thought, the sergeant thinks he has it figured out and thus begins Woodrow’s journey home.
The marines get him a uniform and they give him one of their medals. They figure they can get him home and back with his mother then slip out again. The problem is that the whole town is waiting for his train to welcome home their hero. What follows is a very funny and patriotic film with a light touch that rings true. It takes Woodrow the whole film, but he eventually figures it out. The marines weren’t getting Woodrow home for his benefit. They were doing it for themselves and Woodrow’s town. He’s the hero they both need taking care of things at home.
What I don’t like about that shot is the check suit. I agree with the saleslady in the film. It’s the check within the check within the check that bothers me. The fact that he is hanging from a building by a chain holding a cowboy hat doesn’t phase me in the slightest. The fact that the chain is attached to a lion on the ledge of said building doesn’t seem strange at all. After all, what would you expect from a collaboration between the king of screwball comedies, Preston Sturges, and one of the kings of silent comedy, Harold Lloyd.
The film begins with the ending of Harold Lloyd’s film The Freshman (1925) where Harold wins the football game for his college. This film picks up with the end of that game and Harold is offered a job when he graduates. He takes that job and is told that is going to be put at the very bottom so that he can rise to the top. He stays at the bottom for nearly 20 years when he is called in by the boss a broken man. The wild-eyed boy we loved from the silent screen has become depressed and middle-aged. He’s fired, but we get the distinct impression after he talks with a co-worker that a change may just be what he needs. He tells her about all her many sisters who came through the firm and left before he had the guts to ask them out. He leaves a ring with her in the hopes she will put it to use where he didn’t. It’s not original, but pretty quickly Harold ends up having his first drink. That drink causes the purchase of the suit in the picture above and a wild horse race bet that changes his life forever.
What makes this film work so well is that Sturges was able to get Harold to deliver lines with the rapidity and timing necessary to make them work. Harold did the physical comedy like the master was. What happens to Harold is pretty wacky, but it works perfectly even if you have never seen a Harold Lloyd film before. If you have you will appreciate it even more.