Now that I’m here for my first post on Frank Sinatra (my Star Of The Month for June 2022), I’m going for his 1958 war movie Kings Go Forth (based on the 1956 novel of the same name by Joe David Brown), co-starring Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Wild And Woody! (1948)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)
(Length: 6 minutes, 40 seconds)
In the town of Rigor Mortis, Arizona, outlaw Buzz Buzzard has a habit of killing off every sheriff. However, Woody Woodpecker decides to take the job, and gives Buzz a run for his money! Like the earlier Woody Woodpecker short Wet Blanket Policy, this one gives Woody a very definite villain. And this time, I like the interplay between Woody and Buzz Buzzard much better! I like the various gags (including Buzz shooting the one sheriff on a golf course), and the ending was quite hilarious! I know this is one that I certainly would love to see again and again!
And Now For The Main Feature…
In World War II, a platoon of soldiers has marched into southern France. This group, led by First Lieutenant Sam Loggins (Frank Sinatra), has just had some much-needed replacement soldiers sent their way. One of these newer recruits is Britt Harris (Tony Curtis). At first, Sam doesn’t really trust him (since Britt comes from wealth and seems to get everything he wants), even when Britt helps rescue some soldiers that get injured in a minefield. However, Sam later comes to respect him when Britt single-handedly manages to help them capture a German bunker. All the men get some rest when the Colonel (Karl Swenson) learns that they’ve been under fire for a long time, and offers them some time to rest up in Nice. While exploring the area, Sam meets a young American girl named Monique Blair (Natalie Wood). They talk for a while, and Sam hopes to meet her again. She says that it will not happen, but he still leaves the offer open to meet in another week. He shows up at the arranged time and place, but she doesn’t. Instead, Sam finds himself talking to an older woman (Leora Dana), who asks him a lot of questions. Satisfied with his answers, she reveals herself to be Monique’s mother, and invites him to join them at their home. Over the next few weeks, Sam grows fonder of Monique, and proposes marriage. Monique is reluctant to accept, and reveals to him that her late father was black. This blindsides Sam, who then spends the next week agonizing over the decision of whether to go back to her or not. Much to the happiness of both Monique and her mother, he does decide to come back. Sam takes Monique out to a jazz club, where they find Britt, who joins the club’s musicians for a trumpet solo. To Sam’s dismay, Britt falls for Monique (and she for him). The next few weeks, Monique and Britt spend a lot of time together (with Sam along as the third wheel), and they eventually become engaged. While Sam doesn’t like this turn of events, he reluctantly offers his congratulations to the couple. However, when he and Britt are given a mission to sneak into a nearby town controlled by the Germans, Sam also finds out that Britt, who had submitted a marriage application to the army (at Sam’s insistence), had been hiding the fact that he was approved (and had been blaming the “delay” on the army). Sam forces Britt to tell Monique that he had no real plans to marry her, which leaves her overwrought to the point of trying to commit suicide (which she is stopped from doing). Now stuck with Britt on their mission, Sam makes it plain to him that he will try to kill him. But, with an important mission on the line, can the two get along long enough to complete it, or will they be caught by the Germans?
I first heard of the film when it was announced for Blu-ray a number of years back, and Frank’s presence in the film, plus that of Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood (whom I liked together in the 1965 comedy The Great Race) made it sound like a movie I would enjoy. I found that I enjoyed it. So far, of the four Frank Sinatra war dramas that I’ve had the chance to see (the other three being the 1959 film Never So Few and the 1965 movies None But The Brave and the not-yet-reviewed Von Ryan’s Express), I consider this one my least favorite. Frank is very good here, solidly convincing us that his character is unpopular with the ladies (a better performance than his more awkward characters from his early years at MGM), and he does equally well as a character who finds himself caring for Natalie Wood’s Monique, even after he finds out her black ancestry. I admit, him getting over his previously racist way of thinking seems a little too quick, but I blame that on the film’s writing. Both the other leads do very well here, with Tony Curtis’ Britt proving himself to be a bit of a scoundrel (but not as likeable as his character in the following year’s Operation Petticoat), and Natalie Wood doing well as the young Monique (even if, as a white Russian woman, she wouldn’t get cast in the role of a mulatto if the movie were made now), who gets too emotionally tied to Britt (making his eventual betrayal much crueler). I do think the film is at its best in the not-frequent-enough war scenes, while it drags a bit through the love story itself. Still, it’s an entertaining film that I’ve enjoyed seeing a few times, and certainly would suggest giving it a chance!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time (available at www.screenarchives.com) and on DVD from MGM.
Film Length: 1 hour, 51 minutes
My Rating: 7/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Tony Curtis – Operation Petticoat (1959)
Marjorie Morningstar (1958) – Natalie Wood
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