While not among John Ford's very best films, The Long Gray Line has more than enough to recommend it, especially for devotees of the director's work. Although Ford reportedly had an intense dislike for Cinemascope, that certainly is not evident from Line. The director uses the wide screen to exceptionally good effect, creating vistas of stunning beauty for the "big" scenes, and using the trick of keeping interiors full of detail in such a manner that it "closes in" on the human subjects for those scenes that are more intimate. As is expected of Ford, almost every shot is beautifully composed, with an almost unerring eye for placement and impact. Line also features a sterling performance from Tyrone Power, demonstrating that he could do a good deal more than swashbuckle when given the chance, and an equally fine one from Maureen O'Hara. The supporting cast is quite solid, with special mention going to Betsy Palmer and Donald Crisp. Where Line comes up a bit lacking is in the screenplay. While the flashback framing works well, the earlier chronological portions of the film are played rather jarringly for laughs, and the latter sections go too far in the other direction, lapsing into sentimentality that doesn't always ring true. Still, it's worth putting up with these problems for Ford's firm, sure handling of it and for the cast.
by Craig Butler review