When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950)

Genres - Adventure, Comedy, War  |   Sub-Genres - War Adventure  |   Run Time - 82 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Inevitably compared to Prestong Sturges' brilliant Hail the Conquering Hero and inevitably found wanting, When Willie Comes Marching Home, when taken on its own terms, is actually a sprightly, entertaining little comedy. Director John Ford and screenwriters Mary Loos and Richard Sale don't have a sharpened satirical rapier hiding in their midst, as Sturges did, but they also aren't trying to. Their aim is gentler; they're making sport of, but not attempting to eviscerate, their targets. And Ford is determined to present his war scenes with a deadly gravity, a difficult feat to pull off when it's surrounded by low physical comedy but he manages to turn the trick neatly. Indeed, Ford's handling of the material demonstrates that the man had a keen sense of humor; if it perhaps was not as refined and as capable of plumbing the depths as master farceurs such as Sturges or Billy Wilder, it was still a facet of his talent that is worth noting. The script does get a bit jumbled in places, and the humor in the writing is not as sharp as one might wish, which does affect the film's ultimate success. But the cast is fine, with Dan Dailey turning in one of his best performances and the always dependable William Demarest on hand to add his own special brand of personality humor to the mix.