The Story of G.I. Joe Reviews
Solid performances from Robert Mitchum and Burgess Meredith. Good supporting performances too.
3.5 maybe even 4 stars..We really don't know what went on.. We were not there
and hearing from some folks that were in WWII some said it was a little far fetched and a few said it was close to what happened... I guess it all depends were each soldier was at the time of this war.
director William A. Wellman, who went on to direct "Battleground," doesn't cut its characters any slack. Fiercely realistic, "The Story of G.I. Joe" refuses to sugar coat the gritty fighting in this traditional World War II epic. Meaning, of course, that nobody here wants to kill their superior officer or complain about incompetent leadership. The soldiers of Company C, 18th Infantry, as well as Scripps-Howard war correspondent Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith) meet each other in the Tunisian desert and contend with mud, blood, and more throughout the action. Incidentally, the real-life Pyle died before the film opened in late 1945. He survived the European Theater of Operations and died in the Pacific. Robert Mitchum shines as company commmanding officer Lieutenant Bill Walker and lets Pyle ride with his troops that haven't experienced a baptism under fire. Significantly, "The Story of G.I. Joe" represented the one and only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor that Mitchum received. Indeed, many scholars argue that this movie made Robert Mitchum into a leading man. Meantime, scenarists Leopold Atlas, Guy Endore and Philip Stevenson were nominated for Best Screenplay writing, and Louis Applebaum and Ann Ronnel got nominations for Best Music scoring. This grim story starts in North Africa after American troops have been routed by Rommel at the disastrous Battle of Kasserine Pass and these follows these soon-to-be seasoned soldiers over Sicily into Italy. Clearly, the message of "The Story of G.I. Joe" is war is hell.
You can tell that "The Story of G.I. Joe" was not the usual flag-waving piece of propaganda. The scene in the church where Lt. Walker and Sergeant Steve Warnicki (Freddie Steele of "Hail the Conquering Hero") with our heroes having to take time out from prayer to blast the bejesus out of cunning German soldiers concealed in the second floor is one of the best. One recurring gag concerns Sergeant Warnicki who totes around a carefully wrapped up record of his son that he cannot get to play on any phonograph. Eventually, when he figures out how to play it, Warnicki goes berserk, a casualty of battle fatigue, and tries to launch a one-man assault against the Germans to end the war. Captain Walker has to clobber Warnicki and they send him back to face the medics. In a regular World War II movie made during the war, the sergeant would have celebrated the record with his buddies and there would have been no depressing conclusion like happens here. Surprisingly enough, especially for a World War II movie, "The Story of
G.I. Joe" differs from most because it either implies or outright mentions the strategic blunders of the Allies. The latter half of the action occurs during the infamous battle of Monte Cassino. Unless you are a World War II armchair strategist, Monte Cassino may mean nothing to you, but it represented an important battle. The Allies attacked a hill-top, sixth-century Benedictine monastery that the enemy had occupied, particularly the elite German 1st Parachute Division. The Allies began attacks on the monastery in January, but the Allies did not take the monastery until May. Initially, the Allies did not want to bomb the monastery because it was a religious site, but repeated
failures to take the monastery finally prompted them to bomb it from the air. Unfortunately, turning the monastery into rubble served the Germans more than it did the Allies. General Dwight Eisenthower reportedly called "The Story of G.I. Joe" one of the best movies of World War II.
Cinematographer Russell Metty, who later won an Academy Award for "Spartacus" (1960), lensed "The Story of G.I. Joe" largely in the rugged Southern California deserts and at the Selznick Studios. Interesetingly, Wellman biographer Frank T. Thompson noted that the War Department gave the filmmakers 150 Italian Campaign veterans to appear in the film. This constituted a six-week leave of sorts before they were shipped off to the Pacific. Sadly, like Pyle, most of their veterans died during the battle of Okinawa.