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Long Gray Line, The (1955, )

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About to be retired by the US Army, Marty Maher (Tyrone Power) relates his life story. Arriving as an immigrant from Ireland in 1903 Maher gets a job as a waiter at West Point but when the cost of his breakages of dishes exceeds his ability to pay for them he enlists in the army to avoid the charges and is assigned to a detatchment at the Point. Maher’s quick temper gets him into trouble but he is noticed by athletics director Captain Koehler (Ward Bond) who, after beating him in a boxing match, makes Maher his assistant. Koehler encourages the romance of Maher and Irish immigrant Mary O’Donnell (Maureen O’Hara) who works as his cook. They wed and start married life in a home on the Academy grounds and save enough to bring Maher’s father (Donald Crisp) and his younger brother (Sean McClory) over from Ireland.

When Maher and Mary’s first child dies and she is unable to have others the couple lavish their affctions on different cadets, notably James Sundstrom (Robert Francis), who grows up in their household and is regarded as their foster son. On the eve of his graduation from the Point he violates regulations and resigns, abut then redeems himself by enlisting in World War Two and distinguishing himself. As the years pass Mary dies and Maher continues to be a ‘father’ to another generation of cadets. Eisenhower, realizing that Maher has become the embodiment of West Point tradition, allows him to stay on until the end of his days. And Maher returns to the Point to receive the entire cadet corps – The Long Gray Line – in full dress parade in his honour.

John Ford’s sentimental and humorous tribute to West Point was his first film in CinemaScope, a format which he was reluctant to employ: in the event, however, he made the most of it, especially in depicting, through the magnificent colour cinematography of Charles Lawton Jr, the vistas of West Point and the impressive formations of cadets. ‘You’ll see a new and completely captivating Tyrone Power’, said The Hollywood Reporter. ‘Under Jack Ford’s wonderful direction, he ceases being a formula matinee idol and becomes a character and a topflight entertainer’. ‘The big surprise of the picture’, stated Motion Picture Herald , ‘is the performance of its star … Power … makes a complete- switch in a rich and colourful character role. It’s a dynamic performance in which he gets a chance to age 50 years’.

production details
USA | 138 minutes | 1955

Director: John Ford
Writer: Edward Hope, from the novel Bringing Up The Brass by Marty Maher and Nardi Reed Champion

cast
Tyrone Power as Martin ‘Marty’ Maher
Maureen O’Hara as Mary O’Donnell
Robert Francis as James N. Sundstrom Jr.
Donald Crisp as Old Martin
Ward Bond as Capt. Herman J. Kohler
Betsy Palmer as Kitty Carter
Philip Carey as Charles ‘Chuck’ Dotson
William Leslie as James Nilsson ‘Red’ Sundstrom
Harry Carey, Jr. as Dwight Eisenhower
Patrick Wayne as Abner ‘Cherub’ Overton
Sean McClory as Dinny Maher
Peter Graves as Cpl. Rudolph Heinz
Milburn Stone as Capt. John Pershing
Erin O’Brien-Moore as Mrs. Koehler
Walter Ehlers as Mike Shannon
Willis Bouchey as Maj. Thomas
Ken Curtis as Specialty (uncredited)
Tom Hennesy as Cadet Dotson (uncredited)
Martin Milner as Jim O’Carberry (uncredited)
Mickey Simpson as New York Policeman (uncredited)
Harry Tenbrook as Waiter (uncredited)

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