From the Shores of Tripoli, file#3


Maureen O'Hara and John Payne
1941 20th Century Fox production To The Shores of Tripoli

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

CLASSIC or ANTIQUE? To the Shores of Tripoli (1942)

“To the Shores Tripoli” is a service film that was directly impacted by Pearl Harbor. The movie was filmed at the Marine Corps Training Center in San Diego in 1941. It was directed by H. Bruce Humberstone (remember that name when I discuss how good the movie is). Adjustments were made in post-production to take advantage of the attack. The movie was a big box office success and was credited with greatly increasing Marine Corps recruiting.

The film begins with a dedication to the Marines and a reference to Wake Island (“Send us more, Japs!”). Wealthy playboy Chris Winters (John Payne) arrives at boot camp to carry on the family tradition of being a Marine. He’s not really into that macho bull shit and expects to be treated like God’s gift to the Marine Corps. They wouldn’t dare make him peel potatoes. His father, the ex-Marine, expects the Corps to make a man out of his worthless son. Something has got to give.

Winters meets a nurse, Lt. Mary Carter (Maureen O’ Hara), and targets her as his next conquest. She is torn because she realizes he is a hound, but she can’t help being attracted to him. She even sticks with him when she sees him with his gold-digger fiancé. She can’t help it!

“I think I can help with that inflated ego

Winters other significant other is his Gunnery Sergeant Dixie Smith (Randolph Scott – “Randolph Scott!”). If you want to know what kind of DI he is – think the exact opposite of R. Lee Ermey. Smith is the sensitive type of drill sergeant. He’s going to make a man out of Winters through soft love (as opposed to tough love). He treats the rest of the recruits with equal restraint. Boot camp is fraught with – nothing. (Join the Marines – We’ll Treat You Right) It turns out that Winters does not have to peel potatoes! Surprisingly, Winters turns out to be a good soldier and leader. In spite of all the love, Winters and Smith still have to have the obligatory fight. It is one of the worst staged fights in boot camp fights’ history. Sarge lies and says he threw the first punch so Winters’ father will not die of shame. Plus the Marine Corps needs a few good lounge lizards. The men go on maneuvers. Winters gets to save Smith’s life when the Sarge ineptly gets left behind at a gunnery target. Could this movie get any stupider? Yes.

Are they fighting or dancing?

In spite of being made into a man, Winters decides to choose his fiancé and a cushy government job over the Corps. They are riding off into the sunset when word of Pearl Harbor comes over the radio. He doesn’t care. Just kidding. He races back to San Diego and his true loves – nurse Carter, Sgt. Smith, and the U.S. Marine Corps. He joins his unit as it marches toward a transport ship. He changes into his uniform as they march. (Payne claimed this piece of “acting” was the hardest part of the shoot. Being an actor is so hard!) A guy in the crowd waves a flag while holding a placard that reads “Me Chinese”. Gag! Winters father calls out “Get me a Jap!” Arrgh! Mary is waiting to give him a kiss. Barf! Everyone sings the Marine Corps hymn. Give me a break!

“To the Shores of Tripoli” is one of the worst war movies I have seen. If ever a terrible film benefited from timing, this one did. The proximity to the attack on Pearl Harbor explains its popularity. Plus, let’s face it, 1940s audiences loved patriotic crap. A similar movie today would be laughed out of the theaters. The producers deserve some credit for being crafty enough to tack on the ending. The original ended with the standard smooch between the leads indicative that he was a domesticated male.

The plot makes no sense. The characters are all unrealistic. Nurse Carter would not have fallen for Winters. Smith is the biggest cream puff in drill sergeant history. Winters is unrealistic, except in Hollywood terms where he is a stereotype. It is painful to watch three good actors making asses of themselves. But then, they all acted poorly in the film so there’s that. The only positive I can say about it is that it was one of the first films shot in Technicolor. Maureen O’Hara got her title of “The Queen of Technicolor” from this film. Ironically, she was a brunette for the film instead of her trademark red hair. Another example of how screwed up the movie is.

Classic or Antique? Dinosaur.


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