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USA 1944
Directed by
Lloyd Bacon
111 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Fighting Sullivans

Was there ever a family as wholesomely god-fearing as The Sullivans of Waterloo, Iowa, USA? Hollywood in 1944 would have us believe so as this is the 'true' story of 5 brothers who joined the US Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Tragically they died as they lived when their boat was torpedoed at Guadalcanal the same year.

Such an impact did the film have on wartime audiences that it was withdrawn soon after its release. Today, the decision to let all 5 brothers join the same ship looks remarkably short-sighted but things were different then and the film is, of course, a celebration of their self-sacrificing patriotism, not their collective naiveté or the negligence of the military authorities. To this effect virtually the entire proceedings are given over to a squeaky clean, gee-schucks, apple-pie account of the boys' lives from childhood to post-adolescence with Anne Baxter and Thomas Mitchell playing the loving parents. There are many US war films that promote the same message of willing servitude to God and master but few which lay it on a thick as this. That it was the 'inspiration' for Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan shows how much our cultural mind-set has changed since then.




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