Monday, May 29, 2017


When I was a kid, this old Paramount movie aired frequently on KTLA/Channel 5 during my summer vacations from school.  I loved watching 1943's SO PROUDLY WE HAIL.  It's one of those old movies that made me ask my parents about history and, later, go to the library to get more information.  SO PROUDLY WE HAIL was one of Hollywood's many World War 2 movies made when America was in that war.  Those movies were mostly dramatic, they were patriotic and they were usually focused on men in war.  SO PROUDLY WE HAIL focused on women serving overseas.  They were military nurses.  Our mother was a registered nurse.  Dad served overseas.  Both confirmed to little Bobby that, yes, there were nurses who served in the war.  SO PROUDLY WE HAIL covers the Battle of Bataan. We see the heartbreak, humor and heroism of three nurses in the Philippines.  Have you seen Goddard Hall on the New York University campus?  Well, that building was named in honor of a SO PROUDLY WE HAIL star.  Paulette Goddard got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for playing one of the three military nurses who goes from hospital duty to Philippines jungle duty.
When TCM viewers see her in classics like Cukor's THE WOMEN, Chaplin's MODERN TIMES and his THE GREAT DICTATOR, I wonder if they know a building on the NYU campus is named in her honor.  In Goddard's will, she left about $20 million to the school.  Naming a building in her honor was a great "Thank You" card.  Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake star in SO PROUDLY WE HAIL.
We meet the nurses shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor and we follow them on their voyage to the Philippines.
With those three female stars in the leads, of course there had to be romances to go along with the war story.  That's what moviegoers in the 1940s wanted.
In the above pic, you see Paulette Goddard dealing with a shy G.I. who won't let the nurse give him a sponge bath.  That G.I. is played by actor George Reeves.  He had roles in GONE WITH THE WIND and FROM HERE TO ETERNITY.  However, television in the 1950s would make him a bigger star than movies ever did.  He was TV's Superman in a weekly series for kids.  Ben Affleck played the late actor in a story about his career, TV stardom and mysterious death in a good 2006 movie called HOLLYWOODLAND.

Is SO PROUDLY WE HAIL an excellent World War 2 film in a league with FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, BATTLEGROUND and 12 O'CLOCK HIGH?  No.  But it moves, you care about characters and there's the originality of it being an action-packed war film that's a female-driven story.
 I can't remember ever seeing this film in the Turner Classic Movies line-up.  And I don't recall seeing it in a Memorial Day schedule.  But I wish it would be aired on a Memorial or Veterans Day to remind us that, back in World War 2, women also served.
Veronica Lake starts off as the angry nurse who doesn't make friends.  Then we learn why she's angry.  Lake lacked the acting chops of a Barbara Stanwyck, Mary Astor or Claudette Colbert, but this film has one of her best dramatic outings during her Paramount years.  The actress was famous for her "peek-a-boo" hairdo in films.  Here she is in 1941's SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS.
This hairstyle was such a pop culture phenomenon at that time that it was lampooned as a great visual gag in Billy Wilder's THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942), a wartime comedy, and even in classic Warner Brothers Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears cartoon. (Mama Bear has the hairdo.)  In the 1997 drama L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, Kim Basinger played the upscale Hollywood hooker who is a Veronica Lake look-alike for her clients.

As a military nurse, Lake could not have worn her famous peek-a-boo hairdo while in uniform.  However, Paramount's screenwriters did come up with a clever, intense and memorable way to work it into the action.  Colbert is the top star, Goddard got the Oscar nomination, but it's the Veronica Lake act of valor scene that steals the picture.
SO PROUDLY WE HAIL.  Golden Age Hollywood studios didn't give us many films highlighting American women in war.  This feature was a pioneer in that field.  If you like classic films, it's worth a look at this one for its feminist power.  Mark Sandrich directed it.  Allan Scott earned an Oscar nomination for his screenplay.
1943's SO PROUDLY WE HAIL was inspired by the memoir I SERVED ON BATAAN, written by Lieut. Col. Juanita Redmond Hipps, a World War 2 Army nurse who served in Bataan and Corregidor.  She escaped during the last few days before Corregidor surrendered.  Col. Hipps died in 1979 and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

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