"James Cagney plays a coward Jerry Plunkett in this sentimental film about the famous fighting Irish American regiment in the First World War. Prior to entering the military Cagney is a contemptible loudmouth braggart from Brooklyn. Once in Europe he turns into a squealing coward the first time he encounters the Germans bringing an array of enemy ordnance and death upon his regiment. Ultimately Cagney turns cowardice into courage with a little help from Pat O'Brien's influence as Father Duffy. The film seems somewhat dated but Cagney and O'Brien's performances, expertly orchestrated battle sequences and Owen Marks' editing make this film important and significant. The examination of heroism and cowardice weighed against burdensome feelings of camaraderie are expertly represented in this film."
Excellent DVD release from the Warner Bros vault
Penumbra | Atlanta, GA USA | 10/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Warner Brothers does their usual excellent job with the DVD release of "The Fighting 69th." This is a beautifully restored print in glorious black and white.
The special features package contains "Warner Night at the Movies," consisting of a theatrical trailer ("Brother Orchid"), a newsreel ("Fleet Sails for Secret War Tests"), an Academy Award nominated short film about Londoners coping with the Blitz ("London Can Take It" ), a short about civil aviation pilot training programs ("Young America Flies"), and a B&W cartoon set on the Mayflower ("Pilgrim Porky"). Additional bonus material includes a color Merrie Melody cartoon, "The Fighting 69 1/2th," a 1949 Lux Radio Theater audio adaptation of "The Fighting 69th," and the theatrical trailer for "The Fighting 69th."
This is a stirring, sentimental, and patriotic film released in 1940 before American entered WWII. James Cagney and Pat O'Brien were outstanding actors, with great chemistry in the nine films they made together. The excellent supporting cast includes Alan Hale and Dennis Morgan.
The story revolves around the 165th US Infantry, which had previously been known as the 69th New York, an outfit composed mostly of Irish immigrants and several generations of their native born sons. In grand Hollywood tradition, everyone speaks with a brogue, fist fights break out with abandon, and references to shillelaghs, banshees and blarney are plentiful.
Jerry Plunket (Cagney), a tough mug from Brooklyn enlists so he can come home with a chest full of medals and be a big shot. He brags, cracks wise, and struts his way through boot camp, endearing himself to no one. But when he comes under fire, Plunket discovers he isn't as brave as he thought he was going to be. Instead of honor and glory, he finds himself facing execution by firing squad for desertion.
Real life heroes of the regiment are also portrayed in the movie - Sergeant Joyce Kilmer, soldier poet, is in the outfit; Father Francis J. Duffy (O'Brien), who's statue stands in Times Square; and Major "Wild Bill" Donovan (George Brent), Medal of Honor winner, who later became the head of the OSS.
About the only thing missing from this package is a commentary track, but what more really needs to be said? The movie speaks for itself.
The Irish In Them
James L. | 08/19/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's not hard to figure out what the purpose of this film was once the final credits roll. Produced prior to America's entry into World War II, this movie was designed to rally everyone around the flag with its heavy doses of bravado and pride. For today's audience, it's laid on a little thick, but despite that, the movie still entertains. It's the story of the famed Irish American unit that fought during WWI. James Cagney plays another flawed tough guy who is all talk and little action (other than running away) once the fighting begins. Pat O'Brien plays another noble priest that always knows the right thing to say. George Brent plays another boring character (or should I say, boringly plays another character?). The rest of the cast is populated by a who's who of Warner Brothers' character actors that have faces you'll recognize, if not their names: Frank McHugh, Alan Hale, Dennis Morgan, Jeffrey Lynn, and Dick Foran. The battle scenes are well staged, and at 90 minutes long, it's tightly edited. The Irish must have been very pleased by and proud of this film, for it portrays the bravery and honour of the regiment. There's nothing new here, but like most of Warner Brothers' war movies, it succeeds in its purpose."
"In this classic, faith and action yield redemption for lost causes and several familiar names in history come to life. The acting is superb and the plot carries a good blend of action and drama. Cagney plays the quintessential tough-guy exterior stretched thin over the coward underneath who finally finds redemption outside himself. Pat O'Brien as Father Duffy was perfectly cast and gives humanity and depth to the character. George Brent is also perfectly cast as "Wild Bill" Donovan and provides a memorable performance. Very well done and one to enjoy often."
WWI Hero Soldiers
Patty MacErnest | Pelham, New York | 06/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Fighting 69th is one of the greatest early movies produced about WWI and the Army unit of that designation. It tells the story of a tough, Irishman from NYC and reveals his inner depth brought about by a patient and understanding Catholic Chaplain who guides him to let his true feelings out. It combines all the humor and pathos of a soldier's life - then and, in some ways, now. No matter how many times we watch this movie we still get a lump in the throat at the end...."