Director: Mark Sandrich
Writer: Allan Scott
Cinematographer: Charles Lang
Producer: Mark Sandrich
by Jon Cvack
When I reflect about wartime films produced during WWII, I often think of their celebration of the cause. They were often used as propaganda pieces, which while a strong word presently, essentially was a way to excite people about the grander cause. So Proudly We Hail! is the second film I’ve seen from Mark Sandrich, who has a crop of a great films that are highly rated which you’ve never heard of (most above a 3.9 on Netflix), along with Sandrich himself being an underrated filmmaker. The film is both progressive in it’s structure, featuring a triumvirate female lead cast, and its depiction of the horrors of war. With a TCM Intro featuring Robert Osborne on the DVD, he mentions how devastating the film had to be for those watching during 1943, as the pacific campaign was at its zenith, lasting for another two years. To think of people seeing the film, with their children over there fighting had to have been absolutely devastating, as I’m having trouble finding another film of equal grit in portraying the terrors of war.
The story revolves around three Army Nurses - Lt. Janet Davidson (Claudette Colbert), Lt. Joan O’Doul (Paulette Goddard), and Lt. Olivia D’Arcy (Veronica Lake), who allegedly - according to Osborne - didn’t really get along all that much. They were all stars of their day, and while I don’t mean to bring up the production gossip, it’s an interesting bit of trivia given how unified the three felt throughout the film, as though they were participating in something larger than themselves.
The story begins and ends in the pacific, taking place after Pearl Harbor, focused primarily on the Battle of Bataan (which I didn’t really know about it), leading to the book’s name “Angels of Bataan” written by Juanita Hipps, on which the movie is based. Similar to David Lean’s WWII work, the film is told in fragments, taking place throughout the battle, as the Nurses were moved from one station to another, risking their lives every step of the way to ensure that as many could survive as possible.
Beyond the professional feud, there is such a powerful chemistry between the nurses, reminiscent of male centered warm films like Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, Hamburger Hill, and Band of Brothers. It’s a testament to Colbert, Goddard, and Lake’s acting prowess that they were able to get beyond their quarrels, exuding a sincere care and affection for the other; where we know that like any of the great war films show, would be willing to die for their sisters in arms. It’s when I try and think of other films that have caught this type of relationship, centered on women in a war a zone, I can’t think of many other alternatives. The closest that comes to mind is the near opposite setting in A League of Their Own.
Continue to Part 2...
BELOW: Portraying the courage of women in war, which remains absent even 75 years later
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