U.S. troops are pulling out; rabid religious sects are terrorizing the populace; the local militia isn’t ready to fight on their own; and only a small contingent of American advisors remain to aid & train the national army. Familiar territory? Yet this prescient story unfolds in The Phillippines, circa 1904. We really do repeat history! If only the film were half as interesting as it sounds. Alas, this Sam Goldwyn production, helmed by reliable Henry Hathaway, can’t decide if it’s a serious war drama or GUNGA DIN/’39 style adventure. Alfred Newman’s score goes positively schizophrenic just trying to keep up. Gary Cooper, handsome & heroic in his low-keyed manner, is as convincing as anyone could be as the noncombatant doctor with a knack for psychological motivation & undercover warfare. But David Niven, Reginald Owen & Broderick Crawford can’t do much with the stock comic relief & sentimental business they’re given, especially when the gal they’re all falling over is drab Andrea Leeds. Yet another tame testament to Goldwyn’s famous lack of libido.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: John Ford's THEY WERE EXPENDABLE/'45 is a patriotic and sobering look at Americans in The Phillippines during WWII. One of Ford's greatest and least appreciated works.