What Price Glory

Raoul Walsh

T.it.: Gloria.Sog.:dall’omonimaoperateatrale di Maxwell Anderson e Laurence Stallings. Scen.: James T. O’Donohoe. F.: Barney McGill, John Marta, John Smith. Mo.: Rose Smith. Mu.: Erno Rapee. Int.: Victor McLaglen (capitano Flagg), Edmund Lowe (sergente Quirt), Dolores Del Rio (Charmaine de la Cognac), William V. Mong (Cognac Pete), Phyllis Haver (Shanghai Mabel), Elena Jurado (Carmen), Leslie Fenton (tenente Moore), Barry Norton (soldato Kenneth Lewisohn), Sammy Cohen (soldato Lipinsky), Ted McNamara (caporale Kiper), August Tollaire (sindaco), Mathilde Comont (Camille), Patrick Rooney (Mulcahy). Prod.: Fox Film Corporation. Pri. pro.: 23 novembre 1926 35mm. D.: 120’ a 24 f/s. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

“Stop the blood!” screams the youngest soldier – a mother’s boy with the soul of a poet. The unstoppable blood he is referring to is the blood pouring from his wound, as well as the blood from the ongoing massa­cre of the First World War. The final – and psychotic – scream from another mother’s boy (“Ma, I’m top of the world!”) will be one of the high points of Walsh’s cin­ematic oeuvre, when in White Heat James Cagney jumps on the gasometer – ready to blow himself up along with the rest of the world and his own over-sized Oedipus complex. Here, in the sincere and soft-toned antimilitary rhetoric of 1920s Hol­lywood, everything is simpler: and Victor McLaglen can wonder, with chilling pro­phetic intuition, what kind of civilization finds the need to wipe out a generation of young men every thirty years. What Price Glory, which was released a year after the commercially successful The Big Parade (King Vidor for Thalberg/MGM), is Walsh’s first real war movie, after a couple of pa­triotic melodramas in the late 1910s. War in his eyes is made of close-ups of bolts on a convoy of tanks, is the sinister light on a row of bayonets and expendable bod­ies, and powerful travellings in almost Ku­brickesque trenches.
The fighting, however, takes up minor screen time: the war scenes are incisions, fractures, wounds (which sometimes never heal) in a filmic body that has all the solid contours and clichés of a mas­culine comedy (love rivalries between fel­low soldiers, as in Flesh and the Devil by Clarence Brown, which, being a drama, didn’t mask too much its homosexual un­dertones, or in A Girl in Every Port and, many years later, Only Angels Have Wings by Hawks…). The core of What Price Glory seems to be in those forty square meters of French countryside with its waver­ing procession of geese, the tavern with the mustachioed owner, and the female characters who enter most scenes with a close-up shot of their fleshy posteriors. It is a highly sensual film, with blouses slip­ping off shoulders and wool stockings on shapy legs and garters very slowly rolled up (an idea of eroticism très campag­nard): as Dolores Del Rio says loud and clear, love of the heart is one thing, but the whole of her love (“he does have all my love”) is quite another entirely. And so, once again, the Irish ‘wild bull’ Victor McLaglen needs to learn to live with it. Raoul Walsh has some thirty films behind and a whole life ahead of him, and his uniform already seems to fit perfectly: a voice, an energy and a sense of humour that know how to move cinema (“Cinema is movement. And I made it move”), with increasing confidence and flashes of ge­nius. Not going against, but moving with­in the Hollywood formula.
(Paola Cristalli)


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Preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with funding provided by The Film Foundation