The Good, The Bad and The Critic

Established on March 19th, 2012 and pioneered by film fanatic Michael J. Carlisle. The Good, The Bad and The Critic will analyze classic and contemporary films from all corners of the globe. This title references Sergei Leone's influential spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) Review

 Title: Hail the Conquering Hero
Year: 1944
Director: Preston Sturges
Country: US
Language: English

Criterion Channel has a prestigious "Directed By" Collection of Preston Sturges films that are limited engagements, leaving the channel on May 31st, 2021. As a fan of The Lady Eve & Sullivan's Travels I had to make it my duty to see the remaining 5 films in the 7 film collection. Sturges is known for being a master Golden Hollywood director, whose well-written films captured the hearts of America during war-time. 

Woodrow (Eddie Bracken) is discharged from the military for hay fever, but fabricates receiving a heroic honorable discharge before returning home.

A fast paced romp filled with broad comic characters and some great farcical set pieces, like the hopelessly complicated welcome party at the station, Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) certainly fits the mold of what a World War Two Hollywood classic comedy typically looks like. The film has a charm despite its almost propaganda pro-military stance. Sturges dissects heroism, the American Dream, politics and justice in a smooth, precise and somewhat entertaining way.

Unfortunately, unlike Sturges' other pictures, I found Hail the Conquering Hero quite dated. This story has been told several hundred times; one doesn't have to be a theatre geek to figure out the entire plot before the film begins. Sturges' picture is also 30 minutes too long. Much of it, particularly after the town decides Woodrow should be their mayor, is meandering. Jokes are revisited, such as the villain giving his dictation, & become less enjoyable the second time around. 

Though the film isn't bad overall, it is clearly not one of Sturges best. Infact it may be his least inspiring picture. There was a time & audience Hail the Conquering Hero would have worked for, but that has passed. Watch Miracle of Morgan's Creek instead!

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