An American family sends its five boys off to World War II
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 07/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Fighting Sullivans" is the true story of five brothers who died together when their Navy ship, the Juneau, was sunk in the South Pacific during World War II. But only the last act of this 1944 film, directed by Lloyd Bacon, shows the Sullivans at war. Most of this film is pure Americana, following the lives of the boys from their childhood in Waterloo, Iowa. Thomas Mitchell and the marvelous Selena Royle are the loving parents, while the five boys are played by unknown actors: Edward Ryan (Al), John Campbell (Frank), James Cardwell (George), John Alvin (Matt), and George Offerman (Joe). Trudy Marshall plays their only sister, Genevieve. Top billing actually goes to Anne Baxter as the young girl who marries into the family and will be left a widow with a baby in arms. Ward Bond plays the Navy lieutenant who befriends the family when the Sullivans insist that they will only join up if they can serve together. Eventually the Navy relents and the boys get their wish. Audiences knew the tragic fate of the Sullivans, although the film was originally released as "The Sullivans" and pretty much bombed at the box office. Retitled "The Fighting Sullivans" and re-released, it became a smash hit. The use of unknown actors made the film all the more effective, especially since it refrained from the sort of cliches you would expect. If the scene where the parents learn all five boys have died does not get you, the next scene will: Mr. Sullivan goes off to his job on the railroad and as the train passes the water tower where his boys waved to him as kids, he salutes them. Actually, this film works so well that the final shot, of the Sullivans in uniform striding across the clouds of the afterlife does not seem one whit hokey. There is a documentary available on the Sullivans, which tells how one of the boys survived the sinking before dying in the waters off of Guadacanal. I would not have thought anything could have made this story more tragic, but that bit of information certainly made it worse for me."
Will live in my heart and memory forever
Lawrance M. Bernabo | 11/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My mother brought me to see this movie at the Crest movie theatre in Highbridge. It was soon after the Sullivan brothers had so heroically died for their beloved country. There were many other mothers or fathers who wanted their children to learn about why we were at war at that time, and to have respect for the Sullivans and all the other men and women in their service of their country during World War II.I was only five years of age at that time, but I remember everything about the movie. Ofcourse, I saw it in the movies a couple of more times within the next few years as well as staying up until the wee small hours of the morning to see it on the late show. Each and every time, the movie evoked the same reaction from me, tears and trembling. I felt as though every member of the Sullivan family was a friend of mine. Perhaps I may sound old fashioned or outdated, but I appreciated The Fighting Sullivans more than I could any of the films of the present day. This film was realistic, it dealt with the thin line which separates life from death. The present day films focus, for the most part on fantasy, violence, and sex, which have many negative effects on the people who so choose to take them seriously. Whereas, The Fighting Sullivans encompased strong family values, the family was not perfect, but with their strong love and respect for each other, they were able to overcome any challenges which life might have brought them. Good family values is the basis of life.Oh, yes, this is one of the greatest tragedies of all times, but this film has had positive effects on me as well as many others. It has served as an inspiration and an appreciation of our great American heritage, thanks to some of the many brave servicemen such as the Sullivans who helped uphold the principles of democracy for us.My ambition is to purchase this film and watch it periodically, and share it with any family member(s) of friends who would care to watch it with me."
Always a classic, never too late to see.
Michael George (email@example.com) | Lombard, Illinois | 11/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1955 my mother made me sit and watch this movie at the ripe young age of 10. I will never forget the emotions that overcame me even at this youg age. For years I had looked, and looked for this movie, and alas a few years back it appeared on late nite tv. I watched, I recalled, and I cried my eyes out. Mind you I am a seasoned Viet Nam veteran...and this movie is so realistic as to what life was and should be, that it will affect anyone who views it in a favorable light. I now insist that my two adult children view this movie, and will purchase it for each of them as a reminder as to family values, and the sacrifice that past American's have made for our freedoms. This is a film that should be viewed by every American. This is a film which should be included as required viewing for any immigrant entering and enjoying the freedoms of the USA. This film is reality, family values, loyalty, tradition, and patriosim all intertwined into a classic movie which has and will endure over the years."
One of the best
Stephen | New Haven, CT, USA | 12/19/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"(Note. This review and every other one on this page gives away the ending of this movie. It does not necessarily ruin the movie, but if you don't want to know, don't read on).There are so many criteria for what makes a film good that to try to say universally that any one is one of the best is asking for argument. But in my book anyway, this movie has all it needs to make it one of the greatest movies of the century.It approaches its subject from a unique and brilliant perspective, one which is actually the most realistic. People do not start their lives going to war, so it is impossible to see what war really is by just seeing a movie that starts with a young man (or woman) "going off to war". (There is a place for movies like that, of course). Instead, soldiers are persons with lives behind and possibly ahead of them, and this movie makes that point with more than usual strength.Also, as others pointed out, the first part as well makes it an excellent family movie. The portrait of the young Sullivans, while adding pathos to the finale, is a fine view of a loving, close-knit family.It is not an anti-war movie, but merely a movie to show one how great a sacrifice was made by so many for the continuing freedom with which we are blessed. (Even thought that sort of thing is said so often that we get cynical.)I highly recommend it."
A Lesson in Service to a Higher Cause
Terry Knapp | Santa Rosa, CA United States | 11/25/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wonderful, nostalgic look at a time in which values seem to have been simpler and more clear-cut. There was right and there was wrong and good people did what had to be done. Perhaps this black-and-white world never really existed, but I sure hope it did."The Fighting Sullivans," like "The Best Years of Our Lives," is a tribute to the best generation that this century has known; a generation that survived the Great Depression and not only survived but prevailed in the most horrible war this world has yet known.The film is beautifully acted, especially by Thomas Mitchell and Selena Royle as the parents. The most moving scene is the one in which Mitchell and Royle are notified by naval officer Ward Bond that their sons have been lost. This never fails to move me to tears.A note about the DVD version of this film: the DVD features a secondary soundtrack which contains an audio essay by Jack Bilello, author of "Bonds of War." This essay is a deeply moving and personal eulogy for the Sullivan brothers and is itself worth the cost of admission."