Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The West Point Story (1950)

THE WEST POINT STORY is a pleasant version of "Let's put on a show!" at the venerable military institution, with a great cast including James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, and Gene Nelson.

The down sides: the film plods along a bit slowly, clocking in at 107 minutes, and it might have benefited from color photography instead of black and white; Cagney's manipulative character gets a bit old before he shapes up.

The up side is an engaging cast and several energetic musical numbers which provide good entertainment. West Point, its history and traditions provide an interesting setting.

For Cagney, the film represented a return to musicals, with several years having passed since YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942). The movie also reunited Cagney with Virginia Mayo, his costar from 1949's classic crime drama WHITE HEAT. Mayo acquits herself very well in her dance numbers, particularly "It Could Only Happen in Brooklyn," a duet with Cagney.

Day and MacRae have winning personalities and voices, as usual, and Nelson has a chance to shine as a dancer. The trio of Day, MacRae, and Nelson appeared in two films in 1950, the other being TEA FOR TWO, which is available on DVD. Day and MacRae would go on to star in two musicals I especially love, ON MOONLIGHT BAY (1951) and BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON (1953). In 1955 Day would reunite with James Cagney for the superb LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME -- the same year MacRae and Nelson starred in OKLAHOMA!

The supporting cast of THE WEST POINT STORY includes Alan Hale Jr., Roland Winters, Frank Ferguson, and Jerome Cowan. Jack Kelly (MAVERICK) appears in a scene as an officer-in-charge who busts MacRae and Nelson when they leave campus without permission; he's only seen in left profile.

Second unit photography was done at West Point, including the use of doubles in a couple of long shots, but the principal actors appear in front of back projections.

THE WEST POINT STORY was directed by Roy Del Ruth.

THE WEST POINT STORY is available on DVD as a single-title release or in the 5-film James Cagney Signature Collection. January 2017 Update: The movie is also available on DVD from the Warner Archive beginning in February 2017.

This film has also had a release on VHS.

THE WEST POINT STORY can also be seen as part of the library on Turner Classic Movies; you can suggest that TCM schedule the movie on this page.

This movie would make a fun double bill with the Powell-Keeler musical FLIRTATION WALK (1934).


Blogger Irene said...

Yesterday the Sunday Morning show on CBS did a really nice profile piece on Doris Day.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for that info, Irene, I'll see if maybe they have it available online.

Best wishes,

9:23 AM  

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