Building a Backbone
Canadian Cpl. Colin Spence (Henry Fonda) is stationed with the British in the Libyan Desert which is where he receives a letter and care package from Valentine Lee (Maureen O'Hara) his girl back in London. But reading her letter makes Colin reminisce to before the war when Tom Benedict (Reginald Gardiner) constantly made a play for Valentine causing Colin to doubt whether Valentine will still be his girl by the time he gets home. But as Spence along with the other men in the unit led by the immortal Sgt. Kelly (Thomas Mitchell) head off in to the desert the way things work out forces Colin to confront his insecurities.
"Son, it will make a man out of you", that is the sentence which is missing from "Immortal Sergeant" and the sentence which sums it up nicely as this is a movie all about Colin growing a backbone. Doesn't sound that amazing does it and to be honest as the movie flits between then men in the desert and Colin's flashbacks to home where he puts up with the well off Tom constantly flirting with Valentine it isn't amazing. In fact you begin to wonder where the movie is going to go other than inevitably bring these men in to contact with the enemy.
Now something does happen which breathes some life in to the movie and frankly in to the character of Colin which must be one of the most anonymous performances which Henry Fonda delivered in his impressive movie career. It was said that Fonda had his arm bent to do the movie by then head of 20th Century Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck and till he died Fonda is said to have hated the movie. In truth the other performances in "Immortal Sergeant" are not much better with Thomas Mitchell turning the dial up to deliver an Irish accent which Ward Bond would have done whilst Maureen O'Hara is a picture of beauty but that is about all she is required to be.
What is surprising about "Immortal Sergeant" is that it screams out that it should be a real flag waver of a movie about boys becoming men in the face of danger, learning from the old soldiers, the dying breed and so on. But it never finds its patriotic vibe and so plays out at times like a funeral procession especially with some of the sombre music which accompanies various scenes.
What this all boils down to is that "Immortal Sergeant" is completely middle of the road and to be frank for a lot of the time is uninspiring. It does have its moments but sadly they are too few and far between.