Days of Glory (1944): Jacques Tourneur Directs Gregory Peck in Screen Debut

Directed by Jacques Tourneur, from a screenplay by Casey Robinson, Days of Glory, a simplistic agit-prop movie, feaures the acting debut of Gregory Peck, who would become a major star over the next four decades.

Grade: C (** out of *****)

Peck and Tamara Toumanova play Russians who fight the Nazis in this preposterously plotted propaganda piece, which favors (for a change) the Soviet’s side, reflecting shifting American politics at the time.

Toumanava plays Nina Ivanova a Russian dancer, who’s separated from her group. She is found and taken to the hideout of a partisan group led by Vladimir (Peck) operating behind the German lines in Tula.

The veteran guerrillas do not know what to make of the helpless Nina, as she does not know how to fight, cook, or clean. The men, however, are entranced by her beauty.

Vladimir is ready to execute a German soldier, but Nina is against the idea. The educated Semyon persuades Vladimir to give the prisoner fair trial, but when the German tries to escape, Nina shoots him, which elevates her stature with the group.

They lay explosives under a railroad track and blow up a German ammunition train. While hiding from a German patrol, Vladimir and Nina fall in love, though she does not understand him. Before the war, Vladimir was  proud engineer, who was forced to destroy a dam to keep it out of the Germans.

Vladimir chooses the veteran Yelena, the group’s only other woman and skilled sniper, to send a message.  Yelena, who loves Vladimir, is killed by the Germans, forcing Vladimir to try again, this time sending Nina, along the teenage Mitya.

They get through, and bring a message that first Russian counterattack will begin the next day (“The snow will fall tomorrow”). When a German officer confiscates the house in which Vladimir is hiding, Mitya spits in the German’s face.

When Mitya refuses to betray his comrades, he is publicly hanged, while Nina watches helplessly. In the next mission, all of Vladimir’s die bravely.

In the last scene, Vladimir and Nina resist an enemy tank, which approaches, before blowing up in front of them.

While most of Russian-born Toumanova’s career was in ballet, she appeared as dancer in several films, beginning in 1944 with “Days of Glory,” a year after she became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Special Effects: Vernon L. Walker, photographic; James G. Stewart and Roy Granville, sound

Oscar Context:

The special effects Oscar went to another WWII film, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.”

Cast
Tamara Toumanova as Nina Ivanova
Gregory Peck as Vladimir
Alan Reed as Sasha
Maria Palmer as Yelena
Lowell Gilmore as Semyon
Hugo Haas as Fedor
Dena Penn as Olga, Mitya’s young sister

Credits

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Produced by Casey Robinson
Written by Melchior Lengyel; screenplay by Casey Robinson
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof and Constantin Bakaleinikoff
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Edited by Joseph Noriega
Produced and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date: June 8, 1944
Running time: 86 minutes

Note:

I am grateful to TCM for showing this film on January 28, 2020, which helped me revised my original notes.