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Immortal Sergeant
Immortal Sergeant
Actors: Henry Fonda, Maureen O'Hara, Thomas Mitchell, Allyn Joslyn, Reginald Gardiner
Director: John M. Stahl
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Military & War
NR     2006     1hr 31min

Just a few months before entering the Service in a real-life role, Henry Fonda starred in this movie as a shy, self-doubting corporal who is thrust into a life-and-death position of leadership when his sergeant is killed. ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Henry Fonda, Maureen O'Hara, Thomas Mitchell, Allyn Joslyn, Reginald Gardiner
Director: John M. Stahl
Creators: Arthur C. Miller, James B. Clark, Lamar Trotti, John Brophy
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Classics, Military & War
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 05/23/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/1943
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1943
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 31min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Immortal Sergeant
Dennis C. Clements | Clovis, California | 07/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is one of the early World War II movies(1943). It is very well done and extremely entertaining. The story of the mild mannered soldier that is forced to take command in a very difficult situation is presented in such away that the viewer is enthralled with the character. Henry Fonda was perfect for the role and he brought the transformation from a weak timid man to a heroic soldier off with great finese. I loved this movie. If I had been in the audience in 1943, I would have rushed out and bought the war bonds that were advertised at the end of the film."
Well balanced war drama starring Henry Fonda
Eddie Lancekick | Pacific Northwest | 01/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I could relate to Henry Fonda's character Colin Spence in the 1943 film "Immortal Sergeant" a lot more than some of the other rifle wielding Infantry heroes you see in the older war films. Immortal Sergeant has a special place in my collection now, and upon further research, I'm surprised fans of classic WWII films or even Henry Fonda fans far and wide overlook this movie in general.

One fact I learned was that this was the last movie Fonda himself starred in before joining up and fighting in WWII. The title of this film is not, however, referring to Cpl. Spence, but I'll get to that in a moment.

The plot surrounds that of a Canadian man (Colin Spence) who struggles to become a writer, while the whole time the rest of his friends are going off to war. One day he finally makes the decision to go, staving off Officer Candidate School for enlisting as a grunt in the British Army. Spence also has to struggle with the fact that he has not been forward enough with the love of his life, and another man seems to be entering the picture. As Cpl. Spence fights through the unbearable heat of the Libyan Desert, his sergeant, who discovers great potential hidden within Cpl Spence's reluctant soul, soon befriends him. It takes a strange and bloody sequence of events for Spence to realize his potential, unless of course, the desert does not kill him and his men off first!

Henry Fonda is superb as Cpl. Colin Spence. Fonda's ability to play a good hearted, somewhat shy man with higher principles and values than the average Joe does not go unseen. His worrisome character is convincing enough to have the viewers worry for him, and hope for the best possible outcome. Thomas Mitchell plays Sgt. Kelly, a veteran of the First World War and a jolly, laid back man who is still an excellent leader on the battlefield. The camaraderie between the Sergeant and Cpl. Spence is brief, but is the great middle connector for the movies overall script. Maureen O'Hara is beautiful in this black and white film, and does a great job portraying the somewhat coy Valentine, Spence's girlfriend. Follow Cpl. Spence on his journey of heartache, personal achievement and redemption.

The battle scenes in the movie are enjoyed for their Hollywood nostalgia more than anything. Studio Sets of desert scenes when the men are resting and eating just add to the character development. Top that off with bombers, armored cars and an epic cloak and dagger scene at an oasis, and you have all the ingredients for a Great War drama"
An engaging wartime movie about a decent man, played by Henr
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 07/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

""You know, if anything happens to me you're in command," says Sergeant Kelly (Thomas Mitchell) to Corporal Colin Spence (Henry Fonda). They're lost in the Libyan desert with only three gallons of petrol left for their remaining armored car, almost no water and a busted compass. Sergeant Kelly started out with Corporal Spence and twelve other men on a routine patrol. Three German fighters changed things. Now there's only Sergeant Kelly, Spence and four others.

"Nothing's going to happen to you, sergeant," Spence says. "I mean, it can't."

"It won't, lad, if I can help it. Still, if I stop a packet it's up to you to get this patrol back...and that's not an easy job."

"But I'm no leader," Spence says. "I haven't had the experience to take up a command like this with other men's lives depending on me. I can carry out orders but I can't give them. I'm just a civilian with a couple of chevrons on my sleeve."

The Immortal Sergeant tells us the story of Colin Spence, a small-town reporter from Canada in England, who is shy and not really able to accomplish the things he wants. Please note that while elements of the plot are discussed, the key elements are all described on the DVD case. It's obvious Valentine (Maureen O'Hara) loves him but he just can't seem to recognize the signals. Just before he enlists, she and Colin meet an old friend of Colin's at a party. Benedict (Reginald Gardner) is now a famous war correspondent. "Good old Colin. I tell you this lad has a head on his shoulders," says Benedict to Valentine. "I'm afraid he's a little bit too self-effacing for the times, though. You know, like the good old democracies. Nice, but a little bit too civilized for his own good, eh Colin?" Benedict smoothly moves in on Valentine and Colin can only look on.

Spence keeps remembering Valentine while he and the rest of the patrol struggle through the desert. Now on foot, the sergeant leads the men in an attack on an isolated German armored car. They hope to find water and perhaps even capture the car and drive back to their own lines. The sergeant is clear about what they must do. "This war, like every other war, is going to be won by men on their feet with guns in their hands. And don't you forget it," he tells them. But the car is destroyed in the attack, the cans of German water with it, and two more men in the patrol die. The sergeant is one of them. Colin Spence has no choice but to take command now. And slowly, as he faces the reality of the situation, he becomes more forceful and more resourceful. The three other men, one a little reluctantly, accept his leadership. He knows he doesn't have the answers. He relies on his memory of Sergeant Kelly and his memory of Valentine to keep him moving forward. At the climax, he leads a desperate attack on an oasis guarded by three times the number of Germans. It is an attack which is bravely led and fought.

Back in a Cairo hospital, Colin Spence sums it up. "I had to come all the way out here to meet a tough sergeant named Kelly who was born in a slum and educated in an army camp before I was fit for a woman like Valentine. He's dead now but he taught me one thing...if I ever want Valentine or anything else worthwhile in life I've got to fight for it. That's not a bad thing for a man to find out...or for a nation, either, for that fight."

This is an appealing war-time movie with little of the bravado and obvious emotional string-pulling of most war movies. Thomas Mitchell gives a fine performance and Maureen O'Hara would be any man's dream of the woman waiting back home. What takes this movie out-of-the-ordinary is Henry Fonda. Did any major Hollywood star, before or after, combine so effectively almost naive honesty, decency and acting skill. We sympathize with Colin Spence's shyness; we sympathize with Spence's nervousness at the idea of being in charge if his sergeant is killed; we see and approve of Spence's taking on the responsibility of leading the remaining men of the patrol; and we come to admire his dedication to do the right thing, to fight against the odds for a good cause. The Immortal Sergeant is a film that with time sort of slipped between the cracks. DVD has brought it back and it's worth seeing.

The DVD transfer is just fine. There are no significant extras."
Poignant and reverential wartime drama
Cory D. Slipman | Rockville Centre, N.Y. | 12/02/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Henry Fonda stars as timid Canadian writer Colin Spence who enlists in the British Army during World War II. Living in London, becomes inspired to join the war effort leaving behind his girlfriend Valentine played by Maureen O'Hara to the amorous advances of love rival and journalist Joe Benedict played by a dapper Reginald Gardiner. Interestingly Fonda completed the filming of the movie just prior to the commencement his own wartime service,

Fonda who has risen to the rank of corporal is fighting the Italians in the Libyan desert. His mild mannered nature finds him eschewing command all the while learning at the elbow of respected veteran platoon leader Sgt. Kelly played by Irish American character actor Thomas Mitchell. When a desert fire fight leaves his platoon decimated, Fonda and Mitchell must lead the lost survivors through the sweltering desert sands. When another battle claims the respected Mitchell, Fonda is forced to assume command to save himself and his 3 remaining men.

Fonda exhibiting leadership and heroism is spurred on reminded of the words of the beloved Sgt. Kelly. He leads a well conceived suicide mission during a raging sandstorm, against a large contingent of Germans guarding an oasis which harbors the sole source of life sustaining water. His experience matures him into a man worthy of command and the hand of the girl he left behind.

This film completed in the midst of the darker days of WWII evoked a strong sense of realism and patriotism without overly cranking up the propaganda, typical of films of this time."