"Hail The Conquering Hero" Is Released
Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) is a satirical comedy/drama written and directed by Preston Sturges, starring Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines and William Demarest, and featuring Raymond Walburn, Franklin Pangborn, Elizabeth Patterson and Bill Edwards.
Sturges was nominated for a 1945 Academy Award for his screenplay. Many critics consider the film to be one of Sturges' best. It was the eighth film he made for Paramount Pictures, and also his last, although The Great Moment was released after it. Sturges later wrote about his departure "I guess Paramount was glad to be rid of me eventually, as no one there ever understood a word I said."
It took nerve for writer/director Preston Sturges to lampoon the whole concept of hero worship in the middle of World War II, but once more Sturges' oddball sense of taste and propriety paid off at the box office in Hail the Conquering Hero. Eddie Bracken plays the son of a World War I Marine hero who is the first in his small town to sign up for military service. When Bracken is discharged from the Marines for hay fever, he hasn't the nerve to go home and tell his mother and the rest of the townsfolk. Fortunately, he is befriended by a bunch of good-hearted Marines, led by sergeant William Demarest. Bracken's new buddies decide to help him save face by accompanying him to his home and telling one and all that Bracken has served valiantly in the Pacific. Lauded as a hero thanks to this subterfuge, the hapless Bracken finds himself being coerced into running for mayor! When he finally does confess the truth, the townspeople decide that only a real hero would own up to his lies in public. As always, Preston Sturges' richly varied supporting cast makes the most of every scene they're in, especially Raymond Walburn as a blustering politico and Franklin Pangborn as a persnickety councilman. Special mention must be made of Ella Raines as a refreshingly non-cliched heroine, and ex-boxer Freddie Steele as a morose Marine with a Mother complex. While Eddie Bracken's nerdish mannerisms can wear on the viewer, he is kept marvelously in check throughout Hail the Conquering Hero. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide