Time for another review from my 2015 10 Classics list!
THE LONG GRAY LINE (1955) was directed by the great John Ford, starring two of my favorite actors, Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara. The movie was a reunion for Power and O'Hara, who had worked together on THE BLACK SWAN (1942) over a dozen years previously.
I think I had put off seeing THE LONG GRAY LINE, despite loving the cast, because I knew it was going to tug at my heartstrings -- and indeed it did, but in the best possible way. It's a wonderful movie, and its warm, sentimental tone made it perfect for watching during the holidays, with a Christmas Eve scene being a peak emotional moment. It's a beautiful, uplifting film.
The movie tells the story of Marty Maher (Power), an Irish immigrant who spends over 50 years working at West Point. Marty begins as a waiter, then enlists and works as a physical fitness instructor, ultimately becoming a noncomissioned officer. As the decades pass he mentors many young men, some of whom will ultimately lead the U.S. army during WWII.
Marty marries Mary (O'Hara), another Irish immigrant who works as a cook for Marty's boss, Captain Kohler (Ward Bond). Marty and Mary save enough money to bring his father (Donald Crisp) and brother (Sean McClory) over from Ireland. (Crisp, of course, played O'Hara's father in HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, while McClory was in THE QUIET MAN.) As the years go by Marty and Mary suffer great loss, but there are also many special people and moments in their lives.
Everyone in the film is excellent, but Tyrone Power is the glue who holds the entire thing together, on screen most of the movie, and he's simply superb. His character ages gracefully, aided by some of the best "aging" makeup I've seen in a film of that era; like John Wayne in Ford's SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), Power is completely believable as the older Marty. Seeing the movie underscores once more what a great loss Power's death, just three years later, was for cinema.
The film has a wonderful supporting cast including Phil Carey, Harry Carey Jr., Betsy Palmer, Robert Francis, William Leslie, Martin Milner, Patrick Wayne, Peter Graves, and Milburn Stone. Extensive location filming at West Point adds to the feeling of authenticity.
The movie runs a bit longish at 138 minutes, but it's engrossing all the way. Edward Hope's screenplay was based on the memoir BRINGING UP THE BRASS by Martin Maher and Nardi Reeder Campion.
THE LONG GRAY LINE was filmed in CinemaScope and Technicolor by Charles Lawton Jr.. IMDb says that Charles Lang also contributed uncredited work as a cinematographer.
THE LONG GRAY LINE is available in a lovely widescreen DVD as part of John Ford: The Columbia Films Collection from TCM; my understanding is that this is the best print of the film which has been released. Extras include an introduction by Leonard Maltin.
It also had previous DVD and VHS releases.
THE LONG GRAY LINE is a wonderful movie, and I'm so glad my 10 Classics list gave me the impetus to finally sit down and enjoy it!