Real Glory The (1939)

Real Glory The (1939)

This Samuel Goldwyn (co-)produced Henry Hathaway directed action adventure film will remind classic movie fans of the director’s The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935) which like this one also stars Gary Cooper and even Gunga Din (1939) released almost 9 months earlier that same year. This one is set in the Philippines some distance from Manila in lieu of the British Colony of India in 1906 (shortly after the San Francisco earthquake). However the island setting provides virtually identical set pieces like a rocky terrain requiring a suspension bridge for one startlingly similar scene and several of the story-lines lineup also: a native islander (in place of the native titled Indian) who helps the “white” military officers (not British in this case but post Spanish-American war soldiers) that compete over same gal (Cooper winning over David Niven in lieu of his fellow Lancers) while battling a native fanatic bent on wiping them out with everything culminating in a climactic siege on the fort during which a major character or characters are killed. Even the musical score sounds recycled which shouldn’t surprise given the fact that Alfred Newman also composed Din’s. Unfortunately the director (probably prompted by his producer) made Cooper a bit too singularly heroic in this one: his military medical doctor character singlehandedly solves the cholera problem by blowing up a dam makes his way down impossible rapids on a raft by himself after his mates had fallen off and then throws dynamite in three different directions to stop the advancing ‘bad’ natives dubbed Moro who’d surrounded the fort. Absent these incredible feats it might have been an above average drama; instead it’s just an entertaining ride.

The screenplay was written by Robert Presnell Sr. and Jo Swerling from the novel by Charles Clifford. Andrea Leeds plays the female lead the daughter of Reginald Owen’s character who’s the “drill sergeant”-like captain in charge (that’s gradually losing his sight) after the Mojo’s chief Alipang (Tetsu Komai) and his committed suicidal warriors have systematically eliminated the other top officers (Roy Gordon and Russell Hicks; Kay Johnson plays Hicks’s wife) attempting to provoke a confrontation on their terms in the jungle. Niven isn’t given too much to do besides fall victim to cholera until the end. Broderick Crawford plays the third male in this film’s love quadrangle (with Leeds’s character) an orchid growing lieutenant who follows orders. Vladimir Sokoloff plays the native Datu who for some reason no one figures out is in cahoots with Alipang; he works and even leads among the ‘good’ natives undetected. Child actor Benny Inocencio plays Miguel who despite the fact that he too is Moro is worthy of trust and helps Cooper’s character. Charles Waldron plays Padre Rafael a missionary; Rudy Robles plays Yabo who earns the rank of lieutenant among the natives that are fighting for their independence against the Moro. Henry Kolker appears as the General who withdraws the American occupying forces (at the film’s beginning) as a test to see whether the natives can and will ever defend themselves against the Moro and fight for their own democracy. The aforementioned officers are the ones left behind charged with training the Filipinos.

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