Tell It to the Marines Film Details
Overview: A gruff Marine sergeant and a handsome new recruit compete for the affection of a nurse.
Review: On November 15, 2009, I saw TELL IT TO THE THE MARINES at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo with immense anticipation. According to biographer Michael F. Blake, A Thousand Faces, this was one of Lon Chaney’s favorite roles. In 1926, this was MGM’s second top grosser, after the Garbo-Gilbert FLESH AND THE DEVIL, and the first movie to have had complete participation of the United States Marines. However, this movie is not readily available not the present time and this movie is unique in that Chaney played a non villainous role without a single disguise other than the fact he’s playing a U.S. Marine named Sergeant O’Hara. However, in spite of top billing, O’Hara is actually the secondary role in this. The main character of George “Skeet” Burns (this was made before the success of Burns and Allen) is played by William Haines. This actor was successful in the late twenties and his screen persona was that of a wise cracking leading man. Though he would get the girl, here played by Eleanor Boardman (Nurse Nora), he acted more like the girl’s buddy instead of having real romantic interest with the opposite sex. He’s probably best remembered as Marion Davies’s co-star in King Vidor’s SHOW PEOPLE. Eleanor Boardman was at this time King Vidor’s wife and the female lead in her husband’s masterpiece THE CROWD. For TELL IT TO THE MARINES, she’s quite lovely but not really given much to do. The director was George Roy Hill, one of MGM’s top directors at the time and not to be confused with the director with the same name who directed Paul Newman and Robert Redford in their two movies together, among others. According to Blake, very hands on production chief for this was Irving Thalberg. Enough background for the principal players, the movie itself is very much a product of its time. A good part in the beginning showcases Haines’s shenanigans of dodging Chaney to play at the race tracks in Tia Juana. Without saying so, he obviously lost his money and comes back. Chaney knew he would and with Corporal Madden (Eddie Gibbon), he does what he can to make this fresh upstart into a serious fighting marine. There are some slapstick bits of Haines getting a hat to hide his Marine haircut and sneaking out to date Navy Nurse Boardman where he actually wrecks a car. She manages to get Chaney to take Haines out of the brig by giving him a kiss on the cheek. But he has already decided to let crazy Skeet join the rest of the boys to an expedition to Shanghai, China. Along the way there, Haines incites Marine-Navy rivalry by unknowingly picking a fight with the Navy Middleweight Boxing Champion. But Chaney knows and even arranges a boxing match to watch Haines get clocked by the champ. As O’Hara, he mischievously smiles, perhaps getting even and he too has romantic interest in Nurse Nora. In fact, once they get to China, Chaney pines away at Boardman’s picture lamenting how ugly he is to his bulldog, giving the dog the odd compliment that he’s the only one uglier than he is. Meanwhile, Haines yups it up with Carmel Myers, a very white looking Native girl. The other sailors and soldiers make whoopee with the Native women. This allows a more convincing Warner Oland (the Scandinavian actor who would later play Charlie Chan) as a Chinese warlord to launch an attack. Chaney gets alerted and rallies a lot of his troops for a counter attack and rescue of Haines and others. Haines finally mans up and fights along side Chaney. American planes fly in to ultimately save the day. Haines and Chaney do reunite with Boardman and I’ll leave it a mystery how it actually ends. Blake has compared Chaney’s performance as a prototype to John Wayne in similar roles. Though there are some similarities including physical appearance, there are major differences as well. The main one I see is the tough sergeant getting mixed up in a romantic triangle with a subordinate. It just doesn’t work. It is fun to see Lon Chaney in a heroic role and able to smile and laugh a lot. For me that’s good enough reason to see this.
Language: None, English
Duration: 103 min
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, War
Also known as: Скажите это морякам,Tell It to the Marines,Os Fuzileiros,Brand im Osten,Brand i Østen,El sargento malacara,Marine d’abord!,英雄時代（1926）,Brand i østen,Viva a Marinha!,Det brinner i öster,¡Viva la marina!