For Reel

Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
June 23, 2012, 6:31 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Preston Sturges

Preston Sturges’ eighth and final film for Paramount was his most scathingly satirical. Eddie Bracken, who Sturges came to admire after his performance in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, plays the exhaustingly named Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith, the son of a Marine hero who is dismissed from service due to his chronic hay fever. Too ashamed to confront his mother with the news, he works instead on a shipyard until, one evening, a few servicemen take a liking to him and offer to vouch for his bravery to his hometown. Upon his return, the community is sent into a frenzy of celebrity worship, going as far as requesting that he take the mayoral position that he had not even campaigned for. While such hero-worshipping is the subject of Sturges’ most blatant skewering, it is really a film about small-town politics. A veterinarian in town seems to be the ideal candidate for the community, however his lack of charisma has meant that the current mayor, a phony who cares little about anything but reelection, has reigned in the office. When Bracken is confronted about being a leader, he has a telling monologue about the town wherein he pleads, “Everybody thinking about little profits and how not to pay the taxes and reasons for not buying bonds and not working too hard. […] That’s why we need an honest man for mayor.” The people, though, don’t want a good, honest man. They want the flashiest blowhard who comes along. While The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek and The Palm Beach Story were both exemplary masterpieces of satire, it was Hail the Conquering Hero that served as Sturges’ most urgent appeal to audiences.

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