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Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)

A review by Damian Cannon.
Copyright © Movie Reviews UK 1997

In any war every mother who sends her kid to the Front hopes not only that he'll come back alive but that he'll return a hero too. The same is true of small towns as well. This dream is so strong that it's easier to believe that the returning hero is just that - a hero and deserving of all of the glory possible - and not something a bit less. In Hail the Conquering Hero Woodrow Truesmith (Eddie Bracken) is just such a man, only he didn't really intend to deceive anyone. All Truesmith wanted to do was make his old mum proud and fill the shoes of his father - a real war hero - except that everything got a little out of hand.

Initially Truesmith had no intention of returning home, having been discharged for having chronic asthma. However, after bumping into a bunch of marines he is persuaded to return home in uniform and make his mother happy. Unfortunately the town gets wind of his return and prepares a hero's welcome, a parade which soon degenerates into humorous farce. Everyone welcomes Truesmith with open arms apart from his former girlfriend Libby (Ella Raines) - somehow she has to tell him that she's engaged to another. This is the least of his problems though. In two days there is to be an election for Mayor and he's put on the ballot!

This is all too much for Truesmith who decides that he can no longer live a lie, even if everybody else wants him to. After a sleepless night he confesses all in the morning campaign meeting, a surprise and disappointment to all. From here events take several unexpected turns and end up, in typical movie feel-good fashion, with the hero coming out on top.

As you've probably guessed Hail the Conquering Hero is a typical wartime film - designed to raise everyones spirits. What's not so obvious is that the film has some beautifully drawn characters, great dialogue and a rich vein of humour. The satirical aspects of small-town politics are observed and commented on in fine fashion. The only drawbacks are that the action is a little slow at times, a reflection of the films' age and period, although (of course) the observations on human nature will always remain true.


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