So Proudly We Hail

Paramount

Mark Sandrich's melodrama is a well-intentioned tribute to the self-sacrificing American Army nurses in the Pacific during WWII. The all-star cast is toplined by Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake, as nurses who survive the battles at Bataan and Corregidor.

As scripted by Allan Scott, the yarn begins when the women return home in the U.S., and then relates their story via flashbacks beginning December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Having read news reports about ten nurses who escaped the fall of Corregidor in May 1942, Sandrich and Scott tracked the femmes down, and hired one of them, Lieutenant Eunice Hatchitt, as a technical consultant. After receiving permission from the government to tell the story, the filmmaker got Paramount's approval and blessing to use its top stars.

While the women witness brutal fighting, they also have time for romance. By standards of the time, the film makes a point to deglamorize its beautiful stars and include some painful scenes of the harsh results of the battle, such as a mother standing by while her son's legs are amputated.

As Lt. Janet Davidson, Colbert is the senior nurse who avoids romance, burns her hand to the bone in trying to rescue a surgeon, and eventually marrying Lt. John Summers (played by George Reeves), though falls asleep on her one-night honeymoon. Veronica Lake's Lt. Olivia D'Arcy fights a private battle against the Japanese, who killed her lover at Pearl Harbor. As Lt. Joan O'Doul, Paulette Goddard received her first and only Oscar nomination in the supporting league as a nurse who divides her time between the war and an affair with an infantry guy from Kansas (Sonny Tufts).

Due to the novelty of an all-female ensemble and the film's patriotic naturea real flag-waiver”So Proudly We Hail” was very popular at the box-office. Magazines of the era are full of reports about feuds on the set between the stars.

Also getting much publicity was Veronica Lake's hairstyle. In this picture, she forsakes her signature peek-a-boo, sporting a more authentic short hair. The government asked Paramount that Lake doesn't appear as a servicewomen with her famous hairstyle because a number of female factory workers, who imitated Lake's fashion, were getting their long hairs tangled in the machinery.

Ultimately, “So Proudly We Hail” is yet another studio-bound, unconvincing flag-waver, and while one admires the stars' devoted commitment and gallant determination to appear ordinary and disheveled, they cannot really escape the more typical studio treatment, which prompted film critic James Agee to observe: “Probably the most deadly accurate picture ever made of what war looks like through the lenses of a housewife's magazine romance.

Time magazine also wrote: “The three leading ladies are so comely even in coveralls that, despite all the realistic shooting, they spend most of their time fighting a woman's war.”

Credits

The movie was released on September 9, 1943.
Running time: 126 minutes
Produced and directed by Mark Sandrich
Screenplay: Allan Scott
Camera: Charles Lang
Editor: Ellsworth Hoagland
Music: Miklos Rozsa
Art director: Hans Dreier, earl Hedrick

Oscar Nominations: 4

Supporting Actress: Paulette Goddard
Screenplay (Original): Allan Scott
Cinematography (b/w): Charles Lang
Special Effects: Farciot Edouart ad Gordon Jennings, photographic; George Dutton, sound

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

In 1943, Katina Paxinou won the Supporting Actress Oscar for “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Norman Krasna the Original Screenplay for “Princess O'Rourke,” Arthur Miller the b/w Cinematography for “The Song of Bernadette,” and Fred Sersen and Roger Heman the Special Effects Oscar for “Crash Dive.”